Monday, December 31, 2012

The Love of a Father

A long time ago, in a land far, far away, a Father lovingly gazed upon his only children.  These children were unique in that they were innocent.  They were pure.  They were sinless, guiltless, guileless.  They didn't know the difference between right and wrong.  They loved Him and His creation with a full heart that knew no deception.

This Father, basking in the perfection of the land and children He had created could have chosen to preserve their innocence at all costs.  He could have chosen not to allow these perfect children to taste the fruit of disobedience.  They could have lived their days in blissful ignorance, walking with Him in the cool of the evening and partaking of His great providence.

Instead, this Father gave His children the greatest gift.  He gave them the freedom of choice.  In His wisdom, He knew that their love was hollow when they had no choice but to give it.  Rather than seeking to protect His children from themselves, He allowed them to choose for themselves and then live with the consequences of their choices.  He loved His children enough to give them their freedom.

Our nation is at a crossroads.  Our government is desperately trying to relieve us of the responsibility to choose for ourselves.  In an effort to keep us "safe" they are stripping us of our right to choose - a right given to us by our Father at the foundations of the earth.

Our Father chose to allow us freedom, even though the cost would be deadly and eternal.  He knew that by giving us freedom to choose, we would lose our innocence, lose our perfection and even lose our lives.  But, He chose go give us our freedom anyway.  Because He loves us that much.

I know how much our Father loves us.  Now I ask, how much does our government love us?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Doors - A Highly Over-rated Commodity!

Our family had the wonderful good fortune of spending Christmas with my parents in the highlands of the remote American Redoubt.  My parents live on the homestead where I was raised, amid glacier-fed creeks, alpine meadows and hundreds of miles of unbroken wilderness.  Their home is one of singular beauty.

When I was growing up, we lived in an older, single-wide mobile home, that to my tastes, lacked character and charm.  Years after I left home, my parents set about building their perfect retreat - a compact cabin with the capacity to house innumerable people should the need arise.  When it is just the two of them, they raise the attic staircase and live comfortably in their two bedroom cabin with stunning views.  When our considerably ample clan arrives, they lower the staircase, double their square footage and make room for a house-full.

My parents home is lovely.  They have composite "hardwood" floors, walls separating rooms and, my children's favorite feature - doors.  Nice floors, walls and doors are all things I have secretly (or not so secretly) coveted since moving into our "shouse".  It is soooo nice to spend time in our own room (complete with walls and a door) and take leisurely baths in a room with a lock!

The first few days spent in my parents home is something akin to staying in a 5 star resort.  And then, the doors begin to get the best of me.  Yes, the doors!  In our home, we have large pieces of furniture separating rooms and curtains coverings the "doorways".  While I often complain about the lacking doors, I have come to appreciate my curtains.  Curtains never slam.  You have no idea when the children go in and out of a room 15 times in a row.  Never, do you have a child on one side of the curtains and a child on the other side, trying to use the curtains as a barrier - it just doesn't work!

The view from my parents front porch

It has been so long since I have lived in a "normal" house, that I have forgotten how stressful it is!  When I lived in a house with hardwood floors and wall to wall carpeting, I worried about the kids coming into the house with snow all over their boots.  Not in a shouse with concrete floors!  When we had nicely painted, sheet-rocked walls, I worried about the kids scraping the walls with toys or wiping dirty hands on them.  Not so in a shouse with no interior walls to worry about!  When we lived in a house with doors, I was careful to make sure we didn't have kids behind closed doors (you never know what can happen!).  In a shouse with no doors - well, it keeps honest kids honest.

A mist rising from the creek

We had a wonderful Christmas spent with our favorite people in the world - my parents.  When all was said and done, I received the unexpected gift of contentment.  I had the opportunity to see my "shouse" through new eyes and appreciate all of the unconventional "character" that I have been blessed with.

And now I know - doors are a highly over-rated commodity!

Monday, December 24, 2012

May all your Sheep be Merry

I'll bet PETA is having a fit- but I sure think this is clever! Apparently this is how the fellows in Wales fill their spare time.


Fun in the Snow


We are enjoying our Christmas vacation visiting my folks in the outback of the American Redoubt. Yesterday, we spent the afternoon playing in the snow - well, most of us played - some of us dealt with the realities of seldom used mechanical equipment. Can you guess who was having more fun?

Miss Serenity putting it on the pipes
Merry Christmas everyone. Unwrap the glorious gift of God!

Sir Knight giving last minute instructions

The sledding hill

Master Calvin
Racing down the hill
Princess Dragon Snack


Two kid pile-up!

Homeward bound

The not-so-fun realities of snowmobiles

Ghost rider

Calling it a day

Thursday, December 20, 2012

What Every Girl Wants

Like most girls her age, Miss Serenity has a few things on her want list that are rather expensive.  In an effort to teach her that something worth having is worth working and waiting for, we encouraged Miss Serenity to work hard and save her money, until, at last,  she was able to afford her flight of fancy.  In an effort to acquire her needful thing, Miss Serenity bucked hay bales, took care of a neighbors ranch nearly every weekend of the summer, split and stacked firewood and did odd jobs whenever they were available.  After nearly 3 months of work, squirreling away every dime earned, Miss Serenity had saved $350.00 - just enough to purchase what every girl wants.

And just what does every 13 year old girl want?  A crossbow.  Yes, you read that right.  Miss Serenity scrimped and saved all summer to buy an olive drab, composite stocked, tactical crossbow.

After researching for hours (with a lot of input from Sir Knight), Miss Serenity settled on the "Horton Brotherhood".  After reading reviews on dozens of crossbows, the Horton Brotherhood stood out as a high-quality bow at a reasonable price, not to mention, Horton has a reputation for excellent customer service.  Miss Serenity was looking specifically for a crossbow that she could hunt with, meaning it had to have a bolt speed of over 300 feet per second and a draw weight of 150 pounds and takes 20 inch bolts.  The body of the Brotherhood is all polymer which renders it rugged with no possibility of rusting.  The limbs are compound configured with a 55% let off (after you pull the cams past the half-way point, the draw weight drops to 75 pounds but retains the 150 pound rating of the bow).  Miss Serenity can cock this bow without assistance, but it is difficult.  In an effort to reduce the strain of cocking the bow, Serenity bought a cocking string, a $15.00 expense that is more than worth its weight in gold.  It is a simple device that makes all the difference in the world.

Using the cocking string

Cocking is super easy!
One bit of research that Sir Knight felt was essential before making a purchase was getting hands-on experience with a crossbow.  In that vein, Miss Serenity and Sir Knight made an afternoon trek to the nearest Cabella's and spent an hour test firing various crossbows in their indoor firing range.  One thing they noted was that crossbows have an entirely different feel than rifles of similar weight.  The weight of a rifle is centered in the middle whereas the crossbow is very front heavy.

Although Cabella's carries the crossbow (online) Serenity was planning on purchasing, she chose to buy it through another online shop on Ebay because the price savings was significant.  We noticed that the Horton Brotherhood sold for anywhere from $299 (what Miss Serenity paid for it) to $500!  As usual, a little research goes a long way.

Having used her crossbow for a month now, and putting it through its paces, Miss Serenity highly recommends the Horton Brotherhood.  Sir Knight classifies it as a high quality beginners hunting crossbow at a good price.  Some things he notes:

  • The Brotherhood crossbow packages are all the same with the exception of the fact that one is green and one is "real tree" (we, of course, chose olive drab!).
  • The covers on the provided scope are cheesy and must be replaced with Butler Creek popup scope covers.
  • Horton really screwed up by not putting a decent quantity of rail lube and totally forgot to put any string wax in this kit.  This is essential and should be included in the kit.
  • The instructions don't mention it but Sir Knight recommend assembling it with blue "loc tight".
  • The instructions are really vague on the installation of a cable guide that comes with the kit.  It is a plastic piece that prevents the cables from rubbing on the bow and fraying.  The instructions claim that this cable guide is only used with crossbows that have aluminum barrels (The Bone Collector), but the cable started to fray almost immediately and the Brotherhood actually has a slot in the cable guide for this cable protector.  Sir Knight installed it and it worked flawlessly, despite the instructions.
  • The special Horton Rail Lube is nothing more than odorless silicone grease (for lubricating o rings).  We bought it real cheap at a local hardware store.  
  • The Horton string wax can be replaced by a brick of beeswax (carried in your pocket or in your gear).  
  • String wax and rail lube must be used regularly to prevent wear on the string and cables.  This is essential.
  • Lubricants, such as Tri-flow or graphite are necessary to keep the compound wheels quiet, but will not need to be used as much as the rail lube and string wax.
Watch out - this girl is a dead-on shot!
Just so you know, this is no toy.  It is powerful and deadly.  Always keep your bow pointed in a safe direction and never knock a bolt until you are prepared to shoot at a target.

And now you know what every girl wants - a crossbow!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

These are the Best of Days....

Every once in a while, a moment will come along that reminds me how truly blessed I am.  One such moment happened upon us last week, in the chaos of daily life and left me with warm feelings of contentment with my lot in life.

It was almost dusk. Sir Knight was pulling in the driveway after a day on the road.  Miss Serenity and her friend Miss Anne were heading out the front door for an afternoon grouse hunt.  Miss Serenity had a backpack over her shoulders and a rifle slung on her back as  she an Miss Anne threw a leg over the 4-wheeler and drove off in search of game.  Sir Knight had some business to take care of, so he and I left the little children in the capable hands of Master Hand Grenade while we had a quick visit with some friends.

Arriving at our (retired) friends home, Sir Knight talked with Fred in the shop while I popped into the house to visit Ethel in the comfort of her country kitchen.  Upon entering the welcoming little house, I immediately noticed how quiet it was.  Nary a giggle or laugh was to be heard nor did the sound of happy chatter fill the air.  Ethel and I visited while the men conducted their business and soon it was time to take our leave.

Upon returning home, we were met with the scent of rolls, fresh from the oven.  The kitchen was cheerful and full of lively chatter as the children welcomed us home.  Miss Serenity and Miss Anne came home with no grouse, however a Snowshoe Hare had fallen prey to their hunting expedition and had been gutted and skinned (getting blood on Miss Anne's scarf, much to her chagrin!) and was awaiting preparation for a pie.  Master Hand Grenade was visiting with Maid Elizabeth and her friend (and Miss Anne's older sister) Maid Rachelle and the little children were playing a rousing game of hide and seek.

As Sir Knight and I walked through the front door, the older girls put tea water on to boil and set about laying the tea table for tea.  Soon, tea and conversation flowed in a kitchen that was awash in laughter and fellowship.

Children are a gift from the Lord.  They bring life and laughter to our homes and joy to our hearts.  Sometimes I have to stop.  I have to notice the blessings that fill each day.  These are the best of days.  These are "the good ol' days".

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Wise Man Overlooks an Offense.....

I was reading my Bible the other morning and noticed a common theme - repetition.  Every other sentence I read was punctuated with "because I am God".  Proverbs is notorious for repeating the same wisdom over and over and over.  The New Testament echos the Old Testament.  Biblical truth is presented repeatedly, in different books, using different words, sometimes straightforward and other times in parables, but, inevitably, over and over and over again.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed my frustration rising as I said to one of my children "A wise man overlooks an offense", for the 180th time!  When Sir Knight came home, I poured a cup of tea, exhaled a sigh of relief and proceeded to share my frustration at having to repeat myself endlessly.  "I'm afraid, perhaps, our children have brain damage" I told him.  "I tell them the same thing every day, 5 times a day, and they just don't seem to get it - I tell them flat out, I tell them stories, I lead them through their choices to the logical outcome and they still don't get it!  They just keep doing the same things!"  And then it hit me - the Bible does the exact same thing!

I tell my children the same thing, every day, because I love them and I want to equip them to run their race and win.  Over and over I give them the principles of a Godly life - and, often, they don't listen.  God reveals His will for his children over and over and over.  Ultimately, I think God knows we are a little stupid.  We have to be told the same thing multiple times in numerous ways, repeatedly, before that little light bulb goes off and we say "Hey, I get it!".

God is so faithful.  He walks us by the hand, patiently telling us again and again what is for our best.  He knows that we are a stiff-necked people and so, He keeps talking.  And I must keep talking with my children.  Day in and day out, I must speak truth into their lives.  I must tell it to them plainly and in stories.  Over and over and over again, even when I don't think they are listening......

We have an advent calendar that counts down the days until Christmas.  The younger children excitedly open their door every morning and place their piece on the nativity.  Yesterday, Princess Dragon Snack opened her door to find a Wise Man.  "Oh, look Master Calvin, I got a Wise Man" Princess Dragon Snack squealed.  "What's a Wise Man" asked Master Calvin.  "A Wise Man overlooks an offense" said Princess Dragon Snack, matter-of-factly, "but other people can too".

So, I guess the Bible is on to something.  Tell your children when they rise up, when they sit down, when you are walking on the way - they will rise up and call you blessed.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Mothering Up

For the last 6 months or so, I have been revisiting my priorities.  In the midst of a busy, happy life, I have felt the consistent nudging of my heart moving me in a different direction.  It has been little things - a four year old nestled at my elbow waiting for me to finish sewing to read to him or play a rousing game of Candyland, a 17 year old man wanting to know what the Bible says about tattoos and body piercings, a 13 year old girl who confesses that she is afraid she won't be able to pull the trigger on her first deer but is ready to preserver after a prayer for protection and boldness.  And it is not just my children that need a mother - my husband needs a wife.  Sir Knight's days are long and his burdens many.  He relies on a smiling face and a warm welcome when he returns from slaying the dragons.  A cup of tea and a listening ear are essential to his well being.  When dragons are threatening to overwhelm my Knight, an encouraging word and the knowledge that I have his back and that I believe in him are what carries him forward in battle.

By nature, I am a go getter.  I tackle whatever task is before me with vigor.  Truth be told, I may even be an over-achiever.  Because of that tendency, I have to stop from time to time and reevaluate my life.  I have to get back to basics and remember what is really important.  I fill my life with "good" things but every once in a while I have to remind myself to get back to what is "best".

In the past 4 years I have started this blog, written a book, almost completed another book, written articles too numerous to mention and started a business.  This, on top of being a wife, a mother, homeschooling, making nearly everything from scratch and living off the grid.  I am failing.  Although I enjoy all that I do, and they are all "good" things, they are not all the "best" things.  My first priorities HAVE to be my husband and my children.  It is time for me to "Mother Up".

As my children have gotten older, I have noticed that they need me more than ever.  When they were little, they needed guidance and discipline.  They needed stories and snuggling and playing outside.  As they have grown, their needs have changed.  Once, they took every bible story at face value, now they want to know how God's word correlates to the reality of living life.  They want to know how the Old Testament corresponds with the New Testament.  They want to know HOW to control their temper when someone says something unkind or untrue.  They want to know why people live the way they do, why governments run the way they do and why people think the way they do.  They want to know how to choose a mate, what God says about how they should dress and why they still have to struggle with doing the right thing even when they know what the right thing is.  My children want to know about life.  And I am their teacher.

I have come to the conclusion that my job as wife and mother trumps all other jobs.  If I do not encourage and love my husband, someone else will.  If I do not teach my children, correct my children, guide my children, someone else will.  And their lives, both here and in eternity, will bear the fruit of my choices today.

Families are failing.  Fathers have been dethroned.  Children have been cast to the wolves.  Mothers are gone.  Our nation is sobbing, in sackcloth and ashes.  Our clothes have been rent and ashes cover our heads.

The answers we seek are not in more laws and tighter security.  The answers we seek are in God's plan for the family.  We need fathers.  We need mothers.  Our children are OUR responsibility.  WE need to raise them, to guide them, to teach them.  Women - your husbands NEED you - your children NEED you.  They don't need your money - they need YOU!  They need your wisdom, they need your example, they need your ear.  They need you to listen, to counsel, to know them.  They need you to believe in them, to champion them, to guide them and to disciple them.  Your boss doesn't NEED you - you are replaceable to him - NOT to your children.

I am a wife.  I am a mother.  That is purpose of my heart.  My God needs me to change the world - through my husband and my children.  I will head the call.

At this moment, I have shut down my business website.  Technically, it is still online, however there is no way to place an order.  Maid Elizabeth and I are in the process of finishing up our last few orders.  We will make decisions regarding the business in the new year.  Sir Knight and I are discussing the future of this blog.  We're not sure - I'll keep you posted.  We are circling the wagons.  We are preparing to defend this precious gift of our family with our lives.

To all of you women - it is time.  Be a wife.  Be a mother.  This IS your calling.  The time has come to gird your strength and "Mother Up".  Your family is everything!

*Sidenote -  Master Hand Grenade does NOT want a tattoo or a body piercing!  He just wanted to know what God's word said about them.  He was having a hard time understanding why they are so prevalent in society today!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ham & Egg Cakes

Previously I have mentioned a little gem of a book that I found while scouring an antique store.  It is a compilation of recipes from the intrepid pioneers of the Australian Outback.  I have to say, there are more unique recipes in this book than nearly any other tome I have encountered.  I have only tried a few, but they have been memorable.  I found the Witchety Grub recipe in said book (although I  must admit I have never been brave enough to try it!).

Knowing that food prices are skyrocketing and wanting to be a good steward of our food budget, I have been experimenting with leftovers.  We are mostly a meat and potatoes family, so we frequently have a mess of a mashed potatoes left after any given meal.  Generally we will add a bit of egg and a smidgen of flour, slap patties onto the griddle and eat potato pancakes.  They are good and satisfying, but nothing really to write home about.  And then I found the recipe for Ham & Egg Cakes.....

One of the things I love about this recipe is that it can be tailored to whatever leftovers you happen to have in the fridge.  Here is the gist of the recipe.

Ham & Egg Cakes
8 oz. ham
8 oz. mashed potatoes
1 T chopped parsley
1 egg yolk
4 rashers (slices) bacon
4 eggs

Finely dice the ham.  Mix together the mashed potato, ham and parsley, add one egg yolk to bind.  Divide the mixture into four.  Shape into round flat cakes about one inch deep.

Wrap a rasher (slice) of bacon around each cake; fix with a toothpick.  Place in an overproof dish and bake in a moderate oven (about 350°) for 20 to 25 minutes.  Poach the remaining eggs and serve on top of the ham cakes.

Wrapped in bacon and ready for the oven

When I made this delectable dish, I went without the ham as I didn't have any leftover.  I would think that leftover bacon, sausage, ham - just about anything would be great.  I added chives rather than parsley and diced an onion and threw it into the mix.  I think green pepper, onion or cheese all would be wonderful additions.  This recipe is limited only by your imagination and your pantry.  You could use any left over bits of this or that.  I used a larger quantity of potatoes, since that is what we had, and we have a lot of mouths to feed.  I didn't measure a thing but really, a recipe like this doesn't really require precise measurements.  I did use the egg yolk (it really does help bind the potatoes).  I formed the cakes right in the pan I was planning on baking them in so that I didn't have to transfer them, and wrapped each with a "rasher" of bacon.  I didn't have any toothpicks, so I didn't use them, which resulted in the bacon shrinking, but no bother, it certainly didn't affect the taste.  I went a little wild and placed a third of a piece of bacon on the top of each cake, just because.

Rather than poaching eggs (I don't have those nifty cups and I hate it when the whites spread out in the water - I know - use vinegar!) I decided to quickly fry them on the griddle.  The children prefer their eggs to be "over hard", so I made theirs first and put them in on a plate and put it in the warming oven.  Just before the cakes were done, I made two eggs "sunny side up" for Sir Knight and I.  Pulling the cakes from the oven, I placed an egg on each cake and oh, a perfect, simple, thrifty and cheery breakfast!

We highly recommend Ham & Egg Cakes.  They are a little dodgy to eat, being mashed potatoes and all, but they are well worth the effort!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

That Peace Would Reign

The children and I have a bible study together every morning and the conversations that flow from these times are sometimes rather enlightening.  This morning we were talking about the state of the heart being seen through attitudes and deeds of the person.  One of the questions at the end of the study asked how you could know a person was selfish, self-centered or proud.  The children immediately had answers!  They noticed that when this person acted that way they were being selfish.  When another did that, they were being proud.  They had a lot to say about other people's behavior, but, I noticed, they didn't see any of the attributes in themselves.  And then I questioned further.  "What is going on in your heart when you sigh and complain when I give you a task"?  "What about when you provoke your brother or sister"?  "How is your attitude when someone else gets something you want?  Are you happy for them or envious of them"?

It is amazing that it is so easy to see other peoples faults and sins and completely disregard our own.  When an argument arises, it is far easier to identify the problem in the other person rather than seeing our own culpability!  How much more peacefully we would live our lives if we spent more time examining our own motivations and attitudes and bringing them back in line with the word of God rather than picking apart the lives of others.  I know that in the case of my own family, peace would reign.

As Sir Knight and I strive to raise Godly, productive and capable children, we must not forget to teach them the lost principle of disciplining one's own self.  We must teach them to actively look to the error of their ways long before they search the ways of others.  We must teach them to search their hearts and know that their motivations are pure before they cast blame on another.

"For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged".
                                                     1 Corinthians 11:31

Just think of a world where people took the responsibility to police their own thoughts and actions!  Peace would indeed reign.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Equipment Review - The Wyoming Saw

Master Hand Grenade did it.  On the very last day, in the very last hour of hunting season 2012, he bagged his deer!  Saturday, Sir Knight and Master Hand Grenade set out one final time to test their hunting skills.  As the afternoon drew to a close and twilight threatened, a doe came into view, turned broadside, and became sustenance for our family.

Sir Knight and Master Hand Grenade gutted the doe in the field (the coyotes have to eat too, ya know) and brought her home to hang and skin her.   Over the years, we have found that a few good tools go a long way when processing game.  First, of course, is a sighted-in rifle (that goes without saying), a handgun (just in case you have to finish the job), a sharp knife and the ever handy Wyoming saw.

"Fresh" from quartering Master Hand Grenade's deer
Thin but sturdy stainless steel spine

The bone blade
The little Wyoming saw has been one handy tool.  It is very well designed.  The construction is aluminum (the handle) and stainless steel (the spine of the saw) and carbon steel (the blades) - very high quality.  This particular little saw can be used for quartering game, making forts in the back yard, cutting down Christmas trees or any other project you find it suitable for.  It comes with two blades - one for wood and one for meat and bone.  It is very easy to disassemble and clean and stores in one handy little pouch, making it perfect for your pack or bug-out-bag.  The spine of the saw is thin so that it can follow the blade through the cut you are making, enabling you to even quarter an animal as large as an elk without the use of a large meat saw.  We have found absolutely nothing that this saw will not handle in the field.

Disassembled and ready to clean
Clean and ready to store in case
All buttoned up
Wyoming now makes a larger saw - The Wyoming Saw II, but I have found no need for a larger saw as the original has worked flawlessly for us.  If you are in the market for a versatile, compact saw, take a look at the Wyoming.  You can't go wrong.