Thursday, October 23, 2014
There are things in life that irritate me. Often, they're not huge, earth-shattering situations, rather just small, constant, wearing irritations. And it's the small, constant, wearing irritations that bring people to their breaking point.
Last week, I was irritated past the point of reason and was on the verge of becoming unreasonable. I wanted to throw a temper tantrum and make sure that everyone around me knew of my displeasure. Instead, I sat there and stewed (getting more irritated by the minute). While I silently fumed, my fingers brushed the pearls that encircled my neck. As I fingered the satiny smooth pearls and wondered at their magnificence, I realized that they owed their precious beauty to a tiny, almost imperceptible irritation.
I unclasped the necklace and held the pearls in my hands. A tiny grain of sand, a parasite or even a sliver of shell had deposited itself in the innermost part of each oyster that had produced these pearls. Normally, the oyster would have spit the invader out, but for each one of these beautiful pearls, that had proven impossible. As a result, the sand had rubbed the inside of each oyster and the oysters had responded by coating the sand in a lustrous coating, soothing itself while transforming the irritant. Month after month, in the unseen darkness of the oyster's secret places, that grain of sand, that constant irritant, produced a glorious gem of untold worth. What each oyster would have rejected as unwanted - irritating, had, in reality, produced in it something far more valuable than itself.
I am guilty. I often resent struggles and irritations. I try to avoid them rather than allow them to change me, to polish me.
As I gazed at my Great-Grandmother's pearls, I realized that I wanted my life to produce pearls of great worth, even if that meant embracing the irritants that life always seems bring in abundance.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
One particularly challenging aspect of being non-electric is the need for refrigeration. When we first moved into Little Shouse on the Prairie we were completely non-electric. No. Power. Anywhere. I had a milk cow, which resulted in fresh cheese and butter and yogurt, and nowhere to keep any of it cool. The cheese and butter were somewhat forgiving but the milk was not. If I couldn't cool the milk in a relatively short amount of time, and keep it cool, I ended up with a curdled mass that was only fit for animal use. Desperate for a solution, Sir Knight and I bought a heavily insulated cooler and filled it with blocks of ice. Although better than nothing, the cooler was a sad substitute for a real refrigerator.
Within a few weeks of moving in, we had a large propane tank installed and plumbed to the Shouse. Originally we had intended on using the propane only for our range. Quickly, however, we realized that we needed another solution for refrigeration.
Our original propane stove was an enameled Wedgewood from the 1950's. It was the gem of my kitchen! At the same yard sale that we had purchased the stove, we stumbled across a 1950's model Servel propane refrigerator. For a few hundred dollars, we bought the stove and the refrigerator. My initial thought was that we could use the propane stove only when we really needed it, but we couldn't turn the refrigerator off if we weren't using it, so not wanting to waste propane, we didn't hook up the refrigerator.
More than a few gallons of spoiled milk, blocks of ruined cheese and pounds of rotten meat later, we finally gave in and lit the propane refrigerator. Oh, it was heavenly! Although rather small for a refrigerator, the Servel was huge compared to a cooler. No longer did I have to fish wet packages, bags and bottles from the bottom of a swampy cooler! Now I could keep gallons of milk ice cold, leftovers fresh and I even had a small freezer for ice cube trays. Wow! What a difference a tiny blue flame could make!
Over time, I found that I absolutely loved our propane refrigerator. It was small, but efficient. In the whole scope of things, it used relatively little propane and made our lives so much easier. But, out of all of the reasons to love the Servel, silence was at the top of my list. Really! Propane refrigerators are completely silent. They don't cycle off and on. The flame just burns silently, steadily, providing continuous, silent refrigeration. Oh how I loved that little workhorse.
One morning, after using the Servel for about 6 years, I awoke to a warming refrigerator. Laying on the floor to inspect the burner, I quickly discovered that the flame had gone out. Sir Knight re-lit our refrigerator and it continued on as before - for about 2 weeks. Again, a pool of water on the kitchen floor indicated the burner has gone out. Sir Knight surveyed the situation and discovered that the burner had burned out. Calling a propane refrigerator repair center, I was quickly informed that the older model Servel that we owned had been part of a lawsuit (the burners quit working after over 50 years and a number of people had died of carbon monoxide poisoning in their cabins) and there were no replacement parts available. We were sadly reduced to the cooler once again.
Shortly after our propane refrigerator quit working, we helped a friend move his entire household. A week later, a pick-up came rumbling up our driveway bearing a gift from the friend that had moved - an older model Sunfrost refrigerator, specially designed for off-grid use. The Sunfrost was electric, however, it was designed with the alternative energy household in mind. Our refrigerator was large, with two compressors - one for the freezer and one for the refrigerator. It was short and wide, making the refrigerator inconvenient, however Sir Knight remedied that problem by building a sturdy box for the refrigerator to sit upon. Now, not only was the Sunfrost at a convenient height, but the box also provided extra kitchen storage!
I had a love/hate relationship with the Sunfrost refrigerator. It was huge, but had only three awkward glass shelves in each section. The shelves were positioned so that it was difficult to fit anything into the refrigerator except into the voluminous middle shelf. The refrigerator was so deep that I was constantly digging everything out to get to items in the back. It was nothing short of frustrating. Along with the poor organizational qualities, we found that our Sunfrost didn't work particularly well. The refrigerator froze everything that migrated to the back and the freezer refused to freeze anything other than ice cubes. While researching our refrigeration issues, Sir Knight discovered that Sunfrost tested their refrigerators differently than industry standards for a "regular" refrigerator. Sunfrost tested their refrigerator efficiency at significantly higher temperatures than their Energy Star counterparts. What this meant for us was that our refrigerator required much more energy than advertised. We turned our refrigerator down, trying to keep things cooler, causing the compressors to cycle off and on more frequently and still not achieving the cooling that we desired! On top of that, the fridge was not frost free. The entire top and back of the fridge would turn into solid chunks of ice, all while not freezing anything in the freezer!
After eight years of no popsicles, no ice cream and forgotten left-overs, we made the jump. For my birthday this year, Sir Knight bought me a used, Energy Star Amana refrigerator to replace the cursed Sunfrost. I was so excited! My "new" fridge had drawers, shelves and cubbies everywhere. It was a simple refrigerator with the fridge on top and the freezer on the bottom. The evening we brought it home, I anxiously waited to see how it would respond to the modified square waves of our off-grid system. I wasn't sure if the surge (when it came on) would be too much for our inverter, or if it would use a ton more power. I wanted to have a "real" refrigerator so badly that I was constantly checking the Tri-metric (volt meter) to see if it was going to be viable.
As soon as we plugged the fridge in, it cycled on. Really, it only used a little bit more power during the surge than our Sunfrost (our Sunfrost surge was about 12 amps and the Amana topped out at 15 amps). But, the really cool thing was that when the fridge was running it used less electricty (about 6 amps versus the Sunfrost's 8 amps) than our old refrigerator! Less! And, as icing on the cake - the Amana Energy Star refrigerator could freeze anything - hard, and it was frost free!
Suffering for eight years with a substandard refrigerator was ridiculous! We had read one too many solar articles, listened to one too many experts and based our decisions on faulty information. We couldn't be happier with a plain old Energy Star refrigerator, despite what the "experts" say.
All in all, my favorite fridge was the propane Servel. It had drawbacks (tiny freezer and small fridge) but I LOVED it's silent operation (and it was pretty cute!). But, if I had to do it all again, I would definitely choose a plain jane Energy Star refrigerator. When we had no alternative energy, the Servel was the only way to go, but with solar panels, the Amana is wonderful. It runs flawlessly, keeps cold things cold and frozen things frozen. It is convenient, easily organized and just plain awesome. Sometimes I walk into my kitchen and think "where have you been all my life" (I know, sad isn't it?).
If you are just starting your off-grid adventure and you have a reliable alternative energy system, I would highly encourage you to buy a simple Energy Star refrigerator rather than an expensive "off-grid" fridge. Although a DC Sunfrost might be worth the investment, we found that our AC model certainly wasn't. In the worst case scenario, a root cellar would still be the best off-grid cooler, but if you can get your off-grid system set up now, an Energy Star refrigerator is your best bet.
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
The equality of men. That ideal was the hallmark of America. It was spoken of in hushed tones across Europe and lured men from every corner of the world. The promise of equality caused men to quit their meager comforts and embark on a journey that could easily cost them their lives. To be considered an "equal", to own property, to help make laws, to be limited only by their own willingness to work hard - for such a life as this, men were willing to risk everything. And they did.
The people that built America came from all backgrounds and walks of life - but the majority had one thing in common - their lot in life. They had a station and were unable to change it regardless of hard work or circumstances. The people in positions of power ruled those beneath them, some kindly and some cruelly, but the separation between those in power and those without power was absolute and complete. The peasant, the regular Joe, was at the mercy of his better. There was no recourse, no redress. America promised an evening of the playing field. Here, you could be whatever you wanted to be - you were ruled by your peers, not your masters. But it went even further than that. In America, any man could become a lawmaker. They could determine the law for their fellow man and then live under the laws they created. The founders of our country created a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Just the utterance of the word "America" brought hope to the masses. The downtrodden sought equality and found it in the arms of America.
Slowly, insidiously, our culture has shifted. Almost imperceptibly we have allowed ourselves to transfer power from the people to the state. As we slept, cocooned in our comfort and safety, our self-government has slipped away and been replaced by an unforgiving master - The State. No longer do we live in a land of equality, but a land of "Them" and "Us".
To illustrate a tiny microcosm of this paradigm shift, read the following excerpt from a local paper:
WSP trooper, pilot caught on tape
(Reported in the Spokesman-Review 10/12/14)
Excerpts from scanner recordings made by Bill Gillam, of Arlington, Washington, on U.S. Highway 2/97 between Cashmere and Wenatcheee, where the speed limit is 60 mph;
Patrol trooper: "Yeah, it's another officer."
Patrol pilot in airplane: "That's a pretty good one."
Trooper: "Yeah, I had, uh, 86 on that one."
Pilot: There's a car doing 73, just pushed traffic out of the way so its got open road again inside a mile to you."
Trooper: "That 75 ain't ours, Chris, looks like it had a light bar on it."
Pilot: "Did I miss a memo today?"
Trooper: "There's a DRE (drug recognition conference) conference in Chelan tody that starts at noon."
Pilot: "Ahh, OK."
Pilot: "I got a pair coming but I'm not super optimistic about 'em, if ya know what I mean. I'll hold off on the speeds until you guys can check them out, just in case. It's a white SUV, followed by a gray car."
Trooper: "Yes, they're going to the conference."
Pilot: "All right."
Pilot: "I don't know if it matter or not but all the ones I'm calling the speeds at have been over 80."
Trooper: "They will make a little announcement at the conference."
Pilot: "Yeah, that'd be good. I mean, I understand you don't want to be late but that's a little too much."
Pilot: "A motorcycle made an unsafe lane change."
Trooper: "Seventy-two with an unsafe lane change. He cut the black car off. So 78 was the high. You're not going to believe where the motorcycle's going."
Pilot: "Let me guess - the DRE conference."
(At end of video)
Pilot: "Sorry we couldn't get more."
Trooper: (laughing) "We got plenty."
Pilot: "There will just be one more page in the reg manual.:
As I said, this is just a tiny illustration. We have allowed so many usurpations of our rights as free men that it would be impossible to recapture them. We have allowed a President to remain in office that doesn't agree with the Constitution, therefore he doesn't enforce it. We have allowed our Representatives to implement a (mandated) health care system that they have exempted themselves from. We have allowed law enforcement officers to disregard the law for themselves and only impose it on "civilians" (that means you and me). We have replaced the equality of a government of the people with a glorified caste system and now we are enjoying all of the accompanying atrocities.
It's time to make the State aware that we, the People are the true and rightful heirs. This is OUR land - not theirs. Stand up and be counted. Our founders made sacrifices for this land, are you willing to do the same?
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Reading the daily news headlines, I often wonder "How". How did Americans become a people I hardly recognize? How did we become a people willing to sacrifice our rugged independence for the unrealized (and quite frankly, impossible) promise of safety? How did we become a subservient people, willing to comply with laws that rob of us the very freedom of our souls? How did our once proud countrymen become willing slaves to a tyrannical "King". How did these things come to pass? In one word - Rebellion. We have reaped what we have sown. We have obtained the desires of our hearts. The harvest is now ripe, and more abundant than we could have possibly imagined.
America has chosen to follow a "King" rather than God. In our desire to conform to the standards set by other nations, we have sacrificed everything that made our country great. And, had we had the eyes to see and the ears to hear, we would have known what was coming....
And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king.
And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots.
And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, to instruments of his chariots.
And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.
And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.
And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.
And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.
He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.
And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day.
Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us;
1 Samuel 8:10-19
Choose you this day what King you will serve!
Monday, October 13, 2014
As most of you know, one of my great joys is preparing my home for the winter. I love to pull things together for the winter and make everything cozy. I dress the garage door with drop cloths and curtains, switch out the tablecloths and prepare the oil lanterns. In short - I nest. And here, my friends, is a little peek into the Shouse....
Until next time,
|I use dry erase markers on an old window to write a new proverb every week|
|Master Hand Grenade and I cut galvanized metal and made a wall in the loft-|
I LOVE IT!
|We left a portion of the loft open - I hung another antique window|
that had the panes painted in chalkboard paint, to add a bit
of privacy upstairs. In the three panes I wrote
|My favorite corner in our bedroom|
|Dressed for winter|
|I used an old tank cartridge box to create a centerpiece for the table (it's more red than pink)|
Friday, October 10, 2014
I can't believe it's October! Why? Because our days are warm and sunny and there isn't a hint of that nippy autumn air that I so love. With such warm days I haven't felt compelled to do much baking but yesterday the girls and I wanted a little something to accompany our afternoon tea. The pumpkin scone recipe I recently came across looked like it was just the thing, however, it only used 1/2 cup of pumpkin so I scoured my other recipes to see what I could bake with the rest of the pumpkin in the jar. Oh, did I come up with something wonderful! Texas pecan cake. Umm.
If you are hankering for a taste of fall, these recipes will fill the bill. Enjoy!
2 1/2 C flour
6 T sugar
1 T baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/2 C butter, cold, cut into chunks
1/2 C pumpkin puree (or other winter squash)
3 T heavy cream (or milk)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 C powdered sugar
2 T milk
Pumpkin Spiced Glaze
1 C powdered sugar
2 T milk
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
For the Scones: In a medium bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Cut in butter (with a pastry cutter). Add the pumpkin, cream, egg and vanilla. Stir just until a soft dough forms. Knead 4 or 5 times or until the dough comes together well.
Pat the dough until it is about 1 inch thick. (I pat it in a circle). Cut wedges in the size of your preference.
Place scones on a baking sheet and bake for 14 to 18 minutes or until done. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
For the Glaze: Stir the ingredients for the Thick Glaze together until smooth. Spread over cooled scones and allow to set for about 10 minutes. Stir together the ingredients for the spiced glaze and drizzle over cooled and frosted scones.
Texas Pecan Cake
1 C butter, softened
2 C sugar
1 1/2 C butternut squash, pureed (I used pumpkin)
3 tsp. vanilla extract
3 C flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 grated coconut
1/2 pecans, chopped
1/4 C butter
1/2 C pecans, chopped
1 C brown sugar
1/4 C cream, plus a glug (about 1 T)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a Bundt pan.
For the Cake: Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs beating well after each addition. Add the squash (or pumpkin) and mix well. Stir in the vanilla. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and mix well. Fold in the coconut and pecans. Spoon into the prepared pan and bake for 50 or 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes then turn out onto a cake platter.
For the Glaze: Melt the butter over medium heat. Add the pecans and stir for 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and cream and bring to a boil. After glaze comes to a roiling boil stir constantly for 2 minutes. Take off heat. Allow to cool then drizzle glaze over cooled cake.
NOTE: I like this cake best without the glaze! Just slice in small pieces and butter - out of this world!
Thursday, October 9, 2014
As a mother, my job is always changing. What my children need from me as infants changes when they are toddlers. My toddlers needs are different from my little kids needs and my little kids needs are different from my teenagers. What has surprised me the most are what my adult children need.
When my children were little my job as mother was all consuming. They needed me for everything. I fed them, I taught them and I discipled them. I read stories to them and prayed with them and tucked them into bed. I thought they would be little forever and that I would spend the rest of my days wiping noses and drying tears. Suddenly, they were big. As their world began to expand, I became their touchstone, their sounding board. Their questions began to get "bigger" and their observations more discerning. They didn't need my constant physical attention, however they needed much more of my emotional energy. They needed me to see them and hear them - not what they seemed to be on the outside, but who they really were, on the inside. They needed me to encourage them and to chastise them. They needed me to constantly turn their hearts back to the Way.
And now I have grown children. Maid Elizabeth and I are close - we talk about everything - hopes, dreams, disappointments. We share our laughter as easily as we share our tears. Master Hand Grenade, however, has taken me by surprise. He has taught me so much about being a mother. Master Hand Grenade has taught me that young men need a woman in their life. He seeks me out to talk about life's challenges and disappointments. He wants my opinion about the qualities to look for in a wife. He wants to know what I think about the music that he likes and the movies he watches. Sometimes, he doesn't want my opinion at all - he just wants to talk, to vent, to connect.
And Master Hand Grenade is not alone. Most of the young men I know, whether the sons of friends or the checkers at the grocery store, want the input, the encouragement of a woman. A few weeks ago as Miss Serenity and I were checking out at the grocery store, the young checker (he was about 24) began talking. He told me that this is not were he thought he would be at this point in his life. He said that he had gone to school and had hoped he would be a mechanic somewhere but he hadn't been able to get a job. He said he had talked to the manager at the mechanics shop across the road, but he hadn't gotten back to him. I asked him if he has a resume (which he didn't) and encouraged him to make one. I told him to visit the shop about once a week and enquire about a job (that would let them know that he was serious). I told him to make sure that he did the best job he could while working at the grocery store so that his employers could give him the very best recommendation. That young man spent about 15 minutes talking - about his life, his future, his dreams.
Miss Serenity was a little put out. "You are my Mom, not his!" She stated rather vehemently. "He can't have you!". In that moment, I understood Master Hand Grenade a little bit better. As a young man, he needed feminine input, counsel - just as the checker in the grocery store had. He needed a mother. I've found that my job doesn't stop when my children are grown - it's just getting started.
As I pondered the relationship between young adult men and their mothers, I thought of King Lemuel and the prophecy of his mother. When King Lemuel was young (probably about Master Hand Grenade's age) his mother spoke into his life. She gave of her wisdom to encourage and direct her son. Mothers, let us continue in our feminine duty and strengthen and encourage all of the men God has given us.
This is how I will instruct my son - as King Lemuel's mother instructed him....
The words of King Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him.
What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows?
Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings.
It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink:
Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.
Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.
Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.
Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction.
Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and please the cause of the poor and needy.
Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar.
She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.
She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.
She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.
She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.
She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.
Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.
Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.
Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.