The latest posts from Paratus Familia Blog
One of our very favorite quick breakfasts is homemade granola stirred with a bit of homemade yogurt - simply divine!
For the most part, we like to make just about everything from scratch. If we can grow it, or raise it, or harvest it, all the better. Yogurt is very simple to make in your own kitchen, even if you don't have a milk cow - store bought milk works just fine. And granola is super easy and oh, so satisfying - especially knowing exactly what it is that you are putting into your body.
I use a granola recipe that is very simple and endlessly adaptable, depending on what you have in your cupboard. This time, I remembered that I had a #10 tin of freeze-dried raspberries that just begged to be included in my granola. Wow - I should have done that sooner!
I like to use thick-cut oats so that the granola comes out wonderfully chewy - very substantial. I use honey for sweetener and for the oil I use either butter or olive oil - I'm not a real proponent of vegetable oils. Because I wanted something really decadent (and because it would go so well with raspberries) I added a very scant handful of chocolate chips to the warm granola - just enough to make it wonderful but not enough to make it junk food.
As I mentioned, I love this granola with really thick homemade yogurt, however Maid Elizabeth likes hers with milk and the children prefer to eat theirs by the handful, right out of the gallon jar. Basically - whatever tickles your fancy!
Chunky Raspberry Chocolate Granola
6 C rolled oats
1/2 C pecans
1/2 C coconut
1/2 C wheat germ (optional)
1/2 C powdered milk (optional - really boosts the protein)
2/3 C honey
2/3 C olive oil or butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 T cinnamon
1 C freeze dried raspberries
1/4 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
Place your rolled oats on an ungreased 9x13 pan and bake for 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven and stir in the nuts, coconut, wheat germ and powdered milk. Add the honey, oil, vanilla and cinnamon. Stir until thoroughly coated.
Bake 10 - 15 minutes, stirring every 3 - 5 minutes until uniformly golden. Do not over-bake.
Let cool slightly. Add the raspberries and chocolate chips, stirring well.
Let cool completely in pan, undisturbed, then break into chunks.
Spring is quickly approaching and with spring, blossoms and blooms. And what do blossoms and blooms need? Bees, of course.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been preparing for bees by ordering all new hives (English Garden hives, of course) and charting out the perfect location for the "girls". After receiving the new hives, I realized that if I didn't order bees soon, I would be out of luck for this season. I quickly got to work researching bees and was surprised by what I found.
The bees that we have had in the past were Italians. They were lovely and gentle and good producers, however, they seemed to swarm with unending regularity (probably mismanagement on our part) and were not particularly cold hardy (they did hail from Italy, after all!). As I researched bees, I was drawn to a few different varieties that I thought would thrive in our area. The Russians and the Carniolans both seemed like they would be a good fit, but one in particular caught my attention - the Buckfast bee. The Buckfast was developed by Brother Adam of Buckfast Abbey in Devon, England. His goal was to develop a honey bee that was resistant to tracheal mites, first and foremost, and then he began breeding other good qualities in them. They are particularly cold-weather hardy, are very gentle and proved to be the top producers during a two year study conducted at the University of Minnesota (in a field of six varieties of honey bees). According to the study they have the best build-up in the spring, have a very low swarming tendency and produce queens that are noted for their longevity.
With the decision made we placed our order and have two packages of Buckfast bees coming via USPS (yes, they will be delivered in the mail!). They should be here by the end of April, just in time to pollinate all of our spring blossoms and provide us with many hours of buzzing enjoyment.
I really think the bees will love their new homes - they are English Garden hives, after all!
A number of months ago, a new addition came to live on our homestead. His name is Stoic the Vast. He is a Tibetan Mastiff.
Maid Elizabeth had been researching this breed for years, admiring their protective qualities and lion mane, but we never expected to be able to afford one of our own. In a wonderful turn of events, we happened across Stoic in the next state over and were able to pool our resources and bring him home. Boy, were we in for a whole new dog experience!
Tibetan Mastiffs are known as Lion Dogs and for good reason. They are very cat-like canines. Their very walk is the walk of a lion and combined with the thick "mane" that surrounds their neck and travels down the top of their back they can be more than a little intimidating. In their native Tibet they are referred to as "Door-Post Dogs" due to the fact that they are chained (and I mean chained, with huge logging chain) to the door-post of their owners homes during the day and let off their chains at night to roam and protect the town.
|Tibetan Mastiff (image from Google)|
Tibetan Mastiff's only allow a very few men into their lives - 2 or 3 is their limit (unless you are immediate family). They love children and tolerate women (unless they perceive them to be a threat). We have a family friend that drops newspapers off every few days and always brings treats to the dogs. For the longest time Stoic refused to take treats from Joe, requiring one of his people to feed him the treats. At length, he allowed Joe the honor of hand feeding him. Thinking that he had accepted Joe into the family, we asked him to shouse-sit over while we visited my folks. Stoic spent the entire duration of our trip chained outside - he refused to allow Joe to even get close enough to him to unleash him and bring him into the house. Joe was allowed to fill his food and water dishes, but he was not allowed to touch him in our absence. Joe wasn't considered one of us.
|Not our Tibetan Mastiff (from Google)|
Tibetan Mastiff's are a home defense dog only. They are not herd guardians or hunting dogs or even companion dogs (although I think Stoic is a wonderful companion) - they are guard dogs pure and simple. They do not listen to their owners when they are told to "stand down", they believe they know better than you when there is a threat - and they will act on it. They require a very well fenced yard or preferably a logging chain - they will wander. It is not that Tibetan Mastiff's aren't loyal, they are, but they just think they can defend and guard you from anywhere in the county. They are EXTREMELY defensive of their own property and people, however, they are very manageable when you have them on a leash outside of their own home ground, so taking them for walks in the park is great. Just remember, these dogs must be on a leash at all times!
|Stoic has not yet gotten his full mane - but it's coming!|
Maid Elizabeth came across a list of rules for a Tibetan Mastiff's household. We found these to be very true to form (minus the Karma thing)!
A couple of weeks ago, I sent my older children into town to do a few chores while I stayed home to do laundry and school the younger ones. I could tell by the sound of the car as it charged up the driveway that something had gone amiss and I welcomed my children at the door with a questioning look. The expressions on their faces told the story - they had had a spat and were no longer speaking to one another, in fact, they refused to even look each other in the face.
I have never really been much of a "craft" girl, however, I love to make things that I believe to be both wonderful (or beautiful) and useful. I have made soap and candles and lip balm for years, along with lotion bars and deodorant but recently I have been itching to increase my "homestead crafts" repertoire. One of the products I use the most but have the had the most difficult time reproducing at home is lotion. Every recipe I have tried has been bland, not really resembling the creamy lotion that one can buy at the drug store. Although I hate using things with a list of ingredients I can't pronounce, much less have any idea what they are, I have slogged along with store-bought lotion - until now.
After searching high and low, I finally came across a lotion recipe that piqued my interested - Peppermint Body Butter. Although not technically location (it is too thick and rich and creamy to suffer such a poor moniker as "lotion") it glides on and softens and rejuvenates skin as well or better than any over-the-counter lotion I have used. Oh, and did I mention that it smells wonderful? I made mine with peppermint essential oil, though you could use any essential oil that tickles your fancy.
|Gathering everything together|
The body butter is so simple to make, requiring no special appliances or tools and whips up stunningly beautifully. Because it is made with nothing but oils (some in solid form), it is very oily when applied, however, my skin drinks in the oils very quickly and is left just soft and smooth. This body butter is meant to be used all over and we have found that we even like to spread some on our lips from time to time. It heals dry lips almost instantly and the peppermint is so tingly and refreshing.
|Ready to melt|
|Whipped and ready to put into jars|
If you are trying to get away from store-bought toiletries, this is just the ticket. It is so nice that you might be tempted to make a gift of it to a special friend - go ahead - they will thank you for it!
Homemade Peppermint Body Butter
1/2 C Coconut Oil
1/2 C Cocoa Butter
1/2 C Shea Butter
1/2 C Sweet Almond Oil
1 tsp. Vitamin E Oil (Optional)
5 - 10 drops Peppermint Essential Oil (Optional)
Place coconut oil, cocoa butter and shea butter in a medium pot over low heat. Stir until all of the oils melt completely and combine. Remove from heat.
Thoroughly mix sweet almond oil, vitamin E oil and essential oil into the melted oil mixture.
Chill in the refrigerator for about an oil, just until thickened, not hard.
Use a stand mixer or hand mixer (I used my Kitchen Aid with whip attachment) to whip to an impossibly decadent whipped consistency.
Scoop into jars with lids and enjoy. This will last 6 months to a year. If your home is very warm, the oils may separate. If they do, just whip again to the correct consistency.
The big brown truck drove up our driveway this afternoon delivering a much anticipated package - two packages actually.
We have had bees for years, off and on, however, all of our equipment was scavenged from here and there. None of our hives fit together very well, being made by different people at different times. All of our bottom boards were rotting and our hive bodies beginning to fall apart. This year, we decided to make an investment in our honey bees. We ordered beautiful new English Garden Hives from Brushy Mountain Bees. Sir Knight and I have started off with two new hives, although Maid Elizabeth has plans to order two more.
|Unwrapping the frames|
|The bottom board|
Maid Elizabeth and I will be busy getting the hives ready for their new inhabitants, which will be delivered in April (I'm pretty sure the post-mistress will love me!). Until then, I will just bask in the beauty of my lovely new English Garden Hives!
(As much fun as we had opening the boxes, Master Calvin in his best friend Hobbes had more fun playing in the empty boxes and packaging. It was a big day!)
|Calvin & Hobbes|
Yesterday was a perfect winter day. The snow fell gently, dressing the trees in spotless garments of white and covering the prairie with a thick winter blanket.
After the children had finished their school they bundled up in their woolens and boots and spent hours catching snowflakes on their tongues and creating a well-dressed snowfolk family. As they played, I trekked through the snow, marveling at the inspiring beauty that met my eye at every turn. Oh, the glorious, awesome world that was created for our perfect enjoyment!
Shaking the snow from my boots, I stepped into Little Shouse and began the business of preparing for afternoon tea. As the cookstove boiled merrily along, I mixed and kneaded and reveled in the simple routine of homemaking.
As Sir Knight drove up the drive, the children hustled in from the cold, laying their snow things aside. While Sir Knight, Master Hand Grenade, Miss Serenity and I enjoyed tea and cinnamon rolls in the kitchen, Princess Dragon Snack and Master Calvin sipped cocoa near-by. It was a perfect moment in time - a sweet time of fellowship on a cold winters day.
I hope all of you have an opportunity to experience at least one perfect moment in time. My best wishes for a beautiful winter.
I am an optimist by nature. I always have been. I have been of the belief that anything that can be done can be undone. In my heart of hearts I would still like to believe that, however, I have recently come to the sorrowful conclusion that the United States of American has quietly, blindly slid past the point of no return.
When our country came into being it was populated by rugged, double-tough individuals seeking a home - a place to live or die in freedom. Their backgrounds were as varied as the countries from which they hailed, but they all came to these shores with a common dream - freedom. These people were willing to endure every hardship known to mankind, every deprivation, every tribulation and sorrow, all for the promise of one simple ideal - Freedom.
Our fore-bearers starved to death, succumbed to rampant disease and were laid waste by the harsh elements of what would become our newly born country. They buried their wives, their children and their kindred, but through all of their afflictions, the one thing they never buried was that one glimmering hope - the hope of establishing a country of free men for themselves and their posterity. These men and women chose to give up the comfort of the known - of their friends and family, of their homes and their countries, and exchange it for almost certain death in a remarkably brave attempt to secure the one thing for their families that was impossible in their countries of origin - Freedom. It was these people that bore our country, that travailed and labored to bring forth that legacy most rare - the legacy of freedom. They paid the price for us to be free from the tyranny of our fellow man. They paid for our freedom to succeed - or fail, without interference. They paid for us to be free men, not citizens or subjects -but free men directing our own destinies. They paid for our freedom with their very blood but it is we, their legacy, who have buried them. We have laid to rest what they so valiantly bled and died for - our freedom.
So, why do I believe we have sailed past the point of no return? Simply because we are no longer what we once were. We are soft as butter, with no stomach for the harsh realities of real life. We are weak willed and weak minded, perfectly comfortable being provided for by our kindly benefactors that want what is best for collective at the expense of the individual. We live our lives in fear - fear of being responsible for our own selves. Can you imagine being willing to sacrifice yourself or your family for the betterment of your fellow man? Can you imagine denying your children their next meal because you didn't have the money to pay for it? Can you imagine providing for yourself without the help of food stamps, Obamacare or unemployment? Can you imagine telling your government "this far and no farther"?! Can you imagine having to work in order to eat? Or not being able to go to the emergency room? Or *gasp* not being able access the internet? What about not being able to use your GPS to navigate your neighborhood? Can you, for even a moment, imagine what life would be like without a supermarket, electricity or telephones? How would your children survive without hall monitors and teachers solving their interpersonal problems? What if you couldn't call the police? How would you survive with no restaurants, butchers or dairies? How would you manage to feed your family without prepackaged food and thermostatically controlled ovens? What would you do without flushing toilets, hot water or washing machines? How would you manage without your anti-depressants and pain killers?
Our ancestors built a free country with nothing more than their faith in God, their disciplined minds and their own two hands. They bled and struggled and died for a mere idea - we won't tolerate a hang nail. They built a country while providing EVERYTHING for their own survival - food, clothing, shelter - we can barely bake bread, much less grow the grain needed to grind. They raised sheep, spun their wool, wove the threads into cloth and dyed and sewed that cloth into clothing. We can hardly thread a needle. And while they provided for their every need, they built towns and churches, stores and roads. They were disciplined and resolute and they built a nation of unparalleled renown.
What have we done with our inherited wealth? One in seven Americans are on food stamps. One in five American adults (not including children) are on psychiatric drugs. 49.2% of Americans are dependent on government assistance. We have done what is always done with inherited wealth - we have squandered our legacy. Our ancestors fought and died for our freedom and we have exchanged our freedom for dependency - for subservient serfdom.
This country, this melting pot of cultures, has risen from the humblest of beginnings to the heights of human achievement. And in that heady pride of achievement, we have lost the very character that allowed our culture to soar with the eagles - our integrity, our vision, our will and sheer determination. Most importantly, we have lost our faith and our faith has been replaced with fear. With fear has come dependency and with dependency, tyranny. And now we are too weak to think, to persevere, to fight. The ease and comfort that was our pride has become the very disease that has brought rottenness to our inmost parts. We are terminal. Nothing short of a miracle will right this United States of America.
As a nation, we have passed the point of no return. The nation that we love is no longer. There is hope however. Although our inheritance may be depleted, our future is our own. The future is what we choose to make of it. After the inevitable "crash", when the smoke has settled, we and our children will choose a new future for ourselves. We will choose to live our lives as free men or we will choose to settle for "safety and security". We will choose to live for an idea or we will die in slavery and subjection. What our future looks like will depend upon me and my children, upon you and your children. Will you raise the bar and teach your children to govern themselves and provide for their families? Will you live your life in faith rather than fear? Are you willing to suffer for what you believe to be good and true?
Our country is past the point of no return, but our people are not. Choose you this day a future to own.
I have made a startling discovery. I can only bake effectively in a wood cookstove. I don't know when it happened - it just crept up on me. One day I was turning out lovely loaves from my propane cooker and the next, I couldn't bake a perfect loaf of bread for the life of me. In desperation, I slid a loaf of Irish Soda Bread into the wood cookstove, gave it a turn every once in a while, shuffled it from shelf to shelf and finally pulled it from the oven looking darkly golden and producing the most satisfyingly hollow thump when lightly tapped on the bottom. Perfection! A few days later I made French bread and pulled pasty looking loaves from the propane stove (that were very dark on the bottom) and proceeded to continue baking them in my beloved wood cookstove, where they turned a golden brown and developed the most flavorful, chewy crust imaginable.
|Irish Soda Bread|
Bread isn't the only thing my wood cookstove has been producing in abundance. Last week my older children got a party together to go skating at the "local" skating rink (about 45 minutes away). Maid Elizabeth and Miss Serenity both had to work, getting off at 5 p.m., so they met their friends here (at Little Shouse on the Prairie) to carpool together to the skating rink. Knowing that they would be missing dinner and wouldn't want to infringe on their skate time by grabbing a bite to eat in town, I made a big batch of Pizza Pockets that they could eat on the road. I made my regular pizza crust recipe, rolled out the dough and cut small (3"x3" more or less) squares to use as the pizza pockets. I spread a bit of olive oil on each square, followed by a bit of pizza sauce, sprinkled them with mozzarella cheese and bacon bits and layered a few pieces of pepperoni followed by just a little bit more cheese. Then I pulled corners together and pinched them close, sprinkling a little of mozzarella on top of each pocket. I baked them on pizza stones until they were golden and bubbly.
|Beginning Pizza Pockets|
|Pinching the corners|
|Ready for the oven|
|Fresh from the wood cookstove|
As winter continues to grip us in its cold embrace, Sir Knight and I have begun to look forward to the warming ritual of afternoon tea with even more anticipation than usual. Yesterday, in celebration of Monday Tea (I just made that up!) I made a little something to accompany our tea and was rewarded with a heavenly aroma wafting from the wood cookstove, filling our Shouse with sweet, spicy goodness. Pumpkin Maple muffins are the perfect combination of winter flavors and only enhanced when accompanied by a good, stout cup of English Breakfast tea (yes, even in the afternoon!). Generally, I would bake these in a standard muffin tin, however, Maid Elizabeth brought home a commercial "muffin top" pan for me years ago and I thought it would work perfectly for these soft, flavorful, sweet breads. The muffins are made with mostly whole wheat flour but still rise high and soft, with no graininess of texture. You can make them with or without the glaze, whatever your preference. I think they would last for days and remain moist (the pumpkin), however, they never last past tea here!
Pumpkin Maple Muffins
2 C whole wheat flour
1 1/2 C all purpose flour (can use all whole wheat)
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 C sugar
2 C pumpkin puree (or any other squash)
1/2 C olive oil (or any other oil)
1/4 C maple syrup (real or corn syrup based)
3 T milk
Preheat oven to 350°
Combine the sugar, pumpkin, olive oil, maple syrup, milk and egg. Beat to combine. Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Stir just to combine.
Fill greased muffin tins almost to the top and bake for 20 minutes or until tops are puffy and spring back when you touch them. Turn out of pan and cool before glazing.
2 T butter
1 1/4 C powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 T maple syrup (real or corn syrup based)
1 - 2 T hot water
Melt the butter in saucepan. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Stir in the maple syrup. Mixture will be thick and sticky. Add water and beat until spreading/pouring consistency. Spread/pour over muffin tops.
|Pumpkin Maple Muffins in Muffin Top pan|
|Light and Fluffy (and whole wheat!)|
|Cooling with Maple Glaze|
If you haven't had the pleasure of baking with wood - it's never too late! It is simple and complicated all at once and entirely satisfying. It truly is an experience not to miss.
Just a bit of life around the farm....
Most of our time has been spent in school - or playing. Could life be more wonderful?
|Master Calvin - hard at work|
|Miss Serenity, Master Calvin and a passel of dominoes|
|Kids at Work|
|An Aladdin shade turned into a romantic lighted bed canopy|
|Branch holding a few hats|
|From the living room looking toward the kitchen|
|The "library" corner of the living room|
For years I have had intermittent sciatic nerve problems. Generally it is not bad, just a bit achy from time to time, but one spring, while playing on the teeter-walker with the children, I injured my sciatic nerve to the point that I was immobile. I had never been in so much pain in my life! After numerous trips to the emergency room and various doctor visits, I was scheduled for surgery.
Although the surgery was very successful, I was more than a little hesitant to begin the prescribed pain pill regime. I have read account after account of people suffering from intense pain only to have a successful surgery and then become addicted to the pain killers. I didn't want to become such a statistic. And so, we went in search of another answer.
|Smoking the bees|
Hearing this, Maid Elizabeth went to work. She began to research bee stings and their effects on arthritis. Suddenly, she stumbled upon a whole new (to us) method of pain management - Bee Venom Therapy. It turns out that BVT is practiced frequently in Europe and many practitioners carry portable bee hives from appointment to appointment, stinging patients for any number of ailments.
After doing a bit of research, we decided to give it a try. What sold me? Actually it was a combination of anecdotal evidence and scientific research. Most of the people I read about had proclaimed BVT to be nothing but helpful, in some cases curing them, and the science involved seemed to support their conclusions. Bee venom contains Mellitin, and anti-inflammatory that is 100 times stronger than Cortisone! It also contains Adolapin, which is also an anti-inflammatory and pain blocker. Bee venom is also said to increase blood circulation and reduce swelling.
|Very lethargic girls|
- About 1/2 an hour before being stung, I took 2 ibuprofen (just to dull the sting a bit - not necessary).
- I then iced my lower back (over my scar) for about 20 minutes.
- While I was icing, Maid Elizabeth scooped up a few bees (about 4) from our hive, put them in a jar (with air holes poked in the lid) and put the jar in the freezer. The bees become lethargic when they are cold and it is easier to capture one to use - they don't try to fly away when you take the lid off the jar.
- When the bees were ready and my back had been properly iced, I laid on my stomach while Maid Elizabeth capture a bee with a pair of tweezers. Holding the bee (stinger side down) next to the scar on my back, Maid Elizabeth gently squeezed the bee. In the process, the bee responded by stinging me. Leaving the stinger in, Maid Elizabeth stung me again on the other side of my scar. If you look at a honey bee stinger closely, you will notice a little venom sack on the top of their stinger. The venom sacks pulse, delivering their venom, for about 10 to 15 minutes.
- I lay still until both venom sacks quit pulsing, after which Maid Elizabeth removed them with her tweezers.
That's it! The area around the sting burned slightly and raised a small welt that got rather itchy. I noticed a lack of pain almost immediately. I DIDN'T TAKE ONE PAIN PILL! I had no pain. None at all.
My surgery was over 5 years ago. I have had twinges of pain (and I mean twinges) about 3 times since then. Each time, I've asked Maid Elizabeth to fetch a couple of "the girls" and sting me. Each time, I have gotten up with NO pain. None! I, my friends, am a true believer.
|Pulling a frame|
My understanding is that BVT is just beginning to emerge in the United States as a viable medical procedure. Apparently there have been tremendous results for MS patients using BVT. It has become more common to use BVT for the treatment of arthritis. And, it is indicated for patients suffering from sciatica (go figure!).
If you are interested in homesteading, preparedness, survival or simple homemade medicine then you shouldn't be without your own hive of bees. I know that having "the girls" in my backyard means so much more to me than simple pollination or sweet honey - it means living without pain.
NOTE: If you decide to try BVT, make sure you have a sting kit on hand and or an Epi-pen. 1 to 5 percent of the population is allergic to honey bee venom.
Years ago we had a neighbor (he was rather old and crotchety) who was a master farrier. He took a shine to Maid Elizabeth and offered to trim and shoe her horse's hooves in exchange for her doing odd jobs around his homestead.
One day, as Elizabeth was filling feed bunks with hay I watched as the farrier filled buckets with grain. Into the feeder he dumped a scoop of steamed oats, followed by a half a scoop sweet feed. On top of that he poured a ladle full of amber colored liquid. Never having seen anyone feed their horses quite like that before, I asked what he had poured over the feed. He looked up at me, one eyebrow raised and said "its apple cider vinegar". He might as well have added "you dummy", but he just shook his head instead.
I didn't want to seem foolish, but I just couldn't let it go. I had to know why he fed his horses vinegar. And I was REALLY interested to see if they ate it! Well, I didn't have to wait long to find out if vinegar was offensive to the horse palate - they ate it right up, just like it was a bucket full of molasses grain. I hesitated a moment and then blurted "why did you feed them vinegar?" Master Farrier rolled his eyes, sighed and said "it's a dewormer, of course".
I wasn't about to ask him any more questions, but I did tuck that nugget of information away for further research. Although I have never come across any "scientific" evidence that ACV (apple cider vinegar) works for deworming, the web is full of anecdotal evidence which goes far beyond treating animals for worms and includes fly control, skin/coat problems and anti-bacterial solutions.
I became even more intrigued with the amazing properties of ACV when I read about spraying it on weeds to eradicate them. We have a problem with thistles and hawk weed and although commercial weed killer will kill them, the hawk weed especially, always seems to come back the next year. Eager to put the vinegar to the test, I poured some (full strength) into a spray bottle and sprayed both hawk weed and thistle plants and waited to see what would happen. It took about 4 hours to notice any difference. At first, the plants just looked a little poorly. After 4 hours they looked positively droopy. The next day....both the thistle and the hawk weed were shriveled up masses. Some of the larger plants required another spraying the next day before they succumbed to the ACV, however, everything I sprayed the vinegar on gave up the ghost - eventually. I didn't do a mass spraying of all of the invasive plants in my 30 acre yard simply because I didn't have enough vinegar, however, it really does keep the weeds down in my little garden areas. And I would prefer to use ACV over commercially produced weed killer any day.
|Ready to strain and rebottle|
Just for the record, I do not believe that Apple Cider Vinegar (or anything else, for that matter) is a cure-all or a miracle drug. I think it works great for some things and not for others. I think it works differently with different physiological make-ups. That being said, I think ACV is an absolute requirement for any homesteader/prepper/survivalist. I think the list of its benefits it too long for one small blog post and its potential uses are beyond measure. The fact that you can make it in your kitchen, in sufficient quantities to keep your animals healthy, your family healthy and your weeds unhealthy is merit enough to make it worth your while.
Here is the best part of all. Apple Cider Vinegar is a snap to make. There are numerous methods of making vinegar - simply Google it and find the method that is most convenient for you. I made ACV last fall, after partaking in a friends apple cider pressing. My method of ACV is possibly the most simple and the most effective. I started with 6 gallons of fresh apple cider. Although we originally put all of the cider into a 6 gallon carboy, to make ACV we poured it into 7 (1) gallon jars (leaving room to stir). We did strain the cider as we poured it into the gallon jars to get most of the big apple chunks out, so that the ACV would be a little clearer. After putting the cider in the jars, we put a bit of "mother" into each jar of cider. The "mother" is the icky looking stuff that floats at the bottom of the apple cider vinegar that you buy at the health food store (Bragg's). It almost looks like a human organ, a big flat matt of a thing - but, this is the good stuff! My "mother" came from a friend who had made her own vinegar the year before. She just separated a big clump from her "mother", put it into a pint jar and sent it home to become my "mother". There is no measurement required for your "mother". I just divided the "mother" that I had (it turned out to be about 2 T per jar) between the 7 jars of cider and called it good.
|Gallons of ACV at the ready|
At this point we have no large animals to feed ACV to, however, we do have children. Every morning, the kids and I line up for our glass of apple cider vinegar (just a bit of vinegar in the bottom of a glass filled with water). It is an invigorating way to start the day! Although not a miracle cure, ACV comes pretty close!
|A newly outfitted Texas Fish and Game officer|
Image from a Blaze article
Think about it. When we want to work out, we put on tennis shoes and work out clothes. They make us feel energized and ready to get sweaty. When we want to hunt, we put on camouflage and a blaze orange hat. Just the act of putting on our camo puts in the right frame of mind for the hunt. Every day we dress according to the image we want to project and every day, our clothes bring us closer to our idea of success or distance us from it (if we choose our clothing poorly).
The fuzzier the lines have become between right and wrong, the fuzzier our clothing choices have become. And now, we are at a societal impasse. We want to pretend to be upstanding members of society and, at the same time, wear baggy gang-style pants and pull hoodies down over our faces. We want to espouse the purity and innocence of our little girls while dressing them as miniature prostitutes. We want to be taken seriously in business settings while piercing our faces and tattooing our bodies. And, as women, we don't want to be treated as a piece of meat while we dress in a manner that does nothing but display us as merchandise. We can't have it both ways.
As much as we are told "you can't judge a book by it's cover", that is just not true. We dress according to how we view ourselves, according to what role we see ourselves in. And, we judge each other accordingly - right or wrong, we do. In truth, we tend to act as we dress. If we dress in a provocative manner, we will behave provocatively. If we dress in grubby clothes with unkempt hair, we tend to behave lazily. If we dress in hiking gear, we tend to get outside and get moving. It's just the nature of the beast.
The same holds true for our men in uniform. Donning different uniforms have a different effect on your attitude. If you are in dress blues, you will stand a little taller, holding yourself in a manner worthy of honor. If you are in your turn-out gear, you will have adrenaline pumping, at the ready to fight that fire. And if you are in your BDU's (Battle Dress Uniform), you will be pumped, ready to take down the enemy.
Little by little, our nation has been militarizing our police force. Once, our citizens were served by "Peace Officers", now we are policed by "Rapid Response Units", "SWAT teams" and other para-military entities. Gone are the days of slow-talking peace officers, dressed in button-up shirts, nice slacks and cowboy hats with a revolver on their hip. They have been replaced with black BDU wearing, night-vision enhanced agents carrying deadly force multipliers and subdued badges. And then we wonder innocently why our cops are so aggressive? Well go figure!
We have created the world in which we are living. We are blurring the lines between right and wrong, between good and bad. We want to dress one way and act another (or pretend to act another). We want to have our cake and eat it to. It doesn't work that way!
Just so you know, I am not cop bashing. I am merely suggesting that we can only expect an escalation of aggression when we treat and arm our police officers as we do our military men going into battle. They are being trained (and dressed) to engage the enemy. What made us think that enemy wouldn't be us?
Not realizing the pins were missing, Master Hand Grenade attempted to attach the plow, while holding the entire weight of the plow with one hand and fumbling for the pins with the other. After numerous attempts to locate the pins with his free hand and failing, he set the plow down, grabbed a flashlight and tracked down the problem. Within minutes, he came back in the house and said "Mom, the pins are gone, I'm heading out to figure out how I'm going to attach the plow", and out the door he went. It was snowing rather vigorously (of course) and I was interested to see what solution presented itself to him. I heard the container door open and close a couple of times, as Hand Grenade stomped back and forth through the snow and pretty soon, I heard the four-wheeler start and saw Hand Grenade take the first pass down the driveway plowing snow as he went.
When he finished and had the four-wheeled tucked back into the shed, Master Hand Grenade brushed the snow off his boots and came into the shouse to warm his hands by the fire. I asked him how he had managed with the plow and he said he had picked through the nut and bolt supply in the container, come up with some hardware that was the correct size and bolted the plow into place. He said he put some service-removeable lock-tight onto the bolts so that the nuts wouldn't work their way off while he plowed and that it should get us through winter just fine. He was right. He had effectively turned what could have been a pseudo-emergency into a non-issue with just a little bit of ingenuity. He made do with what he had.
We live in a time when we don't really have to be creative or ingenious. We just buy what we need. And that has been to our detriment. We no longer think outside the box. We don't come up with viable solutions to complex mechanical problems simply because we don't have to. We have lost the ability to either "make-do" or find a way to "make it work". And that, my friends, will be one our biggest survival obstacles.
Fourteen years of off-grid living has been a wonderful teacher - not a teacher I have always embraced or enjoyed - but a school-master nonetheless. After more than 8 months of hauling water and doing laundry in a huge galvanized tub on the wood cookstove, it occurred to us that we could hook our washing machine up to a garden hose and the generator and - Oh Joy - machine washed clothes! I had been waiting for hot running water and regular plumbing and power, but when we thought outside the box, we were blessed with a clean clothes in a fraction of the time. When cold weather set in and we had no way to keep the pipes from freezing, we learned to fill the Dietz lantern, light it and place it near the toilet - by the pipes - to keep them thawed. When we needed a dry, cozy spot to milk the cow, we crafted a "milking parlor" out of pallets in a protected corner of the shed and miked in warmth and comfort when the winter storms blew their fiercest.
Although I have murmured under my breath more than once about our trying circumstances, I am more than a little grateful for the education they have afforded our family. We have been schooled, just as our forefathers, in the ways of necessity. We have learned that "Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is".
As you stock your Preparedness Arsenal with food and tool and weapons, don't forget one of the most important items of all - Ingenuity.
Although we help when we are able, the thought has crossed my mind that this method of "ministry" may indeed have become the modern Christian feel-good method of traveling the globe on somebody else's dime. I'm not entirely convinced that spreading the Gospel of Christ is the truly compelling force behind these "mission trips", but rather a desire to experience different cultures and feel good while doing it.
But, I digress. In our Post-Christian country, I am constantly amazed at the ministry opportunities that present themselves in our own back yard and even sometimes, in our own kitchens.
Years ago, we lived in Bellevue, Washington. Sir Knight was close to a family with three small children and after we married, I became quite attached to them as well. That family grew until there were five children, two of which were close to our own children's ages. Our families grew up, we moved across the mountains and, although we maintained our friendship, we rarely had an opportunity to visit our dear friends.
The older children stayed in touch with our family, Sir Knight having had a huge influence on the two boys. One summer, the older boy, then about 25 years old, came to visit for a few days, bringing with him his live-in girlfriend. Living in "Little Shouse on the Prairie", with limited space, we didn't have bedrooms to house extra people, so when our guests arrived, Sir Knight took "young man" aside and told him that he was welcome to sleep on the couch and that "girlfriend" was welcome to bunk with Maid Elizabeth in her room. Young Man readily agreed that that was the best course of action and not another word was said on the subject.
Oh, we had fun! We rode horses, made homemade pizza, swam in the lake and, of course, spent a number of hours sending bullets down-range. Girlfriend helped milk the cow and tried her hand at making butter and often sat on the couch and just stared at us, commenting from time to time that she had never been around a family quite like ours.
One day, the guys were out of the house and Girlfriend, Maid Elizabeth and I were in the kitchen having a bit of tea. I sat, visiting this pretty young woman and I looked at her and said "You know, you are worth more than living with. You are precious and should be cherished. Young Man should be pursuing you and asking you for the honor of loving and protecting you all the days of your life - not moving his stuff into your house until he gets tired of you and moves on to the next pretty girl".
Girlfriends eyes grew large, with a single tear escaping down her cheek. She looked at me and said "What makes me so special?" And then, right there in my humble little kitchen, I had the opportunity to tell this sweet girl from Everett, Washington the story of her life. I told her how God had knit her together, how He had thought of her before she was ever born. I told her how she had been made in the very image of God. I told her that God knew everything she had ever done and would ever do and how He had given His Son to die for her so that she could be reconciled to Him. I told her that she was worth far more than rubies and that when she accepted Christ as her Savior, as her one and only, she would become the daughter of the King - and the daughter of the King was worth a very steep price indeed.
Girlfriend wept. She asked questions after question, wanting to know her story from the very beginning. This girl, who grew up in "Christian" America, had never, ever heard the Good News! This girl, with the pierced tongue, met the Man with the pierced hands, in a shop in the middle of a windswept prairie.
Young Man and Girlfriend went home, split up and went their separate ways. I have no idea if Girlfriend grew to know Jesus as her Savior, but I do know that the seeds of Truth were planted. Young Man has gone on to another girlfriend (actually, many since then) and still is living his life for himself, but he will always find our door open to him - we love him and pray for him.
Yes, you can go to far-flung, exotic locations and spread the gospel of Christ, or you can open you door and plant seeds in your own back yard.
Our family has a tendency to be a little unconventional when it comes to gift-giving. We take great joy in finding things that are eminently practical or supremely delightful and, as a result, we generally give rather odd tokens of our affection.
My mother was the latest recipient of just such a gift. She has been systematically organizing her preparedness stores and basic pantry staples (complete with 15 feet of new industrial shelving!) however, her water storage capabilities were cumbersome and not particularly efficient. Realizing that toting around 5 gallon barrels of water made life more than a little difficult during their frequent power outages, we bought a few WaterBricks to make her life a little easier.
WaterBricks are a fairly new water storage system. They consist of 3 1/2 gallon, heavy duty, plastic containers that stack, interlocking in a manner somewhat akin to Lego's. Each Brick has two holes in them, increasing their structural integrity and even giving you the ability to drive PVC, Rebar or other construction material through the middle of the Bricks, in essence, forming an incredibly sturdy, stand-alone wall.
|Stacked like Legos|
I love them for their versatility. The first thing that caught my interest was the fact that they are a freezable water storage option. Long-term water storage is challenging in northern climate simply due to the fact that winters are cold and water will freeze and expand, rupturing most water containers. You can fill plastic barrels a bit under full, so there is room for expansion, but even then, after being frozen a number of times, the plastic does succumb to the pressure and burst. These containers were designed to be frozen! That means that I can keep a WaterBrick in the back of our truck, even during the winter months. I can keep them in our storage container and out of the house. I can strap one onto our 4-wheeler, put them in our shed or basically any other out-of-the-way spot and feel confident that they will be full and ready for use in any emergency situation.
|On a 4-wheeler|
WaterBricks are NOT just for storing water. They are watertight (of course), so they are perfect for storing bulk food, matches, (reloading) powder - just about anything you can think of.
O.K., so what really sold me? The military has tested the ballistic capabilities of the WaterBrick and are now using them to build expedient bunkers! Really! When filled with sand or pea gravel, the Waterbrick provides ballistic protection - in other words - they are bullet proof! Although too expensive for normal people to build a bunker out of, a few of them could be stacked under a window, providing a "bullet-proof" shooting position. Wow. Now you can store water and build a bunker, out of the same handy containers! Every housewife should have a few of these beauties laying around!
|The cartridges used for ballistic testing|
|Military testing results|
Even on a limited budget, WaterBricks are worth having around. We keep at least 1 WaterBrick in each vehicle and a number in the house, full of water. We will add a few here and there and eventually have a respectable supply.
Sorry to sound like a walking advertisement - I just thought these were too cool to keep to myself! Let me know if you have WaterBricks and how you use them!
*By the way - my mom LOVES her WaterBricks! She has relegated her old 5 gallon water barrels to the shelving and has installed her Bricks as her new household water storage. We get excited about the funniest things!
I thought I would take a minute and catch you up on all of our latest happenings. Some of these things I will write about in further detail later, but here is a sampling of our life in the Redoubt.....
As I am sure is the case in the majority of the country, our local lab work costs are out of sight. Typically, when we go to our clinic/hospital to have blood work done, they charge their cost and add a zero. A $15 test costs the consumer $150 and a $25 test costs $250 and so on. With three members of our family requiring semi-regular blood tests, the costs where outrageous. And so, we came up with a better way. Our midwife has blood work privileges at our local lab, so every three to six months, we set up an appointment with her. She comes to our home, has Maid Elizabeth do blood draws (she can even draw her own blood!), processes the blood work and drops it off at the lab. The lab then forwards the test results to our doctor and we are able, affordably, to fill our prescriptions. Our midwife charges us what the lab charges her (which is cost) and I always add a little for gas money, and of course make sure I have a pot of tea waiting so we can have a long chat.
Apparently, the lab has changed the way they do things and blood work has to be submitted earlier than it used to be, which means that our midwife is no longer able just to drop the blood off on her way home. To remedy that problem, she now just stops by the lab and picks up a centrifuge on her way to the Shouse and processes our blood in the middle of the dining room table. Talk about home health care!
|Blood samples ready to be spun|
|Our midwife, ever the teacher - teaching as she goes!|
|And the separated blood|
|Spreading the peanut butter|
|And rolling in seed|
|Master Calvin is rather pleased with his creation|
|A little birdie smorgasbord|
|A couple just to we could enjoy the view|
|My vinegar, in desperate need of straining|
|Bottled and shelved|
|Wine, bread and candies, ready to go|
|Peanut Brittle, Turtles, Layer Cookies and Mounds Bars....|
|Peanut brittle ready to crack|
|Getting ready to siphon (rack)|
|Look at that lovely amber liquid!|
|Racking Rose Hip wine|
|Now for the Elderberry|
|Next step - bottling!|
Every day, I am barraged from all sides. The media tells me what to think and what to say. My conversations are being listened to, my emails scanned. My home, my animals and even my children are no longer my own. Taxes, legislation and regulation are crushing the joy out of life. My desire to live a quiet and simple life has become little more than an allusive fantasy. The "Class Wars" have been revived in the form of the "Rulers" and the "People" - no longer are we "Americans", we have become "Them" (politicians, judges, law-enforcement and un-elected bureaucrats grasping for power) and "Us" (working "Joe's" supporting the entire country on our shoulders). "They" make and enforce an unending stream of laws and regulations while we try to breathe under their oppressive tyranny, entreating "them" for just a modicum of freedom.
As I was expressing my extreme frustration to my eldest daughter, Maid Elizabeth, a quote from the iconic television show "Firefly" came to mind. River, a young girl about the age of our own Princess Dragon Snack was expressing her opinion of the State's intrusive nature to the State Appointed teacher. Their conversation was illuminating and in perfect keeping with our own current State of the State.
River: "We meddle. People don't like to be meddled with. We tell them what to do, what to think. 'Don't Run. Don't Walk.' We're in their homes and in their heads, and we haven't the right. We're meddlesome".
Teacher: "River, we're not telling people what to think, we're just trying to show them how".
And so, I am weary. Sir Knight and I want nothing more than to raise our children. We want to teach them the Word of God, grow a garden play with our (future) grandchildren. We want to live productive and healthy lives and see future generations thrive in the world that we have left them.
I want to bake bread, cook for my family and make wine and cheese. I want to decorate my home and putter in my flower garden. I want to pick apples, harvest honey and milk the cow.
As wonderful as all of that sounds, these seemingly harmless, productive endeavors (on which our country was built), are now subject to government license and approval. The food I choose to cook isn't healthy and needs to be banned. I don't have a license to make wine. And cheese needs to be made from inspected milk only. I must have the government approve my furnishing (making sure they are safe and appropriate) before decorating my home (that had to be inspected by building inspectors). My apple harvest, along with everything else I grow, must be registered with the local authorities (again, we need to be safe) and the bee inspector is required to check my hives. And of course, it really is unsafe to drink milk that has not been pasteurized, so that family cow needs to be inspected too. The Government does know best.
In truth, not all of these mandates have been enacted yet, however, many have - and ALL of them have been, at the very least, discussed with most of them having written legislation just waiting to be voted upon and enacted into law.
How's that for a quiet and simple life?
As much as I rail against the world and all of its brokenness, I am not surprised. Governments constructed of men (in the greater sense of the word "man") have oppressed people since the beginning of time, and given the nature of man, will continue to do so. However, it is the "Church" that grieves my heart.
What a group of Pharisees we have become! Shame on us! We are supposed to show the light of Christ, but how can we show Christ's love, when we have no love even to show each other? Our love has waxed cold. We claim to be "Followers of the Way" but we have no love for one another. That cannot be. Church - the world is looking to YOU to show them Christ. What are we showing them? That we have nothing to offer. We show them that we are willing to feed each other to the wolves. We show them that there is no such thing as judgement, or mercy or grace in the Christians language. Heck, we even show them that we can't even agree on what to call ourselves or even what to call God and Jesus. We show them that we believe the Bible (but only the parts we like) and that we would rather trample on another believer than we would walk along side him. What a group of hypocrites we are!
Just before Christmas, I sat in church and basked in the glow of a new understanding of scripture. The Holy Spirit revealed a tiny bit of His truth and I could barely wait to get home to share it with all of you. I was excited, knowing that I had been given a precious gift that I was compelled to share. What followed grieved me beyond words.
As I shared with you my heart - a lesson of feasting in the manner of Jesus, loving even our enemies and our betrayers and washing the feet of our imperfect family, I was met with an overwhelming derision. Because I had uttered the word "Christmas", I might as well have been directing people to worship Baal. Hate proceeded to spew forth, each person proposing to know the state of my heart. Wow.
All I could think of was "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:35. History has come full circle. We are now so busy trying to follow "law" (all based in scripture you know - just like the Pharisees) that we can't see the truth when it smacks us between the eyes. We get so caught up on "how" we are doing things that we miss the bigger picture.
Do you remember the invalid that tarried at the pool of Bethesda? The one that had been infirm for 38 years. When the waters were stirred, the the sick could be healed, however, this particular man had no one to take him to the waters and so he laid, unable get up off his mat. When Jesus saw him, he said "Don't you want to be healed?". The man answered, "of course, but I can't get to the waters". Jesus said "Take up your mat and walk" and in that instant that man was healed. With great joy he picked up his mat, but hadn't made it far when he was assaulted by Pharisees. "Why are you carrying your mat on the Sabbath? - It is unlawful for you to carry your mat on the Sabbath - who told you to carry your mat!!" The former invalid replied, "The man who healed me told me 'take up your mat and go', so I did"! Of course he did!! He had been an invalid for 38 years. He was healed, after 38 years, and the Pharisees were more concerned that he was carrying his mat on the sabbath than the fact that he had been healed! God, in His mercy, had made a man whole and the Pharisees were convinced that He hadn't done it correctly! Where was their love? They loved the "law" more than they loved their God. How that must have grieved a Fathers heart!
Once again, we are a nation of Pharisees. We are so caught up in the "law" that we have forgotten mercy and grace. We would rather castigate our brother than walk along side of him while the Holy Spirit does His work in him. We have lost our love. Of course, there are those that are so caught up in mercy and grace that they have forgotten that God is also a God of judgement, but that is a post for another time.
In a world that has spun out of control, we need the light of the One True God. We need the love of our brothers and sisters. Only through that love can we show the world the Light of Truth.
While the governments of men burden people with law upon untenable law - the Gospel of Truth sets the souls of men at liberty. I choose the freedom of God, not the law of the Pharisees.
This morning, as I sat with my head bowed in prayer, I thought about our upcoming Holy Days. I thought of family and presents and the birth of our Savior. I thought of how, as a people, we are so easily distracted from the shining light of truth and quick to cleave to worldly fancies, forgetting the source of our very breath. This morning, as I sat with my head bowed in prayer, my mind was filled with heady thoughts.
During the Christmas season, we attempt to encourage ourselves to remember the "Reason for the Season". We talk about celebrating "Jesus' Birthday" and read the account of His birth in an attempt not to get caught up in the spectacle that has become "Christmas". We sing Christmas carols, bake cookies and give each other gifts, all while expressing our desire to emulate the greatest gift. But, when all is said and done, we feel let down - like we are missing something. Something big.
Truth be told, Christmas, along with all of our holidays is celebrated with food and family and friends. And that is right and good. Every one of the holy days of the bible were celebrated similarly. They all centered around God's children (family) and feasting. The feasts were a time of remembrance. God instituted celebrations as an opportunity for His children to perpetually remember what He had done. Christmas in our modern time is no different. It is a time to remember the Savior, that is God, who became man in order to bring perfect reconciliation between sinful mankind and a holy, blameless God. And we celebrate as in times of old, with fellowship and feasting.
As wonderful as Christmas is, it is all too often overshadowed by strife and discord. We are consumed with finding that "perfect" present, baking cookies for every person we have ever met and decorating our homes to look like a spread in a glossy magazine. And then, when the day actually arrives, we feel nothing but dread. The family is coming. Uncle Fred is difficult, Aunt Fran smells. And then there's the drama of Aunt Martha. She and her family always arrive late and grumpy, her children are sullen, her husband is contentious and she is always mad at someone in the family. It is so bad that the other brothers and sisters take bets before she gets there as to who she will be mad at this year. In reality, Christmas would be perfect if it weren't for the people. They are a burden and serve little purpose but to ruin the "Norman Rockwell" image we have so carefully crafted in our minds.
And therein lies the problem. We are so set on celebrating a "perfect" Christmas, trying to keep Jesus at the center, that we miss our true calling - one of sacrifice and humility.
Sitting in church this morning, the picture of a perfect Christmas played before my eyes. It had nothing to do with snow or trees or presents. There were no carolers or elves or jolly red men. There was nothing but a humble room, twelve men and a soul intent on doing the will of His father.
Jesus, during his own last supper, revealed to us the perfect keeping of the feast. He gathered his family (the twelve) together, for an afternoon of fellowship and feasting. He prepared a feast for those he loved. He ate and drank with them. He shared his soul. He even knelt on the floor before each man, removed his sandals and washed his feet, giving to him a perfect gift. He did this with full joy mingled with heavy resignation. He celebrated this feast with his imperfect family, knowing it to be his last feast on earth. He broke bread with the man He knew would betray him for 30 pieces of silver. He drank from the cup of the man that He knew would deny him three times. He gave perfect gifts to a family that would betray and disown him. He knew it - and he served them anyway. His was the perfect feast - the perfect Christmas.
As you gather together to celebrate our Lord, remember who it is that you are serving. You are serving the One who kissed his betrayer on the cheek. You are serving the One who loved the man who would deny Him. Can you do any less for the family He has given to you?
This year, celebrate the true meaning of Christmas. Forget the "Norman Rockwell" vision of Christmas and embrace the "Upper Room". Love those that persecute you, serve those that revile you, kiss those that betray you.
Merry Christmas to you all. I pray that your "Norman Rockwell" Christmas is replaced with the "Upper Room" Christmas and that God reveals His perfect Gift to every last one of you.
Merry Christmas every one.
Please forgive the photos - some were taken with the phone and the action shots were really hard to get!
December has brought with it a wonderful milestone for our family - Master Hand Grenade has turned 18! Although not a big "party" family (we prefer quiet, homey celebrations), we decided that an 18th birthday warranted a party that was nothing short of spectacular and so we pulled out all the stops.
For a number of years, our older children have gotten together with a large group of other Christian young folks from the area (an area of about 100 square miles) to fellowship, play and dance. During the summer months, the group gets together once a week in a park about 45 miles south of us to play Frisbee and volleyball and have a bible study. They play hard, bring snacks and retire to a covered picnic area to study the bible and sing worship songs. They are a wonderful group of people, comprised of kids as young as 12 and young married couples in their mid to late 20's.
|Master Hand Grenade stringing the garland|
|Some well-placed ribbon and a little plaid seat|
|The community center is dressing up|
In honor of Master Hand Grenade's 18th birthday, Sir Knight and I decided to host a dance in our local community center. What fun we had! We set the date for a Friday night (the 13th, no less!) and sent out invitations (via one of the other kids' Facebook account) and set about with our preparations.
The morning of the party, the children and I headed into town to decorate the community center for the dance. We didn't do anything too fancy, just wholesome and sweet. We draped lots of burlap garland about, along with plenty of plaid ribbon, plaid throws and bows of fragrant evergreen. We covered tables in festive table-cloths and placed electric candles here and there. We had borrowed a sound system (complete with microphone for the dance caller) that hooked directly into our callers sound system (run on a MacBook) and were ready to go.
|Father and daughter Do' Si' Do-ing|
|Bow to your partner.....|
We opened the community center at 6 in the evening and the first few people were already waiting outside. They helped haul in the pizza's and other goodies and get the last minute details taken care of. By a quarter after six, the crowds began to arrive. Our caller walked through the door at 6:30 and was calling the Grand March within minutes.
|Dear Julianne of Providence Lodge and her Handsome Husband (She's going to kill me for this photo!)|
|Brother escorting sister - Master Hand Grenade with Miss Serenity|
|And the younger set - Princess Dragon Snack with her best friend|
|Master Hand Grenade with his partner (Our Caller is the young man in the red)|
|Nothing but smiles|
|Taking a well-deserved rest and watching the action|
|Could there be a better 18th birthday party?|
During one of the intermissions, the caller put on "swing" music so that a brother/sister duo could show us what swing dancing was all about. Soon, a husband and wife joined in and in no time, the dance floor was once again full, with couples trying out their new moves.
We had a wonderful time, dancing with our children, our friends and all of the other neat people that we had an opportunity to meet. I have to say, we sure know how to celebrate in the Redoubt - we are truly blessed!
Happy Birthday Master Hand Grenade! What an honor to have been chosen to be your parents.
I live a life of ultimate women's liberation. My freedom is abundant and life-giving. I truly am blessed among women. I, Enola Gay, a stay-at-home wife and mother am the poster child for a new breed of women libbers.
Traditionally, women's lib has been associated with breaking the bonds of a restrictive home-centered life and pursuing the "fulfilling" passions of life beyond the family. It has been about the "self" focused desires of women to stand on "equal" footing with men. Unfortunately, rather than women achieving their longed for freedom, women's lib has effectively shackled women with the responsibilities of both women and men.
When I was growing up, I bought into the "new normal" for women. I eschewed the thought of marriage and children, embracing the idea of being independent, powerful and marvelously free. I left my family home, moved to the city and went to work, enthusiastically embracing my new found "freedom".
Little by little, I realized that my "freedom" was nothing more than an illusion. I had embraced women's liberation and in doing so I had shackled myself to the responsibilities traditionally shouldered by men.
Ten years I lost. Ten years of doubling my burden. For ten years I carried the responsibilities of both a man and a woman. And then I woke up. I left the false world of "women's liberation" and became truly liberated. I was liberated from being responsible for financially supporting my family. I was liberated from working for someone else for mere money. I was liberated from having to go to work when I was sick or when my children were ill. I was liberated from having to put aside my passions and desires simply because I had to collect a pay check. I was liberated from working for someone else and was finally allowed to simply work for my family and myself. I was liberated indeed.
Today, my husband got up and went to work. It was 5°. He works outside. And his knee is still sore from knee surgery. But he went to work. He went to work because it is his job to support our family. He doesn't particularly like his job, but he does it anyway. Why? Because that is his burden and he does it because he loves us. My husband has relieved me of the job of living in a man's world. I don't have to work outside when it is 5°. I don't have to do physical labor with a sore knee. I am liberated.
As a stay-at-home wife I have tremendous freedom. I have the freedom to pursue dreams that would have been unattainable had I not left the working world. I have the freedom to cultivate creativity, to create a beautiful home and to freely minister to all of the people that I love. I have the freedom to work for eternal purposes, not just monetary gain. I have the freedom to be a woman - nothing more, nothing less - just what I was created to be.
I can't tell you how thankful I am to have been liberated. I am so glad that I do not have to bear the burden of both man and woman, that I am free to fully embrace my wonderful, abundant life. Oh, the blessings of true women's liberation.
We didn't have a television when I was little and we never went to the movies. I didn't have any scary images filling my mind. My childhood was wholesome and uncomplicated - and yet I dreamed unspeakable dreams. I couldn't understand my dreams. I had no idea where they had come from. I knew only that they terrified me and filled me with dread. And then I read "The Diary of Anne Frank". At 9 years old, I sat curled in a chair next to the wood stove, engrossed in the story of young Anne, knowing in the very core of my being that this atrocious persecution was the stuff that filled my dreams.
That night, as I lay in my cozy, warm bed, I prayed. I thanked God for warm blankets and a roof over my head. I thanked Him for enough food to eat and indoor plumbing. I thanked Him for my family and my gloves and my boots. I lay in bed thanking God for every good thing I could think of.
My dreams kept coming, however, they didn't scare me as they once had. I dreamt of running with my family and hiding and always being two steps ahead of my pursuers. I dreamt of hiding in plain sight yet never being seen. As a little girl, I began to plan for the future rather than fear it.
I grew up. The dreams ceased, for the most part anyway. I got married, had children and chased the American Dream. Even so, every night when I got into bed, I would thank God with a grateful heart. When the weather was snowing and blowing outside, I would snuggle into my blankets and thank the Lord for my comfortable bed and warm quilts. And I would know that this could all end tomorrow. Tomorrow, I could be on the run, cold and hungry. But tonight I was warm and impossibility comfortable and I was thankful.
When we moved to our "Little Shouse on the Prairie", I learned to be even more thankful. Living without electricity or hot water or flushing toilets make me thankful to have oil lamps, a wood cookstove and an outhouse. Living without refrigeration made me thankful for my pressure canner and living without a dryer made me thankful for the clothes horse my husband built for me. But more than all of those things, I have learned to be thankful for every hardship, every inconvenience. Why? Because every difficult thing has been my schoolmaster. Every impossible situation I have endured has strengthened me and built my faith. Hardships and trials have wrought in me the great gift of thankfulness. Because I have lived without, because I have struggled, I have the capacity to be truly thankful.
When I crawl into bed tonight, I will thank God for my impossibly cozy, comfortable life. I will thank Him for the hardships that He has allowed in my life, knowing they have been His way of preparing me to trust Him completely. I will thank Him for my warm bed knowing that tomorrow I could be running for my life. And even then, I will thank Him for preparing me, in His perfect wisdom, for just such a future.
Years ago, I felt compelled to continue the traditions I had been raised with - namely the Sunday Afternoon Dinner. You know the one - Roast, mashed potatoes and gravy, freshly baked rolls - the tradition many of us grew up cherishing. I loved walking in from church and breathing in the heady aromas emanating from my cozy kitchen. I loved the familiarity of Sunday Dinner and the memories it would build for my children. I loved that I always had dinner in the oven for spur of the moment hospitality opportunities. But I didn't love the work - the hurried, even frantic Sunday mornings spent barking out orders to my children, just to keep things moving along so that I could have everything ready before we walked out the door for church. I didn't love the mountains of dishes that awaited me after our big dinner. And I didn't love never really getting a day of rest.
And so, I changed our tradition. I began to cook our big family dinner on Saturday. I varied the menu and rotated between roast, ham, chicken and even pork chops. Knowing there would be leftovers, I began to plan soups for Sunday dinner. Making roll dough the night before, I was able to turn Sunday into a true day of rest. Now, Sunday morning is peaceful, no rushing or hurrying about and with a big pot of soup on the stove and rolls raising in the warming oven, we always have a meal ready for guests. Sunday has become restful indeed.
Every once in a while, instead of soup, I will make Tea on Sunday afternoon. Tea is generally light, not involving a lot of work. Sunday Tea, served on our best china, bathed in firelight, is the highlight of a dreary winter afternoon.
This Sunday, Maid Elizabeth and I served a simple tea of Bacon Onion Galette and Biscuits with Raspberry Jam. A Galette is nothing more than a savory, rustic tart with a fancy name. It is quite simple to make - here is a rough recipe.
Bacon Onion Galette
1 pound bacon, chopped (or bacon bits)
3 large sweet onions
1/3 C butter (optional)
2 bulbs garlic, chopped
1 tsp. (or more to taste) Dijon Mustard
Salt & Pepper, to taste
1 C Parmesan cheese
1 pie crust (I used my buttermilk pie crust recipe cut in half).
Chop bacon into small chunks and saute in large saucepan until just beginning to cook. Add onion, sliced into rings. Cover and continue to cook for 15 minutes, adding butter if more fat is needed. Remove cover and continue to saute, adding chives (optional) and garlic. Saute until the onions until they are caramelized. Add the Dijon mustard and salt and pepper. Set aside.
Roll out pie crust into a rectangle (on a cookie sheet or rectangle baking stone). Sprinkle the crust with about 1/3 C Parmesan. Pour the onion/bacon mixture into the middle of the pie crust and spread to within 2 inches of the edge. Sprinkle with another 1/3 C of Parmesan. Fold the excess pie crust back onto the Galette.
Bake at 350° for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle with the remaining 1/3 C Parmesan and return to the oven for 15 more minutes. Serve warm.
|Sauteing the bacon|
|Rolling out the pie crust|
|I spread out the bacon/onion mixture and sprinkled with Parmesan|
|The crust has been folded over the Galette|
|Biscuits fresh from the wood cookstove|
|Tea is served!|
This Galette is rich - you can only eat a small piece - but it is wonderfully flavorful! Served with veg and a biscuit, it is perfect for Sunday Tea.
Sunday mornings at our house are often a hurried affair. Getting 7 people ready for church does not leave a whole lot of time to prepare a hearty breakfast, but not having breakfast is not an option. The few times I've hustled my family out of the door before feeding them I ended up regretting it - seriously.
Although I am sure that breakfast cereal is the quickest option, I can't quite reconcile myself with throwing sugar-laden fruity-O's at the children right before I expect them to sit quietly for 3 hours. And so, I am always looking for ways to produce a good, hearty breakfast with the least amount of work in the shortest amount of time. Well, a girl can dream, right?!
One of my favorite standbys is eggs in sausage cups. They take about 5 minutes to prepared and 25 minutes to cook (during which time I can get everybody ready). During the last 5 minutes of baking, I put homemade bread in the oven to toast and by the time the sausage and eggs are done, we have a complete breakfast - hot, hearty and full of protein.
|Cracking eggs into the sausage cups|
|Notice the ones with just the whites?|
|Mostly cooked - I add Sir Knight and my eggs now|
|Add some toast and breakfast is ready!|
Bake the sausage cups at 350° (or thereabouts) for 25 to 30 minutes (or until the eggs are done to your satisfaction).
Remember, sausage doesn't have to be pork. Just about any ground meat mixed with sausage spices will work well.
NOTE: Our children love to eat these cold - grabbing one on their way out the door to work or to play!
Joe weaves an adventurous yarn full of TEOTWAWKI excitement, carrying the reader on a rollercoaster ride of end of the world thrills. Sir Knight has been anxiously awaiting Holding Their Own VI: Bishop's Song, since he was laid up with a knee injury and devoured the first 5 books.
If you have a Kindle and have been awaiting Joe's new book, you can click on the link below and satisfy your Bishop and Terri craving.
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