It was raining. Daphne Pridmore was getting thoroughly sick of the rain. It meant that she had to stay inside for the most part. Going out to check on the hives was pointless. If they could use the truck, it might be worthwhile, but they'd decided to save the wear and tear on their only truck for emergencies. As much as she hated to admit it, cabin fever wasn't a real emergency. If she really wanted to go out, it would mean getting the horses hitched to the wagon. And driving the team in the rain. And dealing with very agitated bees, who would be less than amused at the stupid human who wanted to bother them when they were all snug in their hives. Even the bees knew when to stay inside.

Noises occasionally filtered up from the basement. Ikey, her husband, was no doubt puttering down there with one of his many projects. Everybody else was gone for the day. The kids were at school, both hers and those of the families living with them. If the rain didn't let up between now and the time they got out of school, the kids would end up going to her brother-in-law's house for the night. She missed having Zeke and Evie living with them, but it was nice to have a place closer to town for the kids to stop in at. Several of their down-time boarders were out on a route collecting honey in the caravan and wouldn't be back for a few more days. The caravans had been built with exactly this kind of situation in mind. The large wagons held all the comforts of home and enough supplies for a couple of weeks. The seventeenth-century version of an RV. She listened to the rumbling thunder and hoped they were all okay.

She wandered around the house looking for something to do. Eventually she ended up in one of the smaller upstairs bedrooms. At one time it had been Ikey's grandmother's sewing room. Now it was the repository for all of the oddball projects that they had worked on over the years. There were scraps of leather in various states of being tooled or made into different items. Boxes of fabric were bulging out of the closet, often spilling their multihued contents over the ones below. A lone spinning wheel sat abandoned in the corner, covered with dust and strewn with pairs of hand-dipped candles. In short, it looked like a craft store had been caught in a tornado and then had all of its contents dumped in the tiny room. Daphne spotted one of their project books peeking out from under a macramé plant hanger. She picked it up and thumbed through it. It listed all of the things on their "To Do" list, month by month. This one was from a year before the Ring of Fire. She smiled as she read it to herself. So much had changed.

  1. Clean fireplace
  2. Clean out car
  3. Finish spring quilt
  4. Go shopping for groceries
  5. Drop Mariah with Grandma Mamie and have movie night . . .

The more she read, the more homesick she became. Here was her life, written down on paper. The week by week retelling of what had been an ordinary life in a small town. She thumbed a few pages ahead. It was the same. Some of the items were different, but there was so much that they couldn't do now. Tears welled up in her eyes as she went through page after page of what they had considered important enough to write down at the time. So much of it was meaningless to her daily life now. How could she worry about getting oil for her car when there was no gas to run it? Or go to a Renaissance Faire, when they were living in a time that was scant decades from when Shakespeare wrote his plays? The tears started rolling down her cheeks as she went through May, June, July . . .

A small note in the end of July caught her attention. It was scrawled in Ikey's handwriting "Check on peppers, add salt if needed." It took her a moment to figure out what he was writing about. Then it hit her. That was the summer they had grown so many peppers that they didn't know what to do with them all. They had found an article talking about Tabasco sauce, and decided that it would be fun to try. They had filled up one of Ikey's wooden five gallon barrels with the pepper and salt mixture. Then they had put it away to ferment. It was right before Ikey's dad had been in a car accident. Daphne quickly flipped through the remaining pages. There was no mention of them bottling the sauce. Nor could she remember ever finishing them. That meant they might still be around someplace, assuming that Ikey hadn't thrown them out.

It had been over a year since the last of their Tabasco had run out. Many of their other up-time spices were gone as well. There were many other things that they could get down-time. Herbs were the easiest, either from their garden, the local markets, or trading with another up-timer who was growing something they didn't already have. Even bay leaves and several kinds of ginger could be found if you knew where to look or who to ask. Salt was easy to find as well. And there were many new things that she would have never considered as spices, like juniper berries and rue. But when it came to adding heat and flavor to dishes, they were severely limited. Curry powder was unheard of. Black pepper could be found, at exorbitant prices. True, they had plenty of chili peppers, but every time she had used them when it was her turn to cook, the down-timers complained about the food being too hot. She put them on her own food, but for the most part they added more heat than flavor. The mere thought of Tabasco sauce was enough to make her mouth water. She tossed the book back on the corner of the table and headed for the basement. If the peppers were still around, Ikey would know where they were. He had barrels of stuff stashed all over the place from brewing and was notorious for not putting labels on anything, so the only way to track them down was to go find him. She wiped away the tears and hurried off. She was a woman on a mission. Her day was looking up.

* * *

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