Author Archives: sweetridgesisters

About sweetridgesisters

Kate grew up composing soap operatic dramas while hanging laundry on the line. She has consistently found herself barefoot in the big city and wearing four inch heels in the barnyard. She spent several years in the heat of North Carolina running a theatre company, unloading trucks of produce, getting lost in the mountains on the way to photograph farmers with secret stores of moonshine, and living in a cabin with no plumbing. To her surprise, she currently loves living in the big city of Pittsburgh. She is a harpist, bellydancer, wife, mother, and composer of soap operas while hanging laundry on the line. Kate can be reached at kathleen.slattery(at)gmail(dot)com. Mary Brigid is the second sister in the family and the fourth of 9 kids. Riding her horse, gardening, running and reading are pretty much crucial for her. She loves drinking too much coffee, rain boots, quiet time at 6AM, and is slightly obsessed with sunshine. The most important things in her life are the Catholic faith, agriculture, her flower garden, and horse and dog. Mary is interested in psychology, traveling, geography, health/health food, reading, baking, colors, locating lost hairclips to lose in her hair again, chronic journaling, owning too many pairs of earrings, laughing with (and at) loved ones, sarcastic humor, and stubborn people. Colleen Rose is strangely serene for a Slattery girl, runs dozens of miles a week, loves poetry and music, and is ready to leave the farm and head to college next year. Clare is the youngest Slattery, and is reluctant to participate in the blog project. However, she's also an amazing photographer and her work is sure to show up soon, even if her words don't appear on the page quite yet.


April 16, 2015

By Mary

With my green eyes I see beauty and with my green thumb I like to nurture and create it. One of my very favorite things to do is to spend hours lost silence while gardening. Growing flowers never bores me. I have an appreciation for the flexibility of flower gardening because first and foremost, it offers me a creative outlet that is beautiful, as well as in constant motion. I really do despise sitting still, so it’s wonderful to be engaged in projects that keep me busy and moving, Plus growing flowers is such a flexible way to have a fun niche market.

Yesterday I picked up flats of baby lupines that I had started at an Amish greenhouse back in February. While at the greenhouse I spent a few minutes looking around at what’s available, which made me ponder new ideas for this season. Later last night I was able to look back at some of the pictures from last summer which made me remember times, colors and designs that were a joy to experience during last years growing season. Here are a few memories, designs and projects from 2014.


Last February the world seemed to as if it would always remain in a cold state of below zero frozen doom. Lisa King from the GAC show Farm Kings sympathized with my state of winter misery and was able to brighten my spirits by showing me the first shoots of new life inside her greenhouse. As a side note: Lisa is an amazing flower gardener and does some amazing and gorgeous things with flowers. For some great inspiration from Lisa, checkout some of the clips that are available from their show or Freedom Farms Magazine.

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After coming back from Pittsburgh, I was able to put together some lists of records and start planting.


Writing for the Freedom Farms magazine challenged me to spend some time coming up with articles that gave potting a new twist (just like the twisted grass in the globe pots I made that resemble my unbrushed hair!). To make these, just up-cycle an old globe, slit it in half, drill holes for drainage, and plant inside before attaching rope for hanging,


Last summer I was able to burn out a stump and turn it into a flower bed.


Burning out a tree takes a lot of time, and in my case one very heated argument…. but I liked the end result!


Last year I recycled old bottles that had labels I liked and used them as vases. The price is right to reuse them. This gave me a great inspiration to buy bottles of wine that had horses on the labels, I mean, I bought them for my flowers, right?


When it comes time to fill buckets with bouquets to take to the co-op for market, I am in my zone!




This year I will have new colors and plants to work with. I am really looking forward to seeing what I come up with. My hope for this post was that it provided some inspiration to think creatively, and most importantly, encourage you to get out and get your hands in the dirt. Happy gardening and don’t forget to get lots of dirt on your hands!





The Switch

By Mary Slattery

Last month I called my brother, Patrick at about 6:30 in the morning in tears and told him that I thought my 4Runner was totaled. In the middle of me wailing and explaining that my car had slid over a rock wall, off an embankment, and into the woods he interrupted me and said “Praise be to God the piece of junk is wrecked. You are a Subaru girl. Get one.”


Patrick is a pretty direct guy who I lean on a lot. He is the one who told me nearly 2 years ago that we should both sell our cars and get something cheap. Both of us ended up doing so. He got a jeep and I ended up the owner of a 22 year old 4Runner. Ironically, we then went into competition over who could have the highest SUV. After 2 tries at purchasing lift kits he won, and proceeded to win because his jeep has been for the most part problem free.

Unfortunately, the 4Runner has kept my life exciting in a chaotic messy way that makes for many stories, but has not been such a fun trial.

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Within the first week of owning a rear tire randomly detached from the entire wheel well. Since then the problems have continued at a steady clip.

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That solid stubborn streak that flows in my veins campaigned for the thing even though it sucked up gas like a suburban, was extremely difficult to shift and in more recent times it needed a lot of yanking at the wheel because it leaked power steering fluid on a regular basis. Most recently it became stuck in 4 wheel high on a daily basis which drove me crazy but I was informed by my brother that it was a “safe gear” for me to be in constantly. Drive I did, often and slowly with at least one rosary hanging off the rear view mirror and endless amounts off coffee that fuels my energy throughout the day.


There were a lot of things that I really liked about my white mess of a SUV. I liked how it was 22 years old, rust free, and still running with a good engine. I liked how I could off road in it at the ranch and not car how banged up it got. This summer my brother smashed into it with a gooseneck trailor full of horses and the dent didn’t phase me in the least. I liked how much space I had in the back of it to store whatever I had on hand like saddles and flats of plants, or buckets bursting with beautiful flowers blooms and splashing water all over the interior. There were a few times that I was able to move sheep, goats and my huge Akbash sheep dog from point A to point B.

4 runner in field

However, the novelty of my rugged and ancient vehicle really wore off this winter after the back door and window stopped working completely which put a kibaosh on my eccentric transportation endeavors. Worst of all the heater that runs off a light switch (I kid you not!) has never really worked which makes driving in my both cold and radio-less car pretty grim at this time of the year.


Yesterday I got a Subaru. How I hate letting things go. But I think it’s time to switch things up… and let go of my old heater switch.


Tomorrow I need to pick up a buck to breed my goats. I promise I won’t try to put him in my new car’s trunk because after all, this car is not that kind of car. That’s okay, I’m a Subaru girl now!

The Ditzy Shepherdess

By Mary Slattery

Holy cow! It’s been awhile since that fateful winter day when I decided to become a blogger after pondering ways to use some creative energy in the middle of a winter onslaught of dark days and boredom. Initially, when we sisters began the endeavor of blogging, I was reluctant to dive into the ambiguity of writing about my life.

If my memory serves me right the initial post that I made was about lambs and Kate called me up to tell me that it was pretty bad. I do believe her exact words went something like.

“Mary, you sound like a ditzy shepherdess. Are we really going to publish what you wrote?”

Fast forward to going on 4 years, and not much has changed. I am still writing, my sisters are still writing, and I still have a solid appreciation for all things sheep and wool related as well as an attention span that can only prevail for about 20 seconds on any matter.


The blog has been going through a dormant phase in recent times so we are hoping to revive it. Today I will share a few things that I have learned about sheep because, after all, I do have a solid devotion to my title of  “ditzy shepherdess.”

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Here is what I have learned about sheep:

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To start off with, they are pretty sweet animals. Especially as babies. That’s when they need a lot of TLC. I love my bottle lambs.


Their intelligence is low. BUT their wool is beautiful and soft, which makes up for a lack of brains.

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Crafting with sheep wool is fun and colorful and beautiful. As a side note, I must confess I don’t knit. Knitting makes me swear. Honest to God, I am really a terrible knitter. Perhaps someday I will become a knitter and knit beautiful things, but at the present time it just makes me cuss and create odd wads of yard entangled in a messy way.

Sheep love to be taken care off. They just wait and wait for somebody to show up and  feed them.

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I want to become more sheep-like in my own life. The main lesson that my flock has taught me is  that if you are gentle and patient and trusting all is well. My sheep are well taken care of. They are fed well and kept warm and I never forget about making sure their sheeply needs are met. I want to be like that in my own life. We all need to remember that good things happen when we trust in goodness.

And that, ladies and gentleman, is why I love my sheep and consider it a privilege to be a ditzy shepherdess.

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A Prayer for my Mother

By Kate

When did you become your mother? For me, it was yesterday, in the dark, with stained glass windows above spilling gospel stories into the silent night.

It was the feast of the Immaculate Conception and I had missed every other mass in town. Just past what should have been supper time I was late, and hurrying up the hill for the 6:30 mass. The December wind blew cold against my soaking wet hair. A long and complicated series of events resulted in the hair being washed and combed just before I flew out the door to church, but the chilly winter air was foiled by my extraordinary coat. This coat, a gift from my husband’s grandmother, enveloped me from hood to shin in expensive, extremely dowdy, goose downed splendor. Against the coat I spread the fingers of one hand protectively against the tiny infant swaddled in a blanket against my chest. My other hand was wrapped tightly around the small hand of my four year old daughter, and I turned to show her the light shining into the darkness, to ponder for a brief moment the simple beauty and mystery of Advent and our church at the night.

Up the hill and around the corner, we ducked into the back door and the very back pew where, when settled, I had plenty of time to ponder her outfit. My four year old was wearing a sparkling party dress, appropriate for a feast but layered over a mismatched outfit, and her curly hair formed a rather fantastic halo due to the fact that it clearly hadn’t been brushed for days. As she quietly played in the pew next to me, I noticed that her cheek and palms had been decorated with markers, and her fingernails were dirty.

The choir sang, the mass proceeded, the four year old behaved beautifully (dirty fingers and all) and the baby nursed. After communion the four year old leaned over and said “Mama, this wasn’t very exciting!”, so I told her that after we sang Salve Regina and the mass ended we’d head to the side altar and light a candle at the Black Madonna who is bejeweled and beautiful. And so we did, and I said a prayer for my mother, whom I realized I’d just become.

Hope Springs


By Mary

Spring is here after a long and very cold winter. When I first felt that balmy spring winds stir up and circle around me, I let them blow through my hair. It was freeing to feel the gusts of wind as they blew over the brown landscape and danced with me near brush and upturned soil on a warm March afternoon.

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Ever since the first spring winds came upon me many more have come. Spring brings such a wonderful feeling of new life along with colors and noise that have been absent for so long. There is a certain harvest that comes with spring, and it’s much different than a summer or fall harvest. Spring’s bountiful harvest is one of hope.

Hope springs from beauty and spring is full of beauty. Getting outside and into the spring sunshine is an amazing gift full of welcome sights and tasks. Below are some of my favorite things to do and see in the spring.

Who doesn’t love daffodils in the spring? There is nothing quite like the first blooms of the season.


Before most blossoms come though, there is much work to be done. Unbeknownst to me, Clare took this picture while I was working on getting a bed ready for snapdragons and statice. I encouraged her to come help me…but her interest in digging up mounds of dirt seemed to be surprisingly lacking.


Spring coincides with lambing. I love lambs and am known for my habit of collecting orphan ones. This little guy is named Paschal. That seemed like the right name for the ram lamb that I picked up on Holy Saturday.

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Easter is a glorious time of year. Here is Paschal on Easter Sunday with a cousin and my nephew and niece. I swear to God he isn’t dead in my nephews exuberant arms. The level of commotion may not have thrilled him though. Doesn’t Thaddeus look like a perfect shepherd boy?

spring lamb

The cows at the ranch have started calving this spring. My brothers and I were out moving them with the horses the other week. It’s amazing to be out riding my horse again. He’s on the comeback from a major injury that he suffered last August. But he seems to be as able and athletic as ever. Patrick enjoyed his morning coffee before cows got checked for pregnancy. I bet he felt very office-like and corporate during this coffee break.

working cows

I could make mention of so many other things that I Iove about spring. But really, why do so when I can go outside and let the balmy winds of springs toss my hair into the air? Happy Spring to all of you reader. Enjoy it to the fullest!

Where the Wild Things Are

by Kate

Growing up, I was a wild child. All nine of us were fairly savage, often found barefoot in trees with uncombed hair, and it would be fair to say that we were a bit uncouth. My mother often said that her goal was to raise children who were free, and in that she most definitely succeeded. So have her free children, as they make their way into the world. Somehow the time we spent running wild though woods and pastures and the pages of a thousand books formed thoughtful, articulate, and hardworking adults.

I often think about raising free children, ideally with brushed and braided hair and decent table manners. So far, I am excelling at the freedom part, with a pretty spotty hair brushing record and a plan to implement better table manners very, very soon. My husband suggests that I learn some first, and I suspect he may be right.

Of course, unlike my parents, I do not live on a high ridge falling into a woods and a valley, with a huge willow sheltering a junkyard crick. I live in the heart of a city and glimpse skyscrapers through a canopy of branches. But I do live in a city of hills, ravines, and rivers, and when I have trouble breathing remembering the free feeling of running through the back pastures and hills of home, I head out to find the wildness hidden only minutes from my front door.

Outstretched arms and muddy hands and feet are not off limits for city children.

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And a river anywhere is full of wildness and cannot be tamed. Ours is a gift full of mystery and wonder- along with some industrial debris, Canadian geese, and pairs of hungry ducks.

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I am working out a theory that the most important thing is not living in the city or the country, but to open the eyes of your children to the wonder and the wildness of the world around them…

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wherever that might be.

For here we are, and here we shall remain, looking for the wild places and trying to tame the tangles in our hair.

kate stapleton sweet ridge sisters



Words are interesting to think about. Definitions and sentences hold a lot of power. They can build a person or vision up, or break it down. Recently I realized how much I like a word and how it applies to my life. The word is this: homespun.

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To some this word may sound grungy or outdated. I don’t think so though! I feel like this word reflects simplicity and sincerity, thriftiness and creativity. And also much trial and error.

I love living a homespun life.

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I like sharing that life with others.


I like making homespun things.


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I especially like sharing homespun projects with children. Cultivating creativity in kids is so important.

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And of course, I like eating homespun food.


Going at homespun projects is a great way to use energy and creativity. And at the end of a project, there is always another idea for a new project looming in site. Speaking of that, I REALLY need to figure out how to tan a sheep fleece. That and learning how to make homemade ice cream and braid my own rugs all are on my homespun bucket list, but first I should complete the roughly 12 undone projects I have half done. Speaking of that-why don’t I just start completing a project by posting this blog post. Check.