Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Day 100- Ice Fishing and News

The weather has warmed considerably.  Nights are still cold, in the -30°C range, but the days are barely hitting -10°C now.  Of course that shift in temperature brings fresh snow, and freezing rain. 

Niece1 and Niece2 took the Littles, the kids and Sally back to 'school' when the weather broke, while Husband, Brother, Dad, Diego and the Bigs went ice fishing.  It didn't go well. 

The snow is too deep to make it back to the good lakes, so a lot of people are out on the lakes by the highway.  They were lucky enough to find several previously drilled holes to fish in, that only needed the fresh ice cut, but the lakes are really being over fished right now.  Dad managed to catch one small pike, Diego got a larger one, but the others have no luck.

Chatting with others in the area they learn that there is mail in town!  There's no organized 'postal service', but people have started taking pen to paper, passing letters on to whomever happens to be going the right direction.  A few people in town have heard from relatives from the south, and one got a letter from Manitoba.    The news in general is that there is no government, no corporations, no military coming to the rescue.  There are self appointed local sheriffs in some towns, and maybe even a mayor, but mostly just people trying to get by. 

Home alone for the day, I walk to Sil's for a visit.  She's been busy knitting and making rugs through the cold spell.  She's nearly out of material for rugs and completely out of yarn.  She has their floor completely covered, with more rugs of various sizes covering furniture and walls.  She may be able to trade some of them at the store.  Their food stores are running low, since it's been too cold to hunt.  I tell her I'll send over some beef when the men return.  We decide to walk to Mom's together.

We take the back trail and stop in at the cabin by the creek to see Lisa.  She's happy for the company.  She's been keeping busy whittling and has started to develop some skill.  She's made a few wooden spoons and is working on a ladle.  She and Sally have dug out a root cellar under her bed, giving them more room for storage and more clay to fill the chinks.  Today she's busy cutting firewood to replenish her pile. 

We find Mom outside in her garden shed.  She doesn't usually start her own seeds in pots, but has started getting things organized for this year.  Dad plans to put a small woodstove in the greenhouse and start tomatoes and cucumbers from seed.  I tell her I've finished sorting and organizing my seeds, and have tomatoes and peppers started already.  She gets out her seed stash and starts sorting while we're there. 

Mom and Dad's garden has always been pretty simple- tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, peas, onions, turnip and lettuce.  They grew potatoes last year, and hopes they left enough in the ground to bring up another crop this year.  They want to try a few cabbages and some carrots this year, but otherwise don't plan to try much new.  I'm sure I have enough seed for that.

Walking home I stop and stare at the back field.  I want a new greenhouse put up in the spring, to keep the squash and pumpkins separated.  In truth, it probably isn't far enough apart for proper seed saving, but for now it's the best that I can do.  We'll need to fence off the clearing too, to keep as much of the wildlife out as possible.

When the others return and share the news, I send Brother and Sally home with a couple of roasts and some stew meat.  Hearing that mail is moving gives me a bit of a thrill.  This one small service could be the beginning of a return to civilization. 

The Littles had a good day at the community center.  They played outside most of the day.  It seems all of the children had too much pent up energy from being cooped up the past week or so to sit still and do any work.  I laugh as they tell me all of their stories.  It's nice to see them getting along for a change.

After another meal of stew- the pot is never ending, always on the woodstove now- we all head off to bed and read.


Monday, January 28, 2013

Day 99- In The Cities

When the power went out people went crazy.  So many people, so unprepared, so close together.  People went to work for the first few days, but found little they could do.  The retailers lasted a bit longer, almost a week, until desperate people with no access to money started pillaging for whatever food and supplies they could get their hands on.  It wasn't safe to go to work.  It wasn't their problem anyway.  Let the store owners deal with the pillagers.

Crime was at an all time high.  Looters were out on the streets, breaking into buildings, taking the big ticket items- the big tvs, stereos, computers.  They expected to be sitting pretty once the power came back on.  The days passed, as gangs and looters ran into each other and fought in the streets, as they stabbed, shot and bludgeoned one another to death.  Riots broke out across the cities.  Desperate people, with nothing to eat, worried about friends and family, got caught in the crossfire.

People were afraid to leave their homes.  They barricaded the doors, covered the windows, hiding in the dark, waiting for rescue. 

Police tried to maintain order.  So much crime.  So many deaths.  Bodies littering the streets.  They're human too.  People were out of control.  The world was out of control.  Each day fewer and fewer officers showed up to work.  They too were hungry.  They too were worried about their families.  They knew it wasn't safe to leave their families at home alone.  And for what?  To do body counts?  There was no controlling the raging mobs.  There were no jails to put them in- the guards were gone, no food to feed them, no electricity to power the security.  Their only recourse was to shoot to kill.

The doctors and nurses went to work.  They tried to care for their patients.  Back up generators ran out of fuel.  Equipment failed.  People died.  More and more sick, injured, hungry and desperate people came in.  The medicines ran out.  The bodies piled up.  The hospitals became centres for disease out breaks and crime.  They were human too.  There was nothing they could do.  One by one, they stopped going to work and chose to stay with their families.

Government and city officials became targets for crime.  People were convinced that they must have food and supplies in their big fancy houses.  People were angry that nothing was being done about the power outage, the crime, the services.  Of course some public officials managed to flee, but many were murdered.

Weeks passed.  Desperate, hungry people couldn't hide any more.  They ventured out of their hiding places looking for food.  Looking for some sense of safety, some sense or order.  Many were killed.  Many got sick from the disease infested streets.  Bodies lay rotting in the streets.

Some made it out of the cities, to friends and family in smaller towns.  Some stayed.  Some took disease with them and sentenced those who had given them refuge to die as well.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Day 95- Planning Ahead

It's even colder now.  I mean, seriously, you have to be careful just breathing outside!  The air is so cold it feels like it freezes your lungs.  We can't step outside for even a minute without our faces covered.  It hurts so bad.  I don't know how the animals are handling it.  They all seem to be fine though.  The dogs still enjoy romping in the snow in the afternoons too.  People are wimps.

We haven't been out much.  No visiting.  I hope everyone else is doing ok.  If not, they'll have to come here, cause we aren't going there!

On a positive note, the fishing should be good if we get a rise in temp.  The lakes should be well frozen over.  The Bigs are rather excited to get out ice fishing, and have spent the last few days finding and packing supplies.  Normally they would go to a friend's ice hut, but that's too far to walk now, and no telling if there are even any huts out on the lake.  They packed a small tent that they hope will work as a bit of a wind break.  I think if it's windy the tent will just blow away.  They've got blow up cushions for seats, blankets, and candles, along with all of the fishing gear.  The hard part will be breaking through the ice.  We're going to try one of the lakes along the highway, where hopefully others will have been out cutting holes already, rather than the small lakes behind us which are likely to be solid.  But not until it gets a little warmer...

In the meantime, I've been taking advantage of the extra labour in the house.  We've sorted through everyone's closet and removed worn out, damaged, and no longer fitting clothes.  Anything that didn't get hand me downed has been added to my material stash.  I'm slowly getting old blankets recovered, ready for a few more years use.  Buttons and zippers are carefully removed and stored.  Seams from old jeans are cut and saved for garden ties.  Nothing can be wasted now.

The Bigs did a cobweb sweep of the basement.  It was starting to feel so creepy, with the dim light from the candles and the cobwebs seemingly everywhere.  I hate spiders.

We sorted and tidied the cold room.  It's a little emptier than I had thought, but we're still doing ok.  We'll make it through winter anyway.  The last pumpkin was starting to turn, so it's on cooking now. 

We're on our last bag of rice.  That's going to change things drastically.  Rice is one of the key ingredients for doggy stew, as well as our current chicken feed.  We haven't been eating as much of it this winter, but even with cutting back and extra meat for the dogs- this is it.  I don't know what we're going to feed them without it either.  I don't have much oatmeal or flour.  They might have to go on a mostly meat diet.  We might have to think about reducing the number of dogs too. 

Rice is irreplaceable.  I can't grow it in the garden.  There is wild rice along some of the lakes, but not nearly enough to harvest and store for next winter.  I only have a bit of wheat seed, not enough for a crop, just enough to grow for more seed.  Peas are the only thing I can think of that will grow in sufficient quantity and provide that same filling consistency.  I wonder what the dogs will think of that.  Pea soup.

We're down to our last two bales of hay.  Husband is hoping for a break in the weather- then he'll try taking the sleigh down the back roads and hopefully find someone to trade with.  We're hoping we don't have to go to the Hutterite village.  That would be a long cold ride.  We'll need at least another 15 bales to make it through the winter.  Then we'll need to do some serious fencing in the spring.  I've been trying to get more fences up for years now, but it never seems to happen.  This year we'll have to make it a priority.

There are so many things to make priorities this year;  fences, gardens, foraging, fishing, firewood, hay.  At least everyone will be home to help.  There will be many long days of hard work ahead.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Day 90- Garden Thoughts

Three months without power and it's crazy ass cold outside!  I think our day time highs are in the -25°C range, and the nights are in the -40's.

Husband never 'got around' to building a windmill, not that it would help much now anyway, since there's almost no wind- just cold, cold, cold!  He did add 15 batteries to the battery bank, taken from cars off the roadside.  He's also installed a series of car radiators around the kitchen, livingroom and our bedroom.  He wrapped the woodstove with copper pipe, then connected waterhose to run between the radiators.  It helps a lot.

He found another mini solar panel in an abandoned car, and hooked it up to the battery bank.  We're still only using the batteries to run the furnace fan for short spurts, but every little bit helps.  We sealed off the upstairs- the boys are camped out semi-permanently in the livingroom.  Husband collected a few alternators, pulleys, and gears, so if he ever gets motivated to try the car alternator windmill he should have what he needs to build it.

The Bigs wander around daily with the calking gun, filling in drafts we never knew we had before.  The Littles have been doing chores- it's the only time they go outside lately- and if they don't go outside I might have to kill them.  We're all cranky from being cooped up, but the little two fight and argue all day long.  Board and card games have lost a lot of their appeal, with everyone trying to find a little spot to get away from each other.  On a positive note- everyone is reading these days!

I sorted through my seed stash and started tomatoes and peppers.  It's a little earlier than I normally start them, though only a week for the tomatoes.  I had a good supply of store bought pasta sauces, tomato juice, and tomato soup going in to this winter.  Next winter we might still be on our own, so that's a whole lot of gardening and canning we've never depended on before. 

We're eating out of the freezers almost exclusively now- no sense opening jars when anything that's left in the next few months will have to be canned.  Beans, beans, the musical fruit, lol.  There's not much variety for veggies in the freezers. 

I've started canning some meat as well- ground beef and stewing meat, just a canner load per week.  I wasn't going to, as we could probably use it all up before spring, but then what?  I'm not sure I'm ready to become a vegetarian or rely on what we can hunt or catch through the summer.  It's easier to do the canning now, while the fire's heating the house and the snow is providing the water, than to try butchering in the spring and having to can it all.  Looks like Mindy will be safe 'til next fall.  At any rate- I've got about thirty meals worth of meat canned now. 

Which brings up another worry.  Canning jars.  I've gotten a few extras from the flea market, maybe an extra case or two.  I wasn't counting them, because I always bought extra jars whenever I found them.  This is different though.  I won't be able to freeze summer greens or beans with no power.  Everything will have to be canned.  All of those tomato products I normally buy come in their own cans.  This year they'll be taking up jar space.  Jars that I don't have.  Jars that I probably won't be able to get.

Which really makes me rethink the garden and the menu.  We need to grow more of everything, but we really need to grow more of what will store without processing.  More cabbage- which can stay in the garden until after it freezes.  More squash and pumpkins, that keep well.  More root veggies.  Do dry beans count as a veggie?  My beloved green beans, which I'm so tired of right now, will be few and far between next winter.  And of course, those veggies aren't the easy seed savers either, which will make the following winter even more scarce.

All in all, we're doing ok.  I just hope we get hydro back soon.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Day 73- Christmas and New Year's

The last few, short, dark days before Christmas were spent making presents for everyone.  We spent Christmas day together, exchanging gifts, eating and drinking.  Everyone imbibed a bit, and all were merry. 

The Littles, Sally and the kids played with all of their new homemade toys, and several commented on how busy Santa must have been in his workshop this year.

The adults all seemed pleased with their new rocket stove outhouse heaters and 2013 calendars.  Sil knitted new scarves for everyone.  Nira sewed everyone new longjohns.  Diego made a bow for each of the men, and the boys got the bows that we had traded them.  Mom knitted dishclothes and Dad made knives.  It was truly a wonderful Christmas, with more gifts than I had imagined possible.  We played cards late into the night.

Boxing Day we went for a sleigh ride, stopping to check on Sanya and Roam, and meeting the neighbours around the other bend in the road for the first time- the ones who remain in their homes.  We took along a few jars of pickles and some of the bear to trade.  Most of the people that way have a bit of livestock- chickens, goats, cows and horses.  I'd like to find someone close by that might have some piglets for to barter in the spring.

The rest of the week was spent doing the normal daily chores, fires and water and cooking.  We got another foot of fresh snow before the temperatures took a nose dive, holding pretty steady at -30°C now.  We reminisced about that first winter, when it was -45°C for three weeks in a row, warming up just enough to snow, then plummeting again. 

It's too cold to do much of anything outside, quick trips to the barn, then back in the house to thaw out.  I've been stitching up coats and clothes, repairing rips and tears.  I even figured out how to sew a button hole with the treadle machine, replacing broken zippers with buttons.


#2 got bored and cleaned the basement, without anyone telling him to.  It was a nice surprise. 

New year's Eve was another night of everyone gathered together to eat, drink and be merry.

Husband finally sat down to read over my notes on how to build a windmill with a car alternator.  He's concerned that the wind won't blow fast enough to make it worthwhile.  I miss the internet.  It would be nice to be able to google other designs and ideas. 

For the time being though, he and the Bigs brought in all of the car and truck batteries and wired them together in the basement.  It's only an 8 battery bank, but it's more than we had before.  They're going to check abandoned cars for batteries now too.  He wired a cord to the generator, so it can be charged a bit when the generator's running, but that's only on rare occasions.  They fastened the two little 'battery charger' solar panels onto the old internet satellite dish, and ran the wires down to the basement to the battery bank.  On sunny days it gives us just enough power to run the furnace fan for about half an hour in the morning and again in the afternoon.  It really helps to take the chill off.

Brother and Sil have a heat powered woodstove fan, and Husband and Dad have been making plans to copy it.  It would be an enormous help in circulating the air in both our houses, not to mention a great trade item.

Otherwise, things have been fairly dull.  Laundry in the bathtub, after using the water for baths.  Pancakes for breakfast.  Stew for lunch.  Usually beef for supper, although we did have turkey for Christmas.  Lots of pumpkin treats this week- I baked a pumpkin just before Christmas- pies, cookies, breads. 

I went through a bit more than a bag of flour this month.  I'll have to watch it more closely.  One of the neighbours said the feed mill should be able to mill wheat and other grains still, if they can find a power source.  He used to work there, and although a lot of renovations have been done through the years, a lot of the older equipment is still set up and functional.  Not that I have enough wheat seed to grow a real crop next summer anyway, but maybe someone will grow enough to sell or barter.

The days are getting longer again, thank goodness.  We went through a lot of candles the past few weeks.  It's hard to conserve when we were barely getting nine hours of daylight.

It's a brand new year now, who knows what the future will hold.  Maybe we'll get hydro back at some point.  Maybe we'll stop missing it.  It's hard to say.