03 May, 2012
3 May 2012
Back outside, Einar spent a good bit of the day putting himself through his paces with the rifle, working until his arms were worn out and sitting perhaps a bit longer than Liz would have liked in the snow from time to time, but true to his word he did eat everything she put in front of him, and it seemed she had something new for him to try each time he went inside. The meals she prepared were quite small that day, just little tastes of this and that which she hoped might give Einar the nutrients he urgently needed to keep him from slipping too much further in the wrong direction; she knew better than to try and load him down with too much right at first, lest he end up quite ill and with a legitimate reason to stop eating once again. Not what she wanted. As for what Einar wanted it remained something of a mystery as always, but she was glad to see him keeping to his word and making an effort to do a good bit more eating, regardless of his motivations. Slipping Will into the snugness of his parka-pouch, she crept out through the tunnel to join him in the afternoon sunlight.
Einar was nowhere in sight, but Muninn glided down from his perch to greet her, chortling and tilting his head at the little bundle on her back and taking some exception when she shooed him away from landing on a shoulder. Didn’t want him grabbing the little one with those claws, even through the parka, but of course had no way to explain this to the bird.
“Go land on Einar. He’s not carrying anyone but himself. Where is that goofy guy, anyway? You see him anywhere, or do I have to start following tracks? Take me to him, Muninn. Come on, I know you can understand what I’m saying. You’re not fooling me with those beady little black eyes of yours. I know what kind of a clever, conniving brain you’ve got in there.”
Seeming to take no offense at being labeled clever and conniving--such terms are, of course, amongst the highest compliments which can be paid to a raven, and seldom does he care in what context the words may come-- Muninn took to the air, circling and then sailing off around the cabin and across the clearing, Liz close behind him as she studied the trail through the snow for any sign of fresh tracks, thinking she saw some but not entirely certain. Muninn stopped when he reached the area where the majority of their meat was hung in its cache-trees, leaving Liz ready to scold him for misleading her and caring only about having a snack, until she saw Einar. Crouched at the base of one of those tall spruces with head back and arms behind him for balance he was studying their food supply, a look somewhere between contentment and anguish on his face, and she could not read it. He heard her coming, turned to face her.
“Sure did get a lot put away for the winter, didn’t we?”
“We did great, I think! I can come out here anytime I want and choose between sheep, elk, bear or mountain goat, and we’ve even still got a few rabbits frozen up there in the heights of these trees, I’m pretty sure! And enough bear fat and honey in the cabin to see us through the winter, along with dried greens, berries and all the good starchy roots we dug…yep, we’re living the good life up here.”
Einar nodded. “Yeah.” And if he meant to say more, he never did get around to it. Liz sat down beside him, careful not to lean back against a tree in a way that would put any weight on the little one.
“What are you doing out here? Trying to decide on dinner? We could have elk steaks, or ground bear casserole with wild onions and spring beauty potatoes, or…”
He laughed softly. “Nope, just taking inventory. Almost looking like we may get to turn some of this into jerky before spring comes, since we took more than we may end up finishing during the freezing time. Would hate to lose any of it to flies when the weather starts warming, and things thaw out.”
“That’s still a couple months away, don’t you think?’
“Ought to be, but it doesn’t hurt to think ahead. And quickly as things look to be thawing in the valley, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if we saw an early spring up here, too.”
“So you think we ought to be working to turn some of this into jerky, right now?”
“Sure wouldn’t hurt. That way it’d be more mobile, too, if we had to take it anywhere, and could be safely cached without worrying about spoilage when things started warming up. Would really like to get more of this cached. It’s something that ended up getting neglected this past fall. Something I neglected. We’ve got things here and there, of course, but could do with a lot more. Sorry for letting that go by the wayside.”
“You had a lot going on this past fall, as I remember…baby on the way, trying to get in enough meat for the winter, firewood gathering, among other things, and I think we did just fine with the caches we did put out there. The jerky sounds like a good idea, though. This meat is all but impossible to work with when it’s frozen as hard as it is…well, you’ve seen what it takes just to saw a piece loose to bring inside and cook…and I can’t really imagine taking off slices of jerky when it’s like that, at least not with the tools we have available to us!”
“No, that sure wouldn’t be easy. Stuff almost turns into a structural material at these temperatures, could be used for building a house…edible house, hmm…” and he was lost for a moment in daydream at the thought of it, walls of frozen meat just waiting to be sliced up and thrown in the cook pot, chairs and couch of giant, fresh-out of-the-oven bread loaves and wheels of cheese…well, he wasn’t sure exactly what their role might be, only that they must be included. He laughed out loud, shook his head to clear it of the rather distracting images. “Yeah, could be used to build a house. Not at all easy to slice. But if we bring it in piece by piece and let it begin thawing, slice it when it’s less than halfway thawed, now that’s some much easier work. And we’ve got good knives now, ways to keep them sharp so the task ought to be a lot easier than it was the last time we put back any quantity of the stuff. Figure we can just hang it on lines above the stove to dry, since it’s gonna be a good bit warmer in here than outside for a long while yet, and if we work a little bit on this most days, we ought to have the excess of meat dried and stashed away before it starts getting warm. And then when we bring in fresh stuff from the trapline, well, we can eat at least some of it fresh, since we’ll have the older stuff taken care of.”
“Yes, that sounds like a good plan. Should we get started right now?”
“Why not? How about we start with some elk? Elk jerky is pretty good eating all by itself, and makes awful nice stew, too…”
Together they lowered an elk quarter, already partially gone to evening stews but with more than half remaining, Einar slinging it over his shoulder for the walk back to the cabin--Liz, seeing him struggle under its weight, wanted to offer help but let him alone, knowing it was better that way--and Liz following along beside him, glad not only of the project, but of seeing Einar plan for the future as she had not seen him do for quite some time.