Tag Archives: Western Wisconsin


by Mary

Monday was an enjoyable day at Sweet Ridge Farm for many reasons. Naturally, Labor Day is always a special day to celebrate.  September 5th also marks the birthday of my littlest brother, James. Though he turned 17, I am positive that I will continue to coddle him till he’s about 70. However, with that subject matter aside, I will write this post on the special Labor Day Celebrations here. The Slattery Farm was filled to the brim. It was filled with the company of  14 visiting Mexicans from southern Mexico, 1 seminarian named Fernando Hernandez,  the famous Father Joe Hirsch, who is vocations director of the LaCrosse Diocese, and a few other folks who were just along  for the visit.

If I may, I will backtrack to a Labor Day several years ago. Back then Fernando was an illegal immigrant picking apples at an organic apple orchard located about an hour away from our farm. I was told that at this point in his life he had such a zeal to get to the local rural church that the hippies at the orchard would provide transportation to get him there. Well, apparently the zeal never died. This year, he will be ordained as a Catholic priest in the LaCrosse Diocese. He will be celebrating his First Masses at the same churches in the steep hills surrounded by apple orchards where he arrived as immigrant apple picker years ago.  

Beautiful story, right? Well what is even more gorgeous is that my family got to meet him and his entire extended family on Monday. When you come to Sweet Ridge Farm, you leave as a friend.  Sure, there were a few glitches to hosting our new friends from Mexico. There first would be that we have  NO natural Spanish speaking skills around here (where are you Kate when we need you!!). Luckily, Father Joe was able to act as an interperator.  Dad had no qualms about meeting and visiting with Fernando and family. The fact that he doesn’t speak Spanish didn’t phase him a bit, or keep him from describing his farming operations at length.

Nor did he have any hesitancy about loading all 15 of them up in the wagon and taking them on a little hour long farm tour. Upon seeing a tangle of bodies crawling into our old blanket laden wagon, my cousin Cale commented at their bravery. He had never seen a group of people outside our family so willing to squeeze into such a rickety ride. Fernando was quite a gracious gentleman about it.

More fun followed after the farm tour. Mom and I made a big meal to share with all. We also had a birthday cake for my embarrassed birthday boy brother. James was sung birthday songs in spanish for quite some time. What enthusiasm they had. James was not quite so enthused.

After cake and many exclamations of enthusiam from our guests we all headed across the road to the church. James was thrilled to escape his long serenade of spanish songs. While at the church Father Joe led the group in spanish praise and worship songs. Hands swayed in the air, voices soared, laughter and clapping broke out spontaneously. Dad informed my mother, who is the co-choir Director at our staid and solidly German Catholic parish that he had never heard such loud, free, and joyful music in those pews.

We took a group photo in the church to commemorate our Mexican Labor Day…

And they left the farm as our friends.

Deacon Fernando Lara Hernandez will be ordained on Thursday, September 8, 2011 at 10:30 a.m. at St. Joseph the Workman, Cathedral, La Crosse, WI. His First Masses will be celebrated at: St. Mary Parish in Gays Mills on Saturday, September 10th at 5:30 p.m. and at St. Philip Parish in Rolling Ground on Sunday, September 11th at 10:30 am.

Congratulations to Fernando Hernandez and his family!

Good bye, Wisconsin!

by Colleen

A little over a week ago, I was dashing around the fields surrounding the Slattery family farm in Middle Ridge, Wisconsin, for a last good bye to western Wisconsin. Being the little sister most similar to Kate, I felt that it was only appropriate to commemorate this occasion with a photo shoot, in a long, green ball gown.  Clare was in tow, the director of Making Colleen’s Face Not Do Weird Things While Pictures Are Taken Of It, and my good friend, Cody, brought his photography skills and awesome camera.

The shots were taken in some of my favorite locations at home.

The asparagus field…..

The apple orchard…..

And of course, I had to taste our apples one last time…..they are truly the best apples in the world.  Can you tell from my face?

This gorgeous place is just a little nook off the path to the field and was completely Clare’s idea…

From there I headed out to do some flying leaps into our neighbor’s adjoining field.

Afterwards, I took a shot at snapping some pictures of our field myself.  I already miss this view so much.

It was on to the last location from there, the pasture next door.  And I never walk when I can run!

It was a day filled with green, a day filled with good byes.  I left the next morning for my Grandma’s house, three hours away, and on the next Monday, I flew into muggy Dallas.  Good bye, cool and green!  Good bye, Wisconsin!  Until we meet again….

The Simple Life (with Soda Pop and Subs)

By Colleen

While at the local convenience store/deli in the tiny, tiny town of Cashton on Friday night a few weeks back, I noted a sight that gave me some pause.  I live in a part of Western Wisconsin that happens to have a large Amish community, and I’ve grown up seeing them all around.  I’ve seen them walking along the side of the road as my loud, yellow bus flies by; I’ve met them coming into or out of town in their buggies in the rain, snow, sleet, and shine; I’ve gone with Dad on countless trips to Amish homes, and have been stared at by the younger children, wide eyes and little pink mouths slightly ajar.  For me, the Amish are a part of life in Western Wisconsin, but I know this is not the case in most of the rest of the country.

This is why I was suddenly struck by the rarity of what happened on that Friday night.  It was around 9 o’clock at night when a group of three or four Amish walked in, a woman and a couple of men.  Dressed in their somber grays, blacks, and navy blues, they made quite a contrast against the shelves of snack foods which blared gold, blue, purple, and green loudly off their plastic covered wrappings.  They went about their business, speaking in quiet tones, and ordered a round of sub sandwiches from the deli section.  Then, they stood back to wait, leaning a little awkwardly against the wall.  The woman sipped a container of Pepsi, and glanced around nonchalantly.  Perhaps they were on their way back from an Amish wedding or church service.  They looked like any travel-weary person, just waiting for a bite to eat and then back to the open road.  The main difference: these travelers wouldn’t be hopping into a Buick or a Honda-they got to look forward to a bumpy buggy ride home, with a tired horse to take them there.

What I loved most about this simple occurrence was how my friends handled it.  They’ve both grown up in the area and did not even blink when the Amish came in.  In fact, I was the only one who noted these quiet folk as they went about their simple way of living, sipping soda under the fluorescent lights.