Monthly Archives: June 2013

Sparkling Stones

by Kate

I lost the diamond from my engagement ring. There was a loose prong and, I think, a long stranded sweater involved. Returning from a dinner party I brushed my ring finger and gasped to discover only the sharp spikes of the setting, the stone long gone. It was an interesting moment of soul searching, there in the car in the early darkness of late winter. I knew that the diamond was gone, and that another would not be forthcoming. I couldn’t imagine wanting one. We have so many dreams for our young family- a bicycle carriage, a bigger home, an old piano to put in it. I’ve never dreamed of diamonds.

I didn’t miss the diamond that night. What I missed was the wild exhilaration of the young pizza delivery driver who worked at a little Italian hole in the wall in Pittsburgh and courted a girl far away in the mountains of North Carolina.

By chance, we were passing by the pizza shop in question when I discovered the gaping hole in my engagement ring, the ring that he had purchased on that spot after putting out the word that he was looking for a diamond. A legless obese man who passed most of his time in the shop scratched his head a bit and mentioned that he had a divorced daughter who had a no need for her beautiful ring, but did need some cash. Soon, the deal was done. On a high ridge overlooking the Ohio river, that young delivery driver asked for my hand. When I accepted, he put the ring on it.

The moments of our courtship and engagement were enchanted, and I am grateful for every second, but what I realized that night was that losing the ring didn’t mean losing any of those memories. I still have them all, along with the thin gold band that my husband put on my finger four years ago today, when I became his wife.

vintage gown mariachi wedding suit

The engagement ring was beautiful. The diamond was shaped like a teardrop, which sadly suited the storms of tears that I am prone to on a regular basis. The setting was high and the ring was pointed and oh, it was sharp. So was I. I was a headstrong, highstrung newlywed with a sharp tongue and a chip on my shoulder. I hope and believe that in the past four years, I have become softer, smoother, gentler, and stronger- just like my plain gold wedding band. Wearing it alone reminds me of what I want to be as a wife.

Deep life lessons aside, just this week I made a fantastic discovery. Shopping with my sister Clare in Pittsburgh’s Strip District, we came upon a case of faux engagement rings for the fantastic price of five dollars a piece. Suddenly it hit me. Losing my engagement stone gave me free rein to wear any size and style of engagement ring I wanted. I walked out of that shop looking like a MUCH more affluent woman.

engagement ring

I love simplicity, and I love costume jewelry. I love pretending I am a high society lady at the entirely UNpretentious public pool up the street.

black one piece white hat summer 13

Most of all I love my husband, who is still wild, and still exhilarating. Thanks for the ring- but much more than that, thanks for the marriage.

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Wedding Work

by Kate

Tomorrow is my wedding anniversary. It was a beautiful wedding, but today I’m not thinking about that. What I am remembering, with longing, is the week spent with women who had flown in from all over the world to stay in a tiny 100 year old Norwegian cabin in the valley below our farm.

norskedalen cabin

A cabin full of wine and laughter was the least I could provide for those girls, who had been swept into a full scale Wisconsin ridgetop wedding. In case you’ve never been involved with one of these, let me tell you a couple things. They’re large- we had at least 250 people at our mass and the reception in the pole shed turned ballroom- and they involve lots (and lots, and lots) of work.

butcher buckets

For instance, we grew the food for the wedding. The morning of the wedding, I was in the field picking lettuce early in the morning and headed off to top strawberries before donning my bridal gown…

strawberry picking wedding morning

But before all that, we raised the chickens. Then, just after my bridesmaids arrived, we butchered them. So romantic!

bridesmaids butchering chickens

After photographing the King brothers at work butchering chickens last week, I have been thinking a lot about our bridal butchering party. Granted, it was quite a bit more chaotic than the serene process at Freedom Farms. Our knives were dull, our crew was inexperienced, and I may have been a bit out of practice myself. Still, this is still my favorite photo of my engagement ring.

chicken buchering diamond ring

The chickens were plucked and cleaned and cooled and eventually cooked and served, but in the meantime there were flowers to pick. This meant a month of picking and wrapping peonies, storing them in newspaper to save them for late June. It also meant a trip deep into Amish country…

amish country drive

where an abandoned kitchen garden ran riot, with hundreds of roses and a profusion of other blooms that needed to be gathered.

flower picking wedding

I have rarely felt as free and deeply happy as I did that morning, gathering flowers with great friends.

amish farm windmill

Back at the pole shed, there were lights and banners to hang, and ladders to climb.

pole shed wedding

It took some power washing, the remover of a rotochopper, and about 10 people working 12 hours a day…

pole shed wedding preparation

but by the night before the wedding, the pole shed looked fantastic. I think that if I could time travel, that is where I would return, with a cold beer in hand, to spend another evening with Julia, Maqui, Susannah, Lisa, Adrienne, Emily, my siblings, and the rest of the hardworking crew who made our homegrown ridgetop wedding so beautiful. It wouldn’t have happened without all of them, and I am more grateful than words can say.

mariachi pole shed

For pictures of the wedding, see this post:

Taking the Leap

Capturing the Kings

By: Clare

As you may already know I am currently visiting my oldest sister, Kate, in Pittsburgh for several weeks. The city is full of places I want to go and people I want to see. On the list of people I decided I must see were the Farm Kings, who star in a GAC reality TV series that follows their big family’s farming life. The Farm Kings just happen to live in the country outside of Pittsburgh, and even better, Kate happens to have a job writing and taking pictures for their new magazine.

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Calling me a fan of a reality show about farming (because we all know how much I love farming) would definitely be stretching the truth, as in, stretching the truth about, say, as wide as the Grand Canyon, but I was excited to see how the Farm Kings live their life when the cameras aren’t around.

So one early morning Kate and I hopped into her city car for a jaunt in the country. And although I love the city, I must say that it was fantastic to be out in the country for a while.

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I stood by holding a grinning (but heavy!) baby Francisco

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while Kate questioned the King brothers on the current topic – chicken butchering.

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While I watched Francisco, I also observed the Farm Kings’ system of butchering which I found to be much more organized that any Slattery chicken butchering system has ever been. Kate and I noted that the six-year-old present was playing in the dirt instead of participating in the chicken butchering process, whereas I began chicken butchering as a four-year-old. But it can be noted that I have always been a chicken butchering pro.

Then, being the expert assistant that I am, I read through her notes and found that Kate is a journalist through and through, because she’s really mastered the journalist scribble, which is only legible by the writer’s eyes.

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More pictures of the farm were needed for the magazine, so Kate and I set out to capture the best shots of Freedom Farms. I was even able to use my photography skills to take some pictures, two of which will be included in the next issue.

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Kate went into super-mom mode, climbing a steep hill with a thirty pound baby weighing her down, while taking pictures.

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While everything was beautiful and organized, we did note that the King brothers’ carpentry skills weren’t as high end as the Slattery brothers’.

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We had a great time capturing the Farm Kings. To get the full story and the pictures, you should definitely go ahead and subscribe to the Freedom Farms Magazine. You can sign up here.

Swimming in the City

by Kate

Here in Pittsburgh, it is hot, hazy, humid, and quite beautiful. In a city of three rivers, there is always a breeze if you know where to find it. There’s also a spectacular amount of water, including the great fountain at Point State Park which shoots a majestic 150 feet into the sky.

pittsburgh point state park fountain

Of course, I do admit that the beauty of a sweltering city is much easier to appreciate when you are immersed in water, and I’ve been trying to do so whenever possible.

mother daughter fountain spray park

June is a gorgeous month in Pittsburgh, and I’m happy to be here to experience it. I’m particularly happy because my sister, Clare is here. I am the eldest of the 9 children in our family, and Clare is the youngest. She is a delight to have around. We’ve been swimming every day, and I have been pondering the beauty of the classic black one piece. Definitely a must if you are in the midst of the childbearing years.

black one piece swimsuit

Incidentally I am afraid that picture is some sort of deep commentary on my approach to motherhood. In my defense I will state that my husband AND Clare were watching the children, so they were definitely safe. Also, I am a bit exhausted these days. Also, black one pieces! They are magic for mothers with small children! Wide brimmed hats are also useful, as they create a large shaded area for a babe in arms. However, I felt that the wide brimmed hat and one piece was just not chic…. enough, Time to add bright red lipstick! Et….. voila!

blck swimsuit red lipstick

Tres chic, as my francophile sister Colleen would hopefully say. The blinding white skin we Irish Slattery girls are blessed with is a particularly striking addition to this look. Speaking of the look, that red lipstick was quite tempting to Clare, who happens to have a black one piece as well.

clare the stunner

Dang it. She looked spectacular. Just like an old time movie star, in my opinion.

red lipstick black swimsuit

Why, oh why are the youngest children SO much smoother and more stylish than the ragged and haggard eldest who have gone before? I am going to go bitterly contemplate that… in my romper that I literally ordered from the front page of a catalog created expressly for very elderly women. Sigh. It is so hard to be the fashion forward, elderly sister.

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Formal in the Field

By: Mary

This is the story of an arsenal of a closet stocked with a vast array of bridesmaids dresses that was made into a useful costume collection to bring forth a highly impractical (but may I add hilarious) photo shoot.

This collection of dresses started about 30 years ago when my mother wore the blue silk number Kate sported as a maid-of-honor in her sister’s wedding. The pink dress came from our sister-in-law, Nicole during a phase in which she was a consultant at a bridal store and was able to bring many a bridesmaid dress home for free with price tags that were still in tact. She also donated the aqua dress that Colleen wore after it sat in storage for many years following a high school prom. Colleen begrudged Clare the high honor of wearing a dress that she pulled out of the play clothes last summer and has since intended to wear next month during her first stint as a bridesmaid.

It just so happened that the talented Tara Schwab was visiting and graciously agreed to document us with her camera. Tara is a former roommate of Kate’s and has moved to Wisconsin for a flute professor position at a university in the northern part of the state.

Free spirited and happy in the cool evening light, we took to the field by foot.

running sisters

The asparagus field seemed an ideal place to stop from striding for a moment.

happy sisters

And then… an apple tree seemed to be beckoning. So just like that, I scrambled up. This turned out to be a problematic decision. I know, I know- it does seem like such a sweetly quaint scene. However, nobody else wanted to climb up and none of the sisters realized why I was laughing. This was because the pungent smell that was drifting up was coming from the composting hide of Silly Spots (remember Blizzards and Beef?).  At this very moment in time, Silly Spots’ hide from lasts winter’s butchering is resting, or I could say, composting in a less than aromatic way under one of our many apple trees. 

After choosing a new tree without the remains of a cow underneath, Clare was game to scurry its low branches. All was well until the jump down.

in the tree

And then all was really not well…this was the point in time in which a literal falling out took place.

jump

RRRRIIIIIIIP!

rip

Lesson to be learned: no apple tree climbing in bridesmaids-to-be dresses.

Colleen is typically pretty sweet, BUT when she’s not she’s not, and the girl really can get into a catfight. Her reaction to this tear was a quick yank on Clare’s red tresses. While Clare stood her 16 year ground, during this sister spat, she watched with pleasure as Colleen then clumsily tripped on her flowing aqua train and tumbled down to meet her end with the emerald grass of the field.

At this point my reaction was to suggest we link arms as then I could take custody of each of their arms to separate them from throwing fists at each other.

sisters

Aren’t we happy?

*Please do not look too closely at Colleen’s unhappy face*

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By this time, Colleen and I were totally over being stalked by the paparazzi…okay, that might be a slightly embellished truth. Colleen needed some condolence from our mom, and I needed to get ready for an old church lady meeting at St. Peter’s Church (more about that later). Anyhow, our last photo turned out to be a pretty special one, because it includes our mother who was at a corner of her garden babysitting Kate’s youngest.

all of us

I’m glad the dresses got some extra use, and I hope you enjoyed the folly of our dramatic dress up segment. I’d advise that if you are going to do one yourself steer clear of composting dead calves, bridalwear, and fist fights.

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!

Killeen