Day 12: Ranchers build good fences

Day 12:

There’s something innately relaxing about having a pet. It’s something about how we humans are wired I think; we’re more comfortable when we’re not alone.

I have three cows and four chicken-ducks now, all of which seem to be thriving in my cow hole just as well as they did out on the plains. The birds are laying eggs. The cows are mooing and wandering around contentedly chewing their cuds. I didn’t spend a lot of time with livestock when I was growing up, but I did read enough apocalyptic fiction to know that, at least in theory, these are good signs.

Not only are they thriving, but I’m feeling better too. If you can’t get a dog, hug a cow. It will disturb the cow mildly (don’t do it somewhere that the cow can crush you against a wall) but it will make you feel a lot better. The cows seem to genuinely be interested in me, although I admit it may just be because I’m the one feeding them. They’re more huggable than the chicken-ducks.

The chicken-ducks are friendly enough I guess, but they have a way of looking at me as if they can’t believe I’m here. “What are you doing with your life?” they seem to ask.

I’m a little bit glad they seem so condescending. It makes me feel a little better about taking their eggs. Nobody wants a thousand condescending chicken-ducks on their porch. But I do want a good omelette, made with fresh milk and cream and eggs and herbs from the garden. Might have some carrots for it soon too.

So: chicken-ducks, kind of jerks. Cows: friendly warm huggable sofas that are confused but respectful of my presence, especially if I bring food.

If the Company comes for me tomorrow, I need to remember to break down the retaining walls for my animals before I leave. I’d hate to think of them starving. Like the Company left me.

Starving is a bit more personal of a concept now than it was twelve days ago. It used to be a phrase I’d toss off for no good reason. “I’m starving for some french fries,” I said, before coming here. I think it’ll be a while before I can glibly say “I’m starving” when I’ve eaten within the last 48 hours. I can’t say that feeling your stomach gnawing on itself for lack of food is a satisfying experience, and I’m really quite surprised I was able to make it as long as I did.

I still look forward to leaving, especially leaving the unfriendly members of the local fauna. But today’s the first day I can say I learned something from the experience of being here, and I suspect even if I wanted to, I won’t leave these lessons behind.

A very judgy chicken-duck thing

Day 11: Cows

Day 11:

Today, I became a rancher.

So there’s wheat down here. It’s probably not really wheat, but it’s some kind of grass that comes to seed. I planted some of it a few days ago because I was really coddamned hungry and, just like everything else on this lunatic planet, it came to maturity in just a couple of days.

(“Lunatic” seems fitting. The moon is huge and scary and rolls across the sky every night, leering at me.)

My primary goal was to make some kind of pathetic bread with it. Wheat flour ground between two of the tons of stones I’ve removed, water, bake in forge.

But now, maybe I can make good bread, with milk and eggs in it!

OK, let me move back a step. So I cut down the wheat in my tiny garden, and gathered both seeds and wheat stalks from it. I planted some of the seed, but I had too much to replant… so I started wandering around, looking for another good site to turn into a garden… and I suddenly felt like I was being followed.

Of course I assumed that it was the camo-giraffe-hell-bomb creatures, and dove to the ground. But just like the other day, I was greeted not with a bombastic BOOM but with a puzzled MOOO.

The cows were quite interested in my wheat stalks. In fact, they were following me.

Slowly, casually even, I wandered across the field back toward the cow hole/back porch/covered cave entrance I’d dug out. The cows followed. I stepped into the hole. They followed. I fed them the wheat. THEY BEGAN TO FRATERNIZE. And while they were fraternizing, I quickly piled some stone up into the area they’d just left, trapping them on my porch.

I HAVE A COW PORCH.

And also I now have a baby cow, because apparently these animals gestate for about 10 minutes. The baby cow isn’t exactly small. I’m pretty sure it outweighs me.The amount of energy the mama cows must use has to be pushing the laws of physics.

Do you remember the ancient film Gremlins, where the creatures got wet and suddenly multiplied by the dozens? Apparently that’s how wheat affects the cows here. I’ll have to keep that in mind when deciding when and how to feed them.

But the effect isn’t limited to cows. I noticed not long after luring the cows to safety that two chicken-ducks were following me when they noticed I was carrying some of the wheat seeds. (This must be some kind of superfood. Can’t say it makes an overly tasty bread though.)

The chicken-ducks were just as easy to lure as the cows, and just as easy to breed. They just prefer seed over stalk. So now I have three birds and three cows, and in theory, I can gather eggs, milk, and flour.

If I go get those pigs again, I could probably have some bacon too.

I think I’ll need more fencing before that.

Also some fencing to keep the skeletons out of my cow hole would be good planning.

Tomorrow’s going to be a busy day.

My first cow, Bessie, a sketch
My first cow, Bessie

Day 10: Hey look! Double digits!

Day 10:

Hey look! Double digits! I’ve survived on this hellish rock for 10 days!

Crap, that means that The Company has left me stranded here for 10 days.

Well, now I’m depressed.

Didn’t do a lot today, mostly dug holes. That’s what we miners do: we dig holes.

The only good news of the day (and it was super exciting news until I wrote the date above!) was that, while digging out some space under my main residence, I hit a vein of iron ore.

ACTUAL IRON.

I’ve reinforced my fire into a forge, not an easy trick with stone I might add. I’d kill for some metal buckets. I made a wooden one but it leaks like a sieve, because I am a miner, not a woodworker. But since I lack good buckets, I’ve at least built a smelter good enough to turn this cubic meter of ore into a solid ingot. (Some of those classes I took on “what to do with the ore after you dig it up” paid off after all. I’m as surprised as you are.)

It’ll take me a bit of time, but in theory I should be able to turn this into some armor, which might slow the zombies down a bit. I had intended to make some leather armor out of cows, but honestly, my experience trying to tan the sheep hides was so bad I’m not looking forward to skinning any cows.

My bed has maggots. MAGGOTS.

Still softer than sleeping on rock though.

I vaguely remember reading something in one of those pioneer porn-style books I inhaled as a kid that you can use animal brains to tan hide.

I’d give anything for my network connection into the collective. Or even a good encyclopedia.

Ugh, now I’m sad again.

Let’s see, I’ve been here 10 days. I’ve been cut off from civilization for 10 days, forced to forage for my own food and build my own tools. I’ve dug an impressive amount of ore for someone working with stone, but at the same time, I’d’ve cleared this entire prairie in about four hours with a suitable mining laser and a transporter.

The Company has failed to contact me. I try to think positively; perhaps they’re held up in political negotiations with the ruling power. Perhaps they’re refueling or in danger themselves. It may just be a matter of time until they land and pick me up.

But at night when the fire’s banked low and the pony-sized spiders are hissing on the porch, I can’t help but think that something horrible happened, leaving them all dead. Or that they’ve left me behind for some infraction I don’t even remember making. Or they just don’t care enough to notice I’m gone.

Whatever. I have iron to smelt. If I can’t do anything else, at least I can prove I’m just as good as Laura Ingalls Wilder at protecting myself.

a sketch of my smelter.
a sketch of my smelter.

Day 9: Fish! Fiiiiiiish!

Day 9:

I dug for ore all night. Couldn’t sleep, there was a spider on the back porch (the cow hole) that was hissing all night. I would’ve attacked it, especially around 4 am when my patience was at its end, but some slightly sane part of me thought that perhaps stepping out into the dark when the giraffe-corgis sleep just to kill a loud spider might be a bad idea.

It was still haunting my space in the morning though. As soon as the sun came up, I attacked. (I attacked by standing in my doorway, waiting for the spider — which didn’t fit through my front door if you’re wondering about the size of these beasts — to attack me, and then hitting it with my wooden sword.)

(In other news, it may be time to upgrade from the wooden sword.)

Like many of the other creatures here, it exploded into dust when killed. This one, though, contained two solid thick ropes of what I assume was spider silk.

ROPE!

It wasn’t enough for me to do anything truly impressive (like maybe make a new shirt because this one is seriously starting to smell) but it was enough for me to tie to a solid branch and turn into a fishing pole.

I spent the rest of the day fishing, from sun up to sun down, and caught around 15 or so fish. (With some required dodging of camoflaged giraffe corgis.)

At one point, I was on the shore, all the way out on a sand dune. I heard footsteps behind me and froze. Was it a skeleton? A zombie? A horrible green exploding giraffe corgi?

“MOOOOO!”

I admit I jumped right into the ocean.

some of the fish i caught
some of the fish i caught

Day 8: No pushy

Day 8:

Today I learned cows are difficult to push.

While looking for ore, I dug out a chunk of the hill that my cave is in.

(I guess since it has 4 walls and 2 doors I should call it a house now?)

(Nah, most of it is still underground, and there are cows grazing on my roof. Still a cave.)

It was perfectly shaped to hold larger animals. And it was mostly under cover, but with just enough access to the sky to keep anyone from getting claustrophobic.

Technically I’m breaking Company policy, by the way. When we’re dropped into a planet, we’re supposed to enter the caves, mine the ore, take everything valuable inside, and get the heck back out without ever disturbing the surface. It should look like we were never there. The goal is to covertly do extractions without alerting the natives (or their government) that we were ever present.

I strongly suspect The Company is not properly procuring their intergalactic mining permits.

The problem is on a planet of polite flora and fauna, it’s easy to go into a cave, extract ore, and go home, especially with a team, and most especially with a team who has the right tools. On a planet of zombies and skeletons and flocking giraffe-corgis that explode, it’s important to build a shelter with a door.

I could have followed policy to a T by digging into the earth and covering my tracks and never surfacing, but:

  1. How would The Company find me, if I left no traces on the surface? It’s not like my radio’s here.
  2. I can’t make stone tools without wood handles, and trees don’t grow underground. (Well, so far. Nothing about this damn place would shock me anymore.)
  3. I’m hungry. My supplies are gone. If I hadn’t killed those sheep a few days ago, I’d be starved to death right now. Staying alive means growing food because as I am about to prove, I am a lousy lousy rancher.

So anyway, here I was with a great place to keep cows, and directly outside and above it, I had cows. They were walking on the roof of my cave house. All I needed to do was entice the cows into the cow house, and I’d have things like milk. Milk is filled with fat and protein, great food for miners, especially starving miners.

But the cows are bigger than me and heavier than me and they didn’t want to go in the cow house.

When a 140lb woman, even a miner, tries to push a 1,500 lb cow into a hole the cow does want to enter, the 140lb woman does not win. Also, the cow gets annoyed.

So today, Day 8 of my being trapped on a rock in the middle of nowhere, I annoyed cows.

Maybe tomorrow I will have something more interesting to write.

uncooperative cow. in this sketch you can kind of see why - i was trying to push it into a shallow chasm
uncooperative cow. in this sketch you can kind of see why