Tag Archives: Country

Country Girl in the City, Part One

by Kate

I was born and bred on a farm. I climbed a grain bin barefoot on my wedding day.

farmgirl bride

And then I moved into the heart of a great grey city of steel and iron and statues and stone.

urbanpittsburgh

But I am still a barefoot country girl, although I also have a pretty fabulous collection of sky high heels. I think that many people assume that simple sustainable living is a country thing. I know I did. I was wrong. I’ve learned a lot in the past few years, and I want to share some of them with you. These are some of the things that I do that remind me of home and have helped me to create a beautiful and sustainable life here.

I hang my clothes on the line.

laundry hanging on line

I’ve got a bed of strawberries under the laundry line too. I grow garlic, enough to last all year.

bed of garlic urban farming

I use cloth diapers as much as I can. These cheerful ones were a gift from a blog reader. (Thanks again, by the way. I love them.)

cloth diapers

I bake bread, and cookies, and cake, and I teach my children to bake too.

baking

These are some of the things that make me feel at home. Bake bread, grow garlic, hang clothes. Keep a compost pile. It turns out that some of the things that made country living enjoyable for me weren’t contingent on living in the country. I plan to keep sharing these things in an occasional series. Kick your shoes off, and join me on my country girl in the city adventures!

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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.

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.

The Red Vegetable From Hell

By: Clare

Today I went to hell and back, riding on a red vegetable. I’m serious. I think its going to go down in history as one of the worst days of my life.

For who knows what reason, we don’t have school today. For most kids, this is a good thing, but in our family it means spending the day doing fieldwork. Sure enough, Mom woke me up at the break of dawn (it was actually around 8:30 or so) to head out to the field for a “quick, easy job”. Then I found myself heading out to the field a mile away to pick swiss chard in the freezing cold. It had actually frosted over, and stupid me had decided I would be just fine in my Adidas sandals, no socks necessary. After all, its supposed to be a quick job, right? Wrong. When Dad says a quick job, its gonna take you at least 45 minutes. Give or take a little. My feet went numb after approximately two seconds, and we were out there for forever. But I didn’t complain once, which I was very proud of, because some certain people in the family (everyone) is convinced I’m not the best field hand. I am when I want to be. Which isn’t often. Then, just when I thought we were done, we went home with a whole wagonful of swiss chard and were told to start bunching it. This is the bad part. This is the part where Gary plays his country music and I decide to rip my brain out of my head. Well, we didn’t have the right ties for the swiss chard, so Dad got upset and started yelling and sighing and mumbling incoherent phrases, then just went ahead and started bunching them with the wrong ties. This doubled our work because once we had the right ties we had to take off the wrong ties and put on the right ones and do everything else that you do when working with swiss chard. In the freezing cold. Soaking the vegetables in really, really cold water. Not to mention how disorganized the whole system was, because, hey, my dad’s Irish, not German. He doesn’t always make up the most organized plans.

Have I mentioned how much I hate this vegetable? I’ve actually decided that its stalk is so red because they grow it in hell. In the middle of all this work I figured we were just harvesting all the chard so the devil could feast on it.

At one point James and Patrick got into a fight, because Pat is a big bully. He beat James up pretty badly, and managed to hurt to his shoulder quite a bit. James’ shoulder is already in pretty bad condition, and Pat should have known better to hurt someone’s shoulder, because he himself had to get surgery on both his shoulders, and his faulty shoulders actually pretty much ended his basketball career. This halted the swiss chard bunching, because Mom had to come in and give Pat a piece of her mind, with Mary telling her that she shouldn’t have to deal with all that boy stuff, and where was Dad when you need him? I innocently suggested we should go to the library today, because that always calms down our book-loving family.

I myself had to do twice the work my brother had to, because James and Gary got to run off and pick something up for Dad, leaving me in the barn, freezing, deeply contemplating whether or not I should stab myself with the knife I was using on the chard. That poor swiss chard. I was viciously twisting and crunching and cutting it up. Better to take my anger out on a vegetable than a family member, eh?

Then James got back and got to lolligag around listening to his iPod, and I didn’t get to listen to any music being that I do not own an iPod. At that moment, I would have preferred listening to country than listening to nothing. Then I could have turned my rage towards the singers who thought singing about beer and barns, and lowering their intelligence level made them country.

I will never marry, or even like an organic farmer. They’re all idiots.

Now, I’m off to the library. Maybe that’ll stop the smoke pouring out of my ears.

Autumn Bliss in a Jam Jar

By: Mary

After getting home from Pittsburgh the other afternoon, I went out to check on the raspberries and picked until dark. Tending to the two 60 yard rows is a responsibility that I enjoy. I like the thinning and pruning that it takes to maintain them. Weeding is not as much fun, but I don’t mind that either. However, the task of picking and making jam are what I really love to do. The silence and the sun delights me when I am lost in a world of my very own while harvesting the berries. It’s no joke that the berries plant variety name is Autumn Bliss. 

The process of making jam is much  less mellow, and much more messy. It’s a blood red and sugar textured messy!

It’s a bubbly boiling session of chaos, but well worth it.

I don’t really have an exact recipe that I follow. Though, the Ball Blue Book of preserving has been a handy resource in the past. However, they don’t give out any formulas on how to keep a tidy kitchen while jamming.

I am a big believer that when on a job, one should take an afternoon snack break.

My brothers are big connoisseurs of my jam. They like to take it to college with them. It’s a staple favorite in the house too. This means that I need to start making a lot more batches. I wish there were more rainy Saturday afternoons like today…

Field Trip and Foreign Exchange

by Colleen

It seems to me that I do have the misfortune of being too city for the country and too country for the city, as Kate has said of herself as well.  This fact was made even more apparent to me this past weekend when I traveled to Wisconsin’s capitol, the great and liberal city of Madison,  for the State Forensics competition (for those who think I am talking about cutting up bodies and analyzing remains, forensics is basically speech/debate competition).


A busload of Cashton kids was unleashed on the city for a day under iron gray clouds, spitting out bits of cold rain and occasional hail. (Ah!  Beautiful Wisconsin spring weather….but wait ,that is another issue entirely.)  My beautiful Ukrainian friend, Kseniya, was along for the trip, and throughout the day, she was to prove to me just how country I was.

Kseniya is from a large city in Ukraine, and despite being in a place where she is not a native speaker, she can get around better than I can.  Several times throughout the day when we didn’t know where to go, she would simply walk up to the nearest person and ask where something was or how to get into a place, absolutely confident, despite her accent.  This was amazing to me.  Here I was, a person who’s lived in Wisconsin all her life, unable to sum up the courage to ask which way up even was.  Kseniya was astounded, saying, “That’s the reason I love cities!  You can ask anyone a question and they will tell you what you need to know,” and, “Don’t you love being able to smile at random people on the street?” Ummmm, no, because I live on top of a ridge where the main population is Slatterys.

Although I wasn’t used to not being able to jaywalk across the streets and the sheer amount of people all around me, I did love the city.  I loved walking down the street and looking in shop windows, filled with everything from popcorn to high fashion.  Cafes populated almost every corner and spread warm light and the luscious scents of rich coffee and sugary pastries into the rain darkened afternoon, a sore temptation for a Catholic girl with a coffee and bakery fetish in the throes of Lent.

I ultimately returned home late that night with a gold medal for solo acting in Forensics, a severely lightened wallet, and a new appreciation for the braveness of my city friend, Kseniya. I liked the glimpse into city life, but I still don’t know what I am.  Country?  City?  Can I have both?