Tag Archives: Farming

Farmer Father

by Kate

“Perhaps there is a distance that is the optimum distance for seeing ones father, further than across the supper table or across the room, somewhere in the middle distance.  He is dwarfed by the trees or the sweep of the hill, but his features are still visible, his body language still distinct.”

Jane Smiley, A Thousand Acres

farmer father

My father is a proud farmer, and believes that tending a bit of land and producing good food will feed the soul and change the world. He believes that ones work should be real and important and worthy, and that my mother is the most beautiful woman in the world.

My father is a reluctant patriarch. I believe his nine children will change the world along with his annual bounteous crops of root crops and greens.

My father is an inveterate reader who attends sporting events and choir practice in the church loft with a stack of magazines and newspaper a foot high.

My father has informed, infuriated, and formed me. I hear him in the voices of my siblings, and see the way his huge and calloused hands have formed the way that they venture out into the world to work, to struggle and to love.

Today is my father’s birthday. I meant to buy him a great book, but I didn’t manage to do it in time. Instead, I am offering my gratitude to my father, to that familiar far off figure silhouetted on a ridge, hoe in hand. Thanks for producing such a fine crop of sons and daughters, Dad, and for the passion for life that you have instilled in us all.

Your eldest,


The Great Barn Adventure

By Mary

While summer slipped away I was engrossed in the personal process of choosing whether I was going to commit myself to a long-term stint as a missionary, or finding a dependable housing situation which wouldn’t drive me to the brink of despair. You’ll understand the despair better soon,  after Kate’s upcoming post on my prior living arrangements.

Thru the searching process I came to a discernment point in which I felt a calling to remain in the midwest. This then lead me to consider buying or building a place of my own. House hunting was a difficult process for me during which I was blessed with the constant support of my mother. Mom was extremely supportive and helpful. She helped me weigh the pros and cons of different options. She was there with me when I was looking a price quotes for Amish built log cabins, she assisted me in the maddening chore of figuring out viable financial options, and encouraged me to check into may different opportunities such as pursuing a loan from the USDA. All three houses I looked at I pessimistically shot down. My poor mother must have heard me say “uh, I don’t think so, and well, what do you think?” about a billion times.

One Sunday while working out in the midst of a patch of bright sunshine in the top of my parent’s barn, the inspiration to take on a totally new house hunting avenue hit.

As many of you readers may know, in 2010 two of our carpenter brothers spent many a fall day constructing the timber frame barn that proudly rises behind the old farmhouse on Sweet Ridge Farm.

Since its construction, the basement of the barn has been mainly utilized as a space to prepare a cornucopia of organic produce for market. Though much produce has been processed in the basement quarters of the barn, the top level has been used less regularly.

There are times in which the space is used to cure squash

or host mad ping-pong games

or barn dances.

Within a matter of time, the space will also host ME!

An arrangement has been worked out in which the left end of the barn is being partitioned off into a small apartment. This apartment includes the space for a small kitchen and common area, a bathroom, and a low sleeping space in the eaves of the loft. One of my favorite features of this space is that it opens onto a porch that Robert designed and built from trees that grew in the very same woods my brothers and I would play in as children.

This fall has brought along a flurry of barn raising activity (and chaos!). An upcoming post will feature the cast of characters of whom have made this endeavor possible. Before that is to be published, I would like to note a special tribute to my mom. Although there are a half a dozen people adding input, talent and opinions to this project, Mom’s adamant opinions and common sense really what fuels the end result of all considerations.

The 2 of us ladies have been digging thru piles of junk and treasure at the nearest ReSale store every week. We are such frequent customers that the manager greets us by name and often says “I love seeing you in here!” She intends on coming to see the project once it is completed. In the midst of supposed junk we have come away with brand new flooring, vintage doors (the bathroom door is a 7ft church door), windows, a granite island top, a sink, and best of all (to me at least!) a newly redone bathtub with silver claw feet. All of this has been purchased for a fraction of its retail value costs. Mom and I have also been aggressively pursuing Craigslist. I set a very low stubborn price point, and she weighs in with her imput and logic. I never would have thought that looking for water heaters, plumbing and electrical parts at Menards would be fun. However, doing it with my Mom is one heck of an adventure!

Alright, it’s time for me to bring this post to a close. As I write, I am at Starbucks, but I have got to go in order to meet Mom at the ReSale store to look for tiles. Like I said, we are a team, but don’t forget- soon I will be churning out a new post on this project dedicated to the rest of the crew involved. Keep reading, and I will keep you all updated on the craziness.

Must go…tiles are calling! I’ll keep you updated on the barn project. In the meantime, read more about the barn (and our adventures in it) here:

Before We Dance

Petticoat Junction

The King and Queen of Brussels

by Kate

Tis the day before Thanksgiving, and I am seated calmly upon a wooden stool at home, sipping coffee and still pondering my grocery list for the meal I am hosting tomorrow for my husband’s family.  I am amazed to find myself here- not because I am preparing a large meal tomorrow, since my role as the eldest of 9 in a farm family meant that every Sunday afternoon involved a Thanksgiving like meal- but because I spent a good portion of my life working in the produce section of the grocery store. In the grocery world, Thanksgiving is a grand crescendo of madness. It is hurried and harried and glorious. One year a wild eyed woman threatened to have the head of my boss if he did not produce the proper organic free range precisely weighted heirloom turkey she wanted. It was a wild whirlwind of a week, and I miss it…. but I am glad to be here, pondering my grocery list.

Thankfully, my family is still deeply rooted in the world of produce. Last year, I wrote this post about Mary, farm photography, and memories of my mountain farmers. This year, the autumn harvest is pouring in again and out onto the shelves of our local food coops, and it was time for another photo shoot. This time Clare took over my father’s duties as photographer and followed Mary and Dad out into the field.

Clare may not be the most natural farmer in the family (who could forget the Red Vegetable From Hell), but she does have a great eye for photos.

Although I’m a little unsure what my father is doing with that machete there. Perhaps illustrating the cutthroat world of organic farming and marketing? The close and yet sometimes sharp relationship he shares with his daughter Mary? These two are quite the pair. Lone wolves, both of them- but then so many farmers are. I love this next picture, and think it is worth a thousand words on farming, freedom, harvest, solitude, and peace.

Back when my Dad was a part time farmer and full time journalist, he carried a big photo bag everywhere he went and took pictures for the paper, and he often let one of the kids take the picture and get a published photo credit. He often advised us to get down on one knee. Mary said during this shoot he gave this advice to Clare again, and then he and Mary knelt too. I think it may be the best shot, and I’ll bet it’s the one that will end up in the ads or on a big produce section wall somewhere.

I took a look at that photo and then went back to that post I mentioned earlier, the one about my own brief and lovely career meeting farmers in the mountains and taking their pictures, and sure enough- there I was on one knee. On this Thanksgiving I’m thankful for the way that my father taught me and formed my life, for bountiful harvests and sharp and rusty blades, and all.

Off to the produce section to find some brussel sprouts of my own- Happy Thanksgiving!

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…

Seasons and Tides

by Mary

June and July have sailed past in a rush of summer frenzy. The months have come and gone so quickly that it is hard to believe August is already here and unraveling. However, the telltale signs blackberries turning from red to black…

and garlic hanging to dry…

are natural signs of summer passing.

This year, we’ve had the driest summer on record. Up until this month, there was almost no rain. Pastures and fields turned from the usual lush green to a very unrecognizable brown.

Despite the drought, I’ve found many things to be grateful for. Around the time that the rain stopped coming, in May, Raphael and Colleen came back from UD. As siblings, we’ve had our ups and downs.

Despite the rows and the rolling of eyes, I already know come September I’ll be missing them.

But like the tide that ripples in and swells out on the waters of Lake Michigan, or the ripening of the blackberries, or the drying of the garlic, it’s time for Colleen and Raphael to experience their seasonal progression. They’ll be migrating back to the University of Dallas in the next few weeks.

Surely Raph and Colleen will not go unmissed. But come winter, there will be Christmas break, which intersects with Cale’s early January wedding. More on that later!

Until I see my younger siblings in the cold of winter, my hope is that they continue to grow in Texas, and that the rain starts to fall with consistency here in Wisconsin.

Mary and Martha (Stewart)

by Mary

There’s no sense in denying it. I, Mary Slattery, am quite the Martha Stewart fan. Yes I know, she’s a strange figure to admire, especially when you take into account that some of my favorite female role models are Mother Teresa, St. Joan of Arc, and and Immaculee. But hey, I’ve got the confidence to admit that I’m a sucker for Martha, and whenever I can get my hands on a copy of her latest glossy magazine publication I’m plenty happy to study it.

Recently, my cousin Cale found me reading the latest copy of Martha Stewart Living on my front porch, and took a picture to document my weakness.

This humored me into imagining the parallel, or lack thereof, in our daily lives.

Every copy of Martha Stewart Living documents the life of Martha via a monthly calendar. An example of this would be: June 12th, Martha goes horseback riding! Imagining Martha riding makes me think of a sleek, well mannered mount and Martha decked out in Ralph Lauren and leisurely riding along a gentle shoreline. Here I am on June 12th. Needless to say, no figmented Martha effects are applicable here.

This photo was taken mid-morning before heading out to check on a beef herd’s mineral supply at Devil’s Hole Ranch, which my brother Gabe and sister-in-law Aurora oversee. As you can see, I’m not the only horse enthusiast in the family. Horseback riding, paired with ranching duties and hills and valleys, is a far cry from leisurely, clean polos, or the beach.

Every edition of Martha’s also contains a generous amount of cleaning days. From dusting off tupperware lids to cleaning out linen closets, Ms. Stewart does it all. Me too, I guess. Like Martha, in the midst of June, I had many cleaning days. But unlike Martha, dusting and sprucing were low priority. You see, somehow I got roped into a cleaning project from hell (or at least purgatory). An extended family member had just closed on an apartment which unfortunately had a one bedroom efficiency that had been abandoned two months prior by an unstable Vietnam Vet. The man left everything he owned and boarded a Greyhound. This meant I had to remove all of his possessions from his filthy lair. This also meant I had to tackle the chore of cleaning years worth of grime off surfaces, as well as food that had been sitting in the sink and fridge for sixty odd days. I chose laughter and music as the means to better this endeavor, but you can bet I would rather have been dusting and folding sheets with Martha.

Of course, Martha’s iconic abilities include being a gardening diva. In the summer months, her calendar is chock full of gardening days. Mine too! In Martha’s picture’s, she is often bustling about a green paradise in effortlessly clean and comfortable button down shirts and relaxed khakis. Once again, like Martha, I can often be found in my garden- or Dad’s fields. However, there really aren’t any pictures depicting images of a collected and stylish me.

Unlike my mentor Martha, on the field I’m a wreck in filthy clothes that are beat up and sweaty as I pull pea vines, weeding thirsty beets, or dodging clods of flying dirt and sarcastic rhetoric while weeding with disenchanted siblings who have less interest in horticulture or labor than myself.

After documenting the parallels between Martha and myself, I must say I’ve come around to seeing the vast difference in our lives. Cale is right. Oh well- I can still read her magazine, and enjoy the fact that everybody can be a bit of a Martha Stewart- even if they wear Wranglers and have mad dirt dodging skills.