Frontier General Store




Warning: Don't want to hear about it from the PETA people. Although no animals were sacrificed in the making of this story, I'm not a vegetarian. I prefer my meats in a shrink wrap and the net research that I did for this chapter was lets just say... graphic. It's amazing what you can find on the net. And there are surely things I got out of order because I never have participated in a pig stickin'. There is also the addition of things that probably has the reader going ewww. Dishes that are no longer in favor. But in the interest of using every element of the animal whose life ends to provide for the families in the valley isn't it better that nothing goes to waste?






Nov 1883

The preparations start early even though the actual butchering won't happen until the afternoon. Unlike the elk, the hogs wouldn't need to be aged just hung overnight to cool but there is plenty of things to be done in preparation. If they waited another month they'd probably be able to do the whole process in a single day starting in the morning... but then they'd also have the worry of the meat freezing which is another problem in itself.
Marcus had already pulled the three hogs that wouldn't be seeing another sunrise and set them away from the others. There would be no last meal but rather food had been withheld the day before and only enough water given to keep the livestock from getting dehydrated.
Now everything is about positioning-- The large trough that would be used to scald the hair from the hog. Where they'd be hung to cool. Setting up sawhorse tables to work on. Making sure the tools are sharp.
Florence meanwhile is busy in the cabin figuring they'd have everyone from the valley either visiting or helping out today. And that meant food had to be prepared: biscuits, cheese, salads, baked beans. She'd wait on the cornbread until the cracklings from boiling down the fat are ready.

Gia has her own mental task list of preparations. There is being ready for company dropping by and then there is company dropping by. Everything about the homestead had to be sparkling and tidy: the barn, the pens, the house. She figures everyone will be in their business today and tomorrow. Gia has no doubt that Mr. Spencer will check the hogs first out of politeness but then he'd be right in the barn to check on the curing tobacco. She finishes the last of the dishes and sets them to air dry. "Been waitin' for this day since back in June."

"Me too, Baby. Ever since I saw those ten little piglets the day after you got back from the store. It's one worry out of the way. We have everything we need maybe some left over if we play cautious."

"Don't know about that one, Mama. Figure tis the season to fatten Marcus up some too." Gia teases. "Those suspenders haven't been just for style for a few months now."

Flo laughs at that one. "Now all we have to worry on is the weather." She gets serious.

Gia does too. "Mr. Spencer or Mrs. Hardy woulda said somethin'. We've got as much firewood set aside as they do. We're as ready as they are."

"Gia, we aren't playing keep up with the Spencer's or keep up with the Hardy's."

"Yes, we are, Mama." Gia holds up a hand. "I'm not talking stupid things like who has the biggest house, or the fanciest carriage. I'm talking necessary things like firewood, or feed for the animals. I'm not interested in bettering our neighbors just making sure we aren't short."

Flo sighs. "I see your point. I do." She shrugs her shoulders. "We've done what we can do. It's really in God's hands now."





After the morning chores are done at the Hardy's, everyone starts getting ready to walk over to the Taggart's. It is only a ten minute walk although with Zander on crutches, even with his increasing aptitude, it would take twice as long. This is a consequence of the choices they'd made. The Hardy's only have one horse, having sold the other one before Zander broke his leg. One horse couldn't pull the big prairie schooner even if it wasn't up in the upper pasture and there are too many people in the party for the small cart that is normally sufficient for the homestead chores. Both Zander and Audrey had refused to ride over to the Taggart's which had both Sarah and Elizabeth rolling their eyes.

Zander catches them at it and shakes his head. "It's a ten minute walk. It's not a big deal."

"Right." Elizabeth rolls her eyes again. She just knows that Lucky is going to be at this valley event and doesn't want anything to slow them down. Liz goes over to the kitchen counter and finds all the spices that Audrey had set aside for Flo. She packs them carefully into the flour sack tote.

Sarah just shakes her head and goes out toward the barn calling for Zander's dog Annabelle and Elizabeth's Riley as she does so. She pens them both up in the goat pen. The other livestock is already up in the upper pasture and would be fine for as long as it took at the Taggart's. Both of the dogs look at her as if they have been totally betrayed. "There are going to be enough people at Mr. Marcus' already. Two more dogs would just be too much."

Audrey steps out onto the front porch and calls out to Sarah while tying the strings to her bonnet and pulling on her gloves. "Sarah."

"Right there, Gram." Sarah turns back to the dogs. "Be good." She warns and then starts back to the house. Everyone is on the front step waiting for her. Together they walk toward the Taggart's taking the shortcut across the field between the two properties.





Laura is anxious to get going knowing that the Spencer's would actually be first up. Marcus wouldn't be cutting the meat up until the following day to put it in the smoker since it was easier to cut the meat when it was cold. Today is all about harvesting the hogs and the Spencer's part in that is removing all the fat from the carcasses which would aid in the cooling process. The Taggart's would be dealing with other elements of the butchering, cleaning intestine for the sausage casing, collecting anything that might be used for making snapple or other delicacies.
She directs Lucky in putting both of her washtubs and the large cast iron kettle on the back of the wagon. Flo had told her earlier in the week that they'd need another kettle for heating water to scald the pig to remove the hair. Especially since they were doing three today. Since she didn't want to be in anybody's way the plan was to bring the fat back here to the Spencer's and work on cooking it down here. "Bobbie, what on earth are you doing?"

Bobbie keeps putting on the five gallon oak barrel and another sack of provisions on the wagon. "Pickled pigs feet. Big seller in saloons. Bet they would be big up on the mining line too."

Laura shakes her head but keeps loading the wagon, making sure her supply of knives are there and sharp. They'd grow dull soon enough so she puts her sharpening stone in as well. "Where is Lulu?"

"Carly's getting her ready." Lucky reminds her as he hitches the team up to the wagon.

"Where is your father?"

"He's walking over cutting thru the woods."

Laura shakes her head. "Fine." She stalks back to the cabin and gets her bonnet and gloves. Lulu is just climbing down the ladder from getting dressed and Carly is right behind her. Laura checks her daughter over to make sure she's dressed properly for the valley gathering.

"I don't get it." Carly says flatly. "We're going to a slaughter; why on earth would you want Lulu dressed up?!"

"Everyone in the valley is going to be there, and everyone is taking the day off from everything else. The pigs are just an excuse." Laura tugs on Lulu's dress and then hands the little girl her coat. "And I want to get there early just incase Miz Flo needs any help."

"Miz Flo could probably handle this with one hand tied behind her back." Carly pulls on her coat and buttons it and then grabs her mother's coat and bonnet willfully forgetting her own. She hands Bobbie the coat. Lucky assists the women into the wagon and sets off down the valley.





Stefan and Nikolas put on their coats in preparation for leaving to go down to the Taggart's. It had taken some doing to convince Stefan to go. First it had just been Nikolas and Mrs. Lansbury. There was no convincing Natasha to go to the gathering down in the valley. She'd read a book thank you very much for the invitation, but no thank you. Not even Zander's probable presence could convince her.

Nikolas assists Mrs. Lansbury into the back of the carriage before climbing up next to his uncle. "I think we're ready."

"As soon as we collect the smoked elk and deliver it to the Hardy's my task is complete." Stefan comments as he sets the team in motion.

"Zander and the Hardy's will be there I'm sure." Nikolas counters. "And it would be best if we got our order in for sausage early. Mrs. Taggart is quite skilled, no offense, Mrs. Lansbury."

"None taken, Master Nikolas." Mrs. Lansbury says from the back of the carriage. This is almost like a day off for her. A chance to get together with the women in the valley and share information.

"And you might actually have fun, Uncle." Nikolas suggests. Mrs. Lansbury's jaw drops at that one and she's glad to be riding in the back. Where the shaking head and eye roll can't be seen by her employer or his nephew.

"Mrs. Lansbury, when we get back to the house please prepare a tonic for Nikolas; I fear he has taken a fever that has settled in his brain." Stefan says dryly keeping his eyes down the road.

"Of course sir."




It falls to Gia to direct traffic finding places for the Spencer's wagon and the Cassadine carriage. Nikolas pulls her aside. "The second elk is ready?"

Gia nods but she is distracted by the tasks around her. "Marcus got done with it a couple of days ago. Otherwise we couldn't be doing this."

"Excellent. Now it is just a matter of getting it over to the Hardy's. Who do you think would best serve the purpose of keeping it a... surprise?"

Gia considers it for a moment and then replies. "Liz. If you can get her away from Lucky. Just get my attention when you're ready. I'm kinda busy around here right now."

Nikolas glances over to where Lucky and Liz are visiting together. He nods and walks over casually and takes Lucky aside. Lucky is soon nodding his agreement and pulls Liz aside to fill her in on the details. Liz's jaw drops not expecting what Lucky is telling her. She walks over to Nikolas. "Thank you. It is a very generous offer. I know Zander was only expecting the hide."

"Zander helped track the elk herd. It is fair." Nikolas shrugs. "But rather than run into either your grandmother's pride or Zander's, I would rather have it be a... done deal. The question is how to get it over there without drawing undo notice." The three of them put their heads together.





Luke pitches in to help Marcus with the last of the preparations not that there is much left to do. The three unlucky hogs are penned. The rest of the hogs are a distance away and not in view of the pen. "You know if I didn't like bacon so much with my eggs..." Luke sighs heavily. "Kinda got used to these fellers tearing up the woods."

"We can't feed eleven pigs all winter. It's quicker this way." Taggart says practically.

Zander hobbles over. "Extra pair of hands reporting as needed." He mocks a salute while leaning on the padded ends of his crutches.

"Just don't trip and break the other leg. Not when Marcus has got his .22 right over there." Luke suggests wryly. He pulls a stogie from his coat pocket and lights it. "Where are we in the process?"

"The water is heating now." Marcus replies. "Once it's boiling then we'll be ready to go."

Zander nods and moves over to the open fire where the large cast iron kettles are filled with water figuring it is about his speed right now to be able to handle this. There is no way he can be of assistance in the actual moving of the hogs. He'd just be in the way. Stefan Cassadine joins Zander at the fire. "Isn't there some Americanism that covers this situation?"

"Um lets see... Pot calling the kettle black. Nope, probably not that one... how about a watched pot never boils?"

"That is the one." Stefan nods.

"Where is the rest of your party?" Zander asks curiously looking over Stefan's shoulder.

"Mrs. Lansbury has joined the other women in the cabin and Nikolas, I believe, is conversing with the younger people. He should be here momentarily." Stefan goes for the distraction knowing Nikolas' intentions. "I am unfamiliar with this." He indicates with a wave of his hand. "Explain it to me."

"Well when you're hunting, like with the elk, you do the best you can to preserve what you can. Mr. Taggart on the other hand is planning on preserving everything. From snout to tail nothing is going to go to waste. He'll save the brains. I can use those for tanning hides." Zander looks down with disgust at his splinted leg. "If I can ever get back on my trap lines. I'm using oak bark chips now on the elk hides for the tannin. But I don't see too many oak trees around, do you? Intestines will be used for sausage casings. Heart and liver can be made into something or ground up into the sausage mix. The fat will be rendered down into lard to be used for cooking or for making soap. Blood can be made into pudding or sausage. I don't particularly care for it but there are some that might. And I heard that Miz Bobbie is planning on making some pickled pigs feet."

"I believe I saw a jar of something resembling pigs feet when I was in town looking for a hired man in one of the local drinking establishments. They were floating in some pink liquid it was rather..." Stefan makes a face.

"Each to their own." Zander shrugs. "I don't know if Miz Bobbie even likes pickled pigs feet but she knows that some do and will buy them. Nuthin going to waste." Zander says again the motto of the lower valley.





The cabin is getting kinda crowded with all the women: Audrey, Sarah, Flo, Mrs. Lansbury, Bobbie, Laura, and Carly even Lulu getting underfoot. They shed their coats and lay them on Marcus' bed on the main floor of the cabin. Everyone puts on their aprons and await tasking. Laura comes up to Carly. "I'd just as soon Lulu wasn't down by the pen when Mr. Marcus does the actual killin'."

Carly nods. "I'll keep her out of their hair."

Mrs. Lansbury and Bobbie add their kettles to the collection on the stove heating water. The water would be used for something if only to wash dishes later. Bobbie sees that the coffee is about done. "Do you want me to take that out to the fellas?"

"That would be great." Flo agrees. "Get a feel for the timing on everything. I'm getting antsy to get this show on the road."

Bobbie nods and grabbing some tin cups strings them along her fingers for ease of carrying and then grabs a hot pad to take the coffee off of the woodstove. "I'll be right back."

Audrey looks around. "Where are Gia and Elizabeth?"

Flo makes eye contact with Mrs. Lansbury and gets a flash of an idea. "I have no idea but I tell ya I think we have as many bodies as the cabin will hold so hopefully they're outside working on something." She gets Mrs. Lansbury alone and says very quietly barely moving her lips. "Where?"

Mrs. Lansbury keeps her head down and concentrates on pouring hot water over the tea leaves. She keeps her back to Audrey and her voice low. "I suspect they are taking a smoked elk down to the Hardy's. It was Master Nikolas' intention. Since Mrs. Hardy doesn't know..."

Flo nods. "Well then we'll just keep it that way."





"You don't think your uncle is going to kick up a fuss when he realizes the carriage is gone?" Liz asks from the back of the carriage.

"My uncle knew of my plans." Nikolas makes the short trip to the Hardy's quickly. The girls could have probably handled the whole excursion but he'd been brought along as the strong back for the larger joints of meat.

"Now we just have to figure an excuse for being gone or the jig will really be up." Gia informs the others.

Liz looks at the cloth covered hams. "Got it covered... so to speak. We'll bring back some empty flour sacks. Something to wrap the new hams in once they come out of the smoke house. I know Sarah has some around here somewhere."

They've pulled up even to the Hardy's cabin. Liz jumps from the back and jumps from the carriage not waiting for Nikolas to come around, running up to the cottage and throwing open the door. She goes looking for their cover story. Gia also swings down. Nikolas shakes his head. Neither one of these girls are one to stand on manners or ceremony and it does make him feel kind of redundant.

"Yo, Nikolas, can you give me a hand with these? I'll grab the sausages." Gia interrupts Nik's momentary distraction.

"Of course." Nikolas sets the brake and comes around to the carriage grabbing one of the large cuts of meat and hoisting it onto his shoulder. Gia strings the rings of sausage up her arms and follows Nikolas into the cottage.

"Where are we going to hang them?" Liz is stopped in the middle of the cabin. The rafters are already filled with dried hanging produce from the garden.

"Need to be the driest coolest spot. That's why they can't go out in the root cellar. It's too moist down there and they'll start molding." Gia tells her, setting the sausages on the table. "The one you're going to use first hang somewhere in the kitchen the rest have to go..." Gia looks around. "...Up." Because of her experience hanging the tobacco to be cured, Gia sees the possibility immediately. She bends over and starts taking off her shoes and stockings.

"Excuse me?" Liz watches her slack jawed.

"Just get ready to pass me those." Gia quickly climbs the ladder to the loft where the Hardy women sleep and climbs out onto the crossbeams of the rafters moving to the open space. She feels along the logs for any exposed nails. "This would be so much easier with hooks and a pulley." Gia mutters to herself. "Got one." Looking down on the others, she calls out instruction. "Tie something onto the ham and then toss me the rope." Gia braces herself back to the rafters and feet carefully planted on the crossbeam. It takes a couple of tosses but then she catches the rope and carefully hand over hand pulls the rope up. "What are you doing?"

Nikolas stands directly under Gia. "Waiting for you to fall."

"I'm not going to fall." Gia says derisively. "Go get the rest."

Nik shakes his head but goes back out to the carriage. He brings in the joints. Elizabeth ties ropes onto them and tosses the ropes to Gia above her. Gia hauls up the smoked meats and hangs them on any exposed nail until finally everything is up and out of the way. Liz looks up at Gia efforts. "What would happen if one of those broke away?"

"Wouldn't want to be standing underneath it." Gia grins at her. "We're talking a heck of a headache. And these are a lot heavier than a bunch of tobacco leaf." The popping report of a rifle startles Gia momentarily making her grab to both sides of her to regain her balance. "Darn. Marcus has started; we have to get back now." She looks for the quickest way back to the loft and ladder.



"Drop. I'll catch you." Nik can see Gia's hesitation. "Didn't you say something about having someplace to be? Drop."

"I am so going to regret this." Gia sits down on the cross beam. She rolls over onto her stomach. When she feels Nik's hand on her ankle she shoves back from the beam. A moment later she feels the his arm at her back and then her feet on the floor.

"You were saying?" Nik says wryly.

"We have to get back to my place." Gia picks up her stockings and shoes and races for the carriage.

"You're welcome." Nik says to Gia's back. Then he makes a motion to Liz indicating after her. Nikolas follows her out to the carriage shutting the door to the cabin behind him.





The quick pop of the .22 startles everyone except for the man pulling the trigger. The hog collapses, the single shot between the eyes ending it's life. Lucky, Luke and Marcus spring into action removing the hog from the pen and suspending it by it's back legs. Stefan is surprised when Mrs. Lansbury appears with a bowl and a knife.
While the hog is suspended, she slits it's throat catching the gravity borne blood in the bowl that has warm salted water in it. As soon as that is completed, the three men manhandle the hog into the long tub of scalding hot water on it's back. They use the hog's legs to roll it from one side to the other but careful to not touch the blistering hot water. Zander hobbled forward and adds another pail of boiling water to the top of the hog. Then the three men resuspend the hog, and Marcus takes out his broad knife, and begins to shave the singed hair from the hog removing the hair and cleaning the skin at the same time.

"I got it from here, Mr. Marcus." Bobbie comes up behind Marcus. She takes the broad knife from her neighbor. "Let me do what I can. It'll give you time to start on the next."

"You sure?"

"Yeah, I got it."

Marcus and the guys go back to the pen. Zander feeds the fire under the iron kettles of water. They'd be needing lots.





Mrs. Lansbury comes into the cabin carefully carrying the bowl of blood and sets it on the counter and checks the preparation already in place. Mrs. Taggart had carefully heated the bread and milk so that it was warm but not warmer than the blood. Sarah carefully measures out the oatmeal. Mrs. Hardy is browning some onions in a frying pan and checks the cooking barley. "I passed Miz Bobbie on the way in. She's going to assist in the cleaning."

Laura nods brushing the back of her hand against her cheek before going back to chopping up onions. "I'm sure she figures that will make things go faster. I have a little time before I'm up." Laura refers to collecting the fat from the hogs to be rendered down to lard. There is another popping noise that has the women automatically wincing before going on with their tasks. Mrs. Lansbury grabs another bowl to go out to collect the blood from the second hog pouring a little salt in the bowl as she goes.

"Yes, well that might be true for you but where is Gia?" Flo looks off down the valley.

"Right here." Gia comes into the cabin almost at a run. "Liz realized that we were going to need some coverings for the hams and said they had extras down at their place. I'm just heading out now." Gia sheds her coat and pulls on a heavy apron made out of a tarp like material. She didn't want to ruin one of her real aprons on this.

Mrs. Lansbury returns almost running into a Gia who is not looking where she is going. "Careful."

"Oh Jeez." Gia backs up against the doorway letting Mrs. Lansbury pass. Mrs. Lansbury adds the blood to the other already collected and continues working on the other ingredients for the black pudding and sausages.

Gia goes out by the smokehouse. The men are in the midst of singeing the second hog and Bobbie is almost done with cleaning the exterior of the first. As soon as she is done, Bobbie moves onto the second hog pausing in between to sharpen the broad knife.

Stefan has grown inpatient with standing on the sidelines and as a hunter knows what is to be done next. He places his coat aside and rolls up his sleeves. Working with Gia as his assistant he opens up the first hog being very careful to not puncture any of the internal organs. This is a careful moment because any punctures could spoil the meat and would involve a lot more work. Gia bites her lip ready to jump in and almost preferring to do it herself. But she holds back her comments and instead hands Stefan strings to tie off the intestinal tract. "Where?" Stefan demands.

Gia pulls over a washtub, hooking it with her foot to bring it over by the hog. "Here."

Holding his breath to the smell and almost wishing he'd stayed up with Natasha at their homestead, Stefan transfers the guts of the hog to the washtub. Out in the woods all but the heart and maybe the liver would be left for the wild animals but he knows after his conversation with Zander that is not the case here. As soon as the body cavity is empty, Gia hands Stefan a bucket of cold water and then another cleaning out the interior of the creature and cooling it at the same time. The faster it cooled the better for the meat. "What next?"

"I have it from here." Laura steps up bringing her own washtub.

Gia grabs the wash tub with the guts in it and carries it away from sight to where she can start sorting and cleaning. Intestines for sausage casings and organs to be ground into sausage for whatever the women could make from them.

Stefan steps back and looking at his hands in some disgust. Goes over to where the water is being heated for the third hog. Pouring some into a small basin he scrubs down from elbow to nails. Zander hobbles up to him. "Nice job on that. It would have been a hell of a lot messier and smellier if you'd nicked something."

"For this I count my blessings." Stefan says wryly.

There is the last popping noise. The process starts again.





"Watcha doing?" Lulu asks Gia sneaking up on the older girl.

"Sorting." Gia says shortly. "Aren't you suppose to be playing on the other side of the cabin?"

"Mama doesn't want me to watch." Lulu squats down next to Gia. "But I already saw the dead bear. And I saw Daddy kill that mean old hen that would always peck at me. It ended up being chicken and dumplings for Sunday dinner. And Aunt Bobbie is saving the feathers to add to a pillow."

"Yeah, and the hogs are going to end up being sausage."

"I like sausage."

"Me too."

"Do you want to help me?"

"Sure." Lulu offers.

"Then could you take this into the cabin? I think the ladies there are about ready for them. But you have to be very careful."

"I will." Lulu takes the bowl with both hands. "What is it?"

"Innards." Gia doesn't go into detail. "They are going to want them cleaned so as soon as you take it into the cabin you better bring them some water too."

"Okay." Lulu carefully stands making sure to not tip one way or another. Concentrating on what she is doing she makes her way to the cabin.

Gia starts working on cleaning the intestines inside and out. The lower intestines alone are about 18 yards long. That is a lot of casing for sausage. But that's okay whatever didn't get used could be packed in salt and used in the future for times when the people in the valley are hunting wild game and had to field dress whatever they caught.





Nikolas is wondering what to do with himself when Liz comes out of the cabin. She carries a bucket with her and goes to fill it from the rain barrel but the barrel is nearly empty. Nik since he's taller collects the last of the water from the barrel and then hands it to her.


"No problem. How are things going in there?" Nik refers to the cabin with a tilt of his head.

"How should I know?" Liz shrugs. "I'm the chop this, stir this girl. And just trying to stay out of everyone's way. You ever see an ant hill?"

"Busy then."

"Oh yeah. Want to refill some water barrels?"

"Sounds about my speed."

"Mine too." Liz looks down at the bucket in her hand. "Just let me give this to Gram and then we can start refilling everyone's barrels."

"I'll collect the empty barrels from over by the smokehouse."

"Meet ya back here." Liz goes back into the cabin. Nikolas goes around to the other side of the cabin to check out the activity. Mrs. Spencer is removing the heavy sheets of fat from around the first carcass. His Uncle is cleaning the interior cavity of the second and Miz Bobbie is cleaning the hide of the third. Luke and Lucky are emptying the trough of no longer boiling water to carefully clean the site. Marcus passes him going into the house to put up his .22 rifle.

"Wouldn't it have been easier to just slit their throats?" Nikolas asks Marcus as he passes.

"Sure, but not for the hogs." Marcus pauses to reply. "They aren't stupid. The longer they have to think about it the freakier they get. They don't associate the rifle with the critter next to them dropping. But squealing like a stuck pig... well that is a sound I'd just as soon not hear. And the other hogs do know what is up then." Marcus continues on into the cabin.

Nikolas consolidates the water into a single barrel out by the smokehouse and then starts rolling the others to the front of the cabin. Liz had managed to find the garden sled that the Taggart's used for their nearby chores and bring it to the front of the cabin too. Nikolas loads the empty barrels onto it. Together he and Liz start down to the river.





Carly brings a washtub filled with innards to Gia at the sawhorse table she had set up away from everything else. "Two down-- one to go."

Gia grimaces. "Thanks I guess. I always get stuck with this task. Makes me wish I wasn't the baby of the family."

"Could be worse. You could be in the house with Mrs. Hardy, Mrs. Lansbury, your mother, and my aunt. I swear those four could command armies. I can understand why Mama decided to go out to the smokehouse and just deal with the guys. What do you need from me?"

Gia looks at the stuff she has already cleaned. "This can go into the cabin. I need the bowl back that Lulu took in. This is the fat that I cleaned off of the other stuff. I know Miz Laura isn't gonna wanna render it with the other. It's only good for soap but she's going to want it eventually after she's done filling the lard tins. Those scraps there are only good for the dogs."

"I'll take this in. Bring more coffee out to the guys and then be back to help you. I think I'd rather be out here than in there." Carly refers to the cabin.

"Oh yeah." Gia agrees.

It doesn't take long before all the babies of the family are gathered around the back sawhorse table: Gia, Liz, Carly, and Lulu. All of them working on processing the viscera of the days butchering. The job is disgusting, messy and smelly but because of the company they are actually all having a good time. Lulu is especially happy to be included to what is to her the big girl's table. Since Laura is busy collecting over by the smokehouse, Bobbie comes to check where the girls are after not finding them in the cabin with the elders. She hangs back not wanting to be seen and smiles at some of the comments that are being made. The guys had better stay away from this table or their ears would be burning. She covers her mouth to smother a laugh at a particularly naughty innuendo that goes right over Lulu's head and retreats back to the cabin.

"Did you find them?" Audrey asks Bobbie when she comes back in the cabin.

"Carly, Liz and Lulu are all helping Gia." Bobbie goes over to the pegs and hangs up her coat and grabs an apron. "Laura has been worrying too much about what Lulu's sees today. She's having a blast being one of the girls."

"I did notice when we were canning down at your house, Mrs. Hardy, that those girls did tend to gravitate to each other." Mrs. Lansbury interjects. Sarah flushes a little feeling excluded and hopes her proximity to the woodstove covers it.

"Yes, but is it a good thing?!" Bobbie retorts wryly.

"Whatever your girl doesn't think of, mine does." Flo grins and shakes her head.

"Exactly." Bobbie laughs.





With everything cleaned up, and at a good breaking point, Marcus, Luke and Stefan wander around the farm and into the outbuilding where the smell of tobacco drying is almost overpowering.

"Now that is a lovely sight." Luke looks up at the hanging bundles of tobacco covetously.

"Not going to be ready to smoke until about February I figure." Marcus says with a nod. "About then we'll be taking it down and putting it in barrels. Gia can probably roll you a few cigars then but they'd be rough."

"My research indicated that it would be unlikely for tobacco to grow this far north." Stefan comments.

"Luckily nobody told the plants that." Marcus says wryly. "It'll never be big. The growing season is too short. And an early frost or a late one..." Marcus shakes his head. "Your research had it right. It's nothing to count on." He turns back to Luke. "What about you?"

"Just happen to have a sample on me right here." Luke pulls out a flask proudly even as he adds modestly. "It's not Kentucky style bourbon but it does have bite. Warm your bones on a cold night." He passes the flask to Marcus who takes a sip and then exhales passing it to Stefan. Stefan takes a nip as well and pales. It felt like his throat was on fire all the way to his stomach. "Figure it is something that I can work on need to get a variety of crops in though not just corn. With a full growing season... not having to worry about putting up a cabin... I figure put in some barley, some rye..."

Stefan gasps. "Potatoes."

"Figured a Rusky like yourself would be thinking on the vodka angle." Luke says cheerfully taking his flask back from Stefan and taking a quick swig before recapping it and putting it in his pocket. "Good plan for the spring when everyone is sick of potatoes anyway."

"How long?" Marcus asks seriously.

"How long what?"

"Until winter hits."

"Any time now." Luke shrugs. "Could be decent for a while longer... it's colder than a witch's titty in the mornings now. It wouldn't be rain we'd be getting. But a proper winter storm well that's harder to say."

"Wind out of the north." Stefan suggests.

Luke nods. "That's a proper good clue. The winds start shifting around and coming out of the north then you know it's going to be a doozy... they coming out of the northwest you got to figure there is some rain coming along. Figure we've got a bit of shelter being on the lee side of the mountains." Luke shrugs. "How much shelter is just dependent on how nasty it is. No way of telling until we're in it."


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