Sunday, March 30, 2014

Forget About Gun Control - Let's Talk About Government Control

Miss Serenity is preparing for her biggest school final of the year.  She has been tapped to speak at this years 2nd Amendment Rally being held in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho on April 19th.  Her speech is finished, her note cards prepared and she is steeling herself to speak in front of a large, armed contingent of fellow patriots.  This will be her public speaking final.  It is essentially pass/fail, which I've always thought was easier.  I expect her to knock it out of the park!

Serenity's speech outlines the real purpose of the 2nd Amendment - explaining in concise detail the American citizen's responsibility in securing their free state.

Of course, we are not the only ones to realize the deadly course we have chosen to allow our government to follow - the video link below outlines the only possible outcome of our unchecked government.

If you are in the area, and want to hear Miss Serenity and other patriots speak about the 2nd Amendment, the rally will be held at the North Idaho Fair Grounds on Saturday, April 19th at 12:00p.m.

I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Blessings of "NO"

Most of you know that Sir Knight and I have had the desire to sell our homestead and move for a number of years.  When we originally bought our property, we had intended to live here forever.  We even purchased land with very few zoning requirements, hoping that one day we could subdivide and provide our children with plots of land to build their own homes, essentially creating a family "compound".

As our children grew older, our hopes and desires changed.  We found ourselves longing to move closer to my parents, to have our children grow up near their grandparents.  We wanted to become a community of generational living - all having our own homes, but in close enough proximity to shoulder each others burdens and share in each others daily lives.

Having a clear direction, we put our property on the market and began looking at options in the vicinity of my parent's.  Convinced that we would be moving shortly, I spent weeks packing all but the essentials and storing the boxes tidily in the horse trailer - anxiously awaiting moving day.

Quickly, we found the perfect property for our family.  It was a HUGE old house on 20 acres, complete with a barn, chicken house, garage and two ponds.  The house was rambling and quirky and full of character - a perfect fit.  The children had picked out their rooms and I was redecorating the house in my mind.  My thoughts were filled with hope and joy.  We made an offer on the house (full price, even) with the condition that our property sold.  Our offer was summarily rejected.  I prayed and prayed and prayed.  Sir Knight and I talked and planned and gave it another shot.  We made yet another offer, sweetening the pot, but to no avail.  Our offer was rejected again.  I was crushed.

The truth of the matter is that even if the homeowners had accepted our offer, our property hadn't sold.  An accepted offer wouldn't have made a whole hill of beans difference, we couldn't buy our dream property.  God had spoken.  The answer was "NO".

That was the beginning of a cycle of highs and lows, impossible hopes and dashed dreams.  Over the next few years, we would find ourselves hoping against hope that this property or that was finally the "one", only to be told "NO".   My best girlfriend's mother decided to sell their family home.  I had practically grown up there - it had to be the one!  NO.  A piece of property came for sale right down the road from my folks (where there is very little privately-held land - and it never goes up for sale) - that was the perfect piece!  NO.  Again and again and again, our dreams evaporated.

I would like to say that I took all of this gracefully, with perfect peace and contentment, but the truth is that I raged inside.  I cried and I questioned and I felt abandoned by God.  I kept thinking that if I just did all of the right things, if I tried harder, that everything would fall into place.  It seemed, however, that the harder I tried to make things happen, the more resounding the NO became.

I felt trapped.  My best efforts where for naught.  Our circumstances were less than desirable, but we couldn't seem to change them.  We couldn't sell, we couldn't move, we couldn't even change our current living arrangements without going into untenable debt.

I have to admit it - I was angry with God.  I had watched Him bless many of our friends abundantly, extravagantly - yet His constant answer to our family was NO.  No, you can't sell.  No, you can't move.  No, you can't live in a house.  No, you can't enjoy the ease and comfort of a normal life - even for a little while.  No, Sir Knight can't get a job that is easier on his body.  No, no, no!  And the worst part?  I hated my lack of faith.  I hated the fact that I questioned God.  In my head I knew of His faithfulness, His goodness.  In my head I knew that His plan for our family was perfect.  I just couldn't see the forest through the trees and I hated my lack of vision.  I was broken.

So, what did I do?  I hit my knees and cried out to my Lord.  I told Him of my anger.  I poured out my soul.  I asked for His forgiveness for my lack of faith.  I begged Him to sustain me through the valley of unbelief.  I prayed to desire His will alone and to live my life according to the will of my Father.  I practiced contentment, reminding myself of His many blessings on a daily, even hourly basis.  I sought to understand the very character of God.

I am so thankful that God loved me enough to tell me NO.  Through the years of disappointments and struggles, God has drawn me closer to Him.  He has shown me the depths of His love and the reservoirs of His grace.  He has taught me that we can't earn His favor, yet He delights in giving good gifts to His children, even when they don't deserve them.  He has taught me that His best work is often done under the shadow of grief and that hope is renewed every morning.  He has taught me that when I am at the end of my human strength, He will uphold me with His mighty right hand.  He has given me eyes to see and ears to hear - and that alone is worth every disappointment and every hour of suffering.

And here we are.  We still have not sold our property.  We still have no prospects of moving nearer my parents.  Sir Knight still works at a job that is very hard on his every joint and muscle.  We still don't live in a house.  We still have hopes and dreams and desires unfulfilled.  Our circumstances have not changed - but my faith has.  Every morning I wake with a mind filled with hope.  Not necessarily the hope of selling and moving and having an easier life, but the hope that God's perfect will will be done - that He is still on His throne and that He holds me in the palm of His hand.  I have the hope and the assurance that whatever God does with this family is right - whether it is accomplished here in "Little Shouse on the Prairie" or in the mountains of my youth.  I am exactly where God wants me!

If God had allowed all of the desires of my heart to be immediately and completely fulfilled, I would never have experienced the blessings of being told "No".  I would not have raged and questioned and cried until finally falling to my knees in submission.  I would never have scratched the surface of my faith.

I still would love to sell and move.  I would love to live in a house and see my husband working at a job that is not so physically draining.  But I am content.  I am content because I know that I can trust God with our lives.  I know that His plan is to prosper us and not to harm us.  And I know that being in the center of His will is exactly where I want to be.

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Birthday Surprise

Last week, my girlfriend Lady Day and I met with our other dear friend, Julianne of Providence Lodge to celebrate Julianne's birthday.  We met in a little restaurant for tea and spent the better part of the afternoon talking and talking and talking.

Lady Day, Julianne and I have been friends for many years.  Our children have grown up together.  We have celebrated with each other, cried with each other and occasionally been irritated with each other.  Our collective children, when they were younger, were affectionately known as "The Locust" because they would eat us out of house and home whenever we spent the day together.  While our husbands would talk over the problems of the world, we ladies would encourage one another.  We would share our hearts, snuggle our children and drink cup after cup of tea.

As our children have grown older, our get togethers have become depressingly infrequent.  We still make time for birthday celebrations and an occasional afternoon visit, however we rarely have an opportunity to get all of the families together.  The children have grown, many of them have married and begun their own families.  The ones left at home are busy, all going their separate ways.  Now, rather than tending small children, wiping noses and cuddling babies, we are talking about weddings and grand babies and our changing roles in life.

Oh, what joy there is in an afternoon of sweet fellowship with these wonderful, dear friends!  After catching up on all of our latest news, Lady Day and I presented Julianne with our small tokens of affection.  Lady Day's gift to our dear friend was perfect - a handmade "Naturally Concealed" holster.  Once Julianne chooses her concealed carry pistol, she will give measurements to Lady Day, who will then custom-make a holster so that she can conceal carry with ease.  If there is a more thoughtful gift to be had, I certainly can't think of it!

My gift was far less grand, but no less heartfelt.  Julianne's husband was diagnosed with cancer about a year and a half ago, and since then, Julianne has done her best to bring nothing but healthful things into their home.  She has cut out all processed foods and sugars and has even gone so far as to discontinue alcohol filled cleansers, lotions and bath products.  Knowing that natural bath products are expensive and hard to come by, I made a basket full of items crafted in my own kitchen, with ingredients I could pronounce.

I made some tried and true recipes and a few new ones, with great results.  Knowing that Lavender was one of Julianne's favorite scents, I made most of her bath products with a liberal amount of Lavender essential oil.  First up was Lavender Whipped Body Butter.  I used the same recipe as the Peppermint Whipped Body Butter, using Lavender essential oil instead of Peppermint.  Next up was my favorite Lavender Body Lotion.  I love the way it glides on, leaving skin so smooth and soft.  Not wanting to stop there, I tried a new recipe, Peppermint Citrus Sugar Scrub.  Sublime!  And last, but not least, I made a Spa Lavender Detox Soak, a soothing combination of Epsom Salts and baking soda, scented with a healthy dose of Lavender (perfect for night-time soak).

After I mixed and stirred and poured into containers, I loaded everything into a basket, added a couple of candles and presented it to my dear friend - bath products fit for healthy living.

The afternoon spent with my wonderful friends reminded me how precious and rare our friendship is - and inspired me to make more of an effort to nourish and maintain this lovely gift.  All of the busyness in the world is no substitute for the most treasured gift - the gift of "bosom friends".

If you would like to make a gift of healthy bath indulgences, you can find two of the recipes below and follow the links to the other two.  Enjoy creating a beautiful life!

Peppermint Citrus Sugar Scrub

1 C granulated sugar
1/2 C oil (olive oil, coconut oil, sweet almond oil)
2 - 4 T ground orange peel (optional - makes a great exfoliant)
2 T glycerin (optional)
10 drop peppermint essential oil (more or less)
10 - 15 drops sweet orange essential oil (or other citrus oil of your choice)

Mix sugar, oil, orange peel and glycerin together.  Gradually add the essential oil, mixing well.  Store your scrub in a glass container.  (I put mine in a metal powder container lined with plastic wrap).  TO USE:  Rub a small amount on wet hands, scrub body, rinse with warm water.

Crushing the orange peel using a mortar and pestle

Mixing all of the luscious ingredients

Spa Lavender Detox Soak

1 C Epsom Salts
1 C Baking Soda
Lavender Essential Oil

Mix the Epsom salts and baking soda well.  Add essential oil to achieve the desired scent.  You can use any essential oil you'd like, however, the Lavender is very relaxing.  Pour a splash into the hottest tub you can stand and take a leisurely soak.

In a plastic wrap lined antique powder tin

Rather charming, I thought

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Feathering my Nest

One of my greatest joys in life is creating a beautiful, inviting home.  Sir Knight has come to know, just by the faraway look in my eye, that redecorating or rearranging is imminent.  I especially love to use things in creative and unexpected ways.

Over the years, I have found that I can dress my house up any way I like with the things I already have.  Sometimes I wander through the "shouse" looking for a table or lamp to move to another area.  Sometimes, I look through the shed, the container or even the burn pile for inspiration.  Lately, I have been feathering my nest with anything and everything galvanized.

My romance with galvanized metal began a number of years ago when I was desperate to clean up the backsplash behind my sink.  When Sir Knight and I had brought in our old restaurant cupboard to serve as a kitchen cupboard in the "shouse", we put bead board behind the sink and counters.  After years of service, the bead board had deteriorated to the point of looking dirty and impossibly worn.  Wanting something that I could clean easily, I looked no further than our building material pile.  A number of pieces of metal roofing caught my eye and I knew they would be perfect for my purposes.  Master Hand Grenade and I put a metal blade on the circular saw, donned eye protection and used the kitchen table as a work table.  We measured and cut and used roofing screws to install our new black splash.  Perfect!  It is easy to clean, rustic and suits our rowdy family perfectly.

Our backsplash

Taking a cue from the back splash, I began to look for other ways to incorporate galvanized metal in our home (have I mentioned how easy it is to clean?).   We had junked a few beehives that were past their usefulness but I saved most of the components to be used for some as of yet identified purpose or another.  One day I was wishing that the table that sits next to the love seat in the kitchen had a bigger tabletop and suddenly I though "Hive Top".  I quickly trekked to the shed, grabbed a galvanized hive top and fitted it snugly over the existing wooden top of the side table.  It was just right, big enough to give me extra space but not so big that the table became unstable.  As of yet, the hive top is just sitting on the table, however, Sir Knight has offered to screw it to the wood with nice rounded head screws if I would like (I'm just sure if I'm ready to commit).

Hive top fitted over the top of a wooden table
Sometime later, I saw a gorgeous wooden wine barrel lid fitted with a metal band that was intended to sit in the middle of a table and hold a cheese board and wine or a lovely loaf of artisan bread.  I really wanted to bring that lid home, but it was exorbitantly expensive and I knew, with a bit of thought, I could come up with something that I had laying around.  In came yet another hive top.  The galvanized metal looks great against the rustic backdrop of our worn pine table and if I flip it over, it works great as a serving tray!  Multipurpose!

And as a table centerpiece
Last week, I was cleaning out the pantry (you should never have to use a broom and dustpan to clean the pantry!) and was looking around my various spots for some make-do shelving to make the pantry shelves a bit more useful.  I didn't find anything very romantic (a plastic milk crate and soda crate), but did spy an unused chicken feeder, galvanized of course, that was just begging to be used for something.

After I finished the dreaded pantry job, I fetched the feeder and scrubbed it clean, all the while trying to decide just where it should go.  First, I put it on the propane fireplace in the living room, filled it with burlap ribbon, electric candles, pinecones and antlers.  It was nice, but just not quite right.  While I stood there surveying my work, I heard the beeping of the washing machine in the bathroom.  I ran in to put another load of laundry on, glanced at the bathtub, and knew that my chicken feeder had found its home.

A 36" chicken feeder with the swivel top removed

The legs fit perfectly over the sides of the tub!
Disassembling my initial chicken feeder efforts, I moved the feeder to the bathroom, flipped down the legs and fitted it over the sides of my cast iron bathtub.  A galvanized, fitted bathtub caddy!  Perfect!  I added a few candles, some washcloths and a jar of homemade bath soak - creating a simply lovely, romantic bath accoutrement.  Because the feeder has sides, it holds a book quite nicely and the galvanized metal is the perfect medium in a bathroom setting.  I couldn't have purchased a better tub caddy!
A grain scoop candle-holder

After moving things from here to there, I found my coffee table (also a medical storage box on wheels) depressingly empty.  Keeping with the farm chic theme, I rescued a bent, slightly rusted grain scoop, scrubbed it up and set about creating a simple center-piece.  I fit two electric candles (not as romantic as the real deal, but better with pets and children) in the scoop, added a few berry branches and a bit of moss.  Simple, classic and just right sitting on a piece of reclaimed rustic barn board.

I love to feather my nest with unused things I already have.  Between the great outdoors and my burn pile, I have a unique, warm and quirky home that I love.  And with the incorporation of a chicken feeder, I have literally "Feathered my Nest"!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

You Might be Apocalypse Barbie if....

Image from Predator Intelligence
A number of months ago, Sir Knight and I took a much needed weekend off.  We left the children at home and made the trek to my parents house to spend a couple of days of wonderful fellowship.  We visited and ate and solved all of the worlds problems and generally enjoyed ourselves immensely.

One evening, my dad brought out a plate carrier that he had recently bought for mom, so that Sir Knight could help him get it all kitted out and ready.  Dad had mom put the carrier on, while he and Sir Knight moved around her, customizing all of the adjustments - letting it out a bit here and sucking it in there.  After the fit was perfect, they set about adding molle attachments.  "Do you want a dump pouch?", "How about a double taco?".  "Do you think a drop leg platform would work for you?".

As I sat there watching the proceedings, mom with her arms outstretched while dad and Sir Knight added accessories, it struck me - my dad and husband were grown up boys with their very own "Apocalypse Barbie".  Their "Barbie" wore combat boots and multicam and they could dress her in any number of tactical outfits.  They could outfit her with three day pack and an AR-15 for Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols, a Banshee Plate Carrier (with threat III plates), a Blackhawk CQB (Close Quarters Battle) holster (complete with a 1911 pistol) mounted high for operating out of a vehicle, 3 magazine pouches for the 1911 along with 3 double pouches for a total of 6 AR-15 magazines, for a mounted rescue mission.  Or, they could go light with Multicam summer-weight BDU's, a slung AR with a battle belt, a drop leg pistol holster and just a few extra magazines.  When you're dressing Apocalypse Barbie, the sky's the limit!

Image from Predator Intelligence
In an effort to help you determine if you, too, are an "Apocalypse Barbie", Maid Elizabeth and I have come up with a few indicators.

You Might be Apocalypse Barbie if.....

  1. You've ever uttered the words "Does this plate carrier make my butt look fat?"
  2. You have combat boot in multiple patterns and colors.
  3. You've ever received body armor for Christmas... and were excited.
  4. Your iphone has a Magpul protective case.
  5. You require the pattern on your magazine pouches to match the Duracoat on your weapon.
  6. You refuse to mix woodland camouflage with multicam.
  7. You wear R.A.T. boots and F.R.O.G. blouses.
  8. You really wish Infidel Body Armor would make contoured plates for a woman's shape.
  9. You actually think your combat boots look great with your long skirts.
  10. You've ever put your hair in a french braid so that your MICH helmet fits.
  11. Your son has ever uttered the words "My mom wears combat boots".
  12. You extol the virtues of "group standard" weapons to your girlfriends.
  13. Your local gas station owner seeks your advice when trying to determine whether to buy an AR or an AK.
  14. You have shemaghs to match all of your camo patterns.
  15. You hunt deer with a Steyr SSG.
  16. You've ever used the helmet light on your MICH helmet to find lost socks in the dark.
There you have it, a few hallmarks of Apocalypse Barbie.  My husband claims that boys don't play with dolls - so I guess I'm his "Action Figure"!  (I think he's really in it for the accessories!)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Off-Grid Chicks

One of the challenges of living off-grid is caring for animals without the convenience of modern electricity.  Stock tank heaters are a thing of the past, making winter a constant battle against frozen stock tanks.  Although it may sound easy enough to keep the ice chopped with an ax, it is actually a form of farm ballet, an exercise in perfect control.  You must chop with enough force to effectively break the ice, while controlling your exerted energy so as not to render the stock tank incompatible for use due to massive ax-inflicted trauma.

Although spring is welcome after a long winter (no more frozen stock tanks!) it brings with it it's own set of animal burdens.  One of the challenges we have had to overcome is adequately nurturing baby chicks without the use of a heat lamp.  Chicks have to be kept warm and in the past we simply plugged a heat lamp in, hung it in the brooder and walked away.  Easy!  Now, life is not that simple.  Our solar/generator system will run most things effectively, however, it cannot support anything that that involves resistive heating - meaning no heat lamps!

The last time we got chickies, we waited until late spring/early summer, when the temperatures were warm enough that we didn't need a heat lamp.  The problem with that method of chick rearing is that it generally takes nearly a full year before the chickens begin to lay eggs.  They spend their summer maturing and by the time they reach the age for egg production, the days get shorter and they just don't get into the habit of laying eggs.  That means that you have to suffer through an entire year of spending money on chicken feed with little or nothing to show for it!

We have had abundant eggs for a number of years, but our hens were getting up in years and their egg production had dropped significantly.  We went through the winter with no hens cackling in our henhouse, but knew we had to restock before summer arrived - we want fresh eggs!  And so, we visited our local feed store, picked out a variety of good layers and brought fluffy little chicks home.

A few of the chicks were really tiny.  By the time we got home, three of them were nearly dead.  Actually, when we were unloading them, I honestly thought they were dead.  Maid Elizabeth picked one up, looked at it and determined that it was only "mostly dead".  A few warm breaths as it lay cupped in Elizabeth's hand brought a flitting to the poor little chickies eyelid.  The other two were also "mostly dead" but not completely gone, so Maid Elizabeth grabbed a cookie sheet, lined with it an old wash cloth and laid the limp chick bodies on the towel.  They didn't move a smidge.  She slid the cookie sheet into the oven of the wood cookstove and closed the door.  The stove was just bubbling along with a slow fire, so it wasn't super hot - just right for incubating baby chicks.  Within an hour the chicks started moving around and by an hour and half we had to remove them from the oven - they were up walking around.

"Mostly Dead" chickies, warming in the wood cookstove oven

Rejuvenated chicks getting a little extra attention
After reviving the "mostly dead" chicks, we turned our attention to creating a chickie habitat behind our wood cookstove.  We brought in a wooden box that was small, but not tiny.  We laid newspaper on the bottom of the box (easy to clean) and added a layer of pine chips.  We grabbed our trusty Dietz lantern, filled with Kerosene, lit it and placed it in the corner of the box.  We turned it down pretty low, but not low enough for the flame to extinguish.    We did put up a small piece of cardboard to keep the chicks away from the lantern, however, we have come to find out that the chicks like it right next to the lantern and they hop back out when they get too hot.  We added food and water and a heavy towel that we placed over about 2/3 of the top.  We didn't want the towel to lay over the top of the lantern and we wanted the chicks to have adequate ventilation.  For the cooler nights, when the wood cookstove is stoked, we add a hot water bottle for the chicks to cuddle on.  That, along with the kerosene lantern keeps the chicks cozy and content.

Our make-shift brooder box has worked incredibly well.  The chicks are happy and warm and growing nicely.  We fill the lantern every evening and it easily burns for 24 hours with no problems.  We keep the brooder box behind the wood cookstove so that we don't need to burn the kerosene lantern particularly high.  Our lantern if far enough away from the stove not to be a problem and there is no (uncovered) open flame as we are using a Dietz.

Being off-grid is an exercise in ingenuity.  You have to be creative, finding new (old) ways of doing things.  We are happy to have a whole flock of off-grid chicks.  Now is the time to think of creative ways to go about the business of life.  Don't wait until you have no choice - choose to think outside the box today.

This is just another day in the life of "Little Shouse on the Prairie"!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Spring Beauty - Redoubt Style

We are enjoying stunningly beautiful spring-like weather here in the American Redoubt!  We've had a number of days in a row of sunny, warm-crisp weather that just requires one to enjoy the great outdoors.  The children and I have been rushing through school just so that we can hustle outside and get to the myriad spring chores that call our names.  It's hardly work basking in the warm sun with the gentle breeze of spring blowing through our hair.  Oh, glorious days!

As I headed outside this morning, something red caught my eye.  I ventured to the garden bench to investigate and was delighted by the sweet posy that had been plucked and artistically placed in a most inventive vase - a spent shotgun shell carefully filled with water!

Princess Dragon Snack found the first flowers of the season - Snow Drops.  They were poking their heads up through the decaying leaves in the garden and, wanting to leave a surprise for me to find, plucked one and placed it in the red shotgun shell for me to discover.  Sheer delight!

Oh, the joys of children and spring!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

No, YOU move

"Doesn't matter what the press says.  Doesn't matter what the politicians or the mobs say.  Doesn't matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right.  This nation was founded on one principle above all else:   The requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences.  When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth and tell the whole world -- No, YOU move."

                                                              J. Michael Straczynski

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


This is a post specifically written for women.  If you aren't a woman, you may wish to politely look the other way!

Ladies, modern society has us completely turned around.  We our taught to serve our children and shun our husbands.  We build our family's foundation on an alter dedicated to the worship of our young.  We cater to their needs, to their desires and to their demands.  We place their feelings above all else.  We allow them to sleep with us, to interrupt us and to disrespect us.  Our children take first place in our lives, with our husbands coming in a distant third.

This cannot be.  As wives, it is our duty, and our honor, to respect our husbands.  Here's the tricky part.  We need to respect them even when they are not respectable.  Does that mean that we have to agree with everything they say and do?  Of course not, that would be impossible!  But it does mean that when we disagree, we must approach them with a high degree of respect and honor.  We don't get to tell them how stupid they are or how juvenile or how idiotic they are being.  Instead, we gently present our case.  And we choose to accept their decision - even if it's wrong.

As Christian women, we are called to honor and respect our husband.  Never once does the Bible tell us to honor and respect our husbands if they are honorable - or even respectable.  We are told to do it because it is right.  Although being respectful to our husbands sometimes seems positively impossible, even odious, the beautiful harvest that we will reap is awe inspiring.  What harvest, you ask?  You will reap the blessings of a peaceful home.  You will reap the blessings of your husband's love.  You will reap the blessings of children who, watching your example, will choose to be respectful to you, even when you don't deserve their respect.  What you sow in obedience you will harvest in abundance.

Believe it or not, Sir Knight and I are far from perfect.  We do not always get along.  Sometimes he hurts my feelings.  Sometimes I make him angry.  Sometimes I think that a lasting marriage is truly an impossibility.  But I know the truth of God's word.  I know that I am called to respect my husband, no matter what the circumstances.  The trick sometimes, is knowing what respect looks like.  Over the years, I have found a number of ways that I can be respectful to my husband.  These things I do - always - to show my husband respect (even when I don't want to).

  1. When our family gathers for tea, I always serve Sir Knight first.  He is the husband, father, priest prophet, provider and protector.  He gets preferential treatment!
  2. When we share our afternoon tea, small children are not allowed in the kitchen and the older children (who take tea with us) are not allowed to enter our conversation until Sir Knight and I have spent time re-connecting.  He gets preferential treatment! 
  3. I never allow the children to interrupt their father.  He gets preferential treatment!
  4. I never volunteer my husband for anything.  I ask.  
  5. I never speak unkindly about my husband.  He is the man God provided for me.  To speak unkindly of my husband would be to speak unkindly about the God who gave him to me.
  6. I teach my children to love and respect their father.  I extol his virtues in front of them and teach them to forgive his human inadequacies.
  7. I pray for my husband
It is not always easy to be the wife God intends for me to be.  I struggle and I fail and sometimes I resent having to be respectful.  But in my heart of hearts, I know that God's word is true.  I know that God knows what is best for families and that what is best for a family is for the wife to respect her husband and for the husband to love his wife.  I need to respect Sir Knight - even when he hasn't earned my respect.  And he needs to love me - even when I am unlovable.  Obeying the word of God builds a foundation for the family that is indestructible.

Those who have ears, let them hear.  The world would have you build your house on the sand, but in Christ, you will build your house on a Rock.  Start building today using respect as your mortar.  Your house will stand - and your husband will rise and call you blessed.

Note:  I am having a difficult time answering comments - not sure what's up.  Please feel free to email me directly if you have a question.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Simply Perfect Body Lotion

Recently I have been experimenting with all things to do with personal body care.  It occurred to me the other day that I had no idea what any of the ingredients were on my shampoo other than aqua.  That is a sad state of affairs!  I make every effort to provide my family meals made with whole foods (as much as possible) so it would stand to reason that I would make the same effort with personal care products as well.  I have dabbled in homemade care products for years, however, until now, I have never jumped in with both feet.

I have been experimenting with body butters, sugar scrubs and homemade bag balm, but this week's project was body lotion.  The recipe I discovered has only 3 ingredients, but I have to tell you - it makes my skin so soft that I can hardly believe it!  My husband is especially thrilled with the results.  I find myself slathering lotion on at every available opportunity.

The first lotion I made I scented with Lavender essential oil.  Lavender is so earthy and soothing and is perfect for sore muscles.  Miss Serenity pulled a muscle in her back while we were working on the log deck and after the day's work was done she treated herself to a hot lavender bath and asked me to rub lavender lotion on her back after she was finished.  It helped her so much that she had me put lotion on her several more times over the next few days to facilitate the healing of her pulled muscle.

Grated beeswax

Coconut oil and beeswax

Melting over low heat

Completely melted

Cooled and ready to whip

Creamy lotion - ready to bottle

With such success with the lavender lotion, I decided to make something a little more "manly" for the men in my life.  Shuffling through the cupboard I came up with Fir Needle Balsam essential oil.  Oh, it smells so good!  Spicy and earthy and eminently masculine!  I added just enough to the lotion to produce a wonderful, heady scent without being overpowering.  I have to admit, even though I made the Fir Needle Balsam for the guys, we girls are pretty mad about it as well.

When you work with your hands, water, inclement weather and hard work take their toll.  If you are anything like me, deep fissures can develop if you don't take time to care for these hardworking members of your body.  I do really enjoy using a lotion that I can make in my own kitchen and am pleased by the fact that I know what every ingredient is and where it came from.   There is something comforting about that!

If you want to try your hand at making homemade body lotion, I highly recommend this recipe.  Use any essential oil that smells good to you - you can even make every member of your family their own scent.  Lotion take moments to make but the rewards are much longer lasting.

Simply Perfect Body Lotion
1/2 C coconut oil
3 T beeswax
5 drops of Essential oil (or more or less, depending on preference)

In a small saucepan, melt the coconut oil and beeswax over low heat.  I grate my beeswax with a cheese grater. It melts faster and is very easy to measure.

Remove from heat, add essential oil.  Allow to cool, stirring occasionally.  

When cool, use a stand mixer or hand mixture to mix to a creamy consistency.  Pour into containers and label.  

You can add extra beeswax if you want a more solid consistency or less for a very liquid lotion - it's up to you.

This lotion is somewhat oily going on, but quickly absorbs into the skin, leaving it impossibly soft and smooth.  It is rather addicting!

If you value knowing what you are putting on your skin, this is the lotion for you.  Enjoy!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Chunky Raspberry Chocolate Granola

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 at 350°.

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.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ordering Bees

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!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Homestead Security

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)
When Stoic first came to live with us, we was friendly but reserved.  He was very interested in the children and watched Sir Knight and I with a keen eye, reserving judgement until he knew us better.  After about a month, Stoic decided we were his family and his entire demeanor changed.  For the first few weeks, he allowed anyone in our home with nothing more than a quick sniff before granting them entry.  Once we became his, NO ONE was allowed in the house, on the driveway or even on the county road without his consent.  He changed from a furry teddy bear into a fierce defender of everyone he considered his.  While still a big love with his family, he became an entirely different beast with everyone outside his immediate circle.

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)
As our Tibetan Mastiff moves through our house, I am often awestruck.  He moves like a cat, even to the point that he will rub up against one of us when he wants attention.  He moves silently, with incredible grace.  If he hears or sees something outside and becomes concerned he growls with a low rumbling growl that begins at his tail and moves through his body.  Quite frankly, his growl makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.  I can't tell you how thankful I am that I am on this side of his teeth!  If he wants to look out the kitchen door window, rather than putting his paws on the door, he sits right up on his haunches and looks out the door - I've never seen anything like it!

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!
Tibetan Mastiff's are not for everyone, but they definitely are the perfect dog for our family.  Before investing time, energy and money in this beautiful breed of dog, do your research - make sure they are a right fit.  One website that we found extremely helpful is Tibetan Mastiff  It is full of helpful facts and tidbits, along with history and pedigree information.

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)!

Rules in a Tibetan Mastiff's House

I am the keeper of this house.  I am also one of the most ancient of warriors.  Do not even think about coming into my home without an invitation.  Not only is it bad Karma to tick off a warrior, if I have to defend my house or my family, you are mine.  I will keep you.  I do not suffer fools.

I am the legendary Tibetan Mastiff.  Tibetan is in my name.  It is very significant, a big deal, and of colossal importance.  Tibet is named after me.  How cool is that?!  Not only is Tibet named after me, the Tibet flag has my ancestors on it (well, a poor imitation, the artist was not very good).

I am the boss.  No impertinent  behavior allowed - except mine or the children.  If you are not me or them, behave.  It is your responsibility to be familiar with my rules, to be sure you understand them.  This is my house and all of the stuff here is mine.  Stuff is, balls, sticks, boats, couches, remote controls, socks, beds, humans (especially children), treats, shoes and anything else I want.  And it's all mine, mine, mine.

I am aristocratic and blue blooded (my pedigree is better than yours).  I am brave, obstinate, intelligent, stubborn and alert.  I can be dignified if I want to (but I don't want to).  I am fast, agile, stubborn, playful, sweet and loving.  I do try to be stubborn, but I always know best.  Sometimes a dogs got to do what a dogs got to do.  I want to please my humans, but I am a thinking dog.  I have energy to burn, places to go and things to do.  Leave me behind at your own risk.  Whatever happens is your fault, not mine.

To all who enter my home:  Expect a complete body search performed by me.

D.D. Anderson (2008)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Foundation of a Nation

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.

Allowing them a few minutes to sort through things in their minds, I went about my business, knowing they would come to me when and if they needed counsel.  Within minutes, my son came to me and said, "Mom, can I talk to you outside?".  Knowing that he knew the biblical method of solving problems I directed him to his sister.  "It is she you need to talk to, not me, son.  Your problem is with her, not with me.  Speak kindly and gently and take care of this situation".  He almost spat the words, "NO - I don't even want to look at her, much less talk to her!", and he turned on his heel and strode out of the room.  

Looking at my daughter, I knew that her sentiments mirrored her brothers.  The air was thick with tension.  Hoping my children would resolve their differences with no intervention, I held my tongue.  

Finally, I realized it was time to "mother" my children.  I went to my son first.  His face was set in stone and he really didn't want to hear what I had to say.  I didn't yell or fuss at him, or tell him he was acting foolishly, I just reminded him what the bible had to say about conflict resolution.  I reminded him that he was going to be the head of a household someday and it would be his responsibility to direct his family with wisdom and grace.  I told him that he was laying the groundwork for his future life - that how he dealt with things now would dictate how he dealt with things in the future.  I told him that he was laying the foundation for his family and that in turn was laying the foundation for the nation.  I looked my son in the eye, told him that I was proud of the Godly man that he was becoming, gave him a hug and walked out of the room.  

Fifteen minutes later, I looked out my front window and caught a glimpse of my daughter sobbing and my son encircling her in bear hug.  They hugged and talked for a few minutes and by the time they came back in, they were laughing and teasing.  My children had been hurtful and mean and had reacted poorly to each other.  They could have allowed their conflict to damage their relationship, however  (with a little bit of encouragement) they chose to talk to one another, admit their wrongdoing, ask for forgiveness and grant lifegiving grace.

God is so good.  When we choose to deal with conflict according to His word, we begin to build a foundation for our life that will not crumble.  I have been blessed to walk with my children from the time they were born, and speak into their lives.  I have found that, although it is important to be home when the children are small, it is almost more important to be home when they are older.  I have found myself in the middle of life-changing conversations, with my children sharing their very souls, in the middle of the day after they have had a run-in with a sibling or a cherished friend.  I have searched the bible with my kids when they have been angry and hurt and seen God's word become a soothing balm to their inmost parts.  I have listened while my children dispense the very same advise to their friends that I have  given to them.  I have smiled while my children have helped their friends honor their parents and offer Godly encouragement to them.  They are building a strong foundation for their lives, and in doing so, they are building a strong foundation for our nation.  

As parents, we have the ability to affect our nation by how we raise our children.  If we choose to allow the schools, the churches and the television raise our children, we will be lost.  We must actively engage in raising them, training them, discipling them.  We have to teach them how to interact with each other and with other people.  We have to teach them how to solve their own problems, how to control themselves and how to be productive members of society.  Our job is crucial, parents.  WE are the future of our country - not the teachers, preachers or any other number of people we put in charge of our children.  This country is on our shoulders.  It is our responsibility.  WE have to teach our children well.

Every day we build the foundation for our nation.  We build it in our homes, in the very hearts of our children.  As much as we would like to blame the state of our nation on "them", the direction of our nation rests firmly on our shoulders.  Parent up, people - we only get one shot at this!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Homemade Peppermint Body Butter

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
The ingredient list is simple and I have all of the necessary butters and oils in my cupboard on a regular basis.  Most of my supplies I have purchased from Brushy Mountain Bee or our local soap supply shop.  You can substitute one oil for another if you don't have them all but make sure that the hard oil and liquid oils are substituted in equal amounts.

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.

A beautiful vanity jar filled with this body butter would be an incredible birthday, anniversary or even baby shower gift (for the mom, of course).  Have fun!