Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year!

We are ringing 2016 in with beautiful weather - a positive winter wonderland!  This week has been sunny and cold, with diamonds glistening off the snow and our boots crunching with each footfall.  We have been playing in the snow until our noses get red and our fingers grow stiff, coming in only long enough to toast up by the cookstove and then we are off again, enjoying our unusual (calm) winter weather.  The near-constant winds have stilled long enough for us to truly delight in our snowy-white fairyland and has allowed the trees to keep their winter cloaks.

Last weeks weather was another story altogether!  Our plans were to leave on Christmas Eve to spend Christmas with my parents.  Our bags were packed, our truck was loaded and then the blizzard began.  By 4 o'clock Wednesday afternoon, our driveway had drifts four feet deep and only our Landcruiser was able to traverse its depths.  Maid Elizabeth parked her car at lunchtime and knowing that we were in for some weather, I delivered both she and Master Hand Grenade to work, planning to pick them up at the end of the day.

A small drift, just forming

Master Calvin making a trail through the snow
Unfortunately, the weather grew worse and as the sky darkened, a dear, sweet elderly friend drove up our almost impassible driveway.  After delivering Christmas cheer, he attempted to drive back down our drifted driveway, became confused and drove right off our driveway into a huge, snow-filled ditch.  Sir Knight's attempts to pull him out were of no use - he was buried in the snow so deeply that we knew we would need big equipment to get him out.

We called a neighbor for assistance and he and his son-in-law drove over to assess the situation.  After almost suffering the same fate as our elderly friend, our neighbor drove back to his house and started up his 100 horsepower tractor.  Within minutes they were back, first with a snowplow-equipped Jeep, followed by the tractor.  Half-way up the driveway, the Jeep was buried in a drift, unable to move.  The tractor made its way around the Jeep, plowing snow as it went, until it almost reached the truck, when it too, became buried in the snow-filled ditch.  We now had a pickup, a Jeep with a snowplow and a 100 hp tractor stuck in our driveway.  Night had descended upon us, the blizzard was wild, it was the day before Christmas Eve and we were landlocked at Little Shouse on the Prairie, with no way to make it to the road. 

Our children had finished work and begged  rides home with friends and tromped up the nearly impassible driveway on foot.  It took a good bit of time, with a blizzard raging and snow drifts piling high, but they made it in time to grab shovels and help in the attempted driveway evacuation. 

After burying his tractor, our neighbor went back home for the big gun - a dozer.  He drove up the driveway, plowing a huge berm of snow as he went, made it about 300 feet, and his dozer died.  Apparently the cold weather didn't agree with the battery, so Sir Knight unhooked our generator battery (which is always freshly charged), wired it into the dozer, gave it a crank and the dozer, once again, roared to life.  Within 30 minutes, the dozer had pulled the Jeep from the snowbank, drug the tractor from the ditch and finally managed to extricate our elderly friend's truck.  After 3 1/2 hours, our driveway was cleared of vehicles, however, it was left utterly impassible to anything without tracks.

Can you see the driveway?

The cavalry's here!

The dozer clearing and the grader widening
Christmas Eve morning, our working children met friends at the foot of the driveway and hitched rides to work.  Sir Knight was stuck at home, not able to get his service truck out of its parking spot.  Our neighbor with the dozer planned on plowing our driveway that afternoon (just in time for us to leave for my parents) and another neighbor offered to clean and widen the driveway with his grader (we have the BEST neighbors!).  And then, the unthinkable happened.  Another well-meaning neighbor attempted to plow our driveway (with his small pickup) and promptly got himself utterly and completely STUCK!  With the clock ticking, our little children in tears and our driveway impassible, we knew our Christmas trip was over before it even began.  But then, a big yellow grader began a slow ascent up our driveway, heading for the pickup, ready to pull him out.  And. Then. The. Grader. Got. Stuck.  REALLY!  After a quick walk back to his house, and our neighbor drove his self-loading log truck to the end of our driveway.  He extended the loading arm, grabbed his grader, gave it a yank and pulled it out of the snow.  After the grader was free, our neighbor chained it up and pulled the pickup out of the snow.  Finally, all of the vehicles were (again) out of the our driveway.  About that time our neighbor with the dozer showed up and began plowing us out.  The dozer plowed, the grader widened and cleared and by 3 o'clock on Christmas Eve, our family was packed in the Landcruiser on our way to the Grandparents!  It truly was a Christmas miracle!

A driveway!!

Off to Grandpa and Grandma's!
Over the course of those two days we had more big equipment on our driveway than the road crews did on the highways!  As stressful and frustrating as our driveway ordeal was, it was also a beautiful reminder of unwarranted grace.  Our neighbors didn't "owe" us anything, yet they came to our aid out of the kindness of their hearts.  We have no possible way of ever repaying them, but they didn't expect payment. They were neighbors in the purest sense of the word, and they left us praising God for them. 

And now we begin a new year with hearts overflowing.  A very happy new year to you all!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Winter Dance

The snow was falling silently, music wafted through the air and a gentle light softly shone through the community center windows, beckoning friends from near and far.  Finally, it was here, the night of our much anticipated Christmas dance.  Sir Knight, Miss Serenity, the Littles and I decorated the hall in winter plaid, prepared the food and made the punch while Maid Elizabeth readied the sound system.  Before any guests appeared, our family danced through the empty rooms, singing Christmas carols and anticipating a wonderful, fun-filled evening.

The Punch table (sans the punch bowl)

Very soon, the community center was filled with children and families, young adults and teenagers, every generation joining hands together, dancing steps that had been passed down through the ages.  Oh, what a joy to see faces filled with anticipation and flushed with excitement!

The dances that we do are old-fashioned - The Virginia Reel, Posties Jig, and The Grand March.  We dance Whip-the Willow and Hunt the Fox, the Pattie-Cake Polka and more.  These are not the awkward dances that you remember from school, these are dances that include everyone, in every age-group.  Some are mixers, other you dance with your partner for the entire dance, but every one of them are fast-paced and laughter filled.  No one is ever left out.  We have young people that are disabled, others that are socially insecure - none are shunned and all are included!  It's just plain fun!

Whip the Willow

Getting ready for the Willow (Miss Serenity is talking to a new-found friend)

Teaching the dance

Master Hand Grenade bowing to his partner

Princess Dragon Snack (the blur in blue) sacheting down the middle
One of my favorite things is seeing multiple generation dance together - delighting in each others company.  Last night, one cherished scene was seeing our tall and burly 60 year old neighbor holding the hand of his tiny 4 year old dancing partner and she looked up at him in complete adoration!  Oh how I wish I would have had my camera at the ready!  These are the things of memories.

Princess Dragon Snack and her partner

They really have to duck to make it under the little kids!

Master Calvin and his partner

The Pattie-Cake Polka

Sir Knight and I don't put these dances on because we need one more thing to do - we do it for our children.  We want to tuck a happy childhood under their jacket, and these dances help create memories for a lifetime. 

These truly are the good ole' days!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Wonders of Winter

It snowed!  It snowed!  Last night, as we all lay snug in our beds, our world was blanketed with a glorious covering of new fallen snow.  Such beauty we awoke to this morning!

Shortly after tea and seeing Sir Knight to the door, I woke the children and listened with great delight to their squeals of joy.  After a hurried breakfast, we all put on our coats and mufflers, hats and gloves, ready to explore our winter wonderland.  As I pulled the 4-wheeler out of the shed, the kids hooked the Pelican sled to the hitch and piled in for some early morning fun.  I sped through the fields, cutting doughnuts, winding through serpentines and maneuvering figure eights.  With rosy, smiling faces, Miss Serenity, Princess Dragon Snack and Master Calvin held fast, their gloved hands curled around the edges of the sled.  On the straighter paths, when their grip could be loosened, one or the other would scoop up a handful of snow and launch it at me as I drove, laughing as their snowball hit the mark.  Yay snow!

The 4-wheeler with the sled (upside down, of course)

Princess Dragon Snack being attacked by the ferocious Tibetan Mastiff (who happens to LOVE the snow)
After our morning of fun we settled in for school.  The shouse was cozy and warm and so pleasant that after we finished school, we thought twice about heading back into the winter weather, however, we couldn't resist the gorgeous wonderland that beckoned.  We spent the next few hours splitting wood and stacking it in the woodshed (taking a quick sled ride in between each load) and finally, after much playing, attached the snowplow to the front of the 4-wheeler.  Now we will have to limit our sledding fun to the driveway, as the snowplow is too low to go through the deep snow of the field. 

With the snow plow (after plowing the driveway)
It has been a beautiful winter's day, deep in the American Redoubt.  As the gloaming unfolded, Sir Knight and I took tea in front of the wood cookstove and thanked God for the blessings of our family, our shouse and the snow, glorious snow.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Hello Again....

Please forgive my extended absence - it's so nice to be back!  Our family has been working, schooling and generally keeping the home fires burning.  We have weathered a few wind storms (we were none the worse for wear), helped neighbors manage power outages and kept our local grocery store in hot coffee (nothing beats a wood cookstove!).  Now, we are busy making candy for Christmas, trying to finish school for the year (we'll be back at the books in January) and preparing for a dance that we are hosting at our local community center.  I'll keep you posted on the happenings......

Now, some photo's of our nativity.  We have been collecting "Willow Tree" for a number of years, adding to it every Christmas season.  Generally, I clean off a shelf, and set the nativity safely out of the way, but I've really always wanted it front and center.  This year, I tried something new - I used and old galvanized beehive top and, with double-sided tape, secured the Willow Tree to the hive top and placed it in the middle of our living room coffee table.  It worked like a charm!  Now the children and the dog can bump into the table, yet the nativity holds fast.  I'm thrilled! 

When they saw the Star they REJOICED exceedingly with Great JOY.
Matthew 2:10

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Land of Promise

Today's the day!  James Wesley, Rawles' newest book "Land of Promise" has hit the shelves and is rocketing toward the top of the bestseller's list! 

This newest book is somewhat of a departure from his previous work in that it is classified as Science Fiction, however, it's classic Rawles in its call for alert awareness and preemptive preparedness.   This is a page-turning, edge-of-your-seat wake-up call! 

This book is Volume 1 of what promises to be a highly anticipated series.  Bag your copy - now!
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Until Next Time,


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.