Monday, February 27, 2017

Homestead Espresso

Twenty-five years ago, I bought an extravagant Christmas gift for Sir Knight - a La Pavonia Europiccola espresso machine.  I had saved my pennies for months and was so excited to walk out of the boutique coffee shop with a treasure that I was positive my husband would cherish for a lifetime.  And cherish it he has.

Sir Knight has always been a coffee aficionado.  He remembers Starbucks when they only had two trucks (delivering coffee to businesses - no retail locations), Star Ship 1 and Star Ship 2.  But, even then, he wasn't interested in sitting in a coffee shop sipping on a Grande Macchiato, no Whip, with a beret jauntily positioned on his head and a copy of Mein Kampf in his hand.  He was more of a double-shot mocha, extra froth, sitting in a club chair in his living room, kind of guy.  Because of that, the La Pavoni was his kind of machine.

La Pavoni Europiccola

This machine is 25 years old!

Steam escaping the relief valve

Heating/frothing the milk

Pressing the espresso


We've used the Europiccola heavily over the years, however, it fell into disuse when we moved into a "shouse" in the middle of a prairie with no electricity.  After we installed solar panels, we dusted off the espresso machine and reveled in the luxury of an occasional coffee.  As our off-grid systems have improved so has our ability to enjoy espresso.  Not only does Sir Knight enjoy a mocha from time to time, hot chocolate, made with Hershey's syrup and steam frothed milk has become a special treat for our children.

The one downside of the Europiccola is that it requires electricity.  We really wanted an espresso machine that would work on a gas range and especially, on a wood stove, without requiring any electricity.  Stovetop espresso machines are easily obtained, however,  we really wanted to be able to froth milk as well as well as make espresso.

Perusing Craigslist one day, I came across a Bellman CX-25 stovetop espresso machine.  Not only did the Bellman make espresso, it also steamed milk!  We snatched it up for an embarrassingly small sum, brought it home and proceeded to put it to the test.  What a wonderful little machine!  It is the perfect addition to our off-grid homestead!

Bellman CX-25

Frothing the milk


The making of a mocha!

Grated chocolate on top!
After watching a youtube video, we fired up our gas range and gave it a try.  The little machine worked wonderfully, with a yield of two 2 ounce shots of espresso.  It also frothed a full pitcher of milk relatively quickly.  We did use boiling water in the tank, which cut down on the heating time, and were careful not to overfill the tank, which could block the relief valve.

The real test came a few days later when we decided to use the Bellman on the wood cook stove.  Again, we used boiling water to fill the tank, put the Bellman over the woodbox and waited for it to heat.  After about 15 minutes, steam began flowing out of the relief valve indicating that it was ready to go to work.  I steamed the milk, using gloves (that cook stove was hot!) and quickly heard the low rumble of heating milk.  After the milk was heated, I removed the Bellman from the cook stove and cracked open the espresso knob, releasing perfect, steaming coffee.  Success!!

On the wood cook stove

Frothing the milk
The Bellman CX-25 will be going to live at Caer David.  Now, we'll be able to enjoy espresso both at home and at our home-away-from-home.  Although nothing will ever take the place of tea in our lives, an occasional coffee can be good for the soul.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Settling In....

Wow!  It has already been almost a year since Maid Elizabeth purchased her first home so I thought it was high time I took you along on an updated house tour.

Maid Elizabeth purchased a home in our small town because, really, it was too good a deal to pass up. The house was owned by the bank and for one reason or another, no one else seemed to see the potential in it's Edwardian era charm.  It was a definitely a "fixer", with the bathroom needing to be completely gutted, however it's bones were good and it's structure sound.  Elizabeth made an offer, the bank accepted and then the real work began!

Sir Knight and Miss Serenity gutting the bathroom


New flooring!  And plumbing!  The wall needs to be painted, but progress!!

Elizabeth completely reconfigured the bathroom
Working on a limited budget, Elizabeth took care of the big things first, specifically the bathroom.  The subfloor was pulled up and the walls were pulled down and all of the plumbing was replaced.  There is still work to be done but Elizabeth will do that as she has the time and the money.  And for now, she has a fully functional bathroom!  She also painted - EVERYTHING!  She painted the kitchen, after tearing down the panelling to reveal shiplap and she painted her living room RED!  I have to admit, I was a little concerned when she told me that she wanted to paint the living room red - I mean, who does that?  Red, of all colors!  But, once the color was on the walls, I saw her vision.  It is perfect - warm and welcoming and rich - just right in her large, wood accented living room.

Shiplap under the paneling in the kitchen

The chimney in the kitchen

The Pioneer Maid

Antique apartment sized gas range - Perfect!!

Elizabeth's antique drafting table in the kitchen/diner

New light fixtures installed by Sir Knight

A rocking chair in front of the cook stove!

The children pulling up flooring in the laundry room

Laundry room/white goods
After living in her house for about six months, Elizabeth noticed that her kitchen was dark.  In reality, her ceilings are ten feet tall and she had two single lights bulbs at the ceiling.  During the summer, she hadn't noticed the lack of light, but during the dark days of winter, she was suffering.  She bought two light fixtures at Costco and Sir Knight installed them and now her kitchen resembles the surface of the sun!  I'm pretty sure the entire neighborhood knows when she's home!!

The living room - before

And with RED walls!

A daybed under one window and a child's table under another

Cozy with a gas fired burner
Elizabeth still has many, many things on her to-do list.  She would like to turn her front porch into a snug, refinish her stairway and hall, finish her bathroom and install flooring in her utility room. She has painting to do in the bathroom and painting and flooring to tackle in the upstairs bedrooms.  She is saving money to put on a new roof, as well as an exterior paint job.

The front porch that will be a snug

Elizabeth's winter transportation - a kick sled with basket!
Maid Elizabeth truly has settled in and is enjoying every moment.  And the page turns on the next chapter.....

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Motor Oil and Oat Rolls - A Day of Serenity

There are days that our lifestyle presents itself as a peculiar depiction of stark contrasts.  Take Miss Serenity for example.....

On an average day, Serenity can be found helping clean the house before she vigorously undertakes her academic workload.  In the afternoon she may be strapping on her saw chaps and cutting wood from the log deck, or perhaps she'll be curling her hair for an upcoming swing dance.  Her evening activities could be anything from reloading ammunition to teaching her little sister how to paint her fingernails.  Serenity fits into no mold - she is the epitome of the "Competent Man".....

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly.  Specialization is for insects."

Robert Heinlein

Not to long ago, my friend Lady Day was over for tea.  After Serenity had made tea and set the tea table, she joined us for a cuppa and some conversation.  Finishing her tea, she pulled on a pair of mechanics coveralls and headed outside to change the oil in her truck.  A little while later, she was back in the kitchen, oil covering her hands, washing up at the kitchen sink.  After tying the top of her soiled coveralls around her waist, she grabbed a bowl of oat roll dough that she had made earlier in the day and began forming dinner rolls.  Letting the rolls rise for a bit, she slid them into the oven, set the timer and headed back out to finish the maintenance work on her truck.  She finished the oil change, installed a new air filter, checked her power steering fluid and topped off the wiper fluid.  Washing up again, she slipped out of the coveralls, checked her rolls and sat back down for another cup of tea.  Soon, she was brushing her perfectly browned dinner rolls with melted butter and sliding them onto a cooling rack.  No specialization here - nothing but a well-rounded, competent young woman.

Sir Knight and I have always endeavored to give our children the tools to successfully navigate this thing called life.  We are convinced they need to be able to run a home, fight a war, be creators (and appreciators) of beauty and to build society rather than destroy it.  Their lives need to be a peculiar depiction of stark contrasts.  That is why motor oil and oat rolls equal a day of Serenity.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Prepper Mandate - Inventory and Organization

What's the difference between a prepper and a hoarder?  Inventory and organization of course!  A preparedness lifestyle requires copious amounts of "stuff", both inside and out.  Pantries overflow with foodstuffs, cupboards are packed to the brim with medical supplies, batteries and radio equipment.  Sheds, barns and garages are filled with tools, vehicles, fuel and every manner of odds and ends that may come in handy "when the balloon goes up". 

One problem that plagues most preppers is organization.  With so much stuff taking over their lives, they struggle to contain it all.  We have found the key to preparedness is painstaking organization.  I regularly inventory and organize everything we have so that in the event of an emergency I can lay my hands on whatever is needed  - immediately.  Really, if you can't find something, you may as well not have it.  

Glove in two sizes

PPE at the ready

Trays for quick access
Recently I inventoried and organized our medical supplies.  Because we live in a small "shouse", I use every square inch to the best of my ability.  In an ongoing attempt to make our shouse work for us I rearranged our bathroom and added a 4 x 6 foot shelving unit to hold all of our medical equipment and, for now, our radios and batteries.   

Our new shelving allows us to organize medical supplies in labeled tubs for easy access and also allows for larger bulk storage.  Within easy reach we have oral hygiene and fever reducers, along with allergy medicine and cough drops.  We have personal protection equipment (gloves, face shields and surgical masks), cold packs, elastic bandages and co-flex, in addition to betadine, alcohol and gauze.  All of the tubs are labeled and easily accessible.  

Tubs of necessities

Easily accessible for every member of the family

Larger bulk items

The shelves go on and on....

Newly rearranged space
As I organized, I also took an inventory of what we had and what we needed.  With young children, we still go through more medical supplies than I care to admit, and never seem to have enough band aides or co-flex.  I've found that taking inventory once a year generally maintains our standard of readiness.  Every spring I inventory medical supplies, followed by food stores in the summer and fuels in the fall.  Every winter I inventory seeds and gardening equipment.  This constant schedule of inventory and organization keeps us well supplied and ready for whatever may come our way.

We keep a trauma tray in the table in the living room.....

For everyday emergencies!
Ultimately, your preps are only as good as their location - if you can't find it, you may as well not have it.  Inventory and organization will not only save you time and money, it may well safe your life.