Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Full Table and Dublin Coddle

There are times that I am quite certain these are our "Happy Golden Years".  We have a home bursting with life - young adults, teenagers and littles, all sharing our table and filling our lives to overflowing.  We truly are blessed beyond measure.

Every evening, we gather around the dinner table and share the adventures of the day.  We laugh and talk, share stories and plans.  Every member of our family looks forward to this time of sustenance and fellowship, and I do my best to accommodate with hearty, savory, homemade meals.

Recently, Maid Elizabeth found  a recipe for Dublin Coddle.  This homey, filling, tasty meal combines flavors that we love with ease of preparation - what could be better?  I'm sure it could be cooked in a crock pot, however, I love to put it in the wood cook stove in the afternoon for a hearty evening meal.  Served with vegetables and homemade bread, it is a meal not quickly forgotten!

Dublin Coddle

1 pound pork sausage (bulk or cased)
1 pound bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 large onion, diced
3 pounds potatoes, cut into medium or large chunks
Salt and pepper to taste
2 C beef broth

Heat oven to 300 degrees. 

In a large Dutch oven (or other oven proof pot with lid) brown the sausage and bacon until the sausage is browned and the bacon is crispy.  Drain briefly on paper towels, removing most of the grease out of the pan.  If using cased sausage, cut into chunks.

Layer the ingredients in the pot used to brown the sausage and bacon in the following order; 1/2 of the diced onion, 1/2 of the sausage and bacon, 1/2 of the potatoes.  Season generously with salt and pepper.  Layer (in the same order) the remaining ingredients.  Season with salt and pepper.

Pour the beef broth over the top and bring to a boil on the stove-top.  Remove from the heat and cover the pot.  Put the covered pot into the oven (or wood cook stove) and cook for three hours (or up to five hours).

About half-way through cooking, check the pot and add more water if necessary.  There should be about an inch of liquid in the bottom at all times.

Stir (to coat everything in the savory liquid) and serve.

Browning the sausage and bacon

Just right

Drained sausage and bacon, onions and potatoes

Layer of onions (in pot used to brown meat)

Layer of sausage and bacon

And the potatoes (with seasoning)

Dublin Coddle


I have made this according to directions and cooked the Coddle for hours.  I have also cut the potatoes in small chunks and baked it for only 40 minutes, just until the potatoes are tender.  Both were are delicious - just cook  according to your time constraints.

I hope you too, will enjoy a full table and a good Dublin Coddle.

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Ties that Bind

From time to time, certain things from my childhood come together to create a catalyst of memories that overwhelm the present, forging a seamless bond between then and now.  One such catalyst is Russian tea and the chill of fall weather. 

When I was little, snuggled in the single-wide trailer that we called home, my mother would usher the fall season in with steaming mugs of Russian tea.  She and I were the only ones in our family that liked the gland-puckering flavor of this fall favorite, but we looked forward to it with great anticipation.  Even now, just the spicy scent of Russian tea can transport me back to that cozy living room high in the mountains, and flood me with warm memories of the love and family of childhood.

Russian tea has become a fall tradition in my household as well.  My children look forward to it as I did as a child and often share an afternoon mug with me on particularly blustery fall days.  We'll gather in the living room with the fire crackling on the hearth and read a chapter or two of our current read-aloud book, hands encircling warm mugs of liquid memories.

Not only does Russian tea remind me of my childhood, it also remind me of the ties that bind.  I think of my cozy childhood, safe and protected in my parents home, but I also think of the extended family that enjoyed the sweet hospitality and fellowship offered by my parents in their humble abode.  I think of my aunts and uncles, my cousins and grandparents.  I remember my aunts, fingers entwined around thick mugs of tea, laughing with my mom around our kitchen table, as my dad and the uncles engaged in one quirky adventure after another.  I remember the cousins playing board games on the floor in front of the wood stove after coming in from exploring the vast wilderness in sub zero weather.  Russian tea in the fall brings with it all of the shared history of a lifetime of family.

For the Aunts
Today I prepared a big batch of Russian tea.  This batch wasn't for me - I had already made my fall supply - it was for my mother, my grandmother, and for the aunts.  I made Russian tea so that we could all remember.  You see, one of my aunts left this earth last Sunday.  We are gathering, my parents, grandmother, the aunts and uncles and cousins, tomorrow, to say goodbye.  And we are gathering to remember.  So, I thought, how better to remember than with Russian tea and the chill of fall weather. 

These truly are the ties that bind.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Pelican Ballet

A few weeks ago, as the children and I were splitting and stacking wood, Miss Serenity noticed a beautiful ballet happening above our heads.  At first, I thought swans had taken to the sky, but upon further inspection, we found that we were witnessing the flying acrobatics of 15 white pelicans!  What a gorgeous spectacle to behold!  They flew over our heads, banking and gliding on unseen wind currents, for a full 20 minutes before soaring off toward the nearby lake.  Although work halted so that we could enjoy the aerobatic display, it was well worth the delay. 

Just another beautiful day in the American Redoubt!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Open Season

That's it!  No more pizza deliveries! 

Many years ago, our dearest friends came down with the influenza.  Well, not our friends exactly, rather their four children came down with the flu, at the same time.  They had been sick for the better part of a week and the whole family was exhausted and worn.  Sir Knight and I decided that we would do what we could to ease their burden and delivered homemade "take and bake" pizzas to their home - tucked away up a winding road on a country hillside.  The weather was sloppy - a wet spring snow had just fallen and the roads were soft with the spring thaw.  After dropping off the pizzas, as we made our way down their somewhat treacherous hillside, I rolled our Landcruiser.   Sir Knight and I crawled out of the truck (thankfully we had left our children at home), trekked back to our friend's house and called a wrecker.  The insurance company totaled that truck and to this day, I still don't like to drive to our dear friend's home in the middle of winter!

Pizza's ready to deliver

Last Friday, Sir Knight, the children (all five of them), and I packed into our Landcruiser on yet another pizza run.  Friends (on the other side of the county) had been through the wringer.  The husband, a logger, had been injured on the job in the spring and had been off work since.  Immediately after the injury, he had been advised to rest and then had gone through extensive physical therapy, only to find out that his ankle had been completely destroyed - to the point that no amount of physical therapy could help.  Finally, he'd had his ankle surgically repaired, and was now recuperating, unable to put ANY weight on it for the next two months, before again attempting physical therapy. 

The scene of the crime


And so, with the Landcruiser filled to the brim with children, pizza and smore's dip (complete with graham crackers for dipping), we set off for the small mountain town about a half an hour away.  In our defense, we missed four of them.  Four deer had jumped in front of our truck before the fifth one finally succeeded in its mission of self destruction.   I'm not kidding - that spike jumped in front of our truck before we saw it!  We felt the bump and saw the deer fly past the passenger side windows before we even knew what hit us!  Our front right bumper was ripped up and rubbing on the tire, so we pulled over to assess the damage.  Miss Serenity ran over to the deer to verify it was dead and found it incapacitated but still breathing.  Master Hand Grenade grabbed his knife and quickly put it out of its misery.  We tore the broken part of the bumper off, hopped back in the truck and continued on our way - arriving at our friends with a bloody knife to clean and deer hair to scrub off our hands.

After a lively debate about whether we should go back for the backstrap, we settled into a wonderful evening of pizza, fellowship and s'mores dip.  We drove home with one headlight, a funky turn signal and deer hair sticking out of the grill.

As Sir Knight and I  mulled over the evening's events, we finally found a common thread - pizza!  We have decided that next time we take a meal to ailing friends, it will have to be lasagna!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

15 Years of Off-Grid Living


Fifteen years ago, Sir Knight and I, and our (then) three children began an adventure.  What we had intended to become a homesteading and farming adventure quickly became an off-grid, survival adventure instead.  But what an adventure is has been!

While we were having tea the other morning, it occurred to me that our 15 year off-grid anniversary was upon us.  As Sir Knight and I talked about all of the improvements we had made and the upgrades that were never to be, I mentioned to him that "normal" people don't live off-grid for 15 years.  And then I realized that we didn't know anyone who had lived off-grid for 15 years!  Over the years we have met many people who had lived off-grid, some, temporarily, while they were finishing their homes, and others who sought the independence of an off-grid life, only to tire of the hardship and choose grid power.  Please don't get me wrong - in no way do I think we are superior for staying off the grid!  No - there have been times I would have hooked up to the power grid in a heartbeat and never looked back!  However, we have stayed the course and soldiered on.  Our decision to remain off-grid has boiled down to sheer stubbornness mingled with a lack of better options.  But really - 15 years is a long time to live off the grid! 

In truth, we've had a 15 year education.  We have learned what is necessary (a wood cook stove) and what isn't (a clothes dryer).  We have learned what makes life easier (a washing machine) and what makes life more complicated (a television).  We have learned to love the soft hissing sound of Coleman lanterns and appreciate the energy savings of LED light bulbs.  We learned that electric refrigerators are REALLY noisy (which you can hear when there is no other electrically generated noise in your home) and electric ranges are almost IMMPOSSIBLE to cook on!

We truly have lived an off-grid adventure.  Our children, with the exception of Maid Elizabeth, remember nothing but off-grid living.  Miss Serenity doesn't remember a time when she didn't know how to change the oil in the generator.  Princess Dragon Snack and Master Calvin have never lived in a house where you flush the toilet every time you use it.  Master Hand Grenade has helped his dad move numerous 1300 pound batteries, install a wind turbine and troubleshoot the electrical system on an ancient 10KW military generator .  The very first pie Maid Elizabeth created landed upside down in the wood cook stove oven.  Miss Serenity learned to wash laundry in a tub on the same cook stove.  Master Hand Grenade has hauled water, filled lamps and broken ice in stock tanks.  Princess Dragon Snack asked (after we had batteries to run electric lights) if we could turn the "power" off and pretend to be off-grid.  Master Calvin thinks everyone should have an outhouse.

From time to time, I think we must be nuts to live off-grid after all these years.  It would be so much easier to run a freezer rather than can all of our meat.  It would be wonderful to take a shower or bath or even flush the toilet without having to start the generator. It would be nice not to have to worry about our pipes freezing in the bathroom (the farthest room from the wood cook stove) or coming up with creative ways to thaw them when they do freeze.   There are a lot of things that would be nice, if we had grid power.

But with the all convenience to be found in the power grid, I am grateful we have chosen to remain off-the-grid.  Our lives have been enriched by the challenges and hardships presented by our lifestyle.  We have learned how to live a simple yet rich life.  We have become masters of invention and purveyors of ingenuity.  We are intimately connected with life.  And that has made every minute of our off-grid years worth their weight in gold.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Masters of Deceit

With every social program that is enacted, every attempt at a re-distribution of wealth by our political "leaders" we are shamed into reluctant submission by our vague notions of Christian charity.  We have been raised to "feed the hungry" and "clothe the naked" and "provide a home for the homeless".  Politians and religious leaders, who have made social justice their god, quote scriptures to us, validating their own agenda; "He who shuts his ears to the cries of the poor will be ignored in his own time of need" (Proverbs 21:13), "If you give to the poor, your needs will be supplied!  But a curse upon those who close their eyes to poverty." (Proverbs 28:27), "Happy is the generous man, the one who feeds the poor" (Proverbs 22:9).  Even the Pope, who is arguably the most important religious leader in the western world, uses God to bolster his own vision of fairness and equality.  But these leaders, both political and religious, are at best, ignorant or at worst, true masters of deceit.

The truth of the matter is that Jesus spoke directly to people, never to "the state".  He expected His followers to clothe the naked, feed the hungry and provide homes for the homeless, never did He expect (or want) "the state" to enact these mandates by force.  He expected His followers to use judgment and discretion.  He expected them to be good stewards of what He provided for their use.  He expected His followers to be accountable to one another and to Him.  He expected Christians to get involved, to get their hands dirty.  And to change the world in His name.

We know that Jesus was speaking to the individual Christian rather than "the state" because that is exactly who He spoke to.  The Sermon on the Mount was delivered to individuals, not to political leaders.  Over and over in the Bible, we see God speaking to the hearts of men, never to the political establishment.  He spoke to the individual because He had given them freedom of choice, to choose to obey Him, or not  - not to the "state", whom He knew would always seek to oppress and rule men rather than give them freedom.   And when He did speak to the religious leaders, it was almost always to chasten them for being "a den of vipers" and condemned them as hypocrites - laying heavy burdens upon the people yet doing nothing to lighten their load.

By allowing the political and religious leaders to take the word of God out of context and use it to further their own personal agendas, we have failed in the mission that Jesus gave to the Church.  We no longer feed the poor, because the "state" does it for us.  Nor do we clothe the naked or provide homes for the homeless, again, because our pockets have been picked and our government has inserted itself as our conscience and moral authority.  Yet their stewardship has not only failed, it has destroyed the souls of men and fettered them in chains fashioned in the pit of Hell.

We cannot accept the deceitfully honeyed words of our politicians and our world "religious" leaders as the gospel truth.  We MUST know the Word of God for ourselves, searching the Bible as one searches for gold and silver.  The men and women leading our country, our world, are masters of deceit, twisting what is right and calling it wrong, and legislating evil as enlightened truth.  If we call ourselves Christians, we must first know the Word of God, know Jesus.  And then, we have to be willing and able defenders of the Truth.

Only by studying  the truth will you be able to identify deception and ultimately, the deceivers.  Remember, these masters of deceit often appear as voices of hope and change and enlightenment, but in their wake they leave a trail of death, destruction and hopelessness.  It's up to you to know the difference.