Friday, November 1, 2019

The Shrewd King 15.5: Butter and the Summer Faire

Farmer McKinnon asked Farmer Ken if Ken would be willing to let him sell through the auction. “I can’t do that ‘auction-yodel’ like you can, so I would be much obliged if you did it for me.”

McKinnon had been a big dairy farmer before Ebola and lived on a dead-end road where there was almost no traffic.

Ken said “Sure. We have more buyers than merchandise now. What do you want to sell and how much of it?”

“I was thinking of selling butter.” McKinnon said. “We kept 30 of the dairy cows and had been feeding the milk to a few neighbors and feeding the rest to the hogs.”

“I’ll tell you, milking thirty cows by hand is a chore.” McKinnon said.

“What’s different now?” Ken asked.

“We got enough solar panels and a windmill going. Now I can cool the milk and the windmill does the churning.” McKinnon said. “That, and there is now an auction. I figured I could farm or I could run a store but I sure couldn’t do both.”

Ken said “People will sure be happy about getting butter with the roasting ears coming in. How much you got?”

“I been paying attention to what you did with the corn, breaking it into fifteen bushel lots. I kinda wanna do the same thing with the butter. It would be easy from my end to make it into 25 pound blocks. Do you think you can sell ten of those a week?” McKinnon asked. “I figured to give you five pounds of butter for your trouble.”

“I don’t see any problems selling that much, specially if the bidders know we will be auctioning off butter ahead of time.” Ken said.

Then Ken had a thought. “Would it be a problem if they picked it up at your farm. A block of butter might be a challenge to get home if it gets warm.”

McKinnon got embarrassed. “I would rather not do that.”

“Why?” Ken asked.

“We use kitty-litter buckets for the molds to make the blocks of butter. We cleaned them out real good, but I am not sure how they would feel if they saw that.” McKinnon said.

“The first time they see it, it might startle them some. But if it bothers them then they don’t have to eat any butter.” Ken said. “Fact of the matter is, I think you should ship it in the kitty-litter buckets and charge a healthy deposit. I can’t think of a better way to handle it and keep it clean. Them buckets, they have snap-top lids, right?”

“Yeah, they have lids.” McKinnon said.

“That would solve a few problems for me.” McKinnon admitted “Specially if they picked up two blocks a day. The cooler gets a bit crowded when it is full and I wasn’t looking forward to transporting them to Kate’s store.”

Ken nodded his head. “So if I am hearing you right, you have ten blocks ready-to-go and I could auction off another ten blocks as long as I sell them to be picked up two-on-Tuesday, two-on-Wednesday, two-on-Thursday, and so on.”

McKinnon nodded his agreement and pushed a package over to Ken. “Here is the five pounds of butter.”

“Whaddya say I use this for ‘samples’ at the auction. I’ll have one of the girls make a fresh loaf of bread and I will have them serve it up before the auction while it is still warm. If that won’t make them eager to buy butter, then nothing will.” Ken said.


Summer Faire was a chance for Capiche to welcome people from surrounding areas. They were screened at the border for fevers but otherwise all were welcome.

The Faire was held outside and it had more the feel of a flea market than a county fair. It made sense to have mini-fairs in the road in front of each of the four stores: Kate’s, Pray Church’s, Pete’s and Steve’s. The fair ran for four days.

The tables opened an hour after sunrise and closed whenever the person running the table felt like it.

Standards of personal space were different in the post-Ebola world. Shaking hands was not a casual greeting. It was a significant event that was reserved for sealing contracts.

If you felt a sneeze coming on, the prudent person hastily left the group and got as far away from the group as possible before sneezing. Then, more often than not, they went home. To sneeze in public generated the same moral disapprobation as wetting one’s pants in public.

In spite of the constraints, the festival was an enormous success. People ate until they felt like bursting. Sweet corn dredged through melted butter seemed so...normal. Melon, tomatoes, fried chicken.

It gave people a glimmer of hope that “normal” could be clawed back from the fangs of chaos.

Mrs Treadwell had a table and was taking orders for the “Wilder and Woolier” work coats. She got no orders. The 85 degree temperatures had much to do with that, but she did have various people checking out the coats.

John Wilder was miffed that she was displaying the product but Samantha calmed him by saying “All publicity is good.”

He lamented lost sales from people copying the pattern.

Sam shrugged and said, “We will either make our profit on the finished item or we will make our profit selling them wool cloth and thread.”

John eventually saw Sam’s point and was able to go over and be gracious to Mrs Treadwell. He even gave her a bottle of selenium shampoo. He would have offered to help her with the math to figure out the correct dosage but something in her eyes told him to hold his tongue. She would ask if she wanted help.

Not every visitor was benign.

Some were noting angles of approach and fields of fire, avenues of retreat and areas to bunker and laager.



  1. And the defenders were watching the watchers... :-)

  2. If you have milk and you have sheep you have the ingredients to make cheese.

  3. The plot thickens. One would assume that Benecio has already taken note of the advance and egress corridors. Both from his recent attendance at the auctions, and from the failed attack some months ago that presumably he was responsible for in which the defenders killed several hundred attackers.

    Assuming that Benecio has decided it is ultimately better for him to leave this community of food growers alone, then there are apparently other enemies of the community who are planning an attack. Yikes! It is a damn good thing that our protagonists are getting serious about re-thinking and beefing up their defensive capabilities. They need to have a renewed sense of urgency about it, as a new attack could materialize at any time and from any direction.

    Wouldn't it be ironic if Benecio and our community became allies of sorts against an attack from another organization? Talk about strange bedfellows.

  4. I keep a mental list of museums around here that keep firearms, particularly examples of automatic firearms. It isn't something that most people think of as a potential resource. Also, if I were in that situation, I'd start thinking about things like home-made claymore mines, foot-poppers, foo gas, pongee sticks and anything else that can be deadly.

    Rip out the bridge approaches and use wood spans to cross the holes, and mine the spans. You have got to make mass ingress less easy.

    Start snooping around for old dynamite-a lot of old farmsteads would have some. And glycerol and nitric acid. Anything that goes bang needs to be laid in in quantities that would astound us in these "normal" times, and you wouldn't be able to be as picky about safety as we are now. Of course, now that I think about it, guncotton might be a thing again.

    Something else strikes me about the mortar discussion. You could save on propellant by using ballista or trebuchet or the like. Practice requires nothing other than rounds with the same shape and density as the combat rounds, saving explosives.


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