Monthly Archives: August 2013

Mad Mars

By: Mary

Mad Mars has become more or less of a nickname for my horse along with the other reference he goes by which is “the beast”. It’s not exactly that he is an angry sort of creature. However, he is the kind of horse that has a lot of go. This means that he can get extra antsy when he feels like he needs to defend the herd of mares that he runs with or when he is moving cows. His toughness has come in very handy when moving cows on Saturdays at my oldest brother’s ranch. He’s a bogger when chasing cows in  marshy areas, and he can to get places or in front of cows in a flash.

Last Saturday my horse and I were enjoying a crisp fall-like day before things went from bad to worse. First a bull charged us, later I got scraped off my horse when trying to duck under the low bows of an ancient apple tree in need of desperate pruning. This sent me flying into the trunk of a neighboring apple tree. Minus ripping the back of my shirt in two, I was fine. After some slight alterations of tying the straps of my shirt all was well… for at least 30 minutes.


Later we trailed two bulls along the highway, When they  veered off the road and through tall weeds, we did to. After passing through the weeds I felt Mars start to limp. My guess is that he hit a culvert and slashed his leg. After a lot of bleeding and sorrow I decided to bring him back to my parent’s place on the ridge.


Twice a day dressings, shots and hosing him off have become routine. The vet thinks he didn’t severe his tendon which was my worst fear.


He is really a rather fabulous lawn ornament as he recuperates.


Maybe it’s not a noble as being the king of the herd


But the sight of him makes me happy


And someday we will be chasing those stupid bulls again!

Photo credit to Clare Slattery

City Chick Chick

By Kate

I spend a lot of time with a crown of bright blue plumage on my head.

pittsburgh samba group pittsburgh dance center

Dancing with the Pittsburgh Samba group has given me the opportunity to wear these feathers performing at the Carnegie Music Hall, the spectacular Point State Park Fountain, and the rollercoasters at Kennywood. Let’s face it. I’m a girl who has always wanted to wear a two and a half foot high feather crown in public as often as possible, and every time I put that costume on I am grateful I live in Pittsburgh. Not only is Pittsburgh stunningly beautiful, it’s full of interesting people from all over the world who are teaching samba, learning aerial silks, composing music, designing robots, and raising chickens.

Oh, chickens. I may wear golden heels and a feather crown, but at heart I am still a barefoot country girl. Last weekend a big truck pulled up in my driveway to deliver a little chicken coop and three chickens to my backyard.

city chickens coop design pittsburgh

Due to a recent change in Pittsburgh’s Urban Agriculture Code, residents on a 2000 square foot lot are allowed to keep up to 3 chickens. This change in ordinance has allowed me to feel truly at home here in the heart of the city, minutes from downtown. We moved into this house in part because of the generous (for a city!) backyard, which allows me to grow giant sunflowers…

sunflowers in the city

and tiny strawberries, a variety that bears from spring through fall to the delight of my three year old.

strawberry picking

It is important to me that my children run barefoot, hunt for berries, experience both the wildness and inherent in the natural world. There is a fence in my backyard, but there is a lush profusion of blossoming spearmint growing against it.

spearmint and bee, city chickens urban agriculture

There are bees pollinating on a daily basis. There is room, in this small space, for these small kids, to live like farm kids.

urban agriculture chicken coop

Especially now that there are chickens to take care of.

chicken coop urban agriculture

We are all happy about that.

urban farming

More about the blue feathers, you say? See my posts on dancing here:

Fine Feathers at Carnegie Hall

Finding Balance

Seeing Red

By: Mary

This is the time of year in which I see lots or red. Seeing red comes from the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables that are wonderful to enjoy in many forms. In the midst of this wave of color, I get creative!

Currents and Raspberries just need a little sugar…


The guidance of a trusty cookbook is also helpful to create one heck of a flavorful crisp!


Raspberries are a favorite fresh fruit.


Thinking ahead for the months of winter, making berries into jam is an important preparation during August and September.


Keeping up with the harvest of tomatoes is always a challenge due in part to such a high cull percentage. As someone who wants to save the world and feels guilty over the crisis of global hunger finding a way to not waste the bounty that each vine produces can be a challenge. Fortunately, there are many fantastic ways tomatoes can be enjoyed and preserved.


Gazpacho is an ideal solution to using large quantities of tomatoes. This cold soup  is bursting with flavor and and is super healthy. One cup of ripe raw tomatoes provides a great source of vitamins A, C, K, folate, and potassium, along with the added benefit of being low in calories. Among other added benefits to eating tomatoes, one cup also keeps your blood sugar in balance. Plus, Tomatoes are packed with beta-carotene. This Spanish soup offers a solution to use more produce than simply tomatoes as it also calls for other tasty in season produce such as cucumbers, peppers, onions, garlic, and herbs. 


Because I love this soup, and because I worry about starving people, and wasting rotting tomatoes, I am more than happy to share my recipe for gazpacho. Give it a try, you might just love it, and remember that sometimes seeing red is a good thing!

Gazpacho (also known as sooo much better than V8)

4 cups tomato juice, fresh
4 or 5 large tomatoes, grilled, seeded and chopped (preferably heirloom)
2/3 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 cup red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/3 cup red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Serrano pepper, seeded and minced
1 1/4 teaspoon cumin powder, toasted
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
pinch of cayenne pepper
2/3 cup vegetable stock
3 tablespoons lime juice, fresh squeezed
3 tablespoons cilantro, fresh, chopped
2 tablespoons basil, fresh, chopped
salt and black pepper, to taste

1. Place the tomato juice and diced tomatoes in a blender and blend until smooth.

2. Combine all of the vegetables and spices in a large bowl and mix to thoroughly incorporate.

3. Stir in the vegetable stock and lime juice. Add in the fresh herbs and salt and pepper to taste.

4. Add the tomato mixture to the bowl and mix to combine.

5. Refrigerate the gazpacho for 1 hour and be sure to give it a stir before serving.

Leinies, Leanie, and Me

By: Mary

This Saturday I got a 4am call from Colleen inquiring if I was up and ready. As a precursor to this call, Colleen had sent me a link to a half marathon way back in April. In April the idea to run the race with her was perfect. It was so perfect in fact, that I was enthused enough to envision myself going on long practice runs, and getting in ideal shape. The training didn’t happen because in reality, I love the idea of running better than actually doing so on a consistent basis, and I like working in the fields better than actually working out.

There is no flaking on Miss Colleen Rose Slattery, though, so the two of us set off in the dark for the two hour trip to Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, for our half marathon. The trip did extend over the estimated time that mapquest gave us because we got lost (of course!). In an attempt to “pump” Colleen up for the race I put on great music. Who doesn’t like Johnny Cash at 4:30 in the morning?

Apparently, Colleen. Since she was not a fan of my music selection, I moved on to narrating an Amish romance novel that I was slipping through the other day. Nah, that didn’t amuse her either, even with great narration of steamy Amish courting drama.

My turn to get prickly was when we pulled into the parking lot of our destination and were surrounded by a mob of energetic runners who all seemed to be pumped (even without the help of Johnny Cash). The concept of running 13.1 miles was less than thrilling to me so I muttered, “Runners are such idiots”.  Colleen responded with, “No, they are positive people, Mary. And you ARE NOT a runner.”

With her positive peep she laced up her shoes


and put some positive thought into beasting her way through the race with the hope of achieving a PR.


Colleen did just that. She ran her best ever time of 1:42:16 and received 6th place overall. I made it to the finish line, too with a time of 1:53.


Because the race was sponsored by Leinenkugel’s which is some pretty fantastic Wisconsin beer, we took the time to stop by a Lienenkugel’s mural on the way out of town while still high on race endorphins.

This one is obviously in honor of Kate, our mural posing queen!


Here is documentation of me reloading on race carbs. Hooray for Leinies at 10 in the morning!


What is this picture documenting?

I would have to say, a beautiful RUNNER sister who is one heck of a runner and person.


The Magnificent Mile

By: Colleen

You readers may not know this, but I just returned to the farm again from a 7 week stay in Chicago, mentoring and teaching inner city girl in 7th and 8th grade.  It was a wonderful experience, being able to get teaching experience and to touch the lives of some very wonderful girls.  I would just like to put in a plug for 7th and 8th graders in general. They are FUN! I never thought I would say that, but it is so true.  After they get over being “too cool” and just start to be themselves, they are so sweet and hilarious.

One of the most interesting parts of being in Chicago was experiencing city life.  At one point, I had considered living in the city of Chicago, finding a teaching job, getting an apartment, and living happily ever after, just five hours from home.  Hah, about that…it would work if I didn’t hate the city, which, after my recent stay there, I have realized is how I feel about it.  I felt smothered by the concrete from day one, as I stayed just four blocks from Union Station, very close to downtown.  On the third day, I went to a park down the street and realized that I had not sat on grass for three days.  The farm girl in me was starving for beauty, beauty that I could not find in the spires of the Sears Tower.

Lake Michigan was my saving grace, and as often as I could stomach wading through the crowds and past the homeless people all along the way, I would run the mile and a half down to the lake and run out my frustrations on the lakefront.  The bobbing boats and ever-changing, blue-green water meeting the horizon would calm me down, and prepare me for another day in the concrete jungle.

One of my very favorite memories from my stay in Chicago was when I got a visit from my very dear friend, Katie Hand.  Katie and I run track and cross country together at the University of Dallas, and she hopped on a bus to ride overnight to Chicago to cheer up my last days in the city.  She came to work with me for a day, and we got the question all day from the girls: “Are you two sisters?”


We might as well be.  This girl and I have been on enough runs together to bond us for a lifetime.  And this is where the story of our Magnificent Mile in downtown Chicago starts.

Katie is not the greatest at organization.  There have been many times where I have come to her room to get her to come to track practice to find her asleep or just plain missing.  And so when it came time for her to catch her bus out of Chicago, things got interesting.  She was supposed to leave at 11:30 pm from Union Station.  And somehow she, our friend Monica, and I were a good mile away from there by 11:10 pm.  We were on the train, one stop away from where we wanted to get off, and of course, it was having technical difficulties.  We all looked at each other, shrugged, and hopped of the train.  What else was there to do but run through downtown Chicago at 11 at night for a mile?  Two of us were in dresses, and I was sporting low-heeled sandals and carrying my purse and Katie’s backpack on my back.  I strapped it down tightly on my shoulders and just ran.

There was a moment where the hilarity of our situation hit us as we ran through intersections, ignoring the stoplights and stares of the few people out on the streets with us.  Panting and laughing, we arrived at Union Station with 8 minutes to spare.  Adventures are sure to happen when Katie Hand is around.  Monica and I managed to walk the 4 blocks back to our place of residence without being bothered by the local homeless with a story to tell upon our smiling lips.

Chicago, I may not like you at all, but thank you for the Magnificent Mile.