Frontier General Store
The elbow comes thru again. Rain. Rain. More Rain. It's an icy rain easy to take a chill. Lulu is already impatient with being house bound. I find myself ready to snap at her and finally told her to go out to the barn with Foster. She can play there and not be underfoot. Carly is in the same boat but has finally succumbed to the rag bag: all the fabrics salvaged from the various sources ready to be pieced together into a quilt. Carly has the best eye for color. Piecing together fabrics you'd never think'd go together but do. I gave up trying to teach her the proper way to make a quilt top. According to Bobbie, even as a child Carly'd stalk off and sulk rather than not have it her way. That hasn't changed. Quilting is suppose to be relaxing not stress inducing. Something to do to pass the time when there is nothing to be done outdoors and to keep the walls from closing in.
Laura frowns and taps her pencil against her cheek.
Actually that hasn't been the
problem with Carly in the past. She had a bad spell back in New York. It was
like she couldn't go outside. Would find excuses to stay in... not even going to
the store. There are times I fear the same here. I had a moment's concern when
she refused to go to town a few months past. I know now and suspected then that
Carly didn't go to town because of her fella but it still nagged at me.
It was good Bobbie sent her to the Mining Camp with Miz Flo. The only thing stronger than Carly's fear is her loyalty. And that is a worry too. Because while in others fear makes one cautious, it seems to be a Spencer trait to be reckless in the face of fear. If someone had actually threatened either Miz Flo or Mr. Marcus, I've no doubt Carly would have shot first and asked questions later.
Luke and Lucky are busy with the hunting camp. I think Luke has decided on putting in rye next year and some barley. He's always preferred whiskey to the fire of moonshine. Although the moonshine is better for medicinal purposes... having no taste it blends better with herbal remedies. A little bit does go a long way.
So Luke has his hunting camp, Lulu her eggs, Bobbie her pickles... I am so anticipating next month when the Taggart's butcher some of their hogs. Each one will have about 30 pounds of fat on them. Sure the first priority will be to restock everybody's lard tin... but after that all that fat will be lovely soaps. And they'll have plenty of time to cure before we go into town again... so they'll be nice hard bars. I have been collecting ashes in the hopper all this month and last to make the lye. I can't wait. Laura Spencer, 20 October 1883.
Laura sets aside the journal and gets started on her chores.
Marcus hangs the last of the hams
from hooks imbedded in the stone walls of the smoker. The iron top of the
smokehouse also had hooks on it but hanging from those are his mother's
sausages. It had been a close fit but most of the elk had fit in the smoker.
There were only a few roasts set aside for Mrs. Lansbury to use as she wanted
now that the elk had properly aged. If he didn't miss his guess, the Cassadines
had probably headed out to the woods already, rain or no. They wanted to get one
more elk before the hog butchering started.
Marcus carefully replaces the lid to the smoker and then stepping down the hill starts a flame in the fire box carefully feeding it with corn cobs and setting the draft so there is enough oxygen to keep the flame steady and low. That being done he goes for a quick walk down to the pen where the hogs are being gathered at the edge of the wood. There are six there already. Luckily three of them are hogs so the November butchering is on. It's the February butchering that's in jeopardy. One critter missing is the sow. Evidently the summer in the woods had made her cagey. She'd been spotted out in the woods but never stepped foot in a trap. Gia is there slopping the hogs with corn to fatten them up and making sure they had plenty of water. Not that that had been a problem the last few days.
"They are tearing up the turf in that pen." Marcus comments aloud.
"I know." Gia dumps the last of the buckets watching as the pigs amble over to the troughs. "We should probably move the gilts down to the pen down by the house. Once the mama pig is caught I definitely want her down there. Save this pen for the hogs since it's closer to the smoker. Not that the grass will grow back right away but it will stop it from being so tore up. We don't do something and we're going to end up with a mud pit."
"It'll be empty come February until August. Plenty of time to recover." Marcus shrugs.
"Not if we get a boar."
In the Hardy's barn, Sarah works on shelling corn. It was a task that would be keeping them occupied probably until after Christmas. Get it in, get it dry and then shell it when you could for the house and the livestock. About the time the ears of corn ran out it would be time to start cutting firewood for the following year. While she is working on that Zander is working on the elk hide. After he'd gotten it he'd carefully scraped it on both sides to get down to the leather and then placed it in the tannin barrel. Now it is a daily chore to check the hide and move it around in the barrel so that the hide isn't over or under treated in spots. But care has to be taken cause the same process that would both soften and strengthen the hide to leather would play havoc on hands.
"When will it be done?" Sarah asks curiously. She'd never seen the process but instead had bought all of her leather items ready made.
Zander shrugs. "I figure I'll know when I know. It does take some time to get it just right. I'm more used to working with smaller pelts, animals like I catch on the trap lines." He rubs his leg absently.
"You wish you were out with the Cassadines?"
"Sure." Zander nods. "But wishing ain't gonna make it so. I just hope I'm not getting on your grandmother's nerves. I know I'm inconveniencing y'all."
"Oh no! Don't even think that way. We're happy to have you here, Zander. And I know Gram feels the same. She misses having Gramp and her boys something fierce." Sarah finished topping off a bag of dried corn and sews the sack closed with a needle and thread she pulls from her apron pocket. "Gram was always one who loves having a full house. It's one of the things she misses about New York."
Natasha goes into the completed
greenhouse. It had taken most of last month to get it built but after the crew
of workers had left, Mr. Roscoe had started building the necessary shelves and
containers for the plantings. He'd also installed a small woodstove that would
take the winter edge off and heat water so that the tender seedlings would not
be shocked by the cold of barely thawed water.
The only occupants of the greenhouse thus far are the roses that Mrs. Quartermaine had sent back with her after her last visit. She slides on her gloves and starts checking the roses. They are resting now with no expectation of really blooming until next year. It would be nice if they did but the green house really just served to winter the roses and wouldn't be warm enough to keep them blooming. Nikolas and Stefan had left the previous day for yet another round of hunting leaving her in charge of the property.
"Yes, Mrs. Lansbury?"
"If you don't need me I'll be going down to the Taggart's to pick up the elk roasts they aren't smoking."
"That's fine." Natasha waves her off.
Mrs. Lansbury nods and then as she steps out of the greenhouse she opens her umbrella and picks up the basket she'd left sitting right outside the door and starts down the road. In her opinion there is no good weather or bad weather just weather. And there is no excuse for not getting done what you needed to get done. Dress appropriately and go about your business. Course it was easier for her than for Ms. Natasha. Ms. Natasha had to deal with the pressure of society and doing what was proper and fashionable. That wasn't her worry.
Carly sits on the bed she shares
with her mother. The rag bag is at her back. When not being a rag bag it doubles
as a pillow on the bed. She takes pieces from it and lays them on the bed,
moving them around until she gets a combination she likes. When you're dealing
with fabrics taken from something else nothing is really square unless you were
willing to make blocks that are an inch square. Course there is plenty of time
in the winter for something just like that. But it wasn't winter yet. Not
Might as well use up the big chunks first. Things got used and used again in this family with nothing going to waste. Something that might start as a dress for Laura might end up being a dress for Lulu or a skirt for her or Mama. It was the salvage from cutting clothes down that ended up in the rag bag. That and the clothes that Lulu finally grew out of. The quilt on Lulu's bed had been made from the baby's clothes that she'd grown out of. Carly had caught Laura a time or two tracing a piece or two of Lulu's quilt with a far off look in her eye and figured that some piece of the fabric had brought back a memory.
Bobbie comes to the back of the cabin and looks up to the loft she shares with her daughter. "Is there going to be enough?" She asks softly.
"Enough for what?" Carly shifts a piece absently and then picks another fabric out of the bag.
Bobbie looks over her shoulder to see if anyone is listening. Laura is at the front of the cabin working at the butter churn while looking out the window down to the river. Lucky and Luke were out at the hunting camp. Lulu is out in the barn. "A wedding quilt for Sarah and Zander."
Carly looks up. "Excuse me?!"
"It hasn't happened yet... he hasn't even asked yet as far as I know. But you got to figure with him living over at the Hardy's and Luke says..."
"Luke, Luke, LUKE!" Carly snarls. "So he's given them his blessing and it's going to happen but he runs off my beau. You want me to make a wedding quilt for them but what about me, Mama? What about me? He wants me to be an old maid just slaving around his place like you! What next, Mama? Am I suppose to just bite my tongue and wish well the happy couple? Who next, Mama? Let me guess... Elizabeth and Lucky. I'm sure that will get Luke's seal of approval. But anything that might make me happy..."
"Carly, that's not fair." Bobbie rebukes her.
"No, mama, it's not." Carly hisses and then leans in close. "Because if your brother was being fair then he'd be going over to the Hardy's upper pasture and putting a pistol at the back of his own son's neck the way he did to Jason. You don't really think that Lucky is spending all his time at the hunting camp do you? Oh he spends plenty of time there but there is plenty of times when I've gone out there and Lucky's been nowhere around and he sure as hell hasn't been here. So don't talk to be me about fair."
Bobbie recoils. There was too much truth in Carly's hurtful and hurting words. "I'll speak to Luke."
"Don't bother." Carly dismisses her mother. "Why stand up to him now? You never have before. Come spring I'm outta here. But don't worry. I'll finish piecing Zander and Sarah's wedding quilt afore I go."
Mrs. Lansbury knocks briefly on the Taggart's cabin door. The door is open for additional light since the rain is coming straight down and not angling into the cabin. "Mrs. Taggart?"
"Miz Lansbury." Flo wipes her hands off peeling off the sticky bread dough. "Come in. Come in. I've been expecting you'd be down soon. Marcus got that big ol' elk into the smoker today but he left you some roasts."
"Master Nikolas told me that was the intention." Mrs. Lansbury nods. She sheds her coat, hat, and after shaking the umbrella outdoors closes it and sets it right inside the door. "That I was to give you a week." The Taggart's cabin is small and tight, set back from the river to be out of the way of floods and filled to the rafters- literally- with provisions. Much like the outbuilding she'd passed on her way up that had tobacco leaves hanging from every inch of the roof, the Taggart's cabin is the same with garlic, onions, peppers and okra. One whole wall is lined with shelves that are filled with canned and bagged produce.
"Well your timing is just perfect." Flo puts a dishtowel over the bread leaving it to rise and puts on the kettle. "You have time for a cup of tea? Take the chill off?"
"That would be lovely." Mrs. Lansbury takes a seat by the woodstove. "Master Stefan and Master Nikolas left a couple of days ago to go back out to the woods. To have plenty of time to prepare but they both knew that they couldn't shoot anything until after today."
"They were incredibly lucky last time." Flo carefully spoons some tea into her teapot.
"Where hunting is concerned there is little luck involved." Mrs. Lansbury counters. "I've travelled with the Cassadines on five different continents in the search of game. They are not to be denied. This is the first time however that Master Stefan has... settled down."
The kettle has come to a boil and using her apron to protect her hand, Flo pours the the hot water over the leaves in the teapot. "Well it's not something I understand, you see, I've always been more of a homebody. Likin' my roots to be sure and deep. I'd still be down in Alabama if not for the troubles."
"I thought that was settled twenty years ago." Mrs. Lansbury moves out of the way so that Flo can set the teapot and two cups on the table.
"Well there is trouble and then there is trouble." Flo says wryly. "Don't figure that some people's mindset changes just cause they were on the losing end of a rifle. Normally I figure it just makes them sneaky and pissed and looking for someone to blame. Didn't bother me none that the homesteader rule said nobody could apply that had raised arms against the government." She decides to change the subject. "So how is that greenhouse doing?"
"We'll see come spring." Mrs. Lansbury shrugs. "Until then it is just wintering the roses that Mrs. Quartermaine gave to the mistress."
Gia bursts into the cabin shedding and shaking her coat and hat. "Two more, Mama. We're up to eight! And one of them was the sow. Can't tell you how much that was a relief to me. Looking more and more like February is a sure thing now."
"February?" Mrs. Lansbury asks.
Gia realizes the company for the first time. There hadn't been a horse or carriage out front of the cabin. "Mrs. Lansbury, hello. I didn't see you there."
"Hello, Gia. You were saying-- February?"
"For the second butchering. That's the one where we'll end up taking the extra into Charlestown come the real spring. Where the cash money is."
Mrs. Lansbury gets a kinda cagey look. "It wouldn't surprise me if Mr. Cassadine made a trip into town even in the winter."
"How?" Gia asks curiously. After washing her hands she brings over another tea cup and saucer to the table. She sits down across from Mrs. Lansbury. Flo pours her a cup of tea.
"They already plan on replacing the wheels on the carriage with runners. Made a sleigh of it. All they need is an accumulation... a base of snow. At that point, a thaw would ruin things since the runners wouldn't work on bare earth."
"Well that is just interestin'." Flo tries to picture it.
The Hardy's upper pasture. The big
wagon that had carried them from St Louis to here is too unwieldy to be used
except for the biggest of chores is now parked up in the pasture with it's
wheels blocked so it doesn't move. Since the Hardy's tarp had been shredded over
the summer during one of the early hail storms, Lucky had brought over another
and rigged a tent over the top of the wagon. It is a place out of the elements,
for anyone out keeping an eye on the sheep.
Riley has claimed the dry space under the wagon for his own, keeping an eye on things. The more the sheep stayed up in the pasture the more the fodder set aside down by the barn could be used for the cow and horse. To that end rain barrels had been set out. Well sawed in half so that the sheep could get to the water easily. With the current rain the barrels were full. Before that it had been a matter of chipping away at the frost in the morning.
Gram figured that summer and fall there had been plenty of wild game for the coyotes and such to be picking on but that wouldn't be the case come winter and spring. Especially spring when the lambing happened. Then it would be a big temptation for the predators to come in under the fence and grab themselves a new lamb for dinner. That is not part of Elizabeth's plan. Every as yet unborn lamb is gonna be the difference between making it and not. They were starting small, way small, with just their little herd the five sheep and three goats. But Elizabeth figured that the upper pasture could handle ten times that number.... twenty times that number and when they got to that point there would need to be someone out fulltime with the sheep rather than bringing them back to the barn. The limit is what she and Riley can keep an eye on-- well that and access to water.
The inside of the wagon is filled with her supplies: bedroll, kit for cooking and heating water, spun up yarn for knitting, a couple of different small projects she is working on, a .22 rifle with ammunition.
"Anyone home?" Lucky raps on the wooden side of the wagon.
Elizabeth pushes aside the tarp. "Get in here! You're getting soaked!"
Natasha is reading by the fireplace in the front room when she hears the sound of a wagon pulling up. She looks out the window and sees Mrs. Lansbury being assisted from the wagon. But she doesn't recognize the driver or the assistant and then realizes that the wagon must have come from town to deliver goods that they'd ordered. Setting the book aside, she goes to the front door. "Mrs. Lansbury?"
"The Cassadine agent in New York sent your new books, Ma'am." Mrs. Lansbury calls out. "And there is some correspondence for Master Stefan. I was lucky enough to meet up with them on the road."
Natasha frowns at that. Hopefully it is something she can deal with otherwise Stefan would have to make a trip into town to deal with his business. "I suppose it would be all right if they used the front door just this once... but make sure they wipe their feet." She retreats to the back not wanting to deal with the ill mannered delivery men.
"Not too hospitable is she?" The driver mutters to his assistant.
"As long as the money is good." The assistant shrugs. Going along to the back of the wagon he grabs a barrel grunting under the weight. Books. Who in the hell needed this many books?
Mrs. Lansbury carefully supervises the delivery men as they offload the barrels into the library and collects the mail from them spying a couple of catalogues she'd requested while she'd been in town: Burpee Seed, Lord and Taylor, Montgomery Ward. She snatches them up to be perused later. Then shows the men the way to the kitchen where she gives them heated water to wash their face and hands and a quick meal of cheese and bread and hot coffee. "We had some mail for that Zander Smith fellow but there wasn't anyone at his place. Looked like there hasn't been in awhile." The delivery man says around a mouthful of bread.
"Mr. Smith is visiting down at the Hardy's place." Mrs. Lansbury covers. "You passed their place at the entry to the valley."
"Well we're heading up to the Quartermaine place from here." The delivery man shrugs. "Guess he'll have to pick up his mail down at the General Store."
"I can give it to him if you like."
"I don't know..." The delivery man hesitates not wanting to get in any trouble.
"It would be no inconvenience. He is our nearest neighbor after all. Let me ask Miss Cassadine if she has any letters she wants taken to the Quartermaines." Mrs. Lansbury leaves before anyone can change their minds.
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