Wednesday, September 11, 2019
The Shrewd King 8.3: Trouble in paradise
Rick and Kate Salazar’s life had settled down to a pace that almost resembled pre-Ebola.
Rick dinked around with little projects and discretely poked his nose into anything that looked interesting.
Kate went to work six days a week but was able to take breaks as long as she wanted. The store was grossly over-staffed by modern standards. Unlike modern stores, the new retail environment started with 100% mark-ups rather than trying to survive on the rarified atmosphere of 1%-to-6% mark-ups. She could afford enough staff such that the store did not skip a beat if she took a two-hour stroll.
Kelly and Di Carney’s lives, on the other hand, became daily marathons of frenetic activity.
Kelly had hired a half dozen boys to help run the gasifiers. They were up to four units and struggled to keep three of them running at any one time.
About one boy in four had the aptitude to juggle all of the levers and knobs and still get useful work out of them. Kelly assigned the other boys to a pit-crew to keep it fueled with sticks and cornstalks and as much other local “trash” as could be found now that Kate put the kibosh on burning corn.
Kelly spent much of his day running a gasifier truck or tractor and then was up until midnight doing maintenance. Ashes needed to be cleaned out. Burned pluming replaced. Stuck cables lubricated and on and on and on.
Gasifiers were dirty, smelly things to work on. At midnight he would take a quick wash in cold water, collapse into bed only to get up before first light and do it again.
Kelly would have thought that things would have slowed down by mid-June but the three farmers asked him to disc-up and plant sixty acres to soybeans.
Pulling implements went through fuel like crazy-mad but fortunately the farmers had a super abundance of firewood, courtesy of them allowing residents to cut wood out of their swamps “on shares”.
Kelly had the gasifier unit Wilders commissioned cutting hay almost around the clock. Where it wasn’t cutting hay it was mowing the weeds in abandoned fields. Hay is a fickle crop. Waiting two weeks to make a first cutting of grass hay doubles the yield but nearly all of the extra weight is indigestible. Grass that would have made 16% protein hay the first week of June might assay at 9% if cut two weeks later. Consequently, everybody wanted their hay cut RIGHT NOW!
Kelly also had a small tractor with a gasifier that ran a buzz saw off of the PTO (Power Take Off). That tractor moved from house-to-house and cut up four and six foot bolts of wood into stove-wood lengths.
Milo’s unit was delivering limestone from the pits in Belleview to the Amish farmers across Eaton and Calhoun counties. Being Amish, they had little difficulty finding organic material to stuff into the gasifiers to keep them running although all the easy pickings on the Belleview end of the run were gone.
What was particularly vexing to Kelly was that he continued to get requests to "put in gardens" even though it was almost mid-June. He understood that a few of the requests came from people who had trickled in from St Clair Shores or Harrison, Michigan. But most of the requests were from people who had seen the food crisis coming for months and only, just now, decided to do something about it.
The last person who asked Kelly to work up a garden had almost become violent when Kelly refused.
Kelly drove over to the address and the plot that had been laid out was beneath a small opening in a stand of mature sugar maples.
"That ain't gonna work." Kelly informed the man. "You gotta have at least eight hours of sun to make it work the time. You will be lucky to get two hours of sun."
Not only that, Kelly was thinking, but no way in hell was the disc going to get very deep with all the tree roots laced through the ground.
The man cursed Kelly and almost started throwing things at him. Kelly drove off without looking back. He had more than enough "real" work to do without having to stroke a wannabe-homesteader's ego.
Di and her drayage service were also overbooked every single day. She had her “milk-runs” delivering to the stores and she had special requests.
Just like Kelly working farm fields and Farmers Don, Ken and Earl donating grain to Chernovsky's fighters, Di heavily subsidized the cost of delivering to the outlying areas. It takes a lot of pump-priming to jump-start an economy.
As the most visible horse-woman in the Kates Store, Pray Church and Chernovsky Annex area, Di was the target for every request for pulling work.
Through force of personality, Di had been able to get two more horses added to the three she had in service but that was nowhere near enough for all the delivering and field cultivating work that was coming her way.
There were many other horses in the neighborhood. By Di’s rough estimate there were at least a hundred based on what she could see from the road and the “horse talk” that passed between her teams and the horses that were out of sight behind buildings and tall vegetation. That hundred horses did not count Blastic’s farm.
When she asked if she could work their horses, the owners invariable demurred. They did not want anybody else working with their horses. They did not want to risk their horse getting hurt. They did not want to have to pony up for the additional feed that a working horse demanded, they could barely afford to feed the horses as it was.
Di had it slightly easier than Kelly. She could say “no” because the horses were being overworked.
The pace was tearing them apart.
They no longer slept together. They time they spent fighting could be better employed sleeping. So they now lived in different bedrooms.