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Paratus Familia Blog

The latest posts from Paratus Familia Blog




I'm so sorry to have been silent as of late.  We had a tragedy and I haven't been up to putting pen to paper.  With a renewed spirit, I will update you on our latest happenings.

Our garden is growing well.  We have had a problem with Magpie's snapping the tender beans, peppers and onions before they are able to really spread their leaves, so there are a few sad looking plants.  Our heirloom bush beans are far outperforming the garden variety garden center beans that we planted just to use them up before the seeds were too old.  The tomatoes are growing famously and so are a majority of the peppers.  I can't wait to can my favorite tomato, pepper, onion mixture this fall!

Peas happily climbing the trellis

Tomatoes!
Our potato towers are actually  working!  They haven't become as green with leaves as I would like to see, however, on close inspection is would appear that all of the potatoes are sprouting, just at different rates.  We planted 8.8 pounds of potatoes, so we will weigh the harvest and give an end of year report.

Potatoes reaching out from their tower


One raspberry bed is heavy with fruit, while the other is bushy and healthy but won't put on berries this year.  We do have a few strawberry plants but not enough for preservation.  They are, however, just right for a handful of warm berries eaten out-of-hand.

A portion of one of our raspberry beds
The Buckfast bees are busy, busy, busy.  We have been caught off-guard by their super-quick build-up.  I put off ordering extra hive bodies, due to our experience with the Italians, and was horrified upon my most recent inspection of the hives to discover that they had completely filled all of their frames and were getting ready to swarm due to lack of space!  With no hive bodies to add to their home, Maid Elizabeth and I improvised.  I dug up two 10 frame hive bodies, stapled cardboard on either side of the bottom (about 1 1/2 " on each side - just enough to keep the bottom of the hive body from being open to the air) and set the 10 frame bodies on top of the 8 frame bodies.  I hoped that would give us enough wiggle room to get the new hive bodies here and assembled.  At this point, I think our foil worked.  The bees are contentedly filling the new frames with comb, which we will transfer to the 8 frame bodies when they arrive.

10 frame hive bodies perched atop 8 frame bodies - not something you see every day!
Notice the ratchet straps holding the hives into place.  The night we put our improvised hive bodies into place, a sudden and somewhat violet storm descended upon us.  I awoke to the crack of thunder and pouring rain.  Immediately I thought of the unprotected hives, teetering in a highly unusual configuration and woke Miss Serenity to brave the weather and help me secure the hives.  At 1:30 a.m., armed with a flashlight and rubber boots, we made our way to the hives and fiddled with ratchet straps until we had them securely in place.  Thankfully, the bees slept through our endeavor and we escaped unscathed.

Sir Knight replaced the broken window in my kitchen door!

And from the outside

My beautiful daughters - friends in the way only sisters could be.

The sun room dressed for summer

The sought-after outside bedroom


The children's cottage
Just a small note on our tragedy.  Our beloved dog Reaper died in a horrible accident.  Reaper was like no other dog.  He managed to capture each one of our hearts in a way that no pet ever has.  I must admit, we mourned our treasured pet - and really, we continue to mourn him.  He was a dog, but he was also our guardian and protector.  We are so very thankful to have known our dear Reaper.

I NEVER allow animals on the furniture...

But he stole my heart.

Enjoy these beautiful days of summer.  Savor every moment. 

Until next time.

Enola
Posted: July 9, 2014, 2:22 am

Esteemed Uncle;

I drove to town today.  It was hot - about 85 degrees. The summer sun had warmed my dark colored vehicle to a point that I could not comfortably hold on to the steering wheel.  Although the windows were rolled down, rivulets of perspiration ran down my back and my face glistened with sweat.  As I drove, I lamented the circumstances that had brought me to the beginning of summer with no working air conditioning in my aging vehicle.

The reduction in my circumstances had begun, innocently enough, in the early months of last year.  As I was going through my extensive recipe collection, I happened upon an idea.  I would write a cookbook!  Once the idea took hold - I couldn't shake it.  Every morning, I would get up before my husband and children.  I would scour my recipes, choosing which ones to include in my book and which one to leave out.  I researched recipes, tested them and then tested them again.  Soon, I was spending every spare moment typing recipes, writing stories and collating kitchen facts.  Writing a cookbook was a mixed blessing for my family.  They loved all of the wonderful food flowing freely from my kitchen but also suffered with many dinners of breakfast cereal and toast, just so that I could finish one last chapter.  I spent hours at my computer, typing, typing, typing.  Just when I thought the hard part was finished, it came time to edit.  A red pen became my friend as I edited, rewrote and edited again.  Finally, I was ready to submit the manuscript to the printer (which in and of itself is no easy task!).  A couple of proofs later (the book had to edited again), it was finalized and published!  Yay!  The work of almost two years wrapped in a beautiful cover, with my name at the bottom!  I cannot tell you how proud I was.  Imagine, however, my stunned surprise, when I completed my tax preparation, only to find out that you required 50% of my royalties!  Half!  Uncle - where were you when I was getting up at 4 O'clock in the morning so that I could write, taking care that my book writing didn't interfere with my household duties?  Where were you when I had to run back and forth to a computer center to download my manuscript and make all of the changes?  Where were you when my eyes were blurry with reading and I wanted nothing more than to put my manuscript in a drawer and forget about it?  Can you please explain how you earned half of my book income? 

I do have to admit, there may have been other contributing factors to our particularly egregious tax bill. You see, my husband works.  Every week-day morning, Sir Knight is out of bed by 6 O'clock.  After a cup of tea, he drives to town (an hour away), fixes ailing forklifts and returns home just in time for dinner.  He does this when it is 100 degrees outside and when it is -20.  He works when he is sick, when he is sore and when he would really rather be somewhere else.  Because of this abhorrent behavior, you required yet another influx of our household economy.  Could you explain to me, Uncle Dear, how you sleep at night?  While we scrimp, budget and save, you slide your hand in our wallet and relieve us of the burden of financial incentive.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention our home-centered, family-run start-up business.  I spent years making and testing product, improving my design and refining my method.  Finally, after making a considerable investment on equipment and supplies, I sent out my first order.  The whole family was involved.  Sir Knight bought the equipment and helped re-arrange the "shouse" to make room for it.  Maid Elizabeth and Miss Serenity cut fabric and sewed.  Master Hand Grenade became the official snap machine operator and the two little children cleaned up scraps.  Day after day we sewed and snapped.  As orders stacked up we worked harder.  The business grew and became successful.  We had worked together and built the American dream.  And then you came calling.  Every year, on April 15th you knocked on my door.  You surveyed my business, my home, questioning every member of my family.  Finally, convinced that you had adequately inventoried every income stream, you shook my hand and provided me with a bill for your services.  The business that my family built and grew became a funding source for your irresponsible and extravagant lifestyle.  Last year we decided that our business had outgrown our family and we made the difficult decision to sell.  You seemed especially angry that we sold and punished us severely.  Uncle, I thought you were supposed to encourage us, to guard our freedoms so that we could pursue useful and fruitful lives!  Instead you stalk us, telling us what we can and can't do - telling us how to live our lives, all while funding your grand social experiments by the sweat of our brow.  You, dear Uncle, are a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Of course, this situation isn't entirely your fault.  We knew that you weren't completely trustworthy so we asked a few of our family members to discreetly keep an eye on you.  They didn't.  At first they were vigilant, taking you to task anytime you overstepped your boundaries. Soon, however, they began to overlook certain indiscretions, lining their pockets while stripping ours.   Uncle Sam, you have betrayed your family.  You have soiled our reputation and ruined our family name.  You, dear sir, are no uncle of mine.

Uncle Sam, you are the reason I was driving to town, in the blazing heat, in a truck with no air conditioning.  Because you are insolvent, refuse to act in a responsible manner or even exercise a smidgen of self-control, my family (along with many others) will suffer and go without.  We will "Use it up, Make it do, Wear it out, or Do without" because we have to - because that's what responsible adults do.  

Uncle Sam, you are a disgrace to the family name.  I am ashamed to know you.

Very  Sincerely,

Enola Gay


Note:  My wonderful readers, Sir Knight and I are fine - good - excellent!  I don't want to worry anybody.  I'm just venting!!!
Posted: June 13, 2014, 3:05 am

Sometimes Sir Knight and I get so busy accomplishing everything on our extensive to-do lists that we forget to savor the moment.  In our quest to prepare for the future we have a tendency to sacrifice the present.  I want our children to be equipped with the necessary tools to survive whatever the world throws their way but I also want them to have a happy childhood tucked under their jacket.  And every once in a while, I have to remind myself that these very busy, very hectic, very taxing days are our family's good ol' days.  These are the days that will form and mold my children, my grandchildren and their children after them.  This is our chance to shape our future.  Challenge accepted.

Master Calvin watching Sir Knight add supports to the fence corner

Keeping a close eye on things


A finished, very sturdy corner

Uprights ready to be turned into Buck & Rail fence

And the fence is stretching into the sunset
(Notice the old hive boxes repurposed as flower beds)


Newly bottled Rose Hip wine

Vanilla Custard Cake
4 eggs, separated
1 T water
1/2 + 2 T sugar
1/2 C butter, melted
3/4 C flour
2 C milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Butter an 8 inch round cake pan or line with waxed paper and butter paper. 

Beat the egg whites until stiff.

In clean bowl, beat the egg yolks together with the sugar, water and vanilla until light.  Beat in the melted butter and beat for 1 minute.  Beat in the flour.  Add the milk and beat until well incorporated.  Gently fold in egg whites to combine. 

Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 60 minutes or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pan for at least 3 hours before putting on a serving plate.

This cake is amazing - it forms a cake like crust filled with a custard center.  I like to serve this chilled with fresh or frozen berries and a dusting of powdered sugar.  A perfect summer dessert!


The ingredients before adding the egg whites

The stiff egg whites

After the whites have been folded into the batter

It fills the cake pan to the tippy top (don't worry, it won't overflow)


Fresh from the oven

Dessert is served

My beautiful old fashioned yellow roses, brought by a friends grandmother over the Oregon Trail!

And overflowing pink roses

Our yard, dressed for summer, with a lovely spot to contemplate life

Yellow Foxglove, one of my favorites


Freesias intermingled with Irises
Remember - these are your good ol' days too.

Carpe Diem

Until next time,

Enola
Posted: June 11, 2014, 5:42 am

It's beautiful.  It's spring!

Maid Elizabeth and I working the bees

Can you find the queen?  She's the one with the blue dot!

Master Calvin - Gentleman Adventurer (notice the puppy along for the ride)

The floral arrangement on my kitchen table - the "vase" is a galvanized chicken feeder (thanks Scott!) and the pedestal a chunk of wood
Enjoy these beautiful halcyon days.  Fix them in your memories to carry you through whatever our future has to offer!

Until next time....

Enola
Posted: June 6, 2014, 3:22 am

For a number of years our children have joined a group of other young people every Wednesday (during the summer months) to play games, fellowship and have a Bible study.  The group is made up of "kids" ranging in age from 14 to about 24 and from an area roughly 100 square miles.  They all attend different churches and most are home schooled however a few go to public school.  Ultimate Frisbee, volleyball and soccer are their games of choice and they generally have enough people to play all three at once.  There is, of course, good natured completion, but everyone plays, no matter their skill level.  Their camaraderie is evident as they pit sibling against sibling and friend against friend, not really caring who wins or loses.

 These "young adults" (we don't have teenagers in our home) gather to play, but the good stuff happens after they have worn themselves ragged on ball fields.  Weary, the kids settle themselves into a covered pavilion at the park, pick up instruments and begin singing praises to God.  Frequently, other park goers, drawn by their exuberant singing, filter into the pavilion just to listen or even join the chorus of young voices.  After many songs of joyful praise, the kids pull out their Bibles.  One suggests a scripture and soon the rustle of pages is heard as one person after another reads their chosen verse and chapter out loud to the group.  This is no organized bible study led by a youth pastor, but a bunch of friends that want to know what the word of God says.  They read, then they talk then they question.  One question leads to another and soon the pages of their bibles are rustling again as they search for answers.  They seek and question - they search the Word like they are looking for gold or silver.  And every week they meet again, digging deeper each time.

Serenity's rolls rising

Just out of the oven
Today is Wednesday and it is almost time to let the games begin.  Miss Serenity has spent her day baking.  She and a couple of her friends have found that their efforts in the kitchen are monumentally appreciated (especially by the young men) after a rousing game of soccer or Frisbee.  Three of these lovely young ladies have taken to bringing goodies - Miss Serenity, something savory and the other two young ladies, something sweet.  Last week Serenity took 60 freshly baked soft pretzels, none of which came home.  Today she made a double batch of oat rolls (click here for the recipe).  It's perfect - she gets kitchen time and her friends benefit from her baking skills.  It's a win all the way around!

I hope that your young adults have a wonderful group of friends to encourage them and to sharpen them....

"Iron sharpeneth iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend." 
Proverbs 27:17

Until next time....

Enola

Posted: June 4, 2014, 11:59 pm

Last weekend some friends dropped a book off that they had picked up for us at a gun show.  The author, Sara Weaver, had become a friend as they traveled the same gun show circuit and in the course of their fellowship she had graciously signed a book for Sir Knight and I. 

I must admit - I have put off reading anything having to do with Ruby Ridge.  It has always hit a little to close to home, to my mountains.  I always wanted to believe that the "feds" had a reason to be there, to escalate the situation to its fatal conclusion. But I knew, in my heart-of-hearts, that what happened on that mountain was a travesty of the worst kind. It went far beyond seeking justice and became the cruel betrayal of a nation.  The course of the Weaver family changed forever on Ruby Ridge, but the ripples of that moment in time have fractured not only a family, but an entire country.



When I picked up Sara's book, I was expecting a political dissertation on the state of the nation.  What I found was a story not about politics, but about freedom - the freedom found only in the person of Jesus Christ.  Sara recounted memories of her life, from her childhood in Iowa to the "big move" to Idaho, to the stand-off, including the deaths of her brother and mother.  She told of trying to rebuild her broken life while caring for her younger siblings when going to live with grandparents and other relatives.  But more than the story of her life, she told the story of finding her Savior.  She told of the religious beliefs that took her parents to the wilds of Idaho.  She told of her rejection of God and in particular of anyone calling themselves "Christians".    She told of her darkest hours and how, in the midst of her own personal hell, Jesus called her name, bound her wounds and set her free.

From Ruby Ridge to Freedom is the story of victory - victory over hate, over anger and over unforgiveness. More than that, it is the story of hope.  Hope in the ultimate salvation of Christ.  Hope in Jesus' forgiveness and hope in sweet reconciliation. 

As our country unravels at the seams we need to remember what freedom we are truly fighting for - not the freedom of a nation from tyranny, but the freedom bought by Christ on the cross.

Until next time....

Enola




Posted: June 4, 2014, 12:07 am

I have a confession.  I wear combat boots.  Not fashion boots, or pretty boots or feminine boots - but combat boots.  Nearly every morning I slide my feet into my boots, give the speed laces a pull and I'm instantly ready to meet the day.  My boots carry me through my morning hikes, daily wood cutting excursions and gardening tasks.  They accessorize my skirts, enhance my wardrobe and just plain fit my feet.  I wouldn't leave home without them.

How did I come to wear such eccentric footwear?  Actually, it was nothing more than a happy accident.  I started hiking a few years ago and quickly walked through too many pair of boots to count.  I would spend a few weeks breaking in new boots (blisters and all), walk about 300 miles, throw the boots in the garbage and start all over again.  Finally, I bought a pair of Corcoran combat boots.  I slid my feet into the boots and knew I had found my new best friends.  They were actually made to fit my feet - I didn't have to force my feet to fit the boots or have my toes squeezed unbearably!  The toe bed was wide and the arch support excellent, a perfect fit. 


I did have to break the boots in (I doctored blisters for about a week) but have worn them happily every day since (about a year and a half).  I have come to truly appreciate their ruggedness and fit and have even come to appreciate their handsome good looks!  I love them so much that I have added another pair to my collection.  Now, I have not only a stylish OD pair, but also black with leather toe caps.

As far as I'm concerned combat boots are a preparedness essential.  Comfortable, durable, well-fitting boots are a requirement if you are on the move or on the homestead.  Sir Knight swears by Danner boots and Master Hand Grenade loves his RAT boots, but me - I think I'll stick with my Corcoran's!

Until next time....

Enola



Posted: May 30, 2014, 3:44 am

Many years ago, I lost a very dear friend.  We had been close - closer than sisters.  Our children played together.  Our husbands fellowshipped together.  We shared births and deaths, highs and lows.  Our families were in and out of each others homes and each others lives.  And then one day, that camaraderie, that friendship, died.  To say that our friendships death knell was sudden wouldn't be truthful, but unexpected - yes. 

When I finally came to realize that our sisterly affection had been replaced by not-so-subtle hostility, I was shaken to the core.  I immediately called my friend, asked directly about the cracks in our relationship and sought resolution.  What I was confronted with was rigid and complete unforgiveness. 

I was heartbroken.  Then I was sad.  And then I was mad.  I ran all of the reasons for our distance through my mind and couldn't really come up with one, single incident or situation that had brought such a fracture to our once treasured friendship.  The only problem that I could come up with was that I had stopped calling her and going to her house every week.  It had come to my attention that the only time we talked or got together was when I called her or visited her home or made the effort to invite her to my house for tea.  To top that off, when I seriously injured my back my dear friend didn't appear.  She didn't call to see if I needed anything or if she could take care of the kids or if she could help with the household chores.  Nothing.  I was hurt.  So what did I do?  I didn't call.  I didn't visit.  I stubbornly decided that if she wanted to talk to me, she could make the effort.

This went on for quite a while.  When I would see her in town, I would hug her, ask after her family and pretend that everything was fine - feeling very justified.  And then she had a baby that was very sick.  I went to the hospital, and prayed with her and braided her hair and sat with her, but she really didn't want me there.  The hurt just kept growing and growing, until finally, she wrote a scathing blog entry about her "friend" that wasn't truly a friend after all.

In the years that followed, I tried numerous times, to heal the rift that had developed between us but to no avail.  Every attempt I made was rebuffed or contemptuously tolerated.   When we saw each other, we would paste smiles on our faces and remove ourselves from the room as quickly as possible.  Our once tight-knit families became strangers to each other.

In truth, the implosion of our friendship rests equally on both of our shoulders - it is no more all her fault than it is all my fault. But even this great loss has had many blessings.  I have learned more from my friend since our falling out, than in all of the years of our friendship.  Let me explain.

One of the things that drove me crazy about my friend was the state of her house.  I know that sounds terrible, but if I am going to be honest, it's true.  She was a terrible housekeeper.  Her laundry was always piled high, her dishes never done and there was garbage on the floor.  Her yard was a mess, her basement abysmal and her children' bedrooms terrible.  It was bad enough that it was very distracting to me.  I loved her, but her housekeeping bordered on slovenly.  And it drove me crazy.  I knew that it shouldn't bother be, but it did.  It made me not want to visit her home.  It made me not want to put my baby down on her floor.  It made me question how she ordered her day if she couldn't even finish the dishes.  Between my feelings of disdain for her messy house and the fact that I felt like I had to make all of the effort to maintain our friendship, I quit trying and our friendship died.

And then one day, as my children were squabbling over some trinket or another, I caught myself saying something that hit me like a ton of bricks.  I said to one of them "That is not yours. It is not up to you to take care of it - it is up to your brother.  If he doesn't take care of it, he will have to suffer the consequences.  It is his responsibility".  And then it struck me - I had been irritated at my friend for not taking care of what she had.  I had always loved her old farm house.  I loved the wood floors and the lath and plaster walls and the big rooms and the huge windows.  I loved her house and she didn't take care of it.  I lived in a shop.  I cleaned it and cared for it, but it was still a shop - not a century old farmhouse.  My envy, my jealousy had prompted me to judge my friend.  And my envy, not her poor housekeeping skills, had damaged our friendship.  I had been so busy trying to tend my neighbors garden that I had forgotten to weed my own.

It is so easy to think that we know how other people should care for their possessions and the people in their care, but that is not our job.  It is our job to tend our own gardens.  We need to raise our children, manage our homes, love our husbands.  We need to be so busy taking care of our own "houses" that we don't have time to tell everyone else how to take care of theirs.

Even in the midst of broken relationships God is tending His garden.  And I am so thankful.

In the Service of the King -

Enola
Posted: May 29, 2014, 3:59 am
A couple of months ago I stumbled across a goldmine.  Sifting through the standard gardening offerings at our local library I picked up a copy of "Sepp Holzer's Permaculture".  The subtitle "A Practical Guide to Small-Scale, Integrative Farming and Gardening" intrigued me and I brought the book home for further review.  I knew that Sepp Holzer was a kindred spirit before I had even finished the introduction.  His agricultural methods have garnered him the moniker "crazy", which at first bothered him greatly, but no longer offends him.  As Sepp puts it, "I have realized that many people find it difficult to accept when you do things in a way that is not so widely recognized.  This makes you difficult to predict and harder to control, which many people find threatening".  See?  A kindred spirit!

Mr. Holzer farms at at his family farm "Kramerterhof", which is in the "Arctic" region of Austria.  He is at 1500 meters (4500 feet) above sea level and grows everything from corn to kiwi, nuts, hops, cranberries, garden veggies and every kind of grain imaginable.  Along with his vast permaculture gardens he has a mass of 70 ponds, canals and waterways which create microclimates, water his agricultural interests and serve as breeding grounds for fish, snakes and frogs.  Not only does Kramerterhof support agricultural endeavors of every kind, it is also home to hardy, heritage breed animals.  Yaks, cows, horses, pigs, sheep and fowl of every kind call the Kramerterhof home and, in fact, do a majority of the fertilization and working of the soil. 

Permaculture sounds wonderful, right?  But to tell you the truth, I really had no idea what permaculture was.  It turns out that it is essentially organic gardening/livestock management on steroids.  The basic principles of permaculture are:

  • All of the elements within a system interact with each other.
  • Multifunctionality - every element fulfils multiple functions and every function is performed by multiple elements.
  • Uses energy practically and efficiently - works with renewable energy.
  • Uses natural resources.
  • Intensive systems in a small area.
  • Utilizes and shapes natural processes and cycles.
  • Supports and uses edge effects (creating highly productive small-scale structures).
  • Diversity instead of monoculture.
As I mentioned, I was enamored with this book from the first page, so enamored, in fact, that I had to order a copy for myself.  I wanted to be able to pour over the pages at my leisure and I knew that there was just too much valuable information to take in at one sitting.  I was right.  In the past few weeks, Holzer's Permaculture book has not left my side table.  Sir Knight and I have reviewed its pages seeking inspiration and direction. 

Although we are not able to immediately put into practice the myriad concepts in Holzer's book, we are making changes already.  Before adding soil to our garden beds we laid down ample "biomass" in the form of bark and branches.  We are planning more raised beds, but in a configuration encouraged by Holzer - something very different than what we currently have and, in my opinion, highly innovative.  We are looking at our little prairie with new eyes and a renewed vision.

Not able to stop at one Holzer book, I ordered his first book, "The Rebel Farmer".  The more I read, the harder it was to put down.  Holzer's opinions and theories are so like our own.  Not only does he want to farm the way he chooses, he believes that the government ought to just mind its own business.  It is his firmly held opinion we have become too dependent.  As Holzer puts it,  "What is regrettable is that others impose their will on farmers.  Farmers have to let theorists tell them how they should be farming their own land.  This dependence on public servants is a problem, since young farmers are brought up already to knock on the door of a public authority with their hat in their hand and to do what they are told to do".  Even in the heart of this Austrian farmer, freedom runs deep.

As far as I can tell, Sepp Holzer is the ultimate survivalist.  He grows or raises everything he and his family need to survive.  He relies on his water systems to provide power to his farm, his sheep to provide wool and his pigs to provide bacon.  He raises his own fish, his own fruit and his own firewood.  And he does these things with as little governmental interaction as possible. 

If you are striving to become more self-sufficient, Holzer's books are the books for you. If you want your animals and your gardens work for you instead of you working for them, Holzer's books are the books for you.  If you like to do things in a manner that is "not so widely recognized", Holzer's books are the books for you.

Check them out and let me know what you think.  I, personally, can't wait to get started!

Until next time....

Enola






Posted: May 28, 2014, 12:51 am

It is spring - glorious spring!  The weather has been beautiful - just right for planting and working in the fresh air.  We have been spending most every daylight hour outside, either working in the garden, cutting firewood or playing with the bees.  The earth is bursting with new life and we are giddy with joy just to feel the sun on our necks.

One of our goals this year is to have all of our firewood cut, split and stacked in our wood huts long before the searing heat of summer beats down on this vast prairie.  We have a load of firewood that was delivered earlier this spring that we are slowly whittling away.  As the logs disappear from the pile, the huts fill with freshly split wood.  It is a wonderful feeling of accomplishment!  One of the things we have figured out over the years is that a little work every day goes a long way toward filling our wood huts before the winter snows fly.  Sir Knight leaves for work early every morning, however, the children and I are home and are able to spend a chunk of time in the cool of the morning sawing, splitting and stacking.  We only work for an hour or so, but our progress is swift and sure. 

This weekend we made wood cutting a family affair and really made progress!  Sir Knight and Master Hand Grenade both ran saws (Saw Wars) while Princess Dragon Snack and I ran the log splitter.  Dragon Snack ran the hydraulics (she does a phenomenal job) as I hefted the wood.  Master Calvin hauled wood from the log deck to the log splitter and the guys periodically stopped sawing long enough to stack the split wood.  It was perfect symmetry.  Maid Elizabeth took care of household duties (cleaning, baking and laundry) while we worked outside and Miss Serenity spent her day working in town.  One more row and our first log hut will be filled!  Now, only two more huts to go.

Almost full!


Ready to fill another hut.
Gardening on our prairie has proven to require an ability far superior to mine.  When Sir Knight and I moved to our prairie home, I was under the impression that I was a master gardener.  No so!  I quickly came to realize that I was a fine gardener as long as all of the conditions were favorable.  This prairie proved more challenging that I could have imagined and my gardens failed year after year.  Finally, in an act of desperation, I began building raised beds.  Over the years Sir Knight and Master Hand Grenade have built a number of garden beds, but not enough to provide for all of our produce needs.  This year, in an effort to greatly increase our yield from our limited number of beds, we are planting a "square foot" garden.  It is amazing how many plants you can actually plant in such a small space!  I will keep you posted on our progress - I'm hoping that it will be a lavish yield.


Our garden arranged in "square foot" fashion.
In another attempt at unconventional gardening, we put in a few "potato towers" next to the garden beds.  We read a number of articles before putting these towers together and the opinions seems split - a lot of people said they had great success while a number claimed the towers to be a total failure.  Again, we will keep you posted of our progress.  You can judge their effectiveness for yourselves!

Potato tower cages fashioned from 2x4" welded wire, anchored with
a metal fence post down the center (for wind).

 
An 8" layer of straw.....

Followed by a couple of handfuls of dirt....

Cutting a seed potato.

The seed potatoes arranged close to the sides of the wire cage.

Master Hand Grenade arranging more potatoes.

Almost full.


Finished with a layer of soil.


Three completed potato towers.
Among all of the work, we took time to smell the lilacs and the children took time to be children.  Master Calvin became Calvin James - "Gentleman Adventurer".  He spent his time filling his satchel with treasures and looking very dapper indeed!

Calvin James - "Gentleman Adventurer"


I hope your spring is bursting with hope and life! 

Until next time....

Enola
Posted: May 27, 2014, 1:47 am

Mondays are generally very busy at Little Shouse on the Prairie.  The house has to be put back in order after a weekend of outside work.  The laundry has to be caught up and the pantry needs to be filled with fresh baked goods.  Miss Serenity and I worked from sunup and by noon the shouse was beginning to take shape.  The floors had been swept and vacuumed, the bread was rising and the sunroom had been arranged for summer.  After I washed the dishes, I sliced peppers and onions, cut up chicken and made a marinade for chicken fajitas.  After getting the bread into the oven, I quickly put together a cake for desert. 

This was no ordinary cake.  It was a Cinnamon Swirl tea cake.  It really shouldn't be indulged in very often - it's that good.  It is full of everything that is currently on the "Do Not Eat" list (but don't be bothered - that list will change again as soon as junk science discovers the many health benefits of gluten, sugar and fat).  If you are in the mood to defy current social health dogma, this is the recipe for you!

Cinnamon Swirl Tea Cake

Cake:
3 C flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 C sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 C milk
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 C butter, melted

Cinnamon Swirl:
1 C butter, softened
1 C brown sugar
2 T flour
1 T cinnamon

Glaze:
2 C powdered sugar
5 T milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9 x 13 cake pan.

Mix all of the cake ingredients together, except for the butter.  After you have mixed the batter, add the butter and mix well.  Pour into the prepared cake pan.

In a separate bowl, mix the cinnamon swirl ingredients.  Drop by the spoonful evenly over the cake batter.  Using a butter knife, swirl the topping into the cake batter.  Bake for 28 - 30 minutes.

While the cake is baking, prepare the glaze.  After the cake is done (toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean), pour glaze evenly over the top (while the cake is still warm).

Cake batter

Cinnamon swirl mixture

Cake batter spread in the pan

Drops of cinnamon swirl

Swirled the cinnamon
 
Fresh from the oven and ready for glaze!

Glaze


 
________________________________________


As requested, the recipe for the black-bottomed muffins that I made on Saturday.....

Black-Bottomed Muffins

Filling:
6 oz. cream cheese
1/3 C sugar
1 egg
1 C chocolate chips

Muffin:
1 1/2 C flour
1 C sugar
1/4 C cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 C water
1/3 C oil
1 T vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla

For the  filling - combine cream cheese, sugar and egg.  Mix in the chocolate chips.  Set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix all of the muffin ingredients and stir well.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Fill paper lined muffin cups half full.  Top with 1 tablespoon of the cream cheese filling.

Bake for 20 - 30 minutes.  Cool.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.




___________________________________________

Happy baking!

Posted: May 13, 2014, 3:28 am

Spring is nothing but exciting on a homestead.  So many things to get done with the weather finally cooperating!  We were busy, busy, busy today, so I will regale you with photos and then sink into my favorite chair and put my feet up! 

Two girls curled up with a stock tank full of puppies!

What could be better?

Calvin & Hobbes warming in front of the cookstove - after wading in a mud puddle.

Pre-drilling beams for our new fence

Loading beams onto the 4-wheeler

Moving a stack of the rails into the field

Unloading

Master Hand Grenade flexing his muscles

Every beam is screwed into place - very sturdy!

Working together.

The fence doubles as a fort - just add blankets!

Perfect fun.

Calvin & Hobbes - Growing Up Country!

A corner

It's coming together.  We still have to add supports to the backside of the corner.

While the guys were fencing, I was making black-bottomed muffins

Adding the cream cheese and chocolate chip filling.

Warm from the oven!

While the guys were fencing and I was baking, Maid Elizabeth was making her famous "Viking Hair Wraps".

Still looks pretty good after a rowdy day outside.

This one was slept in.

And in a grown-ups hair.

After fencing, the guys started in on the wood deck.

Already getting ready for winter!
Have a wonderful weekend! 
Posted: May 11, 2014, 3:49 am

One of my greatest joys in life is the unparalleled satisfaction of resting after a long day of hard work.  I revel in the accomplishment of tasks completed, knowing that the work of my hands provided for the needs of my family or served another in some tangible way.   I love sinking into my favorite chair, bone weary, but satisfied with the industry of the day.  I was created to work - and work is good for my soul.

It used to be that people understood the importance of work.  In "Farmer Boy", Almanzo asked his father if they were going to have the threshing machine come in and thresh their grains for them.  The machines could accomplish in a few days what would take Almanzo and his father all winter to complete.  Fathers answer was emphatic - "That's a lazy man's way to thresh," Father said.  Haste makes waste, but a lazy man'd rather get his work done fast than do it himself.  That machine chews up the straw till it's not fit to feed stock, and it scatters grain around and wastes it.  All it saves is time, son.  And what good is time, with nothing to do?  You want to sit and twiddle your thumbs, all these stormy winter days?".  Father understood the need for a man to work!  He was aghast at the prospect of having nothing to do but twiddle his thumbs.  He would rather spend his winter days threshing grain and welcome sleep with a full days worth of industry tucked under his jacket, than spend his days in abject idleness.  Father knew that work was good for the soul.

We have forgotten that we were created to work.  Without work, we cannot truly enjoy rest.  Without work, entertainments and amusements are meaningless.  Work is not just an inconvenience, a necessary drudgery - it is part of our very life-blood, a key ingredient to our happiness and our well-being.  We were created to work.

Did you know that working is one of the Ten Commandments?  Neither did I.  I had never thought about it in those terms, until I was visiting with my folks one day.  They were talking about the 4th commandment, and spoke of it in a way that I had never considered before.  The fourth commandment says, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days shalt though labour, and do all thy work:  But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it though shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:  For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it."  Do you see it?  God told us to WORK for six days and REST for one day.  Six days, God spent in industry and creation  When He had completed His masterpiece, in the form of man, He called it good.  And then he rested.  God's rest was a reward for His work.

Some time ago I read the heartbreaking account of a woman who lived in England during the industrial revolution.   She came from a good family, married well and established a household in the heart of London.  This gentlewoman produced a number of children, managed a household staff and spent hours providing for the less fortunate in society by the work of her hands.  She was the epitome of Victorian Industry.  After years of efficiently managing her husband's estate, this gentlewoman experienced a great reversal of fortunes.  Her husband, succumbing to drink and cards, squandered their substance and died penniless.  The woman, once the mistress of a fine estate, had been reduced to begging on the soot filled streets of London.  She owned nothing but the thread-bare clothes on her back and the worn, filthy shoes on her feet.  She endured the suffocating heat of summer and the icy chill of winter with no roof over her head.  She wore the same, soiled, tattered clothes day after day, with nothing more than a thin shawl to draw over her frail shoulders.  She lived out her days alone and reviled.  And do you know what this woman said was the most difficult, horrible part of her situation?  It was the fact that she knew nothing but idleness.  She didn't have the resources even to work, to be useful.  Idleness, not the fact that she was homeless, dirty and hungry, was the wretched burden that she had to bear.  Idleness.  She had no rest because she had no work.

We live in a time when W.O.R.K. has become the new four-letter word.  People spend their lives doing everything within their power trying to avoid work, as though it is something to despise.  Now we have a new generation of people who seem to believe that most work is beneath them.  And what has this new philosophy brought us?  Unhappiness, depression, rebellion.  God designed us to work and when we don't, we pay a steep price.  Children are happier when they have work to do.  They become confident.  They feel useful and needed.  Adults are the same way.  We NEED to work, in whatever capacity we are able.  Our well-being depends upon it.

When we don't encourage or even require our population or our children to work, we are stealing something very precious from them.  We are stealing their purpose and replacing it with the burden of idleness.  And that burden destroys the very soul of mankind.

Work is not something to avoid.  It is a gift, a joy.  Work - and be refreshed.
Posted: May 8, 2014, 3:31 am


Here is a little slice of life from "Little Shouse on the Prairie"...

Master Hand Grenade, Miss Serenity & Sir Knight at the Patriot Rally

Maid Elizabeth waiting with  Miss Serenity (while listening to another speaker)

Miss Serenity taking the stage

And delivering her speech
Some friends recently opened their own "Thrift &  Gift" shop and Miss Serenity, Maid Elizabeth and I whipped up a couple of batches of caramel corn for their grand opening.  Their opening weekend was a tremendous success - just what our small town needed!

Cut down and folded paper lunch sacks

Caramel Corn recipe (can you guess the cookbook?)

Caramel Corn ready for the Grand Opening
Sir Knight, Master Hand Grenade and I spent a few hours on Saturday building a new raised garden bed.  We used oak timbers and incorporated the "butt & pass" method of construction.  Essentially, we butted the beams against each other and drove rebar through one beam into the other, then we added another layer (alternating the butt ends) and drove rebar through the ends again and also from the top layer through the bottom layer.  The end result - a raised bed that could take a direct hit!

Master Hand Grenade drilling a hole to drive the rebar through

Cutting rebar

Driving rebar into the ends of the beams

And through the top into the second beam

It's a beginning
This afternoon, God painted a beautiful sky for us to behold - a promise and a masterpiece!

One end of the rainbow


And the other

Our beautiful back yard
And that, dear friends, is a little slice of our life.
Posted: May 6, 2014, 2:58 am

The 17th of April dawned cold and windy.  The fire crackled merrily in the cookstove and the weather was much more reminiscent of winter than it was spring.  Although I had varnished and prepared my new English Garden hives for their future occupants, bees were the furthest thing from my mind. 

Coming up the driveway from afternoon tea with friends, I immediately knew something was amiss.  Maid Elizabeth and Master Hand Grenade were waiting outside the front door, with looks of concern on their faces.  The bees had been delivered in my absence, but the weather was not at all conducive to hiving them.  I had roughly 22,000 bees buzzing contentedly on my kitchen counter.

Two packages of bees

In the package
With the wind blowing about 25 miles an hour, we knew that we would not be transferring the bees to their hive in the front yard, as we had planned.  Instead, we sprayed them with sugar syrup and left them sleeping on the counter overnight.  Not having a lot of options, the children and I cleared an area in the playhouse and began preparing to transfer the bees to their hives.  After getting the hives ready, we suited up, grabbed the packages of bees and made our way through the high winds to the confines of the playhouse. 

Neither Maid Elizabeth or I had ever re-hived honey bees (put them in a hive straight from a package), so this was a new experience for us all.  About 30 minutes before re-hiving, we doused the girls with a heavy layer of sugar syrup, so they would be well-fed and content.  Once in the playhouse, we took the top and the cover off of the hives and left only one super on the bottom boards.  Once the hives were ready to accept bees, we began the process of opening the packages.  First, we removed the cardboard that covered the top opening.  Once the cardboard was removed, it revealed the top of a tin can (that had contained sugar syrup for their trip).  Lifting the can carefully, we slid the cardboard (scraping the bees off the bottom of the can) back over the opening and discarded the can.  Sliding the cardboard over, but still keeping the opening covered, we pried loose the hanger for the queen cage and extracted the cage (again, wiping off the bees) from the package.  Once the queen cage was freed, we pried out the cork and poked a hole through the bee candy so that the bees could easily eat the candy and set the queen at liberty.  After we had prepared the queen cage, we slid it between the two middle frames in the hive and used a staple gun to secure it to the top of a frame.  After the queen was secure, we removed the cardboard, tipped the package over the top of the hive (over the frames) and proceeded to dump piles upon piles of bees into (and onto) the hive.  We gently brushed the bees with our hands and the bee brush, encouraging them to make their way into the frames and slowly slid the cover over the frames (we stopped just short of the front to allow the bees time to get nestled into the hive).  After all of the bees were in the hive we slid the cover into position and put the top on the hive.  Two packages of bees successfully hived!

Removing the cardboard cover

Extracting the sugary syrup can

Prying the Queen Cage loose

Peering into the opened package

Pouring bees into a hive


Using the bee brush to encourage them into the frames

Sliding the cover over the frames

A week after we put the bees into the hive, we once again suited up.  This time, we checked to see if the queens had been successfully released and were busy about repopulating.  Wow!  We couldn't believe how busy the girls had been.  Both of the queens had been released and were very busy laying brood.  The workers had also been incredibly busy, building comb everywhere.  In fact, after seeing their handiwork, we realized that we should have checked on the queens after about three days.  Because the queen cages had allowed a bit of extra room between two of the frames, the bees had gotten busy and filled that area with burr comb (comb that is built free-form, not in a frame).  The burr comb was filled with brood.  In an effort not to lose any brood, Maid Elizabeth and I pulled two frames that the bees had not yet begun to work with, popped out the foundation and stapled kitchen string criss-cross along one side.  Then, we lay the comb against the string, fitted it in tightly and affixed more string criss-cross along the other side to secure the comb.  After it was secured, we slid the frames back into the hive.

A frame of bees

Bees on a burr comb
The bees spent about two weeks in the playhouse, building, building, building, however, the weather had warmed up sufficiently for them to move outside.  We moved the bees a couple of days ago and now our backyard is buzzing with life.  The bees are busy about their tasks, contently flying and pollinating and gathering nectar.  When they return to the hive, their pollen sacks are so full they are barely able to make their landing.  The hives buzz with a contented hum of activity - the girls are gathering and preparing in this time of plenty so that they will be well cared for during the dark days of winter.  Oh, to learn from the humble bee!
Posted: May 1, 2014, 10:18 pm

I love my Bible.  Every time I pick it up, there is perfect wisdom waiting to fill my soul.  No matter how many times I read it, it is new every morning, lifting my spirit and narrowing my focus on the will of my Father.  My Bible is worn with years of use and smudged with tears of joy and sorrow and frustration.

Recently, I was making my through Luke.  As I read the account of Mary, I realized that Mary's story was not only the story of the young woman chosen to be the mother of our Savior, but it was my story as well.  You see, both Mary and I were filled with the Holy Spirit.  We were both chosen to carry our Savior - she in her womb and I in my heart.  We were both highly favored and blessed among women.  Mary and I, when we encountered the God of universe answered "Be it unto me according to thy word".

And if you are a follower of "The Way", then Mary's story is your story as well.  You, too, were called from among the people.  You were filled with the Holy Spirit.  You, in essence, became the "handmaid" of the Lord.

Think of it - Mary was just like you and I.  She was nothing special.  She was not from a wealthy family.  She was not highly educated.  We don't know if she was physically beautiful, but if she was, it was never mentioned.  She was just an ordinary girl. Yet she was chosen to bear the Savior of the world.  And, you - you ordinary, imperfect, undeserving human being, were also chosen.  You were chosen to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to bear the Savior to the lost.  You were chosen to be the Lord's handmaiden (or servant, if you prefer) and, in perfect faith say "Be it unto me according to thy Word".

Now, I sing Mary's song with a new voice.  I sing it with my voice, knowing that it is my song and my voice will rise to the heavens...

"My soul doth magnify the Lord.  And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.  For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.  For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.  And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.  He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their harts.  He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.  He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.  He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;  As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever."  Luke 1 47:55

Today, remember who you are.  You, dear ones, are chosen among the people.

Posted: April 29, 2014, 3:45 am
Yesterday, Maid Elizabeth returned from her job as a clerk at our local post office with a package cradled in her arms.  It was addressed to Enola Gay with a return address of Nevada.  The package was somewhat flat, with a typewritten enveloped taped to the back, along with an envelope containing product warranty information.    HP was emblazoned across the box - and I burst into tears.

My hands shook as I lifted a brand new burgundy (the color I would have chosen) colored laptop from its box.  Sir Knight sat across from me in humble astonishment at the unparalleled generosity of people that we had never met.  With the entire family gathered round, I read the letter from the folks that had gifted us this wonderful tool.  Their letter made us smile.  It was real.  It was kind.  It represented everything that is best in our fellow man.  Thank you.

I will do my best to put this wonderful gift to good use.  I have so many blogs rolling around in my head - now I can get them down on "paper".  I haven't the words to express my appreciation, so I'll use the inadequate but time tested - Thank you.

Posted: April 27, 2014, 9:08 pm
Grade: A+

Although I can't download the video yet, I thought I would post the contents of Miss Serenity's speech.  She did a wonderful job - we couldn't be prouder.

--------------------------------------------------

Hi, my name is Serenity McKie.  I'm 15 years old and a patriot.  I'm a little nervous to be in front of you all, but I'm homeschooled and my mom said this was my public speaking final!

I live in the country and have grown up in the woods, hunting everything and anything that was in season.  Last year I got my first big buck.  I was prone, shooting my dad's Styre SSG.  It was awesome!  I love hunting and the freedom it affords me, however, my right to hunt is not guaranteed by the constitution of the United States. My right to hunt is merely a right by default. It is my right because the 2nd Amendment has guaranteed that the people dictate their freedoms to the government- the government does not dictate freedom to the people. And we the people have chosen to give ourselves the freedom to hunt.

In truth the Bill Of Rights  does nothing to secure my right to enjoy shooting sports, to target practice, or to shoot clay pigeons. It does however, dictate the responsibility of maintaining freedom to the citizens of the United States . Liberty can only be maintained by a free people- governments, by their very definition, are incapable if granting freedom. As a citizen, it is my solemn duty to own, maintain and have the working knowledge to efficiently operate a military style weapon to safeguard and protect the freedoms set fort in the constitution.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the Untied States reads, " A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free stare, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed". Essentially, that statement effectively makes the American citizens an armed police force. It is the fundamental duty of every American to police there own government, protecting the freedom if their fellow man against an overreaching, tyrannical government. As a nation, we have failed in this mandate. We have ceases to exercise our authority and in the process, we have become a nation if subjects rather then a nation of citizens.

I may be only 15, but I have a vision of what this country could become if we are willing to exercise our authority as free men. The Constitution is our Magna Charta, our Great Charter, and the 2nd  Amendment is it's enforcement. But, we must choose- will we converge on Runnymede and demand our freedom or will we condemn ourselves and our children to a life of peasantry in the service of our Lords and Masters?

Today, we make a stand. We choose what is good, what is right. We choose liberty and freedom and a future.  We choose to govern ourselves and bear the responsibilities and consequences of freedom. In the words if J. Michael Straczynski;

" Doesn't matter what the press says. Doesn't matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn't matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: The requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tells you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth and tell the whole world- NO, you Move!"








Posted: April 22, 2014, 2:45 am
I will be going silent for a time.  Hopefully it won't be long - but as we all find out at point or another, when it rains, it pours.

Sir Knight and I have been burdened with a fairly heavy tax bill this year, argh!  It is highly annoying, but we are managing.  Our belts have tightened to the point of suffocation but God is good and we always have what we NEED.  

Yesterday my computer up and quit - with no warning!  Maid Elizabeth did manage to recesitate it long enough for me to download some documents to a thumb drive that I would have been bereft without (including a novel that I have been writing) and backup everything important.  

At this point a new computer is not on the top of our priority list.  With that in mind, please forgive my anticipated "Radio Silence".  I will post as I am able (I am writing this on a borrowed iPad), including Miss Serenity's speech for the 2nd Amendment rally, however my posts will be few and far between.


Also, my opportunity to return emails is limited - I can only use our phone.  If you email, I will do my best to send you at least a few lines.

Until then,

Enola and Family

P.S.  I have such incredibly wonderful readers!  Your concern is so appreciated, but really, we are doing just fine.  Taxes are an inconvenience, but nothing more.  We are blessed beyond measure and want for nothing.  I am just waiting for a bit to take my computer in to the smart folks at the Genius Bar and have them take a look.  As with everybody else, it is just a matter of budgeting my time and money properly.  Thank you everyone for your words of encouragement.  You are all wonderful gifts.


Posted: April 16, 2014, 2:50 pm

John Lackland (so named because his father did not deed him any land) was the younger brother of Richard Coeur de Lion - the lion hearted - and usurper to the English throne.  He was wicked and cruel and his greed knew no boundaries.  His lust for money and power was insatiable.  He routinely had the leading men of his country tortured and killed in order to seize their wealth and exercise his complete and total dominion.

From the safety of Windsor Castle, John Lackland commanded the country people to drive their cattle into camp to supply his soldiers with food.  For the people of Wales, this was one act of tyranny too many.  They refused.  In retaliation, King John seized 28 sons of the chief families and imprisoned them.  With their blood boiling, the Welshmen flew to arms.  Their insubordination quickly resulted in the summary execution of the sons of Wales.  King John had decisively subdued a rebellion and secured his position as Lord and King.  Or had he?

The year is 1215.  The barons and lords have organized themselves into a great army.  In fact, they called themselves the "Army of God".  They will no longer be subject to the King and his tyranny.   They have sent their demands to King John, who, with great oaths and swearing, refuses to grant them liberties.  The Barons determine that if the king will not grant their petition, they will secure it by the sword.

Although a tyrant, King John is also a coward.  He fears being seized by the "Army", and sends word the the Barons that he will meet them at Runnymede, on the 15th of June, and grant what they desire.

The "Army of God" ascends on the Valley of Runnymede.  All of the great men of England are present - lords and barons and nobles.  They wear coats of mail and carry swords and lances.  They are there to obtain freedom and liberty.  They will not take "NO" for an answer.

The Barons produce a great parchment detailing their demands.  Upon its signing it will become the law of the land.  Amidst the vast legion of armed men, King John puts his name and seal to this great document, not even reading its contents.  It is the Magna Charta - the Great Seal - and it is the first document granting freedom and liberty to the people.

Tyrants, whether they take the form of a single Monarch or of a vast government, will never willingly give up their power and authority.  No amount of debating, talking or cajoling will cause them to release their iron grip on the rights of the people.   Their force can only be met by a united people demanding their liberty.

Our Runnymede may well be in a valley in Nevada.  Our Great Charter has already been drafted, signed and sealed - all that is required is an army, dressed in mail, armed with swords and possessing the hearts of free men.

* I wrote this about the current events happening at the Bundy Ranch in Nevada.  I must admit that I do not think that the "mob" mentality that is currently being displayed will do anything to encourage or achieve liberty.  Restraint and strength, a discipline of the tongue, will always yield results worthy of truly free men.
Posted: April 11, 2014, 3:24 pm


We have been busy, busy, busy getting ready for spring!  There are so many things to be done.  Miss Serenity helped me varnish the English garden hives that we bought (the bees should be here the end of the month) and Master Hand Grenade is building raised beds and helping repair various things around the homestead.  Today, he replaced a pane of glass that had fallen out of the cold frame.  It was just held in with silicone and little else, so he scraped the old sealant out of the frame, replaced the glass, put two screws in each side (for added support) and re-siliconed the glass in place.  After Princess Dragon Snack and I weeded, we added some chicken manure, watered it a bit and will patiently wait for a week or two before planting.  I can't wait to see seedling popping their heads out of the warm, moist earth!

Varnished Hive

Repaired Cold Frame
Even though the evenings are longer, I have been settling in to read a bit here and there.  Currently, I am making my way through "Starting Right With Bees".  It was published in the 40's and is chock full of great information.  Maid Elizabeth brought it home for me after a recent excursion to a local antique store.  I can say with some authority that it was worth every penny of the $2 asking price!

Light Evening Reading
In between all of the spring clean-up, I have been baking for my family (I know, a real surprise!).  Last night we feasted.  We partook of a decadent meal of grilled chicken breast and homemade fettuccine Alfredo accompanied by a  fresh loaf of Pugliese, a regional Italian bread.  Not a word was spoken as we ate, but the dinner table was far from silent.  Contented groans came from every corner!  That is nothing short of music to a cooks ear!

Please bear with me as I write when I get a chance.  If I'm not writing, you can be assured that I'm up to my elbows in dirt, or bees or building!  I'll keep you posted.


Pugliese

10 1/2 C bread flour
2 T salt
2 T yeast
1 tsp. sugar
4 C water, warm
1/2 C olive oil (Extra Virgin - the good green stuff!)

Mix together the water, sugar and yeast.  Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes or until it starts to become foamy (sponging).  Add 1/2 the flour and all of the salt and mix.  Add the olive oil (the better quality oil, the better the bread).  Continue to add flour until the dough is soft but not sticky and holds its shape.  Knead for 10 minutes or until it becomes very smooth and elastic.

Shape the dough into a ball and place it in an oiled bowl.  Cover with a dish towel and allow to rise at room temperature, away from drafts, until the dough has doubled in size, 1 to 3 hours.

Gently turn out the dough onto a greased baking sheet, without punching it down.  Gently pull out the sides of the dough, then tuck them underneath to make a neat, pillow-like round loaf.  Do this several times, but do not knead the dough, punch it down, or turn it over.

Cover the dough with a dish towel and let rise, away from drafts, until it has almost doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  During the last 15 minutes of rising, heat the oven to 450°.  Lightly dust the loaf with flour.  Bake the bread for 20 minutes at 450° then lower the oven temperature to 375° and bake for 25 to 35 minutes longer, or until the loaf is nicely browned and sounds hollow when tapped underneath.

Makes 1 LARGE loaf.


Ready for the Oven


Warm and Savory

Posted: April 10, 2014, 12:53 am
Miss Serenity is preparing for her biggest school final of the year.  She has been tapped to speak at this years 2nd Amendment Rally being held in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho on April 19th.  Her speech is finished, her note cards prepared and she is steeling herself to speak in front of a large, armed contingent of fellow patriots.  This will be her public speaking final.  It is essentially pass/fail, which I've always thought was easier.  I expect her to knock it out of the park!

Serenity's speech outlines the real purpose of the 2nd Amendment - explaining in concise detail the American citizen's responsibility in securing their free state.

Of course, we are not the only ones to realize the deadly course we have chosen to allow our government to follow - the video link below outlines the only possible outcome of our unchecked government.

If you are in the area, and want to hear Miss Serenity and other patriots speak about the 2nd Amendment, the rally will be held at the North Idaho Fair Grounds on Saturday, April 19th at 12:00p.m.

I hope to see you there!



Posted: March 30, 2014, 10:15 pm

Most of you know that Sir Knight and I have had the desire to sell our homestead and move for a number of years.  When we originally bought our property, we had intended to live here forever.  We even purchased land with very few zoning requirements, hoping that one day we could subdivide and provide our children with plots of land to build their own homes, essentially creating a family "compound".

As our children grew older, our hopes and desires changed.  We found ourselves longing to move closer to my parents, to have our children grow up near their grandparents.  We wanted to become a community of generational living - all having our own homes, but in close enough proximity to shoulder each others burdens and share in each others daily lives.

Having a clear direction, we put our property on the market and began looking at options in the vicinity of my parent's.  Convinced that we would be moving shortly, I spent weeks packing all but the essentials and storing the boxes tidily in the horse trailer - anxiously awaiting moving day.

Quickly, we found the perfect property for our family.  It was a HUGE old house on 20 acres, complete with a barn, chicken house, garage and two ponds.  The house was rambling and quirky and full of character - a perfect fit.  The children had picked out their rooms and I was redecorating the house in my mind.  My thoughts were filled with hope and joy.  We made an offer on the house (full price, even) with the condition that our property sold.  Our offer was summarily rejected.  I prayed and prayed and prayed.  Sir Knight and I talked and planned and gave it another shot.  We made yet another offer, sweetening the pot, but to no avail.  Our offer was rejected again.  I was crushed.

The truth of the matter is that even if the homeowners had accepted our offer, our property hadn't sold.  An accepted offer wouldn't have made a whole hill of beans difference, we couldn't buy our dream property.  God had spoken.  The answer was "NO".

That was the beginning of a cycle of highs and lows, impossible hopes and dashed dreams.  Over the next few years, we would find ourselves hoping against hope that this property or that was finally the "one", only to be told "NO".   My best girlfriend's mother decided to sell their family home.  I had practically grown up there - it had to be the one!  NO.  A piece of property came for sale right down the road from my folks (where there is very little privately-held land - and it never goes up for sale) - that was the perfect piece!  NO.  Again and again and again, our dreams evaporated.

I would like to say that I took all of this gracefully, with perfect peace and contentment, but the truth is that I raged inside.  I cried and I questioned and I felt abandoned by God.  I kept thinking that if I just did all of the right things, if I tried harder, that everything would fall into place.  It seemed, however, that the harder I tried to make things happen, the more resounding the NO became.

I felt trapped.  My best efforts where for naught.  Our circumstances were less than desirable, but we couldn't seem to change them.  We couldn't sell, we couldn't move, we couldn't even change our current living arrangements without going into untenable debt.

I have to admit it - I was angry with God.  I had watched Him bless many of our friends abundantly, extravagantly - yet His constant answer to our family was NO.  No, you can't sell.  No, you can't move.  No, you can't live in a house.  No, you can't enjoy the ease and comfort of a normal life - even for a little while.  No, Sir Knight can't get a job that is easier on his body.  No, no, no!  And the worst part?  I hated my lack of faith.  I hated the fact that I questioned God.  In my head I knew of His faithfulness, His goodness.  In my head I knew that His plan for our family was perfect.  I just couldn't see the forest through the trees and I hated my lack of vision.  I was broken.

So, what did I do?  I hit my knees and cried out to my Lord.  I told Him of my anger.  I poured out my soul.  I asked for His forgiveness for my lack of faith.  I begged Him to sustain me through the valley of unbelief.  I prayed to desire His will alone and to live my life according to the will of my Father.  I practiced contentment, reminding myself of His many blessings on a daily, even hourly basis.  I sought to understand the very character of God.

I am so thankful that God loved me enough to tell me NO.  Through the years of disappointments and struggles, God has drawn me closer to Him.  He has shown me the depths of His love and the reservoirs of His grace.  He has taught me that we can't earn His favor, yet He delights in giving good gifts to His children, even when they don't deserve them.  He has taught me that His best work is often done under the shadow of grief and that hope is renewed every morning.  He has taught me that when I am at the end of my human strength, He will uphold me with His mighty right hand.  He has given me eyes to see and ears to hear - and that alone is worth every disappointment and every hour of suffering.

And here we are.  We still have not sold our property.  We still have no prospects of moving nearer my parents.  Sir Knight still works at a job that is very hard on his every joint and muscle.  We still don't live in a house.  We still have hopes and dreams and desires unfulfilled.  Our circumstances have not changed - but my faith has.  Every morning I wake with a mind filled with hope.  Not necessarily the hope of selling and moving and having an easier life, but the hope that God's perfect will will be done - that He is still on His throne and that He holds me in the palm of His hand.  I have the hope and the assurance that whatever God does with this family is right - whether it is accomplished here in "Little Shouse on the Prairie" or in the mountains of my youth.  I am exactly where God wants me!

If God had allowed all of the desires of my heart to be immediately and completely fulfilled, I would never have experienced the blessings of being told "No".  I would not have raged and questioned and cried until finally falling to my knees in submission.  I would never have scratched the surface of my faith.

I still would love to sell and move.  I would love to live in a house and see my husband working at a job that is not so physically draining.  But I am content.  I am content because I know that I can trust God with our lives.  I know that His plan is to prosper us and not to harm us.  And I know that being in the center of His will is exactly where I want to be.
Posted: March 26, 2014, 4:50 am

Last week, my girlfriend Lady Day and I met with our other dear friend, Julianne of Providence Lodge to celebrate Julianne's birthday.  We met in a little restaurant for tea and spent the better part of the afternoon talking and talking and talking.

Lady Day, Julianne and I have been friends for many years.  Our children have grown up together.  We have celebrated with each other, cried with each other and occasionally been irritated with each other.  Our collective children, when they were younger, were affectionately known as "The Locust" because they would eat us out of house and home whenever we spent the day together.  While our husbands would talk over the problems of the world, we ladies would encourage one another.  We would share our hearts, snuggle our children and drink cup after cup of tea.

As our children have grown older, our get togethers have become depressingly infrequent.  We still make time for birthday celebrations and an occasional afternoon visit, however we rarely have an opportunity to get all of the families together.  The children have grown, many of them have married and begun their own families.  The ones left at home are busy, all going their separate ways.  Now, rather than tending small children, wiping noses and cuddling babies, we are talking about weddings and grand babies and our changing roles in life.

Oh, what joy there is in an afternoon of sweet fellowship with these wonderful, dear friends!  After catching up on all of our latest news, Lady Day and I presented Julianne with our small tokens of affection.  Lady Day's gift to our dear friend was perfect - a handmade "Naturally Concealed" holster.  Once Julianne chooses her concealed carry pistol, she will give measurements to Lady Day, who will then custom-make a holster so that she can conceal carry with ease.  If there is a more thoughtful gift to be had, I certainly can't think of it!

My gift was far less grand, but no less heartfelt.  Julianne's husband was diagnosed with cancer about a year and a half ago, and since then, Julianne has done her best to bring nothing but healthful things into their home.  She has cut out all processed foods and sugars and has even gone so far as to discontinue alcohol filled cleansers, lotions and bath products.  Knowing that natural bath products are expensive and hard to come by, I made a basket full of items crafted in my own kitchen, with ingredients I could pronounce.


I made some tried and true recipes and a few new ones, with great results.  Knowing that Lavender was one of Julianne's favorite scents, I made most of her bath products with a liberal amount of Lavender essential oil.  First up was Lavender Whipped Body Butter.  I used the same recipe as the Peppermint Whipped Body Butter, using Lavender essential oil instead of Peppermint.  Next up was my favorite Lavender Body Lotion.  I love the way it glides on, leaving skin so smooth and soft.  Not wanting to stop there, I tried a new recipe, Peppermint Citrus Sugar Scrub.  Sublime!  And last, but not least, I made a Spa Lavender Detox Soak, a soothing combination of Epsom Salts and baking soda, scented with a healthy dose of Lavender (perfect for night-time soak).

After I mixed and stirred and poured into containers, I loaded everything into a basket, added a couple of candles and presented it to my dear friend - bath products fit for healthy living.

The afternoon spent with my wonderful friends reminded me how precious and rare our friendship is - and inspired me to make more of an effort to nourish and maintain this lovely gift.  All of the busyness in the world is no substitute for the most treasured gift - the gift of "bosom friends".

If you would like to make a gift of healthy bath indulgences, you can find two of the recipes below and follow the links to the other two.  Enjoy creating a beautiful life!

Peppermint Citrus Sugar Scrub

1 C granulated sugar
1/2 C oil (olive oil, coconut oil, sweet almond oil)
2 - 4 T ground orange peel (optional - makes a great exfoliant)
2 T glycerin (optional)
10 drop peppermint essential oil (more or less)
10 - 15 drops sweet orange essential oil (or other citrus oil of your choice)

Mix sugar, oil, orange peel and glycerin together.  Gradually add the essential oil, mixing well.  Store your scrub in a glass container.  (I put mine in a metal powder container lined with plastic wrap).  TO USE:  Rub a small amount on wet hands, scrub body, rinse with warm water.

Crushing the orange peel using a mortar and pestle

Mixing all of the luscious ingredients

Spa Lavender Detox Soak

1 C Epsom Salts
1 C Baking Soda
Lavender Essential Oil

Mix the Epsom salts and baking soda well.  Add essential oil to achieve the desired scent.  You can use any essential oil you'd like, however, the Lavender is very relaxing.  Pour a splash into the hottest tub you can stand and take a leisurely soak.

In a plastic wrap lined antique powder tin

Rather charming, I thought

Posted: March 25, 2014, 2:53 am

One of my greatest joys in life is creating a beautiful, inviting home.  Sir Knight has come to know, just by the faraway look in my eye, that redecorating or rearranging is imminent.  I especially love to use things in creative and unexpected ways.

Over the years, I have found that I can dress my house up any way I like with the things I already have.  Sometimes I wander through the "shouse" looking for a table or lamp to move to another area.  Sometimes, I look through the shed, the container or even the burn pile for inspiration.  Lately, I have been feathering my nest with anything and everything galvanized.

My romance with galvanized metal began a number of years ago when I was desperate to clean up the backsplash behind my sink.  When Sir Knight and I had brought in our old restaurant cupboard to serve as a kitchen cupboard in the "shouse", we put bead board behind the sink and counters.  After years of service, the bead board had deteriorated to the point of looking dirty and impossibly worn.  Wanting something that I could clean easily, I looked no further than our building material pile.  A number of pieces of metal roofing caught my eye and I knew they would be perfect for my purposes.  Master Hand Grenade and I put a metal blade on the circular saw, donned eye protection and used the kitchen table as a work table.  We measured and cut and used roofing screws to install our new black splash.  Perfect!  It is easy to clean, rustic and suits our rowdy family perfectly.

Our backsplash

Taking a cue from the back splash, I began to look for other ways to incorporate galvanized metal in our home (have I mentioned how easy it is to clean?).   We had junked a few beehives that were past their usefulness but I saved most of the components to be used for some as of yet identified purpose or another.  One day I was wishing that the table that sits next to the love seat in the kitchen had a bigger tabletop and suddenly I though "Hive Top".  I quickly trekked to the shed, grabbed a galvanized hive top and fitted it snugly over the existing wooden top of the side table.  It was just right, big enough to give me extra space but not so big that the table became unstable.  As of yet, the hive top is just sitting on the table, however, Sir Knight has offered to screw it to the wood with nice rounded head screws if I would like (I'm just sure if I'm ready to commit).

Hive top fitted over the top of a wooden table
Sometime later, I saw a gorgeous wooden wine barrel lid fitted with a metal band that was intended to sit in the middle of a table and hold a cheese board and wine or a lovely loaf of artisan bread.  I really wanted to bring that lid home, but it was exorbitantly expensive and I knew, with a bit of thought, I could come up with something that I had laying around.  In came yet another hive top.  The galvanized metal looks great against the rustic backdrop of our worn pine table and if I flip it over, it works great as a serving tray!  Multipurpose!

And as a table centerpiece
Last week, I was cleaning out the pantry (you should never have to use a broom and dustpan to clean the pantry!) and was looking around my various spots for some make-do shelving to make the pantry shelves a bit more useful.  I didn't find anything very romantic (a plastic milk crate and soda crate), but did spy an unused chicken feeder, galvanized of course, that was just begging to be used for something.

After I finished the dreaded pantry job, I fetched the feeder and scrubbed it clean, all the while trying to decide just where it should go.  First, I put it on the propane fireplace in the living room, filled it with burlap ribbon, electric candles, pinecones and antlers.  It was nice, but just not quite right.  While I stood there surveying my work, I heard the beeping of the washing machine in the bathroom.  I ran in to put another load of laundry on, glanced at the bathtub, and knew that my chicken feeder had found its home.

A 36" chicken feeder with the swivel top removed

The legs fit perfectly over the sides of the tub!
Disassembling my initial chicken feeder efforts, I moved the feeder to the bathroom, flipped down the legs and fitted it over the sides of my cast iron bathtub.  A galvanized, fitted bathtub caddy!  Perfect!  I added a few candles, some washcloths and a jar of homemade bath soak - creating a simply lovely, romantic bath accoutrement.  Because the feeder has sides, it holds a book quite nicely and the galvanized metal is the perfect medium in a bathroom setting.  I couldn't have purchased a better tub caddy!
A grain scoop candle-holder

After moving things from here to there, I found my coffee table (also a medical storage box on wheels) depressingly empty.  Keeping with the farm chic theme, I rescued a bent, slightly rusted grain scoop, scrubbed it up and set about creating a simple center-piece.  I fit two electric candles (not as romantic as the real deal, but better with pets and children) in the scoop, added a few berry branches and a bit of moss.  Simple, classic and just right sitting on a piece of reclaimed rustic barn board.


I love to feather my nest with unused things I already have.  Between the great outdoors and my burn pile, I have a unique, warm and quirky home that I love.  And with the incorporation of a chicken feeder, I have literally "Feathered my Nest"!
Posted: March 24, 2014, 3:51 am




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