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WAGONS HO - The Valley II - Population Increase


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Tonight after everyone was quite SF was still tossing and turning. I asked him what was wrong he said the swinging motion had worked some muscles he wasn't use to working so I went and got the liniment and rubbed his sore muscles. He said that felt good but he wanted to know what I was pouting about. I told him I was not pouting. I curled up beside and and he said sure your not pouting, I can walk to China on that bottom lip. I giggled (irl that is something we did to the boys when they were little and were whining we would tell them we could walk to China on the lips and use our fingers like the yellow pages add and walk across their lip) I fine if you must know I was lonely. If his shock wasn't bad enough him almost yelling was LONELY? how in the heck can you be lonely you have people around you 24-7. I said sshhh you will wake everyone up. I told him that was just it I had people around but they all wanted something from me I wanted someone just to talk to. I lay there a few minutes and said you will be back down in the fields tomorrow cutting hay right. He nodded and said uh-huh I said would you ride over and invite The Q's to lunch Saturday. You know I would go there but it would be rude to leave Abby and Beth behind and I didn't want to drag everyone over there and invade Mrs. Q plus you still have me grounded to the yard remember. He chuckled and said honey they are like us up to their eyeballs in work getting ready for the winter. I know but they have to eat. He said fine he would go and invite them but for me not to get my hopes up if they turn us down. I said thank you and snuggled closer..ewww honey you smell bad. He laughed and said well you are the one that rubbed that stuff on me. I smiled and said you will thank me tomorrow when you can move. Pulling me closer he said then I guess you will just have to suffer with the smell tonight huh. Ok so the smell wasn't that bad.

 

Talk turned to hay and fire wood. SF said he planned to use some of the seed that we brought with us over seed the pastures with winter grass for the animals which would help but he was concerned about fire wood. Since we had only ever used wood for a fire place and to cook when camping we were really not sure just how much we would need. I told him I would start keeping track of how much we use to cook with then we probably would need to double if not triple that. He said double at least since we kept the fire in the kitchen buring all day. Especially now since we are starting to can jelly and such. He said he would ask around see who had used wood before and how much they used. We both agreed we were at a disadvantage this year because we were in a new house and did not know how it would heat. Being made of rock it should hold the heat longer we will see.

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We had a small problem with Karen and Anna early this morning. Almost the whole family was going to be working on the homestead across the river today but Karen had just indicated that she would stay and help me do laundry as she had some laundry also. The milking was the last of the chores and the others were already eating breakfast so they could get an early start and Anna had come in fussing about Karen not being ready to go. Karen shook her head at Anna and indicated washing clothes with her hands. She pointed to Anna and made the motion again and I know that Anna understood that Karen was telling her she was going to stay here and do laundry as well but Anna said well then she would just get ready to go.

 

Karen took Anna’s arm as she started to turn away and shook her head at her, telling her no and Anna got mad. She went on about how Karen wasn’t her mother and couldn’t tell her what to do and that no one could tell her what to do and started to leave the barn. Karen looked at me but I remembered what CeeGee had said and quietly told Karen that she would have to decide how she wanted to handle this. Karen stood up and started after Anna but the younger girl had already been stopped at the door by running into DH. When he asked where the fire was Anna started trying to enlist his help in saying she could go but bless his heart, he took a second to look over at me and I just nodded towards Karen. I’d already told him what CeeGee had said. He put his hand out to stop Anna’s tirade and when she quieted he told her in a tone that brooked no nonsense that Karen was the head of their family now and if Karen said no then that was it. She would NOT go. At first Anna just stared at him, then she looked at me but I only agreed with DH, and then she turned and ran out of the barn. I told Karen to go make sure she didn’t do anything stupid but not to give into her or she’d have no end of troubles. I told her that if she had trouble with Anna and needed reinforcements to let us know. She was pulling her notepad and pencil out of a pocket as she ran from the barn. As I went back to milking DH said he’d go make himself available if needed but he was chuckling when he left the barn. It was the first time we’d seen Karen take charge like that and we both felt it was a good sign as long as she didn’t get overly protective of Anna. The fact that she’d let her go with us on Sunday showed she probably wouldn’t. She just wanted Anna to learn responsibility for helping to take care of their things.

 

I thought about Karen needing that notebook even in a crisis like this and I knew that Karen couldn’t help the loss of her voice. I thought of the possibilities that she may have hurt her voice screaming or perhaps trying NOT to scream, or maybe someone had choked her to the point of injuring her voice box. She always seemed to have a scarf around her neck or to have a high collar until just recently when it got too hot but I’d seen no bruises. She seemed so frustrated sometimes, like today, when she wanted to speak but didn’t try. I made up my mind to find a time to talk with her if she would agree. If indeed she could not speak then we needed to teach her sign language so she could communicate without her notebook. Several of us in the family, including YGS knew at least the rudimentary signs and we could easily all learn more, Anna included.

 

I don’t know how Karen managed it but Anna did stay home and she did help with the laundry though her anger was very obvious in all she did. L’s Mom, my Mom, Karen, Anna and I started the laundry right after we had the kitchen cleaned and the milk cared for. The family had taken sandwiches with them for lunch so we didn’t expect them back but about 11:30 we heard voices and went to investigate. We’d been in the hot springs cave where we had the tubs all set but as we stepped across the small bridge and around the curve of the cliff we could see several of the kids and a couple of adults coming towards us in a hurry.

 

We met half way across the clearing and I could see that Mathew was holding his hand all wrapped in a handkerchief and I could see blood seeping through. I sent someone to get the med kit from the pantry and took him into the kitchen, setting him at the table. Everyone crowded around and I could see everyone was upset. I finally determined that they had tried to stop the bleeding with pressure and it would stop but then start again. When I unwrapped his hand I saw that it was the tip of his little finger and he’d taken just the very end off, obviously, from what everyone was saying, with a knife he’d been using to cut bread. His eyes were as big as saucers and I could see the sweat on his face and knew he was starting to be a bit shocky and the finger was still bleeding.

 

When the med kit came I gave him a bit of Bach Rescue Remedy. I’d have to find something different to use when I ran out of it but I had brought a large supply along. I had blood stop powder too but I really wanted to make sure that wound was clean and it wasn’t bleeding enough to endanger his life so I had him put the hand in a basin of soapy water. It hurt him at first but he was pretty brave and just kept it there, swishing it around and watching the water turn reddish while I joked with him about what the bread looked like and was anyone trying to eat it for lunch. When I felt the wound had been cleaned well enough I gently dried it with sterile gauze. We couldn’t afford an infection at this point.

 

I tried the blood stop powder from my kit first and it seemed to stop the bleeding but if he moved the finger it would start again. I finally pulled out some herbs and came up with horsetail powder and after warning him that it was going to sting and waiting for him to tell me to go ahead, I sprinkled it on. It hurt for a few minutes but it stopped the bleeding, as I knew it would. It was also antiseptic and healing and I knew it would soon have the pain abating. If that hadn’t worked I would have tried sugar but that tends to take longer. I could also have tried the skin from the inside of a fresh eggshell and as last resort a spider web.

 

There was little else we could do for the wound except to carefully wrap it with a finger guard so he didn’t bump it and start it bleeding again. It was not a wound that would hamper him later in life as it was just the bare tip but he would probably have a scar there. It was going to be painful for a while but we had aspirin and other painkillers to help with that, at least for now yet. But the whole episode was a serious reminder that we all needed to be careful.

 

At least Anna had lost her pique and when B decided to stay with Anna so they could entertain Matt and keep his mind off the wound she seemed to be back to her usual easy going self. I saw her go to Karen though and ask if it was okay if she stayed with Matt and B instead of finishing the laundry. I could see Karen was undecided so I suggested that Anna and B both help hang up the last of the wet clothes and then help to get some lunch for Matt and those of us left at the homestead while the rest of us cleaned up the wash area.

 

I worked in the garden this afternoon so I could keep an eye on Matt who was setting with the girls under a tree trying to play Chinese checkers but he seemed to be doing fine. By the time the rest of the family was home he was acting as if he wished everyone would forget his carelessness. He even went to do his part of the chores as best he could. He was way too old for his years and I had the thought that perhaps he was a bit like Karen, he felt he needed to be head of the family with his brother.

 

I had a chance to talk with Karen tonight when we were doing the milking together. I simply asked her if she would like to learn some sign language to make it easier for her to communicate with us. She hung her head at first and didn’t look at me. I explained that YGS had had some speech difficulties when he was younger and we’d all learned simple signs so his attempts at communication weren’t so frustrating for him and that we’d all be glad to learn more to help her until she was able to talk again. I told her I had brought a book along on signing because I felt it might be good for us to refresh our memories in case we ever needed to communicate without sound in a dangerous situation. I said that SF and MT3B would probably be glad to give us some pointers on it too.

 

She pulled out her pad and wrote. “What if I never do talk again?” I hugged her and told her that it would be okay with us either way. Our loving her wasn’t dependent on her being able to speak. Then I asked her if she’d like to have one of the nurses look at her throat and she looked a bit scared. I asked if she’d like to talk about it and she shook her head no. I let it drop. I just simply hugged her again. So far I was the only one she’d let touch her.

 

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On the mountain today we are focused on animals. It is time to trim hooves and band the baby pigs. We do not want to keep intact male pigs and goats around if we do not have to. All the sheep born were female so we have no problems there. So today is barn yard day.

 

We were not too sure if the girls were up to this but like SF said they had to learn. This is a two person job and if they plan on surviving here they have to take the good with the bad. So since one of the other sows delivered Monday we need to be quick and get the castration done. Especially since we are banding, the piglets need to be banded before they are five (5) days old. We use the banding technique because it is easier for me to handle. I am not brave enough to cut on a live animal.

 

We gathered our supplies and head to the barn. Connor and Aidan wanted to go too. The twins were still asleep thank goodness. We explained the first thing was to separate the momma and the babies. SF assured everyone that you DO NOT want the sow any where near you when you start hurting her babies. She will go crazy. So the sows and other pigs were sent to the lowest pasture. She wasn’t too happy to leave her babies behind be she went. Sf went on to explain that elastrator castration happens to a young male animal that is only a few days old. He showed them how to place rubber band around the four points and squeeze the handle to open up rubber band. He could not stress enough that you will need two people for this task, one to operate the devise and the other to firmly secure the animal. SF picked up one of the piglets place rubber band around the scrotum and testicles and released the tool allowing the band to close around. The poor little fella squealed and showed signs of distress the first 10-20 minutes but then started moving slowly around. SF said that it would take about 2 weeks for the scrotum to dry up and fall off. SF explained that benefits of the elastrator are that it is a bloodless method of castration. And since there is no laceration or open wound it will decrease the chance of the animal obtaining an infection.

 

Now SF had not been watching his audience while he was doing the banding he had been just talking. But when he looked up and the boys were doubled over and the girls were wide eyed he looked at me and said maybe he should’ve explained things a little better before the show and tell huh. I giggled and said I think they will get over it however I don’t think the boys will be walking straight for a while. Connor gave me a dirty look and said that poor pig you hurt him. SF then had to explain why he needed to castrate the males on the farm. First it settles them down so they do not fight among themselves. Aidan signed that he did not understand and SF had to explain that males will fight to the death to be the top dog and the animals are too important to our survival to let them kill each other. Not only that but when the testosterone levels are not high in animals they are easier to handle. Aidan and Connor just nodded.

 

We moved on to castrating the 7 males. The girls even tried their hand at holding the pigs and putting the band on the stretcher but they could not bring themselves to use it on the piglets.

 

After the castration lesson we moved on to hoof trimming. That was a little easier for them to handle. The hoof trimming was my area. Told them there still needs to be two people in the barn when you trim hooves. You must tie the horse securely; most horses try to move around some when being trimmed. I picked up the hoof pick and shoed them how to use it to remove all the dirt and rocks out of the hoof. I explained that the hoof has to be flat on bottom so I used my hoof knife to scrape the flat surface of the bottom of the hoof. This removed the last bit of dirt and made the bottom of the hoof flat. Now this is where I get a little jumpy. I am always so afraid that I will trim the hoof too short so I am always careful when I use the nippers to trim the toe. I just trim a little at a time until I get it the desired length. Next you trim the hoof starting on one side moving around the edge of the hoof to the other side making the hoof the same length as the toe. Then you wan to rasp (or file) the hoof around the edges to smooth any jagged edges. I told them I could not stress enough that all four hooves had to be the same length and flat. The best way to do this is to put them on a hard surface and get them to stand on all four. If the lift on left slap that hunch so that they will put it back down, if the horse will not then you know that it is not flat or there is something still in the hoof. Look at it again. Remember too long is better than too short.

 

After the first horse SF said he and the boys needed to head back to haying and asked if I would be ok. I told him yes that since Abby and Beth were here I could finish the other horses through out the day. Since it was getting hotter during the day it was decided that we would not work in the heat of the day in the direct sun light. We could not afford heat stroke. So the guys will do the haying in the early morning and late afternoon. During the heat of the day we will with the animals and or gather fire wood. Today SF has plans to work on a sled to pull behind a horse to haul fire wood out of the woods. He really wants a cart something about the size of Mt. Rider’s donkey cart. But the wheels are a challenge. So for now it will have to be a sled.

 

Right now I see the twins standing in the door so they will want their breakfast. SF walked over to the twins giving them hugs and kisses before leaving and praising them for staying put. We are working with them to stay in the doorway if they see us around the animals. Last week they ran out to the barn while I was checking over one of the horses and they startled him. It was a dangerous situation and we had to remedy that real quick. They have now learned they are never to walk up behind the animals especially the large animals and they are never ever to go in the pen with the animals. They are little and they are learning.

 

While the twins ate breakfast we discussed lunch since we had longer for lunch we decided to make it the large meal of the day. We would grill elk steaks, make a salad, and baked potatoes, I made yeast rolls. Beth and Abby grabbed their notebooks and were ready to take notes. I did something I don’t normally do I pulled out all my tiny little bowls and we measured everything out and then mixed it. The rolls called for 2 1/2 cups warm milk; 4 teaspoons active dry yeast; 1/3 cup honey; 2 eggs; 1/2 cup butter, softened; 2 teaspoons salt; 7 cups all-purpose flour, or as needed; 1/2 cup melted butter. I explained that make rolls was a long drawn out process and you could not rush it. So if you wanted to make rolls you had to work it around what you were doing. I told them to pour milk into a large mixing bowl, and sprinkle yeast over the surface. Allow to rest for 5 minutes. White the milk and yeast are doing their thing you beat the sugar, eggs, 1/2 cup butter, and salt; blend thoroughly then gradually stir in the flour to make a soft dough. Then you cover bowl, and set in a warm place until dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.

 

While the dough was in the first rising state Beth and Abby went to do their laundry and I went to the herb garden to weed. Once they finished their laundry we went back to the rolls. I had them punch down the dough and cover the bowl again. Then we were back in the garden weeding. After another hour it was back to the dough. This time the dough was punched down and broke off into 1inch size pieces of dough then rolled lightly into round shape. Then 3 balls were placed in muffin tins we will have clover leaf rolls for dinner. Then we covered them again and let them double in size. We heated the adobe oven while the rolls were sitting for their last rising.

 

I got tickled at Abby she said learning to cook would have been a lot easier back home. There she would have just had to turn the oven on. Here not only do they have to make everything from scratch but they have to build a fire too. She wasn’t whining she was just overwhelmed. It made me stop and think how many others in the valley were overwhelmed. How many of the new comers had run for their lives not realizing what they were getting into. I know there are days it is all I do to cook and do laundry forget about doing the rest of the stuff.

 

After building the fire in the oven we set the elk steaks to marinating and then went to gather lettuce and stuff for salads. We had some tiny green onions so I picked a few of those.

 

SF and the boys were surprised when they came back to a huge dinner. I told them supper would be bread and water. Connor said he would save half his lunch for supper then. SF laughed and said you don’t have to do that that is just her way of saying we will be having a light supper. Connor still wasn’t sure about bread and water for supper. We all ate to our fill. It was too hot in the house for the girls to take a nap so SF took them over to the hammock and read a book to them. By the time we got the kitchen cleaned both SF and the twins were sound asleep. I told Connor and Aidan they could bring a quilt out and sit under the trees. Beth and Abby went to check on their laundry and found it dry so they folded it and put it away. They too went to sit under the trees until the sun was over a little more.

 

I don’t know about the north end of the valley but it sure is hot here at the south end and dry. We need rain. I looked the barometer early and noticed that the pressure was slowly dropping maybe it will rain tonight. I looked over and noticed SF was no longer in the hammock I didn’t see where he had gone. Something caught my attention and I looked to the front of the cottage and he was there motioning me over. As I walked over I noticed he had cut off jeans on he said lets go down the stream everyone is a sleep I looked around and sure enough everyone was asleep. So I changed clothes and down to the stream we went. The water was cool and felt good. We floated around and splashed for a while then headed back up to the cottage. Abby and Beth were awake but the kids were still asleep so SF and I hurried and changed. Then he went and woke the boys. He said they needed to get the hay up the mountain before the rain set in. I looked and sure enough the barometer was dropping. We noticed clouds were starting to come over the mountain.

 

I motioned for Abby and Beth to help me get stuff from the cold cave for dinner. I told them I was afraid we were in for some heavy rain and didn’t want to have to be running back and forth. So we are having beans and cornbread for dinner. I told them I would show them how to cook beans in hurry especially if they forgot to put them on to soak the way I did. I had saved the ham bone just for this.

 

SF came over and said he was sending Connor down to W to get help loading the hay. I told him to send him across the river to get R, B and Ray also. He said he would do that. He said they may just load the wagon and drive it in to W’s barn tonight. I told him to be careful and we would see them at dinner.

 

So now for the quickie way of cooking beans especially if you don’t have a pressure cooker, wash and clean your beans put them in a pot covered with water and bring to a boil. Cover them and remove them from the heat. Let them set one hour then rinse and return to the pot with fresh water. Return to the heat and let cook for several hours keeping watch on the water level. You do not want them to cook down dry. Do not add salt until the last 30 minutes of cooking. I always wait until the last 30-45 minutes of cooking before adding any seasoning at all even neck bones etc.

 

While beans soaked the females moved the animals up. It was funny watching the twins with their sticks shooing the goats up the hill. After the animals were back at the top we moved them all into the corral and the upper pasture for now. It was still too early to feed them but we didn’t want to have to move them in the rain. We could hear the thunder off in the distance so Abby and Beth rode down to help gather hay and get it in the barn. I headed to put the beans on to cook then I pulled out the baskets I had started and needed to get them finished. I couldn’t work to long on the baskets because it kills my fingers.

 

By sundown the rain had arrived all the cut hay was on wagons and in W’s barn and our animals were tucked in everyone was back in safe and sound. While I got corn bread cooked SF sent Aidan and Connor to shower then he showered. Abby and Beth had taken buckets of water to their tent to wash up. The girls had already been bathed. We were eating in the house tonight because the rain had blown into the summer kitchen and everything was soaking wet and it was still raining. I had pulled out the camp stove and was cooking the cornbread in the camp oven. The beans were on the camp stove cooking they were just about done thank goodness. Everyone was tired so there wasn’t much talk. SF told Beth and Abby they could move their bedrolls in the house tonight if they did not want to stay in the tent. They their tent was still dry and the way their tent was set the rocks that jutted out was protecting them from much of the rain. If it got worse they would sleep in the main room.

 

Everyone went to bed on their own tonight. The twins had fallen asleep one in my lap and one in SF’s lap and the boys had eaten then went to bed. It was all they could do to hold their eyes open during dinner. Abby and Beth had gone back to their tent.

SF and I were sitting in the main room with the door and windows open watching the rain. I told him I never got around to finishing the horses today. He said if it keeps raining like this it will be too wet to get in the fields tomorrow so he could finish the hooves. I just nodded. He asked what was bugging me and I told him nothing really I was just tired, the weeds were getting ahead of me and I could not keep up. SF said if need be we could put down hay in the fields as mulch it would help keep the weeds down. I told him I hated to do that but that we had to do something or the weeds would take over. He said he would walk through tomorrow and see how bad the weeds were and make a decision. I told him I would also write Mother this week and ask them about how much wood they use to using the rider should be coming back around soon. SF said go ahead and get them ready tonight just in case.

 

Dear Mother,

Would you please send me a guessament of how much wood you have used during the winter in the past? SF and I have only used it for the fire place and never to cook with so we are struggling with how much we should store for the winter and we are at a loss.

Waiting for your reply

M23B

 

SF said that would work and hopefully we would hear from her next week.

 

 

 

 

 

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Today was spent working on a couple of special projects we’d been putting off but with the weather turning so hot we didn’t want to wait longer. When it had rained before the family found some leaks in the caves, a couple right over the ‘hall’ that leads from ‘room’ to ‘room’. When they did some investigating they found holes in the ‘roof’ and today they were making use of those holes.

 

Each opening was cleared of dirt from above right down to the rocks underneath and a square log structure was built above them. One, right over the “hall” was big enough to make into a ‘doorway’ that could be used as an escape route with a ladder below. A couple of small ones were going to be used as chimneys for stoves for some of the rooms. Those would have stone and adobe surrounding them and the metal chimney’s would be pushed into them from below and sealed around. My favorites though were the two solar chimneys that would be used to pull hot air from the rooms in front of the cliff face causing a breeze to be drawn through. The solar chimneys were built of logs with a piece of clear Plexiglas set into the front of them. The structures would act as small solar collectors, heating by the sun shining through the front glass. Once heated, the hot air would escape through vents in the top, creating a draft that would pull air through them from below.

 

One of these was almost right above the wood stove in the kitchen. It has been terribly hot in the kitchen with the long hours needed to prepare the food for so many and even raising the tarps on the side didn’t help. The chimney worked wonderfully with the exception that we’d have to keep the greenhouse closed off or it pulled heat from there into the kitchen.

 

The second one of these was over the hall behind the barn area and once they got the solar chimney closed in and it started working it was amazing how it worked. By opening or closing doors or windows on the front of the caves it would start a suction that would pull air in from outside and vent the heat/damp from inside the cave and from the rooms in front of the caves. Again, we’d have to keep doors closed between areas we didn’t want vented, like the hot springs or the cold springs area but now we have a nice draft system that works with the power of the sun and maybe even with just the rising heat itself and we also have two escape routes from inside the caves.

 

While most of the family was working above, several of us were working on an outside cooking area. The whole thing was built from stone and adobe and the steel plate we'd used on the trail. The structure looked a bit like a fireplace only with the sheet steel acting as the cook top and the opening was to the outside, away from where we stand. That would mean we’d have to feed the fire from the outside but it would be a lot cooler to stand nearby and cook. We built up two levels under the cook top for the fires so we could have more or less heat to the surface as we needed. Both fire ‘pits’ could be used for cooking directly in or over the fire or for grilling as well. The chimney for both fires was actually at the end towards the kitchen and was connected to a large adobe oven in such a way that we could either vent the smoke through the oven to use it for smoking meats or we could direct vent the smoke to the chimney without it going through the oven by flipping a metal flab forward or backwards with a lever. In turn, the oven, like the old-fashioned ‘bustle’ ovens, could have a fire built inside it and when the whole thing was hot, the ashes and coals would be raked out, and the door closed to make a heat holding oven.

 

I’d used those types of ovens in the past and they were amazing in their baking power though it took some thought to use them. We had been able to make this one big enough for several shelves, made with rebar we’d brought along, and about three by five foot inside. We wanted it to be big enough to be a ‘community’ oven for both families most of the year if possible. Right after heating the oven would be very hot, though in this sized one it will most likely be hotter on the bottom shelf where the fire had been than the top one. We should be able to bake things like bread and biscuits first as the oven would be hottest then. After they come out we should still have enough heat to bake cookies or cakes or a roast or casserole. Later in the day, the oven might be used for a slow cooker throughout the night or if it’s too cool for that, to dehydrate foods.

 

We had two solar ovens but hadn’t been using them as the stove was usually going anyway and they weren’t big enough to cook enough food for the crew we were feeding. Today, though, we dug them out of storage to use with smaller quantities of food.

 

It was the same with the insulated cookers. They were big, but not big enough so today I worked on making a large hay-box cooker from a packing crate. I made it so our largest cast iron pot would fit in it by filling the outer area with dry grass and leaving only a depression big enough for the pot. We would be able to bring the contents to a boil for only a few minutes before putting the pot into the hay box and closing it up. The contents would stay hot just like in the insulated cookers and finish cooking. We'd have to keep an eye on it the first few times to make sure it kept the contents hot enough not to spoil and if it cooled then boil it for a few minutes again before sticking it back in. Tonight I worked on cutting an old quilt down to use above the pot for insulation under the lid on the box. It might not be as effective as the commercial ones with their Thinsulate material but I had used hay boxes before and know it will work.

 

DH had been working on a dehydrating cabinet most of the day yesterday while the rest were across the river and I had him bring it to set near the kitchen. He’d used a couple of sheets of plywood, covering the slanted front with opaque Plexiglas we’d brought along. He still had to make the frames for the shelves so I could cover them with some of the nylon screen I’d brought but then it would be usable. The only problem we had was a way to waterproof the wood to make it last longer. I know that certain trees give off a resin that can be dissolved with alcohol and then used as a varnish and I'll have to look into that.

 

All this was set up under the overhang to the south side of the kitchen and already I was contemplating how we could screen it in or at least give it more shade. When the cabin is built it will be part of, but separate from, the kitchen so we can still at least bake outside all year long. It would be nice if we could close it in during the winter but open it during the summer. Maybe some day.

 

Tomorrow, we’ll be back to work in fields and across the river. C and L’s family should be ready to move across in a week or two at the most. I’m looking forward to trying out the new oven but as some of the adobe is new, we’ll have to let it dry good and then start with a small fire to cure it first. We’ve already tried the fireplace part to see how the smoke moved and it was okay but we think it could use a taller chimney to get the smoke up above the ledge so that a wind doesn't blow it into the cooking area. With the oven and chimney being near the kitchen we might be able to build a stone chimney all the way up and somehow connect the cook stove on the inside. That way we'd save pipe.

 

All in all, it was a really productive day. Things are becoming more convenient and more comfortable and more homelike each day.

 

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Thursday - the Valley

 

Still wondering when the mule train is coming in. Hubby is worried and so am I that something has happened to Jerry. I am spending the better part of the day pacing and worrying. I cannot help it, that's my son out there with no way to communicate that I know of. Silence is NOT golden in this case. Hubby is all but ready to go looking for them. He is afraid they may have been attacked for their supplies if it is getting that bad out there. I have to say that I agree, but that maybe we need to wait just a couple more days first. Maybe if they aren't here by the beginning of the week, he should go talk to Mr. S. about sending out some of the men to look for them. This is agonizing. I want to just cry, but that wont give anyone strength and we need plenty of that right now.

 

Well I got some sourdough starter done today so we can get used to using it. Once the yeast runs out, all we will have is sourdough using the natural yeasts of the area in it. I don't often use potatoes since most all of them went for seed, so I just mixed up some starter with some of the yeast I have left. There were a ton of them on the internet and I had copied off a bunch and put them in binders before we left. I have binders for everything, but the kitchen one is what we are using the most of right now.

 

I got that done and then went on to starting laundry. Ruth and Ester helped me out with that while Adam and Benjamin went with hubby out to the south pasture to check on the hay they rolled over yesterday morning. The barometer is dropping so they might have to bring it in before it's all dry yet. We will sit it near the doors on the front of the barn so that it will get the breeze and dry out the rest of the way if they do have to get it. I don't want the barn to catch on fire lol. But we do need the rain though. Some of the more tender plants in the garden are starting so show some signs of heat stress, and if the weather doesn't break, we are going to have to water by hand. Either that or hubby is going to have to use the PVC pipe we have left and run some kind of irrigation system to the garden. Which isn't a bad idea, but it would be quick and be sitting above ground for now. We would either have to bury it this fall or take it back up for the winter so the pipes don't break. I don't want to chance water getting back into the lines some how and bursting what little pipe we have left. There is no getting any more of it.

 

On the plus side of the nice weather is the laundry is drying quickly lol. We got most all of it done today. I have two of the old fashioned scrub boards to use in the wash tubs, so that makes it easier than standing in them and stomping the clothes around with your feet lol. Although that might feel kind of nice with it being hot out!

 

Hubby and the boys made it back with a wagon load of hay. They are going back for another one here shortly. But hubby says he thinks it is dry enough to just put away in the loft. I will go by what he thinks. They did stop long enough to grab a bite to eat and then they were off again. Adam watered the horses while they were stopped too. He is a real help around here. Sometimes I don't know how we made it this far without the children here to help us. They really are becoming a part of this family and hubby and I are growing very attached to them rather quickly. It wouldn't be the same around here without them now. All the giggling in the mornings, pillow fights in the evenings, chatter all day long, watching them play...all of it has a special place in my heart now. They are becoming "our" children.

 

Well while hubby was out doing the hay, the girls and I went down by the spring house. I had seen some stuff growing down there that I wanted to check out. So we took my medical and wild food books with us. I found some arrowhead growing there and got a few up. They are still pretty small so I didn't pick any more. Out in the sunny areas I did find some patches of wild onion growing, so we did dig up a good bunch of that. I will use those in our cooking, even though they aren't as strong as a regular onion and really small, they do have a good taste to them. I just wish they were as strong as they smell lol. The grapes seem to be coming along fine. And we stumbled onto a patch of what they call Prairie potatoes. The pioneers used to eat them all the time, from about Kansas westward, and they look like a small sweet potato. They are a little smaller than one, but they are good raw, boiled or roasted. So I dug up a good bunch of those, leaving more than I took of them. I will use those tonight with dinner and see how they go over before looking around for more lol.

 

There was one other thing I saw that I got bunches of and that was goldenrod. I got the entire plant. The root is good for burns and even the flowers are good for a sore throat or used in a tea for fever reduction. Sounded like something good to have around for cold and flu season! It is also very good in treating bladder and kidney infections. I have a feeling that's because of it's tendency to have a diuretic effect on people. It is amazing that there is so much out here in nature that we can use if we just pay attention to it. I have been looking at my herbal books at night before bed, wondering if any of this stuff grows around here. I bet Mother would know what basics are here. I need to write her a letter and find out so I can get some of this stuff put up before it's too late in the summer to get any of it. I know we have already missed the spring season for gathering, I would hate to miss the summer one also. Hard to tell just how long all our "modern" medicines will hold out.

 

After hubby and the boys got back with the last load of hay, we all took off down to the river to go fishing for dinner. Ruth, Ester and Benjamin thought they would rather play than fish. That was until hubby told them if they didn't fish, they didn't eat lol. Boy did the lines hit the water then! He was kidding with them of course, but they didn't know that at the time. And he didn't tell them either. They have to learn out here in the wild that if you don't know how to feed yourself here, you wont make it. Yes, they are young still, but this is a different world than the one we left. It's harsh and mean and it doesn't give a rats behind if you are big or little. I want these children to know how to feed themselves if they ever got separated from us for any length of time. And they will have to have the knowledge for later on in life too. It wouldn't be a bad idea for the hubby to teach the girls how to hunt also. I mean who wants to live on fish all the time lol. What if they don't get married right away and decide they are tough enough to go out on their own? All things we as parents have to think about out here. It is a LOT different than raising children in town, in civilization.

 

Well after a nice fish dinner lol, we all got in our shorts and a top and went back down to the river to cool off for awhile. We let the kids swim for a bit and we did too. It felt so nice after a hot day of working. I just floated around for a bit the got out and dried off. I sat there with hubby watching the children swimming around. Ester was doing good now! She had caught right on to what hubby had taught her and was able to swim on her own now. Most of the time, they were up walking along the shore though looking for "stuff" lol. I guess they thought they would find shells or something equally as neat. I told them to watch for gold in the rocks and their eyes got so big lol. Hubby explained that this river comes down out of the mountains and some mountains have gold in them out here in the west. And who was to say that one of those mountains where our river came from didn't have gold in it? Well that got their attention. I think they wanted to keep looking after dark with flash lights lol. Hubby told them they could always look again tomorrow after the chores were done, but that it was time now for bed. They all fell asleep tonight talking about finding gold rocks big as boulders LOL!! Hubby and I just giggled at them and said it would be nice to be that young again. Well I am back to bed now...blessings to all...

 

Q

 

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Another day on the mountain...

 

The rider was here early this morning he had a note from Mr. S wanting to know if we could bring our oxen and all the wagons we have to help bring stuff over the pass when the next mule train arrives. Of course SF sent a reply back saying just name the date and time and we would be there. The rider also carried my letter to Mother concerning the wood. Sf left right after breakfast and headed over to the Q's to invite them to Saturday dinner or a picnic down by the lake.

 

Since it was still a drizzling rain I finished up the horses hooves today and worked on the floor pillows for the kids. When SF got back he took Aidan, Connor and the girls out shooting the twins and I stayed behind and worked on dinner. Earlier I had gathered sugar snaps, some more baby carrots and a few new red potatoes that were about the size of a golf ball. I put an elk roast in the dutch oven with wild garlic, wild onions and rosemary. Then added the potatoes and carrots later. We still had rolls from the day before.

 

This after noon SF and the boys worked on a wood shed. We are thinking we would will used about 4-5 cords of wood so SF wanted something big enough to keep thqat much dry.

 

More later it has been a busy day and there is so much more I want to write but I am running out of steam

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Friday - the Valley

 

Oh what a day this has been! I am overjoyed to have had such a wonderful day and praise Him for His goodness to us all. Let me start at the beginning before I run off in twenty directions at once lol. I do have a way of chasing rabbit trails don't I?!

 

We got the children up after I had made breakfast by myself this morning. We let them sleep in a little later since they had such a time yesterday and got a little worn out with all that swimming last evening lol. It did them all some good, got them clean and let them relax a bit and gave us some nice bonding time with them too. I am coming to think of them as "OUR" children more with each day. It's about complete as to their being ours and I would hope they feel the same, that they feel safe and well cared for. I hope they can feel the love we have for them and see that we mean only good for them, want to teach them how to grow up to be real ladies and gentlemen. I think the older ones see that last part, don't know about Esther and Benjamin just yet though. They are still only youngsters.

 

Anyways, hubby went up and got the kids awake and moving. Hubby told me later on that he had to have a special talk with Adam last night too. I had wondered what they were talking about but hubby knew the look I had and just said "guy stuff honey" and I nodded and left it at that. Poor Benjamin, he came downstairs this morning in hubby's big T shirt and tripped over thin air and fell. I think he is going to have a goose egg on his forehead where he hit the wall lol. All that is hurt is that and his pride so far as I can tell. I made a big deal, getting an ice bag with cool water in it, checking his eyes which are a beautiful deep pale blue, watching his head, etc... I think he felt so much better just from all the attention he was getting more than anything else lol. He's fine now. After the big commotion, I got everyone around and we finally got sat down to breakfast. Ops, no hubby? LOL he was still out in the barn doing chores. So I told the children to go ahead and eat after saying a prayer. I told them I would sit at the table with them and have a cup of coffee then eat with Papaw when he came in from the barn. So we bowed our heads and I asked a blessing on the meal, on our work today and on our family, especially for Jerry who was out there trying to get home to us and we didn't know where he was or what was going on. I asked that He would keep him safe until he was back home again. Amen. And then the elbows started flying LOL! I have seen children eat before, having had twin boys and a daughter not quite 2 years apart in age, but these 4 could put two teen age boys to shame in how much they ate! And you cannot make enough pancakes for Esther. She LOVES them and Mamaw's blackberry syrup lol. Adam just eats anything as long as it is on a plate, hot, cold, not moving, not nailed down lol...Ruth though, she eats well but she is dainty about it. Someone has went to great pains to teach that child table manners that would match the Queen of England! I am amazed by it and wonder what other surprises by her are in store for me yet. It makes me sad that I never got to meet their parents. Who we don't bring up or talk about unless the children bring it up first. We don't want to keep throwing it up in their faces that they aren't around. They will deal with this on their own terms in their own way and make it through okay with our help.

 

About half way through breakfast, I heard the cabin door open. I was sitting with my back to it and just figured it was the hubby coming in from the barn for breakfast. Except I saw Benjamin's eyes grow large as saucers before my world went black!.....

 

"Guess who?!" I heard a familiar voice say to me. Oh no, it isn't? It couldn't be...could it?! I found it hard to breathe as if all the air in the room had suddenly been sucked out of it. I got dizzy, the room was spinning. I thought I would faint. I went to stand up and promptly passed out on the floor, hitting my head on the table on the way down. It must have taken hubby and everyone all working together to get me into the bed. That's where I woke up sometime after lunch anyways. Complete with Benjamin's ice bag with cool water in it on MY forehead LOL! What a sweet heart to share HIS ice bag with mamaw...I gave him a BIG hug for that later. When I came to, Esther and Benjamin were sitting on the floor beside the bed coloring in an ABC coloring book that I had brought along for myself should I have another stroke lol. It really does help...anyways, there they were just coloring away. I watched them being so careful to stay inside the lines. I thought about that and realized they needed to learn to color outside the lines too, or think outside the box or the normal. Out here coloring inside the lines isn't always good. But they sat there chattering away, not noticing I was awake. "Do you think mamaw will be okay Benjamin?" "Yeah Esther, I'm okay and I hit my head too this morning. She will be okay because she has MY ice bag to use even if we don't have any ice." "But what if she doesn't wake up like our moms did?" My heart about broke with that one..."No, she will wake up because God gave her to us. I know He wont take her away because she and papaw have to make sure we grow up good. I heard papaw say that the other night to mamaw and she said yes." "Okay Benjamin, if you say so but she sure is sleeping a long time." "Maybe she is just tired from working so hard Esther, did you ever think of that?" LOL, I couldn't stand it any longer and started moving around in the bed so they knew I was waking up. I closed my eyes again so they wouldn't know I was watching them and listening in. Once I did open my eyes again, they were both standing over my side of the bed, staring down at me. "Are you okay mamaw?" I heard in unison. LOL, I grabbed them both and pulled them into the bed with me. "Yes, I am just fine" I said as the ice bag fell off onto the covers. I hugged them hard and for a good long time. I smiled at them and told them just how much they are loved by me and by papaw. Then I started tickling them and we all got the giggles. Evidently we made a big bunch of noise because next thing I knew, everyone else came banging into the bedroom to check and make sure all was well. I told them if a herd of elephants could make more noise than they just did, it would be a wonder lol. Now everyone got to giggling and laughing. I assured them all I was fine and I was ready to get up out of bed and had a hankering for a big big cup of coffee!

 

One of them ran out to the kitchen to get me a cup as hubby helped me out of the bed slowly this time and get out to the kitchen. I stood beside the table watching MY SON get me coffee! MY SON! It really was Jerry! Oh how my mothers heart had longed for this day. How many times I had stopped what I was doing just to say a prayer for his safety. How many hours over the years I had worried and fretted and wondered where in the world was he and was he safe? Was he being shot at or worse, had been shot? And here he was all 6'3" of him handing me a cup of hot coffee! I told him to set that down on the table and give his mother a hug!! He grabbed me up off of the floor and hugged me tight to him. Why is it he has to do that every time lol. I know I am a foot shorter than he is but dang! LOL I loved every second of it. I cried so bad I think I soaked his shoulder. He kept telling me not to cry, that he was home. And the more he said that, the more I had cried. Hubby finally came over and helped Jerry get me sat back down at the table. I went to introduce the children to Jerry, but everyone laughed and said papaw already did that hours ago. Oh...ouch yeah the headache. I passed out at breakfast didn't I? Well duh said Jerry lol. Oh I loved that sassy boy and I had missed him so much for so many years. Hubby got he and Jerry a cup of coffee too and they both sat down so we could talk. The children, having already heard the tale decided they needed to go back down to the waters edge and see if they could find some gold again lol. Hubby told them it was okay to go but NO swimming unless an adult was with them. He charged Adam with watching everyone and then they were off.

 

The door banged shut and my head pounded. It's still pounding some yet tonight but I have to get this down in my journal so I don't forget any of it. It is too important to me to loose any of it to future fuzziness of memory. Hubby asked Jerry how the mule train trip went. He said it was slower going than that of the wagon train. We thought it would be faster and Jerry said it would have been had they not had to dodge around towns, stay away from any roads or houses as much as possible including the homestead they had stopped at before. They were constantly on the look out for robbers and gangs. Even had come across one gang that was camping out in their path to here that caused a long bypass around them at night so they wouldn't be taking a chance on being seen. Jerry said it's hard to hide 12 mules during the day, but at night they just kind of blend in lol. He said his night vision goggles helped, but he had to take the lead mule and walk it instead of riding it so they didn't go too fast and spook the other mules or riders in the dark. I guess I understand what he was saying.

 

So there were 12 mules? I asked him. And what were they carrying? Jerry said they had a LOT of early rye grain for seed, enough salt so that everyone in the valley would be getting 5 pounds per family that they could pick up at the lodge. Jerry was nice enough to bring ours to us along with a stack of letters and a few packages that went onto the pile of other unopened packages lol. I really DO have to get those opened just in case there is something in them that we could be using right now to help with gardening or canning. I already had my rooting powder and my half of a green house lol. I wondered what else we had sitting there? That's when Jerry handed me a very tiny package that he took out of his shirt pocket. He had brought it all this way there in his shirt. Just for his mom. Sigh.... I picked it up and looked at him, my eyes already misting over again. Such a day of happy tears! He asked me if I was going to open it and I told him yes, right after he finished his story. So he continued on to tell us that there were very few small packages that made it through and they were being sent on up to the Lodge for them to be picked up by the owners. Mr. S. was to check them for a name and then send a note by messenger to the family that needed to pick up their small packages. He said there were a few letters too that made it to the Rockin J in time to be brought out by the mule train. A good bunch of those were for Mt. R.'s from family there at the Rockin J that were getting ready to leave as soon as the oxen and wagons were back there and rested up from the last wagon train. He thought they may be there by now.

 

He sent a rider up to Mt. R.'s, a 16 year old girl names Kelsey, to deliver the mail to them and let them all know that their family was safe and preparing to leave the Rockin J soon to come here on the last wagon train. He said he really needed to go up to Cleft in the Rock to talk to them. Seems he had helped rescue some of her family in a town called Carterville where they had been taken hostage by a bunch of thugs who stopped them from continuing on their journey to the Rockin J by car/truck. Seems that is happening more and more now out in the world. Jerry thinks it wont be too much longer before the military is called out to help keep the order, that it is not safe anywhere now. Which is unconstitutional, but the President is able to use emergency Executive Orders to get around that. Jerry is going to stay here in the valley. He figures if he is out in the world, they, they army, will be able to find him and make him go back in again. He wont do it either. He has had enough and says that this president is NOT his commander-in-chief. Which means he would NOT be able to follow any orders that were given by him. So to be able to help us in any sort of way keep the valley safe and secure, he is staying here now. And he wants Mt. R's to know their family IS safe and together and ready to come to the Valley. Since he was head of the operation to get their family out of that hostage situation, he feels like he should talk to them and answer any questions they may have about it and what ever else they have questions about.

 

Hubby asked Jerry how close to the valley all the problems seems to be happening at. He said it was a good piece off yet, but when they made it down the hill yesterday, they went ahead and made camp at the base and stayed the night there just in case they were followed and could "take care of the problem" right then and there before they even got too far into the valley. Problem? Take care of it? It was going to take some getting used to, hearing my son talk of taking lives in such a way. It was like I was torn between what was right and what was just. I knew he had a good foundation in the Word, I saw to that myself with all the children when they were young. So I knew he didn't do it lightly or with no malice, but out of need for safety, either for himself, others or both. It still hurt for some reason.

 

He also said there were 3 other people that came on the mule train with him, but they had went onto the Lodge with it. He decided to come straight here with one of the mules and his horse to bring us our mail and packages and to let us know he was HOME....Home. Finally my oldest boy, so many years spent away from me in distance only...was HOME. Yes, I cried again as Jerry put the tiny wrapped package into my hands and said "Here Mom. It's time, open this now please." I looked at him and could only nod yes. I opened it carefully, trying not to even rip the paper it was wrapped up in. I would save it forever. It was a little box. All in dark Scarlett velvet. I opened it up and a chain spilled out of the edge. And in the center, fixed there so that it could be read was a golden charm. It said #1 MOM on it fixed to a heavy gold hook and strung on a heavy golden chain. I cried in earnest then. Hubby took the box from my hands and looked at it. He smiled and handed it to Jerry saying "Here, it's only fitting and right that you put this on your mom." So Jerry took it out of the tiny beautiful box and hooked it around my neck so that the charm was in the front and could be read by all who saw it. He bent down and kissed my forehead.

 

I looked at him, this tall young man in my kitchen. Suddenly I saw a small boy, dressed up in army camouflage the same as his brother and friends. They were getting ready to go out on one of their "missions" in the palmetto bushes out back of our home in Florida where they grew up. His face dirty and wet with sweat. He was saying that when he grew up, he wanted to be a "real" soldier. I blinked and saw him again as he was now. Tall, full of muscles, blue eyes twinkling as they always had. Yes, the little boy still lived inside there. I knew by that twinkle. I sighed and asked him the most pressing question on my mind at the moment. "So, you are going to stay here with us right? Is there a woman in your life yet Jerry?"

"Yes mom, I thought I would stay here with the family if you don't mind. Larry said you all have a room for me here and I don't think it would be smart to go out by myself and build a cabin just yet. I would rather wait on that until I meet a young lady and get serious enough to get married. I will go ahead and get my 40 acres and I may work it for hay or something, but no building right now."

 

So that answered my question and my prayers. I am happy beyond words tonight and just as tired lol. So I do imagine I should close this journal and get myself to bed. 5 a.m. comes early with youngsters around! It's so nice to have most of my children here now, from age 30 to age 7. It's a peaceful house right now as I hear my son and my husband snoring lol. Well off to bed for this #1 MOM!

 

Blessings to all...

 

Q

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It was almost noon when a messenger rode up to the Hobbit Hole. I was outside working in the garden so sent one of the children to get a note I had written to MT3B. The messenger had several letters for us and told us that the mule train had arrived at the Lodge this morning. He said there were a few packages that he couldn’t bring with him waiting at the lodge for us too.

 

He told us that one of the people with the mule train had come with him as far as MtR’s place to give them the good news that her family were all fine and would be coming to the valley as soon as the wagons got back and they could get them loaded. I could just imagine the joy and praise at Cleft in the Rocks today. I said a few prayers of thanksgiving myself when he also told us that Quiltys’ son Jerry was back safe and sound.

 

Once he told us how serious the situation outside the valley was I was worried for Mt3b’s sons who had gone out with the empty wagons. I prayed they would be safe out there. I wished I could have taken time to write a bit more in that note to MT3B. I would have told her how much I was thinking about her and her family but the messenger didn’t want to stay long as he still had to stop at Annarchy and Big D’s place before heading across the river to AH.

 

I didn’t even get a chance to read the mail the messenger brought but I’ll do that as soon as we have everything settled for the night and I have a few moments.

 

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Dear MT3B,

We have been having the same problem here with trying to decide how much is enough wood for winter. Not only how much but where will we stack that amount so that it will be within reach during the possibly long winter storms without having to carry it a great distance in blizzard conditions. I’m pretty sure we’ll be facing that often and possibly early.

 

One of the problems we’re dealing with is the fact that we not only have to cut standing dead wood for use now for cooking but also for this coming winter as green wood needs to be cured for at the least six to eight months before use and preferably a year. That means we would have to cut two winters worth of wood for heating and also a whole years cooking wood if it’s green. Of course, in real life it doesn’t work that way and we’re just trying to get ahead far enough to keep us in wood now and to have enough for the coming winter. All wood will burn but some wood will give more heat for the work.

 

If we use our past winters as a guide we used approximately 6 cord of good hard wood to heat our relatively small but not all that well insulated home each year with our older wood furnace. If we were using soft or junk wood it took a whole lot more. As the valley has a relatively small percentage of hard wood it would be safe to say that most of our firewood will be evergreen, or of the softer wood variety. If it is dead and dry, that gives one a nice hot fire but doesn’t hold as well. We are hoping to have a variety before winter but will take what we can get.

 

The other consideration is whether the wood is green or cured. All green wood smokes and gives off a lot less heat. It takes at the very least six months to cure green wood and even dead wood will need to be dried if it has been laying on the ground where it could pick up moisture. That means that not all wood we cut will be as usable now.

 

Of course, that amount doesn’t include cooking and that adds another dimension as well as cords. That will depend on what you are using to cook with and again the type of wood. Pine will give one a quick hot fire to cook fast but it will burn out easily. We call that biscuit wood because biscuits take a quick hot fire but don’t take long to bake. Dry corncobs are a type of biscuit fuel. Hot quick fires work well in heating the adobe ovens though and those will hold the heat longer. To have a fire that holds it’s heat longer you need to add hard wood once the fire is going well. Hardwood is what makes the coals so useful for cooking in an open fire. The cook stove takes smaller pieces that add to the work as well.

 

One thing I’ve learned over the years of heating and cooking with wood is that you never have enough. We are planning on having ten cord stacked here and ten across at our son’s homestead but if we can get fifteen or more at each place we will. It sounds like a terrific amount, and it is, but that wood could prove to be a lifesaver if we have an early winter and a late spring. We are zone five in this small pocket of a valley but around us is zones four and below. We could easily be hit with an early or a late storm just as we had in our zone five at home occasionally. And if we don’t need that much, we’ll have good cured, dry wood for cooking next summer or perhaps a start on the following year’s winter fuel. Somehow though, I doubt it will be too much.

 

We’ve been trying to calculate what we use for cooking here and it is amazing the amount we go through daily. I’m sure the new adobe oven and cook area we’ve set up will be beneficial as well the hay box cooker and solar ones in saving us fuel but wood is really our main source of fuel yet.

 

We are counting on Solar gain in the winter from the greenhouse as well as the insulating value of the caves to help save on the amount of wood we use. The use of the hot springs for heating the caves and thus the cabins in front will help too. I only wish we’d had room to bring along our passive solar collectors but we are hoping to fashion some out of Plexiglas and other items we’ve brought with us for that purpose. We just have not had the time to do so yet. A solar collector would concentrate the suns heat and force it by convection to another area, like inside the caves or into some sort of heat sink (storage) like rocks. The warm air moving through the rocks would heat them and the rocks would in turn give off their heat at night when the sun was gone. There will have to be a way to stop the heat loss back into the collector at night but that would be easily done with draft controls. I keep thinking of the pioneer and how some of the modern things we can do now would have amazed them. Lightweight but almost invincible plastic would have been almost astonishing to them but the ability to use it to harvest the heat from the sun would have been magic.

 

Please take great care of yourself in these busy times. Know that I am praying for you and your family daily.

 

((((((MT3B)))))

Mother

 

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Oops sorry forgot to post yesterday

 

Friday, July 16

 

The girls were up and at the chores early. They have gotten more comfortable with milking and herding the animals, even gathering eggs. They don’t let the animals intimidate them any more.

 

During breakfast we got to talking about the mule train that was coming and if P&N would be coming in SF said no that the mule train is just that mules. I said then why do they need wagons. SF they don’t Mr. S wanted my help unloading the mule train and then our wagons when the wagon train come in. I said oh well yesterday you had me all confused. He laughed and said that is not hard to do. I just looked at him and reminded him his roots were blond not mine. He chuckled.

 

After breakfast SF took the boys down to the fields to cut hay for mulch for the gardens. The weeds are trying to take over and we need to mulch SF said they would do the corn fields and wheat fields. He said he was sending Connor over to see if those on the other side of the river could help. I just looked at him, he said don’t worry Connor can handle crossing the river and riding over there. He has his rifle and whistle. Plus he got his brother and sisters to the ranch remember. SF reminded me I can not coddle them out here. I have to let them take on responsibilities early. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know but it is still not right they need a childhood.

 

After the kitchen I headed to the garden to see how much lettuce there was. And was surprised it looked like every strawberry had turned red over night. So I got Abby and Beth to help me pick strawberries. I told them tomorrow we would make strawberry preserves and canned some pie filling; today we would start some to drying. OMG I can’t believe I planted this many plants. Those hundred plants didn’t look like so many going in the ground. Plus the wild ones around here and the 50 more I have to go in the green house. I am going to have strawberries out the yin yang. That is if I can keep the twins from eating them all. They pick one and they eat one. They are so cute they have strawberry all over their face.

 

SF sent Connor up to say cook extra for dinner that there were going to an extra 6 people for dinner. Good thing it is pizza day. I will just make a few extra cheese pizzas, and a bigger salad. I have a pound cake in the oven so we will have strawberry shortcake. Supper will left overs I like left over day.

 

Mr. S rode in with SF and the others at lunch he had come to check on the girls and let them know they had packages at the lodge. It seemed the mule train had arrived. Mr. S said Q’s son Jerry had brought it in. The girls were excited to see him and were talking his ears off already. They started talking about what all they had done since they have been here. They talked about canning and making blackberry jam and tomorrow (Saturday) we were making strawberry preserves. They had helped cut and stack hay. They had cleaned fish. Mr. S seemed impressed that they girls had tried so much. Mr. S thanked me for taking the girls under my wing so to speak. I told him I had been very impressed with them. I was expecting whiners but they had not whined they had been real troopers. I told him that SF had to speak to them one time but after that they had been angels. I said they had even stayed in their tent the other night when it rained instead of sleeping in the main room of the cottage.

 

Mr. S told me he had worried about taking them in had he not promised their father that he would see that they were cared for if anything happen to him and his wife then he would not have brought them out here. He said their father had always dreamed of moving but it wasn’t to be. I told him that they would get used to this life. I went on to tell him they were worried because they realize just how unprepared they are. They realize they do not have the basics like cast iron cookware, a cook stove, dishes, quilts or the means to make them. Mr. S just nodded I could tell there was something he wasn’t saying but I wasn’t going to press him especially with everyone gathering around in the kitchen to eat.

 

During lunch SF told me that they had a system going few were cutting and the rest were spreading the hay out in the fields. Abby said she would go down after lunch and help Beth said count her in too. I thought Mr. S was going to choke on his pizza, I just smiled at SF and he grinned. I told SF about the ton of strawberries we picked this morning and there were twice that many still out there but were still green. I looked at E and told her to tell her mom and K to come over the first of next week and pick strawberries. She said she would but they were picking wild berries today. I laughed and told E that we were going to have more strawberries than anything. The girls ran and got Mr. S a jar of blackberry jam. They told him they had help make it.

 

During lunch it was decided that we would pick out packages up Sunday when we went to the lodge. Mr. S suggested that we bring some of those berries to the trading post that he was sure they would find good homes. He also suggested that I jar up some of that honey and trade it for empty jars. I told him I would think about it.

 

After lunch Mr. S left and he said something about stopping in and seeing the Q’s and Jerry but he also wanted to make the rounds and check on everyone also.

 

Everyone but the twins and me headed back down to mulch more. They have plans to finish the vegetables gardens today and then work on the corn fields and wheat fields. I went back to hulling strawberries and slicing them to dry. I told the girls they could sleep in the hammock again so they ran to get their pillows and bears they sleep with. I think they were asleep before the hammock stopped moving. I had two trays of strawberries drying and was working on hulling the ones for tomorrow.

 

Oh shoot I just realized that with Jerry in the Q’s will need tomorrow as family time and time for Jerry to get settled. Humm oh well maybe next weekend. Sure wish P&N had been with the mule train. They have been gone forever. I will be so glad when they are back here. Let’s see they have been gone almost 2 weeks. I wonder if they have been able to shave some time off since they were traveling empty and the days are long. I sure hope so. I know it takes 3 weeks to travel to the ranch. I am hoping and praying they are back here quickly we will need them in a few weeks to help harvest.

 

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Saturday July 17

 

Strawberry Day…next year we need to have a strawberry festival in the valley. I will have to suggest that to Chef and Mr. S.

 

V and her girls were here early this morning. I had just wrung one of the rooster necks when they arrived. He was a mean ol cuss. He would chase the other chickens and you if you would let him. Well after he tried to attack me I decided he would make good dumplings tonight. SF told me to go on and work on the strawberries he would just skinned the chicken feathers and all and set it in the cold cave. I told him if he would clean it I would get everything ready and just put it in the coals and let it cook while we did the preserves and jam today. As soon as he was finished he headed down the mountain. The guys were on weed control duty again.

 

The women folk got busy and made jam, preserves, and syrup. K and Abby picked more of the strawberries this morning. They are ripening faster than we can get them put up. (IRL V has more strawberries than she can handle she has a contacted the little mom and pops local grocery store and they have agreed to buy any extra she has it is funny in a way because she thought she had lost them all to the snow and deep freeze they had earlier this month) Between the wild strawberries and the ones we planted we have been able to put everyone 12 jars each of strawberry preserves and jam and 3 jars of syrup. We did the syrup first we started out with 8 cups of crushed strawberries, 2 cups water and 4 cups sugar. We brought that to a boil and then lowered the heat and simmered for 10 minutes. We poured the mixture through sever layers of cheesecloth pressing pulp with a spoon. (save the pulp for preserves) Measured juice back into sauce pan adding 1 cup sugar for each cup of juice, then you bring it to a boil and stir until sugar is dissolved. Boil for 2 minutes then skim off foam. (IRL I have always stop right here just poured this in sterilized jars and store in the refrigerator because it does not last at my house; however since we are in the middle of no where and I am posting my grandmother’s recipe and she always canned hers…) add 2 tablespoons lemon juice and stir pour in to sterilized jars and water bath for 10 minutes.

 

Next is strawberry Preserves. For each cup of fruit we used 1 cup of sugar and for every 4 cups of fruit we used 1 tablespoon cider vinegar. We diced the fruit and added the pulp from that was left from the syrup. We brought fruit and vinegar to a boil and boiled for 2 minutes then added the sugar and boiled for 10 more minutes. Added to jars and water bath for 10 minutes.

 

By now we were sick of looking at strawberries but we still have jam to make and we are going to use honey in this batch and use the same jam recipe that we used for the blackberries.

 

By late afternoon everyone was headed home. I was so thankful that A had handled lunch for the guys today. She even kept the twins and Zoe. I don’t know who had a harder day her or us. I know when I dropped off her preserves and jams she looked beat. She said she only had the younger ones and the oldest girl (she had stayed to help with the little ones) but like she said they were all out of routine and wanted to do their own thing. I noticed the girls were dragging when they climbed on the back of the buckboard. I swing by where the guys were working SF handed me a mess of corn. He said it is starting to come in. The field corn looks good but the white corn we planted is not doing as well as the yellow corn he said he would be surprised if we got 20 bushel off of the field. My heart sank We had planted 5 acres of white corn and he said we may only get 20 bushel not good not good at all. On average you get about 100 bushels per acre oh…..that is going to make us short on corn meal and hominy The white corn was supposed to be for cornmeal, hominy and canned corn. The guys love it when I stir fry corn. Hummmm. Hopefully this last rain will help. SF said we needed a week of good rain. Rain in July yeah right.

 

It is getting late the sun is touching the west mountain and we still have animals in the lower pasture. As we all started back towards home we could hear the dogs going crazy. SF and the older men road off to see what was happening. Connor was a little miffed that he couldn’t go but SF told him and Aidan he needed him to see me and the girls safely home. I handed Connor my rifle and Connor handed Aidan his 22 so they could escort us home. One was on each side of the wagon. As we got to the base of the mountain we heard gun fire but we could tell it wasn’t any of the guys they were still riding hard to go up the mountain. Connor told the girls to lay down and hang on. Thank goodness I had used horses today instead of oxen. As we pulled into the yard I noticed Beth was leaning over Abby. I was frozen in fear for only a minute then I leaped from the wagon and was in a all out run. Connor and Aidan took the wagon and the keep the girls there. R grabbed in mid-flight and said she was okay she just fainted after she shot the coyote.

 

Fear still had a hold of me all I was focused on was Abby, Beth and SF. R still had a hold one me and wouldn’t let me go. He finally got me to focus and it started sinking in coyote shot…fainted…she is ok. I thought I was going to faint then. Abby started coming around and SF picked her up and headed to the cottage with her. Beth handed Ray the rifles and went to fetch water. I looked at the animal and said that is no coyote that is a dang wolf. It was as bigger than boss and he is a black lab weighing in at 120 pounds. Ray looked at it and said no it was a coyote the snout was longer and thinner than a wolf’s. R agreed and said that means there is more coyote’s travel in packs.

 

After Abby had come around and both her and Beth had calmed down they said they heard the chickens acting up and the goats crying. So they went to check on them and saw a couple of coyotes trying to get chasing the baby goats and they shot in the air to chase the coyotes away because they didn’t want to hit the goats but then they went after the chickens again that is when Abby shot the coyote. Ray said he would stay over here and run night guard. SF told him to go ahead and bed down in the loft and he would wake him later that he would take the first watch. B told W he would take the first watch on the animals down there and R said they would just move what animals they had in to the cave they are turning into a barn and he and V&E would keep watch over there. Ray said he would bed down as soon as he took care of the coyote. It was decided that they would burn it since we didn’t know if it had rabies or not. I noticed that Connor and Aidan had gotten the twins in the house and unhitched the wagon. I told them to go with SF and get the animals up we needed to get them in the barn before it got to dark. Everyone scattered and headed to take care of business.

 

Dinner…what was going to be dinner. Oh crap I total forgot about dumplings and it is too late now. Well we will just have chicken Cesar salad. I headed to the garden and gathered a huge bowl of lettuce. I pulled out the bread and made croutons, we had left from lunch yesterday and headed to find cheese and dressing. I shredded half of the chicken, I will save the other half for dumplings tomorrow. Dinner was quite everyone was worn out and some of us were still shaken up a bit. I suggested the girls sleep in the front room of the cottage but they said with SF and Ray on watch they would stay in their tent.

 

Later I told SF I was surprised that the coyotes came out in broad daylight he said he was afraid something like this would happen they are getting braver and are not as afraid of us anymore. I asked him what were we going to do we couldn’t all go to the lodge tomorrow. He told me to take Connor, Aidan and the girls and go. He knew we had packages there and mail so we needed to pick them up. I told him we need to notify the Q’s he said he would ride over and tell them first thing in the morning and if I saw them tat the lodge I was to tell them.

 

Since we were not all going tomorrow we would just take sandwiches with us and I would make dumplings when I got back. I don’t when I actually fell asleep but gunshots woke me early this morning. It seemed Ray had gotten the other coyote. That still didn’t make me feel any better. This one was a female and we could tell she had pups but that she was drying up so that means they were 8-10 weeks old. I headed back to bed to try and get more sleep before heading to the lodge later.

 

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What a week we have had! Sunday after we got back from the Lodge we all gathered for a light supper and a time to plan our week.

 

The “menfolk” told us that they had the wood cut to start the “big” house.

 

When we first arrived in the Valley, before the second half of our group arrived we built a small cordwood barn for the few animals that we had. We plan to enlarge it as we add to our livestock. We used an adobe like mixture to cement the logs in place. We used sod for the roof. We are really pleased at how fast it was to build and how well it has stood up to the elements. We then decided to use the same technique to build a stand alone house and a small house into the side of our south facing hill and face it with cordwood. When we first made our plans we were going to use the small house for the “bachelor quarters”, but now we are going to have to do a little rearranging. I am starting to hear some whispers about the possibility of some weddings in our future!

 

Bright and early Monday morning the guys started clearing the spot for our house and we “ladies” cooked a hardy breakfast. We scrambled some of the eggs that I traded for with some of our powdered eggs and wild onions. We fried some venison steaks, baked some biscuits and put out bowls of the wild berries that we had picked. Owen and Quinn really enjoyed the berries! Oh, the colorful smiles!

 

After breakfast, Ari and Chris headed over to the medical building to do their rotation. Even though we are only about a half hour ride to the Lodge and medical building, they decided to work at the same time so they can ride together. I am sure that Chris will spend most of his day with Chef in the greenhouse and Ari will do whatever is needed with the medical group.

 

The rest of us got busy on the house. After we had our spot cleared Major pounded a stake in the ground and MrGee measured a length of rope to tie to it. Then MrGee tied a stick to the other end of the rope and he and Owen drew a circle. Our house was under construction!

 

As Miz B, Janie, Quinn and I walked back to the outdoor kitchen Quinn started gathering up every stick that his little arms would hold. Janie explained to us that Owen had told Quinn that they needed to help us and gather up sticks for kindling everywhere they go! I had wondered where the pile of sticks had come from, now I know!

 

By Friday the house was shoulder high! Of course that is my shoulder so it is about 4 feet. We found some flagstone down by the river and we will use that for the floor. I am so excited! I have some wild flower seed that I want to plant on my roof…..wow, who would of thought that I would be thinking about PLANTING a roof! LOL!

 

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It has been such a busy week that we had decided not to go into the lodge until tomorrow to pick up packages and even then not all of us will be going this time. C and L’s family hope to be able to move into the new ‘longhouse’ next week but it will depend on if they get the sod roof on the building. They have been working some long hours over there. Everyone has been here for chores but the bulk of the laundry, cooking, and clean up has fallen to just a few of us. Mostly L’s Mom, my Mom, the two expecting mothers and myself have been trying to keep up. And even then the mothers have been sticking the two toddlers in strollers and going over at least once a day to check on progress while Baby T takes a nap and us three matriarchs take a rest under a shade tree. Well, rest might not be exactly the word as we are usually working on vegetables either for supper or for dehydrating.

 

I am so grateful for the amount of produce starting to come from the garden. These long hot days have made things grow well but it’s been hard to keep up with it all. Most of the produce is being dehydrated but the cucumbers are starting to come in strongly and we’re starting to pickle them. For now we are just making a dill crock, using one of the totes. It’s a pretty effective use of our salt. With the coolness in the spring room the brine is keeping well. Later in the year we’ll be making mixed pickles using cauliflower, broccoli, onion, peppers, and cukes.

 

I’ve been using wild grape leaves in the bottom of the tote to help crisp the pickles. With a little garlic and mustard seed and of course dill, they are turning out great and will be even better after they have sat a couple of months. The problem is that we are using salt and vinegar which we aren’t sure we can replace. I know that there are a couple of old apple trees in the woods above the house and they look like they are fruiting. Even if they are not the greatest for fresh eating or drying we should be able to make vinegar from them. There is a small orchard at the Lodge though and Mr. S assures me that the fruit will be distributed to everyone that needs or wants it. We can use them for dehydrating if need be and use the wild ones for the juice for vinegar. Grinding the apples won’t be a problem but pressing them in quantity might be. I’m hoping we’ll be able to come up with a homemade press before they are ready, another thing to put on that growing list of things to do.

 

We’ve been working at getting an inventory going so we can divide the supplies between the two homesteads. Once C and L’s family get moved they say they are going to attempt to cook for themselves except perhaps to come here once or twice a week to make bread and other baked goods. They are trying to set up their hot springs for laundry as we have here but have had more difficulty with the drainage than we have. I worry about how they will make out over there with two new babies and moms who have already pushed themselves pretty far.

 

Those babies should be here soon. Both mothers are due the end of July. They joke about racing each other but I can see that even though this is not the first for either of them, they are a bit nervous with no hospital and probably not even a nurse in attendance. I wish we at least had a midwife here in the valley but I guess we’ll have to do with what we have. We’ve put together a couple of ‘birthing’ kits so we’ll be ready when the time comes.

 

We are all feeling a lot of frustration with trying to juggle between getting a place ready for the new comers and keeping up with the necessities of securing food for the year but I can understand the new mom’s wanting a place of their own for those babies to get settled in to. It can’t be easy living in the soddy with all the kids underfoot and with crowded conditions. We really need to do something to ease the sanitation situation too. Our sawdust/compost toilets seem to be working for now but we don’t want to get into a situation where we have to remove the sewage before it’s had a chance to compost.

 

I was out looking at the fruit in the orchard today. There are quite a few strawberries on our plants but they are not quite ready yet. It looks like we will be able to take some of the rhubarb by fall too. We could probably take it now but I tasted it and it’s pretty tart. If we wait it will need very little sugar if we mix it with other fruit. The Red Heritage raspberries are almost ready too. I’m amazed at them having fruit the first year but they are advertised as doing that. We should have a lot of them. I’d like to try my hand at making vinegar out of other fruit besides apples and the raspberries might be good for that. We won’t have domestic grapes before next year, likewise for some of the other bush fruits, but the wild grapes are plentiful and some of those grapes are bigger than I expected. Usually they are about pea sized but some of those around the hot springs are almost marble sized. They aren’t ready yet of course but later we should have lots of grape juice.

 

There are so many things I need to be out gathering. Soon the mustard, peppergrass, and shepherd purse will be going to seed and I want to be sure to gather some. The wild mustard seed can be used just like domestic mustard seed and the other two make a great pepper substitute. I also want to look for wild ginger.

 

I believe that Karen would go with me if she were free to go. She seems very interested in the plants and animals. DH and I and L’s parents had a talk with her last night. Well we talked and she wrote or signed. She’s starting to learn a few of the basic ones and it makes communication easier. She’s been working very hard across the river but we told her we wanted her to have a choice. Her and Anna could live there with L’s parents and use the loft for a bedroom or they could stay with us, using one of the rooms in the ‘bunk house’ or in one of the cave rooms if they preferred. We could see she was undecided and we told her to talk it over with Anna, that there was no need to decide right now. I have talked her into coming with us to the Lodge tomorrow. I sort of bribed her by saying that she needed to choose some books from the library for her and Anna to read. She really does love to read.

 

It will only be Dh, Mom, Karen, and I going tomorrow. The rest will be working either at the Hobbit Hole or across the river. I felt they all needed a rest but they say they have too much to do. I feel the same way. I really should be staying home and getting more done but I have a special letter I’d like to read to everyone and I am hoping that the spinners have our yarn ready. We have more game to bring them. Dh also is going to be talking to the guys who make the barrels. He’d asked about getting some for the cider and etc. He wants to check on their progress. I also have some comfrey root for CeeGee to plant. She can use the root in her healing salves. Because her plant won’t be big enough to harvest before late fall I’m bringing her extra to use now. I’m hoping she will give me “credit” for the possible future need of medical help. With two babies coming you never know.

 

Tomorrow will come early enough, I should get into bed but it’s so nice setting here under the tarp in the yard, feeling the cool breeze that smells like rain. It’s been hot and dry and if it doesn’t rain soon we’re going to have to divert the stream to irrigate trees and bushes or carry water to each. So far the fields are holding up okay but the trees and vines are looking stressed. Maybe we’ll be able to do that Monday.

 

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Sunday Morning..............(IRL late Saturday night)

 

Sunday morning has come into our Valley bringing a beautiful sunny day. I know that we have so much to get done, but we all agree to take the time to today to go to the Lodge. We go to join our new community in giving thanks and to worship our God who has blessed us beyond measure.

 

Psalm 100

A psalm. For giving thanks.

1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.

2 Worship the LORD with gladness;

come before him with joyful songs.

3 Know that the LORD is God.

It is he who made us, and we are his [a] ;

we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving

and his courts with praise;

give thanks to him and praise his name.

5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;

his faithfulness continues through all generations.

 

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It rained in the night and was still raining early this morning and I thought we would have to cancel our trip to the Lodge but DH had the guys help him put the surrey type top on the sleigh and said we would be fine. It was an ingenious affair that had a metal frame that set down in brackets around the outside of the box. The top was a heavy canvas that really did have a fringe around the edge but it also had heavy-duty clear plastic curtains that could hang down all the way round and snap into place to close the whole box of the sleigh in. It was too stuffy to have them on today but we folded it up under the front seat just in case as it was still threatening rain.

 

I could tell that Karen was nervous but I just squeezed her hand to let her know it was okay. I had her keep an eye out for various herbs and plants that we might gather on the way back and that seemed to occupy her mind.

 

We arrived in plenty of time to visit the library first and pick out books but I soon left Karen there with the promise I would be back to get her before the service and then went to find the women with the yarn for us. I was amazed at the amount of yarn they had been able to produce in a short time, certainly a lot more than wed be able to turn out on our wheel. They were pleased with the haunch of deer and the prairie chickens I had brought in with me. I didnt want to bring too much at a time to them for fear it would not keep in the heat. At least I knew they could dehydrate the deer if they wanted though I had to explain to them how to do it. They had been experimenting with various fibers and I was pleased with the mixture of Nettle and wool that turned out a bit like the flax mixture Id seen in the past. Last week I had brought some of the hair we brushed from the Saint Barnyards and they had that spun as well. It was a bit coarse but looked like it was sturdy and, if I worked it up tight enough, fairly waterproof. I couldnt wait to get started on several projects I had in mind.

 

I met DH coming back from talking with the guys about the barrels and he said wed need to bring the bigger wagon in later this week or next Sunday to pick up at least one of the barrels hed ordered. I would have liked to see where they were making them but it was almost time for the service and I wanted to make sure that Chef didnt need help in the kitchen before lunch.

 

I found Chef in the greenhouse choosing some herbs for a salad hed put together. I awed at the amount of plants he had in there. I knew that Id have to get mine going soon as well or we wouldnt have edible plants big enough to be usable come winter. We were still playing around with the venting on ours and I was interested to see that Chef had installed an automatic but non-electric thermostatically controlled vent in his. When I drooled over it and asked where hed gotten it he smiled and said it had been ordered a year ago and by the good graces of God had been at the ranch when hed gone back. It works with special waxes that expand when heated moving a cylinder that pushes open the vent. When the wax cools it contracts and the weight of the vent and a SS spring closes the vent.

 

When I went back to the Library I almost missed seeing Karen. She was curled in a chair in a corner, supposedly reading but I could see her relief that Id come for her. She had a large stack of books, some Id chosen earlier and some shed chosen for herself and for others. We took them to the sleigh before going to find a seat near DH.

 

As always, it was good to be among friends and to hear an uplifting message. There wasnt as many in attendance today as last week but then that was partly because our large crowd was missing and so was MT3Bs. I was overjoyed to see her there though and made a point of giving her a large hug. She seems tired but then I bet I do too. We all are working against time trying to get as much done as we can.

 

The message today reminded me that we really are Gods creations and we need to remember that His love and faithfulness does last forever. He will not let us fail here. I believe that others got the message as well because the songs of praise were heartfelt and full of joy. I was still hearing the songs in my mind as we went to lunch.

 

When the messenger had brought us our packet of letters from the mule train there had been one from Lois and I took time to read it to the group. It was so wonderful to hear from those we all loved and worried about. Im tucking Loiss letter in here to keep it safe with Leahs.

 

Dear Mother,

We are doing okay up on our Mountain with family and friends all around. Some great farmers around here.

We also have the fields to raise the grains for man and beast, as well as the tools to do it.

We are fortunate that so many of the farms have been here for many years, and kept most of the old farming implements.

 

Dinners are usually for a large group so when cleaning a large batch of dandelion greens for cooking we wash them in my wringer washing machine.

 

Daughters business is doing laundry.

 

Our gardens are doing quite well. Berries are plentiful, fortunately the quince bush is doing well, so we wont miss the lemons for canning. We have enjoyed beet greens and the spinach and Swiss chard.

Lois

 

I gave CeeGee her comfrey roots before we left and she assured me that if we ran into trouble with the births we could send someone for help. I told her that when they got further with their stack wood home we were going to come to see it. Wed have gone today but it was already starting to thunder and we hurriedly got our packages and said a quick good bye and crawled into the sleigh. We were only just on the road outside of the settlement when we decided to stop to put on the plastic curtains in case it did rain. They werent too difficult as they just snapped on but it didnt take long to realize that it was too hot with them closed and we opened the bottoms enough to get some air.

 

We did manage to stop on the way home to gather a large supply of Bearberry or Kinnikinik leaves. Better known to some as Uva Ursi. The leaves are used short term for all manner of urinary tract infections and disorders. The leaves are a tobacco substitute and the fruit, when just ripe can be used in a lot of ways, even as a type of wine. Well have to go back later in the summer to gather some.

 

The rain started just before we got back to the homestead and we found people coming from various directions to help us unload and unhitch. Karen and I made our way to the kitchen and found the women making pizzas. They were fast becoming a favorite Sunday night meal. Someone had the adobe oven heated for them and a big pot of beans ready to be put into the oven after supper.

 

We gathered chairs and went to the greenhouse to eat, watching the rain stream down the glass in sheets and listening to the thunder roll. Its nice setting here listening to the conversation around me as I write. Someone mentioned that one of the Nigerian does was restless tonight so Ill have to check her in bit. L said she was feeling restless too and we all laughed but I could see she really was uncomfortable.

 

If the goat isnt doing anything that needs my attention tonight Id like to work a while on the floor loom. Im anxious to see how smooth it is to use. It looks like DS and DH did a good job with it and with the wall loom. I have a piece already started on the upright wall loom. Its not as automatic as I hope the floor one will be but it gives me a lot of versatility with hand weaving.

 

Well, guess I better check that goat before it gets too late.

Edited by Mother
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{IRL.....aaaaaauuuuuuuggggghhhhhhh.....this has been SO annoying to be without Internet service. I've tried several ways to get around it and keep sending in posts on this story. But my Mac computer isn't on speaking terms with the NOT Macs at our library. I've been forced to learn new technical things :o ! So my posts will be as tho I am writing a history of the past events...not in a timely journal format until I get caught up and....return to Internet connection. ...working on that!..... I'll be thrilled when I can finally read everyone else's posts here toooooooo! NOTE: :cele: It WORKS!!!! }

 

 

 

The New Children -- Settling In

 

 

Dear Diary

 

Let me take some time to recap some of the times and events since the night we spent at the Base Camp ....after bringing down the last of the wagons/carts, the cargo without wagons, and then the livestock. Obviously, everyone was completely exhausted and slept as early as we could eat and lay down.

 

 

Very early the next morning, Mother's clan and MtR's clan left for our cross-country trek home. This land south of our EAST River is primarily uninhabited as yet. On rest stops, we again tried to look for varieties of plant life that would be useful for eating or medicinally. There were various early berries to pick and that will help put fruit into our diet. We've noted the locations and we will be coming back on day trips for more...if we get a half a chance.

 

 

MrMtR and Mother's DD had a long discussion on plant identification. He's still trying to get up to speed with that. He'd been used to getting his herbs already processed into capsules and pill form. We kept trading off drivers so that everyone had a chance to stretch sore muscles from the heavy work yesterday. We have enough riders to keep the extra horses, sheep, cattle, etc herded. We had a bit of rodeo at that larger stream but finally they were all coaxed to cross. It was so hot that we stopped the wagons and many of us cooled off by splashing around in our clothes. More than one had to put a poncho or tarp across a saddle so as not to dampen the leather with dripping clothing. :lol:

 

 

{sigh} It's getting to that point for me .........when the mid-day hours are going to be dangerously HOT! That's the reason I stayed mostly under the awning we pulled forward over the wagon seat....staying in the shade. There's not much shade from horseback here. It helped that we were traveling north [and a bit west] and the wagon seat was out of direct sunlight. I am SO glad of the wide overhang of rock on our cave's patio. I'd hate to be locked inside for hours of each day. I kept my white sweatshirt soaked by wetting it from the waterbarrel on the side of the wagon. It's icky to slip on a COLD, wet sweatshirt over my tank top but it sure does keep me cool by evaporation. The gentle breeze dries the garment within two hours and I wet it again. I've also got my cool bibs which, when soaked, retain water for a couple days. They also work by evaporation. My mom has sewn me a lot of these and we've brought material and the polymer crystals that go inside them. The crystals are also used to ensure even watering of delicate plants, but I want mine for the cool bibs!

 

 

The Three Sisters Ford [so named for our very first garden which is near this crossing] was exciting. Although we were technically on Our Land :wub: for a while on the south side of the East River, we count ourselves HOME when we come to this side near our caves. We've been working on some crude fencing on that south bank and the Witlocks boys have managed to get some of it completed. If these Dexter cattle don't swim across the river, that is. We're hoping to use the river as a "fence line" but .....sometimes animals don't acknowledge that. :lol:

 

 

Anyway, as the first of Mother's clan began crossing with their wagons, the rest of us began to pick out the Dexters from the mass of other livestock and 'rodeo' them into the fencing. It would need to be expanded but it would provide shade, grass, and river water for now. The two herd dogs [Port and Starboard...so named for the sides they generally took when herding... :lol: ] knew how to bully their cattle and it was less problematic than I'd anticipated. Well, a few comical moments.... :whistling: Hey, I knew that branch was there before it swacked my face....really! :rolleyes: But I got that cow! :lol:

 

 

Tom and David [Whitlock...who'd been homestead-sitting for us] came out in time to join this fun. Their young energy was a great help to those of us who are older and were getting pretty tired by now. Nathan was glad to see them again and introduced his siblings. Good friends for our sons.

 

 

It's a reallly good thing that the banks of 3-S Ford are so VERY flat at this crossing. It's also been dry weather for a while now. The hayrack full of pigs and the grain wagons would have had trouble. We are all *quite* aware by now, of why the old time wagons had such large wheels. Having discussed the possibility of bringing such wagons with Nathan when he was here, we'd prepared four large logs ahead of time. They were lashed into a rectangle...fitted closely to the sides of the heavy metal grain wagons. Helped with buoyancy and stability. A function similar to outriggers for canoes. We'd temporarily sealed up those wagons at the grain door in the back. They would not have floated well and the logs made everything acquired but the river is not very wide. I wouldn't try that too often tho. The Conestogas float over much better due to their shape. These grain wagons are shaped like a square funnel and are thus, top heavy. Need to see about a bridge here! :0327:

 

 

We'd also had to do some re-hitching in order to have the pulling power to yank those grain wagons clear of the muddy river bottom after they'd crossed the deep channel close to the south bank. There is a sand bar in the middle, but then it's mostly solid rocky bottom and knee-deep water on the north bank of the river. The trout had long since fled the area.... :rolleyes:

 

 

:lol: The pigs! Oh, they were quite vocal about getting wet. Well, the mebbe not that but the whole process of river crossing anyway. The old hayrack did float easily, being made of wood. But it has no freeboard and the river kinda sloshed lazily across the bottom of the cages. .....Welllllllll, that was a GOOD idea. You can kind of imagine what the bottom of the cages [and hayrack] looked like after the pigs had been living there? Even with frequent cleaning, it was quite FOUL. So the washing of the river was welcomed by everyone ....except the pigs. :24:

 

 

We decided to off load our pigs into the corral that was quickly set up with hog panels. These panels had been carried on the hayrack too and it took just a short time to pound in a few T-posts and wire them tight for stability. The ramp was set and the pigs escorted down to the grass. They were familiar with this routine, having done it a few times during the wilderness trip. They can be ornery animals and dangerous with teeth and feet. But there were no incidents. At least all this year's piglets were weaned by now and we didn't have a cranky, protective mamma pig. [YIKE] Then Mother's clan was able to drive the hayrack the rest of the way to Hobbit Hole to unload their pigs. Someone would return the hayrack later.

 

 

The donkey cart, loaded with our poultry, was next with it's large wheels. It went smoothly since both MM and Jack had crossed here. We had side riders with ropes attached to the cart...in case of twisting or tilting. We did NOT want to drown the chickens, etc. Yeah, they were also quite vocal during this process. But the river was in a slow, lazy stage so all was well. I made a note not to try this sort of thing when our dear river was in a turbulent mood. :shakinghead: I thanked God again for the beautiful sunny days we've had for these tricky maneuvers on HILL and RIVER. Our current lives are SO dependent on the weather!

 

 

Then we all helped, on foot or horseback, to cut out the livestock belonging to Mother's clan and drive them across the river. They were pushed a good distance up the trail past our cave entrance path. We hollered goodbyes and as they disappeared around the bend to follow the river trail uphill and further east. Then we gathered the last of our children's livestock. With the cattle staying in south pasture, we only had a few horses, ponies, Machela's sheep and the guardian dog [Rex], and three milking Dexter cows to make the crossing. Three members of Mother's clan stayed to make sure all went well. The sheep had been sheared some time ago and their coats were growing thicker, making it a little difficult to cross. Air pockets remained in the fleece tho in this short crossing...oily as the wool is. They just didn't want to cross if not pushed to it. A number of us got wet in that rodeo event. But we were all laughing and in no real trouble. Machela was on foot by this time and made certain that her beloved woolgrowers were fine. I'm exciting to think of the potential uses for the wool.

 

 

We'd put halters on the equines already and several of them were led. We got our livestock going in the correct direction. Having been with all the others for a long trail and they now wanted to follow Mother's herds. Finally they were all driven/led through the narrow passage [which is usually blocked with a huge tangle of branch and bramble] between the westernmost part of our "C" cliffs and the river. Tom and David had put our horses into the stable for now, to keep down the chance of .....um, excitement with new 'invading' horses. :rolleyes: Time enough for that meeting later.

 

 

We kept driving them along the river's edge down in front of our caves and squeezed through a second passage that opens onto the pasture of the Maui-side caves. We turned them loose in the acres of green grasses and closed up the passage. The fertile river silt washes into that area with spring flooding. The steady moisture of being near the river gives us very good grasslands. Our lessor number of livestock would reside in front of the Colorado caves and the children's livestock will be kept in the much bigger pasture of the Maui side. That should keep the grass from being overgrazed. If not, we'll have to build fencing elsewhere. Plenty of grass everywhere in this season. [Note to Self: need to get the haying done soooon!]

 

 

Then we took the donkey cart up the hill to the patio ledge. Big Dog and Nya-pup had been following us around since we crossed the river and now had to be shooed away from the bird cages. [AW geee, smelled interesting!] Those that had muscles left [NOT me!] unloaded the cages and let the chickens and guinea fowl eat thru the cage wires in the deep grass of the pasture. We'd keep them caged until they got used to the area as their own. Especially the more flight-capable guineas. Eventually those speckled birds would take to the trees naturally, unless we wanted to build a pen for them. Not likely to have time, so we'll have to take our chances, I'm thinking. MM and Jack were turned loose to the pasture after taking the cart back down to the riverside. It needed a good cleaning too. Whew!

 

 

Our Conestoga wagon was brought up by O2 and H2O [female oxen] who we did not send back with the wagons and oxen returning to the Rockin' J. We took a break to eat some venison BBQ sandwiches and a huge lettuce salad that Cassandra Whitlock had brought over earlier that morning. She also put a Valley-ingredient version of Dump Cake into a dutch oven in the firepit and ordered her nephew and son to keep it from burning. Threatened their young selves.....to hear them tell it! :lol: All was wonderful!!!!

 

 

By now it was late of a midsummer evening but we still hoped to get the Conestoga emptied. DH, Nathan and Micah were to leave again in the morning with that wagon. We have one more large pile of household cargo stowed back at the Base Camp under a tarp. Sure glad MrMother had thot to bring it DOWN the HILL for us tho!

 

 

As we tried to bolster our energy for a final push, we heard a HALOOOWWWW from below. Here comes several members of the Whitlock family trooping up our side path and ready to help.

 

 

"Sorry we weren't here earlier but the hay cutting took longer than we'd thought. Isn't that just the case with *everything* we do in the Valley?" said Cassandra. Her son, David piped up to inform her that the Dump Cake had NOT been allowed to burn. :P

 

 

With that welcome help, all three of the wagons were unloaded before dark and all the Whitlocks returned home with our immense gratitude. What a nice family to have as one of our near neighbors! We've long since arranged that David and Tom are each to receive a bred female Dexter. One of the beef line and one from the milking line of the breed. In exchange for past and future work. We convinced them that their family had long since paid off any debt to DrMtR.

 

 

One of the Percheron horses that pulled a grain wagon actually belongs to a relative of MrSmith. We'd be returning the mare with much thanks on the next Sunday. The other Percheron mare is the children's and both went to the Maui pasture for the night. The oxen were turned loose in the CO pasture.

 

 

I wasn't sure we'd be able to FIND anything that had been unloaded. But the 'living room' cave is quite large and everyone had stacked things neatly in rows so we could sort it later. Machela had been grabbing things she recognized and hustling them into the cave areas designated for their bedrooms. At least there were enough sleeping bags and their personal items had been stowed in specific bags in the Conestoga. The grain bags and buckets were carried [we never could have done that much this evening!] to the wide area on the west side of the living room cave. It was becoming a sort of pantry. Good enough for now.

 

 

Goodness.....where ARE we going to be storing the grain we harvest????? We've got more cats now....6 more 'barn' type cats and one cuddly fat 'house' cat. I wonder how my cat and Scarlet will get along? But there is still going to be a rodent problem. The buckets will be ok....mebbe.....but those sacks will be nibbled right through. :o We need to begin constructing some large wooden bins like we used to have on our farm. They must be very thick and tight tho. Durned mice can nibble and squeeze through cracks. Doubt we will have any excess food to share with the rodents this year! :shakinghead:

 

 

Well, Kaylee and Kaila both fell asleep curled up on some quilts in the living room and Ben soon joined them. The rest of us gathered around and soon it was obvious that we'd all just crash there for this night. I handed out pillows and such and left a couple yard-type solar lights glowing .....tho the moon was quite bright outside. Big Dog and Nya the St. pup were on guard....{snort}....both snoring louder than young Ben! :lol:

 

 

 

MtRider [ :wave: nite, all! ]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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{IRL...I hope I'm not making any bloopers....but hopefully we've meshed well in this event.... :shrug: At least I can transfer post I type at home if I can drive 'in town' to the library.}

 

The Mule Train

 

 

 

Dear Diary,

 

 

I AM SO EXCITED * THANKFUL * RELIEVED * :bounce::amen::happy0203: ....

 

 

 

Ahem, ...ok, I have to slow down and set down this story in proper order. First of all, I am still dreadfully behind in telling what ALLLLLL has happened since we got our new children. I'll have to go back and describe that later. Suffice it to say at this point, we have been insanely busy, tired and ....for the most part, we've been having so much fun. These kids have been homeschooled and are thankfully [!!] quite a bit different in their orientation towards each other and towards "family". Ranch life, having a military father, and a Korean mother has developed a sense of responsibility in them too....for which we are very grateful. We could definitely see that steadiness in Nathan when he visited the first time. Not that they are not yet children, of course.... :lol:

 

 

We are slowly getting to know them...and they, us. I marvel at their openness about this union. Not that they'd had a lot of options and the older ones know it. The young ones just want a mom and dad again, tho they still cry about their other parents. DH and I have done this adoption-of-older-siblings before. We try to work through challenges slowly and with care for their routines and habits and customs. In the end, we will develop new customs that are a blending of each.

 

 

----- And as I think of that, I realize that we will have yet another blending with our first DDs [and family] as well. This will be the first time that DH and I will be living near our DDs as adults. Hmmmmm...... I think I'm glad we've had this time to adjust somewhat to *these* kiddos before the REST of the family hauls in here too. :D

 

 

OK....on with recording about the morning of the Mule Train Arrival. Micah came running up to the ledge as I was still trying to get the little girls to finish their oatmeal and trout breakfast. [Little children DO dawdle, don't they? :rolleyes: ] On his heels was young Kelsey, one of my favorite messenger girls. She ran up and hugged me, announcing she had an important message that was going to make me very VERY happy.

 

 

Well with MS, I sometimes have to let my poor brain process a second or two before the thing hits me. I so completely did *not* anticipate what she was about to say. No clue to what might make me so happy. But Micah was already running to the overlook between the cave sites and hollering to DH. He was working in the Maui-side garden with assorted children this morning. "DAD, COME QUICK! THERE'S GOOD NEWS!"

 

 

THEN it hit me. I grabbed Kelsey and demanded, "Is there a message from the OUTSIDE?....Is there word about my family?"

 

 

She hugged me again and jumped up and down saying, "YES! They're all fine. They are all safe!" :bounce: And this middle-aged, grey&copper haired, gimpy woman jumped up and down with her. Had to hang on to her for balance but .... :bounce: Oh MY, it was a time to jump for joy and thanksgiving. Thank YOU, God!

 

 

My dear husband arrived, gasping for air but Micah had shouted the news to him when they crested the hill. And that is a steep hill if you take the fast path. He and I hugged each other and tears fell cuz ....our 'baby' girls were safe. Our dearest SIL was safe. Our GRsons were safe. My parents and brother and niece .........are SAFE AT THE ROCKIN' J.

 

 

Oh....oh my.....oh, I HAVE to sit down, my legs will NOT hold me up a second longer. DH got me to our outdoor table and I just sobbed out my relief. DH just kept grinning and patting my hand and surreptitiously wiping his own eyes. Our children were grinning and laughing. Machela was sitting on the other side of me, bawling and smiling and nearly squeezing the blood from my other hand. Suddenly the little twins rushed to us with oatmeal decorating their stick mouths ......and burst into loud wails. :o Naturally they were confused by the tears within the joy. Machela and I both laughed then and wiped away the tears while hugging the tiny ones close. We reassured them that their Grandparents and big sisters were safe and coming to live here too. The girls demanded to see them right now and were not happy when told there would be a long wait. :tapfoot::lol: Actually, I was in agreement about that. :)

 

 

Kelsey was seated and presented with one of the remaining cinnamon rolls from breakfast. A MrMtR specialty. :yum3: We all got calmed down and began to pelt the poor gal with questions...which she gamely answered with her mouth full. :P

 

 

Of course it was Q's son, Jerry, who had been sent to lead the rescue from Carterville. Apparently the whole town and other travelers were in need of rescue and even my brother took part. :blink: As for what exactly happened there, we're told to get that information directly from Jerry. He'll be coming up for a visit soon and he'll let us pepper him with detailed questions. He and a few other riders came down the Valley HILL late in the evening leading loaded mules. They arrived at the Lodge the next morning and Kelsey volunteered to ride immediately with this important update on our family. I doubt DH and I had truly realized just how much strain we were under from the time Nathan had told us of that phone call and their danger. :0327:

 

 

The very best of this morning was the letters Jerry carried from everyone. Kelsey handed them over when we stopped jumping around so much. From Bro [a short note indicating he was bringing a lot of stuff I'd be happy about], my parents [long letter written by my mom], both DDs with "tell your parents ......." sentences added from SIL. Even some precious pictures drawn by GS2 and a greeting from GD1 written all by himself. Those last two were covered with X's and O's. :wub: Oh my, it took us the rest of the morning to read them over and over....aloud, mostly. Kelsey didn't *think* of moving on till she'd heard all this wonderful news too. She'd ridden fast to give this report and wanted to share the joy with us. She had to walk her tired horse back and forth in our pasture and eventually water the smoky colored mare. Machela helped her but they hovered close to our ledge patio. :lol:

 

 

This gist of the thing is that the family caravan was taken captive by the thugs in Carterville but were not harmed in anyway. :amen: They were badly frightened and the anxiety was certainly not good for my parents and their friend Jim. But they were getting a good rest at the Rockin' J until the wagons/oxen return. [Jerry and the mule train had crossed paths with them somewhat over half way here.] My parents expressed some unease about the rigors of traveling by wagon train. My brother wryly suggested he could plow out a road so that his TRUCKS could be used instead of animal power. :rolleyes: [did I mention he moves earth around for a living?...among other skills...wait till he sees some of that wilderness trail! ;) ] DD2 was really wondering if they'll be going from the frying pan to the fire.....she's NOT a camping sort of gal. :shrug: But it's obvious that they are all very ready to be here, safe in Big Valley. EVEN if we're living in caves. :laughkick:

 

 

As for the mule train, they were able to bring in some early rye grain and some sugar for Chef. More importantly, about 5 pounds of salt per family and a few packages and letters that had managed to arrive now that the armed caravans were getting some things thru the chaotic conditions OUTSIDE. Kelsey said some bolts of cloth had been sent, particularly since some of the orphaned children had come with little but the clothes on their backs. Not much can be packed on merely a dozen mules. [They aren't even very BIG mules either. We need to breed up some of the large ones that formerly served in this capacity in our past eras. ] Anyway, we're all so glad that Jerry is back now and can help the Q's. We've heard they took on some youngsters too. Hope we'll meet the new folks this Sunday.

 

 

I think we'd have sat there chatting and celebrating all day if Machela hadn't gone to check on the goats in the stable [cave]. She RAN back to announce that two of them were birthing already! We knew it was imminent so we'd kept all four of them penned separately with thick bedding for the past several days. As often happens when bred at the same time, they ALL gave birth nearly at once. Kelsey fell in LOVE with the babies and begged to be put to work at Cleft of the Rock so she could earn a pair of them for herself. Deal! I *always* need more help weeding gardens/fields!

 

 

Kelsey's father is currently a woodworker, primarily boats. He'd learned the skill from his grandfather but previously, his real occupation had been computer programmer. They now live along the big lake, fairly close to the Lodge. While his late wife had been a 'shirttail' relative of MrS, they had been invited to join the Big Valley craftsperson group for his hobby skill of making small water craft. He'd already supervised the construction of two rafts that can transport goods across the lake using very long oars. He was now working on several medium and small boats that would navigate the rivers in Big Valley.

 

 

Kelsey's mother had passed away four years ago when Kelsey was 12. Her paternal grandmother had moved in and taken over the household. She has two brothers over 18 and a married sister/BIL [expecting their first child in a few months]. All work in some aspect of the new family business. They plan to have a cluster of three cabins and two workshops down on the lake side property on some acreage. But the majority of their claimed acreage is on the NE corner of the Valley....up the mountainside where they can cut selected trees for the business.

 

 

I know they kept their oxen teams for the duty of dragging the logs down from the mountain. They also have a few horses including Kelsey's beloved 'Shadow'. Other than a couple dogs and cats, they have no other animals. Their agriculture is limited to a very large garden which the grandmother supervises and everyone spends time helping.

 

 

Kelsey has been interested in our small goats since our wagon train began. She learned to milk from Mother and I and has often been around asking questions and helping. She's a born animal-lover but has a special affinity with these goats. I had definitely planned trade something so that she can begin a herd of milkers for their family. Mebbe one little doe from Grma goat and one from DaughterGoat?

 

 

I'm so glad she, as well as our new children, got to be here for the birthing. It's very neat to see the new babies born. Since Kelsey really hadn't been on messenger duty that day - just happened to be hanging around at the Lodge when the mule train came in, she got stay for the whole birthing and only returned to her parents homestead before dark. [i think the girl has her eye on our oldest son.... :lol: And she and Machela are becoming friends. Kelsey is only a bit older than Machela. ]

 

 

Anyway, final baby goat tally: Grma Goat gave birth to triplets this time ....a little male and tiny females. Her daughter also gave birth to triplets - three does. She had the twin does last time....hmmm, we LIKE lots of doe-babies! Twin One gave birth to a male and female set. Twin Two gave birth to a fine big buckling. Poor thing! She's the smallest of them all and strained quite a bit but none of them had needed assistance! It was a precious time and babies are always so CUTE! These ranch kids didn't even say "eeeuuuu" once. I saw Kelsey turn a bit green at one point tho. This was her first experience with witnessing the birth of anything.

 

 

OK, so three-four months from now, these bucklings will be breeding age and they come from that farm we passed by five months ago. Genetic records will be important, as will the genetic diversity. I guess we have the beginnings of a buck herd now. :shrug:

 

 

 

:0327: I am so tired BUT HAPPY ...... I can't tell if I should lay down and sleep or go dance in the moonlight. {snort} I'd better sleep. :lol:

 

 

MtRider [....more family on the way sooooooon.....]

 

 

 

 

 

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Yesterday was lost in a blur of activity starting with three baby Nigerians born in the night, Sunday night, to the last of our original does, 1 doe, 2 bucks. Then we were up before dawn yesterday because one of C’s cows, one of the multi colored ones, calved in the night and the blood brought the wolves to the edge of the clearing spooking everything in the pasture. They are getting braver and it’s not even winter. They probably have young ones to feed. Thanks to the dogs they wouldn’t come out in the open and scattered with a few shots directed at them. It was quite a job to get the animals settled though.

 

Almost everyone worked across the river yesterday trying to finish the fencing over there so we can move some of the animals across. Despite tying all the easily handled animals out on the surrounding grass and brush each day, our pastures badly needs to be rested.

 

Today was spent sorting livestock and getting the larger animals and those who were not close to having babies moved over the river. We should have just herded them down river, crossed them at the Cleft in the Rock and than back up but that was such a long trek that we knew it would take us all day and we didn’t want to take a chance of them getting into a garden or field there. It wasn’t easy but once we had a few of them going into the cave behind the falls the others mostly followed. It helped that some of them were ours and had been in the cave before but some of those cows were downright ornery and sheep,,, well what can I say they are SO dumb.

 

Our bull, two rams, the miniature/exotic animals, all the animals with babies and any that looked close to birthing, and the milk animals were all kept at the Hobbit Hole for now. C and L’s and family will be moving across tomorrow even though there is still work to be done on the ‘long house’. L’s brothers and SIL’s and Ben and Matt have already moved across. Some of the milk animals will go over after they have gotten settled.

 

Karen and Anna have decided to stay with us. Anna was disappointed at first as she is friends with B but Karen held firm on this, convincing her sister that she would be seeing the rest of the kids almost daily anyway and they would have their own room here and not infringing on someone’s privacy. Karen has insisted that she will help out wherever she is needed most during the day but we have all decided that we will not allow her to do more than her fair share just because she feels a sense of obligation to us for taking them in. We are all in this together and will all share according to our ability.

 

We have decided, when we start school with the kids, some subjects will be taught here, others across the river on alternate days. L is not happy about the kids not gong to a regular school but understands that it is too far for the kids to go to the settlement to attend something there. I suggested that we check with MtR about their kids to see what their schooling plans are. They are a lot closer to the settlement so they might be planning to have them attend there but if not, perhaps we can occasionally have sessions together, at least until winter.

 

We spent today trying to figure out what food to send across the river, and what to keep here. We finally just set it at half and half for most items except for the baking supplies, as we’ll be doing a lot of that here. If they run out they come for more. We took stock of the salt we had on hand. With what we had left and what C brought with them and the five pounds per family we got with the mules we figure that we will be okay at least through the winter. If the fifty pounds I ordered comes with the wagons bringing MtR’s family we will be good for longer but I am not expecting it. One thing that will help is that C and his BIL found a salt lick above their property. It hasn’t been used for a while but he says it looks like it has been used for years by the wildlife, probably in the spring and early summer. We should be able to drive the livestock up there periodically so they can get the salt and save on ours. If there’s one here, there are probably others in the valley but we’re still going to need a source of edible salt for us and I fear that will have to come from ‘outside’. It’s one of the issues I plan to bring up at our next council meeting.

 

I was so grateful to see material had come in on the mules for the use of the orphans. On Sunday, Karen and I chose some we thought would work for winter as we’d managed to clothe them and Matt and Ben with summer clothes already. I also chose some that we could make underclothing for them as well. Ben and Matt will be growing fast and we’re going to have trouble keeping up with them. I’m glad we will be having a clothing exchange at the Lodge. It will help us all to clothe our families with less work. Still, wilderness work is hard on clothing and if our family is any indication, we’re all going to have to be more cautious with it if we want it to last. We’re also going to have to replace some of it with skins and homespun soon if we want to augment what comes in from outside. That is, IF anything does come in.

 

Well, it’s late and I need to get some rest. Tomorrow is going to be a big day with all the moving. It’s sure going to seem quiet around here tomorrow night.

 

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Journal Entry for Sunday, July 18

 

After the ordeal with the coyote Ray came to stay at our place while Paul and I rode to the lodge. Kyle stayed While W&A went and B stayed while R, V, K&E all went. Next week we will rotate and someone else will stay behind. I am not all together today so we are going to the prayer service and picking up our packages, getting books and headed home. Everyone else is on their own today. The early wake up of Ray killing the other coyote has thrown me all out of kilter. I should have just stayed up but I hadn’t been asleep long. I couldn’t sleep while SF was on watch. The animals are all in the lower pasture today so the ones that stayed behind could take turns.

 

At the library Aidan and I were using sign language and there was the one lady that kept staring at us. Come to find out she was with Mother’s group and doesn’t speak. Mother mentioned she was learning sign language. I told her I had a beginner signing book back at the cottage I would get to her. It was for every day use so she would enjoy it. She was very shy but seemed real nice. I will have to make a point to visit mother and spend some time with her.

 

SF found me and we headed to the lodge. There was a message there from the boys. It seems they passed the mule train along the way and sent a message from my brother. It seems T has had enough he has one more delivery out our way so he is dropping of surprise for me then he is headed for Canada. He has some friends up there that own a hunting lodge and they want him to come up there. I am glad to know he will no longer be on the road. I just hope he can get there.

 

We had some packages that had finally arrived. It I have no idea what I have ordered and what I have received. I still have some packages I have not ordered that I need to open. I hope one of these has yeast in it. We had letters also.

 

It was time for church service and the girls were restless so Emma was the first one to fall asleep, she was in SF lap and Sophie was in my lap. Bother of them were sleep before the singing was over. Zoe was being an angel she was just cooing and blowing bubbles. K and Zoe had bonded so well. I hope and pray T will make it here soon.

 

I don’t know who was more surprised to learn that Beth and Abby wanted to stay another week Mr. S, or myself. I figured after the grueling week they had they would want to come and sit under Chef and learn to cook. Mr. S asked if we minded and we told him know they had been a blessing and the kids love them.

 

It was late after noon when we finally pulled back into the yard. The animals were still in the lower pasture and Kyle was watching over them. We noticed B and Ray were napping under a tree down there. Kyle waved as we started pass and jogged over to where we were. He said thing had been quiet and every couple of hours they would split up and ride up to the homesteads and check things out at 4 different homesteads. So far no signs for anymore coyotes. SF old him that we needed to send word to the Qs also about the coyotes. He said we didn’t see them at the lodge but that doesn’t mean they weren't there; we left them a note. Kyle said Ray was going to go as soon as everyone was back. He just didn’t want to go and leave us short handed. SF said that was fine. Kyle asked if we were going to post guards again tonight SF said it might not be a bad idea but he was going to take a nap first. Beth and Abby said they would stay and help get the animals up the mountain. Connor and Aidan hopped out of the wagon also. We told them we would see them at the top.

 

Dinner was going to be light, I had already planned on having chicken Caesar salad the lettuce was already gathered, chicken was cooked it just needed to be put together. Then it would be an early night for all of us.

 

Journal Entry for Monday, July 19

 

Since the root cellars were finished the men folk started on smoke houses. They want to get them up and going so that we could smoke some fish.

 

We started drying vegetables today and storing them in bins in the cold cave. I showed the girls how we were going to dry the beans, I gave them each a needle and thread and showed them how to put them on the string. I left them stringing up beans. I headed back to the garden to gather more squash. I sent word to V and her girls that they needed to check the lower garden. I saw A was out in the garden and had baskets of stuff picked already. We have baseball size tomatoes but they are still green. The yellow sweet corn will be ready to harvest by weekend.

 

At lunch everyone meet at our place to discuss what we were going to can and what would get dried. While everyone was finishing up their lunch I started reading the letters we got. There was also the reply from mother in there concerning the fire wood. 10-15 cords? I almost fell out when I ready she was going to put up 10-15 cords of wood. Oh man my calculations are way off. I was thinking 6-8 cords. SF asked me what was wrong and read him Mother’s reply. We were all speechless except for Ray he just nodded and said that sounds about right. SF asked him if he had ever used wood before he said no but his grandmother had and could remember his dad and uncles (there were 4 total) each taking two pick up trucks full of wood to their mother’s house each summer. They always gather her fire wood in the spring and summer so that it would be dry by winter. He said she had a fire place and a cook stove that she used to heat her house and then she had a summer kitchen like this one. Ray said she always had a couple of rows left when summer rolled around but since it was just her she used the cook stove more than the fire place. We asked where his grandmother lived. He said when she was alive she lived in Kentucky. Ray looked so said we didn’t ask any more questions but went back to planning the collection of wood. SF said we should start with dead wood and see how much we get from there. Ray said that with 4 homesteads it shouldn’t take long. I reminded him that P&N would be back then and we would have 6 homesteads that would need wood. Ray blushed and said he had forgotten about them.

 

I went back to reading as talk turned to wood. My sister had gotten a letter through and said they had arrived safely. At the last minute mother refused to go and went to stay with her sister. She said Aunt L made the suggestion. So they traded Aunt L got mother and Aunt L’s kids went with E to their safe zone. E said she has mixed fillings about it but there was no talking mother out of the idea. She said in a way it was go because mother would have never made the trip. She said the last 15 miles was horse back and pack mules. She was right mother never would have made that trip. She told me that she had heard from T and he was headed for Canada some time in August and he was going to try and deliver this letter to the ranch or a post office closer to the ranch in hopes that I would get it. She sent her love and pictures of her family. I was heart breaking to know I may never see them again.

 

The next letter was from a seed company I had ordered from they had been able to replace the trees that I had ordered and were shipping them out again. Trees? Oh geez what trees did I order. I need to find that information and see what all I have ordered and what I have received. One of the packages had baking soda another had baking powder there was also some cocoa in the package as well as some bark and chips. I finally got my order of brown sugar and powder sugar but it was only half of what I had ordered. None of our plumbing materials arrived nor the tools that were ordered. Maybe they are at the ranch waiting. There were more seeds and a couple grape vines and blueberry seedlings that looked pitiful. I will have to put them in posts and transplant them next year or the year after right now they are too small to put out. My strawberry plants were bigger than these blueberry bushes. Well at least I got them.

 

Some of the larger packages were fabric. Yes there is a bolt of heavy twill for pants for the guys. There were packages for the children that Mrs. Rock had ordered. She had ordered them shoes which I was so thankful for I had sent a list with P&N they had passed it own to T hopefully he will be able to find some of the stuff. Mostly it is shoes and coats for all the kids. Oh goodie this package is wool yarn oh my stars I ordered this before we ever left. I am so glad it found its way here. Needless to say it will make some good sweaters. It was like Christmas after lunch. I still had packages in the cottage I needed to open but I would get to those sooner or later. Right now I am going back to reading the letters. Some of these have been in transit for months.

 

 

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Wednesday July 21

 

Well, C, L, and family are moved. Neither the camper wagon nor the conestogas would fit through the waterfall cave as it isn’t opened up enough yet so they were loaded and sent down the river to cross at Cleft in the Rocks. Everything else was moved across on the low cart that the sleigh came on and in the sleigh. We didn’t have to move everything at once but it just seemed better, while we had the good weather, to get it all over there. We will be bringing the milk animals over when they are set up to care for the milk and the pigs and poultry will be going over as soon as they get an area for them.

 

Thanks to some prior planning almost everything went well. Mom and I stayed behind and directed traffic from this end and L’s mom did the same at the other end. I don’t imagine it was an easy task over there with six areas and the storage cave to place items into.

 

Lunch was just sandwiches with fresh veggies and dip. It had been put into two big totes and set in the spring room. We thought about putting it in the waterfall cave as it was much colder there but the area was not totally closed in yet for security. It turned out that most of the family was across the river at lunchtime so we sent it over on the second sleigh load.

 

We had spaghetti, salad, and garlic bread planned for supper and once Mom and I had the greens fixed, the bread sliced and buttered ready to toast, and the spaghetti in the oven to keep warm we took a walk over to see how things were going. I had gotten used of being in the cave behind the waterfalls but I couldn’t help notice how noisy it was walking through. The family had gotten a lot of the big boulders rolled either to the back to form a wall there or to the front to form a sort of safety wall behind the falls but it would still be easy for someone to fall over if they were too close. We’d warned the kids repeatedly but still would not allow any of them to be on their own in the passage. I wondered how the horses had pulled the sleigh and cart across with out spooking. I could see that eventually we’d be able to get the bigger wagons across too but it was going to take more work and there was already enough to do.

 

I was amazed at the work that had been done on the homestead since I’d last been across. The roof was all on and the window openings were all fitted with screens and Plexiglas but some still needed shutters. The cook stove was installed in the kitchen but the fireplace there was still not built. The other wood stoves were in place but had no chimneys yet. There wasn’t much for furniture because, like our family, C and L’s family had decided to forego it in place of more supplies knowing they could build most of what they needed. The areas had built-in bunks below for the adults and the children would be sleeping on the floor in the lofts. Some of the unpacked boxes would be used for seating until they were emptied but mostly, like us, they were using lawn chairs they’d used on the trail.

 

I like the way they set up the kitchen. It’s obvious that someone had been watching carefully at the Hobbit Hole and had implemented some of the step saving techniques we have here and a few more. The cook stove is only a few steps from where the fireplace will be and there are shelving pegs already in the wall beside it to eventually hold shelves, floor to ceiling. There is a solar chimney built almost directly over the stove, not only to take away some of the heat in the summer but also to give natural light in the day time on the stove just like ours does. It would also most likely work to pull heat from the other areas if the doors were left open between them. A worktable was standing near the stove and I could see where eventually a dry sink of sorts might be built across the room from the cooking area. The whole cooking area sat at the back of the room and that left a large area for eating and relaxing yet still be out of the path of the outside door.

 

I daydreamed a bit about our own eventual kitchen but not for long as it was time to get back and start chores before everyone came back for supper. The wagons were just heading back down river for the crossing when Mom, Karen, and I left on foot. It took us about fifteen minutes to walk the distance but it had gotten so hot and muggy that I was almost ‘glowing’ when we got back, a Victorian term for sweating mightily. It was even hotter in the kitchen with the stove still hot and I almost hated to stoke it back up again. I did though as we’d decided to stick in a cobbler to make the meal special.

 

While Mom was making the cobbler, Karen and I went out to start the chores. She is getting really good at milking and seems eager to learn whatever she can about the animals. She is getting better at using sign but is still a bit shy about trying to get our attention when we aren’t looking at her. We headed first to the pasture to check on the animals there and found one of the fence wires down and several of the animals outside the fence, the dogs patiently keeping guard. We got the wire back up and managed with the help of the dogs to get all the animals back inside and accounted for but I couldn’t help but to think about how easily they got out in the short time we’d been gone. They could have probably gotten out back home too but there they would only be preyed upon by well fed coyotes, here it would be hungry wolves. Not to mention that they could roam for miles here without being seen by anyone. We will be moving them to fresh grass tomorrow so that should keep them content for a while. The current pasture really is taken too far down. With this latest heat, if it doesn’t rain, I’m concerned the grass will die.

 

I stopped to check the pigs and give them a bit of grain. Just in the three weeks they’d been all together they’d managed to ‘pigorate’ the whole area we’d put them in. We’ll be moving them as well but not planting the area until spring for safety sake. The earlier pig areas will be planted soon to winter crops. With a heavy mulch they should be fine. I have been babying some seedlings in the greenhouse since they got it closed in and they have grown terrifically in there with all that sun. It’s been hard to keep them watered but I believe my work will pay off in cabbage, kale, chard, and dozens of other fall crops. I noticed the flax was doing really well and I looked forward to a big crop. Once it was cut we would be able to sew winter wheat into the stubble. That would ensure a good snow cover to keep the ground from freezing too hard. That is probably going to be the only way we’ll get a winter crop here.

 

Karen and I were just finishing up the milking when we heard the wagons coming up the road. The rest would probably be here soon and I sent Karen in with the milk and to help Mom with supper while I went to feed the poultry and gather eggs. The others would take care of the larger animals. I was glad that we had the stream running through the pastures now as that meant we didn’t have to take the animals to the pond but there was still the bull to handle and though we had an ‘understanding’ I’m not sure he understood the same things I did.

 

Supper was something of a short celebration. Everyone was tired and no one wanted to be traveling back across the river after dark even if they were in the sleigh which we encouraged them to use tonight. We’d had them leave one of the Conestoga’s at the homestead for their use and they’d have the small cart as well. I thought L and her cousin both looked worn out tonight but they both said they were doing fine. I believe they were looking forward to sleeping in their own homes again even if those homes were small.

 

It was quiet tonight. Anna and YGS played a couple of games of checkers but the rest of us mostly just sat and made plans. Some of C’s family will be coming tomorrow to help move animals and help in the fields. Some of us will be weeding but the others will be cutting hay again.

 

I spent the rest of the evening working on the loom. DGD and SO worked on the other loom and the spinning wheel while DD taught Karen how to Tat. The guys were working on the plans for bringing water from the fresh springs to the kitchen and maybe hot water from the hot springs as well.

 

Just the thought of hot and cold running water to the kitchen brings a smile. :D

 

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The last couple of weeks were busy. {IRL too} DH took off early in the mornings down to MJX's, the messenger had told him that the B's, KW & James were all meeting there to get things going. I spent the first days collecting grass, herbs and berries and drying them in the kiln, except the grass, that was spread out in the loft of the barn to dry. I did find a couple of apple trees along the tree line in the upper meadow loaded with little green apples. I harvested some carrots and peas, diced them and spread them out on cookie sheets while I waited for the herbs to finish drying. Then, set to gathering wood for the wood pile. DH showed up in the early evenings looking beat from working hard.

 

MJX had found caves near the hot springs large enough to make rooms and decided to build their house adjoining them. James and some of the B's men plowed their fields while other groups cut trees for their cabin. He mentioned M spent most of the day with X tending the animals and sorting through their stuff in their wagons.

 

The rest of the week was much of the same. Wednesday night, I separated Little Lady and her little one in the barn. I wanted to see if I would get any milk. Thursday morning, her udder was taught. Not much of an udder, someone must have made her a member of the IBTC, they are only about 2" long, if that. My hands seemed so huge when I tried to grasp and squeeze. I ended up stroking from the top down with my thumb and index finger to get a stream to come out. I managed to get about 2 cups before she got tired of me and began fidgeting. It was time anyway to let the little one feed. Chick-chick has been leaving me an egg daily in her nesting box and I put them with the milk in the kitchen cellar.

 

While gathering wood in the forest NE at the foot of the cliffs, I came across a massive grape vine draping the cliff completely covering what seemed like a small cave. I made a note and decided, for safety sake, I would wait until DH was with me to explore it. Needless to say he wasn't home 3 minutes before I began rattling off about finding it. They had managed to get quite a bit of their field plowed, a timber fence and their barn finished. KW would be coming back and staying with us until he was able to survey his land and find an appropriate place for his homestead.

 

Friday night both DH & KJ returned and we chatted around the fire pit for what seemed like hours before retiring for the night. By the time I got up Saturday, they were at the lakeside with their snorkel gear on heading into the water. I got my tea and watched as they went out. They were out there about an half an hour before J crested the hill coming up the road with a set of oxen in tow with their yoke and rolls of rope. The guys were all smiling as they hooked up the rope and swam back out in the lake. DH popped up out of the water then KW, gave the thumbs up signal and J began walking the ox. You could tell the moment the slack came out of the rope. The ox halted, then, their muscles began to ripple as they exerted every bit of strength they had for a couple of seconds, before instantly easing up. DH popped back up, another thumbs up and back down he went. This went on for about 5 minutes before the silvery white carcass of the planes cabin cleared the water near the shore. The ox shouldered back into their yoke until the wings of the plane barely broke the water line, when the guys stopped the ox and unhitched the rope. They gathered around the shore talking, laughing and pointing at it. J clasped DH's hand pulling him into a bear hug with a hearty slap on the back, rolled up the rope, nodded at me and headed back towards home.

 

We spent the rest of the day, scrounging around inside the cabin area. DH found and old rifle stuffed under one of the seats completely covered in rust. Anything made of cloth was unidentifiable, but the foam was still in tact on the seats. We found several pieces of luggage in the back with rusted locks and latches, we took the cases out and put them on the bank for inspection later. A large trunk in the back took all of us to scoot up and through the doorway and up to the waters edge. We all stood on the bank for a while looking at everything discussing and planning what we could use all the parts for.

 

Sunday we got up early and headed for Big D’s after feeding the animals. We didn’t let them out because we were not going to be there most of the day. James was tending their animals when we arrived. He ribbed GS about actually being early for a change. I smiled, shook my head and headed in to see Mom. {IRL: We had to go to take care of her last week.}

 

Big D was in the kitchen pulling out a roast while Naomi was preparing a salad for Sunday potluck. I was pleased to see the shelves in the kitchen were finished and James had enclosed most of them and made a door for the pantry.

 

As we headed for the lodge, MJX met up with us and followed us in.

 

Services were lovely, as usual, and DH had exchanged his books at the library. It was wonderful to see everyone! I needed the people contact after being alone most of the week and found myself chattering about this and that while everyone else did the same. One big conversation weaving in and out of each other with hugs and handshakes filtered in. We headed home mid afternoon, saying our goodbyes with warm hugs and hopes to see each other next week.

 

Monday we opened the suit cases and blackish muck gushed out. Metal things like nail clippers were barely recognizable, but the combs and brushes, buttons from the clothing and other plastic items seemed unharmed. We laid the stuff out to dry wondering who, when, and why.

 

The rest of the week GS & I busied ourselves gathering wood and grass, dismantling the plane, drying veggies and smoking the fish we've been catching. Saturday we took a break from our routine and went hunting to the north of us, up into the mountain side above the big falls. We saw several herds of deer, a few elk and a group of goat on the cliffs. We headed back toward home before we came across a 3 prong buck grazing unaware in one of the small meadows. He brought it down and we tied it on a sapling between us, then hung it in the barn after gutting and salvaging the internal organs.

 

All week I've been anxious for Sunday to come. The messenger had brought news that the mule train had made it in. I kept hoping for any of the packages I'd order before we left. Maybe we'd get the ones we ordered at the towns on the way.

 

 

 

 

 

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Dear Diary -- Coyote Diner [no, that doesn't say 'dinner' ]

 

 

 

Just to catch up a bit for the past couple weeks….. The first thing we had to do was to send MrMtR and the older boys to fetch the rest of the cargo that was sitting at the Base Camp at the foot of "Mother's Little HILL". They left early the next morning after we brought the children home. They were able to return late the following day. They took the haywagon and our Conestoga wagon. They encountered no difficulty and spent the evening talking with others who had traveled back to retrieve cargo or livestock. There were enough to make the loading of everyone's wagons easy. I'd sent dried venison, and fresh vegetables from the garden with spices ready to be made into a stew.

 

 

 

During the two days that the 'menfolk' were gone, Mac and I sorted thru some of their things in the cave. She goes by 'Macky' or 'Mac' more than Machela, actually ……but woe to the one who tries to call our Micah "Mikey"… :shakinghead: Anyway……we have no more than begun that huge task. But I don't care cuz the priority is surviving this winter. So we also spent a lot more time with the gardens. Some veggies were coming into full production. DH and I had really pushed to mulch heavily as we planted. I'd long ago discovered the difference in workload that one change makes. Besides, the water evaporation is slowed down.

 

 

 

Mac and I set up some hoop houses [ends open] for the beds that were more recently planted in a frantic attempt to enlarge our food production. Some of these need an extra boost so, on cloudy days and every night, we will be covering those beds with plastic. This will moderate any drop in temperature that might slow down the growth. Another lesson from our high mountain gardening years. But mainly, we harvested. So far most of the harvested vegetables are being eaten without much excess. We don't do menu planning. We prepare and eat whatever needs to be eaten before it might be wasted. With six more mouths to feed, :0327: I've put away my smaller pots and pans and dug out the giant size ones.

 

 

 

Actually, that's what we've been searching for in the piles of cargo that were unloaded onto our living room cave floor. Their late mother of course used a lot of extra-large kitchen equipment like mixing bowls, etc. Mrs. Joy Rock had helped Machela to choose which items to pack and knew the MtRiders made meals for two. Their large things are in here SOMEWHERE! Well, I have enough to get us by until we discover that box. Between my stockpots and 13" cast iron frying pan, we're in business. The children used their family's camping Dutch ovens [two #14s - one reg. and one deep] on the wagon trail so they are available to use.

 

 

 

AND, :D Nathan presented me almost immediately with the two very HEAVY packages that had finally been delivered to the Rockin' J for me. I decided very early during our wagon train that I needed to place an order. Now I have a #12 Deep cast iron Dutch oven [camping version with the lip on the lid] and a large cast iron 2-sided griddle. I've always wanted a large camp Dutch oven cuz the #8 I have is quite limited, even when it was just the two of us. I have a dome lid #10 also – an heirloom I'd never part with. :wub:

 

 

 

We're still using pie plates to eat, since I didn't pack real dishes. Saving space and weight. :shrug: I'm not sure if they did either or if we'll need to take another look at firing clay. I wonder if we've discovered glazes yet? ……They brought more tableware…somewhere….. We are really going to need an inventory….and some shelving! Sheeeeeesh!

 

 

 

We found some books, slates & chalk, and such to keep the little twins busy. They have favorite twin dolls with dark, long hair and Asian eyes. They carry them around everywhere. Kaila has a stuffed black gorilla toy and Kaylee has a giraffe, which are also favorites. The girls are used to homeschool and we set them to some studies… fun puzzles and games which they can do nearby while we work. They are good helpers in the garden and we showed them how to weed beets and carrots. It's easy to tell which are the maroon-veined beet plants and the feather-tops of carrots. They have small hoes, shovels, rakes, and trowels which are not toys but of decent quality. The older children used them long ago too. Mac and twins were out there longer than I can stay in the heat.

 

 

 

On the morning of the second day, we were surprised by a commotion in the Maui-side pasture. We happened to be inside the palisade fencing of that large garden. Mac and I both grabbed our rifles and ran out the gate, locking the twins inside. We saw three …no, four coyotes trying to get past Rex, the protector for her sheep. Hmm, didn't take long for that word to get out….Lamb Special at the Maui Riverside Diner. NOT! :motz_6:

 

 

 

We spread out just a bit for different angles and called out our marked critter. Just then we saw a streak and Big Dog raced down the steep path to join Rex. She was moving so fast I thot she'd be head over heels. Note….these dogs had not been introduced yet, though they're aware of each other. By the instinct of their Livestock Guardian Breed, they worked together. Big Dog ran to chase off coyotes getting too close and Rex stayed in place to guard the sheep. With that settled, Macky and I both knocked down a coyote each when the shot was clear of both sheep and dogs. Big Dog had another one on the run and practically flew up the opposite cliff face. The huge paws splayed wide for grip, she loves the chase and gets excellent purchase on rock. Rex, freed up from the other three, quickly pursued and killed the final coyote. He then stalked around, checking his flock and making sure there were no other predators hiding in the tall grasses. I'll be glad when some of that grass is eaten down shorter. It's too easy for predators to sneak in close like this. We watched until Rex was satisfied and then Mac ran to her sheep to check them over and calm them. She made a BIG DEAL over the valiant Rex. I didn't expect to see Big Dog back soon. She doesn't have the stay-with-the-herd/flock instinct. Perhaps because she's a crossbreed. ?? She has the HUNT THEM TILL DEAD instinct. Well, I prayed that she wouldn't run into more than she could handle out there and returned to reassure the twins.

 

 

 

We skinned the coyotes since their fur is good for trim on winter hoods and hats. [doesn't frost up…I think] Began to smoke/dry the meat for dog treats. I rather hope Big Dog is not getting a taste for blood and raw meat right now in her chase. A dog that learns to kill livestock is a dead dog. Hopefully, she will know the difference and not self-serve duck dinner sometime. Boy….she and Rex were magnificent though. Glad we had small Nya-pup with us. She's not big enough for that game …..yet.

 

 

 

Big Dog finally came trotting back. I found blood on her front paws but her mouth was clean. The blood wasn't coming from her anywhere so… :shrug: I guess she at least got a piece of it. I'm a little surprised since, being such a large and heavy dog, she can't sustain a fast run for long periods. Anyway, she seemed satisfied…except those coyote skins bothered her initially. Really bothered until she decided they were no longer ....um, occupied.

 

 

 

I spent a good deal of time processing that event during the next few days, knowing that we will have more like it. I do know my daughter can handle a rifle. They reported that their dad taught all of them the safe handling of all types of weapons since they were young. Even Kaylee and Kaila can shoot with a BB gun and small bow with supervision. We'll all need to practice working together. I'm afraid humans do not have that instinct to know who does what together like Big Dog and Rex just demonstrated. We might want to get some tips on that from a professional like Jerry? When the rest of the family gets here, we'll likely have to hold classes and my new children will be tutoring the adults. We can start my Grsons' training young though. Bro has some experience and my dad. Every farmer knows how to shoot varmints!

 

 

 

Too hot to weed now….I'm taking refuge in the shade. As I write, I'm a part-time participant in a "tea party". The dolls, gorilla, and giraffe are the other guests. :wub: Macky is cleaning our guns and turning the 'dog treats' on the grill.

 

 

 

Are we weird or what? :laughkick:

 

 

 

MtRider […..parenting, pioneering, and just plain surviving…..today, it's a good life. :happy0203: ]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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{IRL….I hope this will be enough to catch-up for all the time I've missed due to Internet failure. :motz_6: I'm still using the library computer. Dh is SO swamped with tax clients (plus a patient with an emergency shoulder dislocation to fix late last nite) and such that I never see him. He is working nite security Fri/Sat tooooooo. So even tho the disc come TODAY :) , he won't even be here to install the thing till sometime into next week. :rolleyes: Well mebbe he can do it tomorrow morning before he sleeps. :shrug: If not, I'll keep writing and posting at library when I can get there between snowstorms. :rolleyes: Yeah, yet ANOTHER one of those is looming on our horizon….. My driveway is packed with snow from the last one yet….. Sheeeeeesh! "Springtime in the Rockies!" }

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Diary -- JULY Activities at Cleft of the Rock!

 

 

 

Days and days have passed with a seemingly endless list of priorities. Gardens must be weeded, though that is just a bit of maintenance here and there by now. The fields are a different matter. The men have been attacking the weeds in the fields daily and are finally getting that somewhat under control. Some fields had been downright embarrassing! :blush: The big wheel hoeing implements worked very well with the three-tined cultivator attachment. We had gotten one from Lemans and the children brought the two that had been used in their big gardens. We could use a couple more! Hand work in fields is ……challenging! It has rained at regular intervals and, combined with the hot days of July, everything is growing so fast you can hear it crackle. Thanking God for this blessing!

 

 

 

One bit of great news, Nathan is opening a new field with the horse-drawn plow they brought. It will really help to have one of our own and not trying to borrow that important implement. They had sometimes used it to plow the gardens and sometimes it just sat as a lawn decoration. But it was in good shape and Mr. Rock had insured it was ready for use before they left the ranch. Nathan learned how to sharpen it and he'd getting practice in that. Virgin soil is tough!

 

 

 

Haying has been going much faster with a lot more help. And more scythes. But with all this livestock, we have soooooo much we need to do. The Dexter cattle forage well but if there is heavy snow, that isn't going to work. We wonder what the area south of here near the open hot springs will be like in winter. :shrug: Anyway, I haven't been much help with this job. It's too much on my shoulders. And it has to be done on hot, sunny days. :0327: On the first Sunday, Mother's clan took a few minutes on their way back to Hobbit Hole to show us how to cut efficiently and rake up the rows. We watch the barometer and then hurry to "make hay while the sun shines"! Four of them cut until they feel like their arms will fall off. I "hold down the fort" in other ways. Sure do plan to set our new folks to work on haying as soon as they arrive. Hope they're developing good muscles on the wagon trail.

 

 

 

We've got several options within the caves for storing dry hay. The first is the large cave room near our barn cave. We've got that half full already. But a winter's worth will not all fit in there. The largest area we have is a low caves on the far side of the Maui pasture. There are two and one will be shelter for any livestock over there. The mouth of the cave is wide but a ledge will keep most weather out.

 

 

 

The other cave there is similar and designated for the hay. We could get quite a bit in there and it has the advantage of not being connected to any other cave. If anything did catch fire, it would not spread smoke or fire anywhere else. It has a wide opening which we'd have to fit with doors. Or a barrier gate and a tarp. It sets under a ledge somewhat but not enough to keep out blowing rain or snow completely. It's a long way from our side but seeing Mother's new sleigh, has me thinking of winter travel with the donkey cart. :lol: What a cool device they have! Something for Mother to travel in easily. We do have the large ice-fishing sled to transport things in winter. [i do not really want to dwell on the "impending winter" topic….it's a nice summer day! {sigh} ]

 

 

 

Harvesting has become a full-time occupation too. Both the early things from the garden and the wild berries and other plants. We've been pestering Mother and her DD for data on the plants we should be looking for. We take the Conestoga wagon out a couple times a week on family outings in search of wild things to harvest. Our many plant I.D. books are dog-eared and highlighted by now. [how EVER shall I go on in this life when my beloved highliter pens go dry? ;) ] Even the small twins are learning some of the more obvious plants. They sure know raspberries and blackberries. Oh yes, we all know them. :yum3: Apparently berry picking is not a new task for these ranch kids. Their family rule is that you pick TEN berries for the basket before you pick ONE [well, mebbe two…. :lol: ] for your mouth. It is so cute to hear the young ones counting to ten, getting louder as they reach the final berry before the treat. Wow, that's self-discipline we adults have to match! :24:

 

 

 

As for putting up what we harvest, a lot of it is being dehydrated. We have that hot cave that is WAY too hot for me to spend any time in at all now. Whew! But it's a perfect place to dry things….both our laundry and the now infamous "leather britches". Everyone in the Valley knows what these are by now. I brought the trays from my dehydrator, a few of those hanging net contraptions with shelves that collapse flat, misc sheets of screen or mosquito netting, two nylon net drying racks for sweaters [that now have berry stains on them…{sigh}] and the mosquito netting for an E-Z Up craft fair-type booth….but I wasn't aware that the booth metal-parts-with-roof wasn't in the box package when I bought it. L Only the zip-on screening. {IRL} So in various ways, I have things drying/dehydrating all over in the drying room. The doorway is barred from critter entrance….domestic, wildlife and most insects. A very tight "hardware cloth" screen door fitted in, with adobe bricks filling in the odd cave opening shape. We lined the inside of the heavy screening with some light mosquito netting. So far, so good. I also have a large mosquito net [made for draping over a large bed with a big ring at the top to spread out the circle of netting] that could be used for outdoor drying room …under supervision…. Curious barn cats; dogs wanting the venison jerky; stray goats….. :rolleyes: We'll use that when we really get overloaded with produce..

 

 

 

 

 

Laundry is another constant chore that must be done. Since we often save it till a rainy day, this hot cave is used for that too. Unless we worry about raising the humidity too much for food we're dehydrating. Then there is always room in the living room or under the wide ledge if the rain isn't coming sideways. I have my GrAunt's old clothes rack and it holds a lot of clothes. We always use it for some of the unmentionables that we'd rather not have in the strong sunlight. We do have clotheslines outside for towels and such that just need the nice breeze and sunshine to soften them. I still use the 5-gallon buckets to slosh the clothes around. I have gamma lids so that opening and closing is easy. Trying to find a clever "automated" way to jostle the closed bucket like on our wagon trail. Of course there is the plunger and the scrub boards too. We scoop up hot water from our 'hot tub' spring and dispose of the used laundry water in the crack where the hot tub also drains. We brought only biodegradable soaps and such. Haven't seen any bubbles or suds in the river…and we have checked. The smooth stone area around the indoor hot springs is a good place to wash but it can get slippery. It would not be a good place to fall. The room gets too hot now that it's midsummer so we have been hauling water buckets just outside…rolling them along in a child's red wagon. I bought a used old one with wood panel sides {IRL} and the children have a newer one also. The children brought a double tub arrangement with a hand wringer that clamps to the tub. A wash and a rinse tub. Not having to heat the water is an incredible energy savings. [mine and the wood stove's] {Nice to have writer's prerogative to park my primitive living near a hot springs! :curtsey: }

 

 

 

So…garden/fields…usual chores….finding things in the piles of cargo…..haying….harvesting wild edibles/medicinals…..livestock care…. What else?

 

 

 

Ah yes, we often go down by the adobe brick 'factory' and make bricks. Just a few. Coming in from a hot chore like gardening, we head for that area of the river. It has a great sandbar and it's safe for the little ones to swim there. And tired OLD ones…. J But before we get in to wash, we try to make a few more bricks. It's a sort of constant thing. I hope to make a time for Annarchy to come down and help us construct an indoor oven, an outdoor oven and a kiln. I'm just not too confident of the details. We have a LOT of bricks but we still hope to build a separate house for my parents after they arrive. At least now I know my contractor-building-expert brother is coming too. :cele: I'm only a brick maker. He [and the two old guys 'helping' :lol: ] can handle the technical wherefores and whatifs. So we all contribute some bricks each day before we play in the water. It feels so nice to splash around or sit in a lawn chair and let the shallow water flow past your feet. 'Course now that this Maui-side has livestock, we decided we had to fence off a swimming beach for humans. It's at the upstream side, of course. But one still remembers not to swallow any river water.

 

 

 

The hunters of the family are Nathan, Micah and …me, if I don't have to travel far. The fisher folk are DadMtR and Ben. Machela really prefers taking care of our livestock. The three older kids do all the milking of the cows they brought. And mostly the goats too, tho I enjoy milking my goats. We set up a milk/cheese room. There is a cave deeper down past the living room and hot cave. There is an even larger one if you travel the hallways towards the Maui caves but this one is close. They both have cold water flowing thru, running to somewhere. We have set up a trench for the tall milk cans [yes, the children brought milking equipment] to set in the cold flowing water. We plan to make cheese up in the kitchen and store the milk/milk products down here. It feels so good to be in the cold temperatures right now, I could spend all day there. [The heat is affecting how I look at things! ] Anyway, I'm sending Macky over to Mother some day soon to learn about a couple more cheese procedures. I keep turning extra milk into yogurt and sour cream and soft herb cheese as yet. :yum3: I have the cultures [kept cold] for mozzarella and other cheese but haven't had the time to figure them out.

 

 

 

OK, 'nuff for now. I think that wraps up how folks at Cleft of the Rock have been spending our days lately.

 

 

 

MtRider […ow! Writer's cramp….holding the pen too long! ] [iRL….making up for time off without Internet service! L ]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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{OK...one more and then I'm running home before the snow starts... :lol: Miss you all! }

 

{based on my IRL experiences….YMMV}

 

 

 

Dear Mt3B -- Ducks/Geese

 

 

 

I received your note! :bounce: It's so fun to get mail, isn't it? I used to get excited over Email, for pete's sake! I love this messenger service. Their families are sure going to benefit now that we can all give the riders 'tips' ….in the form of our garden produce. I handed Calvin a bag of broccoli. :lol: I doubt it will make it to his house though. He doesn't like it and he's got a message for those at Hobbit Hole. I expect he'll try to trade the broccoli for something they might have extra….something more to his liking. :24: Look out, Mother, it's the veggie-hater Calvin on circuit today. Calvin's mother likes the veggies we send though so he might bring the broccoli home.

 

 

 

As to your question about ducks and geese: Lets see, the big thing is that they need to always have water deep enough to dunk and flush out the nostril holes in their bills while eating. They can be raised without water to swim in but this is a must. Ducks and geese never met a body of water they didn't adore….even the lowly mud puddles. Even ICY water is fine for them….as adults, that is.

 

 

 

Ducklings/goslings do NOT have the oils in their downy feathers that keep them dry and warm. That only comes when they have fully grown out their adult feathers. If raised by mamma, her oils will transfer somewhat. She will take them for short swims if water is available. She will also get them out and dry/warm at proper intervals. They can all swim but staying dry/warm is the issue. If they are human-raised, don't give them any chance to dunk themselves in their water container. Fill it with rocks and leave only spaces for their bills to poke in and drink. Keeps the water less FOUL a bit longer too. If you are raising them, they are the messiest of birds. [They are not called water FOUL fowl for nothing. Hope for a large cage or else you might clean it up 3 times a day. They soak everything. Sheeeeesh….brings back memories! Mamma-raised is best but keep her and them protected from predators. Any turtles in the pond? Look out, they like duckie dinner! Any hawks flying overhead? …..

 

 

 

Now this is something I will address that is neat. Not the ducks…you have to protect them. But the geese that are in a band together will protect their goslings from aerial attack by getting them into the middle of all the adults. Each adult goose sticks his/her neck way over the middle like spokes on a wagon wheel. That group effort covers the little ones so that the attacking bird cannot see or reach them. Pretty cool, huh? Ducks are not that group-organized.

 

 

 

Not that the birds will always work nicely among themselves. Sometimes bird will take a dislike to another, even a baby….and they can be unmerciful. Can kill the baby or injure each other. Males during the spring mating season are quite pushy and prideful. If they will ever bite you, it will be in this season. And it does HURT though they have no teeth as such; only serrated bill…it is more of a pinch! OW!

 

 

 

Never make their aggression worse by excessive action against them. But don't take it from them either. I snatch their snaking head and gently hang on while they discover it's not nice to mess with me. Don't jerk and misalign neck bones! Let go and see if that will teach them. Keep repeating it but if they won't go away, I have dunked their fool head into a water bucket and held it there a few seconds. They can hold their breath, being grand swimmers and divers. But the loss of control bothers them. Let them go and calmly go about your business and they will fuss and preen and try to restore their dignity. If they are really getting out of hand, and you know how to do this in a way that is safe for yourself and for the bird, I'd pick them up and hold them for a minute. Oh the indignity of it! :lol:

 

 

 

Be careful of their legs…they can be fragile because they are hollow. And the wings are also. But the wings [especially geese] are very hard and can batter bruises upon you. AskMeHowIKnow… To pick one up for discipline or care, carefully wrap your arms around the whole bird pinning the wings SECURELY to their sides. [Note: this is if you can't get rid of the pesky thing….not that you should chase them around to catch them!] Maneuver the bird onto its back…tummy up. This will have a sedating effect on the bird….don't ask me why. I wouldn't leave them in this position too long…the sedation effect might slow down heart rate, etc too…dunno. :shrug: Just takes a minute if you are making a point to an aggressive male. Domestic geese are heavy so make sure you CAN do this without losing hold on those nasty wings. If you do, let them down gently and start over. Be careful! If you need to do some bandaging or even just to put an I.D. band on their leg, sit down with the bird [works with ducks too…dunno about chickens????] on your lap. Once settled, you MIGHT be able to let go of the wings or you might need to hold while someone else does what needs doin'. Remember to release them to the ground gently so as not to injure a leg.

 

 

 

Eggs: Ducks/geese usually lay eggs by 10am. Some breeds of ducks [Khaki Campbells , Indian Runners ] lay nearly all year. They might take a short break in the fall while getting new feathers [they drop the old ones – molting - and you collect the quills for future pens! ] and a short break in late winter just before the full-on laying of springtime begins. Changes in weather sometimes throw them off for a day….like subzero weather sometimes. [but in subzero weather you often find completely frozen eggs that are cracked vertically from point to point and therefore are contaminated with feces… L …lot of those this winter IRL] Geese and many duck breeds are normally seasonal layers. They begin in Feb or March and lay loyally one egg per day until it begins to taper off in early July for geese. I believe some breeds of ducks can continue till Aug or Sept. I put the last month or two of eggs in a solution of one part waterglass [see Lehman's catalog] and ten parts water [i think] and it will keep unrefrigerated for 6+ months.

 

 

 

Eggs of both ducks and geese have a proportionately larger yolk than chickens so bakers love them. The average duck egg is like a very X-large chicken egg and I count the goose eggs as 2 chicken eggs for recipes. They also have a shell that will remind you of Wilma Flintstone making breakfast for Fred. Get out your chisel…. :lol: The inner membrane is quite tough too. The yolk also is more gooey…so you have to beat harder to mix it with the whites. The only way I truly like scrambled eggs is lightly done from goose eggs. :yum3:

 

 

 

Geese are grazers…they like the grasses and will roam the pasturelands more than ducks but certainly spend a lot of time in water if they can. The heavy breeds of both will mate easier if deep water is available. Large breed males of ducks should not mate small breed females. The mating could injure the female, especially on land. Do NOT have an excessive number of males. They will kill the females in a frenzy of mating behavior…driven worse by the competition. [it ain't pretty :shakinghead: ] About one male per 3-4 females is good. Geese pair off but are ok with up to about 3 females per male. The male might have one preferred female though. They mate for life but can take on another mate if theirs dies. Sometimes.

 

 

 

Ducks are fully water critters. They eat bugs and …even salamanders….I swear, I've seen them gulp them down whole while outrunning the rest of the pack who want to take this treat for themselves… :laughkick: It's like a rugby match! But for plant life, they are best supplied from the pond bottoms and creek edges. They will nearly get lost following a creek on and on…and they do NOT stay aware of what might be nearby wanting THEM for dinner.

 

 

 

Remember: It never has been a compliment to call someone a Bird Brain! :shakinghead: Pretty dumb! Especially ducks!

 

 

 

Now for preparing to keep them this winter in the Valley….I have usually fed mine a "waterfowl' pelleted food which we no longer have available. Hmm….. My reference books [some in our Lodge library too] list proportions of foods such as milo seed heads, corn, soft wheat, soybean meal [for protein], alfalfa [also protein], dried skim milk, Brewer's yeast, oyster shell [can LIGHTLY toast their own egg shells], salt, cod liver oil, and add molasses. Rye, wild celery, wild rice, garden/orchard leavings, bugs gathering around a [solar] light, milk mixed in with something dry [otherwise they just play in it!], hard-boiled eggs. Always have grit available. Like sand/stones on the ground] for their 'craw' and calcium for the egg shell production [ground limestone, oyster shell or their own toasted egg shells. This will be a first for me too, doing proper proportions myself.

 

 

 

I do plan to continue free-ranging them during the daytime [except in bad winter weather] since I'm sure the river will not completely freeze over. They are quite safe as long as they are on open water that is large enough for them to be out of reach of the edges. They are healthier if they can forage some of their own food and bathe at least sometimes in winter and daily in summer.

 

 

 

Remember that while domestic ducks/geese do fly….it is not far and it is often more of a glide from a high place. I have had 1) a goose split herself open across the chest by hitting a smooth wire fence [died of shock…birds go shocky easy]. 2) I've seen one glide down from the hill top and slide UNDER MY HORSE'S HOOF…naturally mare stepped down just then. [no damage to bird's wing cuz I quickly talked the horse into lifting foot again]. 3) But the funniest flying incident was when a drake took off from the top of a hillock, not computing that there was a chainlink fence between him and the pond [i assume that was his destination]. His flight ended abruptly three feet later when his whole beak rammed tight into one of the holes of the chain link. And STUCK! There he hung [birds often go limp and somnolent when under stressssssssss ] until I yanked him loose. :laughkick: Not hurt at all but the Wright brothers had better luck than him! They are bred for things other than light aerodynamic bodies and …..brains! :rolleyes: So they are not safe on the ground. [Guinea fowl are the exception to this in domestic poultry ….they fly very well and roost in trees. 'Course I don't think you can train them to come in at night…. :shrug: dunno ]

 

 

 

 

 

:curtsey: Wow….you know, with this letter writing, we are going to have to figure out how to make our own Valley paper! Someone needs to begin that cottage industry or we need to write in erasable pencil and reuse the note paper.

 

 

 

So glad to meet everyone's new family and friends at the Lodge. Mt3b, I've heard you have two young ladies taking Rural Lessons from you. If they are apt students, it's a win-win. You get help and they get knowledge. Good for you! Good luck with the ducks/geese. Hope this helps and send any specific questions by messenger.

 

 

 

MtRider :wave:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Well it was our turn for a smoke house. R&V have theirs built and W&A have theirs built. R built K one at the same time as he built theirs. Ray also built him one. So that left us and P&N.

 

The building will be 8 foot wide by 4 foot deep by 6 foot tall building and will be divided in half. One side will be nothing but hanging meats like sausage hams etc. It will have rods attached to the walls to hang sausage over and then hooks from the ceiling to hang large pieces of meat from. For the other side I will use the grill racks that we brought with us as shelves. The shelf side with the racks will be for fish, roast and chickens.

 

The house is being constructed out of adobe bricks and will have a tin roof. There will be 3 screened vent holes one on each side and one in back to allow the smoke to escape. The doors will be wood to also allow circulation.

 

SF has the older children making the bricks he showed them this morning how to make them and left Connor in charge. This will be a two day project for them and should be quite interesting. When I was in the lower garden this morning I could hear them arguing. Connor has helped make bricks before but Megan hasn’t and she didn’t want to do it his way. Can’t wait until after lunch when all her bricks crumble and the boys’ bricks hold together. Megan has issues with following instructions she has to do it her way. She will cow tail to W&A but does it with a lot of sassing. However if one of the other kids suggest something heaven help them. Connor has learned to let her do her own thing and then she will have egg on her face. I pulled SF aside when I went back up the mountain and told him what was going on. He said that if her bricks crumble she will have to redo them under Connor’s supervision since Connor was the one in charge and she didn’t do what he said, we both laughed because we can see it now. Like I said this should be quite interesting.

 

Today’s lunch was fresh veggies. The few days of picking I got enough field peas for a meal, they are just now starting to come in; we also have okra, squash and potatoes (little new red potatoes.) I am making corn bread to go along with all these veggies. Oh and mac & cheese the kids wanted back and cheese. SF surprised me with a red tomato. For the past few days we have had grape tomatoes but all the large tomatoes were still green. This one was on the last plant in the row and got the most sun. It looks yummy can’t wait to slice into it.

 

This has been a busy week for the garden. All of the early summer vegetables are in and ready to harvest. We have been gathering squash, cucumbers, zucchini, sugar peas, broccoli, radishes, and cauliflower. We dried, cold stored and canned just about everything. We have gathered berries until our fingers are pin cushions from all the thorns; they have been dried or turned into jams and preserves.

 

The field corn is looking good. Which we are most thankful for since that and the oats will be the main food source for the animals. SF and the guys started cutting come of the oats today. They were trying to get it before it all opened and we had a high % of field loss (that is where you leave the grain in the field until it is ripe and then gather it. You loose a lot that way because the seeds fall on the ground.) We will lay them on drying racks in the sun. The stalks will be cut, baled and used as hay for the animals also. They guys had a big pow-wow this morning and decided they would try another planting of oats. If they can get it in the ground by the end of the month then we would be able to harvest it around the first of October before it freezes. The guys are trying to ensure that we have enough food for the amount of animals we have. They figure we will have more goats, and pigs by then plus the chickens will need food. It is just overwhelming.

 

I am hoping that T can find metal garbage cans. We brought 6 with us we used them to store grain in for the animals and us on the way. But that is no where near enough to store a years worth of grain. We need a good many of them. I ordered barrels before we left and they were supposed to be delivered to the ranch but only two arrived. So I am hoping the rest are there waiting on P&N. We have put an order in with the ones making them here in the valley but we are way down the list so no telling when we will get ours. We have plastic totes also to store food in but we are hoping to save those for the cold cave. I have made several more baskets and we are in need of more of them. I have started a winter to do list and making baskets is on top of the list.

 

P will be pleased when he gets back his rice is doing well. It should be ready to harvest the first of October. If I remember correctly the stalks will turn yellow when it is ready to harvest. However, he will be disappointed to see that his water oats pretty much washed away. There are some still there but only about half of what he planted. Good thing not many of us are rice eaters. 100 pounds of rice last us a year so with what we have and what he will be able to harvest we should be okay for rice.

 

Things are slowly coming together. Mr. S has been out a couple of times checking on Abby and Beth. He has brought them rifles, shotguns and hand guns. He seems pleased with they have learned so far. SF has been working with them on using the hand gun. Beth is better with the guns than Abby only because Beth is not intimated by them. Abby is skittish when it comes to firing the shotguns but she is getting better.

 

Around 3:00 I rode down with SF to check the bricks and to see how many they got done. Just as we suspected the guys’ bricks turned out rather well. They followed directions and did what they were told to do. Megan however, had egg on her face when SF picked up the first brick and it fell about in his hand. He picked up every one of the bricks she made and the same thing happened with all of them. Afterwards he was none too gentle with her he called her on the carpet big time. But then again he has a way of knocking a kid down and building them back up. After he got through chewing her out because she did not follow instructions he walked her through the process again making bricks right along beside her. I think was killed her the most was when SF mounted his horse he told Megan she had to remake all of her bricks she had made and told Conner to watch and make sure she did it correctly. She said something obviously it was a smart remark (I couldn’t hear her she was on the side of SF and she was mumbling) and SF just looked at her and told her if she had followed instructions the first this would not have happened. He explained to her that our survival this winter rest on everyone’s shoulders even hers. We did not have time to waste remaking stuff that someone did not make correctly the first time because they refused to follow directions. She stomped off in a huff but I noticed she made sure that she did exactly what SF showed her to do. Teddy her younger brother started making fun of her but SF called him down and told him that he had better watch it because his bricks would be inspected also. We rode over to talk to W&A for a few minutes. SF wanted to stay and watch to see how Megan handled Conner being in charge. I had never been more proud of Conner, after the first few bricks (making sure she did them correctly) he pitched in and helped her remake her bricks. At first she snubbed him but then as the sun moved it ways across the sky she seemed thankful that he was helping.

 

It is a hard adjustment time for these children. And time is not something we have to give them right now. Everyone is expected to pull their weight and pitch it. From what W&A have been able to gather Megan has always been the leader and things were done her way. But here she is out of her element and has to follow other peoples lead. So not only is she dealing with loosing her family, she is no longer queen of the hill. I know we had some problems with Conner at first because he was used to running the show but he has seemed to be relieved that there are adults now that are shouldering most of the responsibility.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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