Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Renaissance Medicine

As I mentioned a few posts back, I spent the early part of last week sick.  Really sick.  In fact, I don't remember the last time I felt so poorly!  In fact, I didn't get out of bed for almost two days!  Two days!  That, my friends, is a first for me.  Ever.

I noticed, a few days before I succumbed, that my legs were sore.  Weird.  I didn't give it much thought and just got on with life.  By Saturday afternoon, was feeling pretty run down, but not ill, so I retired early, hoping wake up refreshed and rejuvenated.  It was not to be.  Instead of sleeping well, I tossed and turned, alternating between fever and chills, but worse than that, my muscles were on fire and my joints ached.  By two in the morning, nausea had forced me out of bed and to my knees on the bathroom floor. 

The rest of the night was a blur of fever and pain, nausea and chills.  By the time the sun shone through our bedroom window, I was too ill to get out of bed.  My fever rose throughout the day, barely kept in check by Ibuprofen.  All I could think of was "Ponderosa Plague" - the name I had come up with for an illness that had been sweeping through a small town to the south of us.  It had dreaded connotations.  The Ponderosa Plague had a fierce reputation, keeping people home from work for upwards of three weeks at a time!  It had even infected a young man at the butcher shop where Master Hand Grenade worked - keeping him home for more than two weeks.  And when he returned he was pale and weak and not fully recovered.  My symptoms matched those infected with the Ponderosa Plague perfectly.  I had to do something drastic!

The first day (Sunday) I was unable to even get out of bed, much less keep down any home remedies.  By Monday, I was still feverish and achy, but I did get out of bed long enough to have a half a glass of our homemade Elderberry wine (which was a feat - I hate wine!).  Back to bed I went, to spend another night tossing and turning with pain and fever.  Tuesday morning I slept in, enjoying my first pain-free hours in two days.  After I got up, I decided to go on as long as I could without Ibuprofen (for the fever) and it was my intention to at least do some basic school with the children.  Not only did I go all day with no fever, I finished school with the kids, did three loads of laundry, helped make dinner and baked a batch of cookies! 

That evening, I settled in with another glass of Elderberry wine (yuck!), spent a blissful night of sleep and resumed my normal schedule the next day.  Two days of sickness, one day of recuperation and the Ponderosa Plague had been defeated!  Amazing!

A number of years ago the kids and I spent time learning to identify local plant life.  We researched local edibles along with plants that had medicinal value.  One of the medicinal superstars that we found living in our back yard was the humble Elderberry bush.  Elderberry bushes are plentiful in our area and produce both flowers and berries that are edible.  The bark and the seeds, however, contain cyanide and therefore are NOT beneficial for human (or animal) consumption.  Many of my friends harvested Elderberries every fall and made and canned juice from the berries, which they kept specifically for treating colds and flu's.  Following their lead, Sir Knight and I decided to experiment with Elderberry wine.  Our reasoning was, that if used for medicinal purposes, the alcohol in the wine would encourage much needed sleep and therefore speed up the recovery process.

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to support the use of  Elderberry concoctions in the treatment of colds and flu's, but until recently, nothing clinical.   As of January 2006, Retroscreen Virology, a leading British medical research institute, associated to Queen Mary College, University of London, announced that Sambucol (made with Elderberry) was at least 99% effective against the Avian Flu Virus, H5N1, and in cell cultures significantly neutralized the infectivity of the virus.  Studies conducted in Israel have shown Elderberry to be THE key ingredient in flu-fighting Sambucol.  In fact, their unique formula was tested on patients during the Israeli flu epidemic of 1992-3.  The results were amazing.  Within 24 hours, 20% of the patients taking Sambucol had dramatic improvements in symptoms like fever, muscle aches and pains and coughing.  By the second day, 73% were improved and by day three, 90%.  In the untreated group, only 16% felt better after two days.  The majority of that group took almost a week to begin to feel better.

Just to be clear, I don't believe there is any one cure all.  But, I do think that God gave us so many things right in our own back yards to heal and strengthen our bodies.  He gave us every good thing! 

Elderberry wine has been a great gift to our family.  Sir Knight and I have made Elderberry wine every fall for the last number of years.  We have supplied our family and friends with a large supply so they will be well guarded against a potential epidemic.  We also keep a healthy stock on hand - just in case.

Prayer, followed by Renaissance Medicine, and the Ponderosa Plague is but a memory!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Introducing - The Tibetan Mastiff

As you may remember we lost our Tibetan Mastiff, Reaper, last summer, to a tragic farm accident.  We were bereft.  After our experience with Reaper, we just knew that nothing but a Tibetan Mastiff would suit our family, so we kept a tentative eye out for an upcoming litter.  A few months ago, Maid Elizabeth alerted us to a batch of TM puppies that had been born in Alaska, and looked into obtaining one.  Things fell into place and our puppy came home about two weeks ago!

Remembering Reaper:

And now, let me introduce our little TM, Stoic II.

Here, Stoic is about 8 weeks old - he's now almost doubled in size!

Meeting Moggy - Stoic is not impressed!

He has his own set of dog tags!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Our Large American Life

Although I live in a 1200 square foot "shouse" I have always been a lover of houses.  From the time I was a child houses have intrigued me, the older the better.  I love secret passageways, quirky architecture and imperfection.  Fascinated by both form and function, I'm especially drawn to homes that not only provide shelter to it's inhabitants but also serve as the hub of family industry - in other words, working homes.  Ah, but I digress....

Earlier this week, while recuperating from a nasty illness (more on that later), I had the opportunity to watch a house hunting program on television.  I rarely have the ability to watch any television programming, so it was a rare treat to tour homes all over the globe from the comfort of my easy chair.  The show that I watched followed couples and families as they left the comfort of their native United States and embarked on new lives in a foreign country.  Ready for adventure, each family sought to immerse themselves in the culture and uniqueness of their adopted home.

Or did they....

House after house, family after family, I noticed a troubling, recurring theme - the inability to manage extreme hardships - hardships such as no closets, dated kitchens and only 1 bathroom!  I was horrified!

As each family trudged from house to house, talking about how they wanted vast cultural experiences for their children, I realized that what they really wanted were new museums and restaurants to explore, while comfortably settling into their thoroughly American style home each evening.  Although I'm quite certain they thought they were giving their children an unparalleled cultural upbringing, they, in fact, were living an American life with a cultural flair.

I watched, in awe, as family after family decried each available home - the kitchens weren't updated, they didn't have "American" refrigerators, there was only 1 bathroom, the rooms were so small and my personal favorite - "how do you people live with no closets"?  Quite frankly, I was embarrassed.  Have we, as Americans, become so accustomed to our comfortable, large lifestyle that we can't "suffer" with limited closet space or, heaven, forbid, a single bathroom?  No wonder we are universally despised!

In truth, we approach survival and preparedness in the same "typical American" fashion as those expat families. We claim to be preparing for an uncertain future but in reality, we are preparing to live our large, American life while everyone else is suffering and dying in the street.  We are trying to figure out how to keep our larders full and our 2 1/2 baths  in working order by throwing money, money and more money at the problem.  Instead of preparing to completely change the way we live, to make the best out of a really bad situation, we are trying to think of every possible scenario and anticipate our every "need" - so that we can continue living our large American life.

A number of years ago an acquaintance sought Sir Knight's advice on setting up his desired off-grid system.  He wanted advice on food storage, water storage and a photovoltaic system.  He told Sir Knight how large his family was, how big his house was, what his appliances were (electric hot water heater, electric dryer, electric range) and other pertinent information.   He wanted to know how much food he should store and how large a solar array he needed to run his household and feed his family just the way it was - with no changes to comforts or diet.  How much would it cost?  Without hesitation Sir Knight said "It would take a million dollars".   That was it.  With no comprise in standards, any long-term survivability would require at least a million dollars.  Of course, that would only work until the first domino of their system fell and then they would be in the dark along with the rest of the world.  Their million dollars would be worthless and their large American lifestyle would quickly crumble around them.  Without disciplined resourcefulness and practical ingenuity, measured with a healthy dose of focus and strength in the midst of suffering, we American's wouldn't survive a two week power outage much less a full scale economic collapse!

Now is the time to leave your large American life behind.  Learn to live with less.  Use what you have.  Be the one to make bad situations better.  Fortify your relationships. Know God and seek His will.  Build on those things that cannot be taken from you - faith, skills, courage, discipline, honor. 

Invest in authentic preparedness - not in your large American life.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Free Man

Let's face it - we all know that slavery is evil and freedom is good, right?  But wait, maybe too much freedom is bad.  Or, perhaps, a little slavery is good.  Wait.  That's not right.  Oh, I don't know.  I can't ever keep track from one minute to the next which is politically correct today.  Human nature is so good at changing its collective mind that I can never keep it straight!

As school children we were all introduced to the evils of slavery.  Our history books were filled with chapters dedicated to educating our young minds to embrace our freedoms while eschewing slavery in all its forms. Ironically, we learned that slave owners were "bad" at the same time that we learned that our slave-owning government was "good".

We can all agree that the slave owners of the South were bad, right?  We can agree that the only decent thing to do was to give the slaves their liberty, right?  But what if?  What if a few of the slaves were prone to violence?  Would it still be good to give them their freedom?  What if a few were rapists?  Thieves?  Murderers?  Would the slave owner still be right in giving them their liberty?  What if one of those slaves was Adolf Hitler?  Osama Bin Laden?  Charles Manson?  Would the "Master" still be righteous in giving those men their freedom or would he then be an accomplice to unspeakable atrocities?  Would the slave owner be "good" for refusing freedom to Hitler, Bin Laden and Manson, in spite of slavery being evil?

We can't have it both ways.  As humans we judge a matter depending upon circumstances, upon current philosophical trends and upon shifting social opinion.  We expect freedom at all costs - until something bad happens - and then we turn on the very authors of the freedoms we claim - and require accountability for their atrocities against humanity!  We hold others responsible for our evils - simply because they granted the freedom that we demanded.  In our double mindedness, we expect to retain our freedoms while blaming others for the inevitable consequences of that freedom. 

Our duplicity doesn't stop with the relationship with our fellow man.  It is brought into sharp focus every time we hear the refrain "how could a "good" God allow bad things to happen?".  What we consider a virtue in man (not keeping slaves) we consider an evil in God (why did you allow that to happen?).  We want the freedom to believe how and what we want but we still hold God accountable when things don't go according to our plan.  When evil runs rampant, it is God we blame.  Never do we blame ourselves for the very freedom of conscience that God granted us at birth.  Would we rather have God keep us as slaves, never to make decisions for ourselves?  Is that the price that we would be willing to pay for a secure, safe, evil-free world?  Slavery, my friends, is the only answer for a world without hurt, a world without evil. 

Bad things happen.  Evil people do evil things.  Life is imperfect and unpredictable.  But God loved us enough to give us our freedom.  No. Matter. The. Cost.  God had every right to program us for a perfect, sinless life.  But He chose to give us our free will - freedom.  And because of God's gift of freedom to me, I will fight with everything in me to secure that freedom for my fellow man.  We are not slaves.  God is not a slaveholder. 

I am a free man.  I will use my freedom to fight for yours.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Sweet Sixteen

A wonderful thing happened this week - Miss Serenity turned sweet sixteen!  Not only did we get to celebrate our wonderful daughter, we were also blessed to be able to celebrate my dad's birthday, with whom Serenity shares her special day.  He has always told her that he received the best birthday present ever when she was born!

Opening a birthday gift - a new tool kit!

Giving it a once-over with her dad and her grandpa

What every girl wants!
Serenity has grown into a beautiful young woman, whom we are proud to call our daughter.  Here are a few of her highlights from the last year....

Doctoring animals

On her hard-earned motorcycle

This year's buck

Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Homestead Happenings

Although I have been ridiculously absent from the blogosphere, I have been busy and productive in most others areas of my life.  We have had an unusually mild winter and our February even bordered on spring-like.  Because of the unseasonably warm weather, out of door projects have called our name and we have answered!

As most of you know, we lost our beloved Tibetan Mastiff dog "Reaper" to a horrific homestead accident last summer.  We have missed him terribly and have chosen not to get another dog... until now.  Next Sunday a new little homestead guardian will arrive!  We have named him Lowen and he carries the lineage of our "Reaper".  Lowen is an 8 week old Tibetan Mastiff - and he has very large paws to fill!  In preparation for our little guardian, we have been busy building a "dog den", rather than a typical  dog house.  Borrowing Sep Holzer's permaculture method of housing animals, we dug a hillside out and built a log structure into the hill and backfilled the "den".  We still need to finish the top with plywood and tar paper before we cover the den completely with dirt, leaving only the entrance exposed.  We are very interested to see how he likes his "den" and if he uses it.  At this point we think he will use it far more in the heat of summer than he ever does during the winter months!

Sir Night and Maid Elizabeth digging the hole

Maid Elizabeth has help!

Master Hand Grenade breaking ground

The finished hole (about 4 x 4)

The first two courses (butt and pass method)

Going up!

Beginning the roof

The roof is on - it's just awaiting plywood, tar paper and dirt
When he hasn't been working outside, Sir Knight has been organizing his new mobile tool box.  Over the years, Sir Knight has used and worn out numerous "road" boxes.  After his latest one disintegrated we decided to invest in something that would hold up better than its previous counterparts.  Enter the Pelican 0450 tool box.  It is completely waterproof, impact resistant and mobile.  It has wheels and a telescoping handle as well as two carry handles.  For the last week, Sir Knight has been cutting foam and arranging his tools and this week he will be putting his new mobile tool box into service.  I think it's a thing of beauty!

Tools laid out (with the marking pen and knives) to mark for cutting (each tray is a drawer)

Marking around the tools

Adjusting the knife to the depth of the tool (to cut into the foam at the correct depth)

Making the cut

Removing the foam

Just right!

One tray (drawer) finished - with room for more tools

The tool box closed - it is water proof and shock proof!

Carry handles

Rolls easily on integrated wheels

Telescoping handle
About a year and a half ago my Dad built a beautiful, rustic outhouse for me.  I was so excited!  We had a friend come in with a tractor and use his auger to dig a large hole over which we positioned the outhouse.  After using the outhouse for about 3 months, we noticed that the dirt was filling in the hole at an alarming rate.  The spring after the outhouse went into service, we were dismayed to realize that the outhouse hole was not only covering the waste but it was trying to digest the outhouse itself!  We quickly put long boards under the house to keep it from sinking into the ground but that resulted in a rocking outhouse.  We knew we had to come up with a better solution!  After considering many options, we decided that we needed to dig a hole just big enough to house a drum or barrel, cut holes in the bottom of the barrel (for drainage) and fit the barrel into the hole.  Then, we would move the outhouse over the barrel and position it on solid ground so the disturbed soil wouldn't try to eat the outhouse.  Armed with shovels and a plan, Master Calvin, Princess Dragon Snack and I dug a new hole, filled it with 4 inches of drain rock and positioned our barrel in the hole. With our truck, we drug the outhouse (it was built on skids) over the barrel, straightened it up and shimmed it to make it level.  After filling in the other hole completely, we have a fully functional outhouse that we hope will serve us well for many years.  And, I must admit, I sure like having two bathrooms again!

That's a little guy urinal in the corner

The new hole and barrel (plastic is draped inside to keep any leakage from the front)
Last fall, before the cold of winter descended upon us, we moved the bee's into their new "bee house" (it used to be our chicken coop) in an attempt to successfully over-winter them.  Our plan was to follow in our European counterparts footprints and have a house for the bees that would keep them warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.  As of March 1st, we still have two very healthy hives that look like they will be going into spring ready to make honey!

Hives in the Bee House
I hope you are all having a wonderful, productive winter/spring!  Until next time....