Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The New Geek Empire: Part Thirteen

The New Geek Empire
Part 13

“Lydie … I … these still look bad.”

“Maybe, but they don’t feel as bad as they did. Using that venom extractor was a great idea. Where did you hear about it?”

Jax answered, “The wife of the trainer that taught an entry level class I took at the community college was severely allergic to most insect stings and bites. He said the extractor and an epi pen are the two things that she is … was I guess … never without. They had several in their house and one in each car plus she always had one in her purse. (http://www.rei.com/product/407144/sawyer-extractor-pump-kit ) I know they are meant primarily for snake bites but …” He shrugged. “I figured it couldn’t hurt.”

“Well, you just saved me from days of misery. I know the scabbing looks a little on the gross side but I’m feeling a lot better than I expected to be.”

He gave me one of the most serious looks he’d ever given me. “You aren’t trying to hide anything are you?”

I sighed. “I apologized for that already didn’t I? It’s just embarrassing to have someone watching me chuck up my guts while I looked like the creature from the black lagoon. I didn’t mean to wake you up, I just wanted to puke in peace. You have to admit that the swelling in my face and on my hand was pretty disgusting.”

“It scared the hell out of me is what it did. Lay back down and I’ll paint you yellow again. You just promise me that you won’t try and hide anything like that again. I’m not going to fall apart just because you’re sick you know. I know it isn’t much but I’ve got some training; certainly enough not to freak out.”

I was still sore and groaned as I pulled my night gown over my head and laid on the bed face down. A bra was impossible for me to wear, heck I could barely tolerate a shirt at first. When the counting was done I had almost two dozen spider bites on various parts of me, most of them running from my neck, to my shoulder, and then down my back although my hand and wrist had a few as well. As a result of my discomfort and the fact that Jax had to help me treat the bites we came to an unspoken agreement; I would set my modesty aside for a while but he wouldn’t take advantage of anything he saw. When the spider bites were healed enough we’d go back to figuring the rest of it out though my mother would have said that was like trying to shut the barn door after the cows had already gotten out.

The preceding couple of days had not been fun for either one of us but we were almost through it. I figured another day or two and I’d be as close to one hundred percent as I was going to be for a bit. Out of the blue I had an idea. “Jax, next time I’m going to wear a long sleeve shirt and then pull the long gloves that Mom used to work in the roses over my shirt sleeves. Then I’ll duct tape them on so no spider can sneak in. I’ll tuck my jean inside my socks for the same purpose.”

“Next time?” he snorted. “Next time I’ll find a couple of bug bombs and pop them in the building and we come back the next day.”

I shook my head but gently; my neck still felt bruised and stiff. “I might let you go in first to see if things are really gross but the rest of it isn’t necessary. I’ve dealt with spiders here at home, in the barn, all over my whole life. I’ve just never …” I gulped back an acid laced burp. “That was just plain gross Jax. But Dad said sometimes the only saving grace to a problem is the lesson you learn … and boy did I learn a lesson. Hopefully when the cold comes it will kill off the worst infestations of buggy type critters. Until then I’ll just use the same precautions I take for ticks … which is what I should have done instead of dressing like I was going to the lake for a shore party.”

The look on his face at the time told me we’d probably have this conversation again at least once and over time we had it several more times than once. But at the time, and even now looking back, even if it was annoying on one hand, on the other had it was nice having someone care about me again. Oh, I know how that sounds which is why I would have never said it like that then … or now. But it just reinforced the rightness of searching for a clan … a family … of my own. Looking back over the years with added maturity I can see how on the ragged edge I had been but I didn’t know that then though there was to come a time when I would have to learn that lesson all over again.

While we all waited for me to get my full strength back – getting too hot or too tired made my allergic symptoms come back a little which told Jax that I still had some infection that my body was fighting off – we started putting things in the root cellar. I started by having Jax use the garden fork to dig up a row of onions at a time. I would then lay them out for a day or two to cure and then I would braid the tops and hang them in the root cellar. (http://organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/braiding-onions-and-garlic ). I did the same thing to the garlic. For some of the onions that wouldn’t store quite as long as I either put them in the dryer for making onion powder or dried chopped onions; or, I would hang onions in pantyhose.

Now I know for some folks hanging onions in pantyhose sounds fairly disgusting but they do the same thing today only with that high-tech mesh that can be bought on the roll from the organic feed supply. Back in the old days what we would do is push a large onion down to the “toe” of the pantyhose then you’d tie a knot above the onion. Push another onion down to the knot you had just made and then make another knot above that onion. Continue on until both the legs of the pantyhose was full and use the “body” part of the hose to loop over a convenient hook or nail. When you’d need an onion you would simply cut the bottom one off and the knot above it would keep the rest of the onions until next time. (http://www.thriftyfun.com/tf43990250.tip.html ).

My favorite onion of all was the heirlooms left over from my great grandparents’ time. They are called Egyptian Walking Onions and I tell you that I still have those suckers to this day (http://www.egyptianwalkingonion.com/ ). Not the same onions of course but generations down from the same onions that my great grandparents were planting even before my dad went to live with them. I love the topsets that make and since they are a perennial I have onions just about all year long.

In September most of the potatoes that came from the garden would be used fresh, it was the October potatoes that would be put into storage. The one thing you have to remember is that you don’t store onions and potatoes together. I keep a crate of potatoes down in the root cellar well away from the onions but most of the onions had their own underground storage. It was the same with the apples; I would keep a crate in the root cellar and then a shelf of the prettiest ones for company or gifts, but the remainder had their own little apple shed that they shared with the pears.

And on it went; beets, cabbage, carrots, cucumbers (brined for pickles), pumpkins, winter squash, and sweet potatoes each had their place in the root cellar. Off of the fruit cellar was the room that was used to store all of the glass jars of home canned foods. I caught Jax down there with Kelly one time and he was showing her each jar and telling her what was in it. He didn’t know I was listening and I overheard him tell her, “Look Bumble Bee, you are gonna learn to do this.”

“Uh huh, uh huh Daddy … I gonna learn.”

“That’s right Baby. And when you learn to do this you’ll never have to worry about starving. Lydie is gonna teach us both how to do this.”

“Now Daddy! Now!”

He just laughed. I knew one of these days that “Now Daddy, now!” was gonna wear thin but for a while Jax was just happy that he had found a good place to raise his daughter. And I was just happy that that place happened to be with me.

Eventually we did go looking at the other empty houses but there wasn’t anything spectacular in them. Most of them were empty or just shells but we did take the glass windows out of a couple and the sliders out of them as well. We managed to get them all back home without cracking too which was a feat in and of itself considering how the roads were.

“Jax, could you help me hook up the box blade and then the chains?”

A sweaty but triumphant Jax asked, “Why?”

“Wha …” I had to stop and laugh and pull out all the hay that was sticking in his hair. “What are you doing?!”

“I got all those bales moved so we can bring in the stuff from out in the field. And before you start complaining about hauling it up into the loft I was able to replace the broken block and tackle with one we got from the mill.”

Well that deserved a kiss and he smiled but kinda looked like I’d hit him in the head with something big and heavy. He finally shook it off and asked me again, “Why do you need the box blade?”

“I want to smooth out the road a little bit out near the highway. I thought we had damaged an axle that last trip in.”

When he got all thoughtful I knew he had something on his mind. “OK, why don’t you want me to use the box blade.”

“It’s not that I don’t want you to.”

“But?”

He shrugged. “But … I’m thinking making things look too nice might be inviting trouble we don’t need to.”

“Trouble how?”

“With all the roads looking rough having a nicely kept section is like a welcome mat and there is likely quite a few people in the world right now we don’t necessarily want to invite in.”

I couldn’t deny he was right. I heard the radio same as he did. Communications would build up and then wane. Sometimes it sounded military but most of the time it was obviously not. But of the obviously not flavor there were some scary words being bandied about … rape, fire bombs, lynchings, etc. Yes, Jax made a very good point.

“OK, no road work, or at least not much. I still want to fill in that one hole and try and shore up that place in the drive near the gully; if we don’t we might have trouble getting in and out over the winter.”

“Assuming we want to get in and out. What do you think about going over everything we have here and then making a list of items we’d like to have. I know there are places in town that Matt and the other kids hadn’t hit yet and it might be a good idea to get it done now.”

Looking back I certainly couldn’t fault his logic. There is just no way we could have known where it all would lead.

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