Tag Archives: Family

Fame, Farming, and Family- An Interview with Pete King

by Kate

Last weekend the Sweet Ridge Sisters got a chance to talk to local farmer Pete King from Freedom Farms.

Pete King GAC Country Freedom Farms

Pete and his siblings star in Farm Kings, a nationally broadcast reality show about farming. The second season of their show is premiering April 11th on the GAC channel. The King brothers are perhaps best known for their rippling torsos, but they also have a striking optimism about the future of agriculture, a great work ethic, a deep sense of family loyalty, and a whole lot of high quality local food to offer to the Pittsburgh community. You can find more information about Freedom Farms including retail locations and the new 2013 CSA Program here.

Kate: What is it like to be a famous farmer?

Pete: Well, the farming is still the same! There’s a lot more recognition when you leave the farm, which can slow you down. The schedule can get busy and there’s lots of extra stress- but it’s entertaining.

K: What are your cash crops?

P: Corn, definitely corn. Tomatoes, and peppers. This year we’re trying something new and flash freezing our corn and vacuum packaging it. We just bought a fancy new machine so we’ll see how that goes.

K: What varieties of tomatoes do you grow?

P: Mountain Fresh, Mountain Glory, and we just started doing heirlooms with a Cherokee Purple. You’ve really got to get those sold!

K: There are 10 kids farming together in your family. What are the challenges of family farming?

P: There are different ideas about how to do things, and it is easy to butt heads- but having a family is useful on the farm. There are lots of extra hands, and we need them all to harvest the crops. My 12 year old brother has Downs Syndrome, and he’s right out in the field with us. It’s just what we do, As far back as we remember we’ve been working. I like creating. Farming is creating.

K: What is the future of farming?

P: Everybody getting their hands in it. Everybody learning how things are grown and farming is done. These days, people take their food for granted and think it came out of the back room of the grocery store. The future of farming is everybody getting involved and getting their hands dirty.

K: What is your least favorite crop?

P: (laughs) Tomatoes. Don’t like picking or eating tomatoes.

K: How about throwing them at your siblings?

P: Throwing them at my brothers is ok, yeah. But keep ’em in the field!

Thanks so much to Pete King for taking the time to do a great interview. Any readers in the Pittsburgh area should make sure to stop by the Freedom Farms Market or Bakery in Butler or the Cafe and Carry-Out in New Kensington. Locations and contact information are available here, Freedom Farms will also be selling at several farmer’s markets in the city this summer.

For the full story of our encounter with Pete King: Cabbages and Kings, Galoshes and Spring

For more of our own Sweet Ridge Farm stories, click here.

For more of Kate’s urban adventures in Pittsburgh, click here.

Castles and Kings, Galoshes and Spring

By Kate

At midnight, my sister Mary will board a train.

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Like Cinderella she will vanish from this city of stone castles, though she’s not likely to leave a glass slipper behind. No, I’m sure the galoshes she liberated from my closet will be firmly laced up on her feet, headed back to the muddy fields of Wisconsin in the spring.

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I promised Mary spring in Pittsburgh, a respite from the long shivering wait for warmth to thaw the frozen Wisconsin soil and the pipes in her renovated barn apartment. Snow fell to herald her arrival and snow is falling on the city this morning of her departure. Still, Mary has brought so much warmth and brightness into this cold grey city during her visit this past week.

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She carried spring with her and gave it to me.

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Heading out into the city with two small children in the cold is so much easier with a sister to share the journey.

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As you can see, we wore bright colors and dramatic prints to combat the cold.

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We explored the city, ate Indian and Vietnamese food, perused the spring 2013 offerings at Anthropologie, and attended a Brazilian carnival. I’m pretty sure Mary had plenty of urban living, and is ready to return to her free spirited rural life on Wisconsin soil. However, we did have one city adventure perfect for a farmgirl in the big city. On Saturday, we visited the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum. We loved this installation of pink ribbons cascading from the high domed ceiling….

pink ribbon installation children's museum pittsburgh

…but as an added bonus, we found farmers on display as well.  A number of local farmers had set up shop near the restaurant of the museum, offering CSA shares for the upcoming season. The event was sponsored by the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, which is a great resource for farmers and consumers in Pittsburgh and all across the state. If you are living in or near Pittsburgh and still looking for a CSA, you can still contact the participating farmers from the CSA Fair here.

I have an urban garden complete with strawberry patch in my backyard and I wasn’t in the market for a CSA this year, but Mary quickly realized that the fair had something else to offer- a chance to meet a bona fide King of the farming world.

pete king GAC country farm king freedom farms

As you may remember, Mary is the Queen of Brussels Sprouts, so meeting Peter King was a real highlight of her urban Pittsburgh trip.

Pete King is one of the (many) famous King brothers from Freedom Farms. I was unaware of this fact, and I’m pretty sure that the most of the people milling about the Children’s Museum were too. I’m not sure how many Pittsburghers watch the Great American Country network on cable, so they may be unaware of the bronzed shirtless young men gleaming like sun gods under a deep blue sky. The second season of their show is premiering April 11th on GAC. The King brothers are perhaps best known for their torsos, but they also have a striking optimism about the future of agriculture, a great work ethic, a deep sense of family loyalty, and a whole lot of high quality local food to offer to the Pittsburgh community.

We had the opportunity to do a brief interview Peter King about fame, family, and farming. I’ll post the interview tomorrow. In the meantime, you can learn more about Freedom Farms on their website here.

For more stories about our farming adventures at Sweet Ridge Farm, check out these links:

My Garden, My Canvas

The Queen of Brussel Sprouts

The King and Queen of Brussels

The Red Vegetable from Hell

Putting the Lug in Luggage

By: Mary

When looking for a means of transporting an entire set of china that was left to Kate after the passing of my grandmother, I decided to find a new use for a sturdy cardboard box that is used to pack pie pumpkins and cabbage when shipping organic produce to Organic Valley.  Okay, I know that lugging about a produce box is not exactly the most hip (or practical) way to travel, but I formulated a plan that included getting two boxes of china, to my sister along with a few fur coats, some blackberry jam I made that is a fleeting commodity at this time of the year, a few purses, and of course a  ballgown that Kate wanted back after an extended loan back to the farm so it could be used as a prom dress.

As you may remember, Kate is quite comfortable with train travel in an heirloom fur…

vintage fur coat train travel lacrosse depot

though in my opinion it makes her look a bit like a gigantic mother hen.

Because I was traveling on the train, I hoped with optimism that my plan of checking the two boxes could go off without a hitch. Well, the plan did work… but only with a LOT of lugging. The first setback was that I was told I couldn’t check the boxes because they were not fully sealed. I knew that the only way I could handle taking Kate her “stuff” was to just start consolidating as much as I could into only one box. When boarding the train, the not so hip me ended up with my luggage bag checked under the train, and a roughly 75 pound produce box bruising my hip, which was beginning to strongly resemble the blackberry jam.

Due to an early spring snowstorm from the never-ending winter I was trying to flee, my train got into Chicago several hours late. I missed my connecting train to Pittsburgh, but got in plenty of exercise lugging that heavy box through Union Station, into a cab, onto a Greyhound bus, and through the bus terminal in Pittsburgh the next morning.

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Thankfully, my farmgirl strength and a winter full of kickboxing classes had me in fine form for heaving produce- or China and ballgowns. Still, I was happy to arrive her for some much needed Porch Time with my sister.
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For more about the fur coats and recent and past travels, check out these links:

Furs on the Farm

Train Travel

The Slattery Oklahoma Suburb Rush

A Saturday Away

Waiting for Spring

by Kate

She’s standing in the window on the radiator dancing, singing, and telling stories.

ballerina baby in the window

Snow is falling softly.

There is a park across the street and this morning she asked me to take her there. It is cold though, a raw wet dismal damp last day of February cold with snow falling like frozen drops of spittle from a bedraggled old white haired witch in the sky.

I didn’t take her to the park. It was all I could do to push the stroller up the hill this morning with a heavy baby in the sling and a huge bag of sheet music slung over my shoulder, headed to play harp for the old folks who have lost track of time. I haven’t.  I am ready for spring.

So I will let her dance on the radiator on this long grey afternoon, while we dream of spring.

Greetings From Texas

by Kate

Greetings from Texas, where the skies are so blue.

texas blue sky

Where the breeze is warm…

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Where the sugar is sweet….

naegelins bakery new braunfels texas

And the meat plentiful.

texas sausage

Where the hands of a 92 year old great grandmother are soft and strong.

abuelita's hands

Greetings from Texas, where there are snakes, and snake farms too.

texas snake farm zoo

In Pittsburgh the snow is falling but on this last day, greetings from Texas! From me….

mural mother child

To you.

Pittsburgh, PA, I’m Coming Your Way!

By: Mary

Rain could be heard falling when I got up early on Saturday morning. The sound of the drops told me that that cows couldn’t be moved at The Ranch. I had been especially looking forward to spending my Saturday helping move cows, as it’s one of my favorite things to do.  However, moving a group of cattle on a highway in freezing rain is not any fun for people or cows. All it is is a recipe for disaster even with new shoes put on most of the horses.

There is something about Saturdays on horseback that makes a person feel alive. Maybe in my case, it’s partially because I have to be extra alert due to my horse, Mars, being a lot to handle. He’s often referred to as a beast. When working cows he’s a very hard worker but he has all the tendencies that stallions exhibit, except when around children. I can pile three nieces or my nephew on him and he’s as gentle as a kitten.

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An extra plus to Saturdays at my brother’s operation is that it’s a family affair. Brothers and Sister-in-laws and nieces and nephews are always somewhere around as are a few friends and maybe an extra dog or two.

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Moving cattle is a challenging endeavor  It takes much patience and anticipation.

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I am pretty sure that swearing was specially invented for this process alone. Yelling at the cows to get their attention is an instrumental part of the task. Years back I used to get yelled at to yell at the cows. Yelling isn’t my thing, especially when I am not even angry. In my case hissing is much more of a natural reaction for me. But hissing at cows doesn’t work so well! I am still practicing my ranch yell. Maybe by the time I am 50, I get it mastered, who knows?

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Enough on cows! I want to mention that in just two(!) days I am leaving to visit my sister in the city of Pittsburgh. Time spent with Kate and her family should make for a fantastic variation from my life here in Wisconsin.

Naturally I am packing fur coats and a ball grown to take to the only young mother I know that finds such things, useful, if not necessary. Kate’s the only person I have encountered that gets wear out of such flair. Though I imagine high society ladies who play bridge and drink port in metropolitan areas, or woman with botoxed faces and diamonds in their ears and annoying enormous SUVS which they swerve through big city traffic, must too.

Inevitably we might get into a spat or two, but then again, didn’t I mention earlier that I need to practice my yelling abilities? If such an occasion of volume dose arise  it’s all in the name of the ranch cows, you know?

Pittsburgh, PA here I come!I am leaving my boots behind and excited to see the one and only Mrs. Kate Slattery-Stapleton!

For more stories about Slattery sister reunions, check out these posts:

Sister in the City

Farmers in the City

Blue Haired Belle of the Ball (Diamond)

Sisters in the City, NYC Version

Finding Balance

by Kate

I cannot do everything at once. Lets start with laundry. I have not been caught up on laundry since Francisco was born. It has prevented me from using cloth diapers which triggered a whole heap of guilt in my country girl in the city soul. I am happy to report that I started using cloth diapers again yesterday and (so far) it is going splendidly. My theory is that now I will be forced to do laundry more often.  Also it is almost spring and in the spring I hang all the laundry on the line. I am much, much better at getting the laundry done when half the job involves stretching my limbs under an open sky.

But more to the point, there is this rise and fall, depths of desperation and peak of elation pattern to my life of late. Let me paint a couple brief pictures for you.

I am pushing a jogging stroller (with Olympia in it wearing a velvet party dress and a blanket tucked over her coat and hat and boots and with my bags containing sheet music and library books etc. precariously stacked above her) up a steep city street one handed, using the other hand to boost up and nurse the baby in the sling under my winter coat. I am sweating because it is quite the climb and because I overstayed a tiny bit at Teresa’s house to do one last thing for her after making her breakfast this morning and as a result I am running late (again) to punch into the Memory Care Unit at Canterbury Place and spend half an hour playing the harp. I am trying to get F to nurse as much as he can so he will be relaxed and happy and I won’t have to awkwardly play the harp for the dementia patients WHILE wearing him in the sling and nursing him and using a pashmina to (hopefully) cover my breast while doing so. There is another block uphill to go and I feel like it is too much.

Then.

I am in the sunny room overlooking an enclosed garden, in the Memory Care Unit. I am wearing jeans and boots and long dangling earrings and playing the harp, to the delight of some of the lined familiar faces in the room. There are others I suspect enjoy the harp as well, though their heads are bowed. Francisco is being held in the arms of the beautiful stylish black aide who has 3 year old twins herself, and he is cooing at all the old people and just won a smile from a man who hasn’t smiled all week. Olympia is in the middle of the room, twirling like Shirley Temple. She has been sitting still with apple juice and graham crackers that she knows to expect, looking at my books of music, and now she is dancing. I am proud of her.  There is so much peace and joy in the room, and in this moment, for me.

Or…

Maybe it is the hills. The hills and the stuff, the big bursting bags of badly packed stuff that I carry around with me, the stuff that is not goldfish or wipes or diapers, those I either don’t carry or don’t have enough of. The thought of the drive up the hill to the Dance Studio after loading a toddler and a baby and my overflowing bag of fringed dresses and huge carimbo skirts and hair flowers and a sequined hat and ballroom shoes and the spiked silver five inch heels, and carrying them all up the steep steps after crossing the icy parking lot with a shrill winter wind whipping across the street feels like too, too much. I feel fat and tired and am castigating myself for trying too hard and not staying home and doing my laundry.

Then.

There are flamenco dancers pounding patterns on the other side of the long studio, samba drums on the stereo on our side. Francisco is asleep in the midst of heaps of costuming after a long conversation consisting of much cooing with a beautiful Brazilian woman. I am sweeping a skirt through the air and spinning through a swirl of rose and gold. Olympia is underfoot at my right side in the midst of the dancers, grinning and leaping joyfully but so far I haven’t knocked her over. I strap on the five inch heels I will wear for a Fat Tuesday samba performance at a nursing home, the one at the top of the hill, the one where my harp is, shaking my head at the ridiculous nature of my life.

I am trying to find balance. True to my nature, for me this means samba dancing in platform heels for elderly people, accompanied by a toddler and a fat five month baby. It’s not wonder this involves so much lurching wildly from despair to elation.

And now, I really must do a load of laundry.