When I was growing up, my family visited Amish friends once a month or so. These days, my Dad spends more time than ever with his Amish brethren. The Organic Valley vegetable co-op is full of Amish families, so Dad has lots of business meetings in Amish kitchens and backyards. He has always loved the simplicity and order of the Amish lifestyle, and in fact when he picked me up on my visit home last month we made a pit stop to watch a family with 16 children (at least) packaging asparagus in bare feet on a cold June afternoon. I loved visiting our Amish friends and climbing the haymow, riding horses and galloping through the pasture, trying to ride cows now and then. I have no idea how close the nearest Amish settlements are here in Pennsylania, but we are lucky in that we do have very good friends on a farm an hour and a half outside of Pittsburgh. Although they are not Amish, they do have a beautiful (and very erudite) outhouse.
I met my friend Rebecca long ago at Ave Maria College in Michigan. It was her first teaching job out of grad school. The first day I met her she was dressed in chic impeccable black with sleek short bottle blond hair. She held out a hand with manicured blood red nails and announced that she understood my desire to be a farmer and a philosopher. I secretly scoffed, having trouble imagining anyone so sophisticated and manicured being a real farmer. I was wrong. It turned out she grew up with back to the lander parents like mine, with similar interludes without running water. Today, Rebecca teaches Literature and Philosophy at the University of Steubenville and runs a full scale organic farm on her parent’s land along with her husband Brendan and her two (and a half!) children. Here they are, contemplating their bright future. Ha.
Luckily for me, her parent’s farm is only an hour and a half from Pittsburgh- perfect for a Sunday afternoon visit. This past Sunday was hot and humid and beautiful- a gorgeous day to be out on the farm.
The front porch is very reminiscent of the Slattery farm- broom, garlic, scales, beat up boards and all.
If the garlic looks familiar, it is in fact originally Pat Slattery garlic from my Dad. He has been cultivating a variety for years that is huge and flavorful at the same time. Amazing stuff. Rebecca had lots of it drying on the porch.
She and Brendan have done incredible work farming together. This year they built a greenhouse, which allowed them to expand their growing season and production.
They also have really beautiful children. I love this shot of Avila, looking like a little farmer princess.
We brought a drum full of castanets, tambourine, rattles, and a plastic trumpet as a present for the kids, who loved it. I figure they can use it in out at the farm and then when the winter comes Rebecca can hide the noisemakers so she doesn’t go insane.
It was a lovely afternoon. We had beer and brats on the cool shaded porch. In fact, a super secret family recipe for Sheboygan beer brats is coming to this blog soon. I was able to document my 92 year old Grandmother making a batch during my Wisconsin visit this summer. During our Sunday visit I tried the recipe myself for the first time.
After the beer and the brats and all the fresh organic produce we could eat, we headed down to the field where Brendan and Rebecca have set up a stock tank swimming pool for the kids. The cold water was perfect on a hot day.
We left in the twilight and drove the long hour and a half back towards town. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon to spend visiting.