By Richard Bleil
“Honey, I wish you would eat your breakfast! You know we don’t like to waste food!”
“Do you have to work today, mommy?”
“Sweetheart, you know I do. Now that your daddy is not with us, I have to go every day. Now finish your breakfast while mommy gets ready.”
In the bathroom, she prepares to take a shower. When she’s ready, she starts the control and two countdowns begin, a five second countdown, and a three minute countdown. She steps into the dry shower, and as the first timer ends, the water turns on and the second timer begins, which will turn the water off when the time is up.
Stepping out of the shower and finishing her preparations, she steps out, and takes the breakfast dishes off of the table. She walks to the sink and washes the dishes, placing them in the rack to dry.
“Time for mommy to go to work,” she says, and kisses the top of her daughter’s head. “Be good.”
“Bye-bye, mommy” she replies.
Stepping through the doors, she walks to the work station. She turns on the desk lamp, and starts up the computer. She clicks the environmental monitors, which illuminates two series of monitors, each with both digital and analog redundancies in their readouts.
She looks at the expanse. “Damn,” she says under her breath. “I better replace that bulb while the illumination is still set for sunrise.”
She maneuvers the high ladder to be just under the lamp with the burned out bulb. The lifetime of these bulbs is impressive, but as many as there are, and as long as they have been running, periodically one has to be replaced anyway. She is always uncomfortable climbing the stairs, especially when she can only use one of the rails for support because she’s carrying something. She asked for an electric lift, but it couldn’t be done since it would have wasted resources in charging. Even at this dim setting, she can feel the heat radiating from the plant lights surrounding the burned out one. She cannot stay under it for long, as it will cause sunburn, but the expanse of plants under the lights enjoy the light.
She heads to the warehouse and grabs her feed sack and fills it. She heads to the pens.
The chickens gather around her hungry for their feed. She spreads the feed out to keep them busy while she continues her chores. She checks the automated water bin. It seems to have worked last night. The water is fresh, so the old water was drained for recycling, and fresh water has replaced it. “I’ll have to scrub that soon,” she says to herself. She takes out her small portable tablet, and makes a note.
After cleaning out the coop and collecting the droppings for composting into fertilizer, she collects the eggs. She takes out her tablet, and checks the stores. “We’re good on meat for another night or two,” she says to herself. She leaves the pen, and returns with the eggs. In the stores, she cycles the eggs, putting the older ones in front, and the fresh ones in the back. While she is at it, she takes a few that are too old out, and puts them in the compost heap as well.
She takes the hand cart, fills it with feed and containers, heads out to goat pen, and takes as much care there as she did with the chickens. She milks them, and makes sure they have food and water. She’s very happy that one of them is expecting; she’ll have to slaughter a goat for meat soon. Back in the stores, she puts the milk in the separator. The fat will be used for butter, and the milk will be refrigerated. She removes some of the older milk, and puts it in the cheese preparation instrument. She starts it. The milk will be warmed to the ideal temperature, and the cultures will be added and mixed at the proper time.
Back home, she’s delighted to see her daughter. She hasn’t moved an inch, still watching her show. She wonders how many times she can watch that same thing. “How are you, mommy!” she asks when she sees her mom.
“Good,” her mom replies. “Everything is going great.”
After she has checked on her daughter and had lunch, it’s time for the afternoon duties. She heads back to the stores, and collects her tools, including a sack for the harvest. She hesitates, and draws an exasperated sigh. She knows she will see him out there. Every day, she has to see him.
Her job requires harvesting ready vegetables, checking the soil, and fixing any stuck or clogged water heads used in irrigation, and plant as necessary. Towards the back wall, by the carrots, she sees his remains. Still lying face down, the bullet hole in the back of his head is especially prominent now that the flesh has decayed away. “At least you weren’t a total waste,” she says to the skeleton.
Damn, this water head is clogged again. She takes out her tool kit and gets to work on it. She notes the water head number on her tablet’s maintenance log.
Fortunately, all of the automated systems seem to be working properly. Collected water is stored in “non-potable” storage bins, used for irrigation. After filtration and irradiation with ultraviolet light, a treated water bin is filled nicely, used for water and cleaning. Drinking water is collected from water condensers that collects water from the air.
Naturally, there is always some waste and loss, but without the need to feed and clean him, the stores are being used less rapidly than the predicted needs. She is tired of working alone on this two-person job, but there’s not much choice now, and the trade off of help in shouldering the burden seems like a fair trade for avoiding emergency conservation that would further reduce the amount of water and food for consumption.
Exhausted, as the lights begin to dim to simulate dusk, it’s time to check the monitors. After again checking that the data is being uploaded correctly, she checks the recordings. The CB and radio scanners did not seem to record anything. Again. The radiation levels look like they are not changing at all. She has noticed a decay since they entered the shelter, but it’s been slower than predicted. Still, though, maybe someday.
Tired and dirty, she returns to her daughter. “What did you do today?” she asks.
“Nothing really, mommy,” she replies as her mother kisses her face.
“Good girl.” She goes to the bathroom, bringing her daughter with her. Without her husband, she is allowed a luxury…two showers in one day, but she still shares the second shower with her daughter. Since her dad is gone, she shares her bed with her daughter, and prefers that she smell fresh at night. Even in using his shower water allotment, the overall water consumption is still less than predicted.
The night before, she put together a nice goat pot roast for supper in the slow cooker. It’s kind of bland, as there is not room for spices in the growing racks, but with carrots and kale, it’s still good. She makes a plate for her daughter, and pours her a glass of milk. The cheese is gone, but a batch should be ready in a few days.
After cleaning the dishes again, and putting away the leftovers. She gets herself and her daughter ready for bed. “I love you, mommy,” her daughter says, as her mother put her into bed.
“I love you, too,” she replies, kissing her. Before getting into bed herself, she peels off what she can from her daughter’s decaying skeleton so she can recycle it before getting into bed herself.