Tag Archives: summer

My Fresh Farmhand Friend

By: Colleen

There’s a new member of the motley crew that sleeps under the roof of the Slattery homestead in Middle Ridge, Wisconsin.  My good friend and compatriot, Killian Beeler, recently drove up from hot and dusty Texas to dig in the muddy Wisconsin fields (and believe me, with all of the recent rain, mud is all we have!) with me for the month of June.  I sat down with him after day one on the farm to get his initial impressions of life on the farm.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself!

A: Well, I’m a handsome, young…ha, ha, I’m just kidding, just kidding!  I’m a 20 year old, Catholic male, single (playful laugh).  But seriously, I’m from Texas, and I go to the University of Dallas with Colleen.  I like a nice pair of slacks (another laugh).  I enjoy history, politics, music, and playing bass guitar.

Q: Why did you choose to come to work on Sweet Ridge Farm?

A: Well, I really like the area; I think it’s very pretty.  I enjoy the Amish culture that permeates the area.  I am very interested in the idea of a society based on agriculture, so I came here to get a small idea of what it is like.

Q: What has your initial impression been of life on the farm, Slattery style?

A: It’s great!  I have already managed to meet Amish families, trim blackberry bushes, and plant and learn about shallots.  The experience really does go beyond my expectations so far.

Q: Why are you interested in farming?

A: I believe that a healthy, ordered society should make and know, to some degree at least, the food that it consumes.  When it becomes disconnected from the complex process behind the production of what it comes into contact every day, there are real problems.  In other words, Monsanto sucks!

Q: What are your expectations for your stay?

A: To enjoy the summer, work out in the fields, and enjoy evenings spent reading in the company of great people.

Well, Killian, I am quite certain that you will enjoy your stay on Sweet Ridge Farm, if I have anything to say about it.  Welcome to the great State of Wisconsin, my friend!


Indian Nights

By: Clare

Spring is turning to summer, brown is returning to green, and the world is glorious again. This was the case last Sunday night, as a warm breeze softly caressed the seemingly endless fields along our high hilltop home. My parents were away in Dallas attending my older brother’s college graduation, and  Mary and I were left to ourselves for a weekend. This got old quite fast, and so we eagerly agreed to babysitting our nieces and nephew. Someone came up with the idea to play Indians, which seemed like the perfect game for three wild children to play. First, the proper wardrobe and makeup were needed.

Adeline chose her dress carefully. It may not have fit very well with the Indian theme, but it definitely worked with the Adeline theme..which is DRAMATIC.


Claire fit perfectly into the Indian dress Mary was as a girl, handmade by our “crafty” mother.


We couldn’t resist putting Thaddeus in Robert’s old Indian boy outfit. And of course, Indian war paint was completely necessary.


Watch out. He’s feisty.


While Thaddeus went with the tough guy attitude, Claire stayed in a more melancholic mood.


I can’t wait for summer and more Indian nights.


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.

The Onion Award

Earlier this week, the Slatterys present elected a new winner of “the Onion award”.

 The Onion Award is now a tradition in our family. In our house, someone is always being teased by another witty, sarcastic sibling, or wrestling around on the floor with them (this is usually just the boys, but if you get the girls angry enough, they can get vicious), or making really aggravating noises, etc. etc. And so one of us, I’m really not sure who, came up with the  idea to to cast votes at the end of the summer nominating who they think is the most annoying person in the household. The winner is given a great big, homegrown onion. This summer, Raph had really been pushing to win. He got everyone to the table, handed out the pens and paper, and made sure he was the one to read out the votes. Jokingly, Mom voted for Dad, and Dad voted for Mom. I won’t tell you who Mary voted for because it was not very nice, but I myself did give that person an honorable mention. The only vote Raphael ended up getting was cast by himself. This is probably because most of the time, we all think Raph is hilarious instead of annoying. James voted for me, and I voted for him, as did Colleen and Patrick, making James the winner of the 2011 Onion Award.

Sorely disappointed, Raphael Slattery was not open for comment.

The Music Man

By: Clare

As August comes,the realization that summer ends comes with it. One by one, older siblings make their way back to their colleges for another school year. This year, all those leaving are heading down to Dallas, either for college, or jobs. The first to leave has been Cale, who started making his way down yesterday.  Cale has been spending his summers, even sometimes Christmas’, with us for almost as long as I can remember, and is more like a brother to me than a cousin. His jokes never fail to make me laugh, and even his laugh makes me laugh. Cale is also our resident musician. There’s been many a summer night when I’ve stayed up late listening to Cale play his guitar and sing a particular song he is obsessed with getting down perfectly at the moment. I love being on the first or second floor and suddenly hearing Cale’s loud singing voice projecting all over the house from the third floor. Even it’s just him coming into Mary’s room and playing the same scales over and over, we still enjoy it.

(No, he is not asleep. This is Cale playing his scales on the floor of Mary’s room. I really don’t remember why he decided to lie down.)

Cale, we will miss you and your music.

 Folks, Elvis has left the building.

Sheboygan Style Beer Brats

by Kate

My father grew up in Sheboygan, Wisconsin on the shores of Lake Michigan.  My grandfather was an Irishman from Chicago, stationed in Sheboygan during the Second World War. He fell in love with the order and beauty of the place.  He loved the pristine Germanic neatness of the town on the lake, the lawns clipped and swept and groomed and the houses bright and painted and trim, the children well behaved. Luckily for him he also fell in love with my Czech grandmother, who was able to help him live as much like a German as an Irishman ever could. This meant he was priveleged to consume the most incredible bratwurst known to man on a regular basis.

My grandmother is an amazing woman. She is bright, stylish, well read and informed regarding the issues of the day, and an impeccable hostess. Her home is immaculate and welcoming. She turned 92 last month.

Luckily, we were able to visit her and spend some time in Sheboygan back in June. The Sheboygan area was settled by German’s in the mid-1800’s, and retains a strong Germanic flavor to this day. Every summer, the town hosts a Bratwurst Festival and boasts the best brats in the land. Johnsonville brats are made in Sheboygan County, in a town just a few miles away. The best bratwurst in the world, however, is definitely made in my Grandmother’s backyard. On this visit, I felt that it was crucial that I learn how to make my Grandma Dorothy’s Sheboygan Style Brats. Luckily for me, she had just purchased a couple dozen Johnsonville brats on sale. That is the first step, she told me. Wait for a sale, and then load up on the Johnsonville brats.

We are going to grill these in a moment, but first we will prepare the crucial marinade. For 12 brats, you will need one large white onion and a stick and a half of butter. Slice the onion in half, and then slice lengthwise. Melt the butter in a deep saucepan, and then gently saute the onions on medium low. You just want to soften them up a bit. As soon as they have softened slightly, pour in 2 cans of beer. Yes, cans. You may be a sophisticated bottle beer drinker, but the beer we are looking for here is a light, Milwaukee style canned beer, not a deep dark bottled malty fancy shmancy beer of any sort. Remember that you are making Wisconsin beer brats. Try Miller, or Pabst.

Turn the buttery beer down as low as it can go and leave it on the burner while you head out to your hot grill- preferably your charcoal grill. Grandma recommends a classic Weber grill.

She has been grilling brats for about 70 years, so I tend to respect her opinion quite a bit.

You can throw some patties on the grill as well. Hamburgers love the buttery beer brat marinade as much as brats do.

My grandmother dusts her hamburger patties with Lawry’s Seasoned Salt.  

As soon as the brats and burgers are done grilling, they are ready to meet their match. Pull them off the grill, bring them into the kitchen, and place them one by one into the (still bubbling) beer, butter, and onion mixture.

Turn off the heat entirely and let them luxuriate in all that beer and butter. And here’s the thing. You can pull the brats out, and put them on buns. It would be best if you had these incredible rolls from the German bakery down the street in Sheboygan, but if you don’t you can make do.

You can slice the rolls and butter them and place them on a tray and slide them into a hot oven for a little while, like my Grandma does, and pull them out when they have reached the point of perfection. This sounds like it is leading to a picture, but I don’t have one because at this point my documenting ceased and I ate a couple brats.


If you eat the brats now, they will not really be my Grandma Dorothy’s Best in the World Beer Brats. That is because she generally makes a massive batch to prepare for the future hordes of Slattery grandchildren, so she lets the batch of brats in the beer marinade cool, and then she gets out a few gallon sized freezer bags. She places four to six brats and a couple burgers in each one, and she pours a cup or two of the marinade over each of them.

Then she sends all these bags down to the freezer in the basement, lays them out carefully so they freeze evenly. She pulls them out when the grandchildren or great grandchildren come to town, or in the middle of the winter when it is important to taste a bit of summer. She sent a bag with me on my way back to Pittsburgh. I pulled it out of the freezer a couple days later and heated up the brats gently on low heat in a cast iron pan. The time the grilled brats spend marinading in the beer and butter mixture adds an amazing complexity and richness to their flavor. This is definitely Casey’s favorite summer lunch. I highly recommend the process. You’ll be glad you tried it. Butter and beer and bratwurst- you can’t go wrong. Try it, and let me know how it goes!

Grandma Dorothy’s Best Beer Brats

1-2 onions

1 1/2 stick butter

12 Johnsonville brats

2 cans Milwaukee style beer

Slice the onion in half, then continue to slice lengthwise. Heat butter slowly in deep skillet and saute onions gently till soft. Pour in two cans (or more if you’ve got more brats) beer and leave on lowest heat to barely simmer. Grill brats, and Burgers if you’d like. Drop brats into beer, and leave to marinade till cool. Bag up the brats in gallon size freezer bags, pouring 1-2 cups marinade over each batch. Freeze until you need them. Pull out brats and burgers and frozen marinade, and heat slowly. Serve with fresh onions and mustard on a sliced, buttered bun slightly browned in the oven. Enjoy.

It’s the Thought that Counts

By: Clare

This summer has been warmer than usual. In these past weeks we’ve been getting pretty consistent 90+ weather, which has been hard for all of us to take. Especially for this guy:

Australian Shepherds have naturally long hair. That’s just the way they are. Once summer came,  our little Aussie started his very own collection of burs, twigs, and who knows what else in his hair, and began shedding clumps of dog hair everywhere. And since no one else was willing to groom him, Mary took on the job with determination. Before I go on, I think Mary would like you all to know that none of her previous home projects have failed. Until now. She started out by cutting off the clumps of hair with mysterious things matted into his hair. That part wasn’t so bad. He looked a little strange, but not too bad. But then she decided that she needed to shave him. I tried to stop her, I really did.

“Mary, Australian Shepherds are supposed to have long hair. That’s just how they were made.”

“But Clare, they always shave dogs for those fancy dog shows. He’s gonna look great!” She says, despite the fact that she’s never watched a dog show in her life.

Fully dedicated, Mary bought a special razor and got to work. She probably shaved off half of his body weight, not to mention his pride. And so, our precious little dog went from this:

(I know, he looks pretty scary here. He is not to be disturbed while eating. )

To a more groomed version which is not documented.

And suddenly-to this:

Needless to say we were a little, uh, surprised by the outcome. And  Mary was…I’ll just say disappointed. I still don’t know how to describe this new version of him. A trimmed rat with an oversized head? It’s not that bad is it? I’ll let you think of your own description. Be as creative as you like.

Well, it’s the thought that counts. 

Sunday at Sparta Farm

by Kate

When I was growing up, my family visited Amish friends once a month or so. These days, my Dad spends more time than ever with his Amish brethren. The Organic Valley vegetable co-op is full of Amish families, so Dad has lots of business meetings in Amish kitchens and backyards. He has always loved the simplicity and order of the Amish lifestyle, and in fact when he picked me up on my visit home last month we made a pit stop to watch a family with 16 children (at least) packaging asparagus in bare feet on a cold June afternoon. I loved visiting our Amish friends and climbing the haymow, riding horses and galloping through the pasture, trying to ride cows now and then. I have no idea how close the nearest Amish settlements are here in Pennsylania, but we are lucky in that we do have very good friends on a farm an hour and a half outside of Pittsburgh. Although they are not Amish, they do have a beautiful (and very erudite) outhouse.

I met my friend Rebecca long ago at Ave Maria College in Michigan. It was her first teaching job out of grad school. The first day I met her she was dressed in chic impeccable black with sleek short bottle blond hair. She held out a hand with manicured blood red nails and announced that she understood my desire to be a farmer and a philosopher. I secretly scoffed, having trouble imagining anyone so sophisticated and manicured being a real farmer. I was wrong. It turned out she grew up with back to the lander parents like mine, with similar interludes without running water. Today, Rebecca teaches Literature and Philosophy at the University of Steubenville and runs a full scale organic farm on her parent’s land along with her husband Brendan and her two (and a half!) children. Here they are, contemplating their bright future. Ha.

Luckily for me, her parent’s farm is only an hour and a half from Pittsburgh- perfect for a Sunday afternoon visit. This past Sunday was hot and humid and beautiful- a gorgeous day to be out on the farm.

The front porch is very reminiscent of the Slattery farm- broom, garlic, scales, beat up boards and all.

If the garlic looks familiar, it is in fact originally Pat Slattery garlic from my Dad. He has been cultivating a variety for years that is huge and flavorful at the same time. Amazing stuff. Rebecca had lots of it drying on the porch.

She and Brendan have done incredible work farming together. This year they built a greenhouse, which allowed them to expand their growing season and production.

They also have really beautiful children. I love this shot of Avila, looking like a little farmer princess.

We brought a drum full of castanets, tambourine, rattles, and a plastic trumpet as a present for the kids, who loved it. I figure they can use it in out at the farm and then when the winter comes Rebecca can hide the noisemakers so she doesn’t go insane.

It was a lovely afternoon. We had beer and brats on the cool shaded porch. In fact, a super secret family recipe for Sheboygan beer brats is coming to this blog soon. I was able to document my 92 year old Grandmother making a batch during my Wisconsin visit this summer. During our Sunday visit I tried the recipe myself for the first time.

After the beer and the brats and all the fresh organic produce we could eat, we headed down to the field where Brendan and Rebecca have set up a stock tank swimming pool for the kids. The cold water was perfect on a hot day.

 We left in the twilight and drove the long hour and a half back towards town. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon to spend visiting.