Did a wedding and marriage change things? Yes and no. For the most part when we returned to the cave we picked up the lives we had been living. On the other hand getting used to that level of intimacy took time. I mean I enjoyed it, and Abel did too, but at the same time there were moments when it was almost overwhelming. And Abel and I had to get used to our new roles.
I had to decided not only was I never going to be my mother, I had to accept that I didn’t want to be her either. I loved Momma but our personalities were dissimilar and I just was not the kind of person that could pour myself into the mold her absence left behind. I was me and in the end pretty satisfied with that.
Abel had to learn that he didn’t suddenly need to be super man and do everything for me and be everything for me. After one particularly frustrating afternoon that carried over into the night I finally told him I needed him to be Abel, not a father to me. There was more to it than that of course but that’s between the two of us and private.
For Daniel there were new rules of privacy but beyond that and a few embarrassing questions he persisted in asking despite our attempts to redirect him onto another subject, his world was as secure as it had been before and he thrived on Abel’s attention and the new skills he was learning at a much faster rate than I had expected him to.
The barrels and boxes from Hakim’s cache helped our deplenishing stores. They added a couple of months that we had used up, a very good thing. Daniel mentioned that the dirt “was getting tired” in the grow rooms. I was composting things as fast as I could but since we operated with very little waste and because I was too afraid to bring in plant matter from outside the caves, the compost pile simply could not keep up with out use of it.
A project that Daniel and Abel built in some of the smaller storage nooks that Dad hadn’t considered worth doing anything with gave me back some of my calm. Each of the little nooks were for a different type of edible mushroom. I’m not quite sure why my parents hadn’t thought of it or whether they’d simply run out of time or money. Either way, with fungus being one of the few types of “plants” unaffected by Heart Rot we couldn’t afford not to give it a try. In a room close to the entrance of the cave I tried the same thing with baskets of ferns using some of the houseplants that Momma had put into the herbal grow rooms. While it was a risk moving them to a new environment, it was less of a risk than bringing in exposed plants from outside the sink. The ferns in the sink were thriving, almost to the point of clogging the water run off so I transplanted many ferns into the surrounding woodlands.
The other project was to create a pool room. I know that sounds bizarre but that’s exactly what we did. We found some concrete mix that was still good and we dug out the sand in one of the unused “rooms” in the an unused wing of the cave. That wing wasn’t used because it got wet from seepage and hadn’t been worth the trouble of figuring out a solution around it. We used that area to build a “pool” and imported some small fish and crayfish and water plants to have a source of crawdaddies for protein over the winter … assuming the project worked. We threw some small cat fish in there as well.
Hauling the water for the “pool” was not fun. We made it a mixture of spring water and water from the pond we took them from. Before pouring the crawdaddies and fish into their new home we left them in a five gallon bucket set in the pond so that the water temperature could equalize and the fish wouldn’t dish of shock. We lost a few at first and we were ready to call the whole experiment a failure but a turning point was reached and after a week had passed and no more had died we became cautiously optimistic and concentrated on other things, security being one of them.
We had not managed to drive everyone from the town. There were several small groups that wandered the forests and BLM land. If they continued to follow the practices they had under Richard I couldn’t say but they were so jumpy and afraid of other people that they would run at the first sign of anyone not in their immediate group. Abel, Josef, and some of the other men from Amish Town hypothesized that they’d either eventually move on or that many of them would die during the coming winter.
Once a month Abel, Daniel, and I would make the trip to Amish Town to trade news. The radio spoke of some serious battles between the US military and the Chinese. It also revealed that Peacekeepers were being deported for the most minor infraction, infuriating a certain faction in the government. Apparently the deportation was being done by the military rather than the civil court system under the guise that with war on American soil, the military justice system trumped any previous civil agreement with the UN.
In August we shared with Grandfather Isaac and Brother Clayton the list of plants that we had been gathering that was either resistant to Heart Rot or that seemed to be unaffected by it all together. Plants that were annuals or plants that were perennials that were propagated by seed alone were the worst. Plants that were perennials that propagated by cutting, runners, or roots were resistant to the disease; some more resistant than others. Any fungus, edible or not, was unaffected.
I had hesitated sharing this hard won knowledge but if the people there like Josef and Monica starved to death I refused for it to be because I didn’t do what I felt in my bones was right. They had a whole valley to search and forage on, many of the acres formerly productive farm land. The peaks on the BLM separated our mountain cove from them and few to none of them were in any shape to climb up and over to come in search of us. I had to believe that enough of the old ways still survived that they would know not to over pick any given area so that it would survive for them to harvest again at a later date.
During our September trip to Amish Town we learned that the only remaining bridge out of town had been destroyed but no one knew by which side. It was much too large and modern a structure for it to be done by a few fireworks or a storm the likes of which we see in this area. Not only had the bridge been blown on both ends, it looked like it had been destroyed even further once it fell so that it wouldn’t block the river it fell into. That is a lot of C4 or whatever it was they used. All that meant as that we were even more cut off than we had been.
“I would not worry on it so Querida, whoever did it made a good strategy.”
I asked Abel, “Why?”
“Because it prevents an enemy from re-occupying the town. For a civilian population it is a no good place but for a military group it is fine because they come with tents and other things to live in. The mountains, they offer protection from those that snick up from behind. The only worry would be the planes in the sky but I have seen few of those in the last months.”
He had a good argument, I just hated not knowing. I guess I was like a cat in that respect.
We almost didn’t go to Amish Town in October because the weather was so foul but there came a week when the sky turn cerulean blue and the air was crisp and clean. We spent a day there, traded news while Abel helped weatherize some of the buildings in town, then headed home. Our plan had been to camp at Mirror lake and do a little fishing and then come home later that day. We were stuck there for three days as the rain pelted down and our supplies dwindled to nothing. Never again did I want to have to take such risk. By the time we got back to the cave Daniel was sick and Abel and I agreed that our trips to Amish Town were over until the Spring.