Monday, May 24, 2010

Another meeting yesterday. Caleb was there... Can’t write now. I’ve been so careful about saving the phone battery while I’ve been here, but now it is about to die...

Friday, May 21, 2010

Ka snuck out last night and came over after dinner. We spent an hour coming up with ideas for Ron and Betsy’s former lives. I’m not going to write them all because there are too many and I’m worried about my battery dying on me.

But okay, here’s one. This was maybe the best. Grizzly Bear Wrestlers in Circus Side Show.

This one’s pretty good too: Identity thieves (they’re off the grid because they’re on the lam).

Yoga instructors who had to leave the business because Ron’s so stiff he couldn’t touch his toes.

Spies in a forgotten sleeper cell left over from the Cold War.

Cult leaders who are pretending this is just a summer camp but really are jumpstarting a commune––just wait until the fall when none of us gets to go home!

Okay, I’ll stop.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

My mom made butter last week, which was awesome, but here’s what’s not awesome: making butter is now my job.

Here’s what you need to do to make butter. After you get a bucket of milk, you let it sit on the counter for a day. Before long, some stuff starts to collect on the top—a skin—and then if you leave it, it gets thicker. That’s how you get cream. I know, totally foul, but you spoon that into this big wooden bucket with a paddle in it called a butter churn.

Then you sit there using the paddle to mix up the cream stuff until your arm feels like it’s about to fall off. You lift the lid on the churn, check to see if you’ve got butter, and see that no, it’s not even close. So then you get really depressed. Being depressed is an enormously important part of the process; you can almost tell how thick the butter is just by how defeated and miserable you feel personally.

But you keep stirring it some more anyway. It takes about five hundred million years before the stuff in the churn turns to butter, and by the time it has your arms are trembling, you have blisters on your hands, you hate your mom, and you promise that, to make it last longer, you will hardly eat any of this butter yourself. But it’s so good, that’s kind of a hard promise to keep, especially when everyone else is slathering it on everything like it’s free.

I Can’t Believe (I know how to make) Butter!

Making butter is the stupidest waste of time in the world, considering you can go buy butter in any grocery store in the world any day you want. But stupid or no, I know how to do it and in fact I’m getting kind of good.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

In theory, doing laundry doesn’t sound that bad. You heat up lots of water, add soap, soak the clothes, scrub them, wring out the dirty water, soak them again, scrub them again, wring out the dirty water––again––soak them, rinse them, wring out the water, rinse them a third time, and then wring out the water once more time before hanging them out to dry. Sounds easy, right?

It’s not easy.
Doing laundry is a nightmare.

Here’s the main problem with laundry (if you really want to know, and trust me, you don’t)––Everything starts off about ten times dirtier than normal laundry at home. I mean, the white shirts, the bibs and petticoats––they were brown. And on top of that, washing them doesn’t really help because the water you’re washing them becomes instantly filthy. By the end of the day, you’re hoping to get things to a place where they’re maybe as dirty as the stuff you would put in the hamper at home.

By lunchtime on laundry day, every pot we had was filled with hot water. There was a washtub on the floor overflowing with suds. My mom had got out this thing called a washboard which is made of wood covered in wrinkled tin and looks like something you’d use as a musical instrument in elementary school, but is actually something you’re supposed to use to scrub out the dirt from clothes––you rub them up and down on the board, and then wring them out, soak them in the water and do it again.

There were puddles of spilled water on the floor. Our hands were red and chapped. My mom had sweat pouring down her temples––God knows I could feel it dripping down my face too. The muscles in my upper arms were burning and so weak from trying to ring out these enormously heavy shirts and petticoats that I could barely get them to move.

I think I got more skin to rub off my knuckles than dirt to rub out of the clothes.

Last Sunday, when my mom said we had to get the laundry done this week and I had asked, “Do we take it to Betsy’s?” she laughed so hard I was worried they’d have to call some men in a van to take her away. Now I understand what she meant.

I was so tired last night I fell asleep sitting up on the porch.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I milked the cow again! I can milk a cow! I’ve done it twice now––in the afternoon yesterday and this morning. Take that, Nora-know-it-all!
For dessert last night we had warm milk with a few spoonfuls of leftover coffee and this tiny bit of brown sugar my mom’s been saving as a treat––cafĂ© au lait.

Monday, May 17, 2010

So I did a really dumb thing with the cow. When Nora said, all super snotty-like, “You kids ever milked a cow before?” I told her I had.

So dumb, right? I knew right away it was. And that was before I’d figured out Nora was going to make me milk the cow in front of her. I’d thought maybe I’d figure it out on my own that night in the barn.

And Jezebel? The cow? Up close, she’s huge. And red, like she’s angry.

All I remember about what came next was standing in the kitchen. Nora had told me to go get the milk pail but I was so freaked out I forgot what I was even looking for once I got inside. My mom was saying, “Gen? What’s going on?” and I just stared.

I felt like I was marching to the gallows, walking back to the barn.

And then, you’ll never believe it, but I milked that friggin’ cow!

Remember when we used to milk those fake cows at the zoo with the rubber bags hanging down shaped like udders? Well, I guess I must have learned something.

The milk came out so fast, some of it even splashed me on the face! =)
Ron had told us that every family would be given a cow, but I’d forgotten all about it until this morning. Gavin and I were pulling up potatoes in the kitchen garden, and suddenly there was Nora, leading a cow by a rope. She looked like she’d marched right out of an illustration from a Mother Goose book, with her cap and her braid and her boots and her long dress that she wore like it wasn’t driving her totally crazy the way mine was.

Sometimes––and I know this is pathetic––I have to force myself to remember that Nora should not look normal to me, that 1890 should always cause a shock to the senses, but it’s hard sometimes to remember.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

My mom took this meeting way too seriously. She made us button all our buttons and wear stockings and Gavin had to wear his wool hat, even though during the day it gets really hot.

One of Gavin’s jobs is to carry ashes from the stove to a big bin in the outhouse. We all pour some ashes down the hole when we’re done. Everyone has ashes under their nails. Ew. When we were getting ready for the Sunday picnic my mom made us all scrub our nails clean.

Okay, the meeting: Can I just say how cute Caleb is? He wears this leather necklace and every time I see it I just about want to float away.

The rest of the meeting was horrible, though. Apparently you get graded on how you’re doing every week. We got the worst grade of the camp––a 4 out of 10. This other family, where they all have red hair? They’ve finished weeding their wheat crop while we aren’t even a quarter of the way into ours.

BTW: Some of the other families are cooking and eating their chickens. Ew.

Also at the meeting, I got to talk to Ka some more. She is starting to become my actual friend. Want to know something crazy? Her mom just got married to her step dad and they’re totally Brady-Bunching their families. For them, the camp is supposed to be bonding, but they actually hate each other.

But I forgot the best part of the meeting. After, when were all eating our food, Caleb came over and asked to trade some of his family’s chicken and cheese for my mom’s bread. (She’s getting better at making bread.) I’m pretty sure he was just doing it to be nice. To be nice to me!

When Nora noticed Caleb talking to me, she started throwing me these dark looks. I think she truly hates me.
Okay, calm down Ashley. I’ve gotten five texts from you in the last hour. I had to put the phone down because my mom was coming. But now I’m up in the loft and can type.

So: Caleb. I was running to find a hiding place and I didn’t see that he was already there. I almost sat on him, and then suddenly he was holding my hand, dragging me into the woods! Does this mean he likes me?

It’s confusing. I think Nora might actually be his girlfriend or something. I can’t tell. They’re together a lot.

After Nora saw Caleb and me together, she ran off into the woods and five seconds later, Matt, who was It, suddenly knew where I was. I know this is paranoid, but could she have possibly turned me in?

It doesn’t matter. I don’t care about Nora. I care about Caleb. I’ll see him later at the Sunday Meeting––all the families are supposed to meet at Ron and Betsy’s house once a week, like a church service. On the first day, Ron had explained that going to church was a big deal on the frontier and I’d been like, “Whatever.” But now, a Sunday meeting seems so much better than another day slaving away in the fields, I’m like, “Bring it on.”

Saturday, May 15, 2010

One more thing about Kick the Can last night. Something happened with Caleb (that’s the hat boy’s name), but I don’t know where to start. God, I wish you guys were here. It’s hard to type on this thing.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Kick the Can is going on now. I’m in my hiding place. Did I mention that Ka and her stepbrother Matt are both the children of gym teachers? They’re taking the game really seriously.

Okay, Matt and Ka play kick the can like a couple of covert military operatives. My training at Camp Sunshine doesn’t even remotely measure up.
What kind of grown-up would want to play kick the can? Apparently all of them. They’re so bored, they all spontaneously showed up just to “watch.” But really, all of them were vying for invitations to get into the game. This man Anders was giving his son Erik such a hard time about not letting him in the game that my dad had to intervene.
BIG NEWS. There’s a game of “no grown-up” kick the can on for tonight. What kind of grown-up would want to play kick the can anyhow?
Gavin hunted around for forty minutes this morning and he finally found it. An egg! For breakfast!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Gavin and me lying on our backs in the shade.
Gavin: Do you think that watching clouds in 1890 was what they did instead of watching TV?
Me: I don’t know but the idea that they considered cloud watching entertainment is maybe even more pathetic than the fact that they always had to eat beans.
Gavin: I think the beans part is just us.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Last night, Gavin told me my butt was keeping him from sleeping so I pushed him out of the bed and then got in trouble. Typical.
My mom made bread yesterday. It took her all day. She made three loaves. They were so hard you couldn’t slice them. My dad finally broke off pieces with an axe and we kind of gnawed on them. Today we are back to grits.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

After a few days of beans, no one is feeling well. My mom said there was dried beef, but in frontier times, because they didn’t have fridges, you layered meat into barrels with layers of salt. Usually this preserved it okay, but if it didn’t work, you could die from the bacteria that lives in spoiled meat.

Gavin was like, “So you’re saying that all summer, our choices are beans. . . or death?”

I have to say I was laughing pretty hard at that.

We’re supposed to have eggs, but Gavin hasn’t been able to convince the killer chickens to lay any. And we’re supposed to have milk––Ron said he’d give us a cow next week.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Here’s what we eat: Grits. What are grits, you may ask? They are cornmeal cooked in boiling water. We eat this for breakfast, for lunch and for dinner.

The other thing we eat is beans. My mom will make a pot for dinner and then we will eat them again all the next day. When grits get cold they congeal (nasty!) and you can slice them. So we had cold sliced grits with beans spread on top for lunch. Double nasty!
Kristin told me she’s using my texts for her computer class blog and asked me to describe our house. Well, it’s pretty bad. There’s one room downstairs with a loft above where we sleep. The windows are small and it smells like burnt food and mildew. Nice, right?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Thursday: I haven’t seen another kid since Sunday. I wonder, What’s going on with Ka? Has all her goth make up worn off? Is she still making up stories about Ron and Betsy’s former lives, or have her jokes been sucked dry by all this *?#! weeding?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

It’s Tuesday. I’m taking a break from weeding the cornfield. Not to sound like my Grandma, but my back is aching.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Actually, I kind of feel sorry for him.
Have I mentioned that there aren’t any screens on the windows and the bugs are horrible? Well, last night Gavin got a mosquito bite on his eyelid, and it’s swollen so bad he can’t open that eye. Good.