Thursday, December 1, 2016

Our Life in Pictures.....

Sometimes life seems to get away from me!  Each day is full of its own work and I often get caught up in the day to day operations of our family.  I spent the fall taking care of the garden and preserving the bounty.  As we've moved closer to winter, I've spent time buttoning up the shouse against the cold and making improvements to the driveway so that we can maneuver it when the snow has drifted, creating one big field of white.  I've rearranged furniture, creating a nook for Sir Knight's reloading bench so that he can reload any time he wants without moving all of the furniture in the living room. Master Hand Grenade butchered a hog for a neighbor, while Miss Serenity turned pork into pork sausage.  And so, life pictures.
Fall Bounty!

Peeling pears given to us by our neighbor Patrice

Soaking the pears in lemon water so they don't brown

I hung the pears on our clothes horse in the kitchen to dry

Loooong after a couple of days of drying!

Dried pears in a jar

Tomatoes and peppers out of the garden

Princess Dragon Snack stringing peppers for drying


Master Hand Grenade plying his craft

Miss Serenity grinding pork sausage

Miss Serenity and Sir Knight

Ready for the freezer


Boiling in water and baking soda

Sprinkled with salt

29 quarts of turkey stock, 2 quarts and 3 pints of meat

On the shelf

Make shift markers to keep people out of our ditch

New weather stripping for the front door

In the living room where the reloading bench used to be

The new reloading area in our bedroom

Our newly rearranged bedroom

Have a wonderful week meeting each new day as it comes and doing what needs to be done.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Credit Card Nation

When our children were little, Sir Knight coined a phrase he called "Credit Card Parenting".  Basically, he said that we could either discipline and train our children when they were young or we could pay for our lack of parenting later, with interest.  We knew, that although it was "easy to love folly in a child", that folly would become a consuming fire of destruction if left unchecked.  What was "cute" in somebody who was 2 was ugly and destructive in someone who was 22.  We didn't want to suffer the consequences of credit card parenting or make society pay the price, with accrued interest, of our permissive parenting.  And so we disciplined our children, doing our best to "train up a child in the way they should go".  And so far our plan has worked.  Although our children are not perfect, they are productive members of society, contributing to the well-being of our family and our community.  The are consistently part of the solution rather than being part of the problem.

To my great dismay, I have come to realize that we are a Credit Card Nation.  This once great Nation has become what our forefathers fought to abolish.  We have allowed the few to rule the many and encouraged tyranny (bullying) in all levels of society.  Just as a tyrannical toddler rules the household, our tyrannical minorities are ruling our country.  We are no longer allowed to live according to our conscience, rather our thoughts and actions are policed by the intolerant few.  Just as we have all seen permissive parents terrorized by tantrum throwing toddlers, we are now witness to a country being terrorized by angry malcontents and still, we indulge.

For years we have allowed our citizens to be bullied and done nothing.  We have allowed tantrum throwing children to rule our house and we wonder why we have a world out of control.  Our balance is now due - with interest.

Not only have we allowed our own citizens to run herd on us, we have also allowed our neighbors to manipulate our indulgence.  And the interest is multiplying.

When our children were small, we lived in a neighborhood, directly across from a culdesac.  Although we only had a couple of acres, we had horses, chickens and a milk cow, along with a large garden, huge yard and the all-important trampoline.  Right across the road, at the head of the culdesac, lived a family with 6 children.  The family was unconventional - a little rough around the edges, and the children were the epitome of free-range.  It was not uncommon for the kids to show up on our doorstep asking for paper and pencils for school, bread for sandwiches or money for lunch.  They regularly went into our barn, opened our grain bin and fed our milk cow until she bloated.  They would fill their pockets with change Maid Elizabeth had saved and swear up and down it was theirs. 

Sir Knight and I took action.  We didn't want to ban the children from coming to our home, but we also didn't want them harming our livestock or influencing our children.  So we made rules.  And enforced them.  We told them they were not allowed in the barn, without Sir Knight or I present.  We didn't let them come over whenever they wanted, rather we made a standing date for a certain time and day of the week.  We never allowed the kids into the bedrooms or any other room unattended.  Instead, the kids and I played board games with them or baked cookies (which they took home to their family).  We raked leaves, worked in the garden or did whatever needed to be done, with the extra kids in tow - always with constant supervision.  Rather than allow the neighbor kids to harm our property and influences our children, we embraced them, within the confines of carefully outlined and enforced rules.  Because we were the parents in our home, we parented not only our children, but the neighborhood children when they were in our home.  Basically, it was our house, our rules.  End of story.  Rather than allowing our neighbor children to terrorize our family, we parented them and paid the debt - no interest accrued.

Now the credit card crisis has hit our shores.  We have welcomed our neighbors into our homes, with no rules or supervision and we are reaping the consequences.  Rather than creating and enforcing rules to incorporate our neighbors into our family, we have allowed them full access to our homes and they have repaid us by bombing our cities, shooting our people and demanding that our society conform to theirs.  We are paying for being a credit card nation with our culture and our lives.  And it will continue until we pay our debt and take back our home.  We have to again proclaim, our house, our rules.

Our nation is at the breaking point.  Our debt is killing us.  Our interest has compounded.  We truly are a Credit Card Nation.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Charitable Spending

Just when you thought you couldn't find a charity worthy of your hard earned dollars......I present "Millennial International".  Your consideration is much appreciated!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Battery Power!

As most of you know, we live off-grid.  We rely on our generator and solar panels to charge our batteries, which in turn, power our life. 

Because Sir Knight fixes electric forklifts, we use industrial, deep cycle lead acid batteries in our system rather than the Trojan LT 316's most commonly used in off-grid applications.  These batteries provide us with a huge amount of storage and have worked well for us for many years. 

About a year ago we began to notice that our battery didn't last as long as we would have liked, and that it took a charge too quickly, indicating that it had a severely reduced charging capacity.  We limped along with our dying battery through last winter, with the intention of replacing it in the spring.  Spring came, and with it, the sun, which kept our battery charged to full capacity, lulling us into a false sense of battery security.  And then, the bottom fell out of our off-grid world - our generator died and the sun sank into the autumn sunset and our battery slowly faded into powerless oblivion. 

Sir Knight, realizing our precarious position, brought home a beautiful "new" battery!  One of his customers bought all new batteries for their fleet and discarded the old batteries.  One of the discarded batteries was only about a year old and hadn't seen much use so Sir Knight discharged and charged it and loaded it into his van and brought it home. 

One Saturday morning, our neighbor arrived with his self-loading log truck to help us remove the old batteries out of the shouse and install our new battery.   Switching batteries is not my favorite task because it requires moving nearly every piece of furniture in our shouse!  Our batteries live in our bathroom/utility room, which is on the far end of the house, as far away from the front door as you can get!  The batteries are huge (ranging from about 1500 pounds to 3000 pounds each) and require a decent amount of room for maneuvering.  After we cleared a path through the house, we brought in our pallet jack (doesn't everyone have one?) and put a special "roller tray" on it that Sir Knight fabricated for moving our batteries.  We rolled a battery out of our bathroom, through the shouse and to the front door.  From there, Sir Knight chained the battery and hooked it onto the grapple of the logging truck and our neighbor pulled the battery off the pallet jack and through our front door.  After moving both batteries from the bathroom, we were ready to bring the new battery in - a far bigger chore than we had anticipated! 

Miss Serenity wheeling out an old battery

Using a self-loading log truck to drag the battery out

Because we have an arbor in front of our door, we had to jerry-rig a couple of battery roller trays outside to get the battery to the front door so that we could pick it up with the pallet jack.  A pry bar, a couple of oak beams and a wish and a prayer later, we had the battery on the pallet jack - at an angle because the new battery was 1/2 and inch wider than the old batteries and wouldn't fit into the roller tray!  Finally we rolled the new battery into place, plugged the SB connector into our house system and flipped the switch.  Let there be light!!

Ready to move the new battery into the "Shouse"

Miss Serenity and Sir Knight guiding the new batttery

"Shouse" Surfing - it's a new thing!
We have been running on our new battery for about three weeks now and are in constant amazement!  Because our old battery had been slowly losing capacity, we didn't realize how terrible it was.  This new battery holds an incredible charge, rarely dropping below 24.9 volts, and takes a nice long, hard charge.  Our gas bill has plummeted because I rarely have to charge the battery and I am thoroughly enjoying a well-lit shouse!

One new battery in position

I take the tablecloth off of the battery when charging so
that the hydrogen can gas off the battery
Running your own power company has its challenges, but it also has great rewards - and a nice, full battery as winter envelopes us in her frigid embrace is just such a reward!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Barn Beam Mantle

When we moved into our shop, we moved into an empty box.  Sir Knight and my dad built a loft and stairs and we used furniture groupings to delineate rooms.  Over the years the "shouse" has become more and more homey but, of course, still lacks any kind of architectural detail.  Every ounce of "character" has had to come from us, not the shop.

Ever since Sir Knight, the children and I salvaged beams from a pioneer era milking barn, I have been wanting to use one of the beams as a mantle over our Procom gas stove.  This past weekend, Sir Knight and Master Calvin got out their saws and drills and brought my anticipated barn beam mantle to life! 

The first thing they did was measure the stove and determine how tall the mantle needed to be.  After measuring the barn beam, we determined how far apart the supports needed to be and cut those out of old oak packing crate beams.    Once the cuts had been made Sir Knight drilled through the uprights into the beam and then secured them with extra large screws, which he countersunk, so they wouldn't be evident from the face of the mantle.

The mantle balancing on the uprights

Putting in the screws

Help from Master Calvin
Although the mantle was fairly stable, Sir Knight wanted to bolt it to the wall so that it wouldn't accidentally fall on someone. He built a bracket out of an old piece of racking and screwed it to the underside of the mantle and then attached it to the wall, permanently securing the mantle and instantly adding "architectural character" to Little Shouse on the Prairie.

The new mantle - front and center!

The mantle was such a small thing, but it has delighted me immensely!  I know that many a blustery winter evening will be spent gathered around the hearth, enjoying the beauty that Sir Knight and young Master Calvin wrought with their work-worn hands.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Pressing the Harvest

The crisp falls days have brought with them the sweetly pungent smell of ripening apples.  Maid Elizabeth has an old-fashioned apple tree in her front yard that yields bountiful golden red apples with a flavor reminiscent of a Granny Smith with a sweet aftertaste.  They are crisp, making them perfect for pies, cakes, cookies and canning and they lend themselves especially well to one of our favorite fall treats - apple cider! 

Saturday, Maid Elizabeth and I spent the afternoon peeling and slicing apples (with help from Sir Knight) and rolling dough for our favorite fried apple pies.  We have been making these pies for years, after stumbling across the PERFECT fried apple pie dough recipe, and they seemed like the perfect treat to accompany our cider pressing adventure the following afternoon.  Because we used fresh apples (often, we'll use apples I've canned), the pies stayed crisp and perfect overnight, and even into the next day.

Sir Knight peeling apples

Apples mixed with sugar, flour and cinnamon

Butter melting in boiling water

The dough coming together

Maid Elizabeth rolling out circles of dough


And crimping

Frying pies - 6 at a time

Glazed and waiting to be devoured!
After church on Sunday, the family gathered at Maid Elizabeth's, cider press in tow, to begin pressing the fall harvest.  Miss Serenity picked through apples, discarding the damaged ones, while the children picked apples.  Maid Elizabeth washed jugs and Master Hand Grenade and Sir Knight ran the cider press.  We spent most of the afternoon pressing and finished up with roughly 25 gallons of fresh cider.  When we were done it didn't look like we had touched the apples in Maid Elizabeth's yard.  The rest of the good apples we will gather for canning while the damaged apples will go on the bear bait.  Nothing goes to waste!

Apples for the taking

Miss Serenity and Master Calvin, with the neighbor children picking apples on their side of the fence.

Into the apple eater

The cider press in full production!

Filled with crushed apples


And the cider flows!

Catching the last few drops

Pouring the cider through cheesecloth

Individual bottles

Gallons (with room left for expansion during freezing)

25+ gallons!
If you have a notion to make fried apple pies, here is our recipe:

Fried Apple Pies

For the dough:
1 C butter (cut into pieces)
1 1/4 C boiling water
1 tsp. salt
3 T sugar
4 1/2 to 5 C flour

Cut up the butter and put it into a medium bowl.  Stir in boiling water and stir until the butter has melted.  Add the salt, sugar and flour.  Stir until the dough forms a soft ball.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate while making your filling.

Cut into 16 equal pieces and roll out on a floured board.

For the filling:
3 C fruit, chopped (I used fresh apples)
1/4 C sugar, to taste
1/4 C flour
2 tsp. cinnamon (optional)

Mix thoroughly.  Put  1/4 C of filling into each dough round (or more, for a fuller pie).  Fold the dough over the top of the filling and crimp the edges with a fork.  Fry in hot oil (not so hot that it smokes) until golden brown.  Cool on rack.  When cool drizzle with a vanilla glaze.

Vanilla Glaze
1 1/2 C confectioners sugar
1 T butter, melted
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 T milk

Mix all ingredients.  Add more milk, if needed, to achieve the desired consistency.  Drizzle over cooled pies.


What a beautiful day of pressing apple cider and giving praise to the Lord of the Harvest!