Tag Archives: fall

A Vagabond Song

In October I leave home, headed home. Seven hundred and forty one and a half miles lie between my yellow brick house on a hill in this city and the white farmhouse which still holds my roots and my heart. In October the leaves begin turn to flame and in the dark before the dawn I load my children into the van and set off, bound on a vagabond journey back to where I began.

As we drive across the green rolling hills of Ohio as they begin to turn golden, we read this poem:

There is something in the autumn that is native to my blood-

Touch of manner, hint of mood;

And my heart is like a rhyme,

With the yellow and the crimson and the purple keeping time.


The scarlet of the maples can shake me like a cry

Of bugles going by.

And my lonely spirit thrills

To see the smoke of asters like a frost upon the hills.


There is something in October sets the gypsy blood astir;

We must rise and follow her,

When from every hill of flame

She calls and calls each vagabond by name.

-Carman Bliss 1861-1929





A Kaleidoscope Of Reflections

By Mary

Upcoming summer thoughts were dancing in my head on Memorial Day weekend. I was busy entertaining musings of summer plans, and enjoying the anticipation of the return to wearing shorts and tank tops while running around in sun soaked elements.

Thoughts quickly turned to absorb the news that was discussed at the Memorial Day grill out I was attending. The big news was that a girl I know whose adoptive parents work for my brother had been in a very serous accident. After being ejected from the windshield and rolled over by the car she was driving, the girl was being stabilized, but was paralyzed.

Merely 2 weeks or so after her accident, I took a fall from my horse. At a high-speed, I flew over his head and faceplanted. At the time I was about 2 miles from any human, and had no phone on me. All the pressure from the fall went directly to that of my face and neck. For a minute I simply lay on the side of a shallow winding crick, wondering if I ever would be able to move again.

Though it’s been months since the fall, I am still filled with a sense of gratitude and awe that I was able to stumble up and collect Mars’ reins in my shaking hands.

Today I had the choice of using my strong legs to either run a 10K trail race, or to go to a trail ride benefit for the beautiful young lady who was injured in May and can no longer move her neck nor feel her legs.

I chose to go to the benefit and spent the gorgeous September afternoon on horseback with the company of my best friend and sister-in-law, Aurora.

The leaves couldn’t have looked more splendid.

There colors reflected upon the still hills like a kaleidoscope of autumnal radiance.

Today I paid special attention to living in the moment. Nothing is a given.

I am extremely blessed that I was able to get up after that late afternoon fall that resulted in a neck pressured faceplant. It is luminating to marvel at how beautiful and fragile life is. I hope to always remember this, and fall in love with the moment. The Chile Peppers can’t be more right with their lyrics ” Life is too short, so love the one you got”. Thank goodness for the goodness of the blessings we all take for granted.

Sweet Fall Memories

By Nicole

The fall is my favorite season and every time the leaves start to change and the Slattery’s start harvesting squash, my heart beams. My mind will always wander back to two falls ago when Rob asked me to marry him.

Once upon a time…

Image Squash season was in full bloom. The Slattery clan was hard at work with the harvest and I was an honorary team member.



Colleen, looking fabulous


and then me… awaiting instruction… wasn’t even sure what a squash looked like before this…

I didn’t know that this was probably Rob testing my ability to get my hands dirty and work with his family because the next day came the big question…

He woke me up at five thirty in the morning for our breakfast sunrise date. I didn’t know what was going on or where we were going but I did know that this guy was not a morning person and he was dressed and smelled like cologne before six am so something was up….

He took me to a cabin in the country where he set up a breakfast complete with yogurt and granola for me and shrimp cocktail for himself ( YUUUUCK )


step one – roses …yellow are my favorite


step two – the beautiful ring


Step three – Victory pose


yes, yes most definitely – yes.

So my favorite season will now always take me back to one of my most cherished memories. The day was almost flawless… except for the part where I may or may not have forgotten to say yes before I snatched the ring. I guess Rob wanted to put it on my hand… Whoops.


yes, always and forever – yes.

Here Comes Fall…

By Mary

Yes, I know, the average person looks forward to fall. Especially if it’s unfolding in a flurry of color like it does here in the midwest.

However, my feelings about autumn can pretty much be summed up to that of the attitude I carried with me a week or so ago when I bought yet another pair of sweatpants. At the cash register I concluded with a glum grimace that I will probably be shrouded in sweats and a bulky hoodie until, oh, about say April.

While many look forward to the autumnal parade of colors that sweep in after Labor Day weekend, I personally delight in the fresh goodness of late summer colors.




Despite my confessed autumn pessimism, fall is here:


and it’s pretty darn gorgeous (as is my sister Clare!)


And tasty. Nothing can beat the taste of fresh apples or homemade applesauce.


And last of all, it’s a pretty comfortable clothes season- especially when you are committed to sweats and hoodies…


by Colleen

It had been a particularly gray and drizzly fall day, and I was in a foul mood. It was my senior year of high school, and the monotony of classes had settled in.  Not even cross country could keep me entirely occupied, and my mind was increasingly far away from Cashton High School.  I’d day-dream in English class about sunny Texas, while the temperatures dropped faster than the sun set each day.

On this particular day I remember looking forward to eating the last of the applesauce that Mary had made.  Mary is  a particularly masterful craftsman applesauce, simmering the a pot of hand-picked apples from our little orchard for hours and then add in just the right amount of cinnamon, sugar, and magic.  I anticipated the crisp sweetness of the late fall apples as I rode home from cross country practice.  Upon arrival, I walked into the kitchen to find that the last mason jar of applesauce was gone!  In a fit of childish rage, I berated my family for “stealing the only food I like!” ,as if it were a personal attack on my happiness.  My mother especially got the brunt of my anger.  I ran upstairs to lament, taking solace in the iron gray skies outside my window and burying my head in a hoodie.

A few minutes later, there was a soft rapping on the door, and my mom entered, bearing the gift of the last few apples of the season from the apple tree in the front yard.  Knobby, twisted, and broken from years of children swinging on it’s branches and Dad’s voracious prunings, this tree had always held a special place in my heart.  In a flash, I imagined the trouble Mom had gone through to procure those little fruits; pulling down the branches and holding on to reeeeeaaacchhh for the last apples at the very top of the tree, gathering them into the skirt of her dress, and carrying them up to the room of her sullen daughter, who just moments ago had been striking out at her in vitriolic words over a mundane matter.  And here she was, holding out to me, not just apples, but unconditional love.  In that moment, I realized what I wanted to be in life: I want to be just like my mom.  I want to have her love and her patience.  I want to have her faith and trust in God.  And most of  all, I want her capacity to give and give of herself, even when it’s hard-especially when it’s hard.

Most people groan when they say they’re becoming just like their mom.  I take it as the highest compliment.


Running in Sewanee, Tennessee

by Colleen

45 degree weather never felt so good as it did this past Saturday as I ran in the last cross country race of the season in Sewanee, Tennessee.  Yes, I am quite in the same mind as Mary about winter weather and cold and gloom and all that, but coming from Dallas  (same old sun and 80 degree weather), I was completely exhilarated by the fall weather.

On Friday afternoon, my cross country team and I flew out of the DFW airport, and touched down again just a few hours later in Chattanooga, TN, in weather that I would typically dub horrid.  It was cool, gray, and rainy.  And absolutely gorgeous.  I wore a sweater!  After dinner in a beautiful renovated train station, the team and I explored a little.

We all ended up on one of those famous Chattanooga Choo-Choos (do you know that song?  I do-thank you high school choir!)

Soon enough it was off to bed, and morning came early.  Well, relatively.  Although both of my roommates at the hotel set alarms along with me, not one of us woke up.  We ended scrambling down to the bus with breakfasts in our hands.

The course for the race was absolutely beautiful.  We were running on the campus of Sewanee College, “The College of the South”.  It didn’t look southern at all, though.

There were little stone cottage-like houses for the students, and everywhere there were trees in the height of their autumnal beauty.  I expected to see smoke rising from the tiny chimneys, and missed our chubby black woodstove back home.  (We had a very close relationship-I have the burn marks to prove it).

We got out and ran our warm-up, and boy, did most of the UDers need it!  It was quite brisk out, even for a Wisconsinite.  I stretched and simultaneously posed for pictures quite nonchalantly, so cool in my head band from my little brother, James.

And then we were off!  Running up and around and crunching over the glorious fall leaves, breath frosting the air before our cold noses.  I didn’t run the fastest race of my life, but in the end it didn’t matter.  I was just happy to be there with my team and doing something I love.  Our team ended up getting 9th out of 10 at the Conference meet, but we still had the heart to celebrate.  The world is beautiful, especially when there are maples leaves to throw in the air under a sunny fall sky.


by Patrick Slattery

We’ve just finished up a nine day work stint by my farmhand nephew, Christopher Pundzak. Christopher is no stranger to our house, a frequent weekend visitor. He lives in Sun Praire, about two hours away. The first time he came for a longer haul in order to work and obtain more money than his per usual occupation of four hours per week washing windows at the Catholic parish where his mother, Cecile, is the Music Director. Chris is no ordinary farmhand because since birth he’s had cerebral palsy. Movements that come easy to you and me don’t come easy to him. If I had to exert the energy to get through a day that Christopher does, I might consider not getting out of bed. He takes some hellacious falls on a regular basis, but always gets up and keeps going.  So while Christopher doesn’t have a farmers arms or back, he has the heart. He loves the life, and not just from afar, and wants to contribute in any way that he can. For this week Chris’s primary occupation has been to break apart garlic cloves for fall planting (you know of course that garlic should be planted in October). He spent most days in the barn alone doing his garlic work, slowly, patiently, but always with steady determination. I heard him singing at times, which was a good sign, so he must have enjoyed his solitary work.  The beauty of it was that he got the job done- the garlic is ready to plant.

Working with garlic wasn’t the only thing Christopher did this week. He also got involved with other tasks, such as harvesting Napa Cabbage and packing butternut squash for delivery to Organic Valley. But the romance and highlight for him, undoubtedly, was his work driving our New Holland Tractor, Babe.

You might think that I’m crazy to allow this to happen, but believe me, Christopher was a willing accomplice. In times past he used to drive a lawn tractor at his mother’s home near Rockland, WI, and was pretty darn good at it. He’s ultra careful, and in a way I trust him more than a cocky teenager like my son James when he’s behind the wheel. So we put the tractor in first gear low and Christopher climbed up and took command. He did a fine job. Seeing the huge smile on his face was a fine payoff for allowing it to happen.

I feel strongly that all kinds of people, including the disabled, should have a chance to get their hands dirty and do some farmwork. Christopher is normally a high spirited fellow, but it seems that farm work especially put wind in his sails. I’m glad we had the opportunity to have him here and contribute to the autumnal harvest at Sweet Ridge Farm.

This article is part of an occasional series written by Patrick J. Slattery, patriarch of the Slattery clan. Pat was a journalist for over 30 years, writing about faith, farming, and family. For the past few years he has stepped away from the keyboard and into the fields as a full time farmer. The first article in his series is available here:


The Taste of Fall

by Colleen

I know, I know-what a weird title for a blog post from Dallas, right?  Fall in Texas?  I’m sure you weren’t expecting anything like that for another couple of months.  And you’d be right.  The weather here has been blazing hot since I touched down two weeks ago.  Excepting today, it’s been 100 and over every day.  For a Wisconsin girl with a deep love of fall, it’s been seriously disappointing.  I miss the crispness of autumn mornings, long sleeve t-shirts, watching the leaves turn brilliant hues, and of course, the apples of Sweet Ridge Farm.

I was fortunate to receive a UPS box full of said apples last week, though, and I put them to good use.  After initially chomping down 3 or 4, I shared many of these apples with my new friends around campus, proudly declaring that they are “the best apples ever”.  And everyone agreed (0f course).

Soon Sunday was on the horizon, and I was feeling nostalgic for both fall and home.  Following Slattery tradition, I decided to make a dessert with the heavenly apples.  And not just any desert: I was going to make apple crisp, my favorite dessert made by Mom.  I went to the source for the recipe, Mom on the telephone.

With my friend, Emma, the fun began.  She and I scoured the dorm kitchen looking for knives, measuring cups, mixing bowls, and a pan to bake the lovely concoction in.  We found everything we needed, although the knives were so dull that the apples resisted cutting and almost overpowered me.  Soon enough the crisp was in the oven, and we were back to reading for school, the smell of sugar, cinnamon, and apples distracting us from Plato and Homer.

The crisp came out of the oven, perfectly golden brown and steaming.

Bowls were found…..

And we dug in with all the ferocity of college kids who happen to hate all processed food (read: everything in the cafeteria except the fruit, salad, and whole milk, which I smuggle out in a water bottle and take back to the dorms daily).

As you can see, it was delicious!  Every bite was a taste of fall and a reminder of home.  I’ll admit that I am a bit homesick here and feel so out of place sometimes underneath the hot Texas sun, but having Sunday treats with a new friend (thank you, Emma!) like this make me feel a whole lot better.  And, it gets better, the weather today actually was in the upper 80s!  Perhaps fall isn’t so far away after all…..

Mom’s Best Apple (or any fruit!) Crisp Topping:

2 c. flour

1 c. brown sugar

1 c. white sugar

1 c. butter (softend)

Optional (although this is essential for me!): Cinnamon

Simply combine all ingredients with your hands in a mixing bowl until the mixture is in pea-sized lumps.  Spread over a pan full of your fruit of choice (apple is the best, though!), and bake at 375 F until bubbly.

A Flying Farewell to Summer

by Kate

This morning the sky is dark. Thunder has been rolling through for hours now. The late lone sunflower that finally bloomed in my front yard is bowed down under the weight of the lashing rain and the tangled garden behind the house has succombed to complete chaos. School is in session, which means that summer is over here in our household. I am reluctantly leaving behind midnight on my back porch buried deep in the pages of a book, and instead greeting the day- and my teacher husband- before the sun rises with strong coffee, sizzling bacon, toast and eggs and cheese.

On this dark and rainy morning I am thinking about the end of this summer, which was a beautiful one. Thinking about this moment in the green Colorado River a few weeks ago in Texas.

This picture was taken by the amazing Julie Martyn. Julie is an incredible photographer who  lives a life of high adventure in Alaska with her husband and baby boy. They all happened to be in Texas at the same time as we did this summer, and we met on a blazing Sunday afternoon for an afternoon of swimming and Chinese food.

What I love about this picture is the joyful freedom and complete trust I can see on the face of my daughter as she flies through the air from my hands to those of my husband. I hope that I can learn to fly like that, from one season to the next, in faith that strong hands are there to hold me and that the next season will be as joyful as the last.