‘Retirement’

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I had always heard that when a person ‘retires’ they are often more busy than they’ve ever been. You might say, “Kara, you didn’t retire…BUD did,” however, my ‘job’ has been running the household and supporting Bud behind the scenes, and things are much different for me, as well. The nature of my household work has changed.

I’ve always cooked a hot breakfast and supper when Bud was working. I always packed a lunch for him to take to school. Now, we have lunch together each day. Cooking on a camp stove presents some challenges, but I love that little camp stove! Since I have no oven, I’ve learned how to bake acorn squash and sweet potatoes in the crockpot. I even tried to bake brownies in my cast iron skillet. The Homesteader’s Wife put me on to that one. It came out alright. I had to flip it, and it wasn’t as done as I’d like it to be (nor as pretty.) Next time, I’m going to try the cast iron dutch oven.

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Since we have been ‘retired,’ we have been incredibly busy! These first two weeks, it has been difficult to get into ‘retirement mode.’ We see and know first hand how much work we have ahead of us on the house. Bud has built a closet in the bedroom already! I have been working on removing the nails from the old wall it rests against, and sanding the inside. It’s slow and tedious. Bud has also started working on building the pantry! I can already tell I’m going to love it. More on that (with pictures) later.

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There are also things that have presented themselves which we hadn’t counted on. These are things that just had to be done right away, such as digging the garden so that we could get the tomato plants in the ground so that they wouldn’t die. We’d had visions of and talked about having a Fall Garden, however, when we were given the tomato plants, we were grateful, and needed to get them in the ground.

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Bud picked the place where we guessed it would have the most soil…a low spot where it had flooded before. Bud figured that it would be fertile soil, kind of on the same principle as the Mississippi Delta that has collected all of the soil that has been washed down. It turns out, that the spot we figured would have the most soil is only about 6 inches of soil, at which point you hit rocks with a little bit of soil. We have seen someone’s garden at a higher elevation and they planted directly into the really rocky soil and their garden did just fine!

Bud dug up the ground and made the rows. I dug the holes and planted the plants, and Bud made some stakes to hold them up. We have a two row garden! I so hope these plants make it, because I love fresh tomatoes. Grocery store tomatoes have no flavor, IMHO. Regardless, the Soap Lady has assured me that she will have more tomatoes than she will be able to can and will share, bless her heart.

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Also on our list, we needed to mow for safety from snakes and anything else that might be lurking there. We’ve also needed supplies from town, needed trips to town to do laundry, etc.

The Soap Lady’s Son offered to  come down and help Bud take down a tree that was in danger of falling over. He came one evening with his chainsaw and took down one dead tree, and then came again the next day and took down two more. We now have a whole pile of firewood for the winter! It will be a good start, anyway. Bud stacked it all up off the ground. This picture was taken before we had it all stacked, too.

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One day, I offered to help our Homesteader neighbors process their meat birds. Chickens. Yes, you heard that right. I volunteered to help pluck the feathers off of dead chickens. You all know how much I love my chickens. I would never kill my current flock. They are all named, and are my beloved pets; however, there might be a time in the future when we might need to know how to kill and process a chicken. I learn best by ‘doing’, so I volunteered so I could get some ‘hands-on’ experience. I found the process to be gratifying, in a perverse way. It was sort of like the pleasure you get when mowing, as you watch a yard shape up and start to look neat as more and more grass is cut. Seeing that clean, de-feathered bird gave me satisfaction.

Someone asked me what was going through my mind as I did it. I think I dissociated or something. I didn’t even allow myself to think about the fact that the thing lying on the table with a bloody gash in it’s neck and it’s little head dangling off the table was the same creature as my beloved pet laying hens, or that they were being killed just a few minutes prior and just a few yards away. Thankfully, I enjoyed talking to my friend, so I wasn’t aware (most of the time) that chickens were in the throes of death just beyond me.

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Yesterday, we were invited to dinner at The Seller’s house. One of the Seller’s sisters who grew up in our house was coming to visit her other two sisters who live in the area, one just up the road. They all grew up in our house. They had stopped by our house once to introduce themselves, and were really nice and down to earth. The Seller’s wife graciously opened her home and invited us to dinner with them.

Everyone brought something. We ate ‘buffet style’ and filled our plates with roasted chicken, corn casserole, and a yellow squash dish with tomatoes and panko bread crumbs. Both of those side dishes were delicious. One of the sisters told me she had gotten the recipe out of, “Country Living” magazine, and the squash was from her garden. I had never had corn casserole before. Everything was delicious! There were also pickles and deviled eggs, beans and cornbread, slaw and potato salad. It was a feast fit for a king!

As we’ve worked about the house, there have been things we were curious about and wanted to ask about, however, my mind went blank. I’m usually pretty quiet in a crowd, anyway. I enjoyed hearing their tales of growing up here and getting to know them a little better. Their banter and relationship reminded me of when my Mother and her sisters got together for a gathering.

All of us couldn’t fit around one table, so the men sat at one table and the women sat at another. We ate to our fill, and then talked for an hour or two, and then Bud and I prepared to go home. As we prepared to leave, I heard one of the men telling Bud that they were going to adopt us. That’s a compliment of the highest order coming from an ‘old timer’ around these parts. They don’t take kindly to new comers most of the time. We already feel as though they are family. They are ‘our kinda people.’

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We’ve pushed hard and heavy these past few weeks, but this past weekend we sort of crashed and burned. Neither of us have been feeling well and have been exhausted, so we took our leisure more this weekend.

We were just hanging out on Saturday, and all of the sudden there was a parade of cars down our ‘less traveled’ road. Car after car kept coming and coming and coming. I went to Bud and said, “Honey, come on! Let’s go find out what’s going on!” (This should give you an idea of the level of excitement we have around here.) I handed Bud a pair of sunglasses and told him to put on his disguise. We trucked ’em up the hill and sure enough, we came to the Amish/Mennonite church. (The identity of their religion is still up for debate at this point. Just when we think we have it figured out, someone tells us differently.) Turns out it was a wedding. Later, some Amish/Mennonite people drove into our driveway with a trailer. They had attempted to make it up the hill with their long flatbed and couldn’t  make it. They will come back later to pick it up with something bigger to pull it. Those were the ‘big doin’s’ here in the hills this weekend!

It has been hard to make the mental shift to retirement. There is still a bit of guilt when we don’t work, and I know Bud feels pressed to get the house liveable. Honestly, though, it’s not bothering me. Though I’m eager to have a place for everything, and I’m missing our bed and couch, the air mattress is not that bad, the rocking chairs are comfortable and I don’t mind cooking on the camp stove at all.

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8 thoughts on “‘Retirement’

  1. Somehow I missed this post. You answered my question about how you cooked. Then I remembered the camp stove. You’ll have to excuse my memory. Sometimes I have to sit and think to try and remember something. It can be a slow process. But the camp stove did finally come to me.

    I use to see Grandma wring a chicken’s neck so she would have fresh chicken to fry. I didn’t like it then and still don’t. We are getting away from eating much meat. Today’s lunch was some frozen blackeyed peas, a box rice with veg. mix, salad and cornbread. I can eat like that til the cows come home. The HEB peppered bacon is very good and put a couple pieces in the peas while they cooked. I do like that meat and will use it for seasoning and cooking for breakfast.

    Your garden has gotten off to a pretty good start. It will be nice having your own homegrown tomatoes to eat. We picked the first one off our plants the other day. I finally see others coming on the plants. I grew a couple of little pots of cucumbers and they are about 5 in. tall and I went out and tried to see where I could plant them. May put them in big pots out by the fence so they can climb on the fence. Don’t know, yet.

    Heading to bed. Just rolled hair on sponge rollers. Been ready for bed for 2 hours and never got there.

    Take care of that ankle. Love you

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    1. I’m having a lot of trouble with my memory, too, these days.

      I had heard that story about Great Grandma and the chickens. I don’t think I could do that, either…seems a cruel way to do it. The only way I’ll ever give up meat is if it gets too expensive to buy, and it seems to be getting to that point quickly! That’s one reason I wanted to know how to process chickens. I would never kill my laying hens that are pets. I’ve heard that meat birds are bred to have big breasts and lots of meat and are really dumb with no personality, so it’s easier to kill them (and I certainly would be doin’ the killin’, either. I could pluck ’em, though.)

      Congratulations on your first tomato! Hope you have many more…and that your cucumbers take off and produce for you, too! We’ll see how ours do. I don’t have high hopes seeing how we just barely dug up the soil.

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  2. I just moved off a sailboat after almost 5 years, so I can relate to stove top cooking! I had to learn how I “baked” bread in the pressure cooker, if you have a pressure cooker it makes the stove top cooking so much quicker :O) I also did cake,and corn bread in the form of pancakes, now that I’ve had an oven for 6 mo. I’ve gained over 10 pounds….

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    1. I can’t imagine living on a sailboat! That sounds adventuresome!

      I don’t have a pressure cooker, but I’d consider getting one. I’ve heard people talk about loving one. I remember that my Mom had one when I was growing up.

      I’ve definitely gained weight, too, since moving here. We only have a mini-fridge and my food storage pace for fresh veggies and fruit is limited. With the camp stove, I’m always trying to plan quick and uncomplicated meals. To add insult to injury, I recently bought a bread machine and have been putting it to good use to make all kinds of delectable, carby treats. I’m definitely going to have to try making ‘pancakes’ out of cake mix and cornbread before I go on my diet, though. 🙂

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