Monthly Archives: March 2013

City Girl, Country Girl

By: Colleen

It is the small, quiet moments in life that truly call out to my poetic soul.  The quiet and chill of an early morning run, an undercurrent of vibrant excitement caught in the trill of the birds.  The silence that comes (every once in awhile!) out in the fields, the summer sun setting, the dirt deep and dark underneath my hands.  And last week, I found that quiet as I sat upon the banks of the Potomac, in milky, early Spring sun.  The boats slipped by quietly, I could see away and off into Maryland across the shore; and life was beautiful.

For Spring Break, I traveled to the Washington, DC area to visit friends and explore a bit of the East coast.  I grew up dreaming of boarding school on the East coast, my dreamy little head filled with images of school uniforms and dormitories, curled up with a book of the same subject  in a patch of sunlight in our roomy, white farmhouse.  As I grew up, that dream faded into the background, and I found myself in school way down in Dallas, TX, just about one of the least romantic places I could think of.  So, when I got the opportunity to spend a week on the East coast for break, I jumped on the chance.

My absolute favorite day was the one spent in Alexandria, Virginia, just off the blue line of the Metro.  I headed out in the morning, bought my metro pass, and navigated my way down into the depths of the metro station.  There was something so freeing about taking the metro by myself.  And yet, standing on the platform and waiting for the train in my deep green pea coat and tall blacks boots, I felt so very far away from home.  The rush and bustle of the metro and the city excite me, but also makes me recess farther into myself, my iPod in my ears and the far away look in my eyes that I recently learned to adopt.  And so, it was with a small sigh of relief that I exited the metro at King Street Station, and headed down historic King Street in old Town Alexandria.  immediately, I was in love.

The street was lined with coffee shops, boutiques, and restaurants.  It was as if the town knew me, my likes and dislikes, a simple girl from Wisconsin with an avid love of all things Francais.

fromage

american in paris(I actually did end up going into this one, and was promptly frightened out by the saleswoman who told me that you weren’t allowed to touch the clothing in the store except by the hangers and had a genuine witch’s cackle.  You can’t win them all, I suppose.)

baguette

I grabbed lunch at this little French bistro, filled to the brim with breads and cheeses, and headed down to the river, swinging my baguette sandwich by my hand.  After lunch, I wandered into the side streets, house hunting.  Since I had fallen in love with the town, I needed to find a place to live other than the cafes. There are shutters on almost every house in the town, and mysterious, hidden gardens behind curved gates, colored red, green, and blue.  This house was a little too small:

house

My friends and I agreed: this is a little more my size:

big house

I’ll admit that I was a little worried that the real owners of the house might come out and ask me what I was doing posing on their front steps  so we smiled quickly.  The house was absolutely lovely, as was the town.   I could see myself there, taking early morning runs next to the river, finding a private high school to teach at, and coming home to a (small) apartment with green shutters on the windows.

But, the Midwestern, Slattery girl in me knows that she would and could also be completely content in a house more like this, filled with family and love.

farm house

I peeked into a courtyard in Alexandria and found this gem.  And I was back home in an instant.  No matter how far you go, you’re never really far from home.  My feet will always be bare and dirty, I’ll always defend raw milk, and I’ll always love the country, where one can breath and live and be.

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Comfort and Calamity

By: Mary

In a matter of hours my connecting train from Pittsburgh to Chicago’s Union Station will take me back home. Home may only be 5 hours away from the busy city of Chicago, but to my county girl heart this layover in the city makes me feel both foreign and lost. The streets are full of slow moving traffic caught in jams, and the sidewalks offer little space as they accommodate the congestion of pedestrians moving at many different paces, most of whom are dressed in darker colors, and all of whom wear thick winter clothing to combat the cold and sharp wind that blows.

I have heard that in Wisconsin there has been a terrible storm raging away. It has been said that this is one of the worst of the year which means it must really be a beast of a storm as it has been an exceptionally cold and snowy winter.

Surely when I get home the snow will be deep and the pipes in my recently completed apartment will still be frozen. Grh!

Despite these obstacles, I am ready to return to my roots.

middle ridge

I don’t have a place in this busy city traffic. When in Pittsburgh, I ended up in a conversation with someone at a Brazilian Carnival. He tried to sell me the concept of moving to Pittsburgh. I laughed and told him I gladly would move to the city with the requirement that my closest neighbor would have to live at least a mile away.

I love the silence and life that living on a ridgetop offers.

mars

I love the comfort

sun

and calamity

poking patrick

that comes from being surrounded by open space and family.

The richness that rural life provides challenges me as I balance (not only on my horse’s back!)

fall, mars

I love the roulette of farming.

I am thankful for knowing what contents and captivates me. Also, I am very excited to welcome the goodness of spring under the sphere of its golden sunshine.

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.

arched door wrought iron gate pittsburgh cathedral of learning

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.

heinz chapel red coat red door

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.

cold spring bright style

She carried spring with her and gave it to me.

babywearing spring sling

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

jogging stroller indy bookshop pittsburgh urban

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

urban pittsburgh garfield mural

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.

image

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.
image

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…

wpid-20130217_130301.jpg

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.