The latest posts from Paratus Familia Blog
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,
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|
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|
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.
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|
|The EZ-POUR spout with extension|
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,
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|
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,
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|
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|
|Merrily heating away|
|They burn denatured alcohol|
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!
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 -
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|
|Gathered around table to celebrate our son|
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.
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.
WHAT IS EBOLA
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.
HOW EBOLA IS TRANSMITTED
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
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:
NAUSEA, VOMITING, DIARRHEA
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.
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!
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|
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|
|The temperature at 6 o'clock this evening|
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,
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....
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|
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.....
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|
|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|
|10 frame hive bodies perched atop 8 frame bodies - not something you see every day!|
|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|
|I NEVER allow animals on the furniture...|
|But he stole my heart.|
Enjoy these beautiful days of summer. Savor every moment.
Until next time.
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.
Note: My wonderful readers, Sir Knight and I are fine - good - excellent! I don't want to worry anybody. I'm just venting!!!
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|
Until next time,
|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|
Until next time....
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|
I hope that your young adults have a wonderful group of friends to encourage them and to sharpen them....
Until next time....
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