Friday, May 31, 2013

Pecan Power Bars

I love making things that travel well so that they can hold up to Sir Knight's lunchbox.  Many cookies crumble and other deserts are too messy to take on the road.  While looking for something with a little punch (protein) to fill hungry tummies, I came across this power-packed treat.  I think these bars are better the 2nd (and 3rd and 4th...) day because the flavors have had a change to mingle.

If you are planning a hiking trip or other strenuous outdoor pursuit, you might want to consider making a batch of these protein filled bars.  You will not be disappointed.

Pecan Power Bars

1/2 C butter, softened
1/2 C brown sugar, packed
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 C flour (white or whole wheat or oat)

1 C brown sugar, packed
1/2 C butter
1/4 C honey
1/2 C heavy cream (condensed milk, milk)
4 C pecans, chopped

Line a 13 x 9 baking pan with foil;  butter the foil on the bottom and sides.

For the Base:
In a mixing bowl, cream the butter with brown sugar.  Add egg yolk and mix well.  Gradually add the flour.  Press into your prepared pan and bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

For the Filling:
In a saucepan combine the brown sugar, butter and honey.  Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook and stir for 3 minutes.  Remove from the heat; stir in the cream and pecans.  Pour over the baked crust.  Bake for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.  Cool completely.

Use the foil to lift the bars out of the pan and place them on a cutting board.  Remove foil and cut into squares.
Stirring the butter and brown sugar

The egg yolk and flour have been added

The pre-baked crust

Now, for the topping....

The cream has been added and the pecans mixed in

The bars have been cooled and cut

Yum!  These bars are solid - they hold their shape well

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Crown to Her Husband

When I was growing up, it was expected that any women of worth would pursue an advanced education, secure a well-paying job and embark on her own personal journey of "having it all".  She knew that her sense of worth came from accolades achieved in the business world rather than in the appreciation of "some man".  She knew that the only path to personal fulfillment was to follow her dreams and succeed in her chosen profession.  She knew, that unlike her unfortunate predecessors, she would never be dependent on a man to complete her life.  She, I... knew everything.

When I was in my early 20's I experienced an unexpected renaissance.  I began to question everything I had grown up believing.  I stopped ignoring the gnawing ache that I experienced every time I dropped my daughter off at preschool.  I began to allow myself to enjoy serving and caring for my husband.  I began to crave the praises of my grateful family instead of the "atta girls" from my boss.  I began to understand that the work and effort I put into my family had returns far greater than could ever be realized in a mere "paying" job.

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to know many different people, with many different backgrounds and many different talents.  I have watched as families have flourished and as they have failed.  I have seen wives build their homes up and tear their homes down.  I have watched as some women gave everything to their families and other women gave everything to their job.

When I was in the working world, I put all of my strength, effort and talent into making money for the boss.  When he told me to jump, I asked "how high?".  If my husband and I had plans for the weekend and a last minute "emergency" project came in, my plans with my husband were inevitably scrapped.  My job came first.  My boss, not my husband, was on the receiving end of my best.  In my quest for personal fulfillment, I exchanged the freedom of being a wife for slavery of being just an employee.

When women use their gifts and talents in their home, it is a thing of unsurpassed beauty.  I love cooking, baking and making my house a home.  I could go out into the world, start a business and be highly successful, however, that would be a waste of my talents.  Think about it.  If I ran a restaurant or a bakery or an interior design business, I could delight a few customers for a few years.  If, instead, I bake for my family and create a cozy, inviting home for my husband and children, I will impact generations of people.  By using the gifts that God has given me to serve the most important people in my life, I can direct the course of the future.  Just try to get a paying job to do that!

The truth of the matter is that when you use your strengths in a job, no matter how good you are, you are still just an employee.  Even if you own the business and you're the boss, your business is just a business.  It is not eternal.  But, your husband and your children are.  They deserve the very best of you - not the leftovers.

When you are feeling overwhelmed, unappreciated and like you're wasting your life serving everyone but yourself, be of good courage.  You are becoming a crown to your husband - an object of royal beauty.  Your children will one day raise up and called you blessed - something your boss will never do.  In truth, a paycheck is a poor substitute for the riches of true womanhood.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The "Normals" Guide to Shouse Living

It has been brought to my attention that our lifestyle is rather shocking to a large portion of "normal", grid-dependant, house-living, regular folk.  More than once, guests have mentioned that a passport should be required just to drive up our driveway.  Having lived our rather unconventional lifestyle for so long, I often forget what a shock it can be for the uninitiated.  In that vein, I have written The "Normals" Guide to Shouse Living, a primer designed to help "normals" navigate the lesser-known pitfalls of off-grid/shouse living.

1.  Toilet Etiquette:  The toilet is flushed, on a very precise schedule, which has nothing to do with bodily functions, and everything to do with the amount of water currently residing in the pressure tank.  Always ask your host before you flush.

2.  Bathroom Etiquette:  When the bathroom is in use, the curtains are drawn.  However, one must always announce oneself before entering the bathroom, just in case.

3.  Hatchets, Axes & Splitting Malls:  These tools, commonly relegated to outdoor use, are perfectly at home in the kitchen of an off-grid shouse.  When the lady of the shouse shoulders an ax, it is most likely to cut small wood or kindling for the cookstove, thus ensuring a timely and well cooked dinner.  Please, don't automatically assume that the ax-wielding lady of the house intends you any ill-will.  She will most likely continue a lively conversation while splitting firewood on the kitchen floor.

4.  Shoe & Boot Etiquette:  A shouse is meant to be lived in, therefore, removing ones shoes or boots at the door is not required.  To be perfectly honest, removing ones footwear could be a monumental mistake, as a shouse floor, regardless of the season, is not known for its cleanliness.  The lack of baseboards and walls, in combination with an 8' x 16' door opening and an outdoor lifestyle, contribute to the layers upon layers of built up grime and dirt.

5.  Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning:  In a shouse, the heating system consists solely of a wood cookstove.  If the air has a chill to it, simply add a log to the fire.  Remember, although the cookstove is wonderful to nestle up to on a cold winters night, it does contain real fire and will, therefore, not hesitate to burn you.  Ventilation and Air Conditioning are very closely related. They both consist of opening windows or doors, depending on the situation.  In extreme conditions, it may be advisable to open windows and doors, including the roll-up garage door.  During the height of summer, when nighttime temperatures are uncomfortably warm, all doors and windows are opened during the cool of the evening (and even overnight) and closed during the heat of the day, rendering the shouse moderately comfortable.

6.  Laundry:  Laundry is washed on sunny days only (to ensure full utilization of the solar system).  During warm, seasonable weather, the clean laundry is hung to dry on the clothes line in the front yard.  Although your skivvies are on display for the world to see, they return to your drawer unquestionably soft and sweet smelling.  During the colder winter months, the laundry is hung on the clothes horse in the kitchen.  It is essential that no strong smelling foods (such as onions) are cooked on the wood cookstove while the clothes are drying on the horse, or your clothes will retain a pungent, unpleasant scent until they are again laundered.

7.  Spring/Mud Season Etiquette:  During the long mud season (known in some locales as spring), make sure to wear only Wellington style boots.  Before entering the shouse, vigorously wipe your boots in clean patches of snow or swish them in puddles of water to remove as much dirt and mud as possible.  And for heaven's sake, don't take your boots off at the door!  The floors can be easily cleaned, however, your socks are another matter altogether.

8.  Bathroom Etiquette Revisited:  Although in a "normal" home, the bathroom is reserved solely for the purposes of personal hygiene and other, shall we say, more personal matters, the shouse bathroom serves multiple purposes.  Not only does a shouse bathroom house a bathtub and a toilet, it also contains lead acid forklift batteries, power inverters and charge controllers.   It is of utmost importance, when using the facilities in a shouse, that you maintain a calm and unflappable demeanor at all times.  Although rather unsettling at first, the sudden whirring of the charge controller or the cooling fan of the inverters is perfectly normal.  Dropping trow and running, screaming from the bathroom is truly frowned upon.

9.  Insects:  Because shouse living is a very earthy, back-to-the-land experience, you can expect a great variety of insects to share your living quarters.  Spiders are regarded as friendly helpers, as they greatly reduce the fly population and mosquito hawks are welcomed.  In an effort to reduce the ill-effects of the most bothersome pests, fly strips are hung at regular intervals (especially in the kitchen) and mosquito nets shroud every bed.  Remember, the nets are not just romantic, decorative additions, but necessary requirements.

10.  Pest Control:  When living in a shouse, you will be host to many little prairie creatures.  Do your best not to make them welcome.   Keeping a simple trap line (fueled with peanut butter), seems to be the most effective method of rodent control.  When visiting a shouse, it is not the least bit unusual to see a snippet of a rodent body peaking out from under one piece of furniture or another.  Don't panic.  The shouse owner will soon discard the body and re-energize the trap.

As you can see, there are many matters of etiquette that need to be attended while living in or visiting a shouse.  If you find yourself welcomed into a shouse or an off-grid home, you may want to consult this simple primer.  Remember, although no passports are required to visit a shouse, they are highly recommended.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Infidel Body Armor 2.0

A while back, Sir Knight and I field tested AR500 Body Armor by Infidel Body Armor.  We had heard a lot of hype about this armor and wanted to put it to the test.  We started with smaller caliber weapons and slowly made our way up the food chain.  We found the Infidel motto "Just Won't Quit" to be supremely accurate when dealing with the calibers this armor was rated for, but, we couldn't help ourselves - we wanted to test its limits and punch a few holes in the stuff!  Lets face it, you don't really go to a  hockey game to see guys in helmets push pucks around the ice, you go to see blood.  We wanted to make this armor bleed...

As promised, in addition to hitting the armor with 9mm, .45 acp., M855, 7.62x51 and 12 gauge rifled slugs, we brought out the big boys.  If you'll remember, none of the firepower we hit the AR500 with in our first round penetrated the plate.  Even the .223 penetrators (M855) came up short.  Our next course of action was to shoot the armor with rounds that exceeded the rated limitations of this armor (Threat III), just to see how it performed.

First out, an oldie but a goldie, a bolt action 30.06.  We used surplus 30.06 ap (armor piercing).  This stuff has a tungsten steel core that is a little smaller than a .22 caliber projectile on the inside.  Again, to get the full effect, we were shooting from approximately 50 yards.  We wanted to hit the plate hard.  Much to our surprise, the 30.06 ap defeated the plate handily.  The projectile passed right through the coating and the plate and out the back side - not deterred in the least.  We really thought the 30.06 ap would have at least been slowed down by the Infidel armor, but we were mightily mistaken.

Despite no black tip - the ammunition is steel cored - the
projectile is touching a magnet

First downrange - 30.06 ap

Zipped right through

Pieces of the jacket caught in the outer coating
Having blown a hole in it already, we thought there could be no harm in further blowing the armor to smithereens.  We brought out the AR50.  For those of you who don't know, the AR50 is a single shot, bolt action upper in 50BMG (browning machine gun) that attaches to a standard AR15 lower.  Again, for those of you who don't know, 50BMG is a WWII anti-aircraft round.  It is huge!  The projectiles we were using were called API, which means Armor Piercing Incendiary.  Not only did the 50BMG zip through the plate, it left a crater in our shooting backstop almost a foot deep.  It also completely separated the coating from the front of the steel plate.  Amazingly, the back coating stayed in tact.  I have to admit, it was fun shooting the 50BMG - not only does it pack a punch, but with the incendiary rounds, it had a really bright flash when it hit the plate.  Very cool!

Do you see how big the 50BMG round is when standing next to 30.06?

Adjusting the windage on the .50

The 50BMG crater

The plate had its coating blown off by the 50BMG

That's a really big hole!
All in all, the AR500 Infidel Body Armor measures up.  This is the armor to have.  It handily defeats every common round that is likely to be encountered anywhere on this continent.  It can take numerous (probably hundreds) of rounds and still retain its integrity, making it the survivalist/prepper's friend.

Although we did end up defeating this armor, it surpassed all of our expectations.  Infidel makes a great product, offered at a great price.  Their customer service is exceptional.  While I hope never to NEED body armor, I love the peace of mind of having Infidel Body Armor in my armory.

Related Links:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Innocence of Ignorance

Do you remember being a child and longing for the day when you would "be big"?  When you were 5, you couldn't wait to be ten.  When you were ten, you couldn't wait to be thirteen.  You just knew that the world would be perfect when you were all grown up.  And then, you grew up.  What had looked so enticing when you were young - freedom, autonomy, choice - came with a huge price.  Adulthood, that picture perfect dream, had strings attached - strings called responsibility, self-denial and obligation.  Now, having reached adulthood, you see clearly into the ignorant desires of childhood.  You realize that your innocence painted a rose colored picture of reality.

Sometimes, when I see the world spiraling out of control around me, I wish I could return to a childlike innocence born of ignorance.  I wish I could ignore the moral decay, the increasing dysfunction and the calculated destruction of our civilization.  I wish, when yet another headline shouts of political treachery, I could plug my ears and hum, pretending that all is right in the world.  I wish, when the gas prices skyrocket and the dollar tumbles, I could believe that it was just another matter of market adjustment and it will right itself soon enough.  I wish, that when the government tells me that I don't have to worry about a thing - they will take care of everything, I could believe them. I wish I could trust what the media tells me - that they take their job as the watchdog of the government seriously.  But I don't.  And I can't.  My rose colored glasses of ignorance were smashed years ago and have proven irreparable.

Although innocence is beautiful, it is tender, fragile and, when born of ignorance, dangerous.  Ignorance breeds apathy and slothfulness.  It assumes much and expects little of itself.  It appeals to the masses and leaves destruction in its wake.

Wake up!  We are no longer 5 years old, waiting to be ten.  We MUST see the world through the eyes of truth rather than ignorance.  This is our time.  Take off your glasses and see.  The prudent man sees danger and takes refuge - but the simple keep going and suffer for it.  Proverbs 22:3.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Shooting Essentials

WARNING:  This video contains some coarse content.

For all you folks that have been trained in traditional firearm handling methods there are some new, essential techniques you need to know.  Although many of you may never be in a situation where these techniques are necessary, it is better to know them and not need them than to need them and not know them.

I present to you......Gangster shooting essentials!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Spring Awakening

I love the renewing life spring breathes into Little Shouse on the Prairie.  After a long winter slumber, we throw the doors open wide and welcome the rejuvenating spring air.
See the hive box we used as a coffee table?

A number of years ago, Sir Knight added a little "sun room" onto the front our our shop. Every year since then, I have dressed the sun room to encourage the very best of outdoor living.
The kids love to sleep here on hot summer nights!

Oh, the feeling of sheer luxury we enjoy when we take our tea in the cool spring breeze of the sun room!

And from the outside....

Thanks for coming for a visit!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Young Men & Gray Heads

We live in a area surrounded (albeit sparsely) by neighbors.  Many are elderly, without family close-by and often in need of a bit of help.  One dear little old lady is a phenomenal gardener with a weathered face and leather tough hands.  As active and strong as she is, she is frustratingly incapable of doing simple things like tuning up her lawn mower every spring or repairing her rototiller.  Unloading a pickup full of saw chips, which in her younger years would have only constituted a couple of hours work is now an insurmountable task.  Our neighbor, whose knowledge in all things growing is unparalleled, has lived to see her body betray her while her mind remains yet keen.  She is at a point in her life when the wisdom of her years yearns to be complimented with the strength of youth.

Our children are young.  They are strong and capable.  Their strength and energy require an outlet.  We could direct them to a video game or an amusement park.  We could encourage them to spend their youth pursuing self-fulfillment and taking every advantage of their "carefree" years.  We think there is a better way.

Children and young adults have so much to learn about life.  They haven't lived long enough to have gained wisdom and insight - they need older, wiser people for that.  They long to be useful - to be competent and needed.  And they don't get that from video games, television or amusement parks.  They don't learn to be self-sacrificing, productive members of society by ordering their lives to serve themselves.

As the weather turns warm, our phone rings off the hook.  "May I speak to Master Hand Grenade?", "Is Miss Serenity available?", "I have a job that I think Princess Dragon Snack would be perfect for...". - our neighbors, calling on the strength of our children.  It is the best of both worlds, our children lend their youth and strength to our neighbors in exchange for a little bit of their wisdom.  It is the perfect symbiotic relationship - the old and the young, working shoulder to shoulder, head to head.

"Mrs. Brown" (our dear little old lady neighbor) has been mowing her lawn, thanks to Master Hand Grenade's thorough mechanic work, and the carburetor will soon be replaced on her rototiller, allowing her to begin spring garden work.  The saw chips have been carefully spread throughout her garden beds (thank you Miss Serenity) and her raspberry patch has been well-weeded.

It is not only "Mrs. Brown" who reaps the benefit of working with our children - it is our children who reap the benefit of working with "Mrs. Brown".  Miss Serenity has had the opportunity to learn about gardening from one of the best gardeners in our area.  Master Hand Grenade has learned much about small engine mechanics as he has striven to keep "Mrs. Brown's" equipment in good running order.  They have learned that serving others is always more satisfying than serving themselves.  They have acquired skills and discipline that will serve them throughout their entire lives.

Youth is not a time to obsessively cater to self-gratification.  Youth is the time to lay the foundation for life.  And the foundation that is built in youth is the foundation that forms our families and our nation.  Build well.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Godspeed, Uncle Jack

Uncle Jack looking at Dad askance
Last week, my wonderful uncle won his battle against cancer.  He was gently led by his Father into eternity.  Today, his wife, mother, sons and grandsons lay him to rest surrounded by a family large and friends innumerable.  My dear uncle has been gathered unto his people.

Death, as with birth, gives us pause for thought.  It makes us consider our fragile humanity and contemplate life eternal.  It also causes us to take stock of our most valuable possessions - our family. Death gives life to the verse "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also", Matthew 6:21.  For our family, this year has seen many  treasures stored in heaven.

Much more than wealth or possessions, these are our treasures.....

My grandparents and parents teaching my children to do-si-do

What generation gap?

Grandma adoring grandpa

Maid Elizabeth & Master Calvin

My children, husband and father - all playing in the woods together!

Miss Serenity

Master Calvin and his trusty side-kick

Our very own Princess Dragon Snack

My beautiful mother and my lovely children
These are my eternal treasures!