Wednesday, March 2, 2011


As it turns out, Will is going to be given the shittiest job possible, and that description is as literal as it's possible to be. He will be part of the detail that ferries people to and from the farms, workers and guards alike, but Will gets the job of driving the honey wagon.

One of the many details that get overlooked by most of us is how we deal with our waste. There isn't such a thing as trash anymore, as we recycle every scrap of what we use. Cans from canned food get sent to the rough building we use to house all scrap metal. Bags emptied of their grain or rice get re-purposed to hold other things. Packaging from dry foods, supplies, anything you can think of is saved for future use.

Since we couldn't waste water to remove our bodily wastes even if we still had running water most of the time (the system here in Frankfort is half gravity, half pump, and we've got running water when the reservoir down the road gets filled by the rain) we wouldn't waste it on toilets. We stock water up for the hard times when we don't have rain. No, our refuse is separated into two parts, solid and liquid. Urine goes into buckets, the buckets emptied out into barrels, and the barrels are distilled. The water we get from that distillation is saved for plants. The concentrated remains are stored, as I'm told that eventually we'll be able to break it down into something more useful. Chemistry isn't my strong point, so I just take it on faith.

Solid refuse gets composted. Some here, for the food gardens we have planted all over the compound, but the majority of it goes out to the farms. I know that other groups of survivors out there don't go that far, but we do. It's really gross to think about saving up all of our own excrement to feed the plants that will eventually feed us, but it's necessary. We've got a lot of livestock that we could draw on for this purpose, but frankly it's much easier to use human waste. So, once a day, the honey wagon goes out to take a load (ha!) to one of the farms. The person driving that cart has to sit right in front of it, which isn't fun. It's actually horse-drawn, since during the occupation the soldiers made a point of gathering horses to use (this is about the only useful thing they did--we had been doing this before, but it wasn't regularly scheduled. Not enough horses).

So Will gets the honey wagon, and will be going out at least once a day to deliver the goods. He gets to shovel it out, and help the farmers mix it with the other stuff that goes into the compost heaps.

I mentioned yesterday that there was a lot more trouble on the farms than we expected. It's nothing shocking, really, but it does cause a few logistical problems for us. Since we lost a bit less than ten percent of our workforce taking back the compound, many people that came with us from North Jackson have stayed around to help. That's only a temporary solution until we finish repairing the gap in the north wall, though many of the people Gabby and the others gathered along the way have decided to take permanent residence here. Some are still up north, waiting to come to the compound along with a convoy of supplies and other sundries collected while we were refugees. Mason, to my delight, has opted to stay here as a citizen of the compound for the time being, though he has asked to be one of the people that makes trade runs to North Jackson. He has a fondness for that place. So do I.

Without the support of the NJ folks that are here, we'd be hard pressed to keep the farms safe. Zombies have been trying to raid the livestock, them being an easier target than wild animals out in the woods or humans that can shoot them full or arrows from a distance. Don't get me wrong--people are still food choice number one. But human flesh is hard to come by thanks to the monumental efforts we go to in order to safeguard the lives of our people. So, they settle for other animals, and bump against our walls from time to time in hungry frustration.

We're having to field a lot of guards at the farms to keep the number of zombies on our lands manageable. It's a huge resource drain, not to mention the dozen other details that go into just having the guards there. Making sure they have food, for one, and water. Making sure they have transport there and back. Rotating them out in shifts, providing weapons, setting up quarters so we don't have to rotate them so often between here and there. It's a nightmare, and thinking about it makes my head hurt.

I wish we could just build a wall around the farms, but that's never going to happen. Or at least not any time in the next few years. Even if we had the manpower, which we don't, we just don't have enough supplies to make that happen. While we were able to procure machinery that will turn trees into rough boards and posts last year, and we even found someone to modify it to work on an electric motor backed with batteries and solar power, it wouldn't be able to produce enough in a month to cover even ten percent of the area we need protected. We worked it almost to death just working on the compound and the annex next door. It's been working nonstop for days trying to make a stock of boards for the wall repairs.

Even at full capacity, it wasn't enough for the wall we already have. I don't think I've ever really described it in detail, but it isn't like the old wooden walls of 18th century forts. It isn't a bunch of uniform logs put together by skilled craftsmen. It's a messy jumble in most places. Posts, many of them cannibalized telephone and power poles, make up the basic structure. Between them we've run a mixture of raw logs, rough boards, and every foot of chain link fence we could get hold of. That's actually a hell of a lot, because we used all the stuff we pulled up from the neighborhood that has become the compound, as well as the annex and anywhere else we could find it. The chain link is extremely useful for covering the gaps that are inevitable in a wooden wall, so we've plastered it all over it. Hell, there are parts of cars, pieces of demolished houses, and whatever else we could find to make the thing zombie-proof. It isn't pretty, but we made it work.

But it did take a phenomenal coordinated effort to get it done. One I just don't think we can replicate. Things here aren't terrible, but the rift between the people who wanted the death penalty from Will and those of us who didn't is there. Not violent, not even really hateful, but a curtain between the two groups as deep and dividing as any religion or political difference has ever been. Add to that the strained food supplies, extra work details out on the farms, and the huge number of injured that can't yet do physical labor to help out, and you end up with an overall bad mojo. It's annoying but not yet dangerous. One of the good things about living with a bunch of survivors is that we tend to be a tough lot. We can put up with just about anything. Just living through the last year is a testament to that.

So, while there are struggles and effort beyond the norm, we've at least got a handle on them. We see the problems and are working to address them. It's not an ideal situation, but the hallmark of the people that live here is that they will always try to fix what's broken, work until the job is done, and above all take care of each other no matter what their differences might be. It sucks that the situation here is such that we have to use those deep reserves of character to get through our daily needs, but it's also rewarding to see people manage it.

I think I hear the honey wagon coming up the road. Those makeshift axles squeak like a bastard. I've got a present for Will. In his official capacity, of course...

Hey, I'm glad the guy's alive. I never said I didn't think he deserves the punishment.

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