An Eventful Friday

Every Friday i received an afternoon fedex delivery of a pink box full of produce, and usually a little rice. Every friday i took great pains to make sure i was home at a reasonable time to pull the box out of the blistering sun and save some of the produce. I asked my coordinator to take hours from my schedule on friday and move them to saturday. I was willing to work a long day saturday if it meant i would be home to receive my shipment of food for the week when it arrived. Well, one day it didn’t arrive. The latest it had ever shown up was about 4:10 in the afternoon. However, the little ticket said that fedex would deliver it “some time before 8”. I waited as long as i could, hoping the fedex delivery truck was just behind schedule that day. At 6:30 pm i couldn’t wait any longer. The evening chores would have to be started at 7 at the latest if i was to be finished by sundown. If i was going to make a run to the dollar general, it would have to happen at that moment. The dollar general was the only store in our little town, save for the feed store across the street from it. It was either that or buy groceries at the gas station. I hopped in the car and made a run to the dollar general.

The dollar general stocked some food items. However, not many of them were the kind of food items a gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free person could eat. I had to get creative. I was looking for food that would feed me for the week, not just a snack. I bought a big jug of v-8 tomato juice. I bought two cans of black beans, two cans of black eyed peas, three cans of black olives, 2 bags of frozen peas, 2 cans of “pineapple in 100 percent pineapple juice”, 1 jar of pickle spears, and two packets of tuna. Once at home i set about making what i called “Quarantine Soup”. I dumped the jug of v-8 into a soup pot. Then i poured in the two bags of peas, two of the cans of olives, and all of the canned black beans and black eyed peas. I set the lid on top and turned the stove on. I boiled it for a few minutes…just enough for the peas to defrost and the whole thing to warm. Then i spooned it into a plastic cup and dug in. It was pretty good but most importantly, it was easily attainable and filling. Just then, i heard the sound i had been straining and praying to hear all afternoon; the fedex truck was coming down the path to the house.

At first i was excited. I thought, “oh thank God, maybe now i can finally rescue some of the produce in the box and see what’s still edible. Maybe, by chance, the shimeji mushrooms will be salvageable. I had been so excited to try those mushrooms, both because i’d never had them and because it had been so long since i had a mushroom of any kind on my plate. But, as the seconds ticked on i quickly realized i had prayed a little too hard for that truck to come. Come it did…and it kept coming…straight for the house! I suddenly realized, in horror, that he meant to back the truck right up to the porch. I knew, of course, that this was not possible, for there was a car and a tree in the way. But he didn’t seem to see those. I began searching for my horn to honk at him, to alert him that what he was attempting was not possible, to get him to stop. But, i was surprised to find, i was not in a car. There was no horn to honk, standing at the kitchen window. I watched in horror as the fedex truck backed completely over my mimosa tree. The thing disappeared beneath the bottom of the truck. I gasped and was immediately angry. I had nursed that thing from a tiny stick last year and this year it was shoulder height. I had replanted it when Cashew, as a puppy, had dug it completely out of the ground. That little pink mimosa tree in front of my house meant a lot to me. It wasn’t just a weed or a scraggly bush. It was my tree. Just as if someone had backed over my child with a 2 ton truck, i felt the rage well up inside of me. I felt the urge to rush into the yard and pull that man out of his truck to drive it forward myself, to release my little tree from the terror that had befallen it. I just knew this had to be a new driver. It couldn’t be my friendly, cherished, and trusted bible-quoting fedex driver. He wouldn’t betray me this way. He wouldn’t destroy things on my property after i had trusted him enough to leave the gate open for him each week, given him access to my little setup that i shared with no one. He wouldn’t back over my tree. Suddenly, he seemed to realize what he’d done and the truck lurched forward, revealing a bent and mangled mess of branches, cracked or split in places, revealing the green fibrous wood beneath. I felt i was staring at a child with its broken bones visible, jutting out from beneath the skin. It happened so quickly and i had failed so utterly to protect this little tree in any way. I felt powerless. As i was trying to process what had happened and why the fedex driver i had so appreciated and praised week after week would do this to my tree, the brake lights on the truck came on again. My eyes widened. He was trying it again! This time, he aimed to avoid the tree. Instead, he steered the back end of his truck straight for the side of my suv parked in front of my house. I began banging emphatically on the window panes shouting loudly, “No no no no no no no NO!!!!!” A centimeter from the side door of my car, he slammed on the brakes and the truck lurched to a halt. I wanted to rush out on the porch and tell him to get the hell off my property. I wanted to ask him if he was on drugs. I wanted to ask him who the hell gave him a driver’s license. I had one more payment on that car before i owned it outright and it almost got t-boned by the back of a fedex truck. I was so angry at this point. And then something happened. The fedex driver gave up on parking next to the porch and got out of the truck to come deliver my box. It was him; my familiar, cherished, always happy and optimistic, bible-quoting fedex delivery man. It was not a new driver. I wished it had been. I felt so betrayed. I had trusted him, as a more frequent visitor to my property than anyone else in the world. He had always looked out for the trees and the dogs when parking. He had always cared for the packages as if they were all marked “extremely fragile” even though they weren’t. He had always gone above and beyond for us, even finding shady places to leave the boxes under trees so they weren’t in the sun if i was at work when he arrived. I never in a million years would have guessed he would be responsible for such wreckless behavior. I frowned. I couldn’t face him. He had backed over my tree! But i thought if i did, he might offer some explanation for his behavior. I lifted the curtains. He stared at the ground as he walked. He wore a baseball cap. He never lifted his gaze. He had a stern expression on his face and the lines around his mouth were tight. He dumped two boxes before my door and tapped on the window with his fingernails. Without a word he turned and left. As the truck disappeared down the driveway i realized i had missed my opportunity to ask him what on earth was happening. Because of covid-19, we were supposed to stay in the house until the driver had gone, for the driver’s protection, as they usually weren’t wearing masks. I had done so, though i had so many questions. The first thing i did was close and lock the property gate. It would never again be left open, for anyone. I finished severing all the broken branches from the main part of the mimosa tree. It was a shame. So many of them were mangled. I dragged the cut branches to the brush pile and laid the thorny things on top. I stared at the freshly patchy tree. I was sorry i hadn’t protected it. I was sorry to see all the wonderful new growth cut off. I sighed. I went over to examine the car. It was fine but the tire tracks from the truck remained in the dust next to it. I felt so betrayed, most of all by the fact that he wouldn’t even look at me and offered no apology or explanation for destroying my tree and nearly destroying my car. I thought, maybe something had gone very wrong in his life. Maybe, knock on wood that i was wrong, maybe his wife had succumbed to covid that morning and his job still made him work…maybe he had come down with covid himself and wasn’t thinking straight due to lack of oxygen to his brain and vital organs. What if his grandkids were sick with covid and he was afraid they wouldn’t make it, knock on wood that i was way off. I had no idea what had happened in his day, but i had to believe it was something huge, because i had never seen him drive like that, and i’d never known him to be the type of person to just walk away without any explanation. I decided not to report the destruction of the tree to fedex. It wouldn’t bring my tree back and it wouldn’t make anything better. All it would do was lose him his job. He was probably going through something awful and that was probably the last thing he needed right then, so i kept it to myself.

Half of the food in the boxes was spoiled, for two reasons. It was summer in texas and the food had been in an un-air-conditioned truck until 7:30 pm. Also, imperfect foods had made matters worse by putting the ice-pack in one box – all its own, and the produce in another. The produce was warm as if it had been in the oven. I stared at the ceiling, “Lord, why can’t you give these people common sense? I ordered the garlic-parm oat milk butter for the purpose of obtaining the ice pack that comes with…in order to keep the produce cold. Why on earth would these people put the butter in its own box? Why on earth? I don’t give a ***’* *** about the butter…it was bought to keep the produce cold. Jesus Christ.” I contacted imperfect foods and they gladly refunded me the money for the spoiled items.

The next day i had to work late to make up for having a short day friday to receive the box. However, Sunday after work i brought a change of clothes and braved the chaos at the walmart in town to obtain a plastic storage container. The fedex delivery guy had urged me to get one when we first met and i had said i didn’t want to because it would advertise to the runaways from the drug and rehab center down the street that there might be goods there… However, i was now much more afraid of losing trees and vehicles to the giant truck than i was losing my mail to detoxing millennials looking for free stuff. i set the box next to the gate. The fedex driver had gotten his original wish. I was on board with the system now.

Insomnia

My colleagues began discussing the emergence of anxiety disorders during the pandemic. Nurses who were used to operating inside of life or death situations for ten minute periods, doing everything possible to revive or maintain a patient until the EMTs took over found themselves in the same type of situation but extended for months on end. It was exhausting to always be vigilant, always be running from one patient to the next, always be trying to salvage life. To never be able to laugh, breathe, rest, joke…it was taking its toll. Some people couldn’t sleep at all, haunted by the reality we were living in. They laid awake at night, staring at the ceiling, waiting for the alarm clock to liberate them from their swimming thoughts. Others could fall asleep but woke from their sleep in a panic, unable to breathe, paralyzed by fear. Some of my colleagues began taking anti depressants, anti anxiety meds, and sleeping pills. I watched in horror as an increasingly exhausted industry tried to cope. Bags under eyes became darker and puffier. Faces once jolly and round became long and tired. Eyes once bright with ambition became dull and empty. I was in the camp of those who could not sleep. I sat in the rocking chair gripped by anxiety for the future we faced, my mind swimming with options for how i could possibly save our reality as we knew it. It was hopeless but it didn’t stop my mind from straining to find the answer. No matter what music i listened to, what tv show i watched, or what exercise i did, sleep would not come. I felt the pervasive sense of dread my colleagues had talked about. I longed for the days when everything seemed fine and i was sure the world would be there as i had left it when i woke.

Spoiled

Every once in a while the fedex box of produce would arrive with a hole in it or with the ice pack warm and melted. It just depended on how well it was packed and how gingerly it was handled on its journey. Inside was my week’s worth of food. Spoiled or not, it was my food for the week. If something was beyond salvageable, i could call the company and say it arrived smooshed or rotten and they would refund me the money spent on the item. However, it was not as if i could turn around and use that money to buy more food. Each individual produce item in town was a dollar at least. They didn’t stock brown rice anymore. Also, people wanted to stone me every time i walked into a store. They felt i was dangerous and risky to be around because i worked in healthcare. Mask or no mask, i was not welcome in the grocery in town. I knew that if i asked for a refund for an item and threw it out, i would just have to stretch what was left that much harder until the following week. So i ate it, spoiled or not. When food arrived smelling sour and fermented the first thing i did was cook it. I cooked the dickens out of it, both to kill anything growing on it and because i secretly hoped cooking the slimy white-spotted pieces of squash would make the taste morph into something less unpleasant. It didn’t. It also didn’t help the smell. I would make a big pot of brown rice. I would spread a layer of rice on the plate and put the spoiled vegetable pieces on top of it and then go to youtube and turn on a tv program i liked. I would get my little plastic spoon ready and get really into the tv program. I would cover the whole plate with a thin dusting of salt and then i would force myself to eat it while trying to remain lost in “storm chasers” “deadliest catch” or “cops uk bodycam squad”. It tasted awful and my tongue rebelled the entire time, sending my brain signals that the food was off, instinct attempting to kick in and steer me away from certain poisoning. I continued on until the plate was empty. When i was done i would sit still in the rocking chair for an hour and let the food settle. It wasn’t an enjoyable experience, eating spoiled food, but it wasn’t meant to be. It was simply necessary. I was hungry. If i ate the spoiled food i wouldn’t be hungry. It was what i had to eat, so, no matter what condition it arrived in, i had to eat it. One week all 18 nectarines arrived bruised and moldy. I washed them one by one and poked through the white-spotted fuzzy mushy spots, letting the goo run down my fingers and into the sink. Once i had the salvageable bits of the fruit cleaned i put them all in a ziploc freezer bag and stashed them in the fruit drawer in the refrigerator. I would eat two to three a day for the rest of the week. It would leave my stomach confused and sensitive but it was necessary. That was all the fruit i had, save for a few apples that were already designated for lunches at work. It was necessary to consume them if i wanted to be able to make a bowel movement for the rest of the week. Getting enough fruit in my diet to stay regular was a challenge during the pandemic and fruit had to be salvaged at all costs. Once, my shipment of oranges arrived with no moisture in them. They were dried up and brittle on the inside. They fell apart in my fingers when i tried to separate the pieces. I put a cup of water next to my plate with the orange on it and i chewed the dry pulp, taking sips of water in between each bite. I couldn’t afford to waste the oranges. They were the fruit for the week that was going to make moving my bowels possible. Otherwise i’d end up like my patients on heavy pain killers who couldn’t go to the bathroom until their turds were hard as little rocks that came out like deer poop in tiny pieces. I prayed a lot about those boxes. I prayed the food would arrive and not get lost in the warehouse, as other peoples’ boxes had in the past. I prayed that it would arrive in good condition, and i prayed i’d be home from work in time to get it out of the yard before it baked in the sun. It seemed hunger had become a big part of my life. I was always hungry. I was always rationing the food i had to make it last throughout the week. I knew i would never look at food the same. I would never waste anything again. I would never leave pulp on the seed, throw out the crusty bits of rice stuck to the bottom of the pot, or waste spent cooking oil by washing the pan instead of sticking the next vegetable straight into the oil from the last one cooked. I had become like the survivors of the great depression. Food was gold to me and wasting any of it would be an unspeakable crime in my mind. Ultimately, i was willing to risk an upset stomach if it meant it wouldn’t be empty.

Quarantine Kitchen

Quarantine-style tapioca pudding on the stove with water, stevia packets, and mango

As time went on i began getting inventive with the limited kitchen supplies i had in stock. Items i would have bought readily before such as vegan milk and butter were marked up to a pricey amount. Pieces of produce in the health-food store in town were a dollar a piece or more. I began cutting the oat milk in half with water before adding the cereal to make it last longer. I tried not to use the oat milk for anything but vegan yogurt, as it was so expensive. So, oatmeal and tapioca pudding had to be made with water instead of milk. Instead of putting honey in the oatmeal or tapioca i emptied the stevia packets i kept in the tea cabinet in the shed. Sometimes i just salted the oatmeal and dubbed it “savory”.

Every week i bought 3 lbs of potatoes from imperfect foods. Whatever vegetables were available, i put with them in the skillet. Most weeks they had carrots, squash, kale, and onion. When the box arrived i would divide all the veggies into three ziploc bags for 3 separate days. Then i would peel and chop the contents of one of the bags each day, placing them in the skillet with oil and making a meal. Half of it would be supper and half of it would be lunch for the following day. It became the meal i ate throughout most of each week. I never tired of it. I was thankful to have the food.

I started combining vegetables with noodles on the days i was out of potatoes to stretch them farther. If there were any tomatoes in the garden i threw those in too.

This was the last batch of strawberries from imperfect foods before they were no longer available to buy. as usual, i fought for my order of them. I sliced eight of them for the yogurt jars and ate the rest, saving the tops for the chickens. They were such amazing berries!

The Gardening Struggle

I picked the lemon cucumber when it began to turn yellow on the outside. I figured that must mean it was done. Also, its growth had stagnated and it was getting no bigger.

It was room temperature, as it had just come from the garden. It smelled and tasted like a cucumber. It was sustenance and nutrition. It was one less time that i had to look to outside sources to fill my belly.

For some time i had been watching these two female flowers on this mystery squash plant that seemed to be growing way too close to the other plants i had growing in the mosquito net tent. The male flowers had bloomed for a week, one by one, and now that the male flowers were nearly used up, the female flowers were getting ready. I knew i would have to rip open the female flowers early in order to make use of the male flowers pollen before the last of the male flowers were shriveled and gone, or the female flowers would shrivel and the potential squash would drop off long before the plant made more male flowers. I checked the plant all week. I had the most detailed of plans in place. Stuff happened at work. I got distracted. I forgot about the squash for one day. The last of the male flowers bloomed. I forgot to rip the female flowers open. It wasn’t until the following day that i realized my mistake when i found, the female flowers had opened. If they were open… one of the male flowers was unsalvageable, shriveled and void of pollen, bugs eating it on the ground. The other was shriveled but still on the plant. I carefully cut the top of the shriveled flower away, peering inside. There was still pollen at the center of the flower. I thought maybe i could divide the pollen in half, depositing pollen from one male flower into both open female flowers on the plant. I cut the flower from the plant, peeled away the petals, and turned it upside down, depositing half of the pollen in one flower and half of it in the other. With so little pollen left, i knew it was a long shot, but i had to try. I had been waiting so long for these squash to be ready to pollinate. I couldn’t admit defeat, especially since it was my fault i had missed the window. The wind picked up and the weather radio warned a storm was coming. My heart sank. The wind would blow all the pollen out of the flowers and the rain would definitely wash it away. I didn’t have any more pollen. What was on the flowers had to be protected at all costs. Amidst a show of lightening and rumbling thunder i put the dogs in their crates inside the house and locked the chicken pen. I ran back to the mosquito net tent where i cut the squash flowers from a different kind of plant that didn’t have any female flowers to pollinate. I turned them upside down and pressed them against the pollinated squash flowers, forming a little orange tent to protect them against the rain. It wasn’t air tight or vacuum sealed so i placed plastic cups over the flower tents to try to further protect the pollen from the arriving weather. As i stood in the mosquito net tent i began to get wet but i wouldn’t budge. Every time a gust of wind knocked the cups over, i set them straight again, placing them over the squash flower tents. When the storm had pretty much worn itself out and the wind was gone i dared to leave the tent, trudging back to the house in my wet clothes and muddy sandals. I undressed on the porch and went inside. Once in new clothes i hung the rain-soaked ones in the shower to drip dry. I would leave my flower-tent/cup system alone until the evening when i went to check all the plants and see what needed watered. As i removed the plastic cups i was delighted to find that the wilting squash flowers i had placed over the pollinated ones had turned sticky in their wilting state and glued themselves thoroughly to the squash flowers they were resting on top of. It had become a sealed pouch, trapping the pollen inside. It worked rather thoroughly because two days later i would peel the dried crusty flower combo off of the squash to find that both of them had grown rounder and appeared to be getting slightly larger. It was then that i realized the mystery squash was a butternut squash. I suddenly knew why they were planted so close to other plants. I wouldn’t have done this on purpose. The butternut squash seeds i had tried to sprout refused to do so. They never came up. However, i had spread the dirt from the toy boxes along the floor of the tent. The seeds must have still been in the dirt. They must have decided to sprout once in the tent. I was ecstatic. Two butternut squash would be quite the haul when they were ready some day. Oh how good they would taste!

The little candyland tomatoes began to turn orange.

The first time i picked one i was surprised. They were not only insanely sweet, but sour as well. The flavor reminded me of when i used to suck on warheads candies as a child. They were pretty sour but there was also an insane amount of sugar in there. The tomatoes were just like the candies. They were very tart but so sweet at the same time that it didn’t make my mouth pucker. They were intriguing little morsels. I didn’t know what to make of them. After one chew, the thing was so small it was pretty much gone. I felt, perhaps if i had a handful of them at once i could figure out what the flavor was. However, there were never more than 2 ripe at a time.

I grew another yellow squash, a pea, and some green beans as well.

The squash was even nuttier than the first. I picked it when it was a little younger than the other and the flavor was even better. The seeds were softer. The green beans were the best thing i had ever tasted in life. The flavor was nothing like green beans, or the kind i knew at least. It was something different; salty, toasted, and buttery. There were only two beans; just a small pile, but i enjoyed them thoroughly, tasting each spoonful two pieces at a time to make the experience last longer.

One thursday night i was hungry but all the potatoes, squash, carrots, brussels sprouts, and kale had been used up earlier in the week and the next box didn’t arrive until the following afternoon. I had already made the oatmeal for the following morning’s breakfast and packed my lunch but there was nothing left to eat in that moment. I went to the cherry tomato plant on the porch and picked all the red ones. I sliced them in half and laid them on a plate. I took an avocado from the imperfects food order and cut it up. I sprinkled salt and balsamic vinegar overtop the veggies. Then i dug in. It was really good.

I never dreamed i would have so many problems growing potatoes. The pill bugs and grub worms were eating the potatoes from under the ground. My only clue would be when the above ground plant started to wilt. It would turn yellow and droop. As i pulled it up, i would see pill bugs racing in every direction and a grub worm might be trying to burrow further underground, suddenly exposed to the sunlight. I was having the hardest time because the potatoes were only babies. They weren’t ready yet. However, when the bugs severed the roots from the leaves…i guessed they had to be done because there was no plant left to grow them. When this happened i would pull the baby potatoes up and take them inside.

I got three potatoes out of my battle with the bugs but they were all babies. I took them gladly but i would have to find some better way to grow potatoes. I dug a deeper hole and planted my next batch further down in the dirt. Maybe the pill bugs wouldn’t go down that far. I wasn’t sure. I was just experimenting at that point.

I sliced up the baby yukon gold potatoes and put them in a bag with olive oil, salt, and pepper. I sealed the bag and shook it vigorously until all the potato halves were coated. Then i arranged them on a parchment lined cookie sheet.

The potatoes were good enough. They were nothing special. They tasted like potato. I wished they could have ripened fully. They would probably have been better.

The first bean i harvested was simply because the plant died. The beans were not ready.

There were only three small beans and by the time they had dried they were so shriveled i lost one and then another in the pattern of the counter top and never found them. I threw the third bean away. Once dried it was large enough for me to see, but barely. It was no good.

A week later another bean plant would turn yellow and die. However, this plant was finished with its beans. When i took them out of the pod they were big and round. Viable beans. I dried them and added them to my two year old bag of garden-grown beans. One day i hoped to have a half a cup of beans to eat.

It seemed the lemon cucumbers were faring the best with my human powered pollination methods. they had many flowers and maybe 30 of them would all open at once, as opposed to the squash plants that produced all the male flowers…then saw them gone and wilted and put out all the female flowers afterwards. It was an exhausting task trying to get them to hook up on the same day.

The lemon cucumber plant didn’t seem to be able to support the growth of more than one cucumber at a time, so, maybe 5 of them would get pollinated but they’d remain little until i’d picked the one that was growing and then another would begin its growth while the others waited in the docket for their turn. They were very crunchy cucumbers; full of juice. They weren’t like the ones in the store. They were good to eat without anything on them.

I grew one tiny russet potato.

Some black beans

More black beans and a candyland tomato

I delighted at all the black beans found in their dried and withering pods. It was food. Anything that could be dried and stored in the pantry was mighty good and welcome food.

A Day Off

It was rare that i got a day off when something didn’t need to be built, fixed, or chopped down, but they did happen on occasion. On one such day i spent time with the land that i had come to love so deeply. I realized that the chickens had grown drastically since the last time i stopped to take stock of them.

Ira was looking more and more like a grown rooster. He was starting to sprout long floppy tail feathers. Still no spurs, thank goodness, because he was turning out to be mean and unpredictable and i certainly had to keep an eye on him and have a weapon ready when cleaning the coop, for he would wait until my back was turned and then run up and launch his attack. I wasn’t sure if he was a coward or just smart but he would run underneath the nesting boxes and to the back of the pen before i could launch my counter attack. He was a turd. I was keeping him around for the protection of the hens with the hope that he would mellow with age. Occasionally Ira got the notion that i must die and then i had to fight him off with the chicken coop door as he tried his best to draw blood wherever he could reach. I could not wait until the hens joined this sexually frustrated rooster in puberty. I mean, my God, how i fought the urge to call my coworker down the road and ask her if she wanted a rooster dinner. That sweet little chick i saved was gone and an angsty homicidal teenager stood where he had been.

The hens were huge! I couldn’t believe they weren’t even full grown!

Roasted Zucchini

I spent some time in the kitchen cooking some of the produce fedex had delivered.

Beets

Finally, i spent some time spying on my dogs; Sili and Cashew. They spent most of their time outdoors lying in the grass, sunbathing and resting their heads on each other. When an animal or a car would come into view they would rise from the grass and give chase; sounding the alarm. Then they would saunter back to their spot and curl up together once more. I loved that they had that relationship, that they had each other and were so bonded. I often got caught up in the stresses of running things and couldn’t bring myself to shower them with the affection i knew i held for them in my heart.

Culligan to the Rescue

My water spigot on the side of the well house was leaking ever so slightly. Naturally, i called the culligan customer service number and they scheduled the same two technicians that had been with me since day one to come out the very next business day. They had the spigot replaced and wrapped in insulation and electric tape and even the pressure adjusted in less than fifteen minutes. They deposited four new bags of salt chips in my tool shed. They were about ready to go when one of them noticed the exposed metal piping to my air conditioner unit. He mentioned that the sun was hitting the metal piping and warming it up, causing the unit to work extra hard, and i would do well to insulate the pipes to take the stress off the unit. I made a mental note of the materials i would need to replace the insulated tubing that had deteriorated the year before and fallen off into mush in the grass. I told them i could maybe make a run to home depot on wednesday after work. The man walked to his van and produced two pieces of insulated tubing. He also left me with a number of my favorite things in the world; zip ties. I had electrical tape in the shed but chances were, as the summer temperatures melded the insulated tubing together it would shrink a bit, at which point i could tighten the zip ties…if i left the tails long enough to grasp. They had saved me a trip to home depot and the humiliation and guilt that came along with being a healthcare worker in a public place. I will never get tired of the running theme with hill country repair men; they don’t just give advice on the thing they make their living doing but they pay attention to and give advice on all running machines and structures found on the property during their stay. As soon as i’d locked the gate behind them i took my knife, the tubing, and the zip ties over to the a/c unit and covered the exposed metal pipes, hiding them from the relentless summer sun. As i zip tied the last tube in place i heard the motor relax. It sounded less like a dying one-engine airplane and more like a quiet modern dishwasher. It worked; almost instantly. I called and left a message with the phone operator who assured me he would get my comments to the crew that had been to the property earlier that morning. I told him they had given me advice on the a/c unit while they were at the property, i decided to take it, and it was running better already. I asked him to thank them for me. I was being purposely cryptic about the supplies given, as i didn’t want to get them in trouble for using supplies on non-water-related issues. However, their small act of kindness in giving me the supplies to fix my problem on the homestead would ensure that i would be an avid and loyal customer for life. Happy customers were the kind of people that could be trusted to recommend the service highly to all their friends and coworkers. So, i figured they would make back the little cash spent on the supplies ten-fold in new customers and long-term business from me. I felt this way but i wasn’t sure the phone operator would agree, so i kept the message cryptic and moved on with my day.

Garden Update

The potted husky red cherry tomato plant sitting on my porch behind a baby gate fashioned from wire fencing, a beaded wrap-around wire bracelet and an extra piece from Cashew’s dog crate continued to produce faithfully throughout late spring and even into summer. The outer skin of the tomatoes became tougher as the months wore on but the flavor grew sweeter.

The lemon cucumber continued to grow. I ran around trying feverishly to pollinate other flowers on the lemon cucumber plant but only the one grew.

Little pods appeared at the ends of the pea plants. I tried to keep the caterpillars off of them. I hoped they would survive the heat and the bugs long enough to eat.

The real treasure was a yellow squash. I had pollinated it myself and somehow it still grew. It was the first thing that i would harvest from the mosquito net tent. I carried my prize indoors and washed it at the sink. Then i sliced it and seasoned it with dill and salt in a frying pan with some olive oil.

It was the best, freshest squash i had ever tasted. It had a buttery and slightly nutty flavor to it. I couldn’t believe it had come out of my garden.

The Emergency Weather Radio

My emergency weather radio would not ship to my PO box. I had to do what i usually did when that happened which was mail it to my friend and then leave two dollars under her welcome mat when i picked the package up off her porch. When i finally got my hands on the precious package i was beyond thrilled. i knew the importance of what i held in my hands. This little box was going to give us the forewarning that we needed to plan ahead and prepare for weather before it was upon us.

As i took it out of the box and set it on the little tv tray i used as a supper table i was in awe. The thing had a hand crank. If a person cranked the radio by hand for 60 seconds they could listen to 20 minutes of weather broadcasting before it would need cranked again. There was a solar panel strip on the top of the radio and then a battery compartment on the bottom of the thing. As i checked the butter holder in the fridge i realized i had AA, D, C, and specialty batteries, but i had no AAA batteries, which was what the radio called for. I went to the shed thinking there was a blood sugar machine in there somewhere that might require triple a batteries. It was in there but it had a special sized flat battery. I did find a pack of AAA batteries in there. I suddenly remembered i had taken them from my purse to get on an airplane last year, as i didn’t think they would travel well through security. They were covered in battery acid. Obviously, leaving batteries in an un-air-conditioned shed was a very bad idea. I ended up raiding my blood pressure cuff and a shock collar dog training remote for the three triple a batteries needed to power the radio. Finally, the radio was fully functional and complete. I set it on the tv tray table and tuned it to the weather forecast station in my area. The monotone voice came in loud and clear, “your weather synopsis for south central texas…” the forecast played in a loop. First it gave the weather forecast for the day and night in the area the radio was located. Then it gave the current temperature, wind strength and direction, and pressure. Then it ran through the current temperatures in all the surrounding towns in the hill country. Then it gave the weather pattern expected for the following week. It spoke of percentage chance of rain each day, when it would arrive, how long it would stay, which direction it would come from and travel, how fast it would be moving, how strong the wind would be each day, which direction the wind would be coming from, the pressure, the humidity, and it gave the high and low temperatures for each day of the week. If rough weather was expected the monotone voice knew of it a week in advance. I could not believe how much useful information this thing gave. It was delivered in the most lovely monotone loop and i often left it on in the background when i was anxious just to calm my nerves.

The little emergency weather radio became part of my daily routine. I turned it on in the pre-dawn morning when i first woke up and listened to the forecast as i was feeding the dogs and making breakfast. I turned it on again when i arrived home from work and listened to it as i unpacked my work bag and started supper. The weather radio became my most valuable possession very quickly. We would never be caught off guard again. I would become one of those people that informed other homesteaders of upcoming weather days in advance. That little red radio had become the center of our homesteading operation.