Tag Archives: Winter

Furs on the Farm

By: Clare

As I glance carelessly out the window, giant snowflakes are racing each other down from the sky to the ground, where they have collectively formed a white blanket over and across the wintry Wisconsin woods. The weathermen have predicted more than a foot of snow for today, and every school in the surrounding vicinity is canceled for the day. For a while I was content to wander aimlessly about the house, periodically checking Facebook and trying (and failing) to get the Netflix to load. And then, suddenly, I was hit with a brilliantly irrational..idea..

Next week, Mary is traveling to Pittsburgh to visit Kate for a few days. She’ll be taking along with her an assortment of various items that were left behind by our classy Grandma Slattery after she passed on. Next week Kate will not only be the proud owner of the usual china plates and cups, but also of the two impractical fur coats that our grandmother used to wear, along with a bright red pleather jacked. These coats weren’t originally supposed to go exclusively to Kate, but we knew as soon as we saw them that they just might not be the right fit for winter weather on an organic farm. For our own entertainment, we decided we might give you a little glimpse on the practicality of furs and pleather on the farm..

The one plus of a good fur coat is that it makes for a very classy glass of wine, even if it may be the middle of winter, and you are sitting precariously on a rusted blue metal folding chair.

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The fur coat I sported was heavy and cracking, and it all together felt like I was wearing a blanket of lead.
Also, I am somewhat ashamed to admit I have a bit of a phobia of chickens.

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Perhaps this is because I spent much of my childhood running from the many roosters we owned that liked to chase little kids down and peck at their bare legs.

This is generally my attitude towards them.

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I was wearing a lead blanket (not to mention the stiletto boots I was stumbling around the farmyard in), and I was in the midst of a little house filled with big chickens. While our old lab chewed on a thousand year old carcass of something or other below my boots.

Well played, Mary (who was gleefully laughing as she snapped photos), well played.

Alright, time to play the tough girl.

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Once I got over my discomfort, I began to glamorously collect the eggs.

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Oh, beautiful little egg.

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How, glorious, how positively divine.

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If there’s one thing that we do on the farm in winter, its haul, cut, collect, and stack wood. The wood stove doesn’t run itself!
Maybe this bright red pleather jacket would be a good suit for the job..

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Now that I’ve collected the wood, maybe I should stare off into the distance and ponder life’s greatest mysteries for a while. This coat makes you want to do that – solve mysteries, fight crime.

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The glamour leaves me, along with my sense of balance, as soon as I step outside the barn.

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Maybe this outfit isn’t so practical for hauling wood.

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We couldn’t help but pull out the white, fur-trimmed cape from one of Mary’s recent stunts as a winter bridesmaid as well. And it turns out fur capes aren’t very good for helping big brothers for carpentry projects, either.

Whaddya think, Rob?

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Judging by his tight smile, I’m guessing its a no.

They do look dramatic set against the backdrop of a tall, red-brick German church, however.

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Yes, I’m betting these coats will be much more at home on Kate as she parades through Pittsburgh than weighing me down in my daily work in Wisconsin.

Good-bye, impractical jackets, and thanks for the snow day entertainment!

 

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A New Summit

By Mary

Snow. Some might say it looks pastoral. Others might describe it as beautiful as it falls heavily down in thick flakes upon the still and sterile earth.

My description of it’s arrival would be honored with one word: BLAH. I said it the day this picture was taken in Russia, and I will say it again, and again.

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Today is yet another snow-day  It is the third day in a row school has been delayed or canceled. The Wednesday night Kickboxing class I participate in and the confirmation class that I teach at our Catholic church on the ridge have also been canceled today.

It’s hard to slow myself down and live in the present in the midst of this slow snowy week while I counter an impatient attitude and a restless heart. Today the mud of March seems rather sublime as the snow billows in light sifting clouds. It is at times such as this that I need to remember there is goodness in everyday.

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Each season offers its own novelty.

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And each day provides a new beginning to hack away the ice and reach a new summit.

Snow Memories

By Mary

Just as the meteorologists predicted, the world is covered in the first coat of snow here in Southwestern Wisconsin. Snow is not an element that I welcome with peace. However, I have been musing of favorite snow memories. In the past I have had my share of good times in the flakes: Slating, sledding, the traditional first snowfall ride that I would take on my horse, building forts and jumps, and of course making snow angels. No childhood snow memories are as dear to me as a later favorite snow memory though.

This memory takes me back to Raminika.

Raminika is a poor military village far, far away in a mountainous region of Russia dotted by the shrubbery of trees and little dachas on steep hillsides. When I spent the winter in Russia, there were times when I would make the 4 hour round trip from the city of Vladivostok to the little village of Raminika. I would go with a most  joyful group of Catholic sisters that had originally come over from Spain. The trip would be a vernacular collage of Russian, Spanish, and English. The only background noise that could be understood by all passengers was the emotional booming opera music that the sisters were especially found of playing while navigating the twisting roads on those longs trips into the countryside. The operatic ensemble was a deserved relief to the sisters, some of whom would make the trip up to 5 days a weekly. A children’s center had recently been opened by the order for children to have a safe place to play. In addition to making the trips to the village, the sisters also taught at the University in the city and maintained a very detailed prayer life.

While I viewed these incredible ladies with utmost admiration, it was perfectly evident to me that the children at the center did too. On the days that I rode along, when we would arrive at the little rented building, a flock of children would greet us. Entering into the cramped space, the charismatic Sisters would be right in the midst of the excitement, chasing balls and dancing with the children.  Every child there would get to drink heavily sugared tea from a plastic cup and have a large chunk of donated bread as an early afternoon meal before playing more games and heading home before dark.

I can still remember the taste of the bread, the sweetness of the tea, the hours and hours of volleyball that I would play with the kids, and the painful Russian lessons that a gaggle of school-aged children would capture me to partake in!

One Saturday, a young woman from the University in the city made the trip with the Spanish Sisters, and just before dark she asked the golden question in the golden language (English!) ” would I like to take a walk with her?”

This walk turned into my favorite snow memory ever. The stillness and crispness of the cold after such a long day in the midst of the close quartered commotion greeted me with a special refreshing lure. My breath floating like a white sheet of fog into the cold air calmed me as we set off to view the fallen ruins of an old military officers club at the edge of the village.

After some time of walking, a little girl who looked to be about seven or so and who had been one of my former volleyball buddies throughout the day, ran up from behind us and linked her little arm in mine. How I enjoyed our unspoken friendship on the remote walk in the crisp snow. After some time, we came to a shack with straw spread in front and a rusty clothesline spread with the hanging of frozen laundry.

My new friend waved goodbye to me. I hugged her and watched as her blue coated back darted into the little house. And just for a second everything seemed beautiful.

Even snow.

A Simple American Girl

By Mary

Though there are few things that please me about the seasonal progression of colder temperatures and gray skies that are  the daily expectation around this time every year, I must admit that I do like being able to bundle up into a warm coat. In October 2009, I was especially focused on finding just the right coat to purchase to keep me warm(er) in Russia. I looked and looked until I settled on a practical brown snowboarders coat that got me thru the winter. Did I ever hate that coat! In my simple girl American eyes, it seemed like every woman and daughter had a incredibly beautiful coat. I can remember a mental game I played to see if I could match one coat with another. It seemed like every coat was unique, like there was not an exact replica of any style.

One morning I found myself in a shack with no plumbing and almost no heating. The warmest place was on the kitchen floor, so the people living there were sleeping on the it. Because we were company and because Russians are pretty much the most hospitable people ever once you set foot in their home and they decide they like you, the house was warmed up for the visit I made with a priest. Of course the first thing that my eyes and brain sought out was-do really poor people still wear coats with dead animals on them? The answer is: indeed they sure do!

Long walks in Vladivostok were so much more interesting because of my acquired coat obsession.

When I came back to the States, I made many resolutions. One of my least important resolutions was to get a serious coat with lots of character. It had to be unique, nothing like the snowboarders coat that got me thru in Vlad. I looked and looked in stores here. Nothing caught my eye. So I turned to ebay, and spent many a night browsing for the perfect Russian inspired winter wear. I did all this coat browsing while talking to a guy that I had no interest in on the phone. He would tell me about wanting to ice fish and snowboard with me, and I would half way listen while focusing on my pursuit of coat happiness. I finally settled on a designer coat that I wanted to order from China.Unsure if I should buy a size medium or small I asked my mom. She used the Chinese sizing chart to measure me. It’s a good thing she did before I sent in my purchase, because by their standards I am a size XL. Global coat buying is a complicated matter!

Gratitude is one of the most priceless things one can conceive within their heart. Though I hate the cold outside, I am contented to have a coat that I am grateful for. The gratitude extends far beyond the material properties of the coat. It goes all the way back to Russia where I learned so much about the beauty and weight of love, and the legitimacy of a coat with some character.

P.S. Perhaps I should note that my Chinese coat with “character” looks more like something that Sherlock Homes would wear then something that a tiny Russian lady would own. It is by no means offensive to PETA and is lacking of the dramatic tone that the coats in Russia flourished. What can I say? I guess I am just a simple American girl.