Friday, June 29, 2012

Reasonable Government

I have had a socio-political awakening.  All these years, I have believed that our all-reaching Government was intrusive and oppressive.  I have railed against the tyranny of self-important potentates dictating their corrupt morality to the masses.  But now, I have realized the error of my ways.  Our government is perfectly reasonable - they are only behaving in accordance with how we created them.

Recently, I came across a song that perfectly describes our current political climate.  Never mind that it is about Zombies - just substitute Judge, Legislator or President for Zombie, and you will have an accurate portrayal of just how reasonable our government truly is.....

NOTE:  For those of you who are wondering, this was written tongue-in-cheek!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

After Action Report

As you know, last week Sir Knight, Master Hand Grenade and I were pin cushions for Maid Elizabeth and her classmate as they practiced starting I.V.'s for their Advanced EMT course.  Well, the practice paid off and I am pleased to announce that Maid Elizabeth is now an Advanced EMT (also known as an EMT-I) and is qualified to intubate and administer intravenous fluids, among other things.

Maid Elizabeth is in the process of trying to finish all of her qualifications to become a CPM (Certified Practical Midwife) and may be heading off to Northern California to complete her training.  In order to take her CPM test, she must have attended 20 births (she has attended well over 50), been the primary midwife at 20 births (she has been primary at 17) and have 4 continuities, which means she needs to have conducted prenatal visits, been primary midwife and conducted a post natal exam with the same client (she has had 3 continuities).  So close, and yet so far!  Without having her CPM she cannot accept clients, but without accepting clients, she can't get her CPM!  And so, she has been in touch with a midwife in California that is extraordinarily busy and is in need of an apprentice for a  month or six weeks.  If she were to work with this midwife, she would be able to finish her requirements and test - finally.  I'll keep you posted on her progress.

I am excited for Maid Elizabeth to finish her training, however, I am also somewhat apprehensive.  Our healthcare is changing.  What was legal yesterday may not be legal tomorrow.   When Maid Elizabeth began her training, I thought she would use it to help ladies rediscover the intense, beautiful bond between mother and child.  Now, I wonder if perhaps she will use her training to bind the wounds of the remnant and ease the path of the dying.

What have we done....

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Our Future?

“We have problems . . . The federal government is preparing for civil uprising,” he added, “so every time you hear about troop movements, every time you hear about movements of military equipment, the militarization of the police, the buying of the ammunition, all of this is . . . they (DHS) are preparing for a massive uprising.”  MORE.....

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Awesome Alpha Tent

When we posted our adventures with the Survival Net, one of our readers sent a link that he thought Sir Knight might enjoy.  The link was for the Alpha tent, fashioned from nothing more than a USGI Military Issue Poncho, tent poles and 4 wire nuts.  Thats it!  The wonderful thing about this tent is that is consists mainly of things you already carry in your gear so you are not adding unnecessary weight and bulk.  And, did I mention this was really cool?  To get the real skinny on this tent, and the gentlemen who came up with the idea, you must go to his site, Alpharubicon.  He has dimensions, specifics on the components and explanations for the uses of the Alpha tent.

Knowing a good thing when he sees it, Sir Knight began compiling the necessary articles to put together his own Alpha tent.  He already had a USGI poncho, so he laid it on the ground and measured it to be sure it was the same size as the one used on the Alpha tent site.  Next, he dug up some tent poles that we had saved from a long-ago defunct tent, measured them and proceeded to cut them down to the correct size for the tent.  Sir Knight cut each pole to the same size, rather than just cutting down the one pole that was too long, so that the tent poles bent in the correct manner when inserted into the poncho.  After cutting the poles, he strung the shock cord through the modified poles, tied it off at the end and fitted RED wire nuts to each end of the poles.  The wire nuts keep the poles from going through the grommets on the corners of the poncho and red wire nuts are the perfect size.  The directions on the Alpha tent website instruct you to drill a hole through the wire nuts and run the shock cord through the holes and tie them off.  Because of technical difficulties with our poles, we glued the wire nuts on instead.  The shock cord through the nuts would have been a better option, however, we made do with the materials that were available to us.

Wire nuts through the grommets
Once the tent poles were inserted into the grommets, we tied them down with cording that was already in the poncho.  It was almost like they were designed with the Alpha tent in mind!  Within a matter of minutes we had put together a lightweight one man tent, camouflaged and with a reduced IR signature, with nothing but a poncho, 4 wire nuts and some cast-off tent poles.  The folks at Alpharubicon really know their stuff!

Poles tied to the cording
The Alpha tent can even float your gear across creeks!
Very roomy
It makes perfect sense to fill your 1st and 2nd line kits with a few articles that have multiple purposes.  Rather than carrying a poncho and survival net and a hammock and a tent, you can carry a poncho, a net and a few odds and ends and still have all your bases covered.

USGI Poncho's can be challenging to find, but really, you can use any poncho.  The difference is that you will have to measure your poncho and customize your tent poles accordingly.

Thank you for coming along for the ride as Sir Knight and I pare down our kits to the bare essentials and find out what works and what doesn't.  Try an Alpha tent of your own and let us know what you think.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Best Self Defense Cartridge?

We came across this YouTube video and thought it was humorous and thought provoking - let me know what you think!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Clashing of Cultures

Well, it may not be a huge war, but our Sunday brunch was somewhat of a cultural dichotomy.  In our home, brunch is never complete without a pot of tea to two, but, sometimes, rather than the traditional brunch fare, we like to expand our horizons a bit.  Today was a case in point.

Most often, we have bacon or sausage with a German Pancake or Crepes, but every once in a while, we enjoy a hearty brunch with a little more pizazz.  And Panini sandwiches definitely have pizazz.  They are quite easy to make - really, they only take minutes, but they are hearty and filling and full of flavor.

We make our Panini's with either Ciabatta Rolls or thick slices of homemade French bread.  I lay the slices of bread open and fill both sides with wonderful meats, cheeses and vegetables.  After I put the two sides of the sandwiches together, I butter one side, lay the sandwich buttered side down on a medium/hot griddle and cover with an old (but clean) cookie sheet.  After the cookie sheet is in place, I put a large, cast-iron dutch oven on the cookie sheet, fill it with beans (to add weight) and put the lid on the dutch oven.  The weight of the dutch-oven and the beans compress the sandwiches, grilling the bottom, while melting the cheeses into the meats and vegetables.  Yumm!  After the bottom is sufficiently browned (about 5-8 minutes), I take the Dutch oven off the cookie sheet, remove the cookie sheet and butter the tops of the Panini.  Then, I turn the Panini over on the griddle and brown.  Once again, I replace the cookie sheet and Dutch oven, pressing down from time to time.  Soon, the cheese starts melting down the sides of the sandwiches and pooling in crunchy puddles as the base of the toasted rolls.

Both halves are laden
Using my Panini Press method
Buttering the tops, getting ready to turn them over
Just turned
You can be very creative with the ingredients you use with your Panini.  Our favorite combination is filling and full of flavor.  Generally, I make the sandwiches in halves.  On one half of the sandwich, I put Swiss cheese, Turkey, Pepperoni and tomato.  On the other half of the sandwich I layer Provolone, Ham, Italian Salami and green pepper.  Every once in a while I add green onions, chives and even mushrooms.  Other wonderful additions include peppercinis and olives, basically, whatever sounds good.

I like to serve Panini with pasta sauce for dipping.  It is so hearty that it rarely requires an accompaniment other than a light salad.  If you are looking for a quick, tasty meal, a Panini just might be the answer.  Oh, and don't forget the tea - they go remarkably well together!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Off-Grid Autoclave

One of the greatest advancements of modern medicine came with the invention of the autoclave.  Historically, more people died of infection than died from medical intervention itself.  Knowing that the sterilization of surgical instruments, suture needles and cord cutters is of paramount importance, we decided practice this skill now, before we are confronted with the need in less than desirable circumstances.

The first thing that we required were sterilization pouches.  Not only are the pouches necessary for sterilizing, they provide a sterile field once the instruments are opened.  We bought our pouches through a medical supply house, however, they are available on-line.  They come in different sizes, depending on your needs.

After gathering our equipment (shears, rubbing alcohol, sterilization pouches and pressure canner) we did an initial sterilization by submerging the shears in rubbing alcohol.  (Alcohol will sterilize an article for up to 24 hours, but requires additional sterilization after that time has elapsed).  Once the shears had been dipped in alcohol, they were slid into the sterilization pouches and the pouches were sealed.  The next step is the actual autoclaving process.

Dipping the shears in rubbing alcohol
Slid into the sterilization pouch and sealed
A non-electric autoclave is little more than a pressure canner with a basket in it to keep the instruments from being submerged in water.  In fact, the best non-electric autoclave on the market is manufactured by All-American Canner Company!  Because we don't have an actual autoclave (darn!) we used our All-American canner (that we sterilized per the instructions in "A Book for Midwifes".   We put the canning rack on the bottom of the canner, with a pie pan on top of that (to raise the instruments up and out of the water) and topped that off with a second canning rack.  Once the second rack was placed in the canner, we set the pouches of shears on the rack, screwed down the lid and started heating the canner.  First, we evacuated the steam for about a minute, flipped the steam relief valve down and began building pressure.  An autoclave works at higher temperatures than required for typical pressure canning, so we allowed the pounds of pressure to settle in at 20 pounds (the book says that it can be anywhere from 15 to 20 pounds of pressure).  We autoclaved the shears for 20 minutes at 20 pounds of pressure.

Pouring water into the autoclave....errr, pressure canner
Inside the autoclave
Process for 20 minutes at 20 pounds of pressure
The guys were a little concerned with the pressure, hence the helmets
Removing the pouches from the canner

We allowed the canner to cool down and removed the lid.  Although somewhat moist (we will use even less water next time), the process worked perfectly.  We are certain that if we ever have to live a worst-case-scenario lifestyle, we will most certainly need to know how to sterilize surgical instruments.  Practicing now will enable us to perform our duties quickly and efficiently when the need arises.

With a few basic items, autoclaving in an off-grid setting is easily accomplished.  Although none of want to think of having to perform medical techniques outside of a hospital setting, it is comforting to know that in a pinch, we can. Sterilizing your equipment increases your success rate exponentially - now is the time to learn.  With a little knowledge and a pressure canner, you too can make your own off-grid autoclave.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Survival Net - Expedient Hide/Blind

Apparently Joe Nobody knew what he was talking about when he said that a survival net was an indispensable survival tool.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, we field tested the survival net by using it to string up a hammock in our woods.  The only equipment that was required, other than the netting, was a few lengths of paracord and a multi-tool (to help loosen the knots after using the hammock).  The hammock worked so well that we decided to put the netting to the test in yet another survival application.

Realizing that a hide or a blind may be of paramount importance in any number of survival situations, we decided to see how the netting would perform in that capacity.  First, Master Hand Grenade located a likely place to construct the hide.  He chose a well traveled path that was sure to see a lot of traffic so that he could determine if the hide was truly effective.

After using paracord to secure the netting between two trees (the netting was placed at about eye level), Master Hand Grenade went about finding local foliage to weave into the netting to create an almost invisible blind.  It took awhile to gather enough materials to adequately  fill in the net, and Master Hand Grenade had to be careful to go far enough into the woods to cut branches and twigs, so that there weren't fresh cut marks near the hide.

Tying the net off to the tree
The back side of the hide

Twenty minutes after this venture began, an intruder found her way onto the path.  Miss Serenity took her motorcycle to the woods to locate her dad and brother.  She took the path most often traveled looking for signs of activity.  Seeing none, she made her way up the hill, and then, out of no where, Sir Knight and Master Hand Grenade scrambled out from their hide!  It was a complete success.  Miss Serenity hadn't seen a thing.

Can you see the hide?
How about now?
Invading forces
The survival net hide
Again the survival net proved to be invaluable.  Not only did it make an adequate emergency hammock it also provided top notch concealment.  At this point, I can say with some authority that every kit or bug out bag is not complete without a survival net.  As much as I don't want to consider the fact that we may need concealment from our fellow man, I can tell you that if we do, I want my survival net at the ready.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

I.V's, Madeleines & Pasta, Oh My

Never a day goes by that isn't filled with necessary things.  Today brimmed with busyness (how can it not when you have five children?) and we had to run to keep up.

Maid Elizabeth is finishing her advanced EMS course and she and another student needed a few more I.V. starts in order to qualify to take the test.  We offered our veins to science and so we spent our teatime having needles inserted into our arms.  In anticipation of our working afternoon, Maid Elizabeth and I prepared tea treats and dinner early in the day.

Madeleines (a delectable French cake/cookie) were the chosen delicacy to accompany our afternoon tea.  They are light and buttery and altogether wonderful.  They are a specialty of Maid Elizabeth and a favorite of Sir Knight's.  She mixed them up late in the morning and allowed them to sit in the refrigerator until she was ready to bake them.  They turned out perfectly!  As we sat with tourniquets on our arms sipping tea, we nibbled on rich, warm Madeleines, lightly dusted with confectioners sugar.  Perfect.

Madeleines ready to go into the oven
Freshly dusted with Confectioners Sugar
1/2 C butter
1 C flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
3 large eggs (at room temperature)
2/3 C sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Melt butter and allow it to cool while you make the batter.

In a small bowl, place the flour, baking powder and salt and whisk until well blended.  Beat eggs and sugar until mixture has tripled in volume and forms a thick ribbon when the beaters are lifted (about 5 minutes).  Add the vanilla extract and beat to combine.

Sift a small amount of flour over the egg mixture and using a large rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture into the beaten eggs to lighten it.  Sift the rest of the flour over egg mixture and fold in, being sure not to overmix the batter or it will deflate.

Whisk a small amount of the egg mixture into the melted butter to lighten it.  Then fold in the cooled, melted butter in three additions.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or several hours, until slightly firm.

Position rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375°.  Generously butter two 12 mold madeleine pans.  Dust the mold with flour and tap out the excess.

Drop a generous tablespoonful of the batter into the center of each prepared mold, leaving the batter mounded in the center.

Bake the Madeleines for 11 to 13 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and the centers spring back when lightly touched.  Do not overbake these cookies or they will be dry.

Remove the pans from the oven and rap each pan sharply against a countertop to release the Madeleines.  Transfer smooth side down on wire racks to cool.  Dust with confectioners sugar to serve.


Maid Elizabeth getting "flash"
Another Advanced student
After tea and an I.V., we sent our guests home with fresh, warm loaves of French Bread and began dinner preparations.  Pasta is one of our favorite summertime meals.  We especially love homemade pasta smothered in olive oil and garlic with plenty of vegetables thrown in for good measure.  My best high school girlfriend invited us to dinner years ago, and treated us to the most incredible pasta dinner we had ever enjoyed.  She is an American, who married an Australian, who was originally from Italy.  Jen spent summers with her husband's family, in Italy, cooking with his grandmother and eating Gelato.  She made a vegetable sauce that was to die for and a balsamic vinaigrette that was absolutely unparalleled.   Sir Knight and I adapted her sauce to our own tastes and now it has become our family's favorite.

French Bread getting ready to go into the oven

Adding chicken bouillon to the sauteed chicken
Adding the onions and green peppers (we left the tomato out this time)
Dousing in Olive Oil

Jen's Pasta Sauce
Saute chicken in olive oil on medium/high heat. Add a dash of chicken bouillon.  Add garlic, saute.  When chicken is sufficiently cooked, add onions (1 whole), green pepper (1 whole) and tomatoes (use fresh or 2 cans of Italian tomatoes, including the water).  Add olive oil to almost cover the veggies.  Simmer until vegetables begin to get tender.  Add Italian Seasoning and salt and pepper to taste.  Serve over fresh, hot pasta.

Ingredients for fettuccine
Kneading the dough
Gathering the dough into a ball
Covered with a damp paper towel
Through the pasta machine it goes
Getting longer
Cutting into Fettuccine
Fresh pasta awaiting the pot
1 1/3 to 1 1/2 C flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
2 tsp. olive oil

Pour the flour and salt into a mound on a kneading surface or board.  Make a well in the center and break the eggs into it. Gradually draw the flour into the eggs with a fork and beat lightly.  You can add olive oil at this point.  Continue until the flour has absorbed all the egg.  Work in a little additional flour if the mixture is exceptionally moist, but don't overdo it.  If you are not sure about the amount of flour to add, push your finger into the ball of dough as far as its center.  When you pull it out, it should feel somewhat sticky, but not moist.  If it feels moist, work in a little more flour.

Let the dough rest for a few minutes to give the flour a chance to absorb the liquid.  Cover the dough with a damp towel and let it rest for at least 10 minutes but up to 30 minutes.

Lightly dust the pasta with with your hands and flatten it out with your hands.  Put in your pasta machine and flatten and knead until the dough takes on the consistency of suede.  At this point you can begin to adjust your machine one notch at a time until you have the right thickness for the pasta you are making.  Cut, boil and serve.


Because we like this sauce so well, we actually plant a garden and can produce in accordance with Jen's recipe.  Every fall, we harvest (or buy, if our garden has failed) pounds of tomatoes, onions and green peppers.  We dice them all into bite sized pieces, mix them together and pressure can the mixture in quart jars.  We use this tomato, onion and pepper mixture for everything from pasta sauce to a soup base to salsa.  It is so incredibly versatile that we would hate to be without it.  We don't add any spices before canning so that we can tailor it to whatever we happen to be making.  Italian spices go into the pasta sauce, Mexican spices go into salsa and so on.

And now we close an eventful day, tummies full of good food and arms full of needle pricks.  What a fulfilling life we live.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Spice of Life

I'm sure you've heard it over and over, but the truth is undeniable.  Spices are an integral part of your preparedness pantry.  Your stored spices can mean the difference between dietary fatigue and a robust survival menu.

For years, we have bought our spices in bulk.  I have read that this is an unwise plan, however, we haven't noticed a significant degradation in the flavor of our stored spices.  They do lose some flavor over time but not enough to justify not buying large quantities to store away for a "rainy" day.  I have spices stored in quart sized canning jars that have been on my shelf for the better part of 15 years and I use them regularly without any noticeable change in flavor.

I do go through some spices more than others.  My garlic powder is regularly replenished while my allspice sees only occasional use.  In addition to spices, soup base (or bouillon), taco seasoning, browning sauce and numerous kinds of salsa fill my stored foods shelves. They all have a great (almost indefinite) shelf life and will make nearly inedible food worth eating.  Here is a partial list of our stored spices and seasonings:

Garlic powder
Mustard powder
Onion powder
Pumpkin pie spice (although you can make it with other spices)
Pickling spice
Chili powder
Poppy seeds
Sesame seeds
Cajun seasoning (we like Cajun's Choice Creole Seasoning)
Taco seasoning
Sausage spices
Beef soup base  (bouillon)
Chicken soup base  (bouillon)
Ham soup base  (bouillon)
Seasoning salt  (Lowery's, Johnny's, etc.)
Kitchen Bouquet browning sauce
Worcestershire sauce

We have found that the right spices or seasonings can dress up just about anything.  If you have sausage spices and a hand operated meat grinder (which can be found at most any thrift store), you can turn rabbit, venison, turkey or just about anything with meat into your favorite breakfast fare.  We buy our sausage spices at our local grocery store.  We asked a friend in the meat department about the spices and he produced a small package that will season up to 25 pounds of meat.  Just add 1 1/2 tsp. of spices per pound of meat and you have wonderfully seasoned sausage.  These spices run right around $2.99 per package, making them very affordable.

If your spice inventory is lean, you may want to consider beefing up your stores of spices and seasonings.  Not only are they imperative for a post-TEOTWAWKI lifestyle, they will make your life a little brighter today.

Remember, seasoning really is the Spice of Life.