Monday, June 29, 2015

The Sleeping Porch

We have been experiencing the most unusually extreme temperatures!  Typically we get a few days of extreme heat (over 100 degrees) every August, however June and July are warm but manageable.  This year is something else entirely.  We have already strayed into the triple digits and it's not even July!

Because we live in a metal box in the middle of a prairie, we have to get creative to keep our family from succumbing to the heat.  One of the drastic steps we have taken to beat the heat this year is to turn our "sunroom" into a sleeping porch.

When I was a little girl, my Great Grandparents had a large house in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle.  To my child's eye, their home was a mansion, filled with precious treasures and wonders.  For hours I would sit in their telephone room, situated directly between the foyer and the kitchen, and write letters and draw pictures on the pads of paper used for taking phone messages.  I would make my way through closets that connected one room to another, pretending they were secret passageways and explore the contents of long-forgotten trunks.  I would play the miniature peddle organ on the stairway landing and sneak into the breakfast nook for a solitary moment in the warm, cheery kitchen.  But, on the hot summer nights, my very favorite place in the world, was the huge, old-fashioned sleeping porch.

The porch occupied one entire end of the second story.  It was about 40 feet long by 15 feet wide with wood floors that creaked with each footfall.  The room was wall-to-wall windows, which were covered by storm windows during the winter, but come summer, the windows were stored in the basement and the room became a screened in wonderland.  The sleeping porch was nothing fancy, merely 8 metal chaise lounge chairs arranged in a line.  They had thick, heavy, old-fashioned mattresses that smelled of age and dust and a few pillows and blankets spread here and there.

My family always visited during the warmest summer months.  My mother, grandmother, brother and I would walk to Volunteer Park and meander through the conservatory.  My brother and I would perch atop the lions that guarded the entrance to the Seattle Art Museum (located, at that time, in the park), pick water cress in the creek (for sandwiches with our tea) and trot after mom and grandma as they visited, filling each other in on their dramatically different lives. 

At the end of the long summer days, sleep would beckon.  My parents would retire to a well-appointed guest room with a tall 4 poster bed, linen sheets, and rose scented pillow cases, but my brother and I, we were the lucky ones.  We got to slip into crisp sheets on freshly made chaise lounge beds, to be lulled to sleep by crickets, cool breezes and the scents of summer.

With the extreme heat this summer has brought us, I decided that my children needed to experience the sweet sleep of a sleeping porch.  Normally, our sunroom is set up with chairs and a table and a single bed, where we often have tea in the evenings, enjoying the cool breeze and lovely views.  The sunroom affords us extra living space during the late spring, summer and early fall.  But this year, we removed the chairs and tables from the sunroom and added a cot and a "nest", along with the single bed that already occupied one corner, to create a sleeping porch for the children. 

The children love their new sleeping quarters!  They awake refreshed and rejuvenated, even from the warmest nights.  Each night, the kids can't wait to crawl into their beds, made with crisp sheets, and fall asleep, cooled by night breezes and lulled by the sweet music of crickets.

And so, my children get a tiny glimpse into the lives of their Great-Great Grandparents, through our own, little, make-shift sleeping porch.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Harvesting Scapes

Last fall Maid Elizabeth brought home 3 pounds of garlic bulbs from a local farmers market.  I planted what I could and canned what was left.  The garlic flourished over our mild winter and has taken off in our warmer-than-usual spring.  As I was weeding the garlic bed last week, I noticed that the scapes were getting large and begging to be harvested.  Oh joy!

Garlic scapes are the flower stem of the garlic plant.  It is necessary to cut scapes off the plant in early to middle June in order to encourage bulb growth rather than flower growth.   Scapes really are the first harvest of the wonderful garlic plant.  They can be used fresh or preserved for future use and are incredibly versatile. 

Scapes should be harvested while very young if you are planning on eating them fresh.  Before they start to curl they are incredibly tender and can be eaten raw, right off the plant. When they are larger, with a bigger flower "bulb" and have curled, they can be eaten like green beans, with a crunchy texture and decidedly garlicky flavor.  They are wonderful sautéed with peppers and onions and can even be pickled. 

Master Calvin cutting the last scape!

Always use good olive oil!

The olive oil completely covers the scapes
Our scape harvest was only big enough for one fresh meal, so I opted to preserve the scapes in an attempt enjoy their sublime flavor long after the summer has waned and the garlic bulbs have been harvested.  To keep their pungent, fresh flavor, I simply washed the scapes, trimmed the small end near the flower bulb and chopped the scapes in the smallest pieces possible.   With Dragon Snack helping, we chopped all of the scapes and filled two canning jars to the top.  After the jars were full, we poured good quality olive oil over the scapes and screwed the caps into place.  The scapes will infuse the olive oil with wonderful flavor and be and incredible addition to pizza, pasta sauce and even garlic butter.  The olive oil will preserve the scapes and become a gourmet addition to many future recipes.

Ready for use!
Don't just enjoy your garlic harvest once when you can enjoy it twice by harvesting the scapes!  Believe me, your taste buds will thank you!!

Monday, June 15, 2015

New Beginnings

Saturday, Maid Elizabeth and I got up at the crack of dawn and drove an hour south to help Miss Serenity's best friend prepare for her wedding.  Maid Elizabeth was in charge of photos and I did hair and makeup for the bridal party (don't ask me how that happened!) and Miss Serenity was the Maid of Honor.  It was a beautiful day filled with joy and anticipation.

The Bride and Groom, Maid of Honor and Best Man
The bride was beautiful, the groom handsome and the wedding party full of youthful enthusiasm.  I have to admit it is bittersweet watching my children's friends begin their new lives together.  I am excited for the next chapter in their lives but I will miss the giggling slumber parties and the sweet innocence of childhood.  And I know that my own children aren't too far behind their friends...

Ah, the joy of new beginnings!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Ignorance Cloaked in Tolerance

I'm not much of a SNL fan, however their attempt at humor struck a little too close to the truth....

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

4-Wheeler Maintenance

In our ongoing effort to maintain operational readiness, Sir Knight and I have been diligently going through all of our equipment and making sure it is fully functional and in good repair.  One of the items on our "to be maintained" list was our 4-wheeler.

Our 4-wheeler is more of a workhorse than it is a recreational vehicle.  We use it for all manner of work around the homestead, not to mention we have taught all of our younger children the basics of shifting on the 4-wheeler (before they graduate to motorcycles and automobiles). 

Sir Knight keeps up on general maintenance, such as oil changes and air filter replacement, on a regular basis, however, other issues arise that compromise our equipment's usefulness.  The 4-wheeler needed new tires this year.  Actually, they probably needed new tires two years ago, but tires are expensive!  Finally, when our tires were no longer holding air, we placed and order with Bike Bandit for new skins.  The tires were shipped to our door and we had a local tire shop put the new tires on the rims.  What a difference that made! 

While the tires were off, Sir Knight changed the 4-wheeler's CV boots.  My dad had noticed a small tear in one of the boots while visiting this spring.  Sir Knight immediately took the 4-wheeler out of service and ordered replacement boots.  The kits were inexpensive (Bike Bandit again) and fairly easy to change (with the help of youtube, of course).  And because they were changed before any damage could be done to the CV joints, we spent less than $20 a side versus $200 a side!  Maintenance is your friend!

After the mechanical issues were taken care of, we tended to some cosmetic problems.  One of the children (Master Hand Grenade) had rolled the 4-wheeler and broken the rear fender plastic (many years ago).  We ordered new plastic through our local Yamaha dealer (the plastic is too expensive to ship) and Sir Knight and Master Hand Grenade installed it - a time consuming job!  While we were at it, we ordered (Bike Bandit) a new seat cover.  Ours was ripped and nasty looking and we had considered having it reupholstered.  Once we found an inexpensive replacement cover online (Bike Bandit), we thought we'd give it a try.  It worked like a charm (thank you, youtube!) and looks great.  We wouldn't hesitate to recovered any of our seats on our own now.

We still have a few odds and ends to take care of, but our 4-wheeler is absolutely operational and ready for work.  With new tires, CV boots, fender plastic and a seat cover, I'm sure that in the coming year the 4-wheeler will plow it's share of snow, carry a number of deer carcasses from the fields to the shouse and haul fencing supplies by the board foot. 

Now, on to the next order of business....

Monday, June 8, 2015

Maintaining Operational Readiness

One of the interesting things that I have noticed about preppers is that they are great right out of the gate.  They are willing to spend money (often a LOT of money) on gear and equipment.  They're willing to invest their time in learning new skills.  They jump in with both feet, get prepared and settle in to wait for the end of the world.  And then the end of the world doesn't happen.  Soon, their food stores are depleted.  Their skills aren't used and are soon forgotten.  Their equipment hasn't been maintained and fallen into disrepair. 

Don't believe me?  Just look to our recent past - Y2K.  How many people do you know that bought into the Y2K hype, became overnight survivalists and now don't have a spare gallon of gas to their names?  I know of more than I can count.  Much of our preparedness inventory and equipment came from people selling their Y2K stores.  They waited for about 5 years and then began slowly liquidating their supplies.  Most of the generators had never been run, the grain grinders never used and the gamma sealed buckets never opened.  We benefited directly with tremendous deals on never-been-used Dietz lanterns, Aladdin lamps, All-American canners and military surplus.  Y2K was good to us in more ways than one!

Although we see the error of our post-Y2K brethren's way, Sir Knight and I can also understand their position.  They were experiencing Survival Fatigue.  The rush, the panic, the expectation of disaster - followed by an anticlimactic conclusion.  Their disenchantment was understandable. 

The same thing can happen to us today.  We learn, we prepare, we train, in anticipation of societal upheaval, yet society, amazingly, continues on as it did yesterday and the day before.  After months, and years and decades, it is easy to become weary and experience our own Survival Fatigue.  We can become complacent and apathetic and that complacency can cost us everything.

Being a survivalist is not a hobby, it is a lifestyle.  You have to be willing to prepare even when you don't feel like it.  You have to be willing to prepare even when everyone tells you there's nothing to prepare for.  You have to be willing to maintain your equipment, polish your skills and stay at the ready.  You have to be willing to invest yourself in prepping, not just your money. 

Maintaining operational readiness should be a part of daily life.  Use your equipment and keep it maintained.  Rotate your food, rotate your fuel and rotate your medical supplies.  Water your batteries, grind your grain and grow your garden.  Don't stockpile your skills and equipment for "some day", make them a part of your everyday life, now. 

We can't live our lives waiting for future chaos.  We have to live now.  And in living diligently now, we can maintain our own operational readiness.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

A Quiet and Gentle Breeze

When I was a little girl, my family and I lived on a small island in Puget Sound, a short ferry boat ride away from Seattle.  My grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins lived on the same island, as did our entire circle of friends and acquaintances.  Our island was small.  Everybody knew everyone else.  Our neighbors were like family and our family were our neighbors.  Island living was small-town living at its best (and sometimes, at its worst). 

Across the street, in a yellow farmhouse that was built in the 20's, lived an elderly couple, Mr. and Mrs. Breeze.  Mrs. Breeze was a wonderful, meek gentlewoman.  She was tiny, soft spoken and much beloved by my brother and I.  On occasion, Mrs. Breeze would appear at the end of her driveway as my brother and I walked by on our way to school.  Seeing her, we would trot across the street to give her a quick hug and she would reward us with small paper bags of homemade caramel corn.  Our walk to school was bathed in the warm glow of neighborly love and sugary sweetness.  We loved Mrs. Breeze.

Mr. Breeze was another story.  He was gruff and surly, perhaps even a little bit mean.  Any time my brother or I would knock on Mrs. Breeze's door, she would quickly usher us through the living room, past Mr. Breeze and into her sunny, light-filled kitchen.  But, no matter how quickly we scampered, we could never escape the living room without at least a little bit of bluster from Mr. Breeze. 

Sweet Mrs. Breeze and her cheerful kitchen were well worth mustering the courage to rush past Mr. Breeze.  She would seat us at her homey table, pour tall, cold, glasses of milk and set out a pretty, flowered plate full of Vanilla Wafers.  To this day I cannot eat a 'nila wafer without think of Mrs. Breeze.  Every crisp, golden cookie reminds me of gentleness, kindness and a sunny yellow kitchen.

Although I didn't know it at the time, Mrs. Breeze was an extraordinary woman.  Mrs. Breeze had married Mr. Breeze when she was very young.   They'd had a family, lived a life.  And every day of that life, Mrs. Breeze had prayed.  She had prayed for a husband that didn't know the God she served.  She had prayed for  husband that was mean and sometimes violent.  She had prayed for a husband that drove her children away and made them loath to visit.  She had prayed for a husband that was unlovable and incapable of loving. 

Mrs. Breeze loved Mr. Breeze in a way that is only possible through Jesus.  She loved him when he told her she couldn't attend church.  She loved him when he grouched at the neighbor children.  She loved him with a simple, gentle love - a love that he didn't deserve but was worthy of her Savior.  Mrs. Breeze radiated Jesus' love to her husband for over 60 years.  60 years that would have reduced a lesser woman to hopelessness.  60 years that could have hardened her heart and embittered her soul.  But Mrs. Breeze understood eternity.  She knew that as long as her husband drew breath, there was hope.  She trusted that Jesus was her champion and her redeemer and that He heard her prayers.  She trusted His word.  She had faith that could move a mountain. 

And move a mountain it did.  When Mr. Breeze was in his late 80's, he came to know Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.  He was a changed man.  He spent his remaining (few) years cherishing his wife and building relationships with his children.  No longer did my brother and I run through the living room on the way to the kitchen, now we stopped to visit, and even hold hands, with this new, jovial man that was Mr. Breeze.

As a grown woman, I know Mrs. Breeze in a way that I never imagined as a little girl.  Where I used to see her as a quiet, gentle, tiny lady, I now know that she was a mighty warrior.  She battled on behalf of her husband - not against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities.  In her quiet and gentle way she led her husband to the throne of Christ, though it cost her much - everything.  She persevered, in spite of common wisdom, and gained the world.   

Mrs. Breeze was my first Titus 2 woman, even though I was only 7 years old....

"Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.  Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that none will malign the word of God."
Titus 2:3-5

Our marriages are precious.  God is faithful.  Be that quiet and gentle breeze.  It can move mountains.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

To Quiet the Dry Bones of Liberty

The written word is a powerful thing.  Words have changed the course of human events.  They have formed nations and destroyed them.   Words have spread tyranny and have been the agents of liberty.  Words have bound men and set men free.  Words are as mighty as a two-edged sword.

Often, I have wondered why I continue to write.  This world, this broken nation, doesn't see what I see, they don't hear what I hear.  Why do I continue shouting into the abyss when no one is listening?   And then I remember.  People do hear.  They do listen.  And the words of liberty and truth, the words of freedom, will live on, long after I am but dry bones. 

The words of truth are eternal.  They can't be silenced.  God spoke words of life.  He spoke of man's liberty and man's sinfulness.  He spoke of eternity and salvation.  And in spite of man's best efforts, His Words will not be silenced.  His truth continues to speak through the centuries.  His Word continues to give men liberty and set their souls free.  No matter how many of His books are burned, no matter how many dictators have tried to silence His voice, the truth of His Words continue to be etched in the hearts of men.  Mightier than any sword, His Word continues.

John Wicklif, a pastor and contemporary of Geoffrey Chaucer, spoke against the Pope and the Church in the days before the reformation.  He wrote books and essays claiming that the bishops and priests and even the Pope himself were but men, accountable to law of God, not above it.  He taught that all men, even peasants, had natural rights afforded them by God.  He claimed that rights were not granted by the Pope or the King, but by God himself!  Doctor Wicklif even had the audacity to translate the bible into the people's language (middle English), rather than Latin, which at that time, only the church leaders could read.   Through his writings, he ignited a hunger for truth and knowledge that could not be extinguished.  So persuasive were his teachings that forty years after his death, his bones were dug from their grave and burned in an effort to silence his words.

It was in 1385 that Doctor Wicklif died.  The grass grows over his grave.  Forty-one years pass, pilgrims come from afar to visit the spot where he is buried; they break off pieces of his tombstone, and carry them away as relics.  The monks and friars will have no more of that.  They will not have a man who has been dead nearly half a century keep on preaching if they can prevent it, for the doctor has a great following; half of England, and nearly all of Bohemia, have accepted his teachings.  The Great Council of Constance, has ordered that the doctor's bones shall be dug up and burned; and the monks execute the order.  They cast the ashes into he river, and the river bears them to the sea.  They have got rid of Doctor Wicklif.  Have they?  Not quite!

                                                                  The Story of Liberty
                                                                    Charles C. Coffin

Do not be silenced!  Speak the truth with conviction and courage.   Although your words may cost you your life, the souls of men hang in the balance.  Death cannot silence truth, and your very bones will shout "Liberty"!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Multi-Generational Survival

When I was growing up, my family didn't identify ourselves as "survivalist".  Survivalist were wackos that lived by themselves in the woods, were paranoid about black helicopters and wore tinfoil hats.  We were normal.  Sure, we lived (way) out, wore camouflage (we did own a military surplus store - advertising, you know!) and used an M16 (it was legal) for target practice - but we weren't "survivalists".   Yes, we did buy all of our food in bulk (we lived 2 hours from the nearest town), hunt for our meat (who could afford store-bought?) and cut our own firewood (there were trees everywhere - it was only prudent!) - but we weren't "survivalists".   Our goal wasn't to "survive" the end of the world, our goal was to "survive" everyday life.

When I was eight years old, my parents sold everything they owned, left everything and everyone they knew and moved 400 miles away - into the middle of nowhere.  They bought bare land and developed it with nothing more than a dream and back-breaking work.  They wanted to live a life worth living, and my brother and I were along for the ride.  And what a ride it was! 

Not only did my brother and I learn to cut firewood, we learned that we had to prepare in the summer if we were going to be warm through the winter.  We learned how to shop in bulk, to stretch food, to substitute one ingredient for another and to turn meager leftovers into entirely new meals.  We learned how to stitch up animals, develop springs and build root cellars.  We made Christmas gifts from scraps, bread from scratch and memories from everything in between.  We weren't being raised as survivalists, we were being raised to survive.

I didn't know it then, but my parents were equipping me with the tools that I would need to thrive in the life that Sir Knight and I would eventually lead.  Not only did my parents teach me the skills I would need, they imparted their vision, their wisdom, in living a self-reliant, prepared lifestyle.  And that - more than anything else, created a family of multi-generational survivalists.

I have noticed a troubling trend.  Many of the "preppers" and "survivalist" that Sir Knight and I know, have not effectively passed their vision on to their children.  Their children vary from mildly interested to "been there, done that" (with no real skills at all), but none, with the exception of a very few, are actively engaged in embracing the preparedness lifestyle.  They simply aren't interested or, because their parents have been doing it for years, think they know it all.  This does not bode well for the next generation.  We need them to know why we do what we do.  If we want a future, we need our children.  We need to train them in the ways of survival - but not just the "how-to's", but the "why this is important".  In order for them to survive the end of the world as we know it, we need to pass our knowledge, our beliefs, our passion and our vision to our children - it can't just be ours, they have to own it for themselves. 

Don't just tell your children about survival - show them.  Teach them why it's important.  Show them how it can and will affect their lives.  Teach them the wisdom of integrating preparedness into their everyday lifestyle and prepare them to thrive in adversity.  Prepare for your future - through your children - only then will you have multi-generational survival.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Women - Weapons of Mass Destruction

Tolerance - that's the word of the moment, right?  In our enlightened, modern America, we are strongly "encouraged" to tolerate other cultures, religions and customs  We are being re-educated about our past, our future and our place in the world.  We are finally recognizing that our path to international acceptance is rooted, not in the foundations of our nations past, but rather in our wholesale inclusion into the world collective.

 Our quest to be civilized, inclusive, and tolerant comes with a price - but is it a price we're willing to pay?

As most of you know, I am just about the opposite of a feminist.  I believe that caring for my husband and my children is paramount.  I willingly left the professional workforce to dedicate my time to washing laundry, changing diapers and making bread.  And I LOVE my job!  I feel more fulfilled pouring myself into my family than I ever did writing briefs for attorneys.  I know that my current job is eternal and my previous job was nothing but busy work.  I am exactly who I was meant to be.  But I don't think I am inferior to men.  My husband is not my better, he is my husband.  He has one role in the family and I have another.  Not an inferior role, a different role.  And our roles compliment each other, they don't compete with each other.  We are one.  His strengths meld with my strengths and together, we are unstoppable.  Our new civilized, inclusive, tolerant world doesn't hold my beliefs.  They believe that women are second class citizen, chattel, or even worse, weapons of mass destruction.

Our acceptance of other cultures and religions has brought us to a precipice.  If we continue in our current vein of tolerance, women will once again become property - nothing more.  The most amazing aspect of this phenomenon is that the very people waving the Tolerance flag are women!  Really!  The people telling us that we must be tolerant, that we need to embrace other cultures and customs, that actively push a liberal social agenda, are militant feminists.  Who needs men to subjugate women when women, through their blind ignorance or misguided intentions, relegate their own to abject lives of poverty, dependence and abuse.

As our schools teach our children about Islam and mosques are erected in cities and towns across our country, think on this,"....women who are not covered like a "sack of flour" are weapons of mass destruction...and that the country [Pakistan] has an abundance of such "missiles" in all it's major cities....".

Our country is hell-bent for destruction.  We are welcoming genocide with open arms - and "tolerant", "civilized", "enlightened" intellectuals are leading the charge.

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Beauty of Spring

As you may have guessed, the new header is the front of the Shouse, dressed for spring!  With an early, warm spring this year, the flowers are in full bloom and the scent wafting through the door is heavenly.  The Virginia Creeper is filling out the arbor over the front door nicely and the irises have overtaken the planter boxes in front of the sun room.  My favorite flowers are the yellow roses (given to me by a green-thumbed friend who's great-grandmother brought them with her as she traveled west on the Oregon Trail!).  The yellow roses bloom only once a spring, but they are spectacular, and their aroma, sublime.  The pink roses are another gift from my friend with a wonderful green thumb and they bloom all summer, bringing me great delight.

The garlic beds that I planted last fall are robust, promising a healthy harvest.  Most of my planter boxes are still empty though - waiting for much needed attention.  Our family has succumbed to a particularly nasty illness that becomes either pneumonia or bronchitis (depending upon the person) and seems to have spread itself to every member of the family, over a month and a half period of time, just so we could enjoy it longer!  Between being ill and taking care of unwell children and now, husband, I haven't spent nearly the time outside this time of year requires!

And so, we will inhale the sweetly perfumed air and know that this season will pass too quickly, and we'll be off to the next.....