Remembering Duane

by Wendy on November 22, 2013

in reflections

I’m sitting in my office listening to Peter Frampton’s “Do You Feel Like We Do” for the third time this morning. Every time I hear it, I think of my brother, Duane, sitting on my living room floor with a beer in his hand and my headphones on, listening to this song at darn near full volume. It was his 30th birthday. We had a get-together for him at my house, but he didn’t show up until long after everyone else had left. He knew everyone was upset that he didn’t show, and he gave me a half-hearted apology, but mostly he was too wrapped up in being depressed at “getting old” to really care. He said he wouldn’t stay long, it had been a long day already and it was getting late, but would it be alright if he listened to just this one song and then he’d be on his way. I found the tape, he spotted the headphones, and I let him be.

I wanted to tell him not to be stupid, he should be thankful for getting older. Even then, I was so conscious of life’s fragility, how quickly and unexpectedly it can end, and how incredibly lucky we are for the gift of every single moment. Even the painful ones, the wasted ones, the embarrassing ones…we should be thankful for them all. But I wasn’t one for speaking out, so I let him be. He listened to his song, thanked me, and left.

I wondered, in the years that followed, if it would have made any difference if I had said something. Probably not. Duane wasn’t one for taking advice from his nine-years-younger sister, or anyone else for that matter. And nothing I might have said would have stopped him from being diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gherig’s disease) two years later anyway.

The first day I went back to work after Duane died, my boss asked me if I was sure I was okay to be there. I’d only taken one day off. I was entitled to three, but it didn’t seem right to take more since there hadn’t even been a funeral. I spent the morning getting caught up on paperwork. A coworker told me they’d seen the obituary in the paper. I found it in the breakroom, read the brief paragraph, and walked away.

A few hours later, I went out for lunch. I got in my little stick-shift that I loved driving so much, zipped down the road for my usual quart of diet coke (as I was still desperately trying to lose the baby weight my then-husband insisted I was carrying) and was just pulling back into the parking lot when it came on the radio. His song. As the opening riff began pouring out of the speakers, I finally broke down.

Sitting here thinking back on it all, I know there are too many times I’ve let myself get wrapped up in the troubles of the day and forgot to appreciate what an incredible blessing of a gift it is to simply be alive. Duane’s life and death reminds me not to take any of it for granted. He would have been fifty-three today.


From what I’ve read on several farming and rural-living pages I follow on Facebook, Lowe’s has an annual sale of 50% off canning jars and lids every October 1st.


I was a day late and a dollar short this year, but I’ll be 364 days and plenty of bucks early next time.


October Happenings (And a Giveaway!)

by Wendy on October 1, 2013

in blogging,giveaway

October is here and I find myself as I often do at the beginning of this month, reflecting back over the summer past and anticipating what the shorter, cooler days ahead have in store for us. In the coming days, I hope to share some of those reflections with you. I’m finally reaching that point where I miss writing more than once every month or so in this little blog of mine. There’s a lot to chronicle about our lives out here on the homestead and I should be preserving these experiences and memories for our own future reference, if nothing else. I’m finding that even short blurbs about innocuous things like weather, garden progress, etc. would be a valuable resource for us. It’s high time I stopped worrying about what people would think if I said we lost our flint corn to flooding, for example. (Which, I’m sad to say, is exactly what happened.)

But for now I’m looking ahead, and there’s much to look forward to. One of the things I’m most looking forward to is hog butchering. Because with butchering time comes fresh meat in the freezer, and more lard in my pantry for cooking and baking.

Yes, I’m saying it…I like lard.

Most people think lard is nasty, unhealthy muck that should be avoided at all costs. And if you’re talking about the average tub on a grocery-store shelf, that’s been bleached and deodorized and processed, you’re right. That is nasty. What I’m talking about, though, is unadulterated, 100% natural lard, like we get from the hogs we raise ourselves. Now, I’m not scientific enough to go into all the studies and findings on the pros and cons of natural lard versus processed fats like shortening and vegetable oil. But Hank Will, editor in chief of GRIT Magazine, is and here’s what he has to say on it.

“We’ve also been told to replace all saturated (hydrogenated) fats with unsaturated fats, but unless they are cold-pressed, many vegetable oils are heated and otherwise processed in the act of extracting them. To add insult to injury, many of the vegetable oils that wind up in processed foods are subjected to a chemical modification that partially saturates them to make them solid at room temperature, and many of those processes create trans fats, as opposed to the naturally occurring cis fats…Scientists report that only about one-fourth of the fat found in disease-causing arterial blockages is saturated, while half the total fat found in those blockages was polyunsaturated.”

Here’s what I can tell you about lard in my own words. It makes the best pie crusts I’ve ever made. But you know what? Lard isn’t just for pies. There’s a whole slew of recipes that benefit from having lard as an ingredient. How about Sky High Biscuits? Or Coffee Crunch Kuchen? Or Cajun Red Beans and Rice? Or just some good ol’, done-up-right, Southern Fried Chicken? (Now that’s what I’m talking about!)

So, to celebrate my favorite season, the beginning of a new month and renewed inspiration, and the anticipation of all the good cooking that lies ahead, I’m giving you a chance to win your very own copy of Lard: The Lost Art of Cooking with Your Grandmother’s Secret Ingredient, autographed by the very people who put it together, the editors of GRIT Magazine.


For entry, you must leave a comment on this blog post answering the following question: What is your favorite season? I don’t want to make this difficult for anyone, but I want to make sure actual entries are being submitted and not just bots. :) After the manual entries, bonus entries are available for your consideration. This contest is open to US and Canadian residents only. Contest expires midnight Eastern time, Monday, October 7th. Winner to be announced Tuesday, October 8th. I have received no financial gratuity to host this giveaway (i.e., nobody is paying me to do it).

Here’s to good times and good cooking…Happy October!

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