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WAGONS HO - The Valley II - Population Increase


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[The thread previous to this one can be found at: http://mrssurvival.com/forums/index.php?sh...t=0&start=0 ]

 

This the the morning many of us have been working hard to be ready for. We've anticipated the increase in our Valley population by trying to double our crop lands. Now many of us will welcome friends and family today. Many of us also, will open our hearts and homes .....basic as those homes might be, to children who have been orphaned in the outside chaos. May God bless and protect us this day....those on the HILL and those at home watching and waiting.

 

 

{squawk....} Radio signals communication.... "This is Base Camp"............."OK, we copy."

 

 

We have received the lineup for the wagons......

 

1)Several of the B's group.

2)Mt3b clan & friends

3)Rock clan [Rock's DD/family....Rocks SD/family..and several orphans without homes yet ]

 

4)Mother's clan

5) Annarchy's clan & friends

6) MtRiders' Jenson-Han 6 orphans

 

 

Likely only the first three will be able to get down today. The last three will descend tomorrow. Anyone can hitch a ride up the switchbacks to help with the HILL. Just hitch back down in time if you are needed to drive your wagon up.

 

Note: The herds of loose livestock [not caged pigs, poultry, etc] will be coming down last [save the trail!] on the third day. Some folks will have time to go home and return again. You may come back to fetch your horses/cattle/goats/sheep/? from the temporary pens at the base camp [bottom of the switchbacks]. Folks will stay to guard them until you can return to get your animals.

 

Note 2: Some of us will need to make many trips....because our incoming people have more wagon loads at the top than we have wagons at the bottom. :shrug:

 

 

 

MtRider [who is going to be gone most of tomorrow IRL so ....carry on..... :curtsey: and I'll report on my group's descent the next day...um, Friday IRL ]

Edited by Mt_Rider
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The first of the wagons were getting ready to unload their supplies onto the sledge to go down the pass. C had taken a look at it and the pulley set-up the night before and wondered how they’d managed to get the wagons down at all when his parents had come in. He knew it was going to take a monumental effort to unload and load all the supplies and goods.

 

He was just unloading a box from one of the B’s wagons when he heard his name called. He turned and had just time to set the box back into the wagon before he caught his sister as she threw herself into his arms. She was crying so she couldn’t talk and neither could he. His Niece and Nephew-in-law showed up from the back of the wagon train where they were herding animals and his sister turned to throw herself at her DD next and then suddenly the whole family was hugging and trying to stem the tears. When they finally all stepped back he could see the strain of the last couple of months on their faces but then realized that it must show on his too. Still they looked healthy and somehow more alive, even his older brother with his lung problems looked better.

 

Suddenly he looked around and asked where his mom and grandma were and he felt the sadness hit him when he learned they had stayed behind, sadness and then a touch of fear. His dad assured them that they would be fine until the family got back and that they were being checked on daily but he could see doubt written in his father’s face.

 

C’s own wagons were way back in the line up and he took the family back to see the rest. It was a pretty joyous reunion for everyone, as L’s family had known his family for years. It wasn’t long though before they all went back to work at the head of the pass helping to unload wagons. C watched in amazement as his sister helped with the horses on the pulley set up. She’d always been good with horses but she now handled them as if she lived on them. In truth, she might. C had no real concept of the life his family had been leading; the life his own would be living from now on. Later tonight maybe they would catch up on that as some of his family would be staying on the pass overnight to help tomorrow while some of them would be riding back down to bring the wagons up when it was their turn.

 

He kept watching his dad and the way his family was careful not to let him handle anything too heavy by himself and to save him as many steps as possible. He noticed that his young nephew rarely left his side and he smiled to see the young boy doing so much work. He felt a hand on his arm and turned to find his sister there. She pointed to where her son was toting a box almost too big for him to the sledge and told C she was glad there would be more kids for him to be with as he really was growing up way too fast. He just gave her a hug and then they both turned back to the tasks at hand.

 

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SF and W went up the hill leaving A and me at base camp. They took the wagon and buckboard up the pass to where the pulleys were. They were going to help get the wagons down. The B group was coming down first then R&V and our group. Then Mother’s group Annarchy’s group and last but not least Mt.Rider’s group (well that is if they could keep her at base camp and not climbing the mountains to her babies.)

 

Several of us had set up a makeshift kitchen and had started preparing food. We knew Chef was at the top and would be one of the last down so he would be feeding the ones on top but we needed to feed the ones down here. A started grinding beans to make bean burritos and I started on the flour tortillas. It seemed like hours before we heard the first wagon start down the pass. We could hear the pulley system and men yelling. There was a shout then cheers. We knew the first wagon had made it to the plateau safely.

 

Around lunch time the first wagons were rolling into base camp. I noticed N was driving the wagon for one family. The look on his face had me worried, his jaw as set and it was almost like he was clenching his teeth. N was such a happy go lucky kid. He never met a stranger and was always always polite even to the rudest people. Something was wrong and I didn’t know yet what it was. He saw me instantly and waved. After he parked the wagon he ran over, hugged me and said he needed to get back up top.

 

Before he left I told him son there was a fire while you was gone. He hugged me again and said he knew all about Mr. S had told him and he couldn’t wait to see his new house but he was leaving as soon as the Ranch wagons were unloaded. They wanted to get back to the ranch and back here as quick as possible. He handed me a letter he said it was from Uncle T. It seems T had hired on as security for truckers and that he had come through the town not far from the Rocking J. T had called the cell phone and the guys answered it. He also said that he gave T my list and said he would see what he could do. I asked him if he give T some money and he said no T said hold on to it that it was too dangerous for him to have nuggets on him while he was on the road. N said he did leave some with Mr. Rock because T was to contact Mr. Rock and make arrangements to get you the stuff. Mr. Rock also has him looking for some stuff that is needed here in the valley. N said that he and P would come down with R&V and the kids and spend the night down here at base camp.

 

N said that they had to move quickly and get to the ranch and back here ASAP that Mt.Rider’s family was still there. I was confused I said but I thought the children were already at the ranch and were to come with you. He said the children did but her brother, parents and the rest of her family had not made it to the ranch when we left. He gave me a quick run down on what had happen and that Jerry had to go in and get them out. I looked over his shoulder at Mt.Rider and my heart sank. I asked him if she knew and he said no that Mr. S will tell her himself when he comes down the mountain.

 

N said he and P had left some stuff at the ranch also that they would be bringing and wanted to know if they could take the wagon. I told him I had no problem with them taking the wagon and that it was at the top of the mountain. He said he would tell them not to send it back down. N said they would also like to take the horses if possible. I told him that they could only have 3 that Tink had delivered the night of the storm that had burned his cabin. He looked at me funny and said he didn’t even know she had bred. I told obviously the previous owner didn’t know either or he would not have sold her to us. He asked what she had and I told him it was a little filly and that his dad had started calling her Waffles. He just hooted and said leave to dad and his warped sense of humor to come up with a name like that. I told him I tried to change it but she only answered to Waffles so we are stuck with that silly name. I asked if there would be enough animals to pull the wagons. He said that he would check with R&V about using 4 of the horses they brought with them. R already told me that 4 of the horses were yours. Mine? Yes yours it’s their way of thanking you for bringing them to safety. I told him not to get too comfortable with those horses because he knew I would not take them. N laughed and said I had already told R&V you would not take them but they are bound and determined that those horses will be yours. You know you never win against them when they tag team you. I sighed because I knew he was right. R would start and then V would pick up and wear me down then R would jump right back in. In three days time I will be the proud owner of 4 new horses. I looked at N and asked which ones. He grinned and said you will have to wait and see. Oh now that is not fair. He grinned and said but you will like them I promise. I was racking my brain trying to remember which horses they had. N caught on to what I was doing and told me I would never figure it because they didn’t have these 4 the last time you saw them. Humph…he laughed at me as he grabbed a tortilla shell and slapped some beans on it.

 

I asked him who the two young ladies were standing over there staring at him. He looked over his should and swallowed hard. He said trouble with a capital “T” N said they were Mr. S goddaughters and he asked me & P to get them safely to the valley. Mom they are so out of their element it is not funny. They are used to servants and some one to wait on them hand and foot. The younger one is so ditzy it is not funny. I should have let her drown the first night after we left the ranch. I looked at him with horror and said that is so unlike you what an ugly thing to say. He just chuckled and said wait to you get to know them you will wish I had. But there was something in the look he gave them that had me thinking there might be something else. I asked him what their names were and he said the taller one is Elizabeth and she is 23 then there is Abigail and she is only 19. I could hear the tolerance in his voice when he spoke of Elizabeth but when he mention Abigail the emotions in his voice said one thing but his stance and posture said another. Oh this should be interesting very interesting. Both girls looked totally lost and it was obvious that they didn’t know anyone. I told him to be use and tell them they could join us. I thought he was going to choke on the 3rd burrito he was shoving in his mouth be said he would tell them on his way back up the hill.

 

He hugged me and walked towards the young ladies. I know he saw him stop but I was already making more tortilla shells. I caught a glimpse out of the corner of my eye of N jogging back up the “hill” to help the others.

 

Lunch dragged on and we were still serving burritos when we started on dinner. A&I were fixing two big pots of squirrel dumplings. All of B’s group was down and the last of Annarchy’s group just arrived. Our group was next. It was almost dinner time when the first of R&V’s wagon come down the hill. It was a wonderful reunion. I could tell the stress of the trip had just about done V in, hopefully the peace of the valley would restore some of her zest for life. We worked to get dinner ready because R said that the other 5 wagons were already on the plateau and were coming down right behind them. I looked at V funny and said 6 wagons? She chuckled at my expression and said yeah 6 wagons. We had 4, Kyle & family had one and Connor & family had one wagon. Connor and family had one I was shocked to hear that. She told me that Mrs. Rock had taken some of the money that the children’s family had left and went and bought different sizes of clothes for the kids because they had nothing accept the clothes on their backs when they arrived. She had to supply them with bedding and stuff for the trip plus the girls were still potty training and Sophie still has accidents now and then at night so she sent extra. Mrs. Rock knew you would not have anything. She sent boots, coats, gloves etc. She said what they out grew could be passed on to others in the valley. Mr. Rock was able to get them some animals they have a couple of milk goats and some chickens and geese. They also have a pair of cows; he said you would know what to do with them. He said he was pretty sure there was a bull in the valley. She smiled and said if not we brought Buster’s (her fil) prize bull with us.

 

V had also brought a letter from Mr. & Mrs. Rock telling us all about Connor, Aidan and the girls. When she handed it to me it was a freaking book well more like an expanding folder with a rubber band around it. She said Mr. Rock told her that was all the children’s papers, our custody/adoption papers and a letter from him and the Ms. explaining everything they knew about the children and their circumstances. V said oh and he said tell you there was another letter in the concerning the other matter that you would know what it was.

 

An hour or so later guys rode into camp with the last wagon and in that wagon were our precious children all 7 of them SEVEN!!! Oh my! My family doubled in the blink of an eye. I was getting hugs from PW&N and I saw A had her arms wrapped around her brothers. We watched as K with tears streaming down her faced handed A a sleeping Zoe. W walked over and wrapped his arms around A. We all knew this was hard on K because she wanted children so bad but could not have them. Not only that but K&A did not get along. They tolerated each other but A had done something before to hurt P and K took his side and never really forgiven A for hurting him. It was going to be interesting on the mountain for a while. P walked over and hugged K (she was the sister he never had, even though they fought like cats and dogs no one else dare fight against one of them or they would have to take on both of them.) He gently walked K over to V who took K to the wagon and held her while she cried.

 

When I looked back I saw W, A& Kyle huddled together. A looked totally terrified standing there holding Zoe. But my attention by drawn to the two little mops of curls that were in my husbands arms. I knew one was Emma and one was Sophie but I wasn’t sure which one was which. And standing next to him were two grubby looking boys that already were tugging at my heart strings. Connor walked over and shook my and introduced himself. He then introduced Aidan who was standing by P and Emma and Sophie Emma had strawberry blond hair and green eyes and Sophie was the cotton top with steel blue eyes. She could have been W’s daughter. He had the same color eyes at that age. She was also sucked her thumb, Emma was a hair twister.

 

I hugged Connor and Aidan and told them I was so happy that they had made it to the valley and I couldn’t wait to show them their new room. I noticed a baseball in Aidan’s and asked him if he like baseball. His eyes were as large as saucers when he realized I knew sign language. Connor just smiled. The girls had no intention of being left out wiggled out of SF arms and ran over to receive their own hugs. E took all the kids including Sean to get them washed up for dinner. A had put Zoe in the port-a-crib that they had used on the trail and she was helping dish up squirrel dumplings for everyone.

 

P noticed Elizabeth and Abigail were trying to prepare their dinner but still had not managed to keep the fire under the pot lit. He come over and asked if there were enough dumplings for 2 more. I had seen him watching the young ladies and I told him yes that we had cooked 2 pots of dumplings. He headed walked over and invited them to dinner. A few minutes later he came stomping back mumbling something about ungrateful wenches. N looked over and just shook his head. I said you boys need to at least go and get their fire started. I head a not on your life and that ain’t happening. SF looked at me and I looked at the boys. He walked over and ask who were those imposters and what had they done with our boys. I told him I didn’t know but I didn’t like them one little bit. R&V were standing close by chuckling. I looked at V and said alright what gives. So between both R&V we got a graphic picture of what the trip had been like. B even said he didn’t blame N&P that the girls were spoiled brats. V said that even Chef had been ready to strangle them. The look on my face must have been priceless because my whole clan cracked up laughing even Sophie and Emma was laughing. Wow those girls must be really spoiled if Chef was ready to strangle them. I told them I have never heard Chef utter one harsh word or raise his voice. N said well he made up for with those two on this trip.

 

Later while we were setting around the campfire catching up on the outside world which I really wasn't surprised to find had turned so violent so fast...government officials and law enforcement were hunkered down trying to keep a low profile. Most were on mobster's payrolls. And the few good guys had a hard time hanging on to what they had. I saw P&N each dish up a bowl of dumplings and take a loaf of sourdough bread over to the young ladies. Both were in tears at their failure tonight. A few minutes latter SF nudged me with his foot and nodded towards the girls’ wagon both N&P each was holding one of the girls as their cried. They both had the “oh crap what have I gotten myself into” look on their faces. I couldn’t help but smile. Yep it was going to be interesting on the mountain for a while. The twins were sound asleep one in my lab and one in SF’s lap so we tucked them into bed in their wagon. SF went and lifted Aidan and put him in the wagon also. He was so small for his age. He was more the size of a 6 year old instead of a 9 year old. But then again Connor was small for a 12 year old. I gently shook Connor and got him awake enough to walk back to the wagon and helped him climb into bed. Kyle had taken Sean and put him to bed so that only left Zoe. And bless her heart she was not a happy baby. A was almost in tears when K walked over and said may I. A handed her over and K showed A how she had dealt with Zoe on the trip. Zoe was a colicicy baby and anything would set her off. After K had Zoe asleep she headed off to bed herself. Today had been stressful for her and her heart was broken. R&V along with their other two said their good nights and headed to their wagon. A had turned in also. That just left SF, W and me around the fire. P&N were still over with Abby and Beth (Abigail and Elizabeth).

 

Out of the blue W said he didn’t know if them taking Zoe was such a good idea. I asked how did A feel. He said she was not really keen on the idea either that they had always talked about adopting older children as in none less than 6 years old instead of having children of their own. He just looked at me and said mom what are we going to do we really didn’t have a choice in this. He said if we had a choice we would take all the older orphans that came on the wagon train that didn’t have a choice as to having Zoe. I just looked at him; he said I know that didn’t come out right. I smiled and said I know what you meant.

 

I said son you know the greatest gift you can give is love. He nodded. I said you know K and her husband can not have children. He nodded again. And you have no papers giving you custody of Zoe correct. He said Kyle said the mother didn’t give him anything and that Kyle had heard she had been killed right after she dropped the baby off with them. So what is stopping you from leaving Zoe with K? K has become her mother over the past few months and she is attached to K as much as K is attached to her. He asked if we would think less of him and A if they left Zoe with K. My heart broke then and I just looked at him SF reached over and laid his hand on W's shoulder and said son we would not think any less of if you did not take Zoe but we would be very angry if you did take her then refused to meet her needs. SF went on to say that right now K needed Zoe about as much as Zoe needed a mother. The chances of K’s husband making here is slim to none and she needs someone and right now Zoe is what K needs.

 

W just nodded and said he would talk to A and he excused himself and headed off to bed.

 

SF said oh what a tangle web we weave for ourselves. I just nodded as my gazed fixed across camp on another lone wagon and four young people sitting around the fire. He saw where my attention was and reached over and took my hand. He said they could do worse. I looked at him and said who W&A? He laughed and said no P&N. I said if it is meant to be it will happen. I am just so shocked at their behavior. P&N have always been such gentlemen. I have never seen them react to someone this way. Hormones! I looked at SF and said what? He smiled and said hormones; we will just have to let nature take its course with those 4. I talked with Mr. S a little while we on the hill today and he said the girls were in for a rude awakening. Their parents had spoiled them and sheltered them. When their parents were killed they had no one to take them so the attorney contacted Mr. S since he was to be their guardian at one time. It seems the parents never updated their will and Mr. S was the executor of the will. He instructed the lawyer to sell everything for the most he could get for it except the silver and gold except what the girls wanted to keep and sent a list of what they would need. The lawyer hired armed guards to get the girls safely to the Rocking J where Mr. R had purchased them a wagon and horses. They unloaded everything out of the truck into the wagon and they had been staying with the Rocks for about a month until everyone arrived and our people could get there.

 

I just sat there in daze. Our family had basically doubled over night, my best friend who is more of a sister than my own sister and her family had fled from their home in fear of their lives. A’s brothers were sent to her for the same reason. And little Zoe, lost her mother now has a new and one that wants to be her mother.

 

I looked at SF and said do you think W&A will make the right decision. He just shook his head and said I really don’t think there will be a wrong decision when it comes down to it. A is scared to death of Zoe. No matter what W&A say they will love her no matter what. They just are not ready for babies and to have one thrust upon has them both shaking in their boots. I looked at him and smiled. It is going to be an interesting few months on the mountain. He laughed and said that will be unusual how. We both chuckled and headed to our tent looking over our shoulder at the lone wagon one last time.

 

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They were all tired. It had been a trying day with all the unloading up above and using the sledge to slide the items down that pass. C was glad that there had been others below who unloaded the sledge and fitted it all like puzzle pieces into wagons. They had short rests between to wait for the loaded wagon below to start on it’s way into the valley. From his vantage point he could watch as they made the long trek down. Without the radios there would have been a tangled mess because that switchback trail was too narrow most places for the wagons to pass each other. The B’s group went down first and the next group belonged to N and P who C had gotten to know. They were great guys and he felt sorry for them that they’d been saddled with the two spoiled girls. He had to chuckle though. They protested verbally but their eyes said something different. It kind of reminded him of L and their stormy first few months.

 

N and P’s group had a lot of wagons to unload. It took a lot of trips to get it all down and the wagons below packed and on their way but finally he saw them wending their way down the switchback.

 

The Rockin J group were next. He’d gotten to know most of them pretty well in the time he’d spent at the ranch. When they started to unload the first wagon Chef introduced him to Mr. Smith; whose wagons had met the Rocks at the bottom of the pass and would be taking their stuff down. He really liked him and could see that even though he and Mr. Jones owned the valley they just wanted to do what they could to help others. Chef explained to Mr. S who C’s parents were and he said he’d heard quite a bit about C. C wondered just what his parents had told the man but he liked Mr. S and could see he was well respected among the people even aside from the fact that he and Mr. Jones were the owners of the valley.

 

They had some glitches with the Rockin’ J goods. The ties on one of the sledge loads came undone and everything spilled down the slope. It took them over a half hour to get it all loaded and back on. It wasn’t easy working on that steep slippery surface.

 

By the time the Rock clan was down and headed into the valley it was too late to try more before dark. As it was he wondered if the Rock party would even make it to the bottom before dark. His Dad, brother, BIL, and both the grandsons had taken the horses and followed the Rocks down. They would be bringing the family wagons up first thing in the morning.

 

When he got back to the main fire he found his sister, niece, and almost niece working at the fire with Chef. Even his young nephew was helping by stacking wood neatly nearby. They all had such a confident way about it that he couldn’t help but wonder how long it would take his family to get that comfortable with the life.

 

He went back to his wagons expecting to just check on L and the kids but he found L in tears. Karen and Anna were standing helplessly by, Karen holding the baby in one arm and her good arm around c’s oldest who was holding the next youngest. Anna was trying to put her one good arm around the other girls who were also in tears and C had no idea what was wrong. He’d had lunch with them all and they had seemed fine. He pulled L into his arms and looked over her head at Karen who just shrugged her shoulders. Karen had been an invaluable help the last couple of weeks though she still didn’t talk. Anna usually talked for her and both the girls were great with the younger children.

 

C’s niece showed up about that time to tell them all that the meal was ready but taking one look at the group she turned to Karen instead and suggested they take the kids and get them eating. As they walked away he could hear his girls giggling at something she’d said to them and he was relieved that at least he wouldn’t have to deal with them right away.

 

L was normally so strong. She was always the one to make the decisions and he questioned her cautiously to see if she was hurt or in pain. She shook her head and just leaned into C’s arms. He heard a noise and turned to find some of L’s family there and ready to step in but he just shook his head at them and after some hesitation they went on towards the fire. He edged L towards the wagon and then helped her in and got her to lie down on the bed. He lay beside her until she fell to sleep and then eased his way out to go see to the girls.

 

He found L’s cousin feeding the baby small bites of macaroni and cheese and she asked him how L was and what was wrong. When he said she was sleeping and he still had no idea what was wrong his sister spoke up. She told him he was dumb if he couldn’t see that L was as tired as he was. She said that he needed to think about the stress, and the physical work she’d had to deal with and now, here they were, so close to their destination and they were stuck for another day on the top of a mountain. She held out two full plates and told him to go back and spend some time with L even if it was only to watch her sleep. He looked around him and found even L’s family nodding their agreement and after a quick hug for the girls he took the plates and returned to the wagon.

 

He found L still asleep but she roused when he crawled into the wagon. He handed her a plate and she sat up to take it. She ate half-heartedly and C suddenly realized she hadn’t been eating well the whole trip. He told her he was really worried about her and she started to cry again. He just took the almost empty plates and laid them aside then slid under the covers with her and held her until they both fell to sleep. It wasn’t even dark but he never heard his oldest as she quietly crawled into the wagon, grabbed their nightgowns and some diapers for the baby and then left the wagon.

 

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July 1st - The Valley

 

Well here we are, another day alone. It's hard when this is the first time the hubby and I have been away from each other in almost 10 years of being married. I tossed and turned all night last night, just about unable to sleep. I napped here and there, but for the most part I was miserable. I do wish he would hurry home, but I understand what he is about up there. And I AM hoping he will be coming back with at least one orphan who needs a home to call their own and a good set of parents. LOL I just wonder how good we will be. It's been awhile since either of us have had children at home, all of ours out and grown. Our oldest is 34 and the youngest will be 19 soon. It will be more like being grandparents. I hope...

 

Well the chickens and the goats are all fine. I know Marilyn is okay, but I think the other one, the one from mom, Georgia, is pregnant. And I don't know when to expect the little goatlette either. I think you call them a kid, but not sure on that. LOL, I got a little confused so when I got done with chores I sat down and wrote Mother a note. I asked her when to expect the goatlette, what are they called and what exactly do I need to do when she delivers??????? I feel like an expectant grandma lol. Goats seem to do okay for themselves for the most part so I am hoping that this will go pretty easy too.

 

Now, the oxen baby, Lulu's calf, Muffy seems to be kind of "off". She isn't moving much, doesn't seem to want to nurse and is just sluggish in general. So, I added all that to the note to Mother too. I don't know if she knows anything about cows and oxen (they are kind of similar ya' know) or how to go about making your own milk replacement either, but I did ask her about it. I have a feeling that the baby isn't nursing right or there is something wrong with Lulu's milk? I think if she would just nurse, she would get stronger and start coming out of this funk she is in right now. If she doesn't, I am afraid we might loose her. I would hate to have to loose her. She would end up butchered for sure because out here, we can't waste meat like that. Everything gets used. I don't have a problem with naming live stock and then eating them later either like some folks do. I was raised on a farm and know that the animals have a job to do, and that is to feed us humans. So if Muffy doesn't come out of this, she is going to end up steaks. I would rather she grow up and have little calves of her own, maybe some bulls so we could butcher them, but dang. Now I don't know whether to mess with this or let mother nature take her course? Oh my...

 

Pork chop and tenderloin are doing okay. They aren't the only two pigs we have, but they are the only named ones lol. That big ole' pig, the breeder just kind of lays around all day after he eats like he is the king of the world. I don't mess with him much. Just throw him some slop and wonder how long it's going to be before we get to breed him to the others. They are still kind of small yet, so I am betting maybe in the fall when all the animals seem to go into a fall heat, from dogs and cats up to farm animals. They all seem to do it.

 

It was kind of chilly out this morning for a change. I wonder if we have had a front move in? I didn't check the barometer. If it's a high, then I don't usually feel those. Those are good weather fronts. It's the low pressure ones that just tear me and hubby up. Both of us having rheumatoid arthritis, which is how we met on line and started talking by the way, and I have migraines to beat the band when a low comes in. But this was okay so I am betting it's a high pressure. So fair weather means I get to start watering the garden now. That's because they usually don't have any rain with them and if it stays put then we are in for a dry spell. Hope it don't turn to drought. I am going to ask the hubby if he can rig something up for me with all his PVC pipe to irrigate the garden with. Maybe some of his corn field too. I know we don't have enough for all of it. And we are going to have to save some for the house too just in case what we put in there when we first got here busts during the winter or somethin'. There isn't going to be any more of it, so we are trying to hold on to a little of it anyways.

 

Well since it was cool out, I got my barn jacket on, strapped on my .380 and called the dogs up. I had two five gallon buckets and we were going berry hunting! I didn't know if the blackberries or the raspberries would be ready yet. And I hadn't checked them since the storm either, but I was hoping to find some. And just in case they were ready, I didn't want to have to run back to the barn for containers. So we set off down by the spring house where all the bushes were so thick that you could stand in one place and pick around you in a 360 almost. The dogs caught scent of a rabbit and they started yipping and yapping and dancing around and then they took off down the trail after the scent. Left me there alone they did! Little snots lol. Well shine, the littlest one came back pretty quick. She don't wander too far from me for too long of a time. She had been like that for as long as I can remember which was right after I had my strokes. Hubby put her in the house with me if he had to go outside for any reason. She has been real protective of me ever since. No strangers are allowed to touch me or she would eat them up, even though she is low to the floor like her dad, a Bassett hound. Her mom is an Aussie Shepard, Doe and she is still here with us. Yep, she looks funny lol. I am sticking a picture of Shine here in the journal so you can see her. She's my best buddy!

 

Well the black berries were almost ready, just the first one on the ends of the bushes. I left those for the birds and the other animals. I will wait until most of them are ready. But the raspberries were all ready!! Finally!! The canning season is underway!!!! I love canning season lol. I have been canning since I got out of the eighth grade. I had helped with it before then, but that was when I was taught how to do the canning for myself. Among other household chores. It's just the way that the Old Order Brethren and Mennonites and the Amish do. Or used to, I don't know what they do now since I am no longer a member. I was shunned for getting a divorce. Jezebel. Well anyways, we were taught then how to do our canning. And the way were taught wasn't safe, so later on, once I got out on my own, I learned the right way from the nice ladies at the extension office in classes they taught. I was thinking about all the things I did as a kid while I picked both buckets full of berries. It took a bit too since I was out there alone. I didn't see one snake, for which I was very thankful because I hate snakes lol. When I got done, I called up the dogs and started back to the house. I stopped at the spring house first to make sure everything was in order. When I got back I had to get the berries washed up and cleaned. I sorted out all the little leaves that had fallen in the buckets, both old and new ones lol. And all the little sticks so they didn't get into the jam and jelly I was going to make. Yummy! And I still make my jelly and jam the old fashioned way, one cup of berries to one cup of sugar. For jelly, you mash the berries in a layer on the bottom of a pan, bring it to boiling for about 5 minutes while you stir them so they don't burn. Once they are done, you put them into a colander on top of a bowl or cheesecloth and hang it over a bowl to catch the juice. Once you get the juice, you put about one cup of juice to one cup of sugar, bring to a good rolling boil and stir all the time. Let it boil until it reaches the jell stage. One way to tell is by getting some of the liquid on the spoon. Let it cool off just a bit and tip it sideways, if it runs off in a wavy pattern, then that's the jell stage! Once it's ready, take it off of the heat and jar it up. I do about 4 or 5 cups of each at a time. No more than that because it don't work right if you use too much. That gives me about 5 pints and one half pint or jelly jar of jelly. For the jam, I just mash the berries up good, measure out 4 or 5 cups of of the mixture and add the sugar, bring to a rolling boil stirring constantly until it gets to the jell point. Then I jar it up and seal it like I do the jelly too with lids and rings. I get about 5 or 6 pints of jam that way. I think you get more because you have the berries in the mix too. And I like the jam better even with the little seed things in it. It just tastes more like raspberries to me.

 

I also took some of the clean berries and spread them out on one of the drying racks in the smoke house. I took it and laid it out on the table by the camping spot. It sat up on a few flat rocks too so that the air can circulate underneath too. I didn't want them to mold before they dried. It was sitting straight in the sun, so I was happy with that and went back inside to make another batch of jam and get some of the last of the berries ready for either a cake or a cobbler. I was wanting a cobbler the most.

 

So I ended up with 5 1/2 jars of raspberry jelly, 12 jars of jam, a rack full out drying in the sun and a bowl full left over for cobbler. Whew. That took up most of the day and I didn't get finished until this evening. It takes a long time to clean up all my mess to because when I can, stuff is sitting all over. And we don't have that much counter space in the house. I have stuff hanging up on nails on the wall in the kitchen now too. All my cast iron cookware except the dutch ovens are hanging on the wall. I even have a row above them where my spatula and stuff like that are hanging. Keeps hubby from having to make so many cabinets. He is going to have to make shelves pretty soon in the pantry part of the kitchen for all of the jars and such with the canning season starting. I don't want to have it all sitting on the floor lol.

 

I am going to have to figure up our supplies too come to think of it. I know we are okay for now, but this stuff like sugar and flour aren't endlessly supplied here in the valley. Hubby is going to flour some bee's soon and see if he can follow them to their hive. His grandma taught him how to do that. Old fashioned ways are sometimes pretty useful out here. If he can flour some and find their hive, then that will solve our sugar problem. I will just replace it with honey and that IS a renewable resource here in the valley. Hubby and I make sure our place is friendly for the valleys creatures. We try to keep as many trees, natural fauna and flora intact here as we can. We are planting things that have no food value to us in the short run, like flowers and such. But in the long run, like with the bees and the honey they will. And he has some stuff to plant this fall, like the winter wheat and such we have that will encourage wild life to come up around us and eat. Makes for easy hunting. Some say it's cheating. Not really because we only hunt or fish for what we will consume and nothing more. We don't do it for sport, never have and never will. Not that we are tree huggers, far from that as a body can get. But it is just common sense when you are trying to make it on your own.

 

Well I guess I wrote enough for one evening. I best try to get some sleep. Hubby should be home tomorrow and it might turn out to be a long long day. So I might need all the rest I can get!

 

Blessings to all...

 

Q

 

 

 

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Edited by quiltys41
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(sorry these are long but I still haven't figure out the new computer at home so I won't be posting a lot this weekend while I work out the the bugs)

 

Day 2 of the new arrivals.....

 

Morning came early the guys were up and moving slowly but moving before the sun was up. I had pancakes with fresh honey and LOTS of coffee for them. All of the men folks headed back up the “hill” this morning even R&B&Kyle went up to help. A was exhausted this morning from being up with Zoe off and on all night. K face was swollen from crying all night. And this momma’s heart was breaking. No super glue, duct tape or hot glue gun was going to fix this problem. I told A to go back to bed and leave Zoe with me and I would watch Sean too. She was in tears when she hugged my neck and headed back to their tent.

 

V joined me as we sat watching the children playing. Sean didn’t seem to mind that Aidan was deaf he still treated him like he was a normal kid. Connor was pouting because he had to stay behind with the babies. I told him that he was the man of the camp today and he would do the manly things. He said like what? I said well like gather more fire wood and help haul water and be the taste tester since SF had gone up the hill to help I didn’t have a taste tester. He giggled then and ran off to the back of their wagon and pulled out a little red wagon and headed off to the tree line. V and I just cracked up laughing. She said he is going to make sure he has enough fire wood. I smiled and said hey he is learning early use your resources wisely. We chuckled again.

 

Emma and Sophie had joined us out by the fire. They had brought their wobbies (blankets) and were curled up in my lap. They don’t appear to morning girls; maybe that will change once we are back on the mountain and in a routine. The girls had fallen back asleep when Zoe woke and K waved me off to stay still that she would tend to Zoe. I asked V to help me get them back in bed that I needed to get up and get to work on lunch and dinner. She picked Emma and E picked up Sophie and headed to the wagon. Hopefully the girls would sleep a while longer.

 

Lunch today was going to be leftovers for women and children. There are enough refried beans left lunch yesterday for all of us to eat off today. I sent biscuits and jerky and dried fruit up the hill with the guys. Dinner will be the turkeys. V and I decided to wrap the turkeys and put them in the hot coals this morning and let them cook all day. V said they had brought some fresh potatoes with them and she also had carrots. She scrubbed the potatoes and carrots while I got the green beans to soaking then started on the tortilla shells.

 

I could see the doubt written all over her face and I smiled, it is too late to turn back now. V looked at me and said that is what I am afraid of. I asked her what she was so worried about. She said that they would starve their first winter and freeze to death. I told her that when we received their letter we tripled our gardens that if everything produced we would have enough for both families. Rice and corn might be in short supply but we will have pretty much everything else even peanuts. She smiled then, they had been peanut growers in their former life. She asked about the corn & rice. I told her about the storm, N cabin burning the river rising and washing half of P’s rice crops away and the cabin raisings and expansions. As for the corn I didn’t take into consideration any animals they might have brought with them. We have about 30 acres of field corn for the animals but we seemed to have a population explosion not only in people but animals. I told her about the pigs, lambs and kids that have arrived since we have been here.

 

She sat there with her mouth hanging open. I told we do have flies here in the valley so you will need to close your mouth before you catch one or two. She smiled and said that she could do with the protein. We both giggled. Then she surprised me and told me that they had brought enough rice for both families for a year and that they had enough animal grain to get through the winter. That Buster and Nellie (her in-laws) had stocked them up with dry goods and grains before they forced them to leave. Both her in-laws are in their 90s and were unable to make the trip with R&V but wanted to make sure their children were safe. So they paid for all three boys to take their families to safe zones. #1 son went north to WV to the mountains where his wife’s family was; her daddy and brother had come to move them up there whether they like it or not. Her momma wanted and needed her back on their mountain. R is #2 son and they are with us and #3 son headed to South Dakota where his is wife is from. Buster and Nelle had spent about a year stocking food and livestock for the boys to take with them. V said Buster made sure that each boy had breeding stock as well as butchering stock. She said they made the ranch with a bull and two heifers, and 4 steers, they have 1 boar and 2 sows and one sow delivered while there were there. She said they left half the piglets behind for the Rocks. She said they have 4 milk goats and a buck, a pair of ewes and a ram. They also have geese and chickens but they lost their rooster on the way. I told her I had a couple of roos that she could pick from. She said Buster also sent me horses and mules. I told her I was not taking them. She smiled and said well it is too late to take them back now so you are stuck with them and don’t you dare insult R by refusing them. Darn she had me there she had gotten better at this game. She grinned because she knew she had won.

 

V went on to explain that one of the wagons was loaded with canning equipment. She said that Nellie had went shopping just for me and sent me all sorts of canning equipment so that I could teach V how to can. I asked her if she had jars she laughed and said that she had lots and lots of jars. That B’s wagon was nothing but jars, lids and drying frames. Plus there were 10 All American 921 canners in the wagon. I almost fell out when she told me that. I asked why so many. She was grinning ear to ear and said Nellie’s exact words were “MERRY CHRISTMAS” she sent one for me and for each one of the kids plus you. I was shocked and here I had just sent her a box of yarn and she sent me a canner. She said Buster had given R all of his old farm equipment that has to be pulled by the mule teams.

 

She could tell I was in a state of shock because I dropped on to the chair and my mouth must have been hanging open because she said remember the flies. Wow I remember Buster’s old barn it was full of stuff. She said that Buster and R have spent the past 6 months cleaning everything up and making sure it was in good working order. I said I hope he split it all between the three boys. She said nope that Buster knew that the other two where head to families that had all of that stuff and they would not have to start over but just provide muscle to their families. They knew we would be the ones that would have to start over. And you know Nellie sees you and SF as family so they were thrilled when they learned we would be joining you in the valley. So Buster supplied them with pick-up trucks and cattle trailers stocked with enough food, guns and ammo to feed and defend an army

 

I said I wished they had come with you. She said they could not have made the trip. R’s oldest brother is took them with him. It was the shortest trip and they made it with just a few problems. They got in with a convoy and only had one run in up in TN but they stayed most to major high ways and didn’t stop for anything. They had re-enforced their vehicles with steal plates and ran any road blocks they came across. They had their own gas truck. His brother said it cost half of what they had to join the convoy but it is the only way to go. I asked if they had heard from the youngest brother. She said that the last time they had heard from Nellie they had made it to the state line of South Dakota but she didn’t know if they had made it to her sil parent’s place. She said they were not too worried about them since they were in a convoy headed to Canada and it was to pass with in 10 miles of her sil parent’s place. They have the address and are to send letters once they arrive. I asked if Buster and Nellie were safe. She said yes that #1bil and sil made to WV and Buster and Nellie are doing okay. They are having a hard time adjusting to the thin air but other than they are doing well. She said they hit it off with sil family so all is good right now in their world.

 

I asked her if they had any problems making it to the Rocking J. She said that they had joined a convoy also as a matter of fact T was part of that he was riding as security. Mississippi was the worse part they had blown the major bridges and was running barges and they were charging to haul you across. We ended going up to TN and crossing on a back road. How did you get the wagons here she said they had hired two semis to drive them across country that is how they found T. He was wondering where you were and when he saw me and he asked had I heard from you and I told him we were headed to meet you that you were safe and sound. He rode shotgun on one of the semis with our stuff. But how did you get to the ranch? She said that they had ridden in the sleeper cabs of the semis that most trucks had two drivers that would switch off with out stopping and that for a price they would let you ride in the sleeper. She said I have foot locker from T for you. He said that I was to make sure that I gave to you and no one else that you had the key.

 

Key? I don’t have a key. V said that T her that he had sent it to me in a letter. Oh it must be in one of the letters that the boys gave me. I haven’t read them yet. V said that it was something that we could use. Knowing him there is no telling what he sent me. V said there were also other packages at the Rocking J for you so they are also in one of the wagons.

 

The conversation turned back to what she had brought with her. She said that one wagon had plexi-glass and plumbing stuff for the hand pumps. There is also metal roofing. E slept on it all the way here. Buster made sure that we each had a pot belly stove and wood heater. They’re not big but Buster said that during the winter both should heat a cabin with no problem. V said that she had took my advice and hit the sporting good stores and stocked up on camp stoves, cast iron cookware and fuel before things had gotten really bad. She said south AL didn’t start having shortages until about six months ago then we totally cut off. Not a trickle but completely shut off. If you didn’t have it there was no way to get it. A lot of small towns didn’t suffer at first because no one had hit them yet but the last few weeks before we left even the local hardware stores were empty. The old-timers that ran the local hardware stores had seen what was coming about two years ago and had triple ordered and most got everything they ordered so we were able to get things easier. Paid more but at least they were still taking green backs well that was until the local bank failed then unless you had gold or silver you were not getting anything. I asked about the gas. She said that Buster had installed two extra farm grade gas tanks about a year ago and then had right after that he had all three filled. The convoys we joined each filled their gas trucks from the farm.

 

She said what really broke their hearts when they left was Buster setting fire to everything. He refused to leave anything behind that could be used by the renegades that were taking over. He destroyed the fields and burned all 4 homes. He said that he had not worked 70 years just to be run off his land so that some scoundrel could profit from his blood sweat and tears. She said that he was just happy to know that the money he had worked so hard for over the past 70 years was being put to good use and didn’t go up in smoke when the bank failed. She did say that they had been one of the lucky families and had only lost a couple of thousands of dollars between all four families that Buster had made them start taking their money out of the banks back towards the end of 2008 and start converting it into dry goods, guns & ammo and gold and silver. She said her youngest bil had hit pawn shops with is wife (who at one time had been a jewelry buyer for a larger chain so she knew what real and what wasn’t) and they had bought the family’s gold and silver trays and made their own nuggets and coins. Buster had made each boy buy a rifle, shotgun and hand gun for each member of their family and enough ammo to last a major gun fight. Then Nellie went back and bought twice as much ammo as they did.

 

V said the one thing they were worried about was meds and the local drug store where E had worked as a cashier (she was the only other employee other than the old pharmacist and his wife) closed and he still had some antibiotics and stuff so he gave it all to E to bring here. He said he could not send it back and he didn’t want to leave it in the store. He wrote out directions on how to mix the dry stuff to make liquid. He said that it should be good for 3-5 years even though it says 1 year shelf life. He sent pain killers too. Do we have a doctor or medical staff here in the valley that we could give that too? I told her that we would get with Mr. S when he got down here and let him know what you have and he can put it with the others. We have some antibiotics here but I know he will be relieved to have more. And yes we have trained medical staff in camp. There was some medical staff that was supposed to arrive on this wagon train. She said that they also brought OTC meds. The pharmacist took boxes and boxed up all his OTC meds and sent with us. Anything he thought we might need he sent it. There wasn’t a lot since he was a small store but it was all free. I asked if he wouldn’t get in trouble. V said that night after the store closed his daughter arrived to take him and his wife to her house and she was a doctor so she had access to anything they would need.

 

She said one thing about having in-laws that survived the first depression and the wars is they knew how to stock and what was needed. She said that Buster had even sent us ammo. I looked at her kind of strange and asked how did he know what to send. She reminded me the last we were there we discussed guns and ammo and he remembered what you had plus you had mentions in a letter about the hand guns you had bought so he took your letters and went shopping. I smiled and said I miss them terribly. They were so good to us, I told her I was jealous of her she had such wonderful in-laws. She said she had been blessed with a wonderful husband but awesome in-laws.

 

We sat and silence for a while as she chopped and diced carrots and potatoes and I rolled out tortilla shells. I looked at her and asked her how did Buster and Nellie handle pulling all their money of the bank. I told her I knew they were savers and NEVER spent money unless it was on something that they needed. She said they had surprised them all, Christmas of 2008 that had called all three boys and their wives to their house and sat them down and TOLD them what they were going to do and what their plans were. Christmas that year was new winter boots, and winter coats as in northern winter clothes. They also gave us rain gear and fishing equipment. They had outfitted the whole family in northern winter clothes…long johns, flannel shirts, down-filled vest, fleece lined gloves and boots and wool toboggans. Needless to say the grandkids were shocked. She said then Buster handed us each an envelope with money in it and a list of other clothing items we were to purchases. We were all surprised by them spending money but as Nellie said this was the rainy day that they had been saving for so they had no problems spending the money. She said Nelle had even given B and extra envelope and told him that he was in charge of buying bikes for us like what you guys had when you were there. I laughed and said you mean to tell me that you have a mountain bike. She just nodded and said every one of them had one and extra parts.

 

She said Nellie and Buster had sat at the dinning room table with tears rolling down their faces as they explained that the time had come that they had hoped they would never see and that this is what they had worked so hard and saved so much for…then they laid out their plans. She said at first they had planned on staying and just making all of us leave but the six of us refused to take a dime if they didn’t go with one of us. So it was decided that since bil#1 had the shortest trip that they would go with him.

 

She apologized for not telling me all of this before but like me she didn’t trust anyone and didn’t trust the mail. She said all of what they had done and purchased had been done on the slide and cash was paid for everything so there was no trace as to who bought what. She said that Buster had tried to get them to leave and come with us when we left but R didn’t feel he could leave then because there was still too much that had to be done. She went on to say not only that but had if we had left when you did we would not have been able to bring all the animals with us. We didn’t get the animals until a few weeks after you left. She said that Buster had traded all his farm equipment, seeds and government approved loan for farmers for the last of the live stock right after we left.

 

I wrapped my arms around her should and told her that Buster and Nellie had given them the greatest gift they could. That those old farm pieces might not seem like much but it was a new life and hopefully a safe life. We sat holding each other crying when I felt a small tug on my sleeve; I looked to see Sophie standing there with her woobie and her thumb in her mouth. I picked her up and put her in my lap and cuddled my new daughter.

 

Daughter….I never thought I would say that word...it sure has a nice ring to it…DAUGHTER

 

 

 

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Friday night..July 2

 

It was pandemonium on that pass today. There had been a change in lineup and MTR’s and Mother’s clans would be coming down last. MtR only had the one wagon and her incoming family above had more so it was decided that Mother’s wagons would carry the excess down, stockpile it at the base camp, and then return for the rest of Mother’s clan’s belongings.

 

Part of the morning was spent in getting all of the rest of the families down off the pass and started to the valley. Mother’s and MtR’s wagons had been brought up earlier and it was a tight squeeze to get them past each other in a wide area but once the congestion eased the work started all over again.

The wagons holding MtR’s family’s belongings were unloaded next, filling MtR’s wagon and a couple of Mother’s. Then some of C and L and L’s family’s wagons were brought forward and unloaded to Mother’s remaining empty wagons below and they were all sent on their way. The women and children who wouldn’t be helping or driving a wagon were all sent down with those wagons so that they could get settled in for the night.

 

While they were making the trip down the rest of MTR’s wagons and the donkey cart, the ones that were staying in the valley, were started down the pass. There had been others like them the day before and they were a lot more problems getting them down, as they had to be lowered like we did coming in. Mother’s group had a couple to come down as well and they were all lowered in the same way; carefully, one at a time, wheels held with poles and sliding the whole way. Some of those carts and wagons held caged animals and the noise was deafening for a while. To most of Mother’s clan it was old stuff but to C and those of the other families that had not already gone down, it was just as scary as it had been for us the first time down.

 

Finally though, everything was down that was coming down. Even the things Chef had brought back with him were fitted into one of the wagons to come down. Chef himself had gone down to the base camp earlier, after making sure the hands that would be staying up on the pass for the night had hot food. The empty wagon’s left above would be going back to the Rockin J in the morning for the use of Train #3 coming in.

 

If there had not been so much help up on that pass, and the help of Annarchy’s quad, there is no way it all would have been accomplished in a day but even at that it was a tired bunch that headed down that switch back trail late in the afternoon. Mr. Hughes and some of the ranch hands would be going back to the Rockin J with the wagons in the morning, to lead the last train back, but tonight he and some of the hands helped the other herders get the livestock sorted out and moving down the narrow trail around the slope the horses had been using all day. It was important to get them started so they could reach base camp before dark but that meant they were not far behind the last wagons and it was a chore to hold them back. Mr. Hughes and the hands would be gathering the extra oxen that had been used as fresh teams today and taking them back up to the pass early in the morning so they could get a start on the trip back.

 

The wagons and animals reached the base camp just as dark was starting to settle in and getting the livestock into the holding pens was a three-ring circus. A half hour later and we’d have lost some of them to the dark. As it was, the herders had to do some fancy riding, along with people and dogs running on the ground, to get them all corralled.

 

Mr. Smith had managed to get some order in the camp and the families that had been sent down earlier were settled in for the night. Chef, MT3B, and the others, had gotten a meal ready for everyone and there were a lot of exhausted people grateful for the thoughtfulness.

 

Most of the Rocks and B’s people had gone on to the lodge during the day but there were enough wagons gathered at the base camp that for the people who had been in the valley a while it was almost like a night on the trail. The new people were overjoyed to finally be in the valley they’d been trying to reach for weeks and the mood in the camp was generally upbeat. A large campfire was burning brightly and music and singing could be heard in the night. If one looked close enough they could see the glimmer of lights coming from the direction of the Lodge and though it was still wilderness there was a feeling of civilization that gave the illusion of safety. As the night settled in around the camp the one discordant sound was the howl of a lone wolf high in the hills.

 

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Saturday July 3

The kids are home! I still can barely believe that other than our Son in Thailand we have the whole family together. I finally have a few quiet minutes to myself and thought I’d write the memories before they become lost.

 

Mom and I went to bed early last night, neither of us able to keep our eyes open past nine o’clock. I slept soundly until about two in the morning when the dogs barking woke me up. I grabbed a robe and my gun and headed to the door. At the last minute I realized I needed to check the yard before I opened it and I flipped on the switch that turns on one of the solar lights. Mom joined me and we stood for a few moments looking through the window.

 

The dogs barking sounded a bit distant so I figured there was no immediate danger outside the door but I could only see as far as the beam of light. I switched off the light and after a bit could see that there was still enough moonlight to see dimly around the clearing. A week ago the moon had been full and we hadn’t even needed a light to go out at night. I opened the door cautiously and stepped out into the cool night. Sasha came immediately to my side but it was obvious that her pups were with the other saint and were doing most of the barking. They were at the far edge of the plateau, on the other side of the garden barking at the area where the sheep were and I had mom grab the rifle. I used a flashlight to guide us down one of the main paths of the garden giving a whistle to the pups and a command for quiet. Surprisingly they obeyed and came to my side.

 

The Lab was standing guard at the sheep pen but only looking off into the timber towards the orchard. He was alert but not growling and we could see no movement among the trees there. We wandered along the edge of the plateau in that direction, shining the powerful flash light all around but saw nothing. We finally made our way back through the yard, stopping to check the barn. The animals were restless but the herd dog was still curled with her pups. When we were headed back to the soddy I remembered the fire pit was laid all ready for a fire and I went to the kitchen to grab some matches. I set fire to the kindling while Mom held the light and when it caught I added some of the pine we had stacked nearby. I was hoping that whatever was out there would be discouraged by the flame and smoke. When it was blazing well and the hard wood I’d put on it was burning, Mom and I went back into the soddy. I sent her back to bed saying that I would set inside and watch the fire and add to it if needed. I dozed in the chair, going out occasionally to put wood on and check around but by first light I had crawled back into bed and ended up sleeping later than usual.

 

Mom and I spent the morning doing odds and ends. Since we had a nice bed of coals in the outside fire we decided to use it to boil some of the white clothes that were looking pretty dingy. We put a bunch of dried vegetables to soak and cubed some meat and fried it lightly in a big stockpot before setting it to simmer. After lunch we would add the soaked vegetables and some seasoning and set it to simmer over some hot coals.

 

It was just about noon that I realized the animals were all staring to the west. It took us a while before we could hear what they’d heard long before us. A noise that could only be described as sounding like a cattle drive. We could hear whistles and calls and the occasional sound of an animal. We walked to the edge of the plateau and watched the lower ‘road’. We stood there quite a while before we saw the first horses and riders coming around the curve. It was DD and DGD and they were riding hard out. At first I thought something was wrong but then I saw them turn off into the third plateau where we normally keep the oxen and extra horses. Part of that area was fenced off with solar electric fencing and we watched as they unhooked the gate wires and dragged them out of the way. DD went to the fencer and hooked up the wires before pulling herself back into the saddle and riding with DGD back to the road. We’d been watching them and hadn’t seen DGS and SO riding up to join them but by that time the strangest herd of animals was coming around the bend.

 

The first thing I spotted were the cows, BELTED GALLOWAY cows no less. DH had to be smiling at them for he loved them. I didn’t get a chance to count them but it looked like three or four, along with a couple of other cows. There were goats and sheep and if my eyes didn’t deceive me a couple of Llama’s or Alpacas and some small donkeys. The riders were having no trouble getting them turned into the pasture. I knew it took a lot of days on the trail before a herd was that easy to work. I only hoped they knew what electric fencing was. We’d tied streamers all around the edge to make it more visible but that didn’t always stop an animal.

 

Then the wagons were coming around the curve. The first one wasn’t one of ours though I could see DS driving it. It was a sort of farm wagon with about three foot sides and a bench seat in the front. It looked like a small covered wagon with a tarp for the cover and was pulled by two large draft horses. Hitched to the back was a small cart with a large cage and as it got closer I could see and hear that it contained pigs. Our own four Conestogas followed the wagon and I could just make out the camper wagon coming at the end. I didn’t wait to catch a glimpse of who was on which wagon. Mom and I turned to quickly add the vegetables to the meat on the fire and then went in to bring out pitchers of cold spring water and set it on a table outside the kitchen door.

 

DS pulled his strange wagon into the orchard plateau and was stopped in front of the pigpen. The other wagons pulled up into the yard and moved on down towards the north end of it as if rehearsed. The camper wagon stopped back a way’s from the front of the kitchen.

 

Then C was down off the wagon and throwing his arms around me, tears streaming down both our faces unashamedly. In the back of my mind I had thought I might never see him again but here he was, looking as if he had been through way too much, but here safe. Then L was coming towards me. She had gained weight but then I realized she hadn’t, that she was expecting another child and from the looks of it, soon. She looked bone weary and I only held her for a minute before leading her to a lawn chair and Mom handed her a glass of water. When I turned C was ushering the girls forward and then we were all hugging and crying. The baby was screaming when I took her, not knowing what to make of all the fuss, tired perhaps, and needing mom. C took her from me and gave her to L and then suddenly there were dozens of people standing around in the yard, not quite knowing what to do.

 

I knew most of them, having met L’s family numerous times but there were a couple of older girls and two young boys I didn’t recognize. I suspected they might be some of the orphans the Rocks had taken in. I greeted everyone with a hug though the oldest girl held herself stiffly. I kept the greetings short as there was way to much to be doing to be standing around in the yard. Then everyone was moving. DD took some of the kids and ladies to the outhouses; Mom gathered some into the kitchen. Some of the guys were helping with the teams but eventually we all ended up gathered outside the kitchen trying to get organized.

 

That’s when the kids said they had something to show Mom and I. They led us to the back of the camper wagon and there, on a small low trailer, was the most beautiful looking sleigh I’d ever seen. I don’t know how I had missed it before. It was painted bright red and had green trim. If I saw right it had two seats inside the front half but so full of boxes and things that it was hard to tell. The back half looked like it formed a storage area or perhaps room for another seat but it, too, was full. There was a row of steel wheels and what looked like axles among a lot of leather tack and metal gadgets. C explained that DGD and DGSIL had found the sleigh just before they’d left the Rockin’ J and that some of the wheels were made to replace the runners on the sleigh so it could be used all year. The other wheels and other things in the sleigh were just thrown in by the man they’d bought it from. They hadn’t even bothered to look through everything there yet. The sleigh had originally been used to give rides during Christmas walks in a nearby town. The kids knew how much I loved sleigh rides and with wheels this would be a strange but perfect smaller transportation that Mom and I could handle by ourselves. It was a wonderful find for us all.

 

We finally got lunch on the table so everyone could help themselves. The kids were fed and off to play and the adults were finally seated in various chairs with plates in hand before it was finally decided that all the women and kids would sleep in the sod house tonight and the guys in the wagons and only necessities for the night would be unloaded today. Tomorrow we’d set up a more or less permanent arrangement for the next couple of weeks while they all got used to a different lifestyle and figured out what they wanted to do.

 

The dishes are finally all finished and the others are off moving their things. I am setting here watching all the bustle and trying to get a handle on it all. If I count Karen, our 16-year-old orphan, there are 21 adults, 10 men and 11 women. There are 11 children, 7 girls including infant and toddler and 4 boys including a toddler. That is thirty-two people to feed this winter. 32! It is almost mind-boggling. Earlier DH told me that there was a lot of food in those wagons but until we took inventory we wouldn’t know what kind of food. I hoped there were a lot of staples like flour or wheat, baking powder and soda, salt, and dried fruit and vegetables. If it was junk food it wasn’t going to help a lot. And there were the animals too. Besides the extra livestock there were extra poultry of some type that I hadn’t even seen yet, several cages of rabbits, and even a cockatiel, not to mention the extra dogs and cats that had been brought. I’m not sure if there’s more somewhere I haven’t seen yet or not.

 

I would take time to have a good cry but I need to put this away and get busy helping Mom with supper. We have the soup and there’s plenty of bread and some meat left for sandwiches and lots of biscuits, most everything else is gone from lunch. There is the cobbler though. Mom was careful to set it back in the storage room. It’s a big pan but probably not big enough. We might have time to bake another before the next meal. We’re going to have to rethink our whole meal plans not to mention the sleeping arrangements. I doubt 16 women and children are going to fit in that sod house. Guess I’ve sat long enough. Time to get busy.

 

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Saturday July3, the Valley

 

It's been a long day today. Hubby is finally back home safe, Thank goodness! And he brought a few visitors with him. Let me tell you about the way he got them! Thursday and Friday he was at Mothers little Hill helping out. Well Mr. Rock came to him before he left for the Lodge. He said that he had a "few" orphans that he had especially for us. Hubby said he was almost afraid to ask why?! Well it wasn't anything bad. He had some children who had lost their parents. The situation as he understood it was that the families were neighbors. A group of bad men had come into their neighborhood thinking they would be easy targets. The parents saw the men coming on loud cars and motorcycles and sent the children out into the fields behind the two homes and told them NOT to come back until the men had left. The children were stunned and didn't want to leave the parents, wanting to instead stay with them and help protect their homes and families. But the parents insisted and the two oldest took the youngers out to the field to wait. The oldest boy said he heard yelling and shouting and gunshots. After a couple of hours, the men left. He waited another hour or so, almost until dark before going back to the homes to check on the parents. He found all four of them dead. So, he packed up some bags for them all and got them on the road. He was trying to get them to his uncles house but once they got there, the uncle was gone. No one knows where he went, no one saw him leave. They stayed a few days waiting in case he returned. It was clear he wasn't coming back so the children hit the road again. One person saw them walking down the road, heard their story and directed them to the Rockin' J ranch.

 

Hubby couldn't help it and said yes! LOL Mr. Rock asked him if he didn't want to know how many of them there were? Hubby told him it didn't matter, we would take them. Well Mr. Rock asked him if four children would be a problem? NO! Hubby shouted at him. We will take them all! Mr. Rock laughed and told him okay since it isn't a problem to take them, their two horses, their milk cow and few chickens and head on home. He introduced the hubby to the children who had been peeking around the corner of the wagon all this time looking at the hubby. He called them over and told hubby "This is Adam. He is 13 and he is the oldest. This is Ester , Adam's sister and she is 7. This is Ruth, she is 12 and this is Benjamin, he's Ruth's little brother and he is 8." Now, not only were they neighbors, they were also cousins. So Mr. Rock was hoping we would take all four, knowing that it might be a little hard on us if we did. But he really wanted to keep the children together since they were family after all and may be of some comfort to each other. Hubby agreed and thought it was a good idea for them to be together also. He told Mr. Rock that the children would want for nothing. Food would always be provided and they would be home schooled and always, always there would be lots of love to go around.

 

And to say I was surprised and overjoyed when they all pulled up to Mt. Dew homestead would be the least of it! Hubby introduced me to the children and I took them into the house to feed them while hubby put up the two horses, the cow and the chickens into the barn. He had the horses and the cow on lead ropes behind the wagon. Good thing they didn't tangle up lol. He had had the chickens in the wagon with he and the children. Anyways, I got the children inside and showed them where they now had their rooms. They were surprised to find that they didn't have to share a room with other kids. I explained that we had children but they were all grown up now with children of their own to take care of. And that we would take care of them just as well as we did our own. That there was lots of love to go around and cookies too if they could wash up and come back downstairs after figuring out who wanted to sleep where!

 

I went back downstairs to the sounds of laughing children, so long missing in our home. It warmed me inside and I said a quick prayer of thanks and for help too. It HAD been a long time and I knew we could do this, but it would take strength and stamina, something I was in short supply of right now. But I knew that in the end it would all be okay. I had faith it would be. Hubby came back in and I asked him if they had eaten dinner yet and he said that they had plenty of sandwiches and stuff on the way home.

 

Hubby had backed the wagon up to the front door of the cabin. I noticed it when he came through the door. I asked what was going on? He said the wagon is full. Part of it is some of Jerry's things that he sent on up ahead like his foot locker and such. Others were things he had sent for us like staples such as flour, sugar and salt. He sent word through Mr. Rock that there would be more stuff coming yet, some of his and some for the whole family. And not to worry, he had bought his own two wagons to bring the stuff in so he wouldn't need ours but he did have the guys take our team of oxen back to the ranch for him to use to get his things here with on the next trip. I was so excited! He was really coming home! Yippee!! I wanted to dance around the cabin floor or float on air I was so thrilled! He would still be working for Mr. Rock on his security team, but he would be based out of here and not the Rockin' J. I had to wonder if things were so bad out there now that they were going to abandon the Rockin' J and all move here? Was that what was going to happen? It didn't matter too much right then. Because my son was coming home after all this time.

 

Well hubby put his things in his room and I helped him carry in some of the stuff. We didn't have the room in the kitchen now for the staples, so I used part of Jerry's room for that for now. Once he got here, we would have to move things around again. I might have to take over the spare bedroom for a pantry, even if it is in the addition. Or we could move over there and use our room now for a pantry? We would get it worked out in the next few weeks. I was glad to have the staples to that Jerry had sent. And the animals that the children had brought. They were all that was left at their uncles farm. Some of the men had went and got them since the uncles place wasn't far away from the ranch. The horses would come in very handy since they were Belgians. I always thought those were some of the most kingly looking of horses. So full and thick with muscles, their heads always held high. And their coloring, mostly blond, was a thing of beauty when they were at work in a field and the sun beat down upon them. Yep, I was sure glad to have them and hubby would be too come fall planting season!

 

The house is quiet now, the children all tucked into their beds. I heard them up there talking for a good hour before it got quiet. I wonder what they must think of the hubby and I? Will they like it here? I know we are sure glad to have them with us. We are looking forward to giving them a loving home and helping them to grow up to be good men and women. I know they already have good manners and know to say yes sir/ma'am and no sir/ma'am, so that's a start. It will be rough to be sure for the first few weeks as we all get used to each other. I'm sure we will have issues with the oldest boy Adam also after finding all the adults as he did. But we will help him work through it and not let him turn it inward into destructive behavior. Oh my...it's going to be so much fun to have them all here. Now, it's past my bedtime. I need to take the childrens back packs up to their rooms for them in the morning then get to bed. I have to get up in the morning and make breakfast for all of us!

 

Blessings to all...

 

Q

 

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I couldn’t believe the noise and confusion that seemed to prevail this afternoon. The newcomers didn’t seem to know what to do yet they all wanted to help. Everyone was tired and stressed and I knew if we didn’t get some order soon we would be at each other’s throats before next week. The kids showed it the most. They didn’t know how to act or who to listen to. The orphans were the quietest and I could see they just didn’t feel they fit in.

 

While the rest did chores Mom and I and L’s Mom got the soup and sandwiches ready and then had everyone came in shifts to eat, the kids first. We were going to have to get a bigger table set up for when it rained but for tonight everyone just took a bowl and sat where every they could find a spot. It was obvious with that many people we were going to have to feed them buffet style and probably continue with the shifts. When Karen brought her and Anna’s dishes back to the kitchen she picked up a towel and shyly started drying the dishes Mom had started to wash. I stepped to the door and motioned for the older girls and Anna to come and had them start putting the dishes away. Then I went out and found Ben and Matt just setting while YGS was carrying wood to the kitchen pile, a nightly job he’d taken on himself. I went to them and told them that now we had so many to feed that we were going to need more help and they eagerly went to help with the wood. I stopped YGS and whispered that perhaps he could get the little two year olds helping too and he gave me a secret smile. When I went back inside they were all making a game of it.

 

I noticed that Mom had the girls giggling with a story and that L’s Mom was looking around for something else to do. I showed her how to mix up the sour dough bread dough and then we talked about breakfast. I explained that with so many people to feed we’d be better off to start it tonight. She said that her family would eat oatmeal and that they had big bags of it along so we decided that would be easiest. We didn’t have an insulated cooker large enough to set it over night but as it was regular and not instant we set it soaking in one of the big stainless steel stock pots with nuts and dried fruit so that it would be just a matter of a quick boil in the morning.

 

The women showed up then to gather up the girls to go to the hot springs. DD was going to take them and I encouraged L’s Mom to go along but she said she’d go in the morning. When I told her there probably wouldn’t be time in the morning she really stopped, then laughed. Said she’d forgotten and she really did need a bath and went with the rest.

 

Anna couldn’t get her cast wet so we put a big plastic bag on it and sent her and Karen along with the rest and finally it was just Mom and I left in the kitchen. I looked at Mom carefully and could see weariness written all over her. I suppose I looked just as bad but I told Mom to go ahead to bed if she wanted that I would finish up the last few dishes. She didn’t protest. She took a basin of water with her and went out of the kitchen through the greenhouse.

 

A few minutes later Karen came in to return the plastic bag and seeing me still doing dishes she grabbed another towel and started to dry them. Her hair was wet and she’d changed clothes and I asked her if she’d enjoyed her bath. She nodded and gave a small smile. When she was done with the last dish I washed out the dishtowel and she pointed to the towel and held her hand out. I gave her the wet towel and she went into the greenhouse to hang it with the other ten that were there to dry. She stood there a few moments watching me wipe off the table so I asked her if she’d like to have a cup of tea with me. She hesitated but then shook her head and pointed out the door. I gave her a quick hug but backed off before she could stiffen and told her I’d see her in the morning. She was gone in an instant and I wondered what I could do to help. C had told me her story earlier but sometimes only time can heal those types of wounds.

 

The kitchen is clean again, I can hear the guys talking out by the wagons and I am setting here with pencil in hand and suddenly realized that I don’t even know how the family’s journey had gone. I guess I’ll see if anyone wants tea or coffee. C had brought in a commercial sized can of it earlier saying that he knew we’d need lots so had made sure to bring plenty. We’d had a big pot on the stove all afternoon. We’ll have to see what he calls a lot. We might have to start ‘cutting’ it with roasted grain a little at a time. First though, before I can go out, I have to get the energy to get out of this chair.

 

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Once everyone was down the hill some of B’s group left. I noticed that the young ladies that P&N had escorted pulled out with B’s group. That situation is going to be interesting. Chef was down the hill right after lunch and joined V&I and some of the other women who had started working on a community meal for dinner. It was good to see Chef again. Although I think this trip was more stressful on him that he admits to, I wonder if he had family come on this WT, I will have to remember to ask him. Dinner that night was a grand affair with singing, dancing and lots of laughter. Many were telling about our WT and all that we had to deal with. We told of our new life in the valley then someone asked about the outside what It was like. It was quite for a while as the newcomers shared what they had faced, what they had to leave behind and what it had cost them. We all gave thanks for our safety then one of the young people said enough doom and gloom this is supposed to be a celebration let’s dance some more. So someone picked up the fiddle and the ho-down began.

 

With sleeping children in our arms we wandered back to our wagons. The buckboard was down the mountain and loaded with all children’s thing plus what Kyle and his brother were able to bring. We decided to stay the night here at base camp since P&N would be going back to the Rocking J in the morning. P had Aidan and N was half carrying half leading Connor back to the wagon. Both P&N had disappointment written all over their face. At first they did not notice Abby & Beth’s wagon missing but when they had fixed their plates and looked for them I could tell they were heartbroken. They can deny it all they want but those boys feel something for those to girls and it is not contempt. I had to smile reminds me of how SF and I got started…boy if that was a love hate relationship nothing was. I prayed that if it was meant to be that the good Lord would put them together.

 

Our wagon had been taken to the top so that they could use it to bring back the next group plus some things that they had to leave behind. After the stories tonight I am not sure I want them going back but I know there is no way I can stop them…I already asked and both boys just hugged me and said this is something they have to do. This is what they signed on for. P had said that this was a smaller group coming and not as many children. So they would be moving faster. They hope to be back in about 4 weeks. But the 4th is this weekend and you won’t be here. He just smiled and said we still have Labor Day in September we will make it a big party. I hung my head and said fine. SF was standing beside me and knew I did not like have my family separated like this but I knew they had to do what they thought best.

After getting the children settled in bed we went about gathering stuff for P&N to have on the trip back. R had dug out ammo so that we didn’t have to ride back to the mountain and get more plus he gave them the rifles that his younger brother had sent them. The last time we were all together P&N had given R’s younger brother the money to buy them SK and he had come through with not only those but ammo. It was almost their entire savings but they got what they wanted. Now days I am glad they have them. R told sf that wasn’t all he sent them but they don’t know that. As we packed up stuff and got it ready to load on the pack mule in the morning we heard the eeriest soul wrenching sound…a lone wolf in the distance. It was almost like an omen of things to come.

 

July 3 (before the roosters were even awake)

 

The boys gentle shook me and their dad awake this morning. They were headed back up the hill. They wanted to be on the trail before the sun was up. SF and I crawled out of bed and walked with them to the base of the hill. P said be sure and tell Connor and Aidan they would be back. I asked if they didn’t want to stay and say good-bye. They both shook their heads; N said they had said their good-byes last night and both boys had cried so they didn’t want to put them through that again. P said they had left each boy a gift with a note. They hugged our necks and started up the hill. P stopped and turned back and asked if I had read T letters yet and I told him no I had planned on waiting until we were back on the mountain to do that. I said if you see him tell him I love him and to be careful oh and thank you for whatever it was he had sent. P nodded and we watch as they were just a glow of a flash light half way up the hill.

I told SF I didn’t think I could go back to sleep so I headed to get breakfast started. He headed over to see if we could be able to get our animals today. It was too far for us to go back to the mountain then have to turn around and come back again.

 

Mr. S was at our campsite when we got back he already had coffee. He asked if P&N were headed back to the Ranch this morning. I nodded and said they group going back wanted to be on the trail when the sun come up. P&N were the only ones to stay down here last night so they had to get an early start. He smiled and said that we had some mighty fine boys. I said thank you. I could tell that this was not a social call but he was waiting for SF to join us before he spoke. Coffee was just about ready when SF walked back he and Mr. S shook hands and was chatting while I went about making biscuits.

 

Mr. S cleared his throat and said that we were aware that a good many orphans had come on this WT. SF said yes that we had 4 of them ourselves. Mr. S said he was thankful for that but he had a family of 4 older children that he still had not found a home for. The youngest was 4 and the oldest was 12. He said the problem was the 6 year old was ADHD and without his meds he was a terror on wheels. I looked at SF and said we don’t have room for 4 more where would I put them? Hang them from the rafters? Mr. S laughed and said he wasn’t thinking about us but W&A. SF&I just looked at each other. SF gave me a pointed stare and told Mr. S that he would have to W&A that we could not speak for them. But we would see that the children were care for until he could find them a home if need be. Mr. S said that he had his goddaughters looking after them right now but after yesterday he didn’t know how much longer that would last. It seems the 6 yr old lead them on a merry chase and they ended up drowned rats in the river. I tried to hide my smile but Mr. S looked me and said that it seems it was not the first time they were dunked either. He asked what was it with the men of my family tossing their women in the water. SF was laughing so hard that he almost tipped his chair over. He said Mr. S it is the only way we can cool their temper and ours. Both men were laughing by now especially when I stomped away. Mr. S looked at SF and said looks like there maybe another dunking on the horizon. Sf grinned and said yeah but I am afraid to guess which one will be the dunker and which one will be the dunkee.

 

Both men were still chuckling when I returned with eggs and ham. I asked Mr. S if he cared to stay for breakfast and he declined he said that he would need to be at the table this morning to help with the Miller children. Before he left I said Mr. S the little boy’s behavioral problems can be controlled with diet and consistency. I said try giving him milk coffee this morning and see if that doesn’t slow him down. He asked if the caffeine would make him worse. I asked if the boy was left handed, he thought for a minute and I believe he is. I said that W is left handed and when he has a lot of sugar he is wild even to this day, but caffeine actually slows him down. It is like it wakes his brain up and his brain and body both work together then. I told him that W could not eat starchy food because they turned to sugar. That he had always been on a low carb high protein diet because of that. I said it wasn’t a cure by any means but it did help. (and yes IRL this is the way we live and the was W eats even to this day and he is 22 because he is right brain dominate meds affect him differently) He said he would give it a try.

 

The sun was coming over the mountain when the adults started stirring. We decided to let the children sleep as long as possible this morning. Mr. Smith came back and spoke with W&A and they agreed to take the Miller children. So instead of 4 wagons and a buckboard we had 5 wagons and a buckboard. And lots of animals. Thanks goodness R&V had brought tack for all the horses.

 

We saw Mr. Q and he looked like he was on cloud 9. He was packing and repacking his wagon. I walked over to offer him and hand and he introduced me to his family. The children were cousins so The Q’s were going to keep them together. I told him Ms. Q was going to flitter all over herself when he got home with all these children. He laughed and said she would be in hog heaven especially after I tell her Jerry will be joining us once he gets here with MtRider's family. He said but at the rate he was going Jerry would be back before he got the wagon packed and back to Mt Dew Lane. I motioned the older two children over and asked them if they ever played Tetris and they both nodded. I said well we are going to play Tetris you all this stuff. So up you go you are the stackers. So we spread out and handed stuff up and they stacked them as they were instructed. Mr. Q stood back and watched. I told him it was the hazards of growing up as a military brat you learn to stack stuff in small spaces. SF told him he was welcome to ride along with us we would be pulling out as soon as the animals were herded this way.

 

So now we were up to 7 wagons and a buckboard and lots of animals. Mr. Q’s group was 5 and 1 wagon, R&V’s group had 5 and 4 wagons, W&A was a borrowed wagon and 9 people and then there were 6 of us headed back. Man that mountain was going to full.

 

Kyle and B were put in charge of the animals. So they were rounding them up and heading them to the river to drink before we left. W was driving the borrowed wagon and A was driving the buckboard. I was ridding Trouble. R had insisted that P&N take two of the new horses on this trip. He said they would be fresher than Mister and Trouble. SF was on Mister. Kyle and B were on horses that R&V had brought. We have good bye and shared hugs and then headed to the mountain. I looked back to see Abby and Beth with tears rolling down their faces. I rode up to SF and said maybe W&A taking the Miller children wasn’t such a good idea. And he asked why and I told him about the girls standing there crying. He said they were upset that P&N had left without saying good bye. They thought the boys were staying in the valley. OH……

 

We waved good-bye to Mr.Q and his family as they turned on to Mt. Dew Lane. We headed to W&A place because they have the bigger barn. And the buckboard had most of Kyle and Sean’s stuff. We got all the animals settled for now until we could short them out later. R&V would be staying at N’s place and K, E&B would be staying at P’s place until the boys returned and they decided where they would select their land. I told them once they get freshened up to come up the mountain and we would make lunch. SF tied Trouble to the back of the buckboard as I took the reins and turned the mule team to the trail up the side of the mountain. When we arrived Ray come out of the barn to meet us. We introduced our children to him and each of the boys shook his hand but the girls hid behind me. I told him the others would be up as soon as they washed the trail dust off. He said he would be going then. I said there was no rush he was welcome to stay, meet everyone and have dinner with us. He said speaking of dinner he went fishing again and there was a whole barrel of fish. I told him had better start cleaning them because that is what we would have for dinner. Ray was so easy to read, I asked him what he had eating while we were gone he said he had roasted the squirrels that was left and the dove and quail and he had fish but had been his cooking. I laughed and told him to start on the fish and I would start on the hushpuppies and grits. While Ray cleaned the fish Connor and Aidan stood watching him. The girls were cranky so gave them biscuits and jerky as a snack and told them we would eat supper when they got up.

 

When I entered the summer kitchen the boys were starting to the side watching Ray. I sent them to help SF in unloading the wagon. I told Aidan to bring me the bag of potatoes. Ray looked at the boys as they left and said so the deaf boy that y’all are taking in. I just looked at him. Ray looked up when I didn’t speak and realized he had offended me. He said sorry ma’am I didn’t mean to offend you. I just had heard Mr. S talking about him. I just nodded and told him that we would need all the fish that there would be 21 of us including him. Ray looked up and said 21 people? I said yes and half of those are over the age 16 and that is not all of us. I told him that P&N had gone back to the Rocking J to help get Mt.Rider’s family here. They had not made the ranch when this group had left.

 

I had the fish on the grill and the oil heating to cook the hush puppies and the grits were cooking. Then I remembered the 5 cabbages that the P&N had brought back with them and I went to find them so I could make coleslaw. Looking at the unorganized mess felt like a weight on my shoulders. I still had to get the cabin emptied and moved into the cottage then I had to unpacked all the children’s things and find out what they have and what they need. I found the cabbage and grabbed 2 and headed back to the summer kitchen. R&V and everyone from the valley had arrived. Zoe wasn’t happy and A looked to be at her wits end. I was going to have to talk to A and find out how she feels about having so many children.

 

Ray walked over and asked who the black haired girl was. I had to look around to see who he was talking about. I said oh that was E that is R&V’s youngest daughter. I told him we would introduce him as soon as everyone was in here. E noticed Ray staring and smiled. I leaned over and whispered to Ray that if he kept staring he was going to chase her off. He blushed and excused himself.

 

At dinner we discussed the lay out the land. SF pulled out the map that we had made and we told them about the caves that had been found in the mountains. We told them we would start at the top and work our way back this way so they could see the whole valley before they made a choice as to where they wanted to live. V said that was easy they wanted to be down here near us. Ray told his he had ridden across the river while we were gone and he was thinking about asking for his 40 acres over there. R said they didn’t want to be right on top of us but they did want to be close. B said he wanted a cave to live in. V said that might be too damp for her. I told her the ones that do not have water in them seem to be pretty dry. I told her about Mt.Rider and Mother’s clans being cave dwellers. R said it would give them somewhere for this winter at least. Then they could build. The first thing was to find land and get a barn and corral built a green house built and a garden in. Ray said he had thought about any of that. That he was staying at the Lodge and had been working security and hiring out. SF said that he may have a full time job here for a while if he would work for food. Ray said that is better than nothing. That he had 2 pigs and 3 chicks. R told him if he was serious about hiring on he would need all the help he could get.

 

The sun was going down when W&A rounded up their clan and started back down the hill. K burst into tears and headed towards P place B went with her to make sure she got back ok. V and I just looked at one another. Yes I would have to talk to A tomorrow. The girls were curled up in SF’s lap and Aidan had fallen asleep at the table. I got a bucket and filled it with warm water and woke Aidan and sent him to wash up and get in bed. SF told Connor to get a bucket and fill it with warm water and follow me. At first I thought we were going to have problems but he stood and followed. After I got those 2 in bed I picked up Sophie and SF carried Emma to their room and we tucked them in. I told SF they could get a bath tomorrow.

 

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Sunday, The Fourth of July

 

I got to bed about 10:30 last night. I kept thinking of things I should do and finally told myself enough. I slept well until about 4:30 a.m. when I woke to a child crying. I heard someone soothing them and thought I’d go back to sleep but of course, by that time I was awake. I was in the kitchen trying to be quiet while lighting the stove when Mom joined me and within a few moments L’s Mom was there too. We talked quietly setting at the table waiting for water to heat and figured out meals for the next few days based on what we had and what they’d brought along. The meals would be based on meat and I said that someone would have to hunt today and maybe several times a week depending on what they bring in.

 

Then we remembered that today was the Fourth of July and as we weren’t going into the lodge we figured we’d have a sort of celebration here. We would try to make a special picnic type lunch with potato salad using the canned potatoes that C and L’s group had brought and use canned beans to make baked beans. We talked for a while and then when I heard DH and C talking outside I excused myself to go talk with them.

 

I told Dh last night about the opening on the other side of the waterfall cave and he told me that technically some of that land is included in our property, as we’d taken the river and some of the land across because we wanted to use that waterfalls. I’d forgotten that. I knew that most everything was ready for breakfast except for the cooking so I quietly suggested to DH that now would be a good time to take a walk. I asked C if he and L would come with us for a walk to see something but he wasn’t sure that L was up to it. He went to check though while I grabbed a jacket, a thermometer, and a big flashlight.

 

We took C and L to see the land on the other side of the cave, stopping to put the thermometer in the back. C loved the land. L said she would NOT live in a cave and he assured her that they would try to build cabins before winter so she didn’t have to. Besides that one requirement, L also loved the land. She was quick to see the potential of the land being used for pasture.

 

C told us the belted Galloway were for his Dad but that the other cows they’d brought were his as were the some of the sheep and the alpacas which came with his sheep. He said he thought this land would be excellent for them. Like us, he’d brought solar electric fencers and insulators and would be using trees and posts to fence in an area for his animals until he could get better fencing up.

 

I asked him about the donkeys and goats and was pleased to know that DGD had purchased the Sicilian Donkey’s for us from the same man she’d gotten the sleigh from. They were a miniature breed but were useful for both pulling small loads, or as pack animals. I felt I would be able to handle them if needed. She had also purchased the goats and pigs as well as some of the poultry and rabbits in the same way. I hadn’t even looked at the animals yet and I knew that I would have to do that soon to figure out what we were doing with them all. His Dad asked him where the belted cows came from and he laughed. Seems that DGD had asked the Rocks to find some for him before we even left the ranch. They were waiting for her when she got there.

 

When we got back the rest were still doing chores. I had them bring the milk cows up on the Home plateau so we’d be able to tend them easier. This week we’d have to make some sort of arrangements for a specific milking area. Several of the family went down and dug a watering hole in the pasture so that the rest of the animals could get their own drinks and when they came up DH was trying to lead a large blatting goat with him. I could see she was far along in pregnancy and I almost groaned when I saw the sack already presenting. That meant she was going to have that kid after weeks on the trail, which had to be hard on her and the kids alike. I had them put her in the barn so I could look at her.

 

I went to the kitchen first and when Mom and L’s Mom assured me everything was under control I grabbed a bucket of hot water and some towels and headed to the barn. DH had just turned her in to the front area and DD and DGD were standing there with her trying to calm her down.

 

DGD told me the goat had been spooky the whole way on the trip and that she was one of a bunch of goats that she’d gotten from the nice old guy with the sleigh. She said that she had a list of all the different breeds. The man ran a petting zoo but was into the unusual and rare breeds. The only reason he sold them to her was because his daughter was there to take him to her home and she convinced him to just sell everything to DGD at a ridiculous price. The daughter actually made the deal but then went in the house. When the old guy started helping them to load the sleigh and get the animals into a stock trailer they’d borrowed from the Rocks she told them the animals would be going to her grandparents and they had been wildlife rehabbers for years and they would be using the animals to start another farm. He started to smile and then insisted that she take some other things as well and started loading up the sleigh with stuff. She was a bit sheepish as she told us she’d hugged him and stuffed a little more money into his shirt pocket so he’d have a little cash. She hadn’t thought he was very happy about going with his daughter.

 

When I asked her just how many animals she had gotten from this ‘nice’ man she kind of mumbled and then said well maybe more than she should have but she figured we could always eat some of them and the price had been right. I just shook my head and then laughed. She took right after her Mother,,, and well me too. We were all suckers for an animal.

 

I finally turned my attention to the goat. We’d been talking quietly hoping she would settle down but she was just glaring at us all the while dripping birth fluids all over. She was white and looked like a Saanen but had stiff looking guard hair instead of the usual smooth clean look of the Saanen. She certainly had the udder of a Saanen yet there was something about her that didn’t look right. I approached her carefully holding my hand down and talking to her. She let me reach out and touch her without flinching and when I ran my hand down her neck and along her side I thought I knew why she looked different. I asked DGD if by any chance there were Cashmere goats on that list and she thought he’d said something about them but she thought it was something about trying to develop them. I suspect this is one of his experiments.

 

When I found that the goat wasn’t going to charge me I took a look at her backside and could see the sac with two little hooves visible already. I told the girls that it looked like she was going to do okay and I’d just wait and watch. They decided that they would go help with the other chores and to call them if I needed help. The doe had no problems kidding but the babies were very small. The first one seemed fine, a buck, but the second one, a tiny little doe, was not breathing and I quickly turned it upside down and thumped it on the sides to get the mucus moving out. I cleaned the mucus out of its nose and mouth and cupping its muzzle I began giving it breaths through its nose. After several breathes and it still wasn’t breathing I laid my ear against its side and thought I could hear it’s heartbeat and wished I’d gotten one of my stethoscopes from the med kit before coming out. Again I put it head down and rapped it harder on the sides and more mucus came out. I cleaned it again and breathed several breaths into its nose and was rewarded with a cough from the little doe, then nothing. In desperation I picked the kid up by its back feet with a towel, stood up and twirled the kid around in a circle almost over my head three of four times and watched as more mucus came flying out. When I put her back down she gave a tiny bleat, choked a couple of times and then started breathing and coughing. I took a small piece of dry stiff grass and inserted it carefully into it’s nose and wiggled it around and almost immediately got the results I’d been hoping for, a sneeze with more mucus coming out and finally a more clear sound to the breathing.

 

Suddenly from behind me I heard a lot of clapping and cheering and when I turned around there were about ten or fifteen people standing outside the barn looking over the short stone wall there. I hadn’t realized I had an audience and I joked about ‘not trying this at home” and everyone laughed.

 

All the while I had been working on the kid the mom was cleaning the first baby and I could see she wasn’t new at the job. The little one would no more get on its feet than she’d knock him down with her licking. She was not being gentle and I switched the little one for the stronger one, helping the stronger one to nurse while mom took over washing the little one. I guided it to a teat and knew when he finally started sucking and getting milk because his little tail flagged back and forth. When he’d had his fill I switched them again and stood the littlest one up to nurse but she was just too weak yet. I looked up and found DD standing there with a small bottle in one hand and a syringe in the other. I took the bottle first and gently put my hand on the does teat and finding she didn’t kick I began to ease some colostrum into the bottle.

 

I put on the nipple and tried to feed the little one but she still wouldn’t nurse. I finally took the syringe and dropped the milk carefully into her mouth rubbing her throat so she would swallow but she just choked. I tried to get her to suck on my finger to no avail. She just did not have a suck response. I was afraid I was going to lose her after all my work. I really disliked tube feeding as I never felt comfortable with it but DSIL came into the barn with a small tube in his hand and helped me to insert it into the tiny little goat. We gave her about two ounces and then let her rest. DSIL helped me off the floor where I’d been feeding and I shooed everyone out so the doe would settle down. Though the goat had let me handle her with no problem she had been keeping a wary eye on all the people.

 

Somehow, it just seemed like it was going to be one of those days….AGAIN!

 

And then I remembered..... today was the Fourth of July. I headed to the kitchen.

 

There is more but I barely got free time to write this.

 

( In Real life it did have a house full of family today. :D Thankfully the circumstances of the goat's birth didn't happen today, that really happened on an Easter morning :( )

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July 4

 

We all slept late this morning. I think it was the exhaustion from the past two days. Even the children slept in this morning. Well Aidan had had a nightmare so I am sure that is why he was still asleep. It was 7:00 when I crawled out of bed. I heard someone outside talking to Boss and the puppies, I was surprised to see Ray. He looked a little embarrassed by being here. He said I know I didn’t ask to stay over I hope you don’t mind. I have done the morning chores. He said he had even been down to W’s place and did the morning chores down there. Ma’am if I may be so bold to say that baby down there well there is something wrong it cries all the time. I nodded and said I know, it has lost its momma and he has be drug across country and has been bounced between people it just does not know what to do.

 

As I sat on the ledge drinking my tea I noticed K ride up at W&A’s place she stayed only for a short time but when you left she had a bundle with her. I am pretty sure that bundle was Zoe. A little while later W loaded a pack mule with several bundles of stuff and set off towards P’s place. Looks like that situation has worked itself out. I was proud of W&A at putting their pride aside and filling the need in K’s life. K needed Zoe more than W&A did. The life here in the valley is hard enough but to faced with a bleak future on top of the hard life….

 

I was in the summer kitchen working on lunch When R&V arrived. I had spent all morning everything out of the cabin (there wasn’t much we had left everything in boxes and totes since we knew this was a temporary place) and got the cottage set up. I had unpacked the food that we had brought with us and was surprised to find a few things I thought I was out of but also surprised to realize that I was out of some things that I thought I had plenty of like yeast. Any we were officially out of the cabin and it was coming down. As V came in she asked if I had talked to W&A and I told her no but I was a witness to and exchanged earlier. She just smiled. She said K’s countenance had change in the matter of hours. She knows she maybe facing life as a single mom but she said at least she is a mom. I smiled and said well Nana how does if feel to be a grandma. She laughed and said she didn’t know she doesn’t get to hold her grandchild much. We both laughed. She said that B was going to be staying with K and E would live with them once they found their own place. I told V not to plan on E staying long with them. She just looked at me and I nodded towards Ray. I said if you didn’t notice last night Ray had eyes for E and it looked like E had eyes for Ray too. She just drank her coffee and watched Ray helping SF take down the cabin since we had moved out of it and into the cottage. She asked what I knew about Ray. I told her not much other that he was single and in his mid 20s, he was part of the B group and had ridden as security on our WT. He had been working security here and hiring out to help people. He had limited resources. I told her we had talked earlier while he was helping me move boxes and he said that he had a few household items. But not a lot. He did have a pot belly stove and some cookware and he said his mother had given him his grandmother’s dishes and a few of her quilts but that was it. He reckon he was going to have to get in touch with Mr. Rock and see if he could get some more household items. Ray didn’t think he could ask a woman to marry him if he didn’t have anything to offer. That is why he is world for animals and food.

 

As V&I sat the watching the children play she asked what that smell was. I told her it was probably the goat in the pit. Ray had taken pity on my last night and put the goat in the pit. I told her I didn’t even know he had stayed but he realized that we would need help for a few days so he has taken over the room in the loft of the barn until we don’t need his services or until he finds his own place. We heard a loud thump and looked to see the last of the cabin come down. It was said in a way but it was nice now that the green house would get all the sun. V watched as SF & Ray carried the wood into the green house and asked what they were doing. I told her we had decided to recycle the wood and use it to build raised bed in the green house. She said she noticed I had a water source for the green house. I told her that is the heat source that is was coming out of a hot spring and running through the green house down to the hot pool. She said a hot pool, I could have used that last night. I told her to come on and I would give her the grand tour. I showed her the cave, the bee house, the hot spring. She was surprised when I stopped at the cottage and picked up a rifle and told Connor to keep the children close to the house. V just looked at me. I told her that she had best get used to wearing a hand gun and carrying a rifle. Out here we are the intruders. She just shuddered and said I never thought about it that way. As we walked on she noticed I kept her on my left side and always looked at her when she spoke. She stopped and said you have lost your hearing haven’t you. I told her not completely but my hearing in my right ear had gotten worse. The hearing aids don’t help much if there is a lot of back ground noise. I told her about not hearing SF and him grounding me to the yard and then the cougar incident. If I thought she was white when I told her she would get used to toting a gun she was really white now. I thought she was going to faint on me. She started to cry and I said don’t you dare…don’t you dare cry I refused to give in and you are not giving in either. She just hugged my neck and said she would be strong. I showed her where I property line was, we walked on around and I showed her the gardens then we were back on the ledge. I told her this was my quite spot. I could sit here in the mornings and watch moose come to the stream below, I would watch the sun rise and set and I had a clear view of all three of the boys places. I could see for miles from my spot. I told her I could see smoke from different homesteads. I didn’t know whose was whose but I knew in which direction they were. I pointed across the river and said that smoke is probably form Michael and Lori’s place. The smoke over here at the bottom stream was from The Q’s, I told her she would love Quilty and I could wait to introduce here. She asked if that was the gentleman that rode out with us yesterday and I told her yes it was. I pointed towards the smoke from the other side of where base camp was and told her that was probably Mother’s place, and Doc&Mt.Rider’s place. And the smoke in the directly in front of us was probably Annarchy or Big D’s place. She agreed I had the best view of the valley and I could see for miles and miles. I told her I couldn’t wait til fall when the leaves started changing colors. She agreed.

 

Our tour was interrupted by Sophie and Emma arguing over something and Connor trying to be the peace keeper. I told V I needed to go to Connor’s rescue. With the girls settled and Connor trying his hand at chopping wood under the watchful eye of B that had arrived while we were on our tour, Vand I started to work on dinner. We had gathered enough patty pan squash and zucchini that we would have grilled veggies for dinner. We also had enough lettuce, cucumbers and radishes that we could a salad also. We had enough potatoes left that we could have potato salad.

 

V called my attention to the bread I had set to rise earlier. I had totally forgotten about it so I fired up the adobe oven and got it hot and stuck the bread. While the bread was cooking I went and got a couple of jars of apple pie filing and made a couple of apple pies. V had the potatoes cooking for the potato salad and was working on the salad. After the pies were ready to go in the oven I started on the veggies that were to be grilled. I called to SF and Ray and asked them if they would get the goat out of the pit and they said sure. R&B were impressed by the fire pit that we had built. Sf told R that he was the best thing that we had come up with since arriving. It made the meat so tender it feel off the bone. Ray and B carried it in and laid it on the work table and went back to working in the green house. Aidan and Connor were stacking rocks in the green house for raised beds and the girls were playing with a tea set at the other end of the kitchen.

 

I looked around at my family and felt the peace settle over me. Mollie was watching over the children and Boss and Bryce along with R&V’s Australian sheep dogs were down in the valley with the other animals. The others arrived and we all settled down for lunch. SF asked the Lord to bless the food and gave thanks that R&V and all the children had arrived safely. After the prayer I noticed Aidan was signing to SF but didn’t catch all of it. But SF chuckled and spoke as he signed back to Aidan that yes this was our promised land…our land of milk and honey. The smile that light up Aidan’s face was beautiful. He smiled with his eyes.

 

After we finished eating E,A&K and the older girls took care of the dishes. Sophie and Emma had fallen asleep on the lounge chairs and Aidan and the younger boys were asleep in the hammock. SF said that he and the guys were going to ride out and look around before it was time for evening chores. V was rocking Zoe. Yes God was good…..now if the others would hurry home…I said a quick prayer for P&N, T and Ty. I knew T would never join us here but I prayed that Ty would find his way here and soon K needed him.

 

Several hours later A gathered up the Miller children and headed home. As she started down the mountain we noticed that the men folk were down at the lower pasture separating out our animals from others. B&W were herding their animals towards W’s barn and Ray was herding the others up the mountain to the barn. Connor ran to open up the barn and the stalls. Once the animals were in he closed all the stalls. He watched Ray give out the evening rations and hay. He sent Aidan and Connor with buckets to get water. R&SF joined us under the trees where it was cooler. R said that they had found some dry caves and that he wanted V to look at them tomorrow. They were across the river but they were close to us. Ray joined us and said he had also found a place also, it was across the river from W&A up the mountain. He said it didn’t have as good as view as my ledge but he could see for miles too. He said what he liked about over there was there were a lot of terrace like ledges so that he could have small terrace gardens and there is a large plateau to the side that he could use as a pasture. The whole time Ray was talking E was hanging his every word. V even noticed.

 

R said he would take V to see what he had found tomorrow but for now there were beds calling their names. We said good night and R&V rode off and E rode off towards P’s place with Ray beside her. SF said he believed Ray had picked out that land with E in mind. It was not what he had originally picked out. I said really. He said yeah originally he had picked land down in the valley so he could grow grain but thought E would like the land up the mountain better. I just smiled and herded so very dirty children to the tub out back. I told SF he was on water duty.

 

Several hours later after the children were bathed and in bed. I was sinking down in a hot tub myself. I felt the tired muscles relaxing. SF woke me and told me the water was getting cold and I needed to go to bed. I stood and wrapped my robe around me and headed to our bedroom after peeking in on the children. Hopefully tonight would be a better night for Aidan.

 

It was later when SF come to bed, I asked him where he had been he said he and Ray had been talking.

 

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Dear Quiltys,

 

I’m really sorry it took me so long to get this note written. As you can imagine, it’s been pretty hectic around here first trying to get ready for the family to come and now with the family here.

 

You had asked about herbs for hot flashes or ‘power surges’ as I like to call them and other maladies connected with menopause. The first that comes to mind is Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca L.). It is a member of the mint family and though it’s basically an alien plant brought to the US a long time ago, it’s pretty wide spread and it’s possible we’ll find it here. An extract seems to work the best for me but a tea could be used as well. Herbs that helps cool the system such as chickweed, elderflower, and violet might help as well.

 

Black Cohosh is another very effective herb but it’s very difficult to identify because its leaves resemble baneberry and that is poisonous. We most likely wouldn’t find it here and even if we did it has some drawbacks as to safety. It’s effective but not worth the risks.

 

Nutrition is very important for lessening symptoms. Those herbs that nourish the liver are especially good such as Yellow Dock and dandelion. Red clover and oat straw are also useful.

 

I often use the essential oils of thyme and basil as aroma therapy to stop a hot flash,,, I keep them in a closed bottle beside the bed to smell when a “night sweat” hits. I also have dozens of different Homeopathic remedies along for various maladies and often use Pulsatilla for hot flashes. Pulsatilla is a good all around remedy but I know that my supply won’t last forever so I have planted seeds for Pasque flower (pulsatilla vulgaris) sometimes called wind flower, in the hopes I can eventually prepare my own as they did in the past. If I am lucky I will find it growing wild but I doubt it would be until very early spring when it blooms again. It is poisonous by itself so can only be used for homeopathic remedies when are diluted enough to be safe. Lachesis is a better homeopathic remedy but I’m sure not going to be making it as it’s made using a poisonous snake….

 

Dong quai is my all time favorite but though it is related to our angelica, the Japanese Dong quai is really the most effective. I like the way it seems to smooth out the rough time of menopause but it will cause heavier bleeding if you are prone to that. I have brought a large supply of capsules along but we all know they won’t last forever. Of course there’s wild yam root but we are not going to find that up here. Seeds are best sown in the early spring or in the fall but I planted a few anyway. I will probably take some of the plants into the greenhouse for the winter as well as start more there soon. It will be a long time before I’m able to use the roots though. The plant part is normally only used as an emetic.

 

I hope that helps some. The symptoms of menopause can go on for years or they can only be minimal, it all depends on how quickly your body adjusts to the lack of estrogen.

 

You asked about your calf. I wish I could give you a direct answer. It could be several things. One thing that comes to mind is the fact that these calves are being born to cows that endured hard physical labor on the trail during their gestation. Something that is never done in a normal situation and the calves can be deficient in nutrients when they are born. If mom seems healthy and is giving a fair amount of milk then you will need to try to watch the calf to see if she’s nursing well. Is her mouth formed wrong? Does she suck on your fingers? Does she have trouble getting her head under the cow to nurse. If she is having trouble nursing she might do better having a bottle or put on a bucket, at least in between times, perhaps a couple times a day. She will need an extra large calf nipple if you use a bottle though as a regular baby bottle nipple is just not big. Getting them to drink out of a bucket can be fun but if she is already drinking water it should not be difficult. To wean to a bucket I like to get them sucking on my milk covered fingers and then slowly lower their heads into the milk, letting them suck the milk up using my fingers as a nipple. I slowly withdraw my fingers as they suck until they have the hang of drinking. That sounds easy but in essence takes a lot of time and patience with some animals. Sometimes it works right away, sometimes you have to try day after day until they ‘get’ it.

 

As far as beefing up the milk, milk replacer should not be necessary if you have her mom’s milk unless the milk is not good. It is possible to add a bit of molasses for the energy and the iron content but it would be better to put the molasses in her and her mom’s water along with a bit of vinegar so they both get it. She shouldn’t need anything to improve the taste of her mom’s milk unless,…and that brings me to another stray thought to consider. . Does the milk taste sweet to you? Is it possible that the cow is eating a plant that bothers the calf? That isn’t usual but…. Is the calf nibbling any plants? If the calf is failing to thrive often there are clues to the reason but you have to be a detective to find the answers.

 

I was told about your new family. I bet you are just delighted with the children. C and L brought four new family members in with them as well. Two boys that will be living with L’s brother and SIL and two young ladies, 13 and 16 who haven’t seemed to belong to any one family. Mrs. Rock simply asked C and L if they could come stay with our family and of course they said yes. Truthfully, I am hoping they will stay with us when C and L and her family find their own homestead. I believe the girls are going to need some special TLC and I am already quite fond of them.

 

OH I forgot, I wanted to ask you about the baskets you’d been making. What material are you using and how are you preparing it ahead of time. I’ve used the cattail leaves and they work but I’d like to make some that are very fine and close woven to make winnowing baskets. I wondered if you had found something that would work.

 

Please stay well and be sure to tell me all about how your new family is settling in.

 

Hugs

Mother

 

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Friday, July 2

 

Last night I woke in the middle of the night to the sounds of the wolves. Sniffing around the doors, I could hear the muffled thumps of their paws running to and fro, with an occasional yip and growl. The animals were shut up in the barn as planned and I knew they were secure. DH had insisted and reminded me several times..."don't forget!" The relief of knowing that didn't help me to sleep so I stoked the fireplace and got me a cup of tea and did my morning studies.

 

Around dawn, I grabbed my utility belt, opting to take the Subcompact XD 40 today, because I'm a little more accurate with it. The sky was light and I could see footprints from the wolves all around the yard. As I opened the barn door, I could see where they had tried to dig their way under the door. Thankfully, they didn't have much luck and looked like they gave up for the time being. Little Lady and her little one were nestled in the back of the barn near the coops.

 

I decided to make a brick footing for the barn door to deter any more attempts. Around mid-morning the messenger came by and dropped off a letter from Big D, asked if all was OK and mentioned they were doing well getting the train down the mountain, then, he headed back down the road. Before he was out of sight, I opened my letter with excited anticipation.

 

Dear Annarchy,

 

Hope you are doing well. We are fine, don't worry.

 

Naomi is a dear and is handling everything just fine,

though we are both missing James terribly. He always does

the outdoor work and poor Naomi has blisters on

her hands. She won't listen when I tell her to take it

easy, just like you don't listen to me.

 

The garden is growing really well and we have

been harvesting and preserving as much as

possible. We have put some aside for you and

GS808.

 

I hope to see you two soon.

 

Love,

Mom

I refolded it and put it in the house on the hearth, then went out and checked the garden. Most of it was growing nicely, but those darned wolves had trampled on a couple of the plants when they passed through, they should be fine, I hoped.

 

With the bricks mixed, formed and set to dry, I rummaged through my art supplies for a pen and my writing tablets. I wanted to send a note to everyone! I set them near the fireplace for something to do in the evening by the firelight and went back out side and started the water in the canal for the garden. While the canal was filling, I dug the footing strip under the barn door and made cob from the remainder of the brick mixture, then started the water at the top of the garden rows.

 

I grabbed the telescope and went to the top of the cliffs and sat down, peering down at the lodge to see if I could recognize anyone. There was really not much activity there at all so I gathered an armload of grasses and alfalfa and went back down to the house.

 

By that time it was time to pull the water pipes anyway. Lil Lady was in her pasture and the chickens were scratching around the mound of dirt from the footing trench. I checked for eggs, but she still isn't laying.

 

I gathered more wood for a while, stacking it in the wood pile next to the house, shoveled poo from the barn into a bucket and took it out to the area we've set up next to the mulch bin. Not very scientific, just a pile of leaf litter and a pile for the poo, but it will work.

 

Around noon, I focused on taking care of the deer skin. It was hard and dry so I placed it hair side down in the water and placed rocks on top of it so it could soak, then noticed the wolves had tried to get into the smoke house too. It looked like they almost made it in, by the size of the hole, so I went to work preparing a footing for it too. By mid afternoon, the bricks were set enough to use and I poured some cob in the footing holes, plopped the bricks on top and covered them with the last of the cob, hoping there was enough day light and warmth of the day to set the mixture.

 

Aaawww shucks! Now how am I gonna get the animals in the barn without them stepping in it?!!? I grabbed the axe and chopped a couple logs in 1/4 pieces and laid them across the threshold.

 

I pulled the skin out of the water and laid it on the sandy beach, using handfuls of sand, scrubbing it in a circular motion removing the sinews, meat and fats that remained from skinning it, then took it in the barn and laid it out in the loft. As the sun was touching the mountains, I put the animals back in the barn and locked 'em in, grabbed an armload of wood for the fireplace and prepared the tinder for my evening fire. Picked up my tablet and pen went out and sat on the porch and began writing letters with Frank on his tether at my feet. I wanted to know if Big D, AH or Mother had had any problems with the wolves.

 

Saturday, July 3

 

All had been quiet during the night, or at least I didn't wake up until after dawn broke. I made a cup of tea on the coals in the fireplace and went out to see what the day would bring, let the animals out and checked the hide. It was drying and looked like I'd be able to work with it today.

 

After hanging my laundry, I grabbed my backpack and headed up to the cliffs. Looking out across the valley, I could see quite a bit of activity at the lodge, chiding myself for not bringing the scope with me, then headed for the berry bushes near the forest line. Many were still green, but there seemed to be enough to do something with. I gathered quite a bit and headed back home, not wanting to be gone too long in case something were to happen. I've been extremely cautious of my surrounding since the wolves have made themselves a regular presence in this area.

 

Back at the house I smashed the berries, all but 2 handfuls, into a puree and spread them thinly on a piece of aluminum foil and put them on the kiln to sun dry, and made a small pie with the left over, anticipating the arrival of my dearest and KJ. The messenger came and told me they were fine and were going to continue to make sure everyone got to where they needed to.

 

The rest of the day, I busied myself with anything I could think of doing. Barn poo cleaned out, replaced the grass bedding, no eggs, gathered more wood, gathered more grass for winter. Went up to the cliffs, with the scope and peered down at the lodge for a while. People, wagons and animals were everywhere, but I couldn't make out the faces. I gathered more grasses and alfalfa and headed back and worked on the hide, rubbing, pulling and stretching it as best I could over a taught rope tied between two trees. Late in the afternoon, I started the fire pit and rigged up a tee pee over it and draped the skin on it, then added some wood, I had soaked for 10 minutes, to smoke cure it.

 

With the animals buttoned up and dusk encroaching, I started the kitchen stove, baked the pie and settled in next to the fireplace with tablet, pen and jerky.

 

Today I wanted to send a note to Q & M23B to see how they were getting along with all the new arrivals.

 

Sunday, July 4

 

I'd fallen asleep next to the fireplace wrapped in my sleeping bag, until Frank stuck his nose in my ear. He was awake and I should be too, I guess. I got my tea and went outside. The sun was cresting the eastern mountain top. After letting the animals out, I gazed down the road. Would my dearest come home today? I hoped so.

 

When the messenger arrived mid morning, he told me they were planning to head up today. I almost whooped for joy, I missed him so. Anticipation hit me, adrenalin kicked in and I almost fell over my own two feet. My mind was whirling with things to do to accommodate his arrival. Food! What to make? Ribs and.... salad... maybe potatoes. I grabbed my gallon jar and put a couple of tea bags in it for sun tea, checked my supply of potatoes, and snipped some spinach leaves from the garden. I couldn't sit still, constantly glancing down the road.

 

By noon, I was a wreck, worry kept nagging... where were they? Finally, I saw a wagon crest the hill, then 4 more!! Gunslinger808 was driving the first wagon, then KJ. I squinted to see who was in the next wagons. M, was that really her? and J in the next wagon with X? Wow, I couldn't believe it. James was bringing up the rear with a horde of animals. 3 cows, 2 goats and 4 sheep. I almost started crying, I couldn't believe they had come, how did they know where we had gone?

 

After the initial hugs and squeals they ushered the animals into the pasture. We had a chance to talk. Seems, KJ had come looking for us and when he got to our house we were gone, that's when he called and found us. M met him in town and he filled her in and they decided to travel together. They said the local prisons had lost control of their populations and overtaken the area. Their only option was to get out as quickly as possible.

 

We spent the rest of the day talking, catching up on the news from over the mountain and dreaming of a better life in the safety of this valley.

 

Edited: Spelling

Edited by Annarchy
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Dear Annarchy,

I was so glad to get your note. The messenger told me you and Big D and Naomi were alone. Each day he would tell me how you were doing but when our family arrived on Saturday he did not come out and all I knew was that GS had headed to the lodge. I was intending to send someone today to check on you.

 

I’m glad you mentioned about working on the stiff hide. We now have several and though they’ve all been scraped of fat and etc they are almost too stiff to work on. We’ll weight them in the pond and see if that makes it easier. It sure is a lot of physical work to prepare them. Maybe with all the extra people we’ll be able to get a few more extra’s done.

 

It is not easy, suddenly having almost triple the people we had before. We’ve found a passage to the other side of the river, through the cave behind the waterfall, and our youngest son and wife’s family will be moving there eventually. For now it will be better for them to stay with us and learn some of the skills they will need on their own. Even after they get settled across the river we’ll all try to work together though they will be starting gardens over there as soon as possible s well as the extra ones we will be putting in here with late crops.

 

The raspberries will be done soon here but I see the blackberries are already getting ready. Please be careful picking though. The wolves are also hanging out near us as well even though they are not brave enough to come too close because of the humans and dogs. According to the kids there is a huge patch of blackberries almost directly in the middle of the triangle between you and MtR. and us and I was wondering if we couldn’t get all together as soon as they are mostly ripe and pick them. There would be safety in numbers and we can make a day of it. With so many berries in that area I would not be surprised to find the bears also. Perhaps we can discuss it at the Lodge next Sunday.

 

We are hoping to use cob to plaster the inside of the sod buildings here but so far have not figured out a formula that will stick. Do you have any ideas?

 

Please take care,

Sending Hugs,

Mother

 

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Well this morning found me trying to do something with the two little mop heads. Their hair was almost to their waist and it was naturally curly. So after we did battle with the knots in the hair I tried my hand and braiding it, not half bad if I do say so myself. Aidan and Connor both need a hair cut their hair is down in their eyes. I guess we will tend to that tonight. I think I will get out the solar powered genny and use it to run the barber shears that I brought. I guess they will get a buzz cut like my boys used to wear when they were little. Made washing the hair so much easier…soapy wash cloth over the head and face and rinse no more sweaty smell.

 

SF and Ray showed Connor and Aidan how to take the animals down to the lower pasture today. Hopefully before winter we will have more pasture land fenced in and it will come all the way up to the barnyard.

 

I am finding all sorts of surprises that P&N failed to mention. Like SIX KITTENS; that seem to find their way in to the girls’ room at night. So far there have been no accidents but we will need to put a stop to that ASAP. I can’t believe he brought all of these kittens back. I am sending two down to A and then sending one to N’s place and one to P’s place. Then there was the puppy, another saint but that seems to be the children’s puppy that they came with. She is older than Bryce and Millie and she is attached to Aidan she doesn’t leave his side, for which I am thankful. With the addition of the 4 horses (2 Irish Draughts and 2 Morgans) we hope to have everyone riding soon. The girls love to ride around on the donkeys. They don’t seem to be scared; however, they do not like the big horses unless someone is on there with them. Connor has fallen in love with one of the mules well let me rephrase that the mule has fallen in love with Connor. It seems yesterday Connor tried sneaking a couple of carrots out for Waffles but he was put to work doing something else before he was able to feed Waffles. We didn’t realize that he had carrots in his back pocket so when he bent over by the fence the mule picked his pocket. Now every time Connor is near this mule he nudges Connor on the backside wanting more carrots. Connor named him Pokey.

 

I finally read my letter from my brother and he is crazy as ever but he had been squirreling away stuff for my sister and me and as he gets close to us he drops it off with our contacts. V said he sent me a foot locker NOT! it was a darn steamer trunk. It was big enough to get a couple of dead bodies in. Thank goodness it only had hoop cheese, summer sausage, hams, bacon, 50lbs of wheat berries, salt, and yeast and family pictures. There was also some jewelry in there must have been payments for something. He letter stated he was well taken care of and the only that he really needed was ammo and gun cleaning supplies. But it wasn’t safe for him to keep this other stuff so he was sending it to us for safe keeping and for our use. He said that he would like to keep all gold and silver but that if needed to use it. The food was ours. Hummm I wonder if Mr. Q has fixed their loose rock on their fireplace.

 

Today was spent hunting socks and underwear for the children which entailed unpacking box after box and repacking boxes. Mr.&Mrs. Rock had labeled everything as to which family it went to but not what was in the box. Mrs. Rock had sent several different sizes of clothes mostly winter clothes she included a note and said that summer winter clothes could be cut off for summer clothes. She had also included patterns and material for clothes for the girls. There were several boxes of material. With the material reboxed in plastic totes and labeled as to type of material it was stored in the top of the pantry on the top shelves for now. The pantry was huge so it was serving as a pantry/storage area. The winter coats were handled the same way. Finally after the 7th or 8th box I found the box that held their underwear and socks. There were nightgowns as well as pjs for the boys. Other boxes held warm up clothes and flannel shirts wool boot socks and boots. There was a box that had different size jeans in them and I told Connor and Aidan I expected them to wear jeans and boots year round. I did not want them stepping on snakes or getting tangled up in briars. Aidan thought it was cool that he could wear his cowboy boots; however, Connor was hot natured and wanted to run and shorts only. Sorry kiddo ain’t happening not unless you want me to pull out my needle and thread and sew you up. The look of horror on his face after that was enough to keep boots, jeans and t-shirts on. By lunch time I had just about all of the children’s things put away.

 

The night that his parents were killed Connor had grabbed stuffed animals for the kids, pictures of their mom and dad plus he had raided his dad’s safe and stuffed everything in a back pack. He said would didn’t let anyone look in the backpack but he gave it to SF and said that was his family’s important papers at least that is what his dad always called them. He said he didn’t want to ever forget his parents but it was getting hard to remember their faces. I my heart just cried for him. He still would not let me hug him. But I told him no one could ever take away his memory of them and they would live in his heart for ever. He threw his arms around me and just cried. He told me that he would like to call me momma if that was ok. I told him that was fine with me. The girls were already calling me momma Sf pa since that is how P&N introduced us. They boys were make fun and calling us Ma and Pa Kettle and didn’t realize the girls picked up on it.

 

I couldn’t wait to slice into the black hoop cheese so for lunch we had grill cheese and ham sandwiches. OMG they were so goooooood. R&V arrived and we feed them sandwiches also; although, V was too excited to eat. She said they had found a big cave well it was more like caves within a cave. The front was a big dry cave that would be their living area and her kitchen then there was a side cave that would be the bedroom. On the back of the big cave was a tunnel and it led back to a cold spring. She said the bedroom cave had a window…well what she was going to use as a window but it looked out side of the valley. She said they could be the early warning for bad weather coming up out of the west because that is the way the window faced. R said he was going to figure out some way of putting screen he wanted it so it would not reflect the sun. Right now it was covered in vine so it won’t be a problem now but this winter when the vine lost it leaves then that would be a problem. I suggest black or gray screen with shutters opening in. V said that was an idea.

 

They also brought up one wagon to start going through. V said that Nellie had labeled everything as to whose was whose. So the afternoon was spent sorting through wagon one. Most of it was food and R&V’s stuff but there was some stuff in there for us. B&E brought up the wagon that he had been driving. K had stayed back at the cabin with Zoe. E said that she was just sitting and holding Zoe. V said they had gone by W&A and thanked them for giving up Zoe. V said they didn’t know what would happen to K if Ty didn’t make it to the valley but Zoe taking up her time hopefully it would keep her too busy to think about what was happening. I asked what K was going to do about a place and V told me that she had left that up to R. She said there was another cave about a 30 minute ride from them it was high up the mountain but it was one big cave. R thinks it will work for her. Divider wall can be put up it has a spring also. V said that it would make a nice 3 room place. She said R seems to think that the cook stoves will be all that we will need to heat the places during the winter. We are going to do adobe bricks to close in the front of the caves and the adobe bricks to put up divider walls. So hopefully that will help insulate the rooms. I asked when they plan on getting started. She said SF, R and Ray had ridden over now to look at the caves. They were going to see what had to be done. V said they get the sun most of the day so the solar panels they brought would help keep the batteries charged. When I said solar panels she said yes. We stole y’alls idea. We have solar panels and wind turbines plus lots of batteries. She said Buster had hung on my every word when they read the letters a loud to the family. He made sure we had everything possible that we might need. There is more at the Rocking J but it will come on this next wagon train.

 

I had finally got up the courage to ask her why they came here instead of going to WV or SD and she said SD was too cold for R and he did not get along with #1bil in-laws. He said they were a wild bunch. I said and he let Buster and Nellie go there. She said it was so much of letting as it was the only choice. Plus this was Buster and Nellie’s choice for us. They knew how close you and I were and knew that SF and R got along. Buster said that R would some one strong to lead him and Nellie knew could teach me how to survive here. Plus they really were not expecting to survive long enough to reach WV if they did they knew they would have limited time. Buster is 94 now and Nellie is 89 so they are living on borrowed time. The only reason they left is they knew none of us would leave them behind. I told her I was glad they were here. I asked how the trip went and she said she had never been so scared in her life. She and the girls had ridden with T in the truck he was riding in. Several times they ran through road blocks and took on gun fire but everyone got through alive. I must have looked like I had seen a ghost because V asked if I was ok. I told her I wasn’t sure. As much as I don’t get along with my brother I don’t like the idea of him being shot at. She laughed and said he was doing most of the shooting. Oh great….she just laughed.

 

By late afternoon with B, E Connor and Aidan helping (and the girls we can’t forget them) we had stored all the canning jars in the cave. Good thing that was a big cave. The extra lids and rings went to the kitchen pantry for now at least until R&V gets a place. My All American canner was in there I now have two pressure canners and two water bather canners. Nellie had also sent some large pans like gumbo pans. There was a note attached for one. Nellie said this was especially for my veggie soup. It was the largest pan there. She remembered how my soup turned out. It never fails when I make veggie soup (even IRL) I say I am going to make a small batch but end up with 3 or 4 pans full. B was so funny after he reloaded his 4 or 5 boxes of personal items he said y’all know this wagon sure looked smaller when we were on the trail. Between the canning jars and buckets he didn’t have floor space plus he still has his pot belly stove and wood heater in there. All the hams and bacon slabs are now hanging in the cave. R&V wagon was repacked. V wanted all the food stuff out of the wagons she said that they needed to keep critters out. She sent some food down for K&E and she is taking some back with her. But the bulk of is in the cave. It was really the only place we had to keep it cool. Tomorrow we work on the wagon that E was driving. K’s wagon was mostly her stuff and the animal grain and the bulk of that would need to go to W’s for now. That is were all the animals are. Well except for ours.

 

After the children were bathed and in bed I remembered the letters the messenger had delivered earlier. One was P&N they forgot to warn us about the kittens...ya uh-huh they forgot. One was from the ranch. Mr. Rock needed our secret code. Why would he need our secret code? Hummm. Well N&P were headed back there so they give it to him. OH shoot I need to write Mother and make sure her group got in.

 

 

 

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July 4th - The Valley

 

Morning came early today with the sounds of the birds tweeting outside and children giggling inside. Oh, what a happy sound that filled the house! I rolled over and looked at the hubby. He was wide awake with a big grin on his face, listening to the children as well. I smiled at him and asked him if this was what he wanted. I expected the reply I got. "NO" So I asked him just what was it then that he wanted? "More!" was the reply I got LOL! Good thing I was still laying down! Seems the hubby wouldn't have minded a few more, plus Jerry. I pretty much felt the same but wondered how we would feed more? He got up out the bed to head off to the barn for morning chores. I soon followed to get the children up and dressed and get breakfast ready.

 

I went to the kitchen first to light the stove so it would be ready. I turned to go get the children and there they all stood watching me, four long teeshirts the dress of the morning. Poor things had no night clothes, so hubby let them all use one of his XXXL teeshirts to sleep in. Poor Benjamin and Ester were all but swallowed up in them. How they got downstairs without falling is a mystery lol. Hubby came in from the barn with milk and eggs and then went out to finish the chores, asking Adam if he didn't want to get dressed and meet him out there? Adam rushed off to dress like his feet had wings. Not three minutes later he was out the front door on his way to the barn! I had a feeling the hubby now had a shadow, one he would be thankful to have. I was hoping that hubby would have time to talk to Adam and find out a little more about the children, what had happened and how to help him put it in perspective. I imagined at his age, he might be feeling bad about not staying in the house and trying to help defend his parents instead of out watching the children. Plus, at 13 he needed to learn how to help around the barn and such.

 

Ruth was helping me cook while the younger two went to get dressed. I was surprised when they came back dressed right side out and shoes laced lol. Wasn't expecting that, but it had been awhile since I had been around youngers. They seemed to do alright. I fried up some scrambled eggs while Ruth made the toast and helped to set the table. I got the milk into a pitcher while Ruth got the glasses out and half filled for the younger two. They were sitting at the table already just watching me make the eggs. I told Ruth to go ahead on upstairs and get dressed for breakfast and sent the two younger ones out to the barn to tell hubby that breakfast was ready. I got the raspberry jam out that I had made while hubby was gone the other day. I was wanting to know what everyone thought of it before I went out and got more for jelly. If it wasn't to their liking, I would find other uses for the berries. Nothing around here that nature gave us would go to waste.

 

After eating breakfast, all the children went outside. They quickly found the dogs, or was that the other way around? LOL! The dogs were so happy to have children around to play with. I told them not to go too far unless Mr. Q or I were with them just for safety. They seemed to think that between the dogs and the barn and the yard, they would have lots to do today lol. As was my old habit, I propped the front door open and opened the window too so I could see and hear what they were up to. Loud was okay, quiet needs looking into lol. But the children and the dogs spent the morning playing together as I went about the business of cleaning house and making up beds. They would learn to make their own soon enough. I would let them have a few days just to settle in and learn to be "kids" again.

 

When I went to their rooms, the boys had taken one and the girls another. I looked in their packs, opening them out on the freshly made beds. Adam had done a fair job of packing for them, unless someone at the Rock's had given them clothes. There were 10 pairs each of socks and underwear. 5 sets of pants and shirts each and the girls had a dress thrown in there also. They had no extra shoes. Maybe we could remedy that. I might find another family who's children had outgrown theirs? Which got me to thinking...we needed that farmers market! Someone could set up an exchange table or booth for children's clothes and shoes there too! No reason it just had to be all for food was there? Maybe trade animals and such too. I put the children's clothes away for them this first time so they would know where they went. I hung their bags up on the bedpost for now.

 

Once I had all that done, the messenger rode up with a letter for us from Mother. I had a few minutes before having to fix lunch so I sat down with a cuppa and read it. I put it into the pocket of my apron to answer after lunch. I had about an hour the way I had figured where I wouldn't have anything to do, so I would sit down and write to Mother. I missed her so much, I missed them all. But now with the children in the house, it wasn't quite so bad since I wasn't going to have much time to be missing anyone lol. Lunch was just some sliced deer meat on toast (leftover from breakfast) with a little BBQ sauce and some fresh green beans from the garden. I had picked those yesterday and had them snapped and ready in the spring house. Since it was just the first few, there wasn't enough to fire up the canner over, so we just ate those up.

 

 

 

Hubby asked the children if they would like to help him catch some fish or maybe go swimming this afternoon? They got all excited and jumping around ready to go right then. I could just see the faces falling when hubby told them they would have to wait at least an hour after they ate lunch to go swimming. But when he suggested they go fishing to pass the time, the faces lit up again lol. Adam said he used to fish a lot with his dad and uncles. Seems Benjamin knew how to fish, Ruth did too, but Ester said she would rather just watch. Hubby just winked at me. I smiled back knowing that at her age, we were betting it had something to do with "ucky" worms! So they all ran off, leaving me in the cabin to clean up the lunch dishes and have a little down time. So I grabbed a cuppa and a pad of paper and a pen to write Mother a letter:

 

Dear Mother,

 

I do miss you so much! But our house is now full of wonderful laughter and the sound of children playing. Adam, the oldest, is a bit quiet at times but I do suppose that is to be expected. He is the one that found all four of the parents passed away after the gang left their neighbor hood. Hubby has plans on getting him to talk it out. He wants to make sure that Adam knows none of it is his fault. The other three seem to be fine so far. They really are a joy to have here. Although, hubby wants more! I think when Jerry gets here with the next wagon train, that will be more than plenty for the winter. Unless it is just a necessity that we take more. Funny how quickly we get attached to them, isn't it?

 

Well the calf doesn't seem to be doing any better yet, but she isn't any worse either. But she is very "blah" for lack of a better word. I will try the suggestion on getting her to drink her mothers milk out of the bucket first. If she is still not wanting mom's milk, then I will try the molasses in it and see if I can't do that detective work too. I haven't noticed anything out there that would go through the milk, but I haven't walked the pasture in a few weeks either. Maybe it's time for it?

 

As for the menopause helpers...I can't take the black cohosh anyways. Makes my heart do funny things lol. I would like to try the essential oils though at the bed stand for the hot flashes. Sounds like it might just be the thing I need to help me through this. The rest of it I should be able to handle okay.

 

Well we aren't having anything special for the 4th. I think our focus will be on labor day and Thanksgiving this year instead. It is pretty clear why with all the hard work we have all had to do just to get to those dates. Well time for me to get something started for dinner for my family...my family...that sure sounds good!

 

Hugs to you and yours,

 

Q

 

 

 

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Yesterday was so full I couldn’t even find time to write. After a lot of discussion it was decided that C and L and the entire family would stay here for at least the next couple of weeks. There was so much for them to learn and even if they did decide to take the property across the river they didn’t want to move there until the waterfall cave was cleared and access back and forth was easier. Living quarters would also have to be arranged, either in the caves there or in tents or hastily erected cabins or soddies as the wagons were not an option. There were too many families and not enough wagons, as the most of the wagons would be needed for transportation and farm work.

 

Consequently yesterday was spent trying to get sleeping arrangements organized. The sod bunkhouse was divided into three sections with doors to the outside in each. We moved C and L and family into one side and her Cousin, whom I forgot to write is also pregnant and due within days of L (IRL as well) and her family are taking the other end. L’s parents will be taking the front half of the middle section with Karen and Anna having a room to the back. L’s brother and his wife and Ben and Matt will be sharing a large cave room with an opening to the outside with her other brother and wife. It is not ideal but it’s only temporary and we’ve set up a larger tarp pavilion outside for people to gather and eat when it’s not raining.

 

Between taking care of the still weak kids and trying to keep everyone organized I was ready for bed by nine.

 

After chores and breakfast this morning, the whole family, except Mom and I, went across the river to check out the land there. There really was a lot to do here with the barn to clean out and animals to care for but I couldn’t blame them for wanting to see the land. Already the fenced in area was being stripped with so many animals and we needed to get them moved to save the grass for later. That would mean putting up more fencing, at least solar electric but we’d have to cut posts even for that as the step-in ones were all being used. We would need to start cutting hay on the rest of the property and there were berries and other wild foods to gather. It also looked like hunting was going to have to be done yet again. Some of the family members suggested that I make a list of what needed done so we could make a schedule but I suggested right back that THEY help make that list. That sort of stopped them in their tracks. They are all adults, they all have minds, if I start doing all the thinking for them they will never learn. I know all our kids started to look at DD but I put a stop to that too. It’s not that she couldn’t do it, she could, very easily, it’s that we need to figure this out together.

 

It wasn’t long before L and her mom and Karen with baby T were back. L was really pale and her Mom didn’t look much better. I sent L in to rest after making sure that she wasn’t having contractions or any bleeding. L’s mom sat in a chair by the table but asked what she could do to help with lunch. I asked her if the rest would be coming back soon and when she said she doubted it I told her we were doing nothing but making bread as the meat was already baking in the oven and that was all they were getting besides dried fruit if they wanted it and fresh cold milk and coffee. I asked her and Mom if they would be okay with watching the bread while I went to look at the animals and they readily assented. I asked Karen if she wanted to come and she pointed to baby T and shrugged. I told her we’d bring the baby along and she smiled.

 

Once outside I had Karen grab the baby’s stroller, a big wheeled style that would take the rough terrain, and we started down to the pasture. I had the list of breeds that DGD had gotten from the previous owner and intended to see if I could figure out what was what. I had noticed that Karen had a real knack with the animals and asked her if she knew anything about different breeds. She just shrugged her shoulders but I noticed a look of frustration fleetingly cross her face. When we got to the pasture we wandered around the outside of the fence picking out the different breeds.

 

What I found were:

About a half-dozen of what looked like Dorset sheep and maybe that many Suffolk and I guessed they were C’s as the alpacas were hanging together with them.

 

3 miniature Babydoll Southdowns. On the list so they were ours, adorable but I wasn’t sure how well they would do in the possibly harsh weather conditions we might be facing in the valley this winter. At least they were small enough to house in the barn.

 

6 Belted Galloways or at least I think they are Galloway’s and not Dutch Belted, which is a dairy breed. These looked slight compared to the ones we’d had in the past. Perhaps they are just thin from the trip.

 

1 Guernsey’s, obviously C’s, another was up on the home plateau as it was being milked

 

6 Scottish Highland Cows, wonderful cattle for the valley. Not sure if they are C’s or ours

 

7 good-sized multi colored cows, perhaps Angus crosses or perhaps they are a breed I don’t recognize. Probably C’s

 

3 (what I thought to be) belted calves but laughed out loud when I realized they were on the list and were miniature Panda cows. I’d always wanted some but could never afford them. Now I couldn’t think of their worth here in the valley.

 

2 Miniature Sicilian Donkeys, on the list so ours also. I could see them pulling the small cart.

 

2 miniature horses, also ours. I wondered what in the heck we are going to do with them. They looked to be very small ones, not the medium sized things I was used to seeing.

 

2 Nigerian Dwarf Goats, on the list. They at least would give us milk.

 

2 standard Saanens, perhaps more ‘experiments’ as they were only listed as 3 white goats. They would be milk and if they were cashmere, fiber and meat.

 

Roughly counting that made 46 animals plus, in this pasture were all the horses and the oxen at night when they weren’t tied out, way too many for the size.

 

I thought I was done until Karen reached over my shoulder and pointed out one of the names, zebus, and then pointed to the middle of the pasture where two small humpbacked cows stood grazing. She actually laughed out loud, the first sound I’d heard from her, at my amazed look. One cow had rather long horns the other short ones but they looked so strange with that hump on their shoulders. I’d seen them at zoo’s but this was almost too much. So okay, 48 animals plus….WAY TOO MANY!

 

It was obvious that this “petting zoo” specialized in miniatures and the unusual but I had no idea what we’d do with this strange menagerie of animals here in the valley.. With mostly miniatures we’d have to watch them with predators unless perhaps they would stay close to the bigger animals. What was so strange was that I’d always wanted miniatures and obviously DGD remembered that but somehow they seemed so out of place now, in this vast wilderness. I looked up at Karen who was still smiling and then I smiled too. I told her we’d better go help with lunch because I didn’t think I’d be able to handle checking out the small animals at the barn without sustenance. I was rewarded with another laugh. It was really wonderful to hear. Then she pointed to the list and the pencil I held and I handed them to her. On the bottom she wrote, “You can sell or barter the small livestock offspring to people in the settlement who don’t have acres of land for larger ones.” I could feel the grin coming on my face as I gave her a big hug telling her she was a genius. And here I’d been a bit discouraged because a good share of the animals looked pregnant. The wheels were turning in my already busy mind, trying to figure out how to feed and keep all these animals safe.

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This morning I had the our grandchildren (the Miller children), Zoe and our children. My yard was alive with laughter and squealing. The adults were across the river making bricks. B had a project for the older boys but two younger boys (Jacob, Sean), Megan and the girls were picking berries behind the bee house. Becky (the youngest Miller girl) and Aidan were pulling weeds.

 

B spent the first part of the morning showing Connor and the oldest Miller boy (Teddy) how to build rabbit cages. As soon as the first one was built and passed B’s inspection he told them they were on their own. B told them they had to build 16 of them. Basically that was two cages per adult (R&V and me &SF counted as 1 we each adult or couple gets 2 does and 1 buck). They kept the rabbits separate on the trip they did not want them to breed and deliver on the trial. They were afraid that the does would eat the kits. So all we have is breeding stock now. Hopefully once the cages are set up and they are settled we can start breeding in the next month or two. The cage was one long cage divided into three sections with a drop down front. They were designed to hang on the side of the barn. But could have legs added and moved if need be. This is the kind of cage that B had used with his 4-H bunnies and they seemed to work pretty well. Each section was big enough to house 4 does but the bucks would be separated out so that they didn’t fight. The bucks would hit the canner as soon as they weighed out at 9-10 pounds. These were New Zealand whites so they can get up to 12 pounds but 9-10 better they are younger and more tender at that weight.

 

B came into the summer kitchen where I was making sandwiches and said ya know you need a bigger barn. I just smiled and said that would be a August project. Hopefully by then P&N would be back and y’all will be in your own place settled. B just nodded. He said mom and dad are happy we are here but I wanted to stay and defend our place. I looked up at this towering 16 yr old and said son defending what is yours is always right but when you know you are out numbered and lives are at stake it is never wise to tempt fate. Your Papa knew that, that is why he made all his boys leave and take their families to safety. He wanted you grandkids to be safe and be able to start over. I looped my arm though his and said B if you had stayed and tried to take on that renegade band that was terrorizing your area and you lost your life what good would all of Papa’s hard been? Y’all would have lost your lives and everything would be lost. This way Papa knew that you had it and you can start over. B just shook his head and said but we left it all behind. I asked what did you leave. He said the land that Papa had worked so hard for. I just smiled.

 

B, you can not “own” the land. We are just keepers of the land. He smiled and said you sound like Granny now. I grinned and said thank you she is a smart woman. B just shook his head and said maybe but we still lost we left everything behind. B you only left material things behind but you still have the most important thing that Papa and Granny could give their family. He still wasn’t getting. B you have their love, you have their 80+ years of knowledge. That you didn’t leave behind, that can not be taken from you and Papa made sure you had all the tools you needed to start over. So what if you don’t have a light to draw by at night you still have paper and pencil you just have to get up early and draw in the sunshine or sketch by the light from the fire place. You haven’t lost anything but comfort and convenience. B just smiled, he said I guess you are right. I just miss papa and granny. I nodded and said I am sure they miss you too. But you will see them again it may not be on this side of the Crystal River but you will see them again. He nodded and said he was going to ride over and help make bricks. I handed him the picnic basket full of sandwiches and fried pies for their lunch. I told him that way they would not loose so much time going back and forth.

 

Lunch wasn’t for another couple of hours so I set up the sewing machine and took the material and patterns to the summer kitchen where Zoe was sleeping. K said that the first part of the night was a little rough but that Zoe had settled down around midnight and slept till about 5:00. I called the twins over and measured them to make sure I got the right size and set about making them little summer outfits. Mrs. Rock had seen to winter coats and boots but for the girls she just sent material and patterns.

 

“By lunch time I had several little outfits cut out. We had sandwiches also for lunch. While we ate I started water boiling for noodles. It took for ever for water to boil up here. Canning season would prove to be interesting. The water finally started boiling so I added the noodles then I set about making a cheese sauce. Tonight we were have mac&cheese and ham casserole. Megan had taken the girls to wash them up and put them down for the nap. Other children were playing in the yard. I went back to sewing when Megan joined me she said the twins had fallen asleep about as quick as their heads hit the pillow. She asked what I was making and I told her summer clothes for the girls. She smiled and said she remembered her mother sewing for her. I asked her how much clothing we they able to bring. She said that they had brought all they could shove in to back packs. Their families were campers so they had big backpacks. She said they had brought mostly winter. They had started traveling back February when it was still cold. She said they finally made the ranch back in May. They didn’t think to bring summer clothes with them. I told her I was sure we could come up with some material to make her a pretty Sunday dress and some pretty shirts. That working in the gardens and with animals she needed to wear jeans to protect her legs. She just nodded. She said she was never allowed to wear pants to church. Her parents had insisted that she dress like a young lady when they went to church. I pointed to the box of patterns and told her to go through those and see what she could find. She picket out a couple but she would wasn’t sure if they would fit her or not. I told her not to worry we would tailor them to fit.

 

I noticed the sun was moving over the mountain and moved on to working on dinner. She asked if I needed help and I asked her to bring an onion, a cabbage and stuff to make corn muffins from the spring cave while I put away the sewing.

 

Megan had the children at the back of the cabin where the wash room was washing them up for dinner when the rest of the group road up. They look like they had gone 10 rounds and lost. The children standing out side impatiently waiting for the adults to wash up. Megan ushered them and got them seated while the adults were headed our way. She poured each of them milk and tea for the adults. K stopped and kissed Zoe on her curly little head. She was busy gumming the carrot. Zoe was teething so the carrot felt good to her gums.

 

After the blessing of the food and everyone was served SF said they had gotten about half of the bricks made that they would need for the two caves. K said that it would be ok if they put up wood walls in her cave. She just wanted to get in there as soon as possible. W said that might be possible if they used hard wood. Ray said that they could borrow the portable saw mill from the gentle that had it but would need gas to run it. R said they had some gas but didn’t know how much left. Ray said he would ride out tomorrow and go talk to the guy. B said he would go with him and help get it back.

 

It was a weary group the mountain that night. There really was no lingering to chat tonight.

 

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Tonight we had a meeting, while setting under the tarp outside, watching the setting sun over the west mountain range. Everyone was included, even the children. We outlined a lot of what would need to be done on a regular, daily basis and what would need to be done in the near and distant futures. I believe everyone was amazed at the fact that it filled several pages of a legal tablet.

 

Someone asked about rules and did we have any and did we need them. I told them that at their own homestead they could do what they wanted but at this homestead we’d always had two inviolable rules. One was the Golden Rule of do onto others, as you would have them do onto you. That would ensure that any one of us has the right to fair treatment, and a responsibility to ensure fair treatment for all the others. It was the rule that prevailed in the whole valley so far.

 

I told them the other rule was no arguing. Debating pro’s and cons, discussions, conversations, were all okay but any raising of voices to try to over ride someone else’s opinions just to prove your point was strictly prohibited. The reasoning for that rule was simple. When people are arguing, both parties are distracted and here in the wilderness a distraction could be deadly. Raised voices might cover the sound of a predator’s approach; someone might stalk off in anger putting themself or the other person in danger; dwelling on hurt feelings and angry words might make someone less careful of their surroundings and put them in danger.

 

One of the children asked why they couldn’t argue when they were right here in the yard where it was safe and I replied that one reason was that it became habit and they might revert to that habit when away from the homestead, but the main reason was that perhaps they weren’t as safe on the plateau as they thought they were. I saw them looking around in the dark and watched the fear in their eyes grow. I could see the parents starting to protest but I stopped them. It was NOT safe even on the homestead plateau with all the dogs and animals and people. It would only take one time for a child or adults to be off by themselves, perhaps in a game of hide and seek that got too close to the tree line or a trip to the outhouse at night, to encounter a danger and especially so if we got complacent. If they took all the fear away from their children they were putting them in danger. No one needed fear so great that it made them unable to function but a healthy dose of fear would keep us all on our toes, children included.

 

That really had them thinking but I knew it was important for everyone to realize that no matter how much of the modern trappings we bring with us, we were not living in the same world now as before.

 

Someone jokingly asked what the penalty for arguing was going to be. They wanted to know if I would send them to their rooms or set them all in a corner. They were joking but I replied seriously. The penalty would be, knowing that you have put someone else in danger. The responsibility we all have for each other here is a great one. Their punishment would be their own conscience. However, and I was still serious, when our kids were young I always figured if they had enough time and energy to argue, they didn’t have enough to do and I would put them to work. I said that we would probably be doing that with the children here as well and that if there were serious arguments between the adults, perhaps the group, as a whole, would be assigning more tasks to someone who had time and energy to argue.

 

It was really quiet for a bit but then I could see the acceptance of those two rules as being fair.

 

It was an easy matter after that to assign different tasks to different people according to their ability. For the most part it was all volunteered. It will take some time for each one to figure out their strengths and weaknesses but it would come in time and experience. I did request that each of us try to ease the burdens of the two pregnant women, L’s Mom, and my own. L’s Mom had had a lot of health problems the last year or so and I was concerned that she would over do it. The rest insisted that I be added to that list and I accepted, knowing that I was not good at asking for help myself.

 

We talked for a while about the children’s schooling. Some were concerned that we had no formal schools in the valley but I asked them what they would consider an acceptable school. I asked them what they especially liked about the schools back home. Strangely enough, most of them couldn’t come up with anything besides the basics. Each time they thought of things they’d thought so great in the past, they realized how inane they seemed in the present situation. I asked if they wanted their children to be prepared to go back out in the world when they eventually left the valley. And when they said yes, I asked them if they knew what that world would be like? Kids need education. I’m the first to believe that a child needs to be given the skills and knowledge to compete and thrive in the world he will be going into. We used to believe we knew our children’s future. Now it wasn’t so clear. That had been a serious consideration when the library wagon was filled. C and L and her family hadn’t even realized that there had been a library wagon and had brought as many books as they could fit in. They were hoping that eventually we’d have a regular school for them and I said we might. I thought I remembered that one of Mt.R’s DD’s was a teacher and there might even be some at the settlement who were teachers but did we want our children traveling that distance every day? Even to MtR on horseback is quite a distance and someone would have to go with them and pick them up every day for safety. And then I brought up winter. We might be snowed in for weeks at a time for all we knew, what then?

 

We talked back and forth for some time trying to find answers. It was finally decided that in a normal life the kids would be out for the summer and we would give them a break while we all settled into the life. That didn’t mean they didn’t need to learn though. Everyone would be learning and so would the children. We would all be attempting to teach them every day.

 

The meeting ended with a good feeling, one that said we might be able to pull this off yet, if we could all work together.

 

The general plans for the next few days are to work all morning on providing food for both the present and the winter for both households. The winter supplies will be shared according to need. We will be plowing and planting as much as possible; cutting hay; gathering wild foods and preserving them. In the afternoons some will be continuing jobs here and some will be working on the waterfall cave to make access to the other side of the river easier so work can start on the homestead there. In the evening we will all be working on various projects, things like getting the loom finished, spinning, building shelves for drying foods and storage, repairing harnesses, building needed carts and equipment for farming and homesteading.

 

For now, the plans are for most of us to go to the Lodge on Sunday. I am hoping to get someone to look at Anna’s arm to check it’s healing progress. As near as we can figure the cast has been on four weeks. I am also hoping to get a chance to talk with CeeGee privately. I’m hoping she will be able to give me some suggestions for helping Karen. I suspect there is more wrong than just the trauma of the altercation with the men who killed their parents.

 

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July 6 - the Valley

 

Well I got a letter from Annarchy yesterday! That was so nice to hear from her. I planned on writing her back this afternoon so I could catch the rider with it tomorrow. I was hoping we could all get together this Sunday or next at the Lodge for services and introduce all our families. But first I had a chore for the children and I for the morning. I thought they may enjoy it had they never been, but come to find out it was something they did every year with the entire family. That something was picking berries! I knew the raspberries were ready since I had already had done two pickings, but I was hoping the blackberries would be ready also. So we gathered up every bag, sack, bucket and basket we could all carry without a struggle. Hubby walked back to the spring house with us since he had milk and eggs to put away from the morning chores he, Adam and Ruth had done. I had the to youngers with me fixing breakfast lol. Hubby and I both had our guns along just in case since there were animals out wanting the berries too. So far, we have been lucky and not seen any near us. I had a feeling it might have had something to do with the tornado earlier in the year. I knew back in TN the couple of times we had them near our home, it would take anywhere from two to four years for the wildlife to return after that. It was some pretty lean hunting years for deer and turkey right after one happened. But we were hunting berries this time, so no bears were good bears lol.

 

Hubby helped me get the children all set up with a rich spot to pick at and I found my own. He left to go work on the corn field and then start on weeding the garden if he had time today. The children and I got to chatting about picking berries and such. I wanted to find out more about their lives, what they did, what they liked, how their family interacted, things like that. According to Adam, the berry picking was an annual day out for the family. They had their own bushes, but once a year, they would all pack up in their cars and head out to their uncles farm and he had wild berry bushes all over near there. They would pack a picnic lunch and make a day of it, filling "just baskets and baskets so tall they almost touched the sky" according to Ester and Benjamin lol. Ruth just gave them one of the rolling eyed older sister looks and smiled at me. She said they would stay over at their uncles farm and she and the women would turn the berries into jelly, jam and syrups. She said her mom and Aunt even froze just some of the berries plain for eating in the winter or to make cobblers with. Sounded like this was either a farm family or preppers also. Would explain just how Adam knew what to put in their bags and how much. Or they could have been already packed and he just grabbed them. I wasn't worried about the small stuff though.

 

We laughed and giggled our way through to lunch time. I think the little ones ate more than they put into their buckets. Adam, not to be outdone, was racing against Ruth to see who could pick the most. Me? I was spending some much needed time with "our" children and just enjoying having them there! I lived for this, raising children. It hurt me to the depths that my own children and grandchildren weren't here, but soon maybe Jerry would at least make it. But I missed the grands too. They were all about the same age as my new children were. It helped to ease the hurt for me and I am sure it helped ease the hurt for the children too to have someone to call their own now that their blood parents were gone. They seemed to be okay for now, but every once in awhile I would see Adam's face drop like a dark cloud had suddenly went overhead.

 

I gathered up the baskets and the children and we headed off back to the cabin to get a bite of lunch. I think the little ones were due a nap since they were both yawning to beat the band. Oh a half hour wouldn't hurt. I figured they had a little catching up to do on their rest. So after lunch, Ruth took them upstairs to lay down while I cleaned up the table. Then we did the dishes while Adam went down to see what hubby was doing. I got out a pad of paper and a pen to write Annarchy back. Ruth went outside to check on the dogs and see if she could find Adam. I grabbed a pen and started writing. I was so glad to hear from her, told her how much the hubby and I were enjoying having the children now and asked if they were going to the Lodge on Sunday? I asked her how the adobe house was coming and did they need any help? I told her I could send the hubby up to help them one day if they needed him. I wished we both could go, but with the animals here, someone had to stay and take care of them.

 

Some days having animals is a blessing some days it isn't lol.

 

Ruth came back up to the cabin so she and i worked on getting the berries cleaned up and washed. You can imagine all the leaves and such with little hands helping to pick them, but it was so much fun. We got more berries spread out on the drying racks and set them to the sun. The first rack I had done the other day was ready so we packed those away. They sure don't take much room when they are dried and I had my doubts as to whether this was even going to taste good, but it took up less room and we didn't have to spend half the afternoon waiting for water to boil to can them up either. I don't think I will ever get used to how long it takes for that here. After we got that done, Ruth and I made dinner together. I taught her how to mix up the biscuit dough and then knead it on the table. Once she thought her arms were about to fall off I showed her how to cut them out using a floured drinking glass. I cut one and she did the rest, very well too and then slipped them onto a cookie sheet and I set them into the oven for her. I told her she could keep an eye on them for me while I mixed up the meatloaf made from ground deer meat. It took a little longer than normal to bake them with the frequent opening and closing of the door lol, but once they were nice and golden brown on the top, I got them out for her to put into a bowl and set onto the table. We got the meatloaf into the oven and she set the table for me. I asked her if she ever got to help cook at home and she didn't but she always wanted to learn. I guessed at her age, it wouldn't hurt to learn the basics so I asked if she still wanted to learn? "Yes!!" was the answer I got, so I told her from now on, she would be the biscuit maker in the house and I would start teaching her more in the morning. And we would be including canning, smoking, and drying foods too. That is just part of cooking to me.

 

The two youngest ones got up smelling biscuits and of course they couldn't wait for dinner and would starve to death if they didn't get a jelly biscuit right now lol. So I had Ruth make one and split it between the two of them. About that time Adam and the hubby came in for dinner. Adam told me about getting to help feed all the animals and gathering the eggs. He said Mr. Q is going to teach him how to milk the goats in the morning. He already knows how to milk the cows so that should be no problem for him. He was just grinning ear to ear as he sat down to dinner telling us all about his day with the hubby. Ruth piped in too telling how she got to make the biscuits to which Adam promptly faked choking and fell onto the floor laughing. Ha, we had such a good time at dinner tonight with all the laughter and smiles and good food! I caught hubby staring at the children more than one time, shaking his head and smiling. Yep, I think he is going to turn out to be a right good father.

 

Well after dinner, Ruth and I cleaned up while hubby put the big dutch oven over a good bed of coals for me outside. I mixed up some dough and grabbed a container of raspberries and went outside to make a treat for us all, some raspberry cobbler! The children loved it and we all sat outside with a big dish of it and a glass of milk for dessert, chatting and laughing away. And even though the younger ones had a nap today, I could tell they were still tired. So after letting them sit up a bit longer around the fire, hubby took them inside and put them to bed. Adam and Ruth weren't far behind. Hubby and I went back out to the fire to enjoy the night with the front door propped open should anyone call out. Yes, laughter, love and hugs fill our house now. It is wonderful and I thank the good Lord for bringing these children into our lives. I pray we can do right by them and bring them up in the way they should go.

 

Q

 

 

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It looks and feels like rain today. My bones are hurting. It is cloudy and those are some heavy dark clouds. But I have to get some laundry washed and hung out. Hopefully it will dry quickly in the breeze.

 

I am on kid duty again today and loving every minute of it. I was so proud of Connor and Aidan this morning. They did the morning chores. They moved the animals down to the pasture. They milked the goats and the cow and Aidan gathered eggs. SF watched them he said they did it all on their own. Their reward was them and Teddy got to go fishing…some reward they had to catch supper.

 

I showed Becky how to churn butter and I showed Megan how to make tortillas shells. So while I did a couple of loads of laundry Becky churned butter and Megan made a huge stack of tortilla shells. I am using the last of the goat meat and we are having enchiladas for lunch. I already have some pintos ground for refried beans, I have corn rehydrating so we can have fried corn. Dinner is fish. The boys caught a bunch of fish. It was enough to fill up both fish barrels. Aidan caught the most…I got tickled at him he said one good thing about not being able to talk is he doesn’t scare the fish away like Connor and Teddy...LOL.

 

After the laundry done and hanging Sean, Becky and Jacob helped me build a sand box this morning. The girls were in charge of keeping the kittens out of the way. It was a good job for them. Then everyone helped haul sand from the base of the mountain to the sand box. Now the boys are building roads with their cars and trucks. Emma, Sophie and Becky are having a tea party. Megan and I are working on lunch. About the time the others arrived form across the river we could hear thunder off in the distance. Lunch was put on hold to move the animals back up to the upper pasture. The men rode over to W place to move those animals closer to the barn in case the weather turned bad. I hurried to get the sheets and towels off the line. The sheets were dry but the towels were still damp so I tossed them over drying racks in the cottage kitchen. While they were gone I sent Connor on top of the roof to turn a bucket down over the cook stove pipe. The chimney had a cover to keep rain out but the pipe for the stove didn’t have a cap on it yet. Thank goodness we are not using that cook stove yet.

 

V said they had moved everything inside the cave before they left so we didn’t have to worry about that. The men were back just before the bottom fell out. Although we needed I hoped it wouldn’t rain hard all day. After about an hour the rain got softer. It was moving due east so I don’t know if everyone in the valley will get rain or not. I do know that our gardens already look greener. There are still some dark clouds coming over the mountain so hopefully we will get a gentle rain tonight.

 

After lunch I worked the finishing touches of the cottage. I finished up the curtains for the boys room and got them hung. The girl’s room is finished. The kitchen doesn’t have a window but the sitting area does so I need curtains for it. We used the wooden crates that we moved our stuff in as cabinets so I am hanging curtains over them others I used the tops to make doors with and cut the center in shapes and put scrapes of chicken wire on the back. Just for looks. The pantry is in need of attention. I still have to unpack what food is left in the boxes. But right now I am teaching Megan to sew using the sewing machine. She is hemming the napkins we made and doing a pretty go job. I am making floor pillows for the children to sit on I have them cut out and ready for her to sew together.

 

The older 3 boys went back with SF and the others to finish working on R&V’s place. SF said they could hand the bricks up to ladders to those on top. Ray said that he and B had been working on K’s place, they had the place studded out and after lunch they will start on the front wall. R said they would keep cutting wood until they ran out of gas. What they didn’t use on K’s place they would use else where like B’s place or Ray’s place or even shelves and stuff that would be needed. I reminded them we all needed smoke houses. So they will be cutting wood for those also. They were able to get the buck board over there and up the mountain with not much of a problem. However the wagons maybe a little more difficult because of low hanging branches and the hoops and covers of the wagon. May have to trim trees or take the wagon covers off.

 

I noticed Ray and E move on to speaking to each other instead of turning 10 shades of red and finding something else to do by sides looking at the other one. Makes me wonder how Beth and Abby were doing.

 

After lunch the girls went down for a nap. Jacob and Sean went back to the sandbox. Thank goodness they remembered to cover it. I told the children we had to keep it covered when they were not in it so that the kittens didn’t use it as a little box.

 

Megan wanted to learn to sew on the machine so I showed her how to hem the napkins and placemats I had cut out. There were also some big floor pillows that I had cut out for the children. Since furniture is limited I thought big floor pillows would be good for them. I put the finishing touches on the girls a couple of play out fits. I am putting buttons on the shoulder straps so we can let them down as they grow taller. I hope to get through the entire summer with these few little outfits. They are growing so fast I hate to have more than 2-3 outfits but with everything that is going on I get behind in laundry.

 

At lunch I found out that B will be building a soddy on his parents land. He doesn’t want to live in the cave. V said he can’t stand tight spots so he is going to build a soddy. I was surprised but he will be 17 in a couple of months. I really look for him to take the 40 acres between his parents and K’s 40 acres. This weekend they are all going to ride to the lodge and start the paper work for their places.

 

When I finished sewing the last button on I realized that I was the one that was going to have to clean the fish…wait I don’t clean fish. I guess I will this time. Becky had been unpacking the pantry for me and stacking cans on the shelves. I showed her my date codes and showed her how to put the oldest one first. She said that her momma did that too. I was up to my elbows in fish guts when she come running out the cottage with a bucket of dried lemons. She asked if we could have lemonade for dinner. I told her I thought that was a wonderful idea. I sent her to get a bucket of water from the spring so that we could boil it and get the lemons soft quicker. I talked her through making it since I was cleaning fish. By the time it was over we had a 5 gallon bucket of lemonade. It took both her and Megan to carry it to the spring cave and set it the spring to cool. I had totally forgotten about those dried lemons. I need to be sure and put some of those up so we will have them to make cough syrup for the little ones this winter.

 

Megan and I decided to bake the fish, cook rice and greens for dinner. Dessert will be a pound cake with fresh berries and cream. Actually I think I will whip that cream and make it nice and fluffy.

 

Everyone across the river called it a day early. The clouds were still hanging around and no one wanted to get caught a storm. That night at dinner, Ray, W and B said when P&N they are building a bridge. There is a place just before the face of the mountain where the river runs through that is higher and they build it there so that when the water rises it won’t wash out the bridge.

 

V said that by Saturday they should be in their new home. The front is just about finished they still have to a row across the top that needs bricks but they have to make smaller bricks. R said Friday he will be wiring the solar panels and the wind turbine for both their place and K’s place. K’s place has inside walls but no front. I told V it wasn’t so bad being in the cottage we have lights at night now. When we were in the cabin we only had lights in the cave.

 

After the dishes were done everyone decided to head home since it was starting to rain, Ray road with E home again. SF and I had bathed the children, put them to bed and were sitting in the summer kitchen watching the storm over the valley when Ray returned. He asked if R&V were old fashioned I smiled and said very. Ray got a strange look on his face. I laughed and said R doesn’t bite but you will have to ask to court E he is not just going to let it happen. Ray said that is what I was afraid of. SF laughed and told him it wasn’t R he had to worry about but V that E was her baby girl. I swear I think that kid turned white as a sheet. Ray stood and said he was going to head to the barn and turn in. After he left I told SF he shouldn’t have picked on Ray like that. SF grinned and said who is picking you know as well as I do V will be a harder nut to crack than R will be. I just shook my head and returned my attention to the storm and let my mind wander over the mountain and hoped that two other young men had found shelter and was safe and dry.

 

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The little goats were both a bit stronger this morning. The little buck sat on his knees to nurse but at least I didn’t have to hold him up this time. The little doe tried, she wanted to nurse but just didn’t get the hang of it and I went to get DD, I needed more help. I found Karen first and explained what I needed help with and she readily followed me back in to the barn. I explained that she’d need to get the little one sucking on her own finger by wiggling it against the roof of the baby’s mouth and that we’d have to get the mom’s teat in there too. To do that she’d have to be almost upside down to get her fingers and the teat in the right position.

 

It really was a ridiculous scene. There we were with Karen lying almost under the big goat, who was being pretty good about it all. I was holding the little buck up to nurse on one side so the mom would let down her milk readily and at the same time trying to hold the little doe so Karen could get her to nurse. It just wasn’t working until DD walked in, took one look at what we were trying to do, and took over holding the little doe. By now the mom was getting a bit antsy and I was having trouble holding her along with the buck. DD gave one of her distinctive whistles that always gets her family’s attention, even us older members and almost immediately DGD came in and took over the little buck while I held the mom.

 

I tried not to laugh, I really did, but all I could think of was “how many women does it take to get one tiny baby goat to nurse?”

 

Then suddenly I saw the little tail start flagging back and forth and heard Karen’s indrawn breath. I told her to slowly slide her finger out of the mouth but to stay where she was because we’d probably have to do it again. We waited; all standing still waiting to see what happened but the tail kept wiggling back and forth until finally the little doe pulled away and plunked herself back onto her butt. We could see her little belly was rounded with milk and DD pulled her out of the way and helped a smiling Karen up off the floor. We had won this round. It didn’t mean there wouldn’t be more but for now we were all smiling.

 

I left both babies with the mom, at least for the day but went out every couple of hours to help them both nurse. Thankfully, we didn’t have need all of us to get the little doe to nurse again but I still have to hold her up there as she’s just too weak. We can only wait while her body grows and gains strength and keep working with them both.

 

We want to start the first cutting of hay this week and I am praying for clear weather. We have three scythes with cradles and two without and with people changing off often we hope to save some of our back muscles so that we can get used to it gradually. The grass/hay will be laid in windrows to dry. We have several pitchforks for turning the rows for further drying in the next couple of days but we only have two large hay rakes so we’re going to make more this evening. They will be just a long board with pegs in them but everything has to be made from scratch, including the board, the handle and the pegs. When the hay is dry we’ll stack it over sapling tripods. We’ll tie the tops of several saplings together in a sort of teepee shape and maybe use long grasses to tie lower down between each one. Then we will stack the hay around them, leaving an opening on the windward side so that the whole stack, or cock as it might more aptly be called, will continue to dry from the inside. We’ll have to be careful how we place the hay/grass on the top, as it will have to be laid so any rain will be shed off until we can build a hay crib to move the hay into. That would mostly be just a roof with saplings on the side to hold the hay in. It will also keep the animals out, both domestic and wild. We didn’t want to wait for it as the grass was just starting to flower now and we needed to get it cut before it was past it’s protein prime.

 

Someone is doing laundry almost every day now. With the two toddlers and Baby T still in diapers it’s hard to keep up otherwise. We are hoping to get several freestanding drying racks made for on rainy days and for this winter. For now we have clotheslines run from almost every tree in the yard and we also use the bushes to hold wet clothes. One thing we don’t have is enough clothespins. I can’t believe I am actually worried about not having enough clothespins but it’s a fact that we have to face. Who would have thought that clothespins would be an issue but when the wind comes up it often blows things off the bushes or lines. Those pegs are almost a necessity. The older children are working on whittling some in their spare moments and evenings. Some have not turned out too bad. It helps that the children also help hang the clothes so know what is needed. Soon we will have two more babies to do laundry for and several of us have been making more diapers from flannel that we brought along. I had intended what I had to be used for long underskirts this winter but maybe by then I’ll have some hand woven material for that. We are all working on getting E and her little two year old cousin potty broke and they are doing fairly well so that will ease the situation too.

 

Another problem we are having is with the outhouses. With so many of us using them they are filling up fast even though there are four of them now. We believe we’ve found the answer, at least for the summer. We are going to build a couple of composting outhouses at the edge of the plateau so that the ‘compost’ will be on the lower plateau and can be accessed and cleaned out from there. We are placing them towards the north end like the outhouses to avoid the wind bringing the smell. The problem will come during the winter. The edge of the plateau is a long way from the living quarters.

 

One thing that is nice about having the extra people is that we also have the extra minds for innovative ideas. So far the group has finished the kick wheel, gotten the loom set up and another wall loom, (much like the Navaho looms) installed on the rock wall in the sod living room, made laundry tub racks, and among other things has gotten the rest of the barn enclosed.

 

That does not include the work they’ve done on the land across the river. As soon as there are living quarters ready for someone to stay over there they will be moving some of the livestock to save the pastures here. They already have a large area surrounded with solar electric fencing. We’ve talked about free ranging the animals and that might be necessary before long but for now we would all feel more comfortable with them kept close. We have a lot of open grassland here but we are hoping to cut a lot of it for hay. C has more trees but a lot of nice grass pastures under them in the areas that are not so thickly covered. There’s a nice creek there as well to save a lot of work.

 

I haven’t been up to see the waterfall cave yet but I’m told it’s clear on either side. Now they just have to come up with a plan for the big rocks. They want to get them moved to form a wall for closing off the back part of that cave to make a cold storage area. They will be using the oxen tomorrow to help move them if possible. I might have to go up to watch that.

 

Well my break is over and I need to help with chores and then go to the kitchen. We started a big pot of noodles to be served with a venison meat sauce and a big tossed salad and garlic bread. With so many of us, we’re cooking in the canners and stockpots and the salads are being served in a dishpan. We are using three loaves of bread or two dozen biscuits, at least a pound of butter, two gallon of milk, 10 to 15 pounds of meat, five to seven pounds of vegetables and about ten quarts of salad greens at one meal. That doesn’t count fruit or deserts, pickles, and anything else we might have. We can go through two to three dozen cookies at a setting. Even though there are only 21 adults plus the children, everyone is working harder than ever before, expending calories much faster than they were. Even our two expecting Mom’s have picked up in appetite. At least we are starting to get a feeling for how much we need. I’m going to have to get with Quiltys and get that list of foods for a crowd.

 

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July 7 - the Valley

 

We all got to play weed the garden today. Hubby and I spent the morning while it was still cool teaching the children what plants were good in the garden and which ones were to come out. And we showed them how to pull the weeds by hand, we weren't ready to give them hoes yet lol. The older two did really well and caught on quickly but the younger two were just ....well...kids lol. They would ask what to pick and I would show them a spot and when they got done with it I would show them a new spot to pull weeds in. I just drew a box in the dirt with my finger and told them to pull out everything in the box. It worked out really well too.

 

After a short break for lunch we decided to let the kids be kids and took them swimming. Adam, Ruth and Benjamin all knew how to swim. But Ester hadn't a clue. So hubby went into the shallow water with her and taught her how to float. He told her if she could float today, practice tomorrow, then maybe by Saturday he would teach her how to swim next. She spent the entire afternoon floating around on the river and into the pond, all around the edges. She still had to be able to see and touch the bottom yet lol. I think she wants to swim with the other kids so bad that she just feels so left out. Hubby said he thinks she will be able to swim by the week-end if she is that intent on learning. She isn't afraid of the water, just cautious. She doesn't want to get in too deep of water just in case. Which isn't that bad of an idea. I don't swim too well either, mostly like a rock lol, so I understand just how she feels.

 

After a couple of hours of swimming and exploring along the rivers edge, I finally had to make all 5 kids get out lol. Yes, I counted the hubby in there too...he is just as bad as they are about not wanting to get out. But they are all nice and clean after working in the garden all morning, so baths tonight wont be needed. Just washing face and hands will do. But they found some of the prettiest rocks down on the rivers edge. I gave them all a small jar to keep their "treasures" in with a lid so it didn't spill. Hubby said he will make them each a little wooden box with a lid so I can have my jars back. He told me when he was a little boy, how much fun he used to have collecting treasures on the river too and just how important each one was to him. He said he kept his in an old cigar box! Sounds like something right out of "To Kill A MockingBird" where the little boy collects all the things the guy leaves in the hole in the tree for him inside a cigar box and hides it in his room. Hubby said yes that it was pretty much just like that too. Men lol. Now he still collects "treasures", they are just bigger (think tools lol).

 

After dinner we let the children sit up with us for awhile. They told us about getting to go swimming at their uncles farm in his pond. But it had a "yucky" bottom to it? Must have been mud or silt, that feels squishy between your feet and would be yucky to a child lol. Seems like they used to spend a lot of time at their uncles farm. But since they seem to fit right in here on the homestead and know a lot about animals and such, I am not surprised. It much have been their bug out spot since they were preppers too. I asked Adam about that and he said they were going to move out to his uncles farm soon. His dad had lost his job and couldn't find any work and things were getting so bad he said his father told him that it would be safer for them all to move out there. I just wish we cold have found out what ever happened to his uncle. If he was alive somewhere, would he want the children? Could he be looking for them right now? But they said all his things were there from his truck right down to his wallet. Who would walk off and leave their farm? Or their wallet either for that matter? I had a bad feeling that their uncle had come to no good end. Maybe the gang had hit their first? Or he could have got confused and wandered off? I don't think we will ever figure out that mystery.

 

I noticed Ester and Benjamin had gotten quiet, when I looked over at them their little heads were resting on the table. They had fallen asleep. So hubby got them up and led them upstairs one at a time and tucked them in. Ruth was tired too so she went on up to bed also. Adam waited until Mr. Q came back downstairs. He wanted to ask him a question. Hubby got back and Adam said "Mr. Q? Do you think you could teach me how to shoot a gun so if needed, I could help you hunt or defend the house?" Hubby smiled at him and said "Son, I thought you would never ask! We will start teaching you tomorrow if that's okay?" I just nodded my head yes and Adam broke out in a grin three miles wide. He shouted a "Yippee" and gave us both a big hug then said he was going up to bed too. I bet he ended up having some good dreams tonight for a change. I told the hubby I was surprised that Adam didn't already know how to shoot at his age. He was too. He said by the time he was 9, he had his own .22 and went squirrel hunting with his dad often. But he being a gun smith, would make sure Adam knew his gun well before he ever let shoot it. And he would be so happy to teach him. I asked him if he had thought about maybe teaching Ruth next? He wasn't sure, but he said if he gets a chance, he would ask her. I bet that will make her day too.

 

Well it's been a long day and will be an even long one tomorrow as I try to get laundry done for all of us here plus some extra baking. I am trying to get a little ahead so we can pick blackberries on Friday and get them made into jelly and pancake syrup. I think we will try to dry some of those too and put them in with the raspberries we are drying. Oh wouldn't that taste good on some oatmeal on a cold winters day? Well off to bed...blessings to all...

 

Q

 

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