Things are starting to settle back into the new normal around here. We’ve only been back a couple days, but we’re finding our rhythm again. With the exception of Mandy, who is still mourning the loss of her husband, even the new additions are starting to fall in to the daily routine of chores, guard duty and self-subsistence farm living.
We also have a couple new projects.
As I mentioned, living space is pretty cramped with all the new “residents”. We now need to house Mike and Jenny’s family of five as well as Ariela and Mandy. After discussing it briefly yesterday, Ariela and Mandy are amenable to living as roommates. That makes it relatively easy to accommodate their housing needs. Mike and Jenny’s family is another matter.
Our plan is to build a third cabin for Mandy and Ariela, similar to the two smaller cabins we already have. We have a pretty good stockpile of frame lumber stored in the machine shed. We also have several bags of concrete mix left over from the previous two small cabin projects. If our estimates are correct, there is enough concrete for the footings and foundation of one more cabin.
D.J. suggested salvaging sheeting and insulation from the old house on the eastern half of our property but we may need to renovate that house for Mike and Jenny. Right now, it’s the only thing large enough to contain all five of them … unless we start stacking people like cord wood. If we hadn’t burned down the house to the northwest, where Marta and her gang were holed up, we could have salvaged some of what we need from that house.
The house to the south, where we found the Hernandez gang members that killed the Larsens, is still standing as is the Larsen place. Both of those houses are quite a distance away, though. As it stands, Terry and Laura aren’t too excited about letting their daughter and grandchildren out of their sight.
Another option that we discussed was for Terry, Laura, Mike, Jenny and their kids to move back to Terry and Laura’s place. We haven’t been out to check on their farm since they left back in November. It’s about six or seven miles away and there hadn’t been a need until now. It’s entirely possible that squatters have moved in or that the house was destroyed by looters. Any number of other things may have happened but it’s an option to consider, regardless.
There are a handful of other empty homes within a mile or two of our farm. Most of them are uninhabitable. It may be time to start making use of them – salvaging what we can. I’m struggling a little bit with that and I think a few others are too. In my mind, the houses represent a shared resource – a resource that belongs to the Union Creek community. We have introduced new members into the community but does that mean that those resources belong to us … or the new members of the community?
We’ve survived this long without really having to salvage or scavenge anything – except what we brought back from the National Guard armory. When we took what we found at the armory, it didn’t even occur to me that any survivors in the surrounding neighborhoods could also have benefited from what we took. I don’t think it occurred to anyone else either. It just seemed natural to take off with the spoils of war, so to speak.
If I put myself in the shoes of those living near the armory, I’m thankful that the scum has been scraped from the pond but I’d sure like a drink of the fresh water underneath, as it were. Granted, we didn’t drain the pond entirely but we sure didn’t leave much behind either. Have we reached a point where the rules of society in the new normal are simply “live and let live”? Do civilized people now merely agree not to kill one another as they struggle to survive or do those with greater “wealth” have a responsibility to those who are less fortunate?
Prior to the crash, my family and I felt that we were blessed. (Not that we aren’t still blessed.) We felt that those, who through no fault of their own, found themselves in a position of need deserved a hand up. We felt that, as fellow sojourners in this journey called Life, it rested on our shoulders – not the government’s – to help those in need. It wasn’t always monetary assistance. In fact, it was more often some other kind of help. Should we still feel that way? Frankly, I haven’t had a lot of time to stop and consider it. Strange that it comes to mind now … just as we’ve taken in a handful of people who could be considered less fortunate. Have we fulfilled our responsibility in so doing or do we have a greater duty still?
In addition to settling that question amongst ourselves, we also need to pull together a meeting of the community and discuss the information that we gathered on our mission to Omaha and Lincoln. I think it’s critical that those living in the Union Creek area understand what we are up against now … and are likely to be up against in the not-too-distant future.
Everyone needs to understand that there are, perhaps, thousands of other survivors between here and the cities living subsistence lives just like we are. Many of them are not nearly as well equipped or supplied. Many have watched loved ones die of starvation, dehydration, illness and injury. Quite a few of them are on the verge of losing their sanity much like we imagine Melody lost hers. A number have probably gone past the edge of sanity but continue to survive, all the same.
The members of our community need to know what’s going on in the cities. Quite a few probably have relatives living in Omaha or Lincoln, so the news will be difficult to digest. We saw the squalor of FEMA camps as well as the desperation of those outside the camps trying to survive however they can. We heard of people doing things that made us question their humanity. We saw tons of evidence of the dark side of humanity and hardly an ounce of what is good and right. Things in the rural areas are bad, but things in more densely populated areas are much, much worse.
The stench of rot … rotting food, rotting corpses, rotting civilization … permeates the urban areas. We wore bandanas, Shemaghs or dust masks over our faces to filter out the horrible odor. The urban and suburban landscapes look like landfills. Refuse, waste and remains clog the streets.
By my estimate, the populations of Omaha and Lincoln have been reduced by 60% – maybe more. It seems a miracle that as much as 40% of the people have survived. The conditions are worse than can be imagined – even by those of us in rural areas who have also had to struggle to survive.
We were only slightly shocked to find that cannibalism is not all that uncommon. Pushed beyond the limits of their capacity to care, people have resorted to pure, instinctive survival mode. We heard rumors of “meat markets” where live, or recently dead, humans are sold … to be used as the highest bidder sees fit. Apparently, as often as not, they are bought as “beef on the hoof”.
Only the boldest and most well-armed venture outside their shelters. Packs of murderous looters aren’t the only risk. There are also packs of feral dogs that can drag down a relatively healthy adult and consume them in minutes. Other carnivorous animals have also come to the cities in search of prey. Humans are no longer at the top of the food chain.
We should consider ourselves fortunate that our wildlife ecosystem has remained relatively stable here near the farm. An influx of carnivores would not only pose a danger to us but also to our livestock. This bears watching … and reporting to our neighbors.
Trade has replaced traditional monetary commerce. Dollars are worth nothing more than the paper on which they are printed. Precious metals continue to hold little value. We visited a bazaar where the most in-demand items were water, food, toiletries and sanitary items, medications and medical supplies, guns and ammunition.
I watched as a man about my age tried to purchase toilet paper with a gold ingot that must have weighed nearly five ounces. He was able to purchase what was probably fifteen or twenty feet of toilet paper that looked as if it had been fished out of a toilet bowl – although, I doubt there are many toilet bowls with water in them these days.
I also saw a guy, accompanied by a fairly significant “security force”, selling guns and ammunition. People were mobbing around him making all sorts of offers. He rarely traded. When he did, it was usually for food, water or medications. None of the firearms were particularly nice, either. Most of them showed surface rust. Nearly all of them had some sort of damage to the stocks or grips. The ammunition, almost without exception, showed signs of corrosion.
We have been very fortunate, indeed.
How long do we have before we are caught up in a wave of humanity that is a part of a mass exodus from the cities?
Fortune favors the prepared.