Sunday, July 31, 2011

Just when you think you have all your bases covered....

You know you have blown OPSEC when you discover that you are everyone else's only contingency plan!

(Click on comic to enlarge)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Canning chicken - Literally!

Having come into yet another case of chickens, Sir Knight and I thought it was high time we tried out our Ives-Way can sealer (a Craigslist find) with pressure canned foods.  Although we only had small cans (about the same diameter as a tuna can and slightly taller), we decided to utilize them and can all the chicken we could.

We put all of our chickens into two pots to simmer the day away and develop a nice, rich broth.  After removing the chickens from the pots, we lined a colander with clean cheese cloth, put the colander on top of a large stainless steel pitcher and poured the broth through the colander.  This step removes all of the little particles and produces a beautiful amber liquid.

Boiling chickens
Large stainless steel pitcher
Cheesecloth lined colander
on top of pitcher
After straining all of the broth, we poured it into clean quart jars.  Using the pitcher to strain the broth into makes pouring into jars a cinch.  After we filled all of our jars, we capped them off with Tatler canning lids, spun rings onto them and put them into the waiting canner.  10 pounds of pressure and 90 minutes later and we had 14 beautiful quarts of chicken broth ready for whatever culinary delight tickles our fancy.

Pouring broth into jars
While the broth was processing, Miss Calamity and I pulled all of the meat off the chickens and proceeded to cut the meat into medium sized chunks.  After all of the meat was cut, we packed it (lightly) into our clean cans and added about 1/4 tsp. of salt to each can.  After salting the chicken, we filled each can with water to about 1/4" from the top.

Chickens waiting to be deboned
Bowls of chicken
Chunks of chicken
Adding salt to the chicken
Pouring water over the chicken
The next step is critical, and not one required when canning with glass jars.  After the cans were filled, we put the cans on cookie sheets and put them in a hot oven.  The contents of the can must reach an internal temperature of 170 degrees.  Because sealed cans cannot expel air during the canning process, the air must be expelled prior to sealing the can.  In order to achieve this requirement, the contents must reach 170 degrees before sealing.  After the the chicken reached 170 degrees (I used a meat thermometer to verify the internal temperature), I removed the first batch from the oven and Sir Knight, using leather gloves, sealed each can.

Heating chicken to170 degrees
Putting lids on cans
Sealing cans of chicken
As soon as all of the cans were sealed, into the canner they went.  The first layer of cans must be on a rack in the bottom of the canner, but the rest of the cans can be stacked on each other as long as they are staggered and not sitting directly on the lid of the can below.  We filled 41 cans and were easily able to fit them all in our 30 quart pressure canner.

The first layer and part of the second layer
A full canner!
The foods processed in tin cans require a longer processing time than a glass jar.  Our little tins processed for 90 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure.

Metal cans are not a particularly economical method of home canning.  The cans are somewhat costly, however, the benefits in storage space (cans stack compactly) and ruggedness (an earthquake is less likely to ruin food preserved in cans than in glass jars) can justify the additional expense.

41 cans of home-canned chicken
Back in the day, metal cans could be re-flanged and reused.  Apparently, the modern cans are too thin to withstand the re-flanging process and reusing cans is not recommended.  We have the re-flanging equipment and may get a wild hair and experiment with our used cans.  It would be very economical to use metal cans if all you had to buy were the lids!  If we do experiment with re-flanging, I will be sure to write about the results.

Having canned foods on the shelf is such a comfort.  I am excited to add a new twist to our preparedness efforts.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The key to good government.....

When was the last time you saw incredibly well behaved children?  Someone "dressed" to travel?  Or a congressman who kept his pants zipped?  Sadly, for most of us, we have never personally witnessed any of these occurrences.  Why?  Because our country is no longer of country of self-government.

Once upon a time, citizens of our fabled nation put great personal pride in their ability to self-govern.  Their children were well mannered, their homes and business well run and their elected officials chosen based on their concept and execution of self-government.  In fact, the great men that founded and shaped our country wove the underpinnings of our nation around the foundation of self-government.  Freedom, they reasoned, belonged to a group of people who chose to govern themselves.  Government was, in fact, created to protect the freedoms of a self-governing populace.

Our government has expanded in direct proportion to our abandonment of self-government.  Throughout the years, we have shrugged off the shackles of conventional self-government in favor of ease, comfort and abdication of responsibility.  We no longer teach our children to be disciplined in their habits, rather we just put up with them until they are someone else's problem.  We can't be bothered to put our clothes on to go to town when pajamas and sweat pants are so much more comfortable.  Why would we want to discipline ourselves to only spending what we make when we can shift our financial burdens to our neighbors?  As a nation, we have become complacent and lazy.  We no longer govern ourselves and as a result, the machine that is our government, is more than willing to do it for us.

Make no mistake, we are our government.  If we don't balance our budget as a nation, it is because we don't balance our checkbooks as a family.  If our congressmen act like children - screaming, throwing temper tantrums and sulking, it is because we allow our children to scream, throw temper tantrums and sulk.  If the leaders of this country can't keep their pants on, it is because, we, as a nation, have no concept of fidelity in our own homes.  If our government is run amok, it is because we have allowed ourselves to run amok.  We don't govern our own selves so how can we expect other, undisciplined people to govern us?

Good government starts in our homes.  It starts in expecting ourselves to govern our own actions so that nobody else has to.  It starts with us teaching our children to govern themselves.  It starts by exerting internal controls so that external controls are not required.  Only when our people begin to govern themselves, can we hope to restore the freedoms that we so long for.  A free people is a self-governed people.  Without reestablishing our self-government, we are destined to be at the mercy of corrupt government.  Self-government is not for the weak.  It is for the strong-minded, rugged, freedom loving American.  It is past time we left our complacent and lazy selves behind and begin an era of freedom - freedom based on self-government.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Night Watch

Years ago there was a Sci-fi show called Babylon 5.  It was full of your typical aliens and humans trying to coexist within the confines of a strategically located space station.  While rife with intergalactic conflict, this show had a particularly political bend.  The first and second season simmered with treachery under the surface but by the third season the treachery reached epic proportions.  The earth government instituted a newly formed department (as a subsidiary of the executive branch) called the "Night Watch".  Their sole mission was to encourage citizens to inform on one another.  They were told to report "suspicious" behavior, ideological "differences" or anything "out of the ordinary".  They were encouraged to take their suspicions to the authorities so that the authorities could further investigate their "traitorous" activities. They said "you might not recognize sedition, but we will". The Night Watch reduced law abiding citizens into suspected terrorists.

Sir Knight and I watched Babylon 5 saying "never would the United States of America tolerate such Gestapo tactics! Our people would never turn on each other like that!".  It seems that we were sadly mistaken.  Our very own government, under the head of The Department of Homeland Security, has begun their very own Night Watch.  DHS calls their version "See Something, Say Something", but it is the same soul stealing program implemented by freedom grabbing regimes throughout time.

DHS wants you to tattle on your neighbor.  The current political climate encourages us to see a terrorist under every rock, a murderer in every shopping mall.  Maybe, if we all turn on each other, we won't notice our freedoms being being systematically dismantled by those sworn to protect them.  Maybe, if you tell on me, they won't come after you.  Ya, that worked out really well for Nazi sympathizers, too.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The coming collapse....

How we start our morning-
in spite of glitches!
It has happened!  Well, at least it has happened in this "little shouse on the prairie".  When I got up this morning, I went to the kitchen and filled my electric tea kettle with fresh water so that I could brew our morning pot of tea.  I pushed the button, if fired up and then suddenly turned itself off.  As the tea kettle shut down, the refrigerator shuddered to a stop and then, from the bathroom, came the screaming of the inverter, indicating that it, too, was shutting down due to low battery voltage.  It's just another day "liven' the dream"!

Typically in the summer, we never have to worry about not having enough power.  The sun shines high overhead, the panels convert the UV into power and we have an endless stream of energy to run our little shouse.  This year has been a little different.  While the majority of United States bakes in an unrelenting hothouse, we are experiencing cooler than normal weather with numerous cloudy, blustery days.  Normally, that wouldn't be a problem, since I would take the opportunity to run the generator on cloudy days and get caught up on laundry.  But, as one quickly learns when they are off-grid, there is no such thing as normal.  As I have mentioned before, we need a new carburetor on our generator, but, like so many other things in life, it gets put on hold when it is not giving us trouble.  Our generator has been put on hold long enough that it is starting to rebel.  I am able to run the generator long enough to pump water once or twice a day, but not long enough to do laundry and subsequently charge our batteries.

Our poor generator!
Our tired battery bank
Truthfully, if the was only one breakdown in our off-grid system, we could probably absorb it with little inconvenience, but, the reality is, when you are off-grid, there is never  just one glitch - they come in batches.  Not only is our generator complaining, our battery bank is tired.  Rather than storing all of that wonderful sun when the weather is good, our battery bank is storing only enough to last about a day, which means one day of bad weather puts us at the mercy of our generator.  And so, this vicious cycle leads us to this morning's failures.  We have experienced the collapse.

Luckily, having lived off-grid for over ten years, this is nothing new.  Really, it's nothing more than a minor inconvenience.  Today, I will haul out the James Washer and my wash tubs, and get started on that laundry that is piling up (which will work out quite well, as I will take a lot of pictures and do a product review on the James!).  We will revert back to conservation mode and only use the electricity that is absolutely essential.  Out will come the kerosene lamps and the children will be thrilled with our "non-electric" adventure.

The truth of the matter is this couldn't have come at a better time.  It is easy to become complacent when everything is humming along with no complications.  This was our wake-up call.  Now is the time to get everything in good working order, while we still can.  Now is the time to get a back-up generator and a new carburetor for the generator we have.  Now is the time to recycle the thousands of pounds of batteries in our shed and buy a reliable battery bank.  We have been given a little nudge.  Now is the time to heed the call so we won't be left in the dark when we experience a true collapse.

Instead of complaining about yet another hitch in our git-along, I am going to embrace the challenge.  I am going to use this time to learn, refine and prepare.  If and when a real collapse descends upon us, I am going to meet it head-on and be grateful for all of the hitches in our git-alongs that got us here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Craigslist personal ad

A friend gave this to Sir Knight, but I got a chuckle out of it.  Whether it is a real ad, we will probably never know.

An Actual Craigslist Personals Ad
To the guy who tried to  mug me in downtown Savannah night before last.
Date: 2010-09-27, 1:43 a.m. E.S.T.

I was the guy wearing the black Burberry jacket that you demanded that I hand over, shortly after you pulled the knife on me and my girlfriend, threatening our lives.  You also asked for my girlfriend's purse and earrings.  I can only hope that you somehow come across this rather important message.

First, I'd like to apologize for your embarrassment; I didn't expect you to actually **** in your pants when I drew my pistol after you took my jacket.  The evening was not that cold, and I was wearing the jacket for a reason... my girlfriend was happy that I just returned safely from my 2nd tour as a Combat Marine in Afghanistan.  She had just bought me that Kimber Custom Model 1911 .45 ACP pistol for my birthday, and we had picked up a should holster for it that very evening.  Obviously you agree that it is a very intimidating weapon when pointed at your head, isn't it?

I know it probably wasn't fun walking back to wherever you'd come from with **** in your pants.  I'm sure it was even worse walking bare-footed since I made you leave your shoes, cell phone and wallet with me.  (That prevented you from calling or running to your buddies to come help mug us again).

After I called  your mother or "Momma" as you had her listed in your cell, I explained the entire episode of what you'd done.  Then I went and filled up my gas tank as well as those of four other people in the gas station, - on your credit card.  The guy with the big motor home took 153 gallons and was extremely grateful!  I gave your shoes to a homeless guy outside Vinnie Van Go Go's, along with all the cash in your wallet.  (That made his day!)  I then threw your wallet into the big pink "pimp mobile" that was parked at the curb...after I broke the windshield and side window and keyed the entire driver's side of the car.

Earlier, I managed to get in two threatening phone calls to the DA's office and one to the FBI, while mentioned President Obama as my possible target.  The FBI guy seemed really intense and we had a nice long chat (I guess while he traced your number, etc.).

In a way, perhaps I should apologize for not killing you....but I feel this type of retribution is a far more appropriate punishment for your threatened crime.  I wish you well as you try to sort through some of these rather immediate pressing issues, and can only hope that you have the opportunity to reflect upon, and perhaps reconsider, the career path you've chosen to pursue in life.  Remember, next time you might not be so lucky.  Have a good day.

Thoughtfully yours,

Semper Fi,


Monday, July 18, 2011

Radio Free Redoubt

Map of the American Redoubt

For those of you who haven't heard, Radio Free Redoubt has come to an internet address near you!  Radio Free Redoubt is a fledgling internet based radio broadcast geared toward equipping people in the Redoubt states (as defined and coined by the folks over at Survivalblog) with news, information and practical help for the coming crash.  Hosted by John Jacob Schmidt, the show is well thought out, researched and entirely gripping.  Truthfully, it is a little erie to hear a broadcast that sounds like is should be in World War II Europe rather than 21st Century America.  

You can listen to Radio Free Redoubt every Sunday evening or, if you miss their live broadcast, you can listen anytime on the Bean Pod player located on their website.  I highly recommend listening in - there may come a time when Radio Free Redoubt is the only light in the darkness.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Off-grid Kids

I forget sometimes that we don't live an ordinary, suburban lifestyle.  Having lived off the grid for over ten years, I don't always remember that our normal isn't everyones normal.  When we moved into our  shouse with no electricity, running water or flushing toilets, Maid Elizabeth was 11 years old.  Master Hand Grenade was 4 and Miss Calamity 1.  Princess Dragon Snack and Master Calvin were nothing more than longed for dreams.  There was a distinct period of adjustment for this formerly suburban family, but we dug in and made the best of our chosen situation.  The first winter in our Shouse was wonderfully quiet.  With no electric refrigerator humming, no radios or televisions providing background noise and no computer demanding attention, our evenings were filled with family dinners, reading books aloud (by lamp light) snuggling under heavy blankets and sipping hot cocoa.  Truthfully, once we got past the withdrawals from the modern world, we were content, peaceful and productive.  Of all the children, only Maid Elizabeth remembered another life, but being 11, she viewed our new life as one huge adventure.  Master Hand Grenade and Miss Calamity grew up with the soothing hiss of the Coleman lanterns, thinking everyone lived this way.  They realized very early that they were never to leave the water running, because we would run out and have to start the generator.  They learned to wash their faces, hands and feet before they went to bed so they didn't get their sheets dirty.  Maid Elizabeth became my right hand, facing ferocious weather while digging a milk cow out of a mud hole, braving sub-zero temperatures to help me jump-start a fussy diesel generator and baking cookies, pies, cakes and everything else you can imagine in a wood cookstove to serve to our continual stream of guests.

Eleven years later, we are still off-grid, however our circumstances are much changed.  No longer do we enjoy the soothing sound of Coleman lanterns, but our shouse is lit by efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs.  Our silent propane refrigerator has been replaced by a noisy electric model.  Ipods, television and computers have invaded our once quiet household.  From time to time, I actually forget that we are not "normal".  Solar panels, a reliable generator and a huge battery bank lull me into a false sense of normalcy....and then, my kids go a-visting.

While spending the night with our very dear friends, Princess Dragon Snack and Miss Calamity were preparing to take a bath.  After the water had been turned on, allowing the tub to fill, Princess Dragon Snack turned to the friend they were staying with and asked, "why isn't your generator on?  How do you get water?".  At this point, Miss Calamity and her friend tried to explain that they had power so they didn't need a generator.  Still not quite understanding, Princess Dragon Snack pressed on.  "Yes, but where does your water come from?".  Again, the girls tried to explain.  They told her about power poles and how that brings power to a persons home and how that power runs the pump that brings in the water.  Although she didn't fully understand, Princess Dragon Snack accepted their answer, took her bath and wondered at the miracle of power lines.

The next day, I picked Miss Calamity and Princess Dragon Snack up at our friends house, and the first thing Princess Dragon Snack said was "Mom - did you know they don't have a generator?!  They get their water from the power-light poles!".  It was an amazing concept to our off-grid kid.  For weeks after, every time we went to town Princess Dragon Snack would say "Look - they have power-light poles!  They don't have a generator!".

What our children consider normal is very different from what the rest of the world would consider normal.  Our three year old knows when the choke needs to be adjusted on the generator and how to turn it off "all by his lonesome".  Our six year old wonders where everybody else's solar panels are.  Our 12 year old climbs on the roof to wipe snow off the panels in the winter.  Our 15 year old knows how to change the oil, service and maintain about three different types of generators.  Our 22 year old could run an entire household with nothing more than a wood cookstove, some stored foods and a Coleman lantern.  These are not your typical, suburban kids.  These are true, died-in-the-wool off-grid kids.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Every once in a while, I am overwhelmed with the shear quantity of preparations that must take place in order to meet the end of everything we know with some modicum of success.  There is food to store, medical supplies to procure, weapons, ammunition, communication equipment and clothing to stockpile, not to mention skills to acquire, gardens to nurture, animals to care for, a retreat to obtain and friends to warn.  Then, to top it off, we have to live a "normal" life, enjoying what we currently have but always keeping an eye toward what may be.  It's like riding two horses at once - nearly impossible.

Being a preparedness nut is something akin to always being on red alert.  Whenever I go to town, I am always thinking of alternative routes home.  If we plan a trip, we make sure we have plenty of food and water and other necessities so that we can hoof it home should we have to.  I rarely take the freeway in the city (there is no way to get off, you know!), instead favoring back roads and side streets.  I take tow straps, tie downs and jumper cables everywhere I go.  My medical kit goes with me, no matter what, and my concealed holster, well, I never leave home without it.  I am that girl.  Always prepared, no matter what.

But, it gets tiring.  Sometimes I look at the carefree world with a bit of envy.  They are unburdened, free, ignorantly naive.  They spend all of their disposable income on entertainment and electronics rather than rice and radios.  They get "enhancements" and beauty treatments instead of trauma dressings and emergency dental kits.  They have fun, while I am being responsible.  Then, I shake myself and look again.  What at first appears as unburdened and free is, in reality, foolish arrogance.  They think that our country is too big, too powerful to fail.  They believe that we can go on spending more than we make and never face the consequences.  They think that bad things only happen "to other people".  They are wrong.

I do tire of the constant threat of the end of the world. I become fatigued with the headlines proclaiming our demise.  I know it is coming.  I know I have to be ready.  But, every once in a while, I am overwhelmed by the magnitude of what we are trying to do.  When that happens, I have to turn off the radio, avoid the news and remind myself to put one foot in front of the other.  I have to rely on my husband to guide me away from the emotional aspect of preparedness and back to the nuts and bolts of preparedness.  I have to remember that I must always be ready - even when it seems that the world will perpetually go on as it has in my lifetime, with up and downs, but no real hardship.  I have to overcome TEOTWAWKI fatigue with the reality that IT is coming and I MUST be ready.

Next time you get tired of the news, the constant red alert status and the fact that nothing ever seems to change, realize that the frog is in the pot.  The water has been heating for quite some time and we are heading for a rapid boil.  Now is the time to be the like the wise virgins with their lamps full of oil awaiting the bridegroom, not the foolish virgins who's lamps went out for lack of preparation.  Now is not the time to succumb to TEOTWAWKI fatigue.  Press on toward the goal.  Run the race.  Be prepared.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Apple Pie and the Fourth of July

A group of our neighbors had a little get-together for the 4th of July and kindly invited us.  All of the families contributed in one way or another to the community feast and, as the 4th is our nations birthday and all, Miss Calamity and I decided to bring fried apple pies.

For years, I searched for the perfect crust for fried fruit pies, only to be disappointed time and again.  When I used regular pie crust, the results were dismal - the crusts crumbled, were too thick and never held together.  Every attempt I made seemed to bring me a little closer to an acceptable crust, but perfection alluded me.  Finally, on a whim, I tried a pasty crust recipe from a little known cookbook called Hearth & Home by Karey Swan.  It was fabulous!  Finally, an easy to make, easy to handle, perfect crust for fried hand pies.  We fill these pies with everything from blackberries to apples to pears - whatever we can think of.  We limit ourselves to making these about two times a year, otherwise, none of our clothes would fit!

This is what fried apple pies were meant to be!.....

Fried Pie Pastry
1 cup butter
1 1/4 cups boiling water
1 tsp. salt
3 T. sugar (omit if using for meat pies)
4 1/2 to 5 cups flour

Cut up the butter into a bowl and add the boiling water, stirring till melted.  Stir in the salt and flour till forms a ball.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate while making the filling.  Cut into 16 equal pieces and roll out on floured board.

Melting the butter with hot water
Adding the flour
Stir into a ball (the dough is very
soft and malleable)
Wrap in plastic wrap and put into refrigerator

Apples (pealed and sliced) (fresh or canned)
Flour (sprinkled over fruit - less for fresh fruit, slightly more for canned fruit)
Sugar (to taste)
Cinnamon (to taste)

Really, I just fake the filling.  I use whatever I have handy.  For the 4th of July apple pies, I used 9 quarts of canned apples, about 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of sugar (the apples were sweet) and 2 T cinnamon.  I adjust the sugar depending on the sweetness of the fruit and add a little bit of nutmeg if I am using pears instead of apples.  Just about any berry works well also (although I have never tried strawberries).

Four of the nine jars of canned apples that we used
I drain the apples in a colander
Adding the flour and sugar to the apples
Next comes the cinnamon
Gently stir to combine
Put filling on 1/2 of a rolled out pie crust
Fold the pie crust over the filling
Use a fork to seal the edges of the pies
Fry the pies in a large cast iron skillet until nice and brown, about 5 minutes on each side.

Fry until lightly browned (about 5 minutes per side)
Freshly fried pies
After the pies have cooled, I like to drizzle them with a little icing.  For these pies, I used 1 cup of butter, melted, 3 cups of powdered sugar, 2 tsp. vanilla and enough milk to make it drizzle-able.  Just stir together and beat until no longer lumpy.

Adding powdered sugar to the butter and
vanilla in the icing
Adding milk to create a drizzle
Stirring to combine
Beating with a hand beater
Drizzling icing
Fried apple pies ---- simply divine!

A whole bunch of empty jars!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Freedom comes with the highest price

Our freedom, so coveted by true patriots, comes at a price far greater than most of us realize.  When we think of freedom, most often we think of the noble men who fought and died to free us from the tyranny of King George, or of the brave souls who risked life and limb to liberate the world twice, in one century, from evil men who fancied themselves demigods.  But, how often do we consider the true author of freedom?

When God breathed the first breath into mankind, he could have chosen to enslave the human race.  Being the author of our lives, He could have given us no choice in who we worshipped, who we served or what we thought.  He could have created a worshipping throng to proclaim His goodness all their days.  Instead, He created a free people.  He breathed the breath of life into a people that could choose to love Him - or not.  He gave us freedom, from our first breath to our last.  God himself is the author of liberty.  And our liberty was purchased at a great price.  Blood.

When God chose to give his children freedom, He knew we would not choose Him.  He knew that we would be tempted by the world.  He knew we would choose to gratify ourselves, serve ourselves and love ourselves.  He gave us our freedom anyway.  And then, he made a way for us to belong to Him in spite of our rebellion - blood.  The blood of his son to be precise.

And, so it is.  Freedom has always been won with blood.  Never, has a single man been freed by the swipe of a pen or the clasp of a hand.  Freedom has always been fought for, bled for and died for.  From the beginning of time, our freedom has been purchased with blood - the highest of prices.

As we celebrate our nation's birthday, I urge you all to recognize the true cost of freedom. My freedom and yours has been bought and paid for with the blood of many.  Our freedom can't be won with words or platitudes, but only by the blood of great men who truly understand the price of freedom.

I am no slave.  I never will be.  I am a free man (woman), not because some government granted my freedom, but because God himself made me free.  My freedom has been bought. And so, my fellow Americans, has yours.