When he had done all he could to separate the majority of the wax from the honey in the three pots of comb he had placed near the fire for softening, Liz helping and both of them ending up rather sticky, Einar realized they had a slight problem. Their first batch of honey was well on its way to being processed, ready for storage, but they had nothing to store it in. Had discussed making pitch-lined vessels much like their water carriers so the honey would be not only secure but highly portable as well, but of course they hadn’t done it yet, had only processed roughly half of the honey, and needed a place to put the finished stuff so they could move on to the next batch. Liz saw him looking about rather perplexedly, realized the trouble.
“I know we don’t want to store it in the glass jars long-term, since they’re so breakable, but how about just temporarily, until we can get the carriers made…”
“Sure. Got to put it somewhere!” Soon, having filled two quart jars and with two of their three cooking pots--they had three now, Susan having left hers with them--remaining full of the stuff and somewhere near half of the unprocessed, honey-filled combs remaining in the bag-lined basket, it became clear that they were set to end up with nearly two gallons of honey, when all was said and done. Immeasurably valuable, considering the sort of winter they were sure to be facing up there, and Einar, contemplating the matter as he stretched his legs in an attempt to relieve the fierce ache that seemed to accompany their continued swelling, could not help but think that despite its rather disastrous turn, his honey-gathering expedition was proving to have been very much worth the trouble. Just as long as he made it through the present difficulties with no permanent damage, and though he was starting to feel a good bit better--was back to the point, finally, where the injuries from his session with Kilgore were starting to make themselves known again, ribs, shoulders; he hadn’t even thought about them over the past day or so, and not because they hurt any less--he supposed it really was too early yet to tell. Either way, definitely need to rig up a better smoke device for the next time. Sure can’t have this happen again. Liz’d probably…ha! She’d probably kill me if it did, if the bees didn’t, and that wouldn’t be real productive, heading into winter like this. Need both of us around.
Needed to get back to work on the honey, too, and he shook himself free of his half-daze, quickly swiped up the small puddle of honey that had dripped from the extended fingers of one of his hands and onto the aspen bark below, and worked to scrape the remainder of the stuff back into its pot, the jar he’d been working on filled nearly to overflowing. They needed those pitch-lined “honey canteens,” needed them before they’d be able to use the cookpots again for other purposes or to process the remaining honeycomb chunks, and Einar figured he’d better busy himself with gathering the willows Liz would need to weave the things. Was getting sleepy sitting there, having an awfully difficult time keeping his eyes open and he didn’t like it, hurried to his feet and dashed perhaps a bit too quickly out of the clearing, for Liz followed him, thinking he’d seen something, perhaps heard an aircraft, even. When instead of concealing himself in the brush he simply attacked the nearest clump of alpine willow, cutting wand after wand and laying them neatly on the ground for future bundling she was somewhat puzzled, wondering what could have suddenly elevated the need to collect willows to emergency status. Supposed he must be in a hurry to protect all that honey, and she couldn’t blame him, joined him in harvesting willows. Focusing on the narrower diameter willows that tended to be more flexible, she amassed quite a number of them, but began having trouble, knife badly needing sharpening after all the jerky slicing she’d done morning, and Einar, noticing her difficulty as he worked--having his own difficulties, hands clumsy and awkward as they were still full of water--to bundle the piles of already-cut wands for the return walk, held out to her his own knife. Reluctantly, she took a step back. “You sure I won’t get in trouble for using this?”
“Yes. This morning after your little nap…”
“Aw, you weren’t in any trouble. It’s just that when I woke not knowing right where I was, saw somebody standing over me with a knife and couldn’t find my own…well, that was real disturbing, to put it lightly. You’re welcome to borrow my knife whenever you need it, but how about next time if I happen to be asleep, you just wake me first to let me know what’s going on, Ok?”
“Of course. I’m sorry. I’d hoped to return it to you before you woke, but…”
He shook his head, grinning, handed her the knife. “Not your fault I sleep like a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs…as my grandmother used to say. Though actually I never did really understand the saying, because that cat would learn real quick to curl up, and would then be in no greater danger than a critter with a shorter tail, but you get the idea. Here. Take it. We’ll sharpen yours back up at the cabin. You want to make these baskets, or should I?”
“I’ll do it. Looks like your hand aren’t quite back to normal, and I might be able to do a faster job of the weaving. Besides, weren’t you wanting to finish up that chimney that Mr. Kilgore started? So we’ll have the stove to use as these nights get colder and colder…”
“Yep, that I was. He hauled in all pretty much all the rock we’ll need, it looks like, so I just got to stack it, make everything fit together good and tight and then probably give it a good coating of mud plaster, mud and spruce needles--ha! Kinda like what I had smeared all over me yesterday, by the time I’d managed to pass out on the ground a time or two and end up all encrusted with a few pounds of forest floor--because it’s hard to seal off all the cracks just by the accurate stacking of rocks, when you’re talking about something like that chimney. Hard for me to do it, anyway. Maybe a master stone mason could do a neater job of it, but I’ll get us something functional going, and you can have your fires, your good warm stove to keep the place toasty when little Snorri comes along.”
“Well I don’t know about ‘toasty.’ You probably couldn’t stand to be in the place for more than seconds at a time if we made it toasty, and Snorri and I would more than likely wake up one morning to find you frozen solid out in the woodshed where you’d sprawled out for the night to get away from the toastiness, but being able to keep the place somewhere above freezing at least part of the time when it’s thirty, forty below outside sure would be a good start.”
A more difficult task, Einar knew, than Liz might be imaging, but determined to make it happen, he hurried inside as soon as they reached the clearing to begin making progress on the chimney. The stove, coupled with a good quantity of wood stashed in the woodshed and leaned up lengthwise under nearby evergreens where it would be kept relatively dry and accessible well into the winter, would give them their best chance of being able to keep the place reasonably warm when needed. More insulation wouldn’t hurt, either. I’ve got this place pretty well chinked, not too many breezes blowing through, except for that big opening above the door...will hate to lose that thing, ‘cause it’s what lets me see the sky at night, but guess I’d better see about plugging it up, because a lot of heat is bound to escape through it…and that debris wall I put together around part of the perimeter seems to have been a big help, too, but I need to finish it, maybe see about letting it come up higher on the wall.