The garden cart wobbled behind Jack as he strained to pull it across the field and up next to the raised bed garden box. The ‘box’ was more like a five foot wide by fifty foot long rectangle. It was the fourth new raised bed they built since that morning using slab wood they got from the Amish. Originally they were going to use the slab wood to make some rustic chairs, tables, and a coffee table for the back yard. Now their would be patio furniture was going to help them increase their food production.
Jack used the back of his work gloves to brush the sweat from his brow. His watch indicated it was in the upper sixties, the barometer was high and holding steady. Hauling cow, goat, and rabbit compost aged for two years from the back of the barn to the new gardens was a work out.
Jess was equally sweaty and dirty as she stood in the box, spreading out the compost into a six inch thick layer. They both paused, taking a moment to rest.
“What do you think?” Jess asked.
“About what?” Jack panted.
“The new gardens. Be enough?”
“Well, these new four, with the other three that is about 1,750 square feet of planting space. But we are doing the Three Sisters with the corn, the beans and squash. We train the cukes, and melons on the edges of the boxes into the space in between the boxes. So, that can gain us some more planting space. Go vertical where we can.”
“Do not forget the runner beans in the containers along the backyard fencing.”
“Right, that is another, what, 200 liner feet for beans. The potatoes in the tyre beds did really well last year. Plenty of unused tyres to be had. We can plant beets, carrots, in those too.” He paused. “It can not be worse than last year.” He gave her a reassuring smile. She smiled and they got back to work.
An hour and half and a dozen carts of compost later, Jack and Jess sat down at the picnic table with a pitcher of tea between them.
“Thank goodness wild mint comes up so early,” Jess took a sip of the mint tea. “I was getting bored with that industrial tea we traded for.”
“It got us through the winter.”
“I know.” She sighed, “What I would do for a cup of real coffee. The good stuff. Not that burnt crap in the green and white bag.”
“Yeah.” He changed topics, “As long as we do not have any catastrophic incidents, like a drought or flooding, I think we will be ok. We have the gardens. The winter wheat I plated last year will be ready by mid summer. The spring wheat I planted a month or so ago will be ready in late fall. Keep half for flour, the other half for seed.” He took a sip of his tea. “The goats kidded out, doubling the herd size. Sally farrowed ten good looking piglets. Not bad for her first litter.”
“The chickens are going to need replaced. This is their third year. We are not getting as many eggs.”
“Well, that should settle up our trade with Greg: three gallons of maple syrup, ten cords of seasoned fire wood, cut, split and delivered. And figure forty replacement chicks, half hens, half roos. Should be a good deal for one fully grown hog. In the mean time, we have stew birds for Sunday dinner for fifteen Sundays.”
“You know we have never gone though ten cords of wood in a winter. We still have three in the wood shed.”
“True enough. But we are cooking with wood nearly every day now. I want to build up a few extra cords every year so we will have two years worth at any given time. We will use whatever dead fall out on our land to cook with.”
“Well howdy stranger!” Jess called over Jack’s shoulder as Claire was walking up to the picnic table. “Have not seen you in a few days, was beginning to think Jack’s stink offended you!”
“It should!” Jack said.
Claire smiled at the ground, and blushed.
“I have been over to your house nearly every day since I came here. I thought maybe you and Jack might like some time alone without me always around.”
“Nonsense, Claire! You are always welcome. Have a seat, I will get you a glass for some mint tea. Got to make a head call anyways.” Jack got up and went into the farm house.
“I-, I went and saw Mrs. Anderson like you suggested,” Claire said quietly as she took a seat across from Jess.
“Yes. We are going to meet once a week . . . to talk about things.”
“Good, that is good.”
“Yeah. She said I should start a journal and write down my thoughts . . . if I could find any paper and something to write with.” Claire smiled.
Jess gave her a reassuring smile back. “Yes, paper is kind of hard to come by. Who would of thought how valuable it would be. I will keep my eyes out for some at the market for you.”
“Oh, no, that is ok. Mrs. Anderson told me I should,” Claire rolled her eyes but blushed, “I should talk out loud about things, and then think on them from a third person point of view.”
“Well if that works, then it works right?”
“Yeah, but it kind weird pacing around the house talking to myself,” Claire made a face but then smiled and laughed.
“What is so funny,” Jack returned, took a seat next to Jess, and poured Claire a glass of tea.
“Oh, nothing. Thank you,” Claire said as she took the glass from Jack. “So, what are you two talking about?” Claire changed the conversation.
Jack and Jess gave each other a look and then began to laugh.
“What else does it seem like we are always talking about,” Jack asked.
“Food!” Jess answered.
“Speaking of food,” Claire straightened up in her seat and announced proudly, “I made my first rabbit stew last night.”
“Hey! Good for you!”
“How did it go?” Jess asked.
“Well, the slaughtering was not easy. Gutting is just gross, so is skinning. But I am confident I can do it again. And my stew turned out pretty good if I do say so myself. Thank you for the rabbit.”
“Hey, no need to say thank you. You earned that rabbit helping Jess muck out the barn while I was out with the livestock.”
“The two litters of rabbits we had over the winter will be ready soon. You help us plant seeds tomorrow in trade for your own breed pair. Deal?” Jess held out her hand.
“Deal!” Jess and Claire shook. “What are we planting?”
“Well, I have a flat of broccoli seedlings, a flat of cabbage seedlings, a flat of beet seedlings that all need transplanted. Then I have two flats of different herb seedlings. Basil, parsley, tarragon, marjoram, and dill. Seeds: chard, carrots, beets, rutabaga, parsnips, lettuce, and some others I am forgetting.”
“That is a lot.”
“We are expanding,” Jess explained, “Last year was rough. Like ‘are we going to make it?’ rough.”
“We got a late start with the gardens,” Jack added.
“Why is that?” Claire asked.
Both Jess and Jack went quiet. Their bodies seemed to stiffen.
“Some things happened last year,” Jack said quietly and glanced down at the table. He did not offer further explanation.
“The War?” Claire pressed. Jack’s head snapped up, then he looked to Jess. Neither said anything. “I hear it mentioned once in awhile but only in passing. At the market. At other gatherings.” Claire continued. “But just as it is mentioned, they change the subject. What happened?”
“It is a long, and not very pretty story,” Jack stated after a pause.
Claire simply shrugged.
Jack looked at Jess, “Where do we start?”
Jess thought for a moment.
“The first town hall meeting,” she answered.
Statistics: Posted by Cast Iron — Wed Apr 12, 2017 9:30 am