Focus & Choice

switzerland trail

To believe in something and not live it, is dishonest

~ Mahatma Ghandi

At one time I wrote to you practically everyday, allowing you a peak into our journey to a slower, more purposed lifestyle; hoping that by watching our mistakes you would find a better way.  The passage of time has created new circumstances and my days have become more hodge-podged and scattered.  After reading Kathie’s post,  5 Ways To Finding Focus & Reinvigoration, I had an epiphany.  My focus had shifted from the act of living to the burden of debt; not credit card or car but taxes and student loans.  This burden had stifled my ability to write and to be creative.

This can handle this one of two ways:

  1. Allow this burden to bury me by allowing it to consume all of my time and energy.
  2. Place this burden in its proper place, apply only the required attention, and not allow it to intrude into the other aspects of my life.

Hmmm.  While this appears to be a no brainer, it is a choice and one that will require daily affirmation.  Remember, our thoughts and words affect matter and help to create the world around us; like attracts like thus by choosing to not allow this situation to consume me and affirming, both mentally and verbally where it stands, I create the outcome.  Thinking and acting in a positive manner attracts positive (and desirable) outcomes.

Choose carefully and mindfully; I choose door #2.  What about you?


Lard rendering tips

One finds information in the most unlikely places – like the oil lamp shop in a warehouse farmer’s market.  We were in Harrisonburg and stopped by to check this place out; they are open Thursdays – Saturdays and, in the past, we pass by on the non open days.  While there I found the correct chimney for my peanut lamp and learned that the reason some of my lard has a mold speckle or two is because the lard was not not boiled long enough.

The oil lamp shop is run by an older Mennonite couple and Mrs. Shank explained that it is a common problem for first time lard render’ers.  She was excited to find a ‘younger’ couple interested to learn the old ways.  She explained that, when we start the process, adding 1 TBsp of baking soda to the mix will produce a more white lard and will extend the shelf life.  I also need to make sure that the lard reaches 225°.

She advised that the lard we had was safe to use, just scrape off the mold freckles and get cooking;  Mrs. Shank’s shop is my new favorite place!

I originally shared about how to render lard here.



My Grandmother Elsea died a few months ago, just months prior to her 100th birthday; much history and knowledge left with her.  During one of my last visits, I was able to glean a few insights.

grandmotherMy Grandmother grew up in Kelly’s Ford Virginia, on a farm and was part of a generation that witnessed the arrival of cars and electricity…to individual homesteads.  She spent most of her early years either walking places or, when offered, catching a ride with someone who owned a horse and buggy.  This picture was taken the day after her wedding; an afternoon wedding and no electricity means, everyone gets dressed the next day for pictures.  She was married November 29, 1941.

What I learned at this last visit was that the family raised pigs and milk cows, yet never slaughtered a cow for their personal use.  She reminded me that they did not have electricity and had no way to keep the beef from spoiling – there was just too much of it.  Hog meat, though, could be salted and stored…including the sausage.  It is hard to imagine life without electricity and how differently we would handle food and its preservation.

Great Granddaddy Green (Grandmother’s father) sold the cream so the left over milk would be used at the house or given to the pigs and chickens.  One particular story was how the milk would turn as it sat on the counter creating a sour, yogurt like substance that Grandmother did not like; she called it clabber.  Her brother and sisters, though, loved the stuff and would scoop it out by the ladle full.  Remember, this was raw milk so when it curdled, it was still very good to eat/drink – full of probiotics.

Today’s pasteurized milk does not sour properly but rots and decays due to the lack of beneficial bacteria;  it is not okay to drink so please do not take the above story and apply it to today’s food supply; raw and pasteurized milk are not the same thing.

While 99.9 years sounds like a long time, I still wish we had more time to explore more stories.  What insights/ cool stories have your grands shared with you over the years?

Rendering Lard

First of all, let’s dispel with some false information.  Lard is not a saturated fat; it is a monounsaturated fat and one of the best dietary sources of Vitamin D while containing no trans-fats.

This year, when we took the hog to the processor, I asked them to save the organ fat and grind it up so I could try my hand at rendering lard.   Since this fat was received frozen from the processor, it had to thaw before being placed into the pot.  There are numerous sources online that describe how to render lard; I placed the thawed lard in the pot, boiled it down until the pieces (crackling) began to float to the top and then, using a sieve and cheese cloth, strained the lard into mason jars.  The remaining crackling pieces can be used in other dishes or as treats for Luna.

Did you know that lard is yellow when hot and white when cooled?  Since there are no preservatives or hydrogenation in this lard, some sites say to freeze what cannot be used in a month and others say just to store it in a cool, dark place.  Quick cooling, apparently, produces a fine grained lard.

Do you render your own lard?  If so, how do you store the extra?