Monday, August 25, 2014

Product Review - EZ-POUR Jerry Can Spout

As most of you know, we aren't hooked up to the power grid, choosing instead to make our own electricity.  We have lived "off-grid" for 14 years and have learned a few things along the way.  Part of our electrical contingency plan is a hefty supply of fuel for our generator.  There are days, particularly in the dead of winter, when the solar panels just do not keep up with our meager electrical usage.  Frequently, we need to run the generator to do laundry and pump water.  Knowing our dependence on our generators, we fill and rotate our large stock of gas cans, most of which are the old, military "jerry cans".  We really depend upon our stored fuel, especially when the snow prevents us from making it out of our driveway.  Every week or two I top off our fuel cans so that we always have plenty on hand.

Although we have mostly jerry cans, I have grown to despise them.  Oh, not the cans, mind you, but the spout!  We have tried every spout we could get our hands on and they have all been junk!  They leak like sieves, come flying off at the drop of a hat and, because there is no relief valve, they pour in fits.  Every time I add gas to the generators I end up reeking of gasoline and the generator itself drips with spilled fuel.  I hate the smell, not to mention the waste.  So finally, after dumping gas on myself for the last time, I decided that I would have to find a better spout - either that or come up with a better fuel storage solution!

I spent the better part of an afternoon reading forums, shopping Google and looking in every conceivable internet nook and cranny, searching for a decent pour spout, until, finally, I found something that looked promising.  The EZ-POUR spout is a replacement spout for nearly any fuel or water container.  It comes with gaskets and caps and a replacement cap for the vent.  It looked interesting but it didn't look like it would fit the jerry can.  Then I found a tab that said "Replacement Parts & Adapters" and low and behold, Jerry Can Adapter was on the bottom of the list!  I was so excited!

I ordered the adapter ($5.98) and the EZ-POUR Spout (the regular spout is $10.95 - although I ordered the Hi-Flo spout for $13.95) and waited impatiently for them to arrive.  Shipping was quick and the spout and adapter arrived within 3 days.  I could hardly wait to try it out!  The jerry can adapter is hefty, not at all whimpy and cheap feeling, and it comes with two gaskets - 1 for sealing the can completely (for transport) and another that is designed to allow the original jerry can relief valve to work so that fuel flows freely from the spout.

The jerry can adapter
We screwed the adapter into our can.  It fit snugly and securely - a nice tight fit.  Next, we screwed the EZ-POUR spout onto the adapter (using the extension that is included in the kit).  With the extension, the spout was plenty long enough to tip into the generator without spilling a drop of fuel.  Lifting up the jerry can, fuel started flowing into the generator without spilling!  Not one drop!  It was amazing!  We filled the generator (no leaking!) and came back into the shouse smelling fresh and clean, and not like gas for once!  Revolutionary.

The EZ-POUR spout with extension
For all of you with old jerry cans laying around - this is the spout for you.  I think Sir Knight and I will be ordering a few more (just to have) and will perhaps order a few as Christmas presents for our prepper friends.  These are the real deal, folks. 

By the way, these spouts aren't just for jerry cans.  Apparently, they were designed as a replacement spout for just about any fuel or water can.  Look at the website to determine if the spouts would work for you.  I can't recommend them highly enough.

Until next time,


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Soft Multi-Grain Sandwich Bread

Finally we have been blessed with a break in the weather!  It has been unusually hot this summer, with too many days over 100 degrees.  I seem barely able to get a passable dinner on the table, much less provide freshly baked anything for my family!  Besides, who want to heat the house up even more when the thermometer reads 108?

With the slight dip in the mercury, I finally managed to get at least a little baking done.  Having subsisted on nasty cardboard bread for far too long, the first thing on my baking list was a hearty batch of whole wheat bread. 

Bob's 10 grain cereal

Covered in boiling water

Thick, like porridge
One of my very favorite breads is a crusty multi-grain bread.  I have tried numerous recipes over the years, all of which fell short of my expectations.  Recently I came across a recipe that looked promising and with a minor tweak or two, turned out a batch of two large loaves.  Oh, this bread was delicious!  Finally, a multi-grain bread that was flavorful, soft, chewy and full of  whole wheat goodness!

And so, without further ado, the recipe...

Multi-Grain Sandwich Bread
1 1/4 C 10 grain hot cereal mix (or 7 grain)
2 1/2 C boiling water
3 C all-purpose flour (or whole wheat)
1 1/2 C whole wheat flour
1/4 C honey (or 1/2 C brown sugar)
4 T butter, melted and cooled
1 T yeast
1 T salt
1/2 C thick cut oats (optional)

Place the cereal in a bowl (or Bosch mixing bowl) and cover with the boiling water.  Let stand, stirring occasionally, until the mixture cools to about 110 degrees, about 1 hour.  The mixture will resemble a thick porridge.

Once the cereal mixture has cooled add the honey, butter and yeast and stir (or mix on low until combined).  Add half of the flour and the salt and stir until a cohesive dough begins to form.  Continue adding the flour, 1/2 a cup at a time, until a soft dough forms.  It will pull away from the bowl but still be slightly sticky.  Continue to knead for 5 minutes. 

Place your dough in a large, lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel and set in a warm place to rise.  Allow to rise at room temperature until doubled in size (about an hour).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Lightly grease two 9x5" bread pans.  Without punching the risen dough down, carefully cut the dough into two pieces, gently form into loaves and place in the prepared bread pans.  If you would like, you can sprinkle oats on the tops of the loaves. 

Cover loaves loosely with a tea towel and allow to rise until nearly double (about 30 to 40 minutes).
Slide the loaves into your preheated oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown.  Transfer to wire racks and allow to cool (don't cut too soon or you will smoosh the loaves).

NOTE:  I doubled this recipe and made two industrial sized loaves.

In a greased pan, ready to rise

Risen and ready for the bread pans (Look at all of those wonderful grains!)

Risen in the pans

Fresh from the oven!

A cooled, sliced loaf

And that, my friends, is my multi-grain bread secret recipe!

Until next time,


Monday, August 18, 2014

Product Review - Trangia Alcohol Burner

Last year, I found a treasure at Goodwill - an antique "motoring" basket.  It was beautiful, mostly complete and in remarkably good condition - especially for its age.  Motoring baskets are very difficult to come by.  They hail from the halcyon days of motoring - when the journey itself was the true adventure and the destination was merely a pleasant diversion.  The baskets came equipped with everything a proper family would require to enjoy their tea time whilst traveling - tins for sandwiches and biscuits, tea cups and saucers, plates, silverware and a kettle and burner for brewing tea.  Even the basket itself was designed for the in-basket heating of water with nickel clad wicker around the burner assembly.

As I said, the basket was very nearly complete, but not entirely.  One enamel tea cup was missing, but, more importantly, the tea kettle was missing.  The original burner and water tank were in tact, but without the kettle, my basket was sorely lacking. 

The water tank nestled over the burner
I spent the better part of a year searching in vain for a kettle that would work for my basket.  It had to be small, with a folding handle.  It required a lip around the bottom of the kettle so that it would sit securely atop the burner assembly without slipping and I preferred stainless steel to aluminum. 

One day, flipping through The Sportsman's Guide, I came across what looked to be the perfect kettle.  It was small, stainless steel, had a folding handle and best of all, it was inexpensive.  I ordered the kettle and anxiously awaited its arrival. 

My new kettle - it is a perfect fit!

Once the kettle arrived, I pulled my basket down from its perch and with Sir Knight's help, readied the burner for our first test run.  I filled the water kettle with water, just to make sure that it didn't leak and proceeded to rinse out the alcohol burner.  Water gushed out of the bottom of the burner!  I had never closely inspected the burner - if I had, I would have noticed that there were numerous tiny areas that had small holes.  These holes rendered the burner assembly useless.  I was crestfallen!  My beautiful basket was nothing more than a pretty face - and although I am a hopeless romantic, I expect everything I have to be not only beautiful but practical.

It was Sir Knight who saved the day.  He suggested that we buy an alcohol burner.  He knew of one that was based on a hundred year old design with a proven track record.  The burner was small, so it would fit tidily into the basket and may even fit under the water tank just like the original burner.  We ordered two burners (Sir Knight had always wanted one for his multi-fuel stove) and waited to see how they would work.

The Trangia Spirit Burners arrived within the week.  At first I was a little concerned, thinking they were only designed to be used in a specific lamp or stove, however, my misgivings were unfounded as they performed admirably as a stand-alone unit.

The burner is made in Germany

Sitting in my burner assembly
These little burners don't require wicks of any kind.  They burn denatured alcohol, which burns incredibly clean - no black soot on the bottom of the kettle!  What really surprised me was how hot they burned!  We filled the burner with alcohol, took the top off, placed the burner in the basket assembly and touched it with a lighter.  Blue flames began to grow and as the burner warmed up the flames grew.  We positioned the kettle over the flame and waited.  Within 12 minutes steam was shooting from the tea kettle spout!  We had attained a full rolling boil.  Tea was served!

Merrily heating away

They burn denatured alcohol
The burner comes equipped with a screw-on cap so that you can leave fuel in it and transport it without any leakage.  The cap does have a gasket, however, the gasket must be removed before extinguishing the flame.  Once the unit has cooled, unscrew the cap, replace the gasket and screw the lid back onto the burner.  Quick, easy and painless!

Sir Knight tried his burner in the multi-fuel stove and was equally impressed.  It was easy to start, compact enough to transport and provided an instant, reliable cooking method while in the bush.  Denatured alcohol is inexpensive and stores well, making it a solid preparedness essential.  This little burner, in concert with a multi-fuel stove, would be a perfect cooking back-up during a power outage or other natural disaster, not to mention being just the right size to tuck into your first line gear or hiking pack.

Burning in a multi-fuel stove

We are now equipping all of our packs with these spirit burners.  They are inexpensive, lightweight and reliable - just right for your pack, your car or your house.  And, if you're a romantic survivalist - just right for your motoring basket!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Homestead Happenings

We have been busy with summer on our little slice of the Redoubt.  The garden is growing abysmally, a combination of poor soil, greedy critters and extreme heat, I think.  The bees are doing well and are comfortably housed in their newly built 8 frame supers.  Miss Serenity is enjoying the fruits of her labors in the form of her newly purchased Yamaha YZ250F and Princess Dragon Snack is learning to  ride the little Honda XR100.  Master Hand Grenade, Sir Knight and I did a bit of "remodeling" on our entry-way - very rustic chic I think!

Gluing 8 frame supers

Miss Serenity with her new bike

She saved her money a full year to buy this bike

She is one proud girl!

This sits above her bike in the shed

Princess Dragon Snack with her cool new ride

She is learning to shift and to mechanic!

Our re-done entryway...

Galvanized roofing and barn boards

We don't have a lot of room - but we do try to make the most of what we have!

Have a wonderful day!

Until next time -


Sunday, August 10, 2014

A New Chapter

If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you are familiar with Master Hand Grenade's story.  Although strong and able, he is not your average young man. 

Master Hand Grenade's hearing and motor functions were compromised shortly after birth.  His prognosis was dim.  After surviving his initial trauma, doctors were not at all encouraging about his future.  They declared him deaf, mentally and physically retarded and perhaps even blind.  They encouraged Sir Knight and I to apply for Medicaid to cover his health care expenses and Social Security Disability to help with the costs associated with raising a disabled child.  We didn't do either.  We figured that God had given us this child and would provide for his care.  And we never looked back.

As Hand Grenade grew, we didn't know what to expect.  Would he be as disabled as the doctors expected?  Or would he develop as a normal little boy?  We worried and we watched and we waited.  We knew that he did not hear as well as Maid Elizabeth, but was he deaf?  He didn't come close to hitting the "normal" milestones for a healthy infant, but did that just mean he would develop more slowly, or not at all?  We prayed and prayed and prayed some more.

Those first few years were a mixture of joy and sorrow, triumph and tribulation.  Early on, we decided that Master Hand Grenade was going to learn to function as a productive member of society.  It was going to be harder for him than for "normal" children, but he would just have to learn to overcome.  We taught him to communicate through sign language so that we could talk to him and he could talk to us.  When we figured out that he could hear (a little anyway), we taught him to always be close enough to the house to hear the dinner bell when we rang it.  We had him repeat our instructions back to us so that we could be certain that he understood what we expected of him.  We gave him chores and responsibility and expected him to complete his tasks, even if he had to develop an unconventional method to accomplish his duties.  We forced him (even when it was hard) to push past his comfort zone and do things that were hard for him just so that he knew he could.

Over the years Hand Grenade has grown from a challenged little boy into a competent young man.  He doesn't always do things in a conventional manner, but he always gets things done.  He doesn't hear very well, but he pays attention, repeats instructions and asks people to speak up.  He doesn't move like every other 18 year old man, but he is fast and steady and strong as an ox.  What he lacks in motor skills and hearing he more than makes up for in determination and ingenuity.  Although not like everyone else, Hand Grenade is a young man to be proud of.

And now a new chapter has begun for our son.  Having finished high school, Master Hand Grenade turned his mind toward his future.  Knowing that Hand Grenade wanted to become a butcher, our friend Patrice put in a good word for him with our regional mobile butcher.  After numerous phone conversations and visits to the butcher shop, Master Hand Grenade secured a job.  Beginning tomorrow, Hand Grenade will be training to be a butcher, doing everything from killing, gutting and skinning the animal to cutting and wrapping meat and curing bacon and hams and making sausage.  He will be learning to be a butcher from the ground up.  Master Hand Grenade is taking the first step into his future.

The one requirement for Hand Grenade's job - rubber boots
Along with a new job, Hand Grenade will be adjusting to a lengthy commute.  This young man, who had such a dismal prognosis as a baby, will now be driving himself 80 miles a day to and from work.  All these years we have been preparing Hand Grenade for this moment and now, all too soon, it is here.  Our home has been (and will continue to be) filled with praises and prayers!

Gathered around table to celebrate our son
This morning we gathered as a family in the living room to read the word of God, seek wisdom and pray for Hand Grenade as he embarks on his future.  As Hand Grenade knelt before his father, Sir Knight lay his hands on this young man and blessed him and prayed for him .  As with all of our children, we want Hand Grenade to walk with God, to seek Him and to serve Him.  For us, there "is no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth". 3 John 1:4

We gathered for a lovely afternoon tea to celebrate Hand Grenade's new chapter in life.  We indulged in (Quick)  Maple Nut Cinnamon Rolls and English Breakfast tea.  The recipe is quick and yummy - but you might want to cut the filling recipe in half - very sweet!

(Quick) Maple Nut Cinnamon Rolls

For the filling:
3/4 C brown sugar (packed)
1/4 C granulated sugar
3/4 C chopped pecans or walnuts
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 tsp. salt
1 T butter, melted

For the dough:
3 C flour
3 T sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 C buttermilk (or sweet milk with a splash of lemon juice or vinegar)
6 T butter, melted
1/3 C maple syrup

For the Icing:
2 T butter, softened
3 T maple syrup
2 tsp. milk
1 C confectioners sugar

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  Brush a 9" inch round cake pan with melted butter.  Set aside.

For the filling:  Combine all of the dry ingredients in a bowl.  Add melted butter and stir until the mixture is moistened.

For the dough:  Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Stir.  Add the buttermilk, melted butter and maple syrup.  Stir well.  Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead just until smooth.  Place in a lightly floured bowl, cover and chill for 20 minutes.

After chilled, roll into a 12x8 inch rectangle.  Spread with softened or melted butter.  Spread the filling evenly over the dough, leaving 1/2 inch border.  Press the filling into the dough.

Roll the dough, from the long side, pinch the seam close.  Cut into 8 even pieces and transfer into the prepared cake pan.  Brush with melted butter. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

For the icing:  Cream the butter and add the sugar.  Mix until the sugar and butter combine a bit.  Add the syrup and whisk well.  If it is too thick, add the milk until it is your desired consistency.

Allow the cinnamon rolls to cool in the pan for about 5 minutes and then pour icing over the top.  Serve while warm.

NOTE:  I doubled this recipe and put in a larger rectangle pan.  I also mixed up the icing and served it in a bowl so that people could choose to smooth icing or butter over their warm rolls.  In the future, I would cut the filling recipe in half, they would be plenty sweet.  Also, I added about 1 1/2 tsp. maple extract to the icing, just to amp up the flavor.