Clewis drove the main house folks home. My kids were upstairs sleeping despite the noise that had been made. Work, fresh air, early hours, decent food … scratch decent and just call it more food, I don’t know how decent you would consider it. All of these things after months of confinement in a medical facility and then in a car where there was very little room for physical activity. It was going to take them a while to build their stamina back up.
I checked on Jude and he was half way asleep again so I tried to back out but he saw me. “Dovie?”
“Did … did Clewis give you a hard time?”
I snorted. “Not really. I think he ticked off Uncle Roe at some point and was told to apologize but I told him not to if he didn’t really mean it. I think this thing with Aunt Frankie has just woken bad memories from when Uncle Roe and his momma divorced.”
“Mom and Dad aren’t getting a divorce,” he said but didn’t sound as sure as he likely meant to sound.
I shrugged. “I hope not. Uncle Roe and your momma have their issues but I think they really do love each other. They are both just strong willed.”
Groggily Jude said, “That’s one way of saying it.”
“Yeah well, there can only be one rooster in that hen house; it’s not like they can take the time outs and get a ways from each other like they used to to cool things down. Also imagine that has to be pinching at Butch and Clewis too. At least Butch still has the trailer he bought and paid for himself that him and his wife can live in. Clewis and Crystal are sleeping on the pull out sofa in the living room if what I understand is correct.”
“Yeah … yeah maybe that is it,” he muttered and there seemed to be a little hope in there that wasn’t there earlier.
“Are you sure you don’t want anything to eat?”
He shuddered. “No … just thirsty.”
“Why didn’t you say so? I’ll be right back.”
“Uh … can it be some of that stuff you made before. It made my stomach settle it down.”
“It has ginger in it and of course I will. Sit tight.”
After Jude was taken care of I decided to go through the boxes of linens that Paulie had managed to drag up but after only opening one box and getting a face full of moth ball vapors I knew that was going to have to wait until I could do it outside.
My eyes watering, I took up my pad of notes and went to go sit by the fire place with the wind-up LED camp lamp for enough light so that I wouldn’t blind myself. I started a list of stuff that I needed to do right quick to add to our food supplies:
Fruit Cellar – Clear off the other shelves in the fruit cellar so that I can put more apples and pears down there. Will have to unpack the dishes down in the basement to get the newspaper to wrap the apples and pears in but it needs to be done anyway.
Apples – Finish cleaning off the trees. Unblemished fruit to the shelves in the fruit cellar. Use the smallest apples and pickle them. Fruit leather; doesn’t need sugar, just need to get the wood stove up and running so that I can dry sheets of it. Can some more fruit sauce. Apple catsup doesn’t use much sugar. Dry apple rings and chips. Use the peelings to make apple beer; doesn’t need sugar just water unless it needs to be sweetened before drinking and we can use honey for that. Juice, cider, and/or nectar. Apple lemonade by mixing unsweetened apple juice with dried sumac powder. If we can get another deer then make apple meat loaf, just use ground venison instead of ground beef the way Mom would make it … shred an apple or two into each pound of ground meat. See if there are any crabapples left on the old trees down beyond the barn. I doubt there are many if any, they usually ripen in September.
Pears – see apple
Hawberries – finish getting them off the tree before the blasted crows do.
Black haws – Mom used to call them wild raisins sometimes. Know there used to be some that grew down by the elderberry bushes near the ponds. See if Uncle Roe cares if I pick them if there are any left.
Rose hips – get them dried for rose hip tea. Has a ton of Vitamin C in it and that will help to keep the winter colds away.
Kudzu – gonna get sick of it but it is better than going hungry besides if we don’t eat it, it will take over the world. The two bushels I picked didn’t go very far once it cooked down so I will need a lot of it. Also need to find a good, deep kudzu root that I can dig up and dry for starch. Mom also told me once you could peel and dice the deep roots (not the shallow ones) and then cook them and they would be like a really bland potato.
Chinese Yams – Mom dug the invasive species’ roots up and cooked them like sweet potatoes. They are ok, not my favorite as they taste something akin to either a sweet irish potato or a bland sweet potato. Better than going hungry and I might be able to sweeten them up with a little honey.
Ground nuts – saw some ready near one of the places that I got the kudzu. They’ll be ready for digging in early November. Uncle Roe hates them because he was forced to eat them so often when he was little and the family was so poor and they made him sick to his stomach but Mom always liked them when we were here in the winter. They aren’t a quick cook food however; if I’m gonna use it I need to slow cook it for quite a few hours.
Sun chokes – had a lady I babysat for out in Phoenix claim they were some kind of back to nature plant for her organic flower garden and wouldn’t call them anything but Jerusalem Artichokes. Yeah right. Granny would have had a fit; they do have pretty flowers but they are meant to be eaten not just looked at. They don’t stay fresh long after they are dug up so leave them in the ground until I need them.
Nuts – I’m going to have to work fast if I want to get any. Squirrels were ready to do battle with me when I came within a couple of yards of a walnut tree. Geez. Nearly had one run up my leg and now Bobby is scared they are going to bite him. Big hickory nut harvest to be had though; guess they are too hard to break into even for the squirrels. Still some hazelnuts on the trees but it looks like the animals have gotten most of them already. That bites because I like hazelnuts even if some people do call them the stupid name filbert. The sweet almonds look like they need my attention in Mom’s herb garden. I’ll get some from there but not as many as if I’d been around to take care of the trees earlier. Chestnuts are almost ready, guess they are late this year. Not sure what to do with them all since we can’t freeze them like we used to. I wonder if you can preserve them some other way? Wonder if Aunt Frankie will bite my head off if I ask to look at Grandmother Cherry’s receipt books.
Possum Grapes – saw a few and would have grabbed them if they hadn’t been so near the Mad Squirrel Clan of the Forest. Need to go back – with a really, really big stick – and grab all that I can. Makes my mouth water just thinking of them.
Squirrels – speaking of squirrels, hopefully Jude will feel up to hunting soon. I’d like to see those tree rats thinned out. They are getting way too bold. They should make some good eating considering all the foresty goodness they have been feasting on.
Muscadine Grapes – wonder how many snakes there are in the grape vines? It is cooling off so maybe (hopefully?) they are all going to hibernate underground far, far, far from here. With my luck I doubt it but I can hope can’t I? I want those grapes if there are any there along the middle fence row where they used to grow wild.
Deerberries – I’m going to pick them if I see them. Maybe if the area is hunted over there will be some left that the White Tails haven’t gotten to and hopefully it isn’t the nasty ones left but the sweet ones that don’t take a lot of sugar to be able to eat. I want to give the kids deerberry cornmeal pudding like Mom used to make every couple of years when we were here at the right time. I want to do a lot of things Mom used to do.
Greens – other wild ones besides kudzu … like chicory and sorrel. I forget all the different ones.
I know Mom has a list of what is good to eat during each season and I recognize them when I see them, I just need to find that list. I need all the green vitamins that I can find for the kids … and for Jude. The vitamins will run out soon, about the time the first snow is going to fly; now my luck is infecting the kids’ chances. Can’t let that happen, have to make up for it somehow.
Flour and Cornmeal – How do I make the wheat and corn go further? Acorns. Cattail flour. Kudzu root starch. All three are going to be a lot of work to get. Acorns will take a lot of water to leech the bitterness out of them. Kudzu root will take a lot of digging then drying and grinding. Cattail roots are just going to out and out take a lot of digging in water. What else can I find? Millet that has gone wild perhaps. Amaranth that went wild out of Mom’s garden herb garden; I saw a lot of it but how much grain will I get from it? Dry Chinese yam roots and then grind them up finely. Chestnut flour but is that the best use of the chestnuts? Look in Mom’s books because I remember her telling me that back in Ireland during the famines people went so far as to eat lichens like Reindeer Moss that were ground up and she said that they were also used to make liquor in the 1800s because they are full of carbohydrates.
Dairy stuff – milk, cheese, eggs. I got so hungry for milk while we were on the road that I tried to make milk from powdered coffee creamer. Yuck, seriously bad experiment. Wasn’t bad in tea, but by itself? Disgusting. And cheese … closest we came was a couple of months ago when they gave us powdered cheese to put on our popcorn at the medical facility. Eggs … too bad most of the ducks have flown the coop; horrible pun but it just had to come out. I suspect that they’ve got these things up at the main house but I can’t ask for any … not after the stink that was made just over the supplies that Uncle Roe did give me. What am I going to do? I might be able to use flax to replace the eggs like Mom did when they thought Jack was having some kind of reaction to eggs in high school but how long is the flax seed going to last? I only have a box of it left from the duplex. I can’t fake milk. Or can I? What about the nuts … making nut milk? But that will only last so long as well. Cheese? I am so up the creek.
I felt like pulling a Reynolds and banging my head into the block wall of the shed. There were so many questions, so many needs, and I wasn’t prepared. Oh the things I would do differently had I only known a little of what I know now. I wish Mom and Dad were here. How am I supposed to take care of these kids? What have I gotten myself – and them – in to?