Category Archives: Mary

Flowers and Frost

By Mary

This month my sister Kate came for a delightful visit to our new home. A hard frost was right around the corner, so we brought many flowers in for an impromptu photo shoot with our sister in law Nicole.


Harvesting the last flowers of the season gave me time to reflect on what a blur this growing season has been.


Last winter I paged through a seed catalog in delight, reveling at the many colors and textures and heights that I intended on planting for the 2018 season. The seeds arrived before spring did, just before our move in date for our new, tiny rehabbed farmhouse, which was scheduled on the same day as my due date for our first baby.

I used the last of my last paycheck to order berry canes, which arrived in a snowstorm. To say I was a little overwhelmed would be a large exaggeration. However, I took inspiration from Native American women, who would bring their papooses along as they worked and gathered. I also come from a line of capable women, and I clung to the advice my sister in law Aurora gave me, which was that babies sleep a LOT.


Bit by bit the tiny flower seeds became 35 flats of flowers, were transplanted, and became bouquets which I delivered weekly to the Viroqua Food Coop and People’s Food Coop for sale. All the berries got put in. And our son now sleeps substantially less and is much harder to wrangle while I am working.


This season has been bountiful in so many ways. I failed a lot, learned a lot, and am so grateful for all that has bloomed.


Fall Colors

By Mary

The beauty of colors is a bold sight to behold. It’s a true gift of joy to notice how colors encompass so much and are in constant transition. Now that it’s October the colors here in Wisconsin have changed. In June I would wake up in a stream of pale and beautiful early morning sunlight, Now when I open my eyes I see black or gray. On some days of fall I feel like the sunlight in the evening seems dim, on others it seems amber. My sister-in-law Nicole came upon amber sunlight and captured it with her camera in a valley out at the ranch.


Nicole always seems to find breathtaking beauty with her camera. The other day I came back in from picking raspberries and she was out in the yard with her boys and camera. She managed to capture some of the last blooms of fall out by the picket fence in the garden.


Another great shot Nicole got was from the fall roundup a few weeks back at the ranch. It was a busy weekend but by the end of the day all the horses got to get turned out and their halters were left at the gate to catch them for another day of work the next morning.


To see more of Nicole’s amazing work (or to book her for a family portrait, because she is amazing at them!) click here.

While Cale and I are not nearly as photogenic as the rest of Nicole’s great shots, here is a picture of us post round-up. The two of us cousins are 11 months apart and both celebrate our birthdays in the autumn.


One of my very favorite colors of autumn comes from the sharp red flower pods of chinese lantern flowers I cut and dry before selling in bundles. They have such a intense color and when their pods turn from orange to red, I know fall is here.

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Raspberries are also one of my very favorite things/ colors of fall. The ones I grow are called Autumn Bliss and they certainly do live up to their name.


I like the leaves too that fall that with reckless abandon. They are the polar opposite of a spring shower but they have a similar way of cascading about.


Come sprin, the leaves will get raked up upon muddy ground. But for now they can blow about. After all it’s fall and they world is full of new kinds of color and autumn excitement. Keep warm everybody and happy fall!


Weathering Storms with Family

By Mary

Yesterday I took home a pair of overalls that had been left on my sister-in-laws clothesline for about a solid week. Perhaps it’s a good thing that they had so long to dry. After all, they had been drenched in a spring hailstorm that touched down one morning while Patrick, Gabriel, Aurora and I were out looking for new calves and trying to move a group of cattle.


That particular morning I spent a lot of time with my head down because the rain wouldn’t stop pelting my neck and face, and I didn’t have a hat on to block it. However, glancing forward I was able to see the silhouettes of two of my brothers looking rather comical in long rain slickers as well as my sister in law Aurora who is still out riding and working cattle while six months pregnant. I was jolted out of my discomfort at the sight of the three of them in the harsh spring rain working alongside each other. It’s good to be able to collaborate with siblings to tackle jobs and life.


The sight of them reminded me of something I haven’t spent enough time being grateful for. It’s a wonderful gift that grown siblings choose to still stay involved in each others lives. That spring moment in the rain, I knew all sorts of funny idiosyncrasies that each of the people I was working with exhibit because all of us have spent so much time together as siblings and more or less, as closest friends. Do we fight? Yes! And sometimes often, but when push comes to shove, each of us has one anothers back. With the rolling black sky up above me, and my nervous horse who was skittish due to the storm underneath me, I knew that the morning rainstorms would let up and that within hours I would be dry and able to get on the road. The van I was driving that day was my brother Robert’s because he was borrowing my car to drive to for a family wedding. We decided my car was a better option because his family van has been having some issues which I can attest after my hand got burned from getting shocked while trying to jump-start it in the pounding rain late the night before. That day I knew that Robert would probably be busy with his family and in-laws in Moore, Oklahoma, but he also would probably be calling me to remind me that I had to get my taxes in because he knows how I am about filing taxes and my total horror of having to do them by myself. Due to this and the nearing tax deadline date I was getting reminders and encouragement that I needed in order to file by the 15th.

This support system is in a way how we operate frequently. What one sibling cannot do, another can. It’s a useful way to live and also a rich one. For that I am grateful! I was especially grateful that cold Thursday morning to end up at a friend’s cabin leaving a pool of rainwater on her floor and having Patrick arrange for a trailer to come pick us and our horses up.


Life has many storms, but in the end they always let up and no matter how difficult they may be, family is always there help weather them.


Hope Springs


By Mary

Spring is here after a long and very cold winter. When I first felt that balmy spring winds stir up and circle around me, I let them blow through my hair. It was freeing to feel the gusts of wind as they blew over the brown landscape and danced with me near brush and upturned soil on a warm March afternoon.

spring wind

Ever since the first spring winds came upon me many more have come. Spring brings such a wonderful feeling of new life along with colors and noise that have been absent for so long. There is a certain harvest that comes with spring, and it’s much different than a summer or fall harvest. Spring’s bountiful harvest is one of hope.

Hope springs from beauty and spring is full of beauty. Getting outside and into the spring sunshine is an amazing gift full of welcome sights and tasks. Below are some of my favorite things to do and see in the spring.

Who doesn’t love daffodils in the spring? There is nothing quite like the first blooms of the season.


Before most blossoms come though, there is much work to be done. Unbeknownst to me, Clare took this picture while I was working on getting a bed ready for snapdragons and statice. I encouraged her to come help me…but her interest in digging up mounds of dirt seemed to be surprisingly lacking.


Spring coincides with lambing. I love lambs and am known for my habit of collecting orphan ones. This little guy is named Paschal. That seemed like the right name for the ram lamb that I picked up on Holy Saturday.

paschal and rosie

Easter is a glorious time of year. Here is Paschal on Easter Sunday with a cousin and my nephew and niece. I swear to God he isn’t dead in my nephews exuberant arms. The level of commotion may not have thrilled him though. Doesn’t Thaddeus look like a perfect shepherd boy?

spring lamb

The cows at the ranch have started calving this spring. My brothers and I were out moving them with the horses the other week. It’s amazing to be out riding my horse again. He’s on the comeback from a major injury that he suffered last August. But he seems to be as able and athletic as ever. Patrick enjoyed his morning coffee before cows got checked for pregnancy. I bet he felt very office-like and corporate during this coffee break.

working cows

I could make mention of so many other things that I Iove about spring. But really, why do so when I can go outside and let the balmy winds of springs toss my hair into the air? Happy Spring to all of you reader. Enjoy it to the fullest!



Words are interesting to think about. Definitions and sentences hold a lot of power. They can build a person or vision up, or break it down. Recently I realized how much I like a word and how it applies to my life. The word is this: homespun.

embroidery hoop craft

To some this word may sound grungy or outdated. I don’t think so though! I feel like this word reflects simplicity and sincerity, thriftiness and creativity. And also much trial and error.

I love living a homespun life.

nicole slattery photography portrait horse wisconsin

I like sharing that life with others.


I like making homespun things.


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I especially like sharing homespun projects with children. Cultivating creativity in kids is so important.

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And of course, I like eating homespun food.


Going at homespun projects is a great way to use energy and creativity. And at the end of a project, there is always another idea for a new project looming in site. Speaking of that, I REALLY need to figure out how to tan a sheep fleece. That and learning how to make homemade ice cream and braid my own rugs all are on my homespun bucket list, but first I should complete the roughly 12 undone projects I have half done. Speaking of that-why don’t I just start completing a project by posting this blog post. Check.

Every Day is Halloween

By Mary

A man gave me free roses today. He told me to take as many white roses that had been sprayed with either a black or orange mist in lieu of the days celebration as I liked.

I picked the best roses that I could scrounge from the bucket and took them back to Kate’s so that they could add a cheery orange and white cast of color to her dining room.

Coming back to my sister’s house with the flowers in hand I reflected on how today is Halloween and why I was not feeling very attached to the holiday. It might be because I am not at home so I don’t really have my typical Halloween costume which can fluxuate between re-using one of my many bridesmaids dresses, or wearing my normal clothes and double H cowboy boots. That’s right, I am one redundant costumer. Either a cowgirl or a princess seems to be my typical go to.


Halloween attire aside, I think the real reason that I feel so very uninvolved in today’s frenzy is that for the last two weeks I have been with my sister, Kate in Pittsburgh. Life with Kate transcends into every day being Halloween. In all my life, I have only known one person who loves dressing up more than Kate. The other week Kate, our friend Maqui and I stopped at a Goodwill. I ended up snapping some pictures that illustrate my point.


This black gown was not purchased to be worn on October 31st. No, it’s just another dress that Kate with pull out of her closet on a random day for a harp gig or to galavant somewhere in with some theatrical purpose.

While this blue 80’s number did not make the purchasing cut, my sister was drawn to it for a reason that I have yet to understand.


Shopping makes me weary. The bonus of doing so with a sister is that I don’t have to with hold pretending how I feel.


Fortunately, Kate did take the hint and after I left to retreat to her van she checked out a few other items of interest.


By the end of the shopping trip, Kate did come out of the store victorious with a few black garbage bags of well….’Kate’ stuff, you know, costuming, or um, everyday Kate clothing. I am sure none of it will be on display today. But just wait a day or two and my sister might just be sporting it.

For another Halloween related post check out:

The Belle of Halloween

Busy Times

By: Mary

The effort to produce regular content for this blog has been a problem for several months now. While we do appreciate you readers, and enjoy the outlet of blogging, it’s been tough to do do for several reasons. Kate has been busy helping launch a magazine, and I have been lucky if I can get the extra time to do a most basic to-do list that I scratch on my chalkboard door panels completed by the end of the week.

The “little girls” Colleen and Clare are also busy.

Colleen is in school, working two jobs, running cross country and working on a huge poetry project.

Clare is back at Cashton High School, helping out at home, taking dance lessons, and teaching CCD to 5th graders, as well as fundraising for a mission trip to Peru that she’s leaving for in February.

Despite all of the busyness or may I say craziness, we still want to share it with you. So be patient, and we will work on posting more again in the near future.



me, mary

Porch Time

By: Mary

Yesterday morning in the grayness of early autumn morning light I sent my horse back to my oldest brother’s ranch. A friend had lent me some gates, so those also got loaded and returned in the stock trailer that delivered Mars to his band of mares. To top off the process of fall packing, I dug up my dinnerplate dahlias bulbs before actually getting stuff together to come on the train to see Kate.

It’s been 24 hours since I left the comfort of the quiet ridgetop that I call home. As I write I can hear the noises of the busy city that Kate calls home. Life here is so different than the one that I know of. However, one universal thing that Kate and I share in the midst of our polar opposite environments is porch time. The two of us are well known for being able to sit on our porches late into the night.

Kate’s porch is very different than mine.


Usually my porch is littered with siblings. Namely, my one and only redhead sister, Clare.


Bright fire might just be inspired by this bright haired girl, or perhaps this fire started as a result of a failed attempt to roast marshmallows over a blazing fire of old furniture.


Flowers, always flowers can be found in my surroundings.


Kids and flowers seem to go together pretty well on the porch

3 years old!

And in the past days of summer, often a sibling attempting to rid the world of rabbits.


Though Kate and my porches may be different, our roots are very much the same. It’s good to be with my sister in this big city, and I look forward to sitting on her porch talking late into the night.

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

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.