Sunday, April 29, 2012

Our Life in Pictures - The Business of Life

I'm so very sorry for the silence as of late - I have been extraordinarily busy with Naturally Cozy, homeschooling and spring cleaning.  It seems that I barely have time to breath!

Although the blog has been silent, we have been on the go.  Maid Elizabeth and I (along with Sir Knight and the older children on the weekends) have been hiking 3 miles every day. We have gotten faster and faster and plan to add some mileage as our stamina increases. Master Hand Grenade has been keeping the lawn (I use the term "lawn" very loosely) mowed and has been "spring cleaning" outside.  We planted two raised garden beds with raspberries and one with various herbs.  We are hoping to build a few more beds before it is time to plant, but we will have to see if that comes about.

Master Hand Grenade has been expanding his knowledge base as a Man-in-Training.  He and his grandfather built a Z-bar door for our chicken coop and have plans to build a similar door for the children's play house.  He also worked on a neighbors lawn mower and, with the help of his dad, got it running and serviced.  A project in his very near future is an out-house (complete with urinal!) for our back yard.

Anyway, I'm sorry to have been so lax on posts - please forgive me.  I will endeavor to persevere!

Sir Knight instructing Master Hand Grenade
Taking the lawn mower apart
Removing the air filter
Taking the top off the carburetor
Testing the newly repaired mower
Master Calvin helping with wood
New chicken coop door - hand built by Master
Hand Grenade and Grandfather
Newly planted raspberries
and herbs

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Strawberry Tea and Chocolate Tarts

Once again the time has come to celebrate Princess Dragon Snack's birthday.  This year we took a queue from her favorite book - Arianna and the Strawberry Tea and made Strawberry Tea and Chocolate Tarts.

A tea fit for a princess

The recipe that we had for the tarts proved rather troublesome so we ended up creating little graham cracker crust tarts in tiny bowls, filled them with the chocolate filling and called it good.  The children loved them and they were quite well received by the party goers.

Sharing secrets
Little brothers and their friends like tea too!
Good to the last drop
And so we have been blessed with another year with our wonderful little Dragon Snack.  Happy Birthday precious daughter.

Princess Dragon Snack on her old, small bike
And on her new (vintage) bike, aptly named "Princess Pretty"
Complete with a basket and horn!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Book Review - Without Rule of Law

Advanced Skills to Help You Survive

By Joe Nobody

I have a love/hate relationship with Joe Nobody.  Every time we receive a new Joe Nobody book to review, Sir Knight disappears for about 3 days.  He reads, re-reads and then reads the book again.  And then, the ideas start flowing.  At first they seem innocent enough..."Hon, we should put together some gear - 1st line, 2nd line and 3rd line.  After reading Joe Nobody's book, I found that I don't have my gear organized properly for survival applications".

Organizing gear - that sounds harmless enough, doesn't it.  But wait, there's more.  First, Sir Knight organized his gear.  He and Master Hand Grenade brought out load bearing vests, plate carriers and assorted molle pouches and took inventory.  They attached pouches, added holsters, adjusted straps and generally geared up.  They tried their new "kit" (what we used to call "tactical gear") on, moved around, drew weapons from the holsters, slung rifles and walked down the driveway (we do live in the country ya' know) and then they disassembled almost everything, reassembled it, moved things around and did it again.  Finally, they were satisfied that their 1st line kit was ready for service.  And then they came after us girls!  (This is the hate part)!

In the past, Sir Knight would read books and comment on their good ideas and then get on with life.  Not so with Joe Nobody's books.  He actually wants to take the information presented and implement it!  

Without Rule of Law concerns itself with scenarios that none of us ever want to encounter.  The author carefully and sensibly walks us through the possibility of having to hide, evade, scavenge and infiltrate in a post-teotwawki reality.  He presents potential real-world situations when you may be required to push the limits of commonly accepted polite behavior and provides step-by-step instructions on how to plan, equip, rehearse and execute an operation.  Without Rule of Law is written for the layman with no prior military or law enforcement experience.  It is easy to read, understand and implement.  This book is full of more common sense than any book I have read in a long time.  Sir Knight and I both highly recommend this latest installment in the Joe Nobody survival library.  If you are serious about survival, this book is a Must Read.

Now for the disclaimer:  This book will make you want to kiss the couch goodbye and get into the field.  In fact, since reading this book, Maid Elizabeth and I have been hiking daily, nearly 3 miles of varied terrain, even in the pouring down rain!  We both have our 1st line kit ready and will be deploying them on our hikes beginning this week.  We will be following with our 2nd and 3rd line gear in the near future as our conditioning improves.  

There are far too many good ideas in Without Rule of Law to cover in this simple review.  We will be covering a number of Joe Nobody's concepts in future posts, as we get geared up and into the field.

"I don't know of a single prepper who has any desire to utilize the content of this book.  Most hope their preparations will carry them through even the darkest of times.  We want to hunt, trap, fish and raise gardens for our survival, not take what doesn't originally belong to us.

Within our means, most of us prepared to a level that we believe will allow for a reasonable quality of life should the SHTF.  Most of us worry that we have overlooked something that may become critical when the stores are no longer open, and there is no rule of law".

Joe Nobody

Monday, April 16, 2012

New Tea Cozies are here!

Another shipment of tea cozy's has arrived!  They are beautiful and ready to grace your afternoon tea.  They are made in the U.S.A (actually, my mom makes them in her lovely mountain cabin!) and are completely reversible, making them two tea cozies in one.  They are all quite unique, and they are limited in number.  She did heed you folks who expressed a desire for camouflage cozies.  She made a number of woodland, day dessert and even O.D.  They are guys favorites.  If you are interested in purchasing your own tea cozy, please visit Prepared Family Products.

I hope you enjoy your tea cozy as much as I do mine.  "Where there is tea, there is hope".

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Need Drama???

Just when you think your life is not exciting enough.....

CAUTION:  There is a woman on a motorcycle that is a little racy - be forewarned!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Working Woman

Once upon a time, I thought I had it all.  I was a wife, a mother and a legislative liaison for a large and flourishing Chamber of Commerce.  I immersed myself daily in House and Senate Bills, wading through page after page of proposed legislation to determine their affects on business.  I wore snazzy suits and high heels and regularly mingled with political and business leaders to discuss "important" issues of the day.  I shook hands with senators and rubbed shoulders with corporate giants.  And then, I went home.

During my years as a "working woman" I held the philosophy of most other women I knew. Stay-at-home moms were lazy.  They were pathetically dependent upon their poor husband for everything.  They did nothing but wash dishes, sweep floors and hang out in their sweats all day.  I viewed them as an objects of scorn and derision.  While I was making a difference in the world, they were wiping snotty noses and watching "Oprah".

After years of "having it all", doubts began to creep into my subconscious.  Why did I feel so guilty when I dropped my little girl off at daycare?  What on earth possessed me to want to make my own bread and feed my family wonderful meals when we could order in a pizza?  Why would I rather work in the garden than have cocktails with political elites?  Something was drastically wrong!

Little by little, I was awakened to the reality that I was designed to be the Mistress of my home.  Slowly, the hold of being a "working woman" began to lose its grip on me and the desire to serve my husband, care for my children and manage my own estate took hold.

In the years that followed my exit from the working world, our family changed drastically.    We pared down our lifestyle to match our income.  We planted a garden, bought a cow and had more children.  We looked to our own family for confirmation and encouragement, not some suit in a fancy car with alligator shoes.

And then the real work began.  All the years I had worked, I had been positive that at-home-moms were lazy and ignorant.  Six months of running (and I mean really running) my own home and I had a new respect for the Mistress of the house.  Before I left the working world, I had no idea how many things I had let slide in my own home.  My estate was in ruins.  I had been so busy working for another man, that I had neglected the one most important to me.

I had to completely regroup.  And, I had to completely relearn.  I had no experience with being the Mistress of my home.  What should I do?  Where should I start?  First, I had to learn what it meant to manage an estate.  Now I know many of you are asking "what the heck is she talking about - does she really have an estate?".  The answer is yes.  I live in a shop, in the middle of a prairie.  That is my estate.  I am in charge of managing this entire property.  My husband had entrusted me with this sacred duty.  It is my job to see that this home runs well, that healthy meals are placed on the table.  It is my job to see that my children are loved and well cared for.  It is my job to teach my children and train and mold their character.  It is my job to see that the buildings, roads and vehicles are well maintained.  I see to the gardens, the bees and the building of infrastructure.  I attend to the sickness, the scrapes and bruises and the mental health of all of my children and my husband.  I manage the estate finances and work with the contractors (most often my children).  I also direct the estate businesses (our home businesses).  The truth of the matter is that I have never worked so hard in my life!

The reality is that a stay-at-home mother is at the very heart of our great nation.  We raise the children, we manage the home, we improve the economy and we shape the souls of the next generation.  Just try to find a CEO with that kind of job description!

I have read with great interest the attacks being leveled against Ann Romney (wife of presidential contender Mitt Romney) because she has "never worked a single day in her life".  I can remember a time when I would have uttered such an ignorant statement - a time before I realized that I was the Mistress of my home.  Now I just laugh at such nonsense.  Obviously, the strategist who made those statements has no idea what it means to manage your husbands estate.  And therein lies the problem.

And now, I must get back to my soap operas and bon bons....

Until next time.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Modern Day Prophets

When I was 10 years old, my dad realized a life-long dream - he opened a small country store.  Our store didn't carry the usual small town necessities such as groceries and hardware it was a little more, well more....

My dad sold used military surplus, guns, ammunition, horse tack and animal feed.  He also carried used furniture, sold hunting and fishing licenses and even had a few auto parts (used, of course).  Basically, he sold everything a country gentleman could possibly need.  When I was about 12, my folks moved up, buying a larger building in a neighboring town and expanding the business.   They enlarged the feed section, got in more surplus and even installed a bakery case that was stocked daily with fresh bakery items from a bakery about an hours drive away.  Dad built a wood stove and enclosed it with a steel "fence" (that was great for putting your feet on while warming up your toes) and had a few tables and chairs for the locals that spent a large portion of their time drinking coffee, watching CNN (the only news show on cable at that time) and discussing the events of the day.

I grew up listening to these colorful characters talk about the state of our nation.  To be sure, each one had an opinion, which was forcefully voiced and more often than not, they didn't think too highly of their neighbors strong opinions.  Even as a child I was fascinated with their differing opinions and assessments of our world.  However, my innocent childhood formed in me the knowledge that things could never go really bad.  I mean, we were a nation formed on biblical principles - with God being for us, who could possibly be against us.  Besides, our nation did what was right and right always wins.

But I did hear the whisperings.  A couple of the "old farts" would sit in the corner of dad's store and talk about unfathomable scenarios.  They would talk about "big brother" watching everything you did, telling you what to eat and how to raise your children.  They would discuss the death of liberty and the rise of socialism and, gasp, communism.  They would talk about teachers indoctrinating children and parents sitting back and allowing hideous propaganda to be preached directly into the hearts of their children.  They would talk while the others snickered.  They were dismissed as wackos and marginalized as crazy "tin-foil hat" people.  Nobody really took them seriously.

I admit that I too dismissed them as nuts.  In my childlike mind, I reasoned that people would NEVER allow socialism or communism to gain a foothold in this great country.  People would NEVER stand by while their children were being brainwashed with anti-family, anti-business and anti-patriot propaganda.  Americans would NEVER tolerate some government bureaucrat telling them what they could and could not eat and how they would be allowed to discipline their children.  NEVER.  This was America for heavens sake!

As the years went by, my naivety was slowly replaced by the impregnable realities of the truth.  The truth was that the men whom I had scorned in my youth had seen a future that my young eyes had been blinded to.  They saw an apathetic, lazy, self-centered population that cared more for their own creature comforts than they did for the good of mankind.  They saw an overreaching government that was poised to impose THEIR will on the people rather than being directed BY the people.  They weren't "tin-foil" hat crazies, they were modern day prophets!

Now, I am not one to be swayed by the latest conspiracy theories or fall prey to outrageous claims of secret society world domination, but I am much more likely to see boogie men (and women) in classrooms and slithering serpents holding political offices and occupying benches across the nation.  Gone is my childlike innocence.  I have seen first hand the destructive nature of our government and the ignorance of our people.  I have seen greed rewarded and honesty punished.  I have seen a nation with its moral compass pointing south.

From time to time, I still enter small country stores where old men in work-worn clothes and dingy hats gather together to solve the problems of the world.  I look for the ones in the corners that talk quietly amongst themselves, the scorn of the more rational old farts.  I hear their outrageous claims and their far-fetched ideas and I wonder - are they really far-fetched, or are these humble, fervent men the most modern prophets of all....

Monday, April 9, 2012

Spring, Antlers & Wattle Fencing

Ah, finally, the fresh breeze of spring blows through our snow barren fields.  Although the grass has not yet burst forth, there is definitely the promise of warmer days ahead.

In a quest to fill my lungs with fresh air, I have been spending an increasing amount of time out-of-doors.  Wanting to keep the dog (and the ducks and chickens) out of the gardens in front of the shouse, I borrowed an idea for fencing from my friends over at Forgotten Way Farm.  In days of old, wattle was used extensively, forming barriers and boundaries that were quick, inexpensive and utilized plentiful, local materials.

And so, off to the woods I sent the children, to collect as many saplings as they were able.  We don't have willow here, so they chose small pine trees.  We stripped them of their branches and cut them to the appropriate lengths and then wove a small fence extending from the cattle panel arbor to the sun room.  What a fun project!  We have plans for more....another fence on the other side of the arbor and then our biggest wattle undertaking - a wattle panel on the south side of the sun room.

As we began to clean and tidy and plan, we were buzzed by a hummingbird or two and, that being the case we just had to get out the hummingbird feeder.  Not having the perfect spot to hang it, we had to improvise and so out came the antler shed.  It really is perfect - with numerous "perches", I am quite certain it will prove very popular with the winged set.

Now, if we could only get a few more springlike days.....

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Equipment Review Retraction - Gerber Omnivore

Flashlight Shootout!

A while back we reviewed the Gerber Omnivore flashlight.  (The review can be found here).  We had used it for a couple of months and where more than satisfied.  Long term use (if you can call 12 months long term), however, proved the Omnivore to be less than satisfactory.  In this vein, we decided to provide you with a "Flashlight Shootout".

Contender #1 - Gerber Omnivore

  • Price:  $27.00
  • Construction:  Machined aircraft grade aluminum, waterproof - sealed with O rings
  • Batteries:  Capable of using AAA, AA and CR123 batteries (a huge selling point)
  • Specifications:  Ultra-bright LED lamp

Contender #2 - Thrift Store child's flashlight
  • Price:  $.25 (Yes, that is 25 cents!)
  • Construction:  Plastic (glows in the dark if you hold it up to the light!)
  • Batteries:  3 AAA battery pack (can use rechargeable)
  • Specifications:  Old-school multiple LED technology

How we conducted the test:

The Gerber Omnivore was used for multiple mundane lighting tasks.  It lived indoors, on a hutch with our radio gear and our rechargeable battery equipment.  It was used only by adults (with the occasional teenager using it to light the way to the generator) and never was exposed to moisture.  

The thrift store child's light was owned by a three year old.  It spent most of its life living under piles of toys, under beds and sitting in spilled hot cocoa.  It also survived several trips down the stair case, landing on the concrete floor.  It disappeared for approximately three months and was discovered hibernating in a snow bank.  It was used as a gun, a club and occasionally a flying projectile.

Flash Light Comparison:

How did our contenders fair?  The Gerber Omnivore's off/on switch failed completely, rendering the flashlight little more than a very expensive piece of aluminum.  We have been completely unable to contact Gerber (their website won't load using Safari) and have been unable to resolve the Omnivore's issues.  Even after disassembling the switch, Sir Knight was unable to resolve the problem.  It appears to be in a section of the switch that is sealed.  

The $.25 thrift store flashlight is still working well.  No matter how many times it bounces down the stairs, off siblings heads and off rocks in the front yard, it still performs flawlessly.  The on/off switch always works and the glow-in-the-dark feature is a popular feature with 3 and 4 year old flashlight owners.  The fact that Dad regularly asks to use his flashlight is also rather exciting.

The good, the bad and the ugly?  The expensive flashlight left much to be desired, namely, illumination.  Ultimately, if a flashlight no longer lights up it has become worthless.  We really wanted to love the Omnivore.  The fact that it could accept multiple batteries only added to its usefulness, however, it is only useful as long as it works.  We would rather purchase tons of cheap flashlights than spend a lot of money on one or two expensive ones that don't hold up.  It appears that the adage "you get what you pay for" is not true in this instance.  The thrift store flashlight was by far a better deal than the Gerber.

Once again, I would encourage everyone to use what they have.  If you don't use it now, you won't know what to expect when you really need it.  

We will continue our search for a worthwhile emergency flashlight, meanwhile, we hope that you "use it, use it, use it"!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Hope and Change

I would like change.  I wish I were thin.  Really, what I would love, is to wake up one morning in a new body.  Convinced that I could maintain a healthy weight, if only I could start over again.  Isn't that what we all would like?  A clean slate.  A new start.  There is only one problem - me.  I am who I am.  It was me who got me into this fix, and it will have to be me who gets me out.  A new body wouldn't make a bit of difference.  Oh, for a few months, everything would be great.  From the outside, I would look like a whole new person - but the reality of who I am, the real me, wouldn't have changed.  As time went on, that would become evident in my new body.  A few pounds here and a cookie there and I would be back where I started.

I have seen this replayed over and over and over.  Friends have moved great distances for the lure of more money.  When they have more money, they reason, they will no longer be in debt.  No more living paycheck to paycheck.  With more money, they will control the beast they have created.  Much to their dismay, however, maybe even to their demise, the beast is not conquered, it only grows.  With more money feeding it's every desire, the beast of their creation not only grows, but quietly consumes them.  Thinking they could change their circumstances from the outside in, they were lulled into a false sense of security.  "If only we could start over, we could beat this thing....".

I have known people who live in squalor, garbage piling high, a veritable epidemic waiting to happen.  They think "If only we had a new home, then we would keep it clean", only to find that wherever they go, there they are.  Their new home soon takes the shape of their old one.  Why?  Because they didn't change themselves from the inside - they only sought a change of address, not a change of heart.

Our leaders are selling hope and change. They are encouraing us to attempt to change ourselves, our neighbors, our cities and our nation from the outside in.  We give more money to the schools in the hopes of improving education.  We enroll more and more and more people on food stamps and medicaid, claiming to battle ignorance and chronic health problems.  We pour money into impoverished neighborhoods and move the underprivileged into "better" homes.  We make ourselves feel better because we are "doing" something for our fellow man.  But, the truth of the matter is that we are doing worse than nothing.  We are crippling people.  We are lying to them.  We are telling people that mere money will change their lives, but we are leading them down the path to certain failure.  The truth is that only diligence, hard work, and perseverance will change people's circumstances.  Only when people see that they are living wrongly can they begin to live rightly.  Giving mortgage assistance to someone who doesn't pay their mortgage doesn't make their lives better, it only extends the period of time in which they can avoid the inevitable.

Interestingly, when we get into the business of "helping" our neighbor at the expense of their own growth, we are the ones who end up paying the price.  Not only do they blame us for their predicament, they expect us to fix it for them.  After all, weren't we the ones who said this would work?  Think about it - we have, as a nation, attempted to fix the unemployment situation with government assistance.  That, of course, didn't address the real problem.  Now, we have unprecedented numbers of people applying for Social Security Disability (because their 99 weeks of unemployment ran out) and we are expected to cough up more money.  Why?  Because we told them we could fix their problems with other peoples money.  It didn't work.  In fact, it took away their incentive to work and robbed them of their self-reliance and pride.

The reality of life is that it is hard.  It takes work, disappointment and the guts to walk forward.  Life means making sacrifices and doing things you really don't want to do. But in the process, you change.  And then, an amazing thing happens.  As you change, so do your circumstances.  After years of diligently working hard and spending your money wisely, you find that you have a comfortable cushion - no more living from paycheck to paycheck.  After denying yourself the foolish cravings of your stomach, eating only what you know to be good for you, you wake up one morning with energy beyond your wildest expectations and clothes that are 4 sizes smaller.  Picking up the clothes on the floor and the garbage in the yard, even when it would be far easier not to, rewards you with a tidy, well kept home that you are proud to call your own.

We need to change our nation by changing ourselves.  We have to learn the value of diligence and suffering and sacrifice.  We have to the do the hard things in order to realize true change.  We have to quit putting money where our mouth is and instead encourage and value the work and character required to make us better people.

Offering hope to our nation requires work, not money.  We are going to have to get our hands dirty to change our lives.  Only when we quit trying to effect change from the outside will we have hope on the inside.  And then, only then, will we flourish as a people, a culture and a nation.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Monday, April 2, 2012

Book Review - Survival Mom

A while ago, I received a copy of Lisa Bedford's new book Survival Mom to read and review.  Although from vastly different backgrounds and with decidedly different approaches to survival, I found  that Lisa and I share a very important passion - keeping our families safe and preparing for what may be.

Lisa, who also keeps a website that goes by the name The Survival Mom, began her survival journey with the threat of Y2K.  While Y2K amounted to less than a bump in the road, it became the inspiration for Lisa to begin exploring the road less traveled.  She began to start thinking "what if?" and "could that really happen?".  As she began researching she noticed an unfilled niche - women in the survival movement.  All that she read was written by men, for men.  Knowing that women concerned themselves with things of family rather than ballistics and bullets, she started writing for the moms.  And the moms responded.  They wanted to know how to care for their families, how to prepare for hard times and what to do if their world came crashing down.  They wanted to be prepared.  And Lisa led the way.

Survival Mom is a great place to begin your preparedness journey.  It is full of lists, encouragements and a can-do attitude.  While the information may be basic (for those of you who are full-time survivalists), it is the perfect book to give to the soccer mom in your life.  It makes preparedness seem attainable, reasonable and eminently prudent.  It is the perfect book for that sister-in-law that thinks you are a little nuts for keeping a barrel full of toilet paper in the garage.  Lisa has a disarming style that takes the crazy out of survivalism and replaces it with good, old-fashioned common sense.

Survival Mom covers everything from food storage and sanitation to security and evacuation.  Lisa has all the bases covered.  If you are looking for a tool to introduce your non-prepper/survivalist friends to the world of preparedness, this is the book for you.  Survival Mom is available on Amazon (and in bookstores).  Grab a copy, maybe two - the future of your sister-in-law might just depend upon it!