Thursday, May 29, 2014

Equipment Review - Corcoran Combat Boots

I have a confession.  I wear combat boots.  Not fashion boots, or pretty boots or feminine boots - but combat boots.  Nearly every morning I slide my feet into my boots, give the speed laces a pull and I'm instantly ready to meet the day.  My boots carry me through my morning hikes, daily wood cutting excursions and gardening tasks.  They accessorize my skirts, enhance my wardrobe and just plain fit my feet.  I wouldn't leave home without them.

How did I come to wear such eccentric footwear?  Actually, it was nothing more than a happy accident.  I started hiking a few years ago and quickly walked through too many pair of boots to count.  I would spend a few weeks breaking in new boots (blisters and all), walk about 300 miles, throw the boots in the garbage and start all over again.  Finally, I bought a pair of Corcoran combat boots.  I slid my feet into the boots and knew I had found my new best friends.  They were actually made to fit my feet - I didn't have to force my feet to fit the boots or have my toes squeezed unbearably!  The toe bed was wide and the arch support excellent, a perfect fit. 

I did have to break the boots in (I doctored blisters for about a week) but have worn them happily every day since (about a year and a half).  I have come to truly appreciate their ruggedness and fit and have even come to appreciate their handsome good looks!  I love them so much that I have added another pair to my collection.  Now, I have not only a stylish OD pair, but also black with leather toe caps.

As far as I'm concerned combat boots are a preparedness essential.  Comfortable, durable, well-fitting boots are a requirement if you are on the move or on the homestead.  Sir Knight swears by Danner boots and Master Hand Grenade loves his RAT boots, but me - I think I'll stick with my Corcoran's!

Until next time....


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Tending Your Own Garden

Many years ago, I lost a very dear friend.  We had been close - closer than sisters.  Our children played together.  Our husbands fellowshipped together.  We shared births and deaths, highs and lows.  Our families were in and out of each others homes and each others lives.  And then one day, that camaraderie, that friendship, died.  To say that our friendships death knell was sudden wouldn't be truthful, but unexpected - yes. 

When I finally came to realize that our sisterly affection had been replaced by not-so-subtle hostility, I was shaken to the core.  I immediately called my friend, asked directly about the cracks in our relationship and sought resolution.  What I was confronted with was rigid and complete unforgiveness. 

I was heartbroken.  Then I was sad.  And then I was mad.  I ran all of the reasons for our distance through my mind and couldn't really come up with one, single incident or situation that had brought such a fracture to our once treasured friendship.  The only problem that I could come up with was that I had stopped calling her and going to her house every week.  It had come to my attention that the only time we talked or got together was when I called her or visited her home or made the effort to invite her to my house for tea.  To top that off, when I seriously injured my back my dear friend didn't appear.  She didn't call to see if I needed anything or if she could take care of the kids or if she could help with the household chores.  Nothing.  I was hurt.  So what did I do?  I didn't call.  I didn't visit.  I stubbornly decided that if she wanted to talk to me, she could make the effort.

This went on for quite a while.  When I would see her in town, I would hug her, ask after her family and pretend that everything was fine - feeling very justified.  And then she had a baby that was very sick.  I went to the hospital, and prayed with her and braided her hair and sat with her, but she really didn't want me there.  The hurt just kept growing and growing, until finally, she wrote a scathing blog entry about her "friend" that wasn't truly a friend after all.

In the years that followed, I tried numerous times, to heal the rift that had developed between us but to no avail.  Every attempt I made was rebuffed or contemptuously tolerated.   When we saw each other, we would paste smiles on our faces and remove ourselves from the room as quickly as possible.  Our once tight-knit families became strangers to each other.

In truth, the implosion of our friendship rests equally on both of our shoulders - it is no more all her fault than it is all my fault. But even this great loss has had many blessings.  I have learned more from my friend since our falling out, than in all of the years of our friendship.  Let me explain.

One of the things that drove me crazy about my friend was the state of her house.  I know that sounds terrible, but if I am going to be honest, it's true.  She was a terrible housekeeper.  Her laundry was always piled high, her dishes never done and there was garbage on the floor.  Her yard was a mess, her basement abysmal and her children' bedrooms terrible.  It was bad enough that it was very distracting to me.  I loved her, but her housekeeping bordered on slovenly.  And it drove me crazy.  I knew that it shouldn't bother be, but it did.  It made me not want to visit her home.  It made me not want to put my baby down on her floor.  It made me question how she ordered her day if she couldn't even finish the dishes.  Between my feelings of disdain for her messy house and the fact that I felt like I had to make all of the effort to maintain our friendship, I quit trying and our friendship died.

And then one day, as my children were squabbling over some trinket or another, I caught myself saying something that hit me like a ton of bricks.  I said to one of them "That is not yours. It is not up to you to take care of it - it is up to your brother.  If he doesn't take care of it, he will have to suffer the consequences.  It is his responsibility".  And then it struck me - I had been irritated at my friend for not taking care of what she had.  I had always loved her old farm house.  I loved the wood floors and the lath and plaster walls and the big rooms and the huge windows.  I loved her house and she didn't take care of it.  I lived in a shop.  I cleaned it and cared for it, but it was still a shop - not a century old farmhouse.  My envy, my jealousy had prompted me to judge my friend.  And my envy, not her poor housekeeping skills, had damaged our friendship.  I had been so busy trying to tend my neighbors garden that I had forgotten to weed my own.

It is so easy to think that we know how other people should care for their possessions and the people in their care, but that is not our job.  It is our job to tend our own gardens.  We need to raise our children, manage our homes, love our husbands.  We need to be so busy taking care of our own "houses" that we don't have time to tell everyone else how to take care of theirs.

Even in the midst of broken relationships God is tending His garden.  And I am so thankful.

In the Service of the King -


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Sepp Holzer - The Ultimate Survivalist

A couple of months ago I stumbled across a goldmine.  Sifting through the standard gardening offerings at our local library I picked up a copy of "Sepp Holzer's Permaculture".  The subtitle "A Practical Guide to Small-Scale, Integrative Farming and Gardening" intrigued me and I brought the book home for further review.  I knew that Sepp Holzer was a kindred spirit before I had even finished the introduction.  His agricultural methods have garnered him the moniker "crazy", which at first bothered him greatly, but no longer offends him.  As Sepp puts it, "I have realized that many people find it difficult to accept when you do things in a way that is not so widely recognized.  This makes you difficult to predict and harder to control, which many people find threatening".  See?  A kindred spirit!

Mr. Holzer farms at at his family farm "Kramerterhof", which is in the "Arctic" region of Austria.  He is at 1500 meters (4500 feet) above sea level and grows everything from corn to kiwi, nuts, hops, cranberries, garden veggies and every kind of grain imaginable.  Along with his vast permaculture gardens he has a mass of 70 ponds, canals and waterways which create microclimates, water his agricultural interests and serve as breeding grounds for fish, snakes and frogs.  Not only does Kramerterhof support agricultural endeavors of every kind, it is also home to hardy, heritage breed animals.  Yaks, cows, horses, pigs, sheep and fowl of every kind call the Kramerterhof home and, in fact, do a majority of the fertilization and working of the soil. 

Permaculture sounds wonderful, right?  But to tell you the truth, I really had no idea what permaculture was.  It turns out that it is essentially organic gardening/livestock management on steroids.  The basic principles of permaculture are:

  • All of the elements within a system interact with each other.
  • Multifunctionality - every element fulfils multiple functions and every function is performed by multiple elements.
  • Uses energy practically and efficiently - works with renewable energy.
  • Uses natural resources.
  • Intensive systems in a small area.
  • Utilizes and shapes natural processes and cycles.
  • Supports and uses edge effects (creating highly productive small-scale structures).
  • Diversity instead of monoculture.
As I mentioned, I was enamored with this book from the first page, so enamored, in fact, that I had to order a copy for myself.  I wanted to be able to pour over the pages at my leisure and I knew that there was just too much valuable information to take in at one sitting.  I was right.  In the past few weeks, Holzer's Permaculture book has not left my side table.  Sir Knight and I have reviewed its pages seeking inspiration and direction. 

Although we are not able to immediately put into practice the myriad concepts in Holzer's book, we are making changes already.  Before adding soil to our garden beds we laid down ample "biomass" in the form of bark and branches.  We are planning more raised beds, but in a configuration encouraged by Holzer - something very different than what we currently have and, in my opinion, highly innovative.  We are looking at our little prairie with new eyes and a renewed vision.

Not able to stop at one Holzer book, I ordered his first book, "The Rebel Farmer".  The more I read, the harder it was to put down.  Holzer's opinions and theories are so like our own.  Not only does he want to farm the way he chooses, he believes that the government ought to just mind its own business.  It is his firmly held opinion we have become too dependent.  As Holzer puts it,  "What is regrettable is that others impose their will on farmers.  Farmers have to let theorists tell them how they should be farming their own land.  This dependence on public servants is a problem, since young farmers are brought up already to knock on the door of a public authority with their hat in their hand and to do what they are told to do".  Even in the heart of this Austrian farmer, freedom runs deep.

As far as I can tell, Sepp Holzer is the ultimate survivalist.  He grows or raises everything he and his family need to survive.  He relies on his water systems to provide power to his farm, his sheep to provide wool and his pigs to provide bacon.  He raises his own fish, his own fruit and his own firewood.  And he does these things with as little governmental interaction as possible. 

If you are striving to become more self-sufficient, Holzer's books are the books for you. If you want your animals and your gardens work for you instead of you working for them, Holzer's books are the books for you.  If you like to do things in a manner that is "not so widely recognized", Holzer's books are the books for you.

Check them out and let me know what you think.  I, personally, can't wait to get started!

Until next time....


Monday, May 26, 2014

Spring in the Redoubt

It is spring - glorious spring!  The weather has been beautiful - just right for planting and working in the fresh air.  We have been spending most every daylight hour outside, either working in the garden, cutting firewood or playing with the bees.  The earth is bursting with new life and we are giddy with joy just to feel the sun on our necks.

One of our goals this year is to have all of our firewood cut, split and stacked in our wood huts long before the searing heat of summer beats down on this vast prairie.  We have a load of firewood that was delivered earlier this spring that we are slowly whittling away.  As the logs disappear from the pile, the huts fill with freshly split wood.  It is a wonderful feeling of accomplishment!  One of the things we have figured out over the years is that a little work every day goes a long way toward filling our wood huts before the winter snows fly.  Sir Knight leaves for work early every morning, however, the children and I are home and are able to spend a chunk of time in the cool of the morning sawing, splitting and stacking.  We only work for an hour or so, but our progress is swift and sure. 

This weekend we made wood cutting a family affair and really made progress!  Sir Knight and Master Hand Grenade both ran saws (Saw Wars) while Princess Dragon Snack and I ran the log splitter.  Dragon Snack ran the hydraulics (she does a phenomenal job) as I hefted the wood.  Master Calvin hauled wood from the log deck to the log splitter and the guys periodically stopped sawing long enough to stack the split wood.  It was perfect symmetry.  Maid Elizabeth took care of household duties (cleaning, baking and laundry) while we worked outside and Miss Serenity spent her day working in town.  One more row and our first log hut will be filled!  Now, only two more huts to go.

Almost full!

Ready to fill another hut.
Gardening on our prairie has proven to require an ability far superior to mine.  When Sir Knight and I moved to our prairie home, I was under the impression that I was a master gardener.  No so!  I quickly came to realize that I was a fine gardener as long as all of the conditions were favorable.  This prairie proved more challenging that I could have imagined and my gardens failed year after year.  Finally, in an act of desperation, I began building raised beds.  Over the years Sir Knight and Master Hand Grenade have built a number of garden beds, but not enough to provide for all of our produce needs.  This year, in an effort to greatly increase our yield from our limited number of beds, we are planting a "square foot" garden.  It is amazing how many plants you can actually plant in such a small space!  I will keep you posted on our progress - I'm hoping that it will be a lavish yield.

Our garden arranged in "square foot" fashion.
In another attempt at unconventional gardening, we put in a few "potato towers" next to the garden beds.  We read a number of articles before putting these towers together and the opinions seems split - a lot of people said they had great success while a number claimed the towers to be a total failure.  Again, we will keep you posted of our progress.  You can judge their effectiveness for yourselves!

Potato tower cages fashioned from 2x4" welded wire, anchored with
a metal fence post down the center (for wind).

An 8" layer of straw.....

Followed by a couple of handfuls of dirt....

Cutting a seed potato.

The seed potatoes arranged close to the sides of the wire cage.

Master Hand Grenade arranging more potatoes.

Almost full.

Finished with a layer of soil.

Three completed potato towers.
Among all of the work, we took time to smell the lilacs and the children took time to be children.  Master Calvin became Calvin James - "Gentleman Adventurer".  He spent his time filling his satchel with treasures and looking very dapper indeed!

Calvin James - "Gentleman Adventurer"

I hope your spring is bursting with hope and life! 

Until next time....


Monday, May 12, 2014

**WARNING** Gluten-Filled, Sugar-Laden, Fat-Loaded Recipes

Mondays are generally very busy at Little Shouse on the Prairie.  The house has to be put back in order after a weekend of outside work.  The laundry has to be caught up and the pantry needs to be filled with fresh baked goods.  Miss Serenity and I worked from sunup and by noon the shouse was beginning to take shape.  The floors had been swept and vacuumed, the bread was rising and the sunroom had been arranged for summer.  After I washed the dishes, I sliced peppers and onions, cut up chicken and made a marinade for chicken fajitas.  After getting the bread into the oven, I quickly put together a cake for desert. 

This was no ordinary cake.  It was a Cinnamon Swirl tea cake.  It really shouldn't be indulged in very often - it's that good.  It is full of everything that is currently on the "Do Not Eat" list (but don't be bothered - that list will change again as soon as junk science discovers the many health benefits of gluten, sugar and fat).  If you are in the mood to defy current social health dogma, this is the recipe for you!

Cinnamon Swirl Tea Cake

3 C flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 C sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 C milk
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 C butter, melted

Cinnamon Swirl:
1 C butter, softened
1 C brown sugar
2 T flour
1 T cinnamon

2 C powdered sugar
5 T milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9 x 13 cake pan.

Mix all of the cake ingredients together, except for the butter.  After you have mixed the batter, add the butter and mix well.  Pour into the prepared cake pan.

In a separate bowl, mix the cinnamon swirl ingredients.  Drop by the spoonful evenly over the cake batter.  Using a butter knife, swirl the topping into the cake batter.  Bake for 28 - 30 minutes.

While the cake is baking, prepare the glaze.  After the cake is done (toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean), pour glaze evenly over the top (while the cake is still warm).

Cake batter

Cinnamon swirl mixture

Cake batter spread in the pan

Drops of cinnamon swirl

Swirled the cinnamon
Fresh from the oven and ready for glaze!



As requested, the recipe for the black-bottomed muffins that I made on Saturday.....

Black-Bottomed Muffins

6 oz. cream cheese
1/3 C sugar
1 egg
1 C chocolate chips

1 1/2 C flour
1 C sugar
1/4 C cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 C water
1/3 C oil
1 T vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla

For the  filling - combine cream cheese, sugar and egg.  Mix in the chocolate chips.  Set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix all of the muffin ingredients and stir well.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Fill paper lined muffin cups half full.  Top with 1 tablespoon of the cream cheese filling.

Bake for 20 - 30 minutes.  Cool.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.


Happy baking!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Saturday on the Homestead

Spring is nothing but exciting on a homestead.  So many things to get done with the weather finally cooperating!  We were busy, busy, busy today, so I will regale you with photos and then sink into my favorite chair and put my feet up! 

Two girls curled up with a stock tank full of puppies!

What could be better?

Calvin & Hobbes warming in front of the cookstove - after wading in a mud puddle.

Pre-drilling beams for our new fence

Loading beams onto the 4-wheeler

Moving a stack of the rails into the field


Master Hand Grenade flexing his muscles

Every beam is screwed into place - very sturdy!

Working together.

The fence doubles as a fort - just add blankets!

Perfect fun.

Calvin & Hobbes - Growing Up Country!

A corner

It's coming together.  We still have to add supports to the backside of the corner.

While the guys were fencing, I was making black-bottomed muffins

Adding the cream cheese and chocolate chip filling.

Warm from the oven!

While the guys were fencing and I was baking, Maid Elizabeth was making her famous "Viking Hair Wraps".

Still looks pretty good after a rowdy day outside.

This one was slept in.

And in a grown-ups hair.

After fencing, the guys started in on the wood deck.

Already getting ready for winter!
Have a wonderful weekend!