Thursday, September 25, 2014

Canning and Planting Garlic

Last week Maid Elizabeth brought home a grocery bag full of garlic that was a gift from a local gentleman.  Since we don't have a root cellar, I immediately made plans to can this wonderful bounty, foreseeing tidy rows of minced garlic in my future. 

This morning, as I began separating the cloves, preparing for a full day of canning, an idea happened upon me - why didn't I plant some of these cloves so that we could enjoy our own homegrown garlic?

Seizing upon the idea, Miss Serenity, Maid Elizabeth and I quickly went to work.  First, we had to prepare garden beds.  Our soil is so lacking that we have to heavily amend it, so we trudged out to the compost pile and shoveled rich, black soil into the  wheel barrow.  After we dug compost into two separate raised beds, we were ready to plant. 

Garlic needs to be planted about two inches deep and four inches between cloves.  With three of us working, we had the raised beds planted in short order.  After a quick watering, we covered the newly planted garlic with mulch to keep it protected over the winter.

After planting the beds we were off to the kitchen for the real work.  We peeled garlic cloves one by one and soon had a bowl full of shiny, white garlic.  After washing the cloves, we pulsed them quickly in the blender (a few at a time) and put them in a pot.  After all the garlic was minced, we poured boiling water over the garlic (to quickly parboil it) and let it sit while we prepared the jars for canning.  We filled 1/2 pint jars with garlic and filled with the garlic liquid (that was poured over the garlic) to fill the jar to within 1/2 inch from the top (1/2 inch head space).  We put 1/2 tsp. of pickling salt in each jar (pickling salt doesn't have iodine in it, so it doesn't discolor the garlic while canning).  Putting Tatler lids on the jars, we put them into the pressure canner.

Freshly peeled garlic cloves

Mincing in the blender

We minced just a few at a time

A pot full of minced garlic

Covered in boiling water

We canned the garlic at 10 pounds of pressure for 45 minutes (same time and pressure as onions).  After processing, we pulled 6 beautiful 1/2 pint jars of minced garlic out of the canner. 

Jars of canned, minced garlic
Oh, how we'll enjoy this garlic throughout the year until we harvest our own flavorful garlic crop!

Until next time,


Friday, September 19, 2014

Best Cough Syrup Ever!


Recently Princess Dragon Snack developed a lingering cough that had the nasty habit of disappearing during the day only to appear with a vengeance the minute everybody was safely tucked into bed.  Water didn't help, cough drops didn't help and even lemon-honey tea didn't stem the tide of the constant coughing. 

Finally, in a late-night desperate attempt to get some sleep, I mixed up a cough syrup concoction that I found on the internet (tweaked to include ingredients I had in my kitchen).  Within minutes, I had a warm, spicy-rich syrup ready for Dragon Snack's consumption.  I gave her a spoonful, which she loved, and waited hopefully.  Dragon Snack coughed and coughed a few more times, but within 5 minutes her coughing ceased.  I sent her to bed expecting to be awoken by coughing in short order only to wake in the morning with the realization that Dragon Snack had not coughed.  Once.  All night! 

Dragon Snack didn't cough all the next day.  Before she went to bed, I gave Snack another spoonful of cough syrup, tucked her in and didn't hear a cough all night.  This went on for a few days and then one night I forgot to give her the syrup.  Just about the time we all drifted off, the coughing started.  I called Dragon Snack down, gave her a spoonful of syrup and sent her to bed.  Another 5 minutes of coughing ensued and then blissful sleep.

Slowly warming the honey, oil, vinegar and water
Since then, Master Calvin has developed a similar cough and I have been giving him a nightly dose of the syrup.  He too coughs for a few minutes and then settles into a comfortable sleep.

We are sold.  As far as we can tell, one spoonful of syrup lasts for 24 hours!  We did, on one occasion, give Snack two spoonful's of syrup in a 24 hour period, but that was during a particularly bad spell. 

With the spices added
The difficult part seems to be keeping the kids out of the syrup until they need it.  They love the way it tastes!

As winter closes in and the cold season descends upon us, I will be sure to have a supply of the Best Cough Syrup Ever in my fridge!

Best Cough Syrup Ever
2 T Olive Oil (or Coconut Oil)
4 T raw Apple Cider Vinegar
4 T raw Honey
2 T Water
1/2 tsp. ground Ginger (fresh would be better)
1 tsp. Cinnamon
2 tsp. Lemon Juice (or 3 drops of lemon essential oil)

Combine the oil, apple cider vinegar, honey and water together in a small saucepan and heat very gently and slowly until just melted and combined.  Shut off heat.

Add in the ginger, cinnamon and lemon and stir to combine.

Dosage:  Adults 1 T as needed.  Children 1 tsp. as needed.

This syrup can be stored at room temperature for a few days or in the refrigerator for a few weeks.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Are we Honest Men?

For as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under tyrannical dominion.  It is in truth, not for glory, nor riches, nor honors that we are fighting, but for freedom - for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.
Declaration of Arbroath - 1320

Monday, August 25, 2014

Product Review - EZ-POUR Jerry Can Spout

As most of you know, we aren't hooked up to the power grid, choosing instead to make our own electricity.  We have lived "off-grid" for 14 years and have learned a few things along the way.  Part of our electrical contingency plan is a hefty supply of fuel for our generator.  There are days, particularly in the dead of winter, when the solar panels just do not keep up with our meager electrical usage.  Frequently, we need to run the generator to do laundry and pump water.  Knowing our dependence on our generators, we fill and rotate our large stock of gas cans, most of which are the old, military "jerry cans".  We really depend upon our stored fuel, especially when the snow prevents us from making it out of our driveway.  Every week or two I top off our fuel cans so that we always have plenty on hand.

Although we have mostly jerry cans, I have grown to despise them.  Oh, not the cans, mind you, but the spout!  We have tried every spout we could get our hands on and they have all been junk!  They leak like sieves, come flying off at the drop of a hat and, because there is no relief valve, they pour in fits.  Every time I add gas to the generators I end up reeking of gasoline and the generator itself drips with spilled fuel.  I hate the smell, not to mention the waste.  So finally, after dumping gas on myself for the last time, I decided that I would have to find a better spout - either that or come up with a better fuel storage solution!

I spent the better part of an afternoon reading forums, shopping Google and looking in every conceivable internet nook and cranny, searching for a decent pour spout, until, finally, I found something that looked promising.  The EZ-POUR spout is a replacement spout for nearly any fuel or water container.  It comes with gaskets and caps and a replacement cap for the vent.  It looked interesting but it didn't look like it would fit the jerry can.  Then I found a tab that said "Replacement Parts & Adapters" and low and behold, Jerry Can Adapter was on the bottom of the list!  I was so excited!

I ordered the adapter ($5.98) and the EZ-POUR Spout (the regular spout is $10.95 - although I ordered the Hi-Flo spout for $13.95) and waited impatiently for them to arrive.  Shipping was quick and the spout and adapter arrived within 3 days.  I could hardly wait to try it out!  The jerry can adapter is hefty, not at all whimpy and cheap feeling, and it comes with two gaskets - 1 for sealing the can completely (for transport) and another that is designed to allow the original jerry can relief valve to work so that fuel flows freely from the spout.

The jerry can adapter
We screwed the adapter into our can.  It fit snugly and securely - a nice tight fit.  Next, we screwed the EZ-POUR spout onto the adapter (using the extension that is included in the kit).  With the extension, the spout was plenty long enough to tip into the generator without spilling a drop of fuel.  Lifting up the jerry can, fuel started flowing into the generator without spilling!  Not one drop!  It was amazing!  We filled the generator (no leaking!) and came back into the shouse smelling fresh and clean, and not like gas for once!  Revolutionary.

The EZ-POUR spout with extension
For all of you with old jerry cans laying around - this is the spout for you.  I think Sir Knight and I will be ordering a few more (just to have) and will perhaps order a few as Christmas presents for our prepper friends.  These are the real deal, folks. 

By the way, these spouts aren't just for jerry cans.  Apparently, they were designed as a replacement spout for just about any fuel or water can.  Look at the website to determine if the spouts would work for you.  I can't recommend them highly enough.

Until next time,


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Soft Multi-Grain Sandwich Bread

Finally we have been blessed with a break in the weather!  It has been unusually hot this summer, with too many days over 100 degrees.  I seem barely able to get a passable dinner on the table, much less provide freshly baked anything for my family!  Besides, who want to heat the house up even more when the thermometer reads 108?

With the slight dip in the mercury, I finally managed to get at least a little baking done.  Having subsisted on nasty cardboard bread for far too long, the first thing on my baking list was a hearty batch of whole wheat bread. 

Bob's 10 grain cereal

Covered in boiling water

Thick, like porridge
One of my very favorite breads is a crusty multi-grain bread.  I have tried numerous recipes over the years, all of which fell short of my expectations.  Recently I came across a recipe that looked promising and with a minor tweak or two, turned out a batch of two large loaves.  Oh, this bread was delicious!  Finally, a multi-grain bread that was flavorful, soft, chewy and full of  whole wheat goodness!

And so, without further ado, the recipe...

Multi-Grain Sandwich Bread
1 1/4 C 10 grain hot cereal mix (or 7 grain)
2 1/2 C boiling water
3 C all-purpose flour (or whole wheat)
1 1/2 C whole wheat flour
1/4 C honey (or 1/2 C brown sugar)
4 T butter, melted and cooled
1 T yeast
1 T salt
1/2 C thick cut oats (optional)

Place the cereal in a bowl (or Bosch mixing bowl) and cover with the boiling water.  Let stand, stirring occasionally, until the mixture cools to about 110 degrees, about 1 hour.  The mixture will resemble a thick porridge.

Once the cereal mixture has cooled add the honey, butter and yeast and stir (or mix on low until combined).  Add half of the flour and the salt and stir until a cohesive dough begins to form.  Continue adding the flour, 1/2 a cup at a time, until a soft dough forms.  It will pull away from the bowl but still be slightly sticky.  Continue to knead for 5 minutes. 

Place your dough in a large, lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel and set in a warm place to rise.  Allow to rise at room temperature until doubled in size (about an hour).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Lightly grease two 9x5" bread pans.  Without punching the risen dough down, carefully cut the dough into two pieces, gently form into loaves and place in the prepared bread pans.  If you would like, you can sprinkle oats on the tops of the loaves. 

Cover loaves loosely with a tea towel and allow to rise until nearly double (about 30 to 40 minutes).
Slide the loaves into your preheated oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown.  Transfer to wire racks and allow to cool (don't cut too soon or you will smoosh the loaves).

NOTE:  I doubled this recipe and made two industrial sized loaves.

In a greased pan, ready to rise

Risen and ready for the bread pans (Look at all of those wonderful grains!)

Risen in the pans

Fresh from the oven!

A cooled, sliced loaf

And that, my friends, is my multi-grain bread secret recipe!

Until next time,


Monday, August 18, 2014

Product Review - Trangia Alcohol Burner

Last year, I found a treasure at Goodwill - an antique "motoring" basket.  It was beautiful, mostly complete and in remarkably good condition - especially for its age.  Motoring baskets are very difficult to come by.  They hail from the halcyon days of motoring - when the journey itself was the true adventure and the destination was merely a pleasant diversion.  The baskets came equipped with everything a proper family would require to enjoy their tea time whilst traveling - tins for sandwiches and biscuits, tea cups and saucers, plates, silverware and a kettle and burner for brewing tea.  Even the basket itself was designed for the in-basket heating of water with nickel clad wicker around the burner assembly.

As I said, the basket was very nearly complete, but not entirely.  One enamel tea cup was missing, but, more importantly, the tea kettle was missing.  The original burner and water tank were in tact, but without the kettle, my basket was sorely lacking. 

The water tank nestled over the burner
I spent the better part of a year searching in vain for a kettle that would work for my basket.  It had to be small, with a folding handle.  It required a lip around the bottom of the kettle so that it would sit securely atop the burner assembly without slipping and I preferred stainless steel to aluminum. 

One day, flipping through The Sportsman's Guide, I came across what looked to be the perfect kettle.  It was small, stainless steel, had a folding handle and best of all, it was inexpensive.  I ordered the kettle and anxiously awaited its arrival. 

My new kettle - it is a perfect fit!

Once the kettle arrived, I pulled my basket down from its perch and with Sir Knight's help, readied the burner for our first test run.  I filled the water kettle with water, just to make sure that it didn't leak and proceeded to rinse out the alcohol burner.  Water gushed out of the bottom of the burner!  I had never closely inspected the burner - if I had, I would have noticed that there were numerous tiny areas that had small holes.  These holes rendered the burner assembly useless.  I was crestfallen!  My beautiful basket was nothing more than a pretty face - and although I am a hopeless romantic, I expect everything I have to be not only beautiful but practical.

It was Sir Knight who saved the day.  He suggested that we buy an alcohol burner.  He knew of one that was based on a hundred year old design with a proven track record.  The burner was small, so it would fit tidily into the basket and may even fit under the water tank just like the original burner.  We ordered two burners (Sir Knight had always wanted one for his multi-fuel stove) and waited to see how they would work.

The Trangia Spirit Burners arrived within the week.  At first I was a little concerned, thinking they were only designed to be used in a specific lamp or stove, however, my misgivings were unfounded as they performed admirably as a stand-alone unit.

The burner is made in Germany

Sitting in my burner assembly
These little burners don't require wicks of any kind.  They burn denatured alcohol, which burns incredibly clean - no black soot on the bottom of the kettle!  What really surprised me was how hot they burned!  We filled the burner with alcohol, took the top off, placed the burner in the basket assembly and touched it with a lighter.  Blue flames began to grow and as the burner warmed up the flames grew.  We positioned the kettle over the flame and waited.  Within 12 minutes steam was shooting from the tea kettle spout!  We had attained a full rolling boil.  Tea was served!

Merrily heating away

They burn denatured alcohol
The burner comes equipped with a screw-on cap so that you can leave fuel in it and transport it without any leakage.  The cap does have a gasket, however, the gasket must be removed before extinguishing the flame.  Once the unit has cooled, unscrew the cap, replace the gasket and screw the lid back onto the burner.  Quick, easy and painless!

Sir Knight tried his burner in the multi-fuel stove and was equally impressed.  It was easy to start, compact enough to transport and provided an instant, reliable cooking method while in the bush.  Denatured alcohol is inexpensive and stores well, making it a solid preparedness essential.  This little burner, in concert with a multi-fuel stove, would be a perfect cooking back-up during a power outage or other natural disaster, not to mention being just the right size to tuck into your first line gear or hiking pack.

Burning in a multi-fuel stove

We are now equipping all of our packs with these spirit burners.  They are inexpensive, lightweight and reliable - just right for your pack, your car or your house.  And, if you're a romantic survivalist - just right for your motoring basket!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Homestead Happenings

We have been busy with summer on our little slice of the Redoubt.  The garden is growing abysmally, a combination of poor soil, greedy critters and extreme heat, I think.  The bees are doing well and are comfortably housed in their newly built 8 frame supers.  Miss Serenity is enjoying the fruits of her labors in the form of her newly purchased Yamaha YZ250F and Princess Dragon Snack is learning to  ride the little Honda XR100.  Master Hand Grenade, Sir Knight and I did a bit of "remodeling" on our entry-way - very rustic chic I think!

Gluing 8 frame supers

Miss Serenity with her new bike

She saved her money a full year to buy this bike

She is one proud girl!

This sits above her bike in the shed

Princess Dragon Snack with her cool new ride

She is learning to shift and to mechanic!

Our re-done entryway...

Galvanized roofing and barn boards

We don't have a lot of room - but we do try to make the most of what we have!

Have a wonderful day!

Until next time -