Paratus Familia Blog

The latest posts from Paratus Familia Blog

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
Oh, how we'll enjoy this garlic throughout the year until we harvest our own flavorful garlic crop!

Until next time,

Posted: September 26, 2014, 4:41 am

Recently Princess Dragon Snack developed a lingering cough that had the nasty habit of disappearing during the day only to appear with a vengeance the minute everybody was safely tucked into bed.  Water didn't help, cough drops didn't help and even lemon-honey tea didn't stem the tide of the constant coughing. 

Finally, in a late-night desperate attempt to get some sleep, I mixed up a cough syrup concoction that I found on the internet (tweaked to include ingredients I had in my kitchen).  Within minutes, I had a warm, spicy-rich syrup ready for Dragon Snack's consumption.  I gave her a spoonful, which she loved, and waited hopefully.  Dragon Snack coughed and coughed a few more times, but within 5 minutes her coughing ceased.  I sent her to bed expecting to be awoken by coughing in short order only to wake in the morning with the realization that Dragon Snack had not coughed.  Once.  All night! 

Dragon Snack didn't cough all the next day.  Before she went to bed, I gave Snack another spoonful of cough syrup, tucked her in and didn't hear a cough all night.  This went on for a few days and then one night I forgot to give her the syrup.  Just about the time we all drifted off, the coughing started.  I called Dragon Snack down, gave her a spoonful of syrup and sent her to bed.  Another 5 minutes of coughing ensued and then blissful sleep.

Slowly warming the honey, oil, vinegar and water
Since then, Master Calvin has developed a similar cough and I have been giving him a nightly dose of the syrup.  He too coughs for a few minutes and then settles into a comfortable sleep.

We are sold.  As far as we can tell, one spoonful of syrup lasts for 24 hours!  We did, on one occasion, give Snack two spoonful's of syrup in a 24 hour period, but that was during a particularly bad spell. 

With the spices added
The difficult part seems to be keeping the kids out of the syrup until they need it.  They love the way it tastes!

As winter closes in and the cold season descends upon us, I will be sure to have a supply of the Best Cough Syrup Ever in my fridge!

Best Cough Syrup Ever
2 T Olive Oil (or Coconut Oil)
4 T raw Apple Cider Vinegar
4 T raw Honey
2 T Water
1/2 tsp. ground Ginger (fresh would be better)
1 tsp. Cinnamon
2 tsp. Lemon Juice (or 3 drops of lemon essential oil)

Combine the oil, apple cider vinegar, honey and water together in a small saucepan and heat very gently and slowly until just melted and combined.  Shut off heat.

Add in the ginger, cinnamon and lemon and stir to combine.

Dosage:  Adults 1 T as needed.  Children 1 tsp. as needed.

This syrup can be stored at room temperature for a few days or in the refrigerator for a few weeks.

Posted: September 19, 2014, 4:56 pm
For as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under tyrannical dominion.  It is in truth, not for glory, nor riches, nor honors that we are fighting, but for freedom - for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.
Declaration of Arbroath - 1320
Posted: September 5, 2014, 3:03 am

As most of you know, we aren't hooked up to the power grid, choosing instead to make our own electricity.  We have lived "off-grid" for 14 years and have learned a few things along the way.  Part of our electrical contingency plan is a hefty supply of fuel for our generator.  There are days, particularly in the dead of winter, when the solar panels just do not keep up with our meager electrical usage.  Frequently, we need to run the generator to do laundry and pump water.  Knowing our dependence on our generators, we fill and rotate our large stock of gas cans, most of which are the old, military "jerry cans".  We really depend upon our stored fuel, especially when the snow prevents us from making it out of our driveway.  Every week or two I top off our fuel cans so that we always have plenty on hand.

Although we have mostly jerry cans, I have grown to despise them.  Oh, not the cans, mind you, but the spout!  We have tried every spout we could get our hands on and they have all been junk!  They leak like sieves, come flying off at the drop of a hat and, because there is no relief valve, they pour in fits.  Every time I add gas to the generators I end up reeking of gasoline and the generator itself drips with spilled fuel.  I hate the smell, not to mention the waste.  So finally, after dumping gas on myself for the last time, I decided that I would have to find a better spout - either that or come up with a better fuel storage solution!

I spent the better part of an afternoon reading forums, shopping Google and looking in every conceivable internet nook and cranny, searching for a decent pour spout, until, finally, I found something that looked promising.  The EZ-POUR spout is a replacement spout for nearly any fuel or water container.  It comes with gaskets and caps and a replacement cap for the vent.  It looked interesting but it didn't look like it would fit the jerry can.  Then I found a tab that said "Replacement Parts & Adapters" and low and behold, Jerry Can Adapter was on the bottom of the list!  I was so excited!

I ordered the adapter ($5.98) and the EZ-POUR Spout (the regular spout is $10.95 - although I ordered the Hi-Flo spout for $13.95) and waited impatiently for them to arrive.  Shipping was quick and the spout and adapter arrived within 3 days.  I could hardly wait to try it out!  The jerry can adapter is hefty, not at all whimpy and cheap feeling, and it comes with two gaskets - 1 for sealing the can completely (for transport) and another that is designed to allow the original jerry can relief valve to work so that fuel flows freely from the spout.

The jerry can adapter
We screwed the adapter into our can.  It fit snugly and securely - a nice tight fit.  Next, we screwed the EZ-POUR spout onto the adapter (using the extension that is included in the kit).  With the extension, the spout was plenty long enough to tip into the generator without spilling a drop of fuel.  Lifting up the jerry can, fuel started flowing into the generator without spilling!  Not one drop!  It was amazing!  We filled the generator (no leaking!) and came back into the shouse smelling fresh and clean, and not like gas for once!  Revolutionary.

The EZ-POUR spout with extension
For all of you with old jerry cans laying around - this is the spout for you.  I think Sir Knight and I will be ordering a few more (just to have) and will perhaps order a few as Christmas presents for our prepper friends.  These are the real deal, folks. 

By the way, these spouts aren't just for jerry cans.  Apparently, they were designed as a replacement spout for just about any fuel or water can.  Look at the website to determine if the spouts would work for you.  I can't recommend them highly enough.

Until next time,

Posted: August 25, 2014, 9:58 pm

Finally we have been blessed with a break in the weather!  It has been unusually hot this summer, with too many days over 100 degrees.  I seem barely able to get a passable dinner on the table, much less provide freshly baked anything for my family!  Besides, who want to heat the house up even more when the thermometer reads 108?

With the slight dip in the mercury, I finally managed to get at least a little baking done.  Having subsisted on nasty cardboard bread for far too long, the first thing on my baking list was a hearty batch of whole wheat bread. 

Bob's 10 grain cereal

Covered in boiling water

Thick, like porridge
One of my very favorite breads is a crusty multi-grain bread.  I have tried numerous recipes over the years, all of which fell short of my expectations.  Recently I came across a recipe that looked promising and with a minor tweak or two, turned out a batch of two large loaves.  Oh, this bread was delicious!  Finally, a multi-grain bread that was flavorful, soft, chewy and full of  whole wheat goodness!

And so, without further ado, the recipe...

Multi-Grain Sandwich Bread
1 1/4 C 10 grain hot cereal mix (or 7 grain)
2 1/2 C boiling water
3 C all-purpose flour (or whole wheat)
1 1/2 C whole wheat flour
1/4 C honey (or 1/2 C brown sugar)
4 T butter, melted and cooled
1 T yeast
1 T salt
1/2 C thick cut oats (optional)

Place the cereal in a bowl (or Bosch mixing bowl) and cover with the boiling water.  Let stand, stirring occasionally, until the mixture cools to about 110 degrees, about 1 hour.  The mixture will resemble a thick porridge.

Once the cereal mixture has cooled add the honey, butter and yeast and stir (or mix on low until combined).  Add half of the flour and the salt and stir until a cohesive dough begins to form.  Continue adding the flour, 1/2 a cup at a time, until a soft dough forms.  It will pull away from the bowl but still be slightly sticky.  Continue to knead for 5 minutes. 

Place your dough in a large, lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel and set in a warm place to rise.  Allow to rise at room temperature until doubled in size (about an hour).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Lightly grease two 9x5" bread pans.  Without punching the risen dough down, carefully cut the dough into two pieces, gently form into loaves and place in the prepared bread pans.  If you would like, you can sprinkle oats on the tops of the loaves. 

Cover loaves loosely with a tea towel and allow to rise until nearly double (about 30 to 40 minutes).
Slide the loaves into your preheated oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown.  Transfer to wire racks and allow to cool (don't cut too soon or you will smoosh the loaves).

NOTE:  I doubled this recipe and made two industrial sized loaves.

In a greased pan, ready to rise

Risen and ready for the bread pans (Look at all of those wonderful grains!)

Risen in the pans

Fresh from the oven!

A cooled, sliced loaf

And that, my friends, is my multi-grain bread secret recipe!

Until next time,

Posted: August 20, 2014, 11:42 pm

Last year, I found a treasure at Goodwill - an antique "motoring" basket.  It was beautiful, mostly complete and in remarkably good condition - especially for its age.  Motoring baskets are very difficult to come by.  They hail from the halcyon days of motoring - when the journey itself was the true adventure and the destination was merely a pleasant diversion.  The baskets came equipped with everything a proper family would require to enjoy their tea time whilst traveling - tins for sandwiches and biscuits, tea cups and saucers, plates, silverware and a kettle and burner for brewing tea.  Even the basket itself was designed for the in-basket heating of water with nickel clad wicker around the burner assembly.

As I said, the basket was very nearly complete, but not entirely.  One enamel tea cup was missing, but, more importantly, the tea kettle was missing.  The original burner and water tank were in tact, but without the kettle, my basket was sorely lacking. 

The water tank nestled over the burner
I spent the better part of a year searching in vain for a kettle that would work for my basket.  It had to be small, with a folding handle.  It required a lip around the bottom of the kettle so that it would sit securely atop the burner assembly without slipping and I preferred stainless steel to aluminum. 

One day, flipping through The Sportsman's Guide, I came across what looked to be the perfect kettle.  It was small, stainless steel, had a folding handle and best of all, it was inexpensive.  I ordered the kettle and anxiously awaited its arrival. 

My new kettle - it is a perfect fit!

Once the kettle arrived, I pulled my basket down from its perch and with Sir Knight's help, readied the burner for our first test run.  I filled the water kettle with water, just to make sure that it didn't leak and proceeded to rinse out the alcohol burner.  Water gushed out of the bottom of the burner!  I had never closely inspected the burner - if I had, I would have noticed that there were numerous tiny areas that had small holes.  These holes rendered the burner assembly useless.  I was crestfallen!  My beautiful basket was nothing more than a pretty face - and although I am a hopeless romantic, I expect everything I have to be not only beautiful but practical.

It was Sir Knight who saved the day.  He suggested that we buy an alcohol burner.  He knew of one that was based on a hundred year old design with a proven track record.  The burner was small, so it would fit tidily into the basket and may even fit under the water tank just like the original burner.  We ordered two burners (Sir Knight had always wanted one for his multi-fuel stove) and waited to see how they would work.

The Trangia Spirit Burners arrived within the week.  At first I was a little concerned, thinking they were only designed to be used in a specific lamp or stove, however, my misgivings were unfounded as they performed admirably as a stand-alone unit.

The burner is made in Germany

Sitting in my burner assembly
These little burners don't require wicks of any kind.  They burn denatured alcohol, which burns incredibly clean - no black soot on the bottom of the kettle!  What really surprised me was how hot they burned!  We filled the burner with alcohol, took the top off, placed the burner in the basket assembly and touched it with a lighter.  Blue flames began to grow and as the burner warmed up the flames grew.  We positioned the kettle over the flame and waited.  Within 12 minutes steam was shooting from the tea kettle spout!  We had attained a full rolling boil.  Tea was served!

Merrily heating away

They burn denatured alcohol
The burner comes equipped with a screw-on cap so that you can leave fuel in it and transport it without any leakage.  The cap does have a gasket, however, the gasket must be removed before extinguishing the flame.  Once the unit has cooled, unscrew the cap, replace the gasket and screw the lid back onto the burner.  Quick, easy and painless!

Sir Knight tried his burner in the multi-fuel stove and was equally impressed.  It was easy to start, compact enough to transport and provided an instant, reliable cooking method while in the bush.  Denatured alcohol is inexpensive and stores well, making it a solid preparedness essential.  This little burner, in concert with a multi-fuel stove, would be a perfect cooking back-up during a power outage or other natural disaster, not to mention being just the right size to tuck into your first line gear or hiking pack.

Burning in a multi-fuel stove

We are now equipping all of our packs with these spirit burners.  They are inexpensive, lightweight and reliable - just right for your pack, your car or your house.  And, if you're a romantic survivalist - just right for your motoring basket!
Posted: August 19, 2014, 3:52 am

We have been busy with summer on our little slice of the Redoubt.  The garden is growing abysmally, a combination of poor soil, greedy critters and extreme heat, I think.  The bees are doing well and are comfortably housed in their newly built 8 frame supers.  Miss Serenity is enjoying the fruits of her labors in the form of her newly purchased Yamaha YZ250F and Princess Dragon Snack is learning to  ride the little Honda XR100.  Master Hand Grenade, Sir Knight and I did a bit of "remodeling" on our entry-way - very rustic chic I think!

Gluing 8 frame supers

Miss Serenity with her new bike

She saved her money a full year to buy this bike

She is one proud girl!

This sits above her bike in the shed

Princess Dragon Snack with her cool new ride

She is learning to shift and to mechanic!

Our re-done entryway...

Galvanized roofing and barn boards

We don't have a lot of room - but we do try to make the most of what we have!

Have a wonderful day!

Until next time -

Posted: August 12, 2014, 1:08 am

If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you are familiar with Master Hand Grenade's story.  Although strong and able, he is not your average young man. 

Master Hand Grenade's hearing and motor functions were compromised shortly after birth.  His prognosis was dim.  After surviving his initial trauma, doctors were not at all encouraging about his future.  They declared him deaf, mentally and physically retarded and perhaps even blind.  They encouraged Sir Knight and I to apply for Medicaid to cover his health care expenses and Social Security Disability to help with the costs associated with raising a disabled child.  We didn't do either.  We figured that God had given us this child and would provide for his care.  And we never looked back.

As Hand Grenade grew, we didn't know what to expect.  Would he be as disabled as the doctors expected?  Or would he develop as a normal little boy?  We worried and we watched and we waited.  We knew that he did not hear as well as Maid Elizabeth, but was he deaf?  He didn't come close to hitting the "normal" milestones for a healthy infant, but did that just mean he would develop more slowly, or not at all?  We prayed and prayed and prayed some more.

Those first few years were a mixture of joy and sorrow, triumph and tribulation.  Early on, we decided that Master Hand Grenade was going to learn to function as a productive member of society.  It was going to be harder for him than for "normal" children, but he would just have to learn to overcome.  We taught him to communicate through sign language so that we could talk to him and he could talk to us.  When we figured out that he could hear (a little anyway), we taught him to always be close enough to the house to hear the dinner bell when we rang it.  We had him repeat our instructions back to us so that we could be certain that he understood what we expected of him.  We gave him chores and responsibility and expected him to complete his tasks, even if he had to develop an unconventional method to accomplish his duties.  We forced him (even when it was hard) to push past his comfort zone and do things that were hard for him just so that he knew he could.

Over the years Hand Grenade has grown from a challenged little boy into a competent young man.  He doesn't always do things in a conventional manner, but he always gets things done.  He doesn't hear very well, but he pays attention, repeats instructions and asks people to speak up.  He doesn't move like every other 18 year old man, but he is fast and steady and strong as an ox.  What he lacks in motor skills and hearing he more than makes up for in determination and ingenuity.  Although not like everyone else, Hand Grenade is a young man to be proud of.

And now a new chapter has begun for our son.  Having finished high school, Master Hand Grenade turned his mind toward his future.  Knowing that Hand Grenade wanted to become a butcher, our friend Patrice put in a good word for him with our regional mobile butcher.  After numerous phone conversations and visits to the butcher shop, Master Hand Grenade secured a job.  Beginning tomorrow, Hand Grenade will be training to be a butcher, doing everything from killing, gutting and skinning the animal to cutting and wrapping meat and curing bacon and hams and making sausage.  He will be learning to be a butcher from the ground up.  Master Hand Grenade is taking the first step into his future.

The one requirement for Hand Grenade's job - rubber boots
Along with a new job, Hand Grenade will be adjusting to a lengthy commute.  This young man, who had such a dismal prognosis as a baby, will now be driving himself 80 miles a day to and from work.  All these years we have been preparing Hand Grenade for this moment and now, all too soon, it is here.  Our home has been (and will continue to be) filled with praises and prayers!

Gathered around table to celebrate our son
This morning we gathered as a family in the living room to read the word of God, seek wisdom and pray for Hand Grenade as he embarks on his future.  As Hand Grenade knelt before his father, Sir Knight lay his hands on this young man and blessed him and prayed for him .  As with all of our children, we want Hand Grenade to walk with God, to seek Him and to serve Him.  For us, there "is no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth". 3 John 1:4

We gathered for a lovely afternoon tea to celebrate Hand Grenade's new chapter in life.  We indulged in (Quick)  Maple Nut Cinnamon Rolls and English Breakfast tea.  The recipe is quick and yummy - but you might want to cut the filling recipe in half - very sweet!

(Quick) Maple Nut Cinnamon Rolls

For the filling:
3/4 C brown sugar (packed)
1/4 C granulated sugar
3/4 C chopped pecans or walnuts
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 tsp. salt
1 T butter, melted

For the dough:
3 C flour
3 T sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 C buttermilk (or sweet milk with a splash of lemon juice or vinegar)
6 T butter, melted
1/3 C maple syrup

For the Icing:
2 T butter, softened
3 T maple syrup
2 tsp. milk
1 C confectioners sugar

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  Brush a 9" inch round cake pan with melted butter.  Set aside.

For the filling:  Combine all of the dry ingredients in a bowl.  Add melted butter and stir until the mixture is moistened.

For the dough:  Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Stir.  Add the buttermilk, melted butter and maple syrup.  Stir well.  Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead just until smooth.  Place in a lightly floured bowl, cover and chill for 20 minutes.

After chilled, roll into a 12x8 inch rectangle.  Spread with softened or melted butter.  Spread the filling evenly over the dough, leaving 1/2 inch border.  Press the filling into the dough.

Roll the dough, from the long side, pinch the seam close.  Cut into 8 even pieces and transfer into the prepared cake pan.  Brush with melted butter. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

For the icing:  Cream the butter and add the sugar.  Mix until the sugar and butter combine a bit.  Add the syrup and whisk well.  If it is too thick, add the milk until it is your desired consistency.

Allow the cinnamon rolls to cool in the pan for about 5 minutes and then pour icing over the top.  Serve while warm.

NOTE:  I doubled this recipe and put in a larger rectangle pan.  I also mixed up the icing and served it in a bowl so that people could choose to smooth icing or butter over their warm rolls.  In the future, I would cut the filling recipe in half, they would be plenty sweet.  Also, I added about 1 1/2 tsp. maple extract to the icing, just to amp up the flavor.
Posted: August 10, 2014, 10:40 pm

Recently, I received an email from a reader asking me to blog about Ebola (thanks Don - just what I wanted to write about!).  It is a subject that I have stayed away from because, quite frankly, it is a terrifying prospect.  And really, there are no good answers.  In spite of all of that, we are preppers, and I know that it is always prudent to asses risks and prepare for potential threats - and so, I present Preparedness Essentials - Ebola.

There is one, critical, preparedness essential, that if neglected, renders every other precaution useless and without effect.  That essential is a strong, living, personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Without preparing your soul for eternity, every other preparation you make is of no consequence.  Make no mistake - Jesus is your only salvation.  Preparing for Ebola has everything to do with your soul and little to do with your body.  Without your soul your body is nothing.

Now, on to the nuts and bolts.  Ebola is a virus that causes hemorrhagic fever.  It is hallmarked by severe bleeding, organ failure and most often, death.  Ebola is native to Africa and lives in host animals such as fruit bats, monkeys, chimps and other primates.  Scientists believe that Ebola is transmitted from infected animals to humans via bodily fluids such as blood (during butchering), eating infected animals and coming into contact with animal waste.

After contracting Ebola, it is further transmitted through direct contact (via broken skin or mucus membranes) with blood, secretions (snot, spittle etc.), organs or other bodily fluids of an infected person.  Not only are the bodily fluids infectious, so are any surfaces (clothing, beds, tables, the ground) that have come into contact with infected fluids.  Ebola remains infectious on dead bodies, rendering the care of the dead risky behavior.  A man who has contracted Ebola and recovered can still transmit the virus through his semen for up to 7 weeks after recovery.  There is no evidence that Ebola is transmitted via insect bits.

Signs and symptoms of Ebola manifest within 5 to 10 days of infection.  Early symptoms include fever, severe headache, joint and muscle aches, chills and weakness.  Basically, Ebola's early symptoms are those of a really bad flu.  As the disease progresses so do the symptoms.  These increasingly severe symptoms include nausea and vomiting, diarrhea (may be bloody), red eyes, raised rash, chest pain and cough, stomach pain, severe weight loss, bleeding (usually eyes), bruising and internal bleeding.  People near death may bleed from other orifices such as ears, nose and rectum. 

As Ebola progresses, it can cause multiple organ failure, severe bleeding, jaundice, delirium, seizures, coma and shock.  If a person does recover, the recovery is long and arduous.  Survivors may experience hair loss, liver inflammation, weakness, fatigue, headaches, eye inflammation and testicular inflammation.  It may takes months to regain strength and weight.

Immediate and complete quarantine is essential if there is suspected exposure to Ebola.  If exposure is confirmed (or even suspected) personal protection equipment (PPE) needs to be immediately deployed.  PPE includes non-latex gloves (up to 3 pair at a time), surgical mask, eye shield or goggles and a clean, non-sterile long-sleeved gown (or Tyvek suit).  Along with PPE, basic hygiene rituals must be maintained, which include stringent hand-washing, respiratory hygiene (putting surgical mask on infected patients as well as potentially infected people), and safe burial practices.

Caring for the dead is another critical aspect of containment.  The dead must be immediately buried or cremated.  If buried, the body must be encased in at least two body bags and buried in a deep grave (away from any water source).  Any personal items such as clothing, pillows, linens - anything that came in contact with the infected person must either be buried with the person or burned.  The people tasked with caring for the dead must practice rigorous personal hygiene throughout the burial or cremation process.  For their own protection, they must wear 3 sets of gloves, masks, goggle, coveralls and boots.

There are no drugs currently available for the treatment of Ebola.  Supportive care includes pain and fever management (pain relievers and fever reducers, ie. Tylenol, Ibuprofen, etc.), providing fluids (oral rehydration fluid - can be administered with a baby bottle if required), providing oxygen, replacing lost blood (if possible), treating secondary infections. *

Specific treatments include:


Oral Rehydration Fluid I 
1 liter (quart) boiled water
1 tsp. salt
8 tsp. sugar
1 mashed banana (for potassium) if available.  Otherwise substitute potassium chloride (salt substitute).

Before adding the sugar, taste the drink and make sure it is less salty than tears.

Oral Rehydration Fluid II
1 liter (quart) boiled water
1/2 tsp. salt
8 heaping teaspoons of cereal (finely ground maize, wheat flour, sorghum, or cooked and mashed potatoes).

Boil for 5 to 7 minutes to form a liquid gruel or watery porridge.  Cool the drink quickly and start administering. 

Caution:  Taste the drink each time it is used to be sure its not spoiled.  Cereal drinks can spoil in a few hours in hot weather.

* To either drink add Potassium Chloride or a half a cup of fruit juice, coconut water or mashed, ripe banana.  This provides potassium, which may help the person accept more food and drink.

Constant hydration.  Hot drinks.  Chicken soup (which has anti-viral properties).

  • Put the person in a cool place.
  • Remove Clothing.
  • Fan patient.
  • Pour cool (not cold) water over patient or put cloths soaked in cool water on chest and forehead.  Fan the cloths and change often to keep them cool.
  • Give plenty of cool (not cold) water to drink.
  • Administer medicine to bring down fever.
If a person with a fever cannot swallow the tablets, grind them up, mix the powder with some water and put it up the anus as an enema or with a syringe without the needle. **

Treatment for Ebola is limited.  Make sure that you know the symptoms and be prepared to treat each individual symptom.

The medical aspect of Ebola is sobering, but there are other things to consider as well.  If nobody in your family contracts Ebola, but it has reached the North American continent, you'll want to quarantine your own family.  The requirements for such an action are many.  Be sure to have adequate food, water and other basic necessities.  Make sure that you have alternative sources for cooking, heating and waste disposal (in the event public services are temporarily interrupted). Maintain an adequate emergency medical supply cabinet, complete with personal protection equipment, medicines and more importantly, medical knowledge. 

Ebola is a threat, along with so many other things in this world.  We don't have to be afraid, just prepared. Prepare to the best of your ability, but put your faith and hope in Christ alone.

* Information gathered from WHO International and the Mayo Clinic.
  **  I am not a doctor!  Please see your personal physician for specific treatment options!
Posted: August 1, 2014, 5:53 am

It has been hot - and yes, my Texas friends, that does mean that it's been over 80 degrees! 

You've all heard the expression "Make hay while the sun shines".  Well the sun is shining and the fields are full of farmers bringing in the harvest.  This has been a tough hay year.  It has been rain, shine, rain, shine, which the hay has appreciated tremendously, however, the farmers - not so much.  It has been a monumental task trying to get the hay into the barn in between thunderstorms and rain showers.   Last week we even had a summer deluge complete with quarter-sized hailstones and downed trees - all while hay lay in the fields.

Our closest neighbor has about 40 acres in hay.  Most of that she puts up for her 30 cow/calf pairs, but one 10 acres field (closest to our property line) she groomed specifically for exportation.  "Farmer Green" had made arrangements with a farmer that regularly exports hay to swath and bale her small field and bundle it with his, netting her a tidy sum of $6,000.00.

While the sky's were blue and the weather was cooperating, Farmer Green swathed, baled and stacked all of the hay from her other fields neatly into her barn, sighed a sigh of relief and waited expectantly for "Farmer Brown" to take care of her small front field. 

One fine morning, Farmer Brown showed up in his huge swather and had all of Farmer Green's hay down within hours.  Gorgeous, huge windrows filled the field, enhancing the already charming landscape.  They hay lay on the ground, day after day, drawing a worried Farmer Green to the field for regular inspections.  And then, the rains came.  And came again.  Followed by a huge storm.  The hay was ruined.  Farmer Brown, now disappointed with the quality no longer wanted the hay.  It was time for Plan B.

Plan B rested on another farmer that wanted the hay for his cattle.  He didn't mind a bit of brown in the hay.  It was lush and thick and fine for his stock.  He made arrangements with Farmer Green to fluff and bale her front field.  It was perfect - he was going to use his round baler (huge bales) and load them onto his truck with his tractor - she wouldn't have to touch a thing!  Again Farmer Green waited.  And again, disappointment.  Plan B flopped and she was once again faced with 10 acres of swathed hay, and no equipment big enough to handle the large windrows and no hay crew to wrangle the bales.

Enter Master Hand Grenade and Miss Serenity.  Farmer Green called early Saturday morning and requested her favorite hay crew.  Of course Hand Grenade and Serenity willingly agreed.  Little did they know what they were getting themselves into!  This was no regular haying job.  Before they could bale this hay, they had to fluff it so that it would dry properly and be fit for baling.  Unfortunately, the windrows were so huge that the fluffer Farmer Green had was too small to do an adequate job.  Hand Grenade and Serenity's job was to finish turning the hay, by hand - all 10 acres!  Armed with pitchforks and a good attitude, they set to work.  As the sun set in the evening and the temperatures cooled, Dragon Snack and Master Calvin joined their older siblings in their hay fluffing adventures.  Even the little ones put in a good days work!

Serenity and Hand Grenade directing their crew

Master Calvin wielding his pitchfork

Working together
After two days of fluffing hay, the baler went to work.  Kachunk, Kachunk, Katchunk, the baler labored until 1 o'clock in the morning, baling over 40 tons of hay.  Hand Grenade and Serenity bucked bales, earning every callous on their hands, until 10:30 last night.  Their morning wake-up call was 4:30 a.m.  By 5 O'clock the kids were back in the field, loading hay onto the hay trailer.  They had a brief respite about 7:30 - just long enough to have a quick breakfast (together they ate 14 eggs scrambled with sharp cheese and fresh chives, along with multiple slices of toast!), before reporting back to they hay field. 

As I write this, it is 7:45 p.m.  Hand Grenade and Serenity are still in the field, with two loads of hay left to go.  Each load takes 45 minutes to load in the field and off-load and stack in the barn.  Hand Grenade has worked all day, even when it was 102 degrees.  Serenity worked until 11:30, took a quick shower and reported for work at her day job - and then hit the field again as soon as she got home (5 o'clock this evening).

In the field

Bucking bales
Haying is hard, hot, uncomfortable work.  And, in the whole scheme of things, doesn't pay particularly well.  But none of that matters.  What matters is that my children are helping a neighbor.  They are learning to work hard.  They are learning to push themselves beyond what they believe they are capable of doing.  They are learning that work is good for their souls.  As a mother, I am so grateful to live where my children can learn these unparalleled lessons.  A place where they can learn the value of work and of neighborliness and of putting other people before themselves.

The temperature at 6 o'clock this evening
You may ask why our children have spent so many hours in the neighbors field.  The answer is simple - and terrible.  Farmers can't find anyone to hay anymore.  Teenagers no longer seem to need a summer income.  The work is hard and kids just don't want to do it.  Most farmers in our area have taken to baling in huge square or round bales simply because they can do all of the work themselves, without having to hire a hay crew.  They just move the bales with their tractor and don't have to go through the hassle of having to find a couple of kids who want some greenbacks in their wallets.  A sad state of affairs, methinks.

And now, I'm off to prepare for the return of my children, bone wearied but satisfied with a good days work (or four, but who's counting?).

Until next time,

Posted: July 29, 2014, 3:35 am
Recently, Sir Knight was reading a news article about the Boston marathon bombing.  The accompanying photos were disturbing - police officers, arrayed in full in tactical combat gear were clearing houses, military fashion.  They were making their way through a suburban American neighborhood, rifles at the ready, stomping on what was left of their fellow citizens Constitutionally guaranteed rights.  

Pulling the next article up, this one dealing with the exploits at the Bundy ranch, Sir Knight noticed a troubling trend - the militarization of civilian law enforcement.  Once again the law enforcement officers looked more like Rambo than Sheriff Andy Taylor.  Their very aggressive demeanor served only to escalate hostilities rather than to facilitate peaceful resolution.  

As he read these articles, he asked, somewhat rhetorically, "What has happened to Posse Comitatus?  We are Americans and yet we allow troops to walk through our front door just like the Nazi's in WWII?  I guess we need to get ready for the gas chambers next!"

Think he's overreacting?  Here is a little history on Posse Comitatus....
Posse Comitatus is a Latin phrase meaning "power of the country".  Posse Comitatus referred to all males over the age of 15 on whom the Sherriff could call for assistance in preventing any type of civil disorder.  Although it had it roots firmly entrenched in English Common Law, it was used extensively in the western frontier, and in fact, is the origin of the term Posse.

The Posse Comitatus Act is a federal law that was enacted on June 18, 1878, after the end of Reconstruction (the Civil War).  Its intent was to limit the powers of the Federal Government with regard to using federal military personnel to enforce state laws.  The Act, which was modified in 1981, refers to the United States Armed Forces, it does not, however, pertain to the National Guard being deployed in their own state under the direct authority of the governor. 




Bundy Ranch - at least according to Google Images, although it would appear to be Iraq
Bundy Ranch
Bundy Ranch
Bundy Ranch

Just for reference, I have included photos for your consideration.  You tell me - which ones are our military engaged in far-away locations and which ones are our federal and local law enforcement agencies operating in our own back yard?

Our police officers now wear (military) combat uniforms.  They deploy tanks and armored personnel carriers.  They have night vision, thermal imaging and drones.  They undergo military training, use military terminology and  employ military tactics.  Our law enforcement agencies, both federal and local, have become military units.  And yet we still allow them operate on American soil. 

Wake up and smell the Gestapo.  The gas chambers are coming..... 
Posted: July 28, 2014, 11:45 pm

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

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.

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,

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....

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....


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....


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....


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 -

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....


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....

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

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

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!



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

Black-Bottomed Muffins

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

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


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

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