The First Winter

The Compiled Journals of Partner Lem
Day 212, 0 NE

We spent the winter at Thomas’ homestead reading the big book, looking up useful bits of knowledge as needed, or reading long passages trying to figure out the roles the System had in mind for us.

When spring finally arrived, the wind-blown drifts of crusty snow seemed to melt all at once. The brilliant white tops of the ridges began a slow fade to brown, and the river ran fast and high. Sheaves of brilliant green blades sliced up through tufts of brown grass I’d assumed were long dead. Powdery yellow and waxy orange blossoms reached upward on tall spindly stems. A low-lying mist of tiny purple flowers floated and swirled around the sage bushes. All the colors of spring stretched away until distance blended them with the dirt and rocks and sage into a unified khaki.

All winter, we lived on re-hydrated food, a few fresh vegetables from Thomas’ garden, and the fish Eryn has become quite skilled at extracting from the river. She spends hours fishing alone. Her level of patience is beyond me.

We’re starting to look ahead. A week or so ago, we made dozens of trips to the river with a wheelbarrow to scoop up veins of newly deposited black soil. These we hauled back and used to expand the garden. On the advice of the big book, we’ve been adding table scraps, garden trimmings, and ash from the pot-belly stove to the spot were we buried the rotten food from the dead refrigerator. We mixed the resulting dark muck into the garden’s soil as well. It’s supposed to help.

The book suggested we keep seeds so we set them aside by the handful as we ate our way through Thomas’ crop. We used these to supplement the seeds the System provided in its final delivery. A few days ago we planted a garden for the first time in our lives. In my life at least. I’m not sure about Eryn.

Sadie sticks close to Eryn’s heel. The dog doesn’t have much interest in me, but the moment a bird or a hare appears, you’d think trying (and failing) to catch it was all that mattered in the world, and for a few moments she’s like her old self.

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