Monthly Archives: June 2011

An I-Love Post

By: Mary

I love all things equestrian. I always have and always will. As a child I dreamed of moving out west. So I did. In Wyoming I worked for a treatment program, and I rode as much as I could. I rode up into the mountains, I moved cattle, chased antelope, and on hot summer days, I would tie up the horse that I was using to a  tree so I could splash into cold streams.

But I didn’t love riding there as much as I love riding my horse here.

I love finding Mars out in his pasture and bribing him with grain.


After catching him, I love catching up with him.

Some days I don’t  bother tacking up at all. No saddle, no bridle. Just a halter and lead with the wind in my hair.

Other days I do.

At times, the inner balancing queen in me is unleashed.

Last of all: here I am. This is my favorite things of all to do while riding.. GALLOPING. I love speed and wind. I love gravity daring me to keep my balance and watching the gorgeous surroundings while I dash by. It’s a love that never grows old.

Petticoat Junction

by Kate

Late June is a beautiful time for a barn dance in Wisconsin. Last Saturday evening, the barn was scrubbed clean and hung with lights, and the Slattery girls were wearing flowers in their hair…


and beat up cowboy boots on their feet.

Who wears spurs at a square dance, you ask? Well, that would be Mary Brigid. She is a bit prickly every now and then. She’s also the only equestrian Slattery, so the only one of us who owns a pair. Here she is with her beloved Bub.

Nicole and Rob were there, glowing with newlywed bliss.

Rob looked particularly sharp with his bolo tie and big Texas belt buckle.

And Nicole’s white sundress was a perfect bridal barndance combo. Here she is with our neice Adeleine, beneath the towering lilacs on the path to my parent’s big white farmhouse.

Our sister in law Aurora looked gorgeous, as usual. She is the master of pulling together striking and exotic prints and bold jewelry.

It wasn’t just the girls getting gussied up. Even our brother Pat (author of the infamous Parody Post) threw on a cowboy hat and was ready to come out swing….. dancing.

We even managed to get all four Slattery sisters and our two beautiful sister in laws together for 20 seconds- long enough for one big barn door portrait.

And at about that time the rather extraordinary square dance caller from Hawkeye, Iowa showed up and the next part of the story unfolded. It’s quite a tale. Come on back and hear all about it!

Before We Dance

By Kate

The barn my brothers built at Sweet Ridge Farm is a beautiful sight. In the morning, the rising sun flashes off the silver roof set against the deep blue sky.

That barn just looks ready for a dance, doesn’t it? Of course, there were many things that had to happen before it could be danced in. My mother wrote them down on long lists every morning, laying the lists out on the big oak table and doling out chores to sons and daughters and guests alike. This was the one of the many lists the morning of the barn dance.

Much sweeping and mopping ensued. Nicole, the blushing recent bride, was drafted to pick the tops of the gallons of strawberries my father brought home from his Amish friend. Our strawberries patches had become pretty ragged over the years, and this year my Dad ploughed them up. He took a case of asparagus over to his Amish friend though, and worked out a trade. Nicole may or may not have dressed to match the gallons of strawberries.

Nicole’s family, visiting from Oklahoma, were pulled into the strawberry production line as well.

Mary slipped away from the hordes of helpers and into the garden to work on flowers for the dance.

Mary is not only a gifted gardener, but an amazing floral arranger. This conveniently allows her to disappear from the frantic groups of sweeping, mopping, arguing, hauling masses of people working on events and spend time alone with a pair of scissors in the quiet haven of the garden.

Her floral work is really creative and beautiful.

We had an old milk can on hand which made for a pretty stunning display at the barn door.

Granted it leaked a bit, but a cheerful rug fixed that.

The leaky milk can also inspired us to mop the sawdust off the barn floor. There is only so much you can do with a glamorous plywood floor, but we did it- and it looked great.

 As I was mopping, I was struck by the realization that my parents really should seriously consider going into the wedding and event business. I worked with a lot of farmers in North Carolina to do business planning around farm tourism, and as a harpist I see tons of event centers and play for wedding receptions and fancy events all over the place. My parent’s are uniquely poised to make this work. They have a beautiful location, the church parking lots are right next to the farm, the barn is gorgeous, and the views are amazing. Here is the deck of the barn overlooking the valley.

The deck really adds a lot of space and a great design element to the upper floor. We set up the food on the lower level, where the kitchen will be built in the future.

There is also a great view from the garden full of flowers- and Mary on hand to do lots of value added floral arrangements to add to the event package.

My father’s fields are also beautiful, lush, and full of asparagus, grapes, garlic, berries, and a profusion of seasonal delicacies. They are already planning on putting a certified kitchen in the bottom of the barn, so it would be possible to offer catering or allow caterers to come in and work events.

 It is an exciting and, in my opinion, totally realistic plan for the future. What do you think? Do you know anyone who is interested in a wedding reception, barn dance, birthday party, or elegant celebration of any kind in 2012? Would you like to rent the Sweet Ridge Farm Barn? Let us know! Tomorrow, we’ll post pictures of the dance, so you can see what a celebration looks like in full swing.

More pictures of the barn dance here: Petticoat Junction

For Rob and Nicole’s love story see here: Our Red Dirt Royal Wedding and here: Letter to My Brother Rob

For the story of the wedding start here: Prepping for the Pilgramage and join along on the whole wild adventure.

Red Dirt Wedding Part One

Red Dirt Wedding Part Two

Red Dirt Wedding Part Three

Red Dirt Wedding Part Four

Flying Tin Foil

(Kate’s Note- Pictures of the whirlwind of preparation and barn dance festivities coming soon.)

by Mary

To prepare for the barn dance, I have been mixing large quantities of sugar and butter, along with whatever else specific recipes call for. Generally, baking doesn’t bother me. It is something that I can do for others. With a bit of organization in advance, it’s not a big deal to bake and freeze large quantities of food. (This month I have baked for four events.)

Anyhow, Patrick caught me in a sour mood the other day as he advanced towards fresh loaves of banana bread with a butcher knife in his hand. Despite me body blocking him, he helped himself to a generous slice of the warm banana bread. I handled this situation by hurling a roll of tin foil at his head and hissing ” you really think that I can multiply loaves?”

In part, my frustration was from last weeks episode with Raphael and James taking frozen baking out of the freezer. They felt that it was fine to help themselves and “share” with the rest of the family. Poor Peter Drake almost broke a tooth after he innocently discovered a bucket of frozen cookies on the counter. I hear the stream of cuss words that he emitted after taking a bit of the rock hard desert, outdid my venom towards Patrick.

Now that I am done with baking and hurling tin foil, I am starting to look forward to Saturday. I actually will be spending all day out at the Devil’s Hole Ranch, where I will be helping flip calves and maybe give shots at their annual Round Up. When I get home though, I will likely enjoy some food and drink, and make sure Patrick gets as much banana bread as he pleases.

Full to the Brim

by Colleen

The Slattery household is a crazy place in the summer. Without fail. So, it was incredibly foolish of me to think that this summer would be different, would be perhaps, quieter? Not that I liked the thought of the house filled with less than 14 people a night, but a change of scenery seemed to be in place for this summer. With only Raphael coming home from college and Robert moved out to an apartment in near by St. Joseph’s Ridge, the house held a disappointingly small amount of people for the first couple weeks of June: only 9! Oh, how quickly things change…

Patrick soon announced that he would be moving back home to work construction for a month, and he was bringing friends! So, two brothers from the hot, hot sun of Arizona were transplanted to Middle Ridge, Wisconsin (and soon set to work transplanting for my father). The population of the house was up once again, and the noise levels rose exponentially. The males of the household particularly enjoyed the boost in the amount of testosterone and soon set to participating in that time-honored Slattery tradition of wrestling on furniture.

Soon, the Arizona boys took their leave, after having probably lost three-fourths of their tans and most likely with colds.

Never fear, more people will appear! This phrase should be the anthem of the Slattery household during the summer months. After the departure of the Arizona boys, Kate arrived with the darling Olympia in tow for Robert and Nicole’s barn dance in celebration of their recent marriage. The dance is but a day away, and preparations are in full swing. Kate’s husband, Casey, is set to drive in today, as well as our cousin, Cale, who will be staying on for a month. His girlfriend is coming as well and staying for the weekend.

Our indefatigable cousin, Christopher, is staying in the house for the big weekend bash, and is most likely going to try to rope me into running with him as he bikes an insane distance, cerebral palsy or not.   And another cousin is attempting to join the fray, Greg.  He may be staying with us through Sunday as well.

And, last but certainly not least is the awesome news that I now have a roommate! My best friend, Jubilee, will be rooming with me for the rest of the summer, thus adding a new element to the general chaos that is the Slattery home in the summer.

I predict that I will start tripping over bodies on my way to the bathroom in the morning, and the predicted wait time to actually enter the bathroom will be about 10.3 minutes (and that’s if you are in the FRONT of the line).

So, my premature predictions of a quiet, empty-house summer quite obviously were wrong. And oh, how glad I am! The house is full to the brim, and so am I (with happiness).

Dazed By The Ridge – The Newest Sweet Ridge Sister

By Nicole

I am the newest addition to the Slattery clan. You have probably read a little about my wedding/the biggest change of my entire existence.  I am a product of the suburbs outside of Oklahoma City but now, to my surprise, I am living in St. Joseph’s Ridge, WI. To put it simply, this is a different world to me.  For most people getting married is a huge adjustment but for Kate and me it comes with more than just a husband and all new responsibilities. As my sister-in-law and I changed our last names we were uprooted from all things familiar. I hope you don’t mind me speaking for you Kate but our parallel lives are ironic to me. Kate- an independent, spirited country girl and Nicole- a content personality planning to always live close to the city and home, both realizing God had other plans
for us. The two of us essentially switched places, giving us a common ground on two different planes.  Kate now lives in the busy city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and I am living in the scenic countryside of Wisconsin.

Though my life change was not foreseen, I am adjusting quite well to my new setting. Every time I get in the car I have to marvel at the landscape (and the fact that I only see another car every two or three minutes.)

Hello new life.

Hello new life.

Besides the occasional bout of homesickness, I am enjoying this new life of mine.  As I transition into a country girl I have gotten to experience lots of new things. Thus far, I have assisted in roofing a house, I have weeded cilantro with my beautiful new sisters,  I have begun to crave organic produce such as asparagus, I helped with a community barn demolition project,  I have taken up tennis, I have assumed the duties of Ascension Builders LLC’s secretary and I am learning to cook!  Sometimes I find myself dumbfounded by the ridge and the fact that I now call it home but I am on an extended adventure. I love my husband and he feels like “home;” my surroundings are slowly beginning to feel like” home” too.


Did you miss the Sweet Ridge story of Rob and Nicole’s gorgeous Red Dirt Wedding and Wisconsin Barn Dance? Here is is, in detail, with lots of pictures!

Our Red Dirt Royal Wedding

Red Dirt Wedding Part One

Red Dirt Wedding Part Two

Red Dirt Wedding Part Three

Red Dirt Wedding Part Four

Before We Dance

Petticoat Junction


Thunderstorm Morning

by Clare

Early yesterday morning, I awoke to the sound of rumbling thunder, pounding rain, and flashes of lightning illuminating the room every few seconds. A thunderstorm. Usually I lie awake and listen to the storm for a while, and then gradually fall back asleep. But not that night. That thunderstorm was intent on keeping me up, and it got its job done. Soon I heard a scratching sound coming from somewhere in Mary’s room.

I’ve been sleeping in Mary’s room  lately because my brother’s come back for the summer and needed a room to  sleep in, so who’s room did he get? Mine. And he quickly trashed my beautiful, clean room. Mary and I are actually soul mates when it comes to sleep though, since we both share the gift of having quite a bit of trouble sleeping or staying asleep occasionally. We both agree it is a completely ridiculous necessity. But that’s not the point.

“Mary”, I tentatively asked, “what’s that sound?” I was afraid it was a mouse making its way into the bed or something, and I hate mice (though not nearly as much as Mary does). But it turned out it was only our old dog Bounder, who has had a fear of gunshots and thunder her whole long life.

Not long after, I couldn’t take lying awaking anymore and made my way downstairs, to find, to my horror, that it was 4:45 in the morning.  What could I do? I couldn’t go back to Mary’s bed. When I can’t sleep, I find my bed turns into a prison. Plus, Mary’s a bed and blanket hogger anyway. Miserable. So I brought out the Cheerios and Patrick’s laptop, which he foolishly keeps downstairs (don’t worry-I didn’t eat the Cheerios while on the computer- I think).  At around 5:30 my dad headed outside to start harvesting asparagus.

He was soon followed by my mom.

My dad loves waking up in the early mornings, but mom, like me, would much rather sleep until the late hours of the morning.

When I myself made it outside, I realized just how beautiful an early summer morning can be,  even to someone who has only gotten 5 hours of sleep. But next time, I’d like to just sleep in, thank you very much.

The Perfect Fit- Happy Father’s Day!

by Colleen

Today is the first day in my life that I can remember not being at home on Father’s Day-well, at least not on Father’s Day morning.  Currently, I am visiting my aunt in a suburb of Madison with Clare and two of my other cousins.  We are heading back home sometime this afternoon, after a weekend  girly things like chocolate cream pie, the movie Pride and Prejudice, running 10ks….oh wait, that wasn’t so girly of me.   But, this post isn’t about me.  It’s about my dad.

My dad is wonderful, simply put, and as is the case with most fathers, he rarely gets to hear it.  I don’t know what it is about fathers, but it is frankly a lot harder to tell one’s father,  “I love you,” on a regular basis as compared to telling that to one’s mother.  I wish I said it more often-not just on Father’s Day.  From our previous posts, and even my dad’s post on this blog, you probably know that he is a man of many talents and interests.  That is a very mild way of describing my father.

He is a tall man, solid and comforting as I know from years ago when I would curl up on his lap while he smoked a pipe, sending wafts of sweet tobacco scent around the room from his mouth in perfect smoke rings while my childish eyes watched in delighted amazement.

He is a brilliant writer, thinker, and the fastest reader I have ever seen.  I’ve always been so proud to be able to tell my friends that my dad used to be a journalist.  When I’ve had the pleasure of reading some of his past writings, I am always so impressed with his writing.  He made every story a unique an interesting one, and I could read his article for hours.  He is by far the best writer of us all.

He is a man of the land, heading out to the fields at 6 in the morning whistling cheerfully, with a hoe in hand.  He works in the fields from morning to evening because of the joy it brings him, not just out of a sense of duty.  He has infused his children with a true appreciation for wholesome, local, and just plain good food.  A lesson pounded home in humorous ways such as the memorization of phrases like, “Feel good-eat garlic,” and, “Family farms yes-factory farms no!” by us younger children.  And I love it.

My father is not a perfect man, and I am not a perfect daughter.  But, I know that there is no other father in the world who could ever take his place or that I could love more.  Together, we are the perfect fit.  I love you, Dad.  Thank you for all you are and all you’ve given me.  Happy Father’s Day!

Bikram Yoga in the Strip

by Kate

The first time I fell in love with Pittsburgh was in the Strip District. Engaged and head over heels in love with my future husband, I was still apprehensive about leaving the blue ridge mountains behind for a gritty grey post industrial city still stained with soot. Casey took on the challenge, and spent a long visit showing me how amazing the city could be. Last week I wrote about our first trip to the Carnegie Library in Oakland. The next morning, he surpassed that by taking me to the Strip. The Strip District is a blur of authentic ethnic food shops, restaurants, street vendors selling cheap pashminas and huge bright earrings, coffee roasters, street musicians, fresh flowers, a fish market with huge tanks of lobsters and other marine life, a gorgeous Polish church, nightclubs, gritty industrial warehouses, and a produce terminal six blocks long. The produce terminal is at the heart of the Strip. The loading docks and laborers smoking in between loading bins of melons made my produce girl heart sing. The hustle and bustling streets and the availability of an incredible marketplace of affordable and beautiful items from all over the world amazed me. Casey looked at me with my mouth and eyes wide open and shook his head. He couldn’t believe that produce vendors were what finally won my heart.

There are also a couple yoga studios in the Strip District- of course. I always noticed the people toting designer yoga mats and glowing with virtuous sweat floating past the many stalls of Steeler merchandise and tables of cream horns and whoopie pies. To be honest, I wanted to join them. What could be more urban than riding a bicycle along back alleys (a la Flashdance) to attend a yoga class in the Strip District?

This summer, this dream has become a reality- thanks to my husband, who brought my Grandfather’s Schwinn bike up from the basement and oiled it and filled up the tires, found an incredible Groupon coupon for Bikram yoga classes, picked up the baby in his arms, and sent me on my way. This has been an incredible gift to me. It is so powerful to fly along on that bicycle with the blue sky above and the wind rushing past me, to park beside the most beautiful Polish church I have ever seen, and to walk past the Mexican food street vendors and up the stairs into a space where for 90 minutes all that I need to do is get on a yoga mat and breathe. Well- breathe while stretching, balancing, and sweating through 26 poses in a 104 degree room with 40% humidity.

I love Bikram yoga. I love the intensity of the environment. I love the peace that I feel after sweating for 90 minutes, and the lessons I am learning about humility and tranquility. I am amazed anew at the beauty and intricacy of the body that God created, and the possibility for healing and release through movement. We hold on to so much tension in our bodies- in the set of our shoulders, our jaws, deep in our abdomen. In my work teaching dance and gentle stretching at a nursing home, I have been struck again and again by the power of breathing, and stretching, and using these simple and powerful things to ease tension, increase range of movement, and open up lives.

And so I love Bikram yoga, but I love it far more because it is in the Strip District, and when the windows are open the strains of mariachi music and the scent of fresh tortillas drift up from the Mexican street stand beneath. Last weekend a marching band struck up a jaunty tune outside and our teacher informed us that it was the Procession of St. Anthony being paraded around the block and back into the Polish church, which was full of Italians that day. I left the class and was delighted to wander into a street carnival with sharp dressed Italian men in black and white suits, beer tents, street food, and white haired old women bustling about in full Medieval Italian garb with lace headresses. It was spectacular. So was the morning when I pedaled away from class, yoga mat on my back, wind in my hair, and turned to glance back across the loading docks of the produce terminal. The downtown shimmered in a slight haze against the deep blue sky, and to the right the blue and white striped tents of the Cirque du Soleil swept up to the heavens promising carnival and spectacle. I loved the fact that the downtown and the circus were there as I pedaled away and back home, breathing deeply and full of love for the Strip, the yoga, my husband and the baby, and the city of Pittsburgh.

A Republican Singing

by Mary

This past Sunday evening my Parent’s hosted a barn party. The focus of this event was to meet and discuss topics with our local state representative, who is currently dealing with some particularly contentious issues.

Personally, I coveted an apathetic attitude towards this gathering. This is the third Sunday in a row that something has been going on at the Slattery household. First it was a senior recital, then Colleen’s graduation party, and  last but not least, this party for the representative that I am referring who’s last name is: Kapanke. Besides baking for it and promising my mother that I would change out of my spandex leggings, t- shirt, rain boots, and ditch the hot pink baseball cap, I wasn’t altogether too charged up about this function.

By 7:00 though, we had a parking lot full of cars and a barn full of republicans. unfortunately, what we didn’t have was Kapanke!

 You may think that all of what I stated above would have put a damper on last night.  One would assume that my Mom and Dad are downcast over the glitch, but let me confirm that they certainly are not!

Recently, my Father has had a fetish with singings. You see, it is an Amish thing. Though I will not go into detailed explanation about Amish singings, I will include the fact that my Dad’s barn party ended up incorporating a “singing” session in.

With Kapanke being a no -show, he was able to capture Colleen and 6 of her friend’s who were over for an International Picnic that Colleen was holding on the porch. Within no time; this cultured ” International Picnic Club”  was out in the barn leading the singing ( AKA, patriotic American hymns).

After they escaped, Republican conversation ensued. I think everyone had a good time.

 The die hards got to carry on their one-sided conversation.

The International Picnic gang got to leave and talk about whatever High Schoolers talk about.

And I got to watch the NBA championship.

Am I forgetting somebody? Yes, I am! Kapanke. Well, according to Mom, he told her he was so upset over getting her messages inquiring about his whereabouts late last night, that he was unable to sleep more than a few hours… oh well, it’s his loss. After all he missed out on one heck of a good old Amish style singing!