The latest posts from Paratus Familia Blog
Although I have been ridiculously absent from the blogosphere, I have been busy and productive in most others areas of my life. We have had an unusually mild winter and our February even bordered on spring-like. Because of the unseasonably warm weather, out of door projects have called our name and we have answered!
As most of you know, we lost our beloved Tibetan Mastiff dog "Reaper" to a horrific homestead accident last summer. We have missed him terribly and have chosen not to get another dog... until now. Next Sunday a new little homestead guardian will arrive! We have named him Lowen and he carries the lineage of our "Reaper". Lowen is an 8 week old Tibetan Mastiff - and he has very large paws to fill! In preparation for our little guardian, we have been busy building a "dog den", rather than a typical dog house. Borrowing Sep Holzer's permaculture method of housing animals, we dug a hillside out and built a log structure into the hill and backfilled the "den". We still need to finish the top with plywood and tar paper before we cover the den completely with dirt, leaving only the entrance exposed. We are very interested to see how he likes his "den" and if he uses it. At this point we think he will use it far more in the heat of summer than he ever does during the winter months!
|Sir Night and Maid Elizabeth digging the hole|
|Maid Elizabeth has help!|
|Master Hand Grenade breaking ground|
|The finished hole (about 4 x 4)|
|The first two courses (butt and pass method)|
|Beginning the roof|
|The roof is on - it's just awaiting plywood, tar paper and dirt|
|Tools laid out (with the marking pen and knives) to mark for cutting (each tray is a drawer)|
|Marking around the tools|
|Adjusting the knife to the depth of the tool (to cut into the foam at the correct depth)|
|Making the cut|
|Removing the foam|
|One tray (drawer) finished - with room for more tools|
|The tool box closed - it is water proof and shock proof!|
|Rolls easily on integrated wheels|
|That's a little guy urinal in the corner|
|The new hole and barrel (plastic is draped inside to keep any leakage from the front)|
|Hives in the Bee House|
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."
Equality. A cornerstone of our country, of our government, was the equality of men. The Continental Congress did away with such notions as Kings and Kingdoms, Nobles and Peasants, Lords and Villains. In the country they created there would be equality. Men would serve as lawmakers for a short while and then return to their homes to live under the laws they created. They determined to rule well, securing liberty for their countrymen, and in doing so, securing liberty for themselves and their posterity. They considered themselves men of the people, in fact, they were the people.
The entire concept of equality for all men was more than revolutionary. Every other culture on earth had a ruling class. Not since ancient Rome had mankind seen a republic flourish - and never a representative republic! Liberty and freedom blossomed as the people ruled themselves with honor and integrity. While not perfect, America promised that which no country had before - freedom and justice for all men - regardless of station or circumstance. The equality of men was the American Dream.
A country such as ours can only be held together by good men. And the good men have left the building. They have been replaced by greedy, corrupt, immoral men, seeking the best for themselves at the expense of their fellow men, and their country. Once again, the Ruling Class has quietly crept into a secured position of power, content to crush the equality of their brethren under their feet. We live in a country where our lawmakers make laws to govern the people but exempt themselves. We live in a country where our law keepers police the people, but not themselves. We live in a country where the judicial system has taken it upon themselves to act as lawmakers rather than the chief investigators of innocence or guilt.
It is the unfortunate state of humanity to guard our comforts at the cost of our freedoms. As our Founding Fathers noted, "all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed." And suffering, we are.
It recently came to my attention that the State of Idaho exempts lawmakers from the requirement of obtaining a concealed weapons permit in order to conceal carry. This is far from the only example of the "Ruling Class" exempting themselves from the laws they have created. Congress passed the Affordable Care Act (without even bothering to read its contents), yet when faced with abiding by this legislation, they issued a rule (August 7, 2013 OPM) that essentially exempted them from this poisonous legislation. They gave an exemption to themselves - not to you and I, mind you - but to themselves! But it doesn't end with our lawmakers - they are but one section of our Ruling Class.
Law enforcement, in recent years, has proven themselves above the law. As I wrote about in an earlier post, a Washington State Patrol officer and pilot were caught ticketing "civilians" while allowing their fellow officers to speed on their way to a law enforcement seminar. There is example after example of heightened police presence and involvement when a crime is committed against an officer rather than an ordinary citizen.
And then there are our judges. These are the men that we have charged with disseminating supreme justice. This sacred trust has been sorely misplaced. Rather than unbiasedly dispensing justice, they have chosen to use their honored position to betray the American people. They have written their own, biased opinion into law and in the process they have circumvented justice and stolen their fellow mans freedom.
How soon we forget. Just over two centuries ago brave men sought a new country, a country they could call their own. A country where no man was another's better and no one controlled another mans freedoms or opportunities. The country they found - that they built - was a beacon of hope in a harsh world. That country was the United States of America. But, we have failed to guard one of our most precious commodities - equality. We allowed ignorant, greedy men to steel our autonomy while we slept and now we have reduced ourselves to nation of obedient servants. We have effectively given the substance of our lives to the Ruling Class. We have accepted servitude in place of freedom and taken on the mantle of peasants minding the King's holdings. We have become the Villains.
Will you continue in your slumber? Will you pass on a heritage of servitude to you children? Will you allow your fellow man to exercise their (illegal) authority to rule over you? Will you spend your days serving an ungoverned, immoral Ruling Class? Or will you reclaim your rightful position and exercise the rights endowed to you by your Creator?
We are the Ruling Class. It's time for us to remind our self-appointed "Masters" of that fact.
|Vermeer's Milk Maid|
Thank you so much for your wonderful comments! I have thoroughly enjoyed reading them all, especially from those of you who are disabled and/or have (or had) small children.
As you can imagine, Sir Knight, the children and I were in agreement with the vast majority of you - the woman with the small children should have used the larger stall and the lady in the wheelchair should have graciously waited. What really surprised us was "Dear Abby's" response. In her column, she stated that the handicap stall was reserved for handicapped people only and the woman at the end of the line in the wheelchair should have been given preference.
Truthfully, I don't think it really boils down to an issue of mobility but rather is an issue of courtesy. In my experience, most people do their best to be courteous to one another. Had I been in that bathroom I would have encouraged the woman behind me with the small children to use the handicap stall, just as I would have given preference to the woman in the wheelchair had she been behind me. I am relatively certain the handicapped woman referred to in the "Dear Abby" column would have been quickly ushered into the handicap stall had she been gracious rather than rude. She had an opportunity to encourage charity and understanding, instead she chose the disheartening attitude of selfishness.
The unfortunate truth is that sometimes we can't seem to win regardless of what we do. If we allow the person behind us to "cut in line", the person at the end of the line gets irritated. If we open the door for someone, they very well may hurl the insult of "I can do that myself!". Even offering a seat to an older person can be offensive - "I'm not old" they often quip. In our self-centered society even the most courteous of actions can be misconstrued as blatantly offensive. What are we to do?
The answer is simple, really. We do the right thing. We are kind, we are courteous and we are gracious. No. Matter. What. It doesn't matter how someone else responds, we are responsible for our own actions - every time. We do not have the ability to control how others respond. We can't make them behave correctly. We can't force them to react the way we think they should. The only person we have control of is ourselves. And therein lies the rub. It is our responsibility to control ourselves. Every time! We need to control our tongues, our tempers and even our thoughts. Our person is under our authority! We are our own responsibility. No. Matter. What.
I'm pretty sure the answer to "What should we do?" is "The right thing". If we held ourselves and our children accountable to that simple precept our country would look a whole lot different.
Hi everyone - please forgive me for the inexcusably long absence. I have been wrapping up 2014 and ushering in 2015 and became more than little sidetracked! I'll be bringing you up-to-date in the coming month.
I have a question for you. Recently I read a "Dear Abby" column and disagreed with her answer completely. Over tea, I posed the question to Sir Knight - his answer mirrored mine. After dinner, before we abandoned the table, we posed the same question to each of our three older children, they too, answered as Sir Knight and I had. Funny thing, that!
And so, I ask you - what do you think? Here is the scenario:
You are in a public ladies bathroom (you gents will have to use a little imagination here). There are three regular stalls and one larger handicapped stall (equipped with a baby changing station). When you enter the bathroom, all of the stalls are occupied. A line quickly forms behind you. Directly after you is a frazzled looking young woman with a loudly fussing infant in her arms and a cranky toddler attached to her skirt. The first bathroom stall to become available is the handicap stall with the baby changing station. Being the kind and generous person that you are, you usher the young mother into the stall and continue to wait for another stall to become available. Almost instantly an angry voice cuts through the room - a lady in a wheelchair (at the back of a very long line) voiced her adamant opinion that the woman with the babies should have waited for a "normal" stall and she should have immediately been ushered into the handicapped stall.
What do you think? Should the mother and children have taken the handicap stall or should it have been reserved solely for the use of the handicapped patron?
You can probably imagine our response, but tomorrow I will tell you what our family thought and what "Dear Abby" answered. I can't wait to here what you say!
I'm sorry I've been so silent - we have been nothing if not busy! (As I'm sure all of you have been too!). Hopefully, a picture is worth a thousand words, because that is all I'm able to get up today. Here is a peek into our life as of late....
Master Hand Grenade became acquainted with winter driving (black ice) and learned the pitfalls of only carrying liability insurance!
And, the next day, his initiation as a butcher occurred.....
Making lotion bars...
|Weighing the beeswax|
|Melting the ingredients|
|Cooling in the molds|
|The finished bars|
|Packaged and ready to go|
|Master Calvin scrubbing the barrel, with a Zebra lamp on his head|
(so he could be sure to get all of the nooks and crannies)
|30 pounds of coarsely chopped cranberries|
|Into the "fermentation" vessel (also known as a 55 gallon barrel)|
|Raisins added (15 pounds)|
|Stirring the "must" with a pizza paddle!|
30 pounds chopped cranberries (fresh or frozen)
15 pounds raisins
45 pounds granulated sugar
4 1/2 tsp. pectic enzyme
1 1/4 C lemon juice
15 gallons boiled/cooled water
Wash and roughly chop cranberries to allow juices to leave the fruit. Transfer crushed/chopped cranberries to a clean winemaking fermentation container and add all of the other ingredients except for the wine yeast.
After allowing the cranberry mixture to stand for around 12 hours, add the activated wine yeast. Stir each morning and evening for 5 days. Strain and squeeze the solids, transferring the cranberry wine mixture into a demijohn, complete with airlock.
Rack after a month. Rack once more after 3 months, and then two more times until the wine is clear and approximately 12 months old. Bottle the wine and leave to stand for over 12 months.
So, there you go - a brief synopsis of life in "Little Shouse on the Prairie".
From time to time I take my robust good health for granted. This morning I was visiting with my mother (over the phone) while she was busy with last minute Thanksgiving preparations. She was telling me about her upcoming travels and the many things that needed to be done in the next few weeks. One of the items on her "to-do" list was making dinner for a local family. This family is gracefully walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Dad is a pastor, mom is a homemaker and schools her 6 children at home. They live a quiet, simple and wholesome life. And mom has inoperable cancer. The oldest child has accepted the mantle of womanhood and is schooling and caring for her younger siblings, while she cooks, cleans and runs the home. Two nights a week, in an effort to ease this young lady's burden, my parent's church provides a meal for the family. It is a small gift, but a gift born of love.
As we prepare for Thanksgiving this year, we will be giving thanks for the bountiful health we enjoy. But as we give thanks, we will also remember those that are walking a very different path. We will thank God that He is caring not only for the healthy but especially for the sick, the tired and the weak. He truly is The Great Physician.
A beautiful Thanksgiving to you all.
Once again Miss Serenity has hunting boasting rights. She is our most faithful hunter (she LOVES it) and has been rewarded with a buck that is even bigger than last years catch.
This year Serenity hunted in an open field with no discernable cover. In order to get into the field before the deer came up the draw, Serenity borrowed Sir Knight's ghillie suit and SSG and staked out her little plot of land just before evening overtook the daylight.
First, the doe's ventured into the field, grazing while their ears twitched, alert for possible danger. Satisfied that there was no immediate threat, a buck gracefully trotted to join his harem. Two hundred yards away, Miss Serenity followed the buck in her site. Adjusting the windage, she slowed her breathing, set the first trigger and then gently squeezed the second trigger. Two ragged steps and a somersault later her trophy lay on the ground.
Within minutes, Serenity had called home and Sir Knight, Master Hand Grenade and the two little children were by her side, preparing to gut her kill and haul him home (she shot him just across the road from the shouse). An hour later, he had been gutted, skinned and hung in our shed.
As evening fell on Little Shouse on the Prairie, Miss Serenity regaled us with her newly minted hunting stories and we thanked God for His wonderful bounty.
This cake requires no dairy - butter or milk - and is leavened not by eggs but by vinegar and baking soda (I know - vinegar in a cake!). The result is a moist cake that is perfect alone, sprinkled with powdered sugar or frosted. Our favorite way to serve this cake is warm from the oven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!!
Rubber cake is not the least bit crumbly so it is perfect for the lunchbox as well as afternoon tea. Another benefit? It is mixed and baked in the same pan - no other bowls to get dirty! Because it requires no fresh ingredients, Rubber cake is the Quintessential Survival Cake.
1 1/2 C flour
1 C sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3 T cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
Sift together above ingredients into a 9" cake pan (or double the recipe and use a 9"x13" cake pan). The pan does not have to be greased or floured.
Make 3 wells in the mixture.
Put the following in the separate wells;
6 T vegetable oil in one well
1 T vinegar in one well (I use white vinegar)
1 tsp. vanilla in one well
Pour 1 C of water over the top and mix well.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream.
Serve cold with white, caramel or chocolate frosting.
|Filling the wells|
|One overflowed a bit!|
|All mixed together|
|Just out of the oven|
|A lovely way to end the day!|
Recently Maid Elizabeth came across a recipe for oven-fried chicken, thought it looked fabulous and asked me to work it into our dinner menu rotation. She, along with Master Hand Grenade, had been craving fried chicken for awhile but knew that it was like pulling teeth to get me to make it for dinner. Although I like fried chicken (minus the grease) I don't like making it - so fried chicken is a once a year (at the most) rarity at our house. Elizabeth's oven-fried recipe looked remarkably good, and easy, so I put it on the menu and eagerly anticipated giving it a try.
Since our first oven-fried chicken experiment, we have had it every other week - without fail! It is that good! We love it piping hot, fresh out of the oven, and we love it cold the next day (or later, after dinner has been digested) for lunch. It is crunchy and tasty and not the least bit greasy (which I really like). Best of all? It's relatively quick and very easy.
Generally I just cut up chicken breast to make this dish, however that is pretty decadent. I think that a cut-up fryer would work equally well - I would just bake it a bit longer.
We love this chicken with mounds of fluffy mashed potatoes and chicken gravy, but it would be just as wonderful with potato salad or whatever suits your fancy.
Fantastic Oven-Fried Chicken
4 or 5 Chicken breasts (I cut each breast into about 3 pieces)
10 T butter
2 C flour
1 tsp. salt
2 T seasoning salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 T + 1 tsp. paprika
3 eggs + a splash of milk
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the butter (cut into chunks) on two large baking sheets and put into the oven to melt.
In a bowl combine the flour, salt, seasoning salt, pepper and paprika. Mix well. Measure 1/2 of the mixture into a plastic bag, leaving the other 1/2 in the bowl. (You can forgo the plain salt if desired).
In a separate bowl whisk eggs and milk.
Put the strips of chicken into the plastic bag with the flour mixture and shake until well coated.
One at a time, roll a coated piece of chicken in the egg mixture, roll in the flour mixture in the bowl (this will coat the chicken twice) and place on a cookie sheet. Continue with all of the chicken pieces.
Take your baking sheets out of the oven once the butter has melted and transfer the coated chicken to the baking sheets, leaving space between each piece. Bake 10 to 12 minutes. Gently flip each piece and bake for another 10 to 12 minutes.
Check to make sure the chicken is cooked through (this can vary depending on the thickness of the chicken pieces) and bake another 5 to 10 minutes, if needed (don't over bake - the chicken will dry out).
Removed to a plate lined with newspaper or a paper towel to soak up any excess grease. Serve immediately.
|Butter on the baking sheet|
|Chicken cut into large chunks|
|Two bowls, one with egg and the other with breading|
|A bag of breading to coat chicken the first time|
|Place coated chicken on hot baking sheet with melted butter|
|(oven) Fried chicken!|
This morning I read a news article about a Marine father that had been banned from his daughter's school because of a ruckus he'd caused about a school assignment. Apparently, a history assignment was given requiring the students to list the benefits of Islam. The father had a visceral reaction to this particular assignment and strongly stated his case with school officials. The result was the fathers banishment from the school grounds.
My first reaction was disgust but then, I started thinking about it. Within minutes, I was doing the assignment in my head. The more I thought, the more benefits I came up with. Here are a few....
The Benefits of Islam
- Economic. Islam benefits the economic structure in so many ways. When a terrorist bomb explodes, hundreds of economic entities go work. Police and Rapid Response Teams flood the area. Paramedics and EMT's respond. ER rooms go into overdrive and funeral homes experience a boom in business. Once the dust has settled, municipalities, insurance companies and contractors go to work. The economic impact in the area can go on for months. Reconstruction, heightened security and PSTD treatment can last for years - adding even more of a financial windfall.
- Education. If you want smaller class sizes and streamlined education - Islam is your religion. When you educate boys only, effectively eliminating roughly 1/2 of your student burden, you have the ability to work closely with each individual student. Because you only teach a few core subjects - the Koran, Jihad and a few other choice electives, you have the ability to study your subject matter in depth, producing exceptionally dedicated, knowledgeable scholars.
- Political. The benefits of Islam in the political arena are myriad. By doing away with pesky freedoms, both of speech and action, you simplify the political process significantly. Swift elimination of political opponents, specifically by beheading, streamlines the political process and most often brings about a calming sense of continuity to the voting public.
- Military/Defense. This is one area where Islamic nations really shine. Their countries benefit immensely from the non-structured yet mandatory implementation of aggressive para-military organizations. Not only do they recruit from within the borders of their own countries, they effectively recruit members from all over the globe. With the promise of eternal glory, their fighters are arguably the most dedicated in the world.
- Environmental. Islam is very environmentally conscious. Rather than developing carbon fuel based guidance and delivery systems for their rockets and bombs, they use the much more environmentally friendly camel and donkey delivery systems. In some cases, they use simple rocks (completely biodegradable) instead of manufactured munitions in their bid to protect mother nature. And when using a more sophisticated delivery system (usually in the form of a Toyota pickup or Landcruiser), they make sure to use the most fuel efficient model. Another aspect of environmentalism that is unique to Islamic nations is their fervent adherence to population control. In an effort to keep their numbers down, their women are stoned at the first hint of an indiscretion and their children are regularly sacrificed to their cause. Such a dedicated approach to saving the earth is rarely seen in the modern world.
- Social. The social benefits of Islam are too numerous to mention. In their quest to reduce envy, covetousness and lust, they have established a proven system of dress and manner that greatly benefits society at large. Covering their women from head to toe and not allowing them to speak in public has produced a contented, joyful female population. The men are equally happy, as evidenced by their quiet lives and tender reverence for their families. All is well in the Islamic world.
Would I get a good grade on my paper?
Human nature is a funny thing. We seem to live in a constant state of comparison. We compare every aspect of our lives with others, either feeling superior or inferior, depending the circumstances. We compare our spouses, our children and ourselves. We compare our clothes, our cars and our fences. We compare ourselves with our friends, with people on television, in magazines and we even compare ourselves with fictional characters. And more often than not, we don't measure up.
I'm sure that people have measured their lives by the perceived successes and failures of their neighbors since mankind populated the earth - but our modern technological age has created a plague of discontent that is eroding the soul of our nation.
I have never indulged in social media. I don't have a Facebook account or Twitter (I'm still not sure what that is) or Instagram or any other social interactive site, and I haven't missed them at all. Over the years I have had friends tell me that I just had to sign up, however, I have a couple of serious problems with our social media culture. The first issue I have is that you can be anybody you want to be on the internet! There is no accountability, no truth. People only post what they want you to see. You see the successes only - rarely the failures. You see those few shining moments when a persons life measures up to their own standards of success. You are inundated with EVERYONE's success and pretty soon you can see nothing but your own failures.
And we wonder why we are nation depressed!
When I blog, I share snippets out of our lives. You get to hear about Master Hand Grenade getting his first job and Miss Serenity dropping a buck with 1 shot. You hear about Maid Elizabeth delivering babies and Princess Dragon Snack riding her first motorcycle. You see pictures of Master Calvin decked out in his "Gentleman Adventurer" gear and Sir Knight testing tactical equipment. You read accounts of lessons learned and prayers answered. But there is so much I don't write. I don't write about children with bad attitudes or baking projects that end up feeding the dogs. You don't read about marital difficulties between Sir Knight and I or the bitter disappointments that seem to visit our home with reliable frequency. You don't see the mess or the failures or the really rotten parts of life that I would be loathe to share. You don't see the messy stuff.
I only show you what I want you to know.
But there is another reason I'm not a part of the social media frenzy. Quite frankly, I don't want to be a busybody. For a while I "spied" on people via Maid Elizabeth's Facebook account. I would check on them every week or so, just to see what they were up to. Maid Elizabeth didn't have many "friends", but I found that often they would post things on their account that I would not have known any other way. But then, as I was wandering through Elizabeth's "news feed" one day, I suddenly realized that I was like the "busybody" that the Bible talks about! I was checking in on other people's lives, reading all of their gossip, when I would be much better served by taking care of my own life!
I think blogs, Pinterest and a whole lot of other sites on the world wide web can be wonderful - if they are used with discretion. There are so many things to learn and so much encouragement waiting for us online, but we have to be discerning. Remember, behind every website is a real, live, human being that isn't perfect. Their spouse isn't perfect, their kids aren't perfect and their house isn't perfect. They don't have the "perfect" survival location, the "perfect" survival plan or the "perfect" survival skills. They have good days and they have bad days. Whatever you do, don't look at the lives people present online and assume that your life is in the toilet! We are all in this boat together - success, failure and everything in between.
Believe it or not, the world is not populated by people that have a perfectly decorated, spotlessly clean home, as they cook organic, homemade meals, while raising 8 impossibly polite children and being the quintessential Proverbs 31 woman (oh, and the perfect wife, of course!). It is filled with people just. like. you.
Welcome to my reality. Imperfect. Messy. Just right!
About the photo -- A snapshot of our imperfect life. The window is broken (an accident two years ago). There are little buggy's, dead, between the two panes. The window can't be cleaned (the dirt is between the two panes) and we can barely see through it. Such is life! Someday....
When my children were smaller, one of their favorite poems was "Animal Crackers and Cocoa to Drink". Every once in a while, on a blustery day, I would give the children their own box of animal crackers, stir up a pot of cocoa and we would play games in front of the wood cookstove. There could be nothing cozier than a cup of cocoa and a crunchy, sweet cracker to warm your soul on a late fall afternoon!
Today, I was out of animal crackers (we don't buy them very often) but the cookstove was singing it's siren song and the children and I couldn't resist a game of Yatzee while sipping on cocoa. Being out of animal crackers, I decided to substitute homemade Honey Graham Crackers. They take only minutes to put together and are worth every minute. These crackers can be slightly soft (like a cookie) or crispier (like a cracker), depending on how long you bake them. They are perfect if you don't have much in the pantry because they only require basic pantry staples - other than the butter, which can be easily substituted with shortening. These graham crackers are full of flavor and good-for-you ingredients. I highly suggest baking a batch today!
Honey Graham Crackers
1 C whole wheat flour
1 1/2 C all purpose flour
1/2 C dark brown sugar (packed) can use light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 C butter, chilled (or shortening)
1/4 C honey
1/4 C water
1 tsp. vanilla
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the wheat flour, all-purpose flour, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and baking soda. Cut in butter (or shortening) with a pastry cutter (or you can use a food processor for this part) until the mixture resembles a course meal. Add the honey, water and vanilla. Stir until blended. Stir with your hands until the mixture becomes a softened, cohesive dough.
Putting the dough on a lightly floured surface, roll to 1/4 inch thick and cut with cookie cutters (or cut like crackers). I used a fork to prick each cracker, although this step is not required.
Place on cookie sheets and bake for 15 minutes.
I gave a couple of these crackers to our mail lady (fresh from the oven) and she said she had just seen a recipe for graham crackers but thought "who on earth would make their own graham crackers!". So, I guess now she knows!
And for all you romantics out there, our favorite "Animal Crackers"...
|Graham Crackers go with tea as well as cocoa!|
A few years ago I visited a friend whom I hadn't seen in a long time. As we visited and I was given a tour through her home, I noticed her teenaged son sitting quietly in a corner of the room. His mother introduced him to me and without looking up he mumbled his hello. Another friend and my mother had accompanied me on this excursion and my mother, noticing the quiet young man, attempted to engage him in conversation. Her attempts were met with downcast eyes and mumbled, one-word answers. This young man was not indifferent or rude, rather he was painfully shy.
As I sat visiting with his mother, I asked about her son. She told me that his grades were excellent but he that he had a visceral reaction to school because he was so badly bullied. He also suffered from severe headaches (due to the constant downward slant of his head, which was his method of avoiding eye contact). It was the mother's opinion that her son would grow out of his shyness and everything would be fine.
I have to admit, I was rather shocked. Never in my life had I met ANYONE with that degree of "shyness". He was so withdrawn that he was, without a doubt, handicapped. My heart ached for this young man. His pain in attempting to interact with other human beings was almost palpable. It broke my heart.
Waving as we drove off, I looked at my mom, aghast, and said "Mom, that isn't O.K. That boy is 15 years old and cannot look another person in the eye (including his mother), much less hold a conversation - something must be done!". From the back seat, the friend that had accompanied us on our visit piped up. "Enola, he'll be fine, there are a lot of socially awkward guys that work on computers and make a lot of money - just leave the poor kid alone". I was stunned. This was a mother - couldn't she see what would happen to this young man if his family didn't help him through this difficulty? He would never be able to function in society without the ability to communicate. How his parents dealt with the situation now would determine the future for this young man - and it would determine if he would contribute to society or if he would drain society of its resources. This was a matter of consequence!
The brief visit with my old friend brought the challenges of parenthood into perfect clarity. In our desire to love and accept our children as they are, we often handicap our children for life. Somewhere along the line we forgot that love doesn't necessarily mean acceptance. When we love our children we see them clearly, honestly. We walk beside them as they struggle to mature and sometimes, oftentimes, we push them past their comfort zone. We see how their behavior will affect their future and we take the necessary steps to correct their path - even when those steps are painful.
I have watched my children struggle. I have been tough on them. I have drug them past their comfort zones kicking and screaming. But I have done all of these things because I love them. I want them to succeed. I want them to be capable, to be able, to contribute. I want them to walk through the hard stuff now, when I am able to encourage them and walk beside them, rather than waiting for them to learn their lessons in a cold, uncaring, unforgiving world.
I think we confuse the meaning of the word love. Love doesn't mean blindly accepting bad behavior, or behavior that will prove detrimental. Love means disciplining your children when they're naughty, because if you don't, people won't like them. Love means requiring your children to finish what they started because it will teach them to persevere. Love means giving your children the gift of consequences, whether for good behavior or bad. Love means knowing your children, acknowledging their shortcomings and being willing to do what is necessary to see them through to the other side.
We live in a world that has mistaken love for acceptance. They are not the same thing. In fact, acceptance can be on of the most unloving act any parent can commit. How we love our children truly is a matter of consequence.
There are things in life that irritate me. Often, they're not huge, earth-shattering situations, rather just small, constant, wearing irritations. And it's the small, constant, wearing irritations that bring people to their breaking point.
Last week, I was irritated past the point of reason and was on the verge of becoming unreasonable. I wanted to throw a temper tantrum and make sure that everyone around me knew of my displeasure. Instead, I sat there and stewed (getting more irritated by the minute). While I silently fumed, my fingers brushed the pearls that encircled my neck. As I fingered the satiny smooth pearls and wondered at their magnificence, I realized that they owed their precious beauty to a tiny, almost imperceptible irritation.
I unclasped the necklace and held the pearls in my hands. A tiny grain of sand, a parasite or even a sliver of shell had deposited itself in the innermost part of each oyster that had produced these pearls. Normally, the oyster would have spit the invader out, but for each one of these beautiful pearls, that had proven impossible. As a result, the sand had rubbed the inside of each oyster and the oysters had responded by coating the sand in a lustrous coating, soothing itself while transforming the irritant. Month after month, in the unseen darkness of the oyster's secret places, that grain of sand, that constant irritant, produced a glorious gem of untold worth. What each oyster would have rejected as unwanted - irritating, had, in reality, produced in it something far more valuable than itself.
I am guilty. I often resent struggles and irritations. I try to avoid them rather than allow them to change me, to polish me.
As I gazed at my Great-Grandmother's pearls, I realized that I wanted my life to produce pearls of great worth, even if that meant embracing the irritants that life always seems bring in abundance.
One particularly challenging aspect of being non-electric is the need for refrigeration. When we first moved into Little Shouse on the Prairie we were completely non-electric. No. Power. Anywhere. I had a milk cow, which resulted in fresh cheese and butter and yogurt, and nowhere to keep any of it cool. The cheese and butter were somewhat forgiving but the milk was not. If I couldn't cool the milk in a relatively short amount of time, and keep it cool, I ended up with a curdled mass that was only fit for animal use. Desperate for a solution, Sir Knight and I bought a heavily insulated cooler and filled it with blocks of ice. Although better than nothing, the cooler was a sad substitute for a real refrigerator.
Within a few weeks of moving in, we had a large propane tank installed and plumbed to the Shouse. Originally we had intended on using the propane only for our range. Quickly, however, we realized that we needed another solution for refrigeration.
Our original propane stove was an enameled Wedgewood from the 1950's. It was the gem of my kitchen! At the same yard sale that we had purchased the stove, we stumbled across a 1950's model Servel propane refrigerator. For a few hundred dollars, we bought the stove and the refrigerator. My initial thought was that we could use the propane stove only when we really needed it, but we couldn't turn the refrigerator off if we weren't using it, so not wanting to waste propane, we didn't hook up the refrigerator.
More than a few gallons of spoiled milk, blocks of ruined cheese and pounds of rotten meat later, we finally gave in and lit the propane refrigerator. Oh, it was heavenly! Although rather small for a refrigerator, the Servel was huge compared to a cooler. No longer did I have to fish wet packages, bags and bottles from the bottom of a swampy cooler! Now I could keep gallons of milk ice cold, leftovers fresh and I even had a small freezer for ice cube trays. Wow! What a difference a tiny blue flame could make!
Over time, I found that I absolutely loved our propane refrigerator. It was small, but efficient. In the whole scope of things, it used relatively little propane and made our lives so much easier. But, out of all of the reasons to love the Servel, silence was at the top of my list. Really! Propane refrigerators are completely silent. They don't cycle off and on. The flame just burns silently, steadily, providing continuous, silent refrigeration. Oh how I loved that little workhorse.
One morning, after using the Servel for about 6 years, I awoke to a warming refrigerator. Laying on the floor to inspect the burner, I quickly discovered that the flame had gone out. Sir Knight re-lit our refrigerator and it continued on as before - for about 2 weeks. Again, a pool of water on the kitchen floor indicated the burner has gone out. Sir Knight surveyed the situation and discovered that the burner had burned out. Calling a propane refrigerator repair center, I was quickly informed that the older model Servel that we owned had been part of a lawsuit (the burners quit working after over 50 years and a number of people had died of carbon monoxide poisoning in their cabins) and there were no replacement parts available. We were sadly reduced to the cooler once again.
Shortly after our propane refrigerator quit working, we helped a friend move his entire household. A week later, a pick-up came rumbling up our driveway bearing a gift from the friend that had moved - an older model Sunfrost refrigerator, specially designed for off-grid use. The Sunfrost was electric, however, it was designed with the alternative energy household in mind. Our refrigerator was large, with two compressors - one for the freezer and one for the refrigerator. It was short and wide, making the refrigerator inconvenient, however Sir Knight remedied that problem by building a sturdy box for the refrigerator to sit upon. Now, not only was the Sunfrost at a convenient height, but the box also provided extra kitchen storage!
I had a love/hate relationship with the Sunfrost refrigerator. It was huge, but had only three awkward glass shelves in each section. The shelves were positioned so that it was difficult to fit anything into the refrigerator except into the voluminous middle shelf. The refrigerator was so deep that I was constantly digging everything out to get to items in the back. It was nothing short of frustrating. Along with the poor organizational qualities, we found that our Sunfrost didn't work particularly well. The refrigerator froze everything that migrated to the back and the freezer refused to freeze anything other than ice cubes. While researching our refrigeration issues, Sir Knight discovered that Sunfrost tested their refrigerators differently than industry standards for a "regular" refrigerator. Sunfrost tested their refrigerator efficiency at significantly higher temperatures than their Energy Star counterparts. What this meant for us was that our refrigerator required much more energy than advertised. We turned our refrigerator down, trying to keep things cooler, causing the compressors to cycle off and on more frequently and still not achieving the cooling that we desired! On top of that, the fridge was not frost free. The entire top and back of the fridge would turn into solid chunks of ice, all while not freezing anything in the freezer!
After eight years of no popsicles, no ice cream and forgotten left-overs, we made the jump. For my birthday this year, Sir Knight bought me a used, Energy Star Amana refrigerator to replace the cursed Sunfrost. I was so excited! My "new" fridge had drawers, shelves and cubbies everywhere. It was a simple refrigerator with the fridge on top and the freezer on the bottom. The evening we brought it home, I anxiously waited to see how it would respond to the modified square waves of our off-grid system. I wasn't sure if the surge (when it came on) would be too much for our inverter, or if it would use a ton more power. I wanted to have a "real" refrigerator so badly that I was constantly checking the Tri-metric (volt meter) to see if it was going to be viable.
As soon as we plugged the fridge in, it cycled on. Really, it only used a little bit more power during the surge than our Sunfrost (our Sunfrost surge was about 12 amps and the Amana topped out at 15 amps). But, the really cool thing was that when the fridge was running it used less electricty (about 6 amps versus the Sunfrost's 8 amps) than our old refrigerator! Less! And, as icing on the cake - the Amana Energy Star refrigerator could freeze anything - hard, and it was frost free!
Suffering for eight years with a substandard refrigerator was ridiculous! We had read one too many solar articles, listened to one too many experts and based our decisions on faulty information. We couldn't be happier with a plain old Energy Star refrigerator, despite what the "experts" say.
All in all, my favorite fridge was the propane Servel. It had drawbacks (tiny freezer and small fridge) but I LOVED it's silent operation (and it was pretty cute!). But, if I had to do it all again, I would definitely choose a plain jane Energy Star refrigerator. When we had no alternative energy, the Servel was the only way to go, but with solar panels, the Amana is wonderful. It runs flawlessly, keeps cold things cold and frozen things frozen. It is convenient, easily organized and just plain awesome. Sometimes I walk into my kitchen and think "where have you been all my life" (I know, sad isn't it?).
If you are just starting your off-grid adventure and you have a reliable alternative energy system, I would highly encourage you to buy a simple Energy Star refrigerator rather than an expensive "off-grid" fridge. Although a DC Sunfrost might be worth the investment, we found that our AC model certainly wasn't. In the worst case scenario, a root cellar would still be the best off-grid cooler, but if you can get your off-grid system set up now, an Energy Star refrigerator is your best bet.
The equality of men. That ideal was the hallmark of America. It was spoken of in hushed tones across Europe and lured men from every corner of the world. The promise of equality caused men to quit their meager comforts and embark on a journey that could easily cost them their lives. To be considered an "equal", to own property, to help make laws, to be limited only by their own willingness to work hard - for such a life as this, men were willing to risk everything. And they did.
The people that built America came from all backgrounds and walks of life - but the majority had one thing in common - their lot in life. They had a station and were unable to change it regardless of hard work or circumstances. The people in positions of power ruled those beneath them, some kindly and some cruelly, but the separation between those in power and those without power was absolute and complete. The peasant, the regular Joe, was at the mercy of his better. There was no recourse, no redress. America promised an evening of the playing field. Here, you could be whatever you wanted to be - you were ruled by your peers, not your masters. But it went even further than that. In America, any man could become a lawmaker. They could determine the law for their fellow man and then live under the laws they created. The founders of our country created a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Just the utterance of the word "America" brought hope to the masses. The downtrodden sought equality and found it in the arms of America.
Slowly, insidiously, our culture has shifted. Almost imperceptibly we have allowed ourselves to transfer power from the people to the state. As we slept, cocooned in our comfort and safety, our self-government has slipped away and been replaced by an unforgiving master - The State. No longer do we live in a land of equality, but a land of "Them" and "Us".
To illustrate a tiny microcosm of this paradigm shift, read the following excerpt from a local paper:
Excerpts from scanner recordings made by Bill Gillam, of Arlington, Washington, on U.S. Highway 2/97 between Cashmere and Wenatcheee, where the speed limit is 60 mph;
Patrol trooper: "Yeah, it's another officer."
Patrol pilot in airplane: "That's a pretty good one."
Trooper: "Yeah, I had, uh, 86 on that one."
Pilot: There's a car doing 73, just pushed traffic out of the way so its got open road again inside a mile to you."
Trooper: "That 75 ain't ours, Chris, looks like it had a light bar on it."
Pilot: "Did I miss a memo today?"
Trooper: "There's a DRE (drug recognition conference) conference in Chelan tody that starts at noon."
Pilot: "Ahh, OK."
Pilot: "I got a pair coming but I'm not super optimistic about 'em, if ya know what I mean. I'll hold off on the speeds until you guys can check them out, just in case. It's a white SUV, followed by a gray car."
Trooper: "Yes, they're going to the conference."
Pilot: "All right."
Pilot: "I don't know if it matter or not but all the ones I'm calling the speeds at have been over 80."
Trooper: "They will make a little announcement at the conference."
Pilot: "Yeah, that'd be good. I mean, I understand you don't want to be late but that's a little too much."
Pilot: "A motorcycle made an unsafe lane change."
Trooper: "Seventy-two with an unsafe lane change. He cut the black car off. So 78 was the high. You're not going to believe where the motorcycle's going."
Pilot: "Let me guess - the DRE conference."
(At end of video)
Pilot: "Sorry we couldn't get more."
Trooper: (laughing) "We got plenty."
Pilot: "There will just be one more page in the reg manual.:
As I said, this is just a tiny illustration. We have allowed so many usurpations of our rights as free men that it would be impossible to recapture them. We have allowed a President to remain in office that doesn't agree with the Constitution, therefore he doesn't enforce it. We have allowed our Representatives to implement a (mandated) health care system that they have exempted themselves from. We have allowed law enforcement officers to disregard the law for themselves and only impose it on "civilians" (that means you and me). We have replaced the equality of a government of the people with a glorified caste system and now we are enjoying all of the accompanying atrocities.
It's time to make the State aware that we, the People are the true and rightful heirs. This is OUR land - not theirs. Stand up and be counted. Our founders made sacrifices for this land, are you willing to do the same?
Reading the daily news headlines, I often wonder "How". How did Americans become a people I hardly recognize? How did we become a people willing to sacrifice our rugged independence for the unrealized (and quite frankly, impossible) promise of safety? How did we become a subservient people, willing to comply with laws that rob of us the very freedom of our souls? How did our once proud countrymen become willing slaves to a tyrannical "King". How did these things come to pass? In one word - Rebellion. We have reaped what we have sown. We have obtained the desires of our hearts. The harvest is now ripe, and more abundant than we could have possibly imagined.
America has chosen to follow a "King" rather than God. In our desire to conform to the standards set by other nations, we have sacrificed everything that made our country great. And, had we had the eyes to see and the ears to hear, we would have known what was coming....
As most of you know, one of my great joys is preparing my home for the winter. I love to pull things together for the winter and make everything cozy. I dress the garage door with drop cloths and curtains, switch out the tablecloths and prepare the oil lanterns. In short - I nest. And here, my friends, is a little peek into the Shouse....
Until next time,
|I use dry erase markers on an old window to write a new proverb every week|
|Master Hand Grenade and I cut galvanized metal and made a wall in the loft-|
I LOVE IT!
|We left a portion of the loft open - I hung another antique window|
that had the panes painted in chalkboard paint, to add a bit
of privacy upstairs. In the three panes I wrote
|My favorite corner in our bedroom|
|Dressed for winter|
|I used an old tank cartridge box to create a centerpiece for the table (it's more red than pink)|
I can't believe it's October! Why? Because our days are warm and sunny and there isn't a hint of that nippy autumn air that I so love. With such warm days I haven't felt compelled to do much baking but yesterday the girls and I wanted a little something to accompany our afternoon tea. The pumpkin scone recipe I recently came across looked like it was just the thing, however, it only used 1/2 cup of pumpkin so I scoured my other recipes to see what I could bake with the rest of the pumpkin in the jar. Oh, did I come up with something wonderful! Texas pecan cake. Umm.
If you are hankering for a taste of fall, these recipes will fill the bill. Enjoy!
2 1/2 C flour
6 T sugar
1 T baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/2 C butter, cold, cut into chunks
1/2 C pumpkin puree (or other winter squash)
3 T heavy cream (or milk)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 C powdered sugar
2 T milk
Pumpkin Spiced Glaze
1 C powdered sugar
2 T milk
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
For the Scones: In a medium bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Cut in butter (with a pastry cutter). Add the pumpkin, cream, egg and vanilla. Stir just until a soft dough forms. Knead 4 or 5 times or until the dough comes together well.
Pat the dough until it is about 1 inch thick. (I pat it in a circle). Cut wedges in the size of your preference.
Place scones on a baking sheet and bake for 14 to 18 minutes or until done. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
For the Glaze: Stir the ingredients for the Thick Glaze together until smooth. Spread over cooled scones and allow to set for about 10 minutes. Stir together the ingredients for the spiced glaze and drizzle over cooled and frosted scones.
Texas Pecan Cake
1 C butter, softened
2 C sugar
1 1/2 C butternut squash, pureed (I used pumpkin)
3 tsp. vanilla extract
3 C flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 grated coconut
1/2 pecans, chopped
1/4 C butter
1/2 C pecans, chopped
1 C brown sugar
1/4 C cream, plus a glug (about 1 T)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a Bundt pan.
For the Cake: Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs beating well after each addition. Add the squash (or pumpkin) and mix well. Stir in the vanilla. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and mix well. Fold in the coconut and pecans. Spoon into the prepared pan and bake for 50 or 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes then turn out onto a cake platter.
For the Glaze: Melt the butter over medium heat. Add the pecans and stir for 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and cream and bring to a boil. After glaze comes to a roiling boil stir constantly for 2 minutes. Take off heat. Allow to cool then drizzle glaze over cooled cake.
NOTE: I like this cake best without the glaze! Just slice in small pieces and butter - out of this world!
As a mother, my job is always changing. What my children need from me as infants changes when they are toddlers. My toddlers needs are different from my little kids needs and my little kids needs are different from my teenagers. What has surprised me the most are what my adult children need.
When my children were little my job as mother was all consuming. They needed me for everything. I fed them, I taught them and I discipled them. I read stories to them and prayed with them and tucked them into bed. I thought they would be little forever and that I would spend the rest of my days wiping noses and drying tears. Suddenly, they were big. As their world began to expand, I became their touchstone, their sounding board. Their questions began to get "bigger" and their observations more discerning. They didn't need my constant physical attention, however they needed much more of my emotional energy. They needed me to see them and hear them - not what they seemed to be on the outside, but who they really were, on the inside. They needed me to encourage them and to chastise them. They needed me to constantly turn their hearts back to the Way.
And now I have grown children. Maid Elizabeth and I are close - we talk about everything - hopes, dreams, disappointments. We share our laughter as easily as we share our tears. Master Hand Grenade, however, has taken me by surprise. He has taught me so much about being a mother. Master Hand Grenade has taught me that young men need a woman in their life. He seeks me out to talk about life's challenges and disappointments. He wants my opinion about the qualities to look for in a wife. He wants to know what I think about the music that he likes and the movies he watches. Sometimes, he doesn't want my opinion at all - he just wants to talk, to vent, to connect.
And Master Hand Grenade is not alone. Most of the young men I know, whether the sons of friends or the checkers at the grocery store, want the input, the encouragement of a woman. A few weeks ago as Miss Serenity and I were checking out at the grocery store, the young checker (he was about 24) began talking. He told me that this is not were he thought he would be at this point in his life. He said that he had gone to school and had hoped he would be a mechanic somewhere but he hadn't been able to get a job. He said he had talked to the manager at the mechanics shop across the road, but he hadn't gotten back to him. I asked him if he has a resume (which he didn't) and encouraged him to make one. I told him to visit the shop about once a week and enquire about a job (that would let them know that he was serious). I told him to make sure that he did the best job he could while working at the grocery store so that his employers could give him the very best recommendation. That young man spent about 15 minutes talking - about his life, his future, his dreams.
Miss Serenity was a little put out. "You are my Mom, not his!" She stated rather vehemently. "He can't have you!". In that moment, I understood Master Hand Grenade a little bit better. As a young man, he needed feminine input, counsel - just as the checker in the grocery store had. He needed a mother. I've found that my job doesn't stop when my children are grown - it's just getting started.
As I pondered the relationship between young adult men and their mothers, I thought of King Lemuel and the prophecy of his mother. When King Lemuel was young (probably about Master Hand Grenade's age) his mother spoke into his life. She gave of her wisdom to encourage and direct her son. Mothers, let us continue in our feminine duty and strengthen and encourage all of the men God has given us.
This is how I will instruct my son - as King Lemuel's mother instructed him....
September marked the 14th anniversary of our family's move to "Little Shouse on the Prairie". A lifetime has been lived in these last 14 years.
When we moved here, I was 31 years old. Sir Knight and I had three children - Maid Elizabeth, 11, Master Hand Grenade, 4, and Miss Serenity, 1. Never would I have guessed that by the time I was 45 we would still be living in a shop in the middle of a prairie. I couldn't have known that our family would swell to 7 and that our children's fondest memories would be of oil lamps, generators, solar panels, outhouses, canned meat and afternoon tea in front of the wood cookstove.
When Sir Knight and I embarked on this great adventure, we had visions of a huge garden, a barn full of stock and a cozy house keeping the prairie winds at bay. That vision never materialized. Instead, life happened. When we weren't looking, Maid Elizabeth grew up. Master Hand Grenade became a man and Miss Serenity became my right hand and an accomplished young woman. Princess Dragon Snack was a gift that added mirth and joy to our family and Master Calvin brought with him blessings untold. Our adventure is beautiful - but it is not at all like the vision that I thought was our future.
When we moved into Little Shouse on the Prairie, we became pioneers. We did everything the hard way. We had no running water, no electricity and no bathroom facilities. The first night we spent in the shop was sobering. We had made our move on a wish and a prayer and now the reality of our lives came into sharp focus. It was 17 degrees and we had no heat (we hadn't run our stove pipe through the roof yet), no way to cook, a cow to milk and a baby to care for - along with a four year old that had a hard time walking and an eleven year old that wanted to help but wasn't prepared for pioneer life. I cried - a lot.
After three weeks of feeling sorry for myself, I had a heart to heart talk with God. He reminded me that His mercies were new every morning and that I came from good pioneer stock. As long as I kept my eyes on Him, He would give me all of the strength that I needed. I straightened my back, squared my shoulders and went to work.
First things first. We came up with a system for household water. Filling a 7 gallon barrel with water from the neighbor (I made sure to use the one that Sir Knight had fitted with a spigot), we hefted it on to the industrial racking in my kitchen. Instantly, with the flip of the spigot, I had running water in my kitchen. The next order of business was creating a somewhat functional bathroom. Although we had plumbing in place for a toilet, we had no running water or a septic system. Our short-term facilities consisted of a camp toilet that used plastic bags for waste, strategically placed behind a few barrels in our shed. The camp toilet was rickety and the shed did little to lessen the forceful blasts of wind sweeping across the prairie. I didn't like using the bathroom, so potty training was definitely out of the question! Surveying our options, I decided on the closest thing to indoor plumbing I could come up with - a real toilet. Throwing away the camp toilet base and securing the seat (plastic bags and all) to our "real" toilet (currently sitting on our bathroom floor) we had makeshift indoor facilities. I positioned the toilet behind a screen room divider and suddenly we had at least a modicum of privacy, and non-breezy privacy at that!
Due to the early cold weather, my dad cleared his schedule and came up to help Sir Knight install stove pipe so that we could hook up our wood cookstove to heat our shouse (and our water and our food!). As winter closed in we drew close, knowing one another as only quiet conversation and complete silence will allow. While the wind howled outside (shaking our very roof), we sipped hot cocoa and read aloud by oil lamp. Our kitchen became the center of our home. Heated by the cookstove, it embodied everything a home should be - warm, embracing, welcoming. In that small room our pioneer family braved our first non-electric winter. We knew nothing but the gentle hiss of Coleman lanterns, the joyful singing of the tea kettle and the simple pleasures of hearth and home.
In our 14 years on this windy prairie our lives have changed drastically. We now have electric lights (from our solar panels and battery bank), running water and a washing machine. We have indoor plumbing, a refrigerator and a propane cookstove. Although we don't live in a "regular" house, we have all the comforts of home.
Our pioneer life has become less rustic and more modern with each passing year. Although I still cook on our wood cookstove, use the outhouse regularly and home can most of our food, our children long for the simple life of pioneer living. Not too long ago, Princess Dragon Snack came up to me and said, "Mom, do you think we can turn all the lights off, light the oil lamps and pretend to be off-grid?". I grinned and said, "Let me get the hot cocoa".
Our lives have not turned out the way I had expected. Our adventures have taken us on the road less traveled. We have made mistakes, we have had bad attitudes and we have almost called it quits. But we have persevered and learned more than any smooth road could have possibly taught us. We have learned that real life happens when you're not looking. That your darkest days are your best memories. And that "someday" is right now.
The days that we are living now are my children's best memories. They won't remember what they got for Christmas or how many times they were told to do the dishes, but they will remember oil lamps, generators, solar panels, outhouses, canned meat and afternoon tea in front of the wood cookstove.
If you are like our family and your reality is different than your dream, don't let your reality slip through your fingers while trying to grasp your dream. Make your reality beautiful. These are our "good ol' days".
If the video doesn't load, click here.
Last week Maid Elizabeth brought home a grocery bag full of garlic that was a gift from a local gentleman. Since we don't have a root cellar, I immediately made plans to can this wonderful bounty, foreseeing tidy rows of minced garlic in my future.
This morning, as I began separating the cloves, preparing for a full day of canning, an idea happened upon me - why didn't I plant some of these cloves so that we could enjoy our own homegrown garlic?
Seizing upon the idea, Miss Serenity, Maid Elizabeth and I quickly went to work. First, we had to prepare garden beds. Our soil is so lacking that we have to heavily amend it, so we trudged out to the compost pile and shoveled rich, black soil into the wheel barrow. After we dug compost into two separate raised beds, we were ready to plant.
Garlic needs to be planted about two inches deep and four inches between cloves. With three of us working, we had the raised beds planted in short order. After a quick watering, we covered the newly planted garlic with mulch to keep it protected over the winter.
After planting the beds we were off to the kitchen for the real work. We peeled garlic cloves one by one and soon had a bowl full of shiny, white garlic. After washing the cloves, we pulsed them quickly in the blender (a few at a time) and put them in a pot. After all the garlic was minced, we poured boiling water over the garlic (to quickly parboil it) and let it sit while we prepared the jars for canning. We filled 1/2 pint jars with garlic and filled with the garlic liquid (that was poured over the garlic) to fill the jar to within 1/2 inch from the top (1/2 inch head space). We put 1/2 tsp. of pickling salt in each jar (pickling salt doesn't have iodine in it, so it doesn't discolor the garlic while canning). Putting Tatler lids on the jars, we put them into the pressure canner.
|Freshly peeled garlic cloves|
|Mincing in the blender|
|We minced just a few at a time|
|A pot full of minced garlic|
|Covered in boiling water|
We canned the garlic at 10 pounds of pressure for 45 minutes (same time and pressure as onions). After processing, we pulled 6 beautiful 1/2 pint jars of minced garlic out of the canner.
|Jars of canned, minced garlic|
Until next time,
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