Tag Archives: Sisters

Change

by Kate

Tonight my sister is leaving on a midnight train. She’ll leave the bright city lights far behind and head for the hills of home. After two weeks in the city she’s ready to see her horse and her apartment tucked into the corner of a barn and to gather her arms full of nieces and nephews and to experience some blessed solitude under Wisconsin skies.

wisconsin ranching

She’ll be back though. She has to. I’ve got a magazine to write, and I need her to help me do it. My sister is a farmer and she belongs to the land of southwestern Wisconsin in a deep and abiding way, but November has come and soon a blanket of snow will cover her fields. This gives her the freedom to pack up her ancient yet impeccable 4Runner and head to Pittsburgh for the winter.

I hope it will be exhilarating. I know it will be terrifying.

Change is hard. I know this. I’ve moved across the country alone more than once in the past, and the culture shock of a different place can be overwhelming. The city is different than the country. One state is different from another. Perhaps most importantly, when one grows up in a large loud family with a culture all it’s own and then steps outside its boisterous confines, the silence can be deafening. It’s startling to have time and space and silence in which to define the self as a separate entity outside the clan.

It will be challenging for my sister to spend time on her own here in the city, and yet of course she is not entirely alone. I am here too. There is still a sister to explore the city with, to fight with, to drink wine with, to tend the children of. I am alternately sweetly encouraging and bossily berating in my attempts to support Mary in her move, and she is returning the favor as she attempts to make some order in my home. My life is very full, and so is my laundry bin. In fact, when Mary arrived there was less of a bin, and more of a vast all encompassing heap. My days often consist of a breathless rush between farmers and sequined dancing and elderly ladies, all with two extremely energetic young children in tow. Mary waded into the chaos and ruthlessly cleaned and culled and created order. Change is hard. Sisters are good. Mary’s house cleaning was painful and necessary and in the end it was freeing. I hope that her winter in the city will be too.

 

Busy Times

By: Mary

The effort to produce regular content for this blog has been a problem for several months now. While we do appreciate you readers, and enjoy the outlet of blogging, it’s been tough to do do for several reasons. Kate has been busy helping launch a magazine, and I have been lucky if I can get the extra time to do a most basic to-do list that I scratch on my chalkboard door panels completed by the end of the week.

The “little girls” Colleen and Clare are also busy.

Colleen is in school, working two jobs, running cross country and working on a huge poetry project.

Clare is back at Cashton High School, helping out at home, taking dance lessons, and teaching CCD to 5th graders, as well as fundraising for a mission trip to Peru that she’s leaving for in February.

Despite all of the busyness or may I say craziness, we still want to share it with you. So be patient, and we will work on posting more again in the near future.

Sincerely,

Mary

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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.

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RRRRIIIIIIIP!

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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.

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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.

Sunday Sisters

By: Mary

There is no time of the week as pleasant to bake during then Sunday morning, and there is no day of the week better to eat doughnuts, then on a Sunday morning as well.

Wait, that’s a false statement.  Any given day is a great day to eat doughnuts!

Colleen and I have experienced many a Sunday morning baking session together as you may remember from the post Sunday Sugar Doughnuts. Today I brought a substitute baker into the kitchen to help mix the dough and fry the batter in oil.

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My eight-year-old niece may just end up being quite the baker.

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She’s a precious gift in my life and I’m glad to have spent this spring morning in her company.

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In just once week, though, my ” Sunday sister ” (Coleen) will be traveling back home from college in Dallas. I can hardly wait to spend early mornings baking with her and be forced to go on excruciating runs which I protest half-heartedly. Her trademark ugly apron is ready and waiting for her in an old farm house kitchen far away from the the biggest and proudest state in the union. Welcome back Colleen and best of luck to you as you cram for finals. Ace them before coming back home to your sophisticated ridge roots!

dorky colleenA

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

Pittsburgh, PA, I’m Coming Your Way!

By: Mary

Rain could be heard falling when I got up early on Saturday morning. The sound of the drops told me that that cows couldn’t be moved at The Ranch. I had been especially looking forward to spending my Saturday helping move cows, as it’s one of my favorite things to do.  However, moving a group of cattle on a highway in freezing rain is not any fun for people or cows. All it is is a recipe for disaster even with new shoes put on most of the horses.

There is something about Saturdays on horseback that makes a person feel alive. Maybe in my case, it’s partially because I have to be extra alert due to my horse, Mars, being a lot to handle. He’s often referred to as a beast. When working cows he’s a very hard worker but he has all the tendencies that stallions exhibit, except when around children. I can pile three nieces or my nephew on him and he’s as gentle as a kitten.

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An extra plus to Saturdays at my brother’s operation is that it’s a family affair. Brothers and Sister-in-laws and nieces and nephews are always somewhere around as are a few friends and maybe an extra dog or two.

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Moving cattle is a challenging endeavor  It takes much patience and anticipation.

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I am pretty sure that swearing was specially invented for this process alone. Yelling at the cows to get their attention is an instrumental part of the task. Years back I used to get yelled at to yell at the cows. Yelling isn’t my thing, especially when I am not even angry. In my case hissing is much more of a natural reaction for me. But hissing at cows doesn’t work so well! I am still practicing my ranch yell. Maybe by the time I am 50, I get it mastered, who knows?

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Enough on cows! I want to mention that in just two(!) days I am leaving to visit my sister in the city of Pittsburgh. Time spent with Kate and her family should make for a fantastic variation from my life here in Wisconsin.

Naturally I am packing fur coats and a ball grown to take to the only young mother I know that finds such things, useful, if not necessary. Kate’s the only person I have encountered that gets wear out of such flair. Though I imagine high society ladies who play bridge and drink port in metropolitan areas, or woman with botoxed faces and diamonds in their ears and annoying enormous SUVS which they swerve through big city traffic, must too.

Inevitably we might get into a spat or two, but then again, didn’t I mention earlier that I need to practice my yelling abilities? If such an occasion of volume dose arise  it’s all in the name of the ranch cows, you know?

Pittsburgh, PA here I come!I am leaving my boots behind and excited to see the one and only Mrs. Kate Slattery-Stapleton!

For more stories about Slattery sister reunions, check out these posts:

Sister in the City

Farmers in the City

Blue Haired Belle of the Ball (Diamond)

Sisters in the City, NYC Version

Tale of the Magical Blue Cardigan

By: The Evil Sister’s Kind And Benevolent Sister…

Once upon a time there lived a girl named Mary Brigid. She had a deep desire to be an instrument of peace in the world, so after many years of desiring to do foreign mission work, she set out to Russia.

mary in vladivostok

Upon leaving for a land far away, Mary took with her some useful possessions. Mary knew that in order to stay happy and warm in Russia she would have to have magical clothing. Mary’s evil full-blooded stepsister, Kate had left Mary a wonderful blue cardigan. Perhaps the selfish and evil Kate had not exactly left the cardigan behind on purpose…

But a known fact of this tale is that the sweater made Mary happy. Very, very happy.

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Not only did the sweater make her happy it even made her feel less tragic when she had to wear a certain apron of which she greatly despised when working with the aged at a slum hospice.

volunteer nurse apron russian vladivostock volunteer

The sweater was so magical that whenever she wore it, she felt more generous. Perhaps the said magical cardigan did not knit these pictured mittens (a kind Wisconsin resident did), but Mary was very happy to wear it the day she gave donated items to an orphanage that took in deaf and ill children.

volunteer vladivostock

After a long winter in Russia, it was time for Mary to leave. When packing Mary took careful inventory of all that she had brought with her to the cold kingdom of Vladivostok. While there, Mary had accumulated many icons. She also was gifted with beautiful jewelry from a Priest friend who hailed from Bombay.

Mary realized that she didn’t need most of her clothes anymore. She wanted to leave them behind with her friends at the hospice. When folding the magical blue cardigan Mary sighed and placed it in a pile of clothes to be donated to the hospice. She shuddered when doing so. Mary was well aware that going to Russia was a dangerous decision that she had made. However, picturing the wrath of her evil sister, Kate when she discovered that her sweater was left behind as a gift for dying at the hospice was a much more ghastly thought to consider. Laying all caution aside, Mary choose to donate it to her friends at the hospice.

Sadly not every story has a happy ending. Though Mary did return safely from her travels, she is still held accountable for that cardigan ALL the time by her big evil step/real sister, Kate the Mighty, queen of Drama.

Alas… its’s such a shame when people have such cold hearts that they don’t want dying people to stay warm.

 

(But if you must read Kate’s account of the magical cardigan, see here: The Perfect Cardigan)