Tag Archives: Wisconsin

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

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

On To State!

By: Clare

When the majority of your neighbors are cows, and horse and buggies don’t cause a second glance as they wander aimlessly through your local town, its a nice treat to have the opportunity to  visit a city full of culture and urban life. This was the case as I traveled to Madison last Friday to participate in State Forensics.

Although I didn’t quite manage to get away from the cows (we are America’s Dairyland, so I guess I’ll allow it)…

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I did have the chance to see plenty of other things you wouldn’t normally find on the Ridge where I live or the village of a little over a thousand where I go to school.

Most people get to shopping as soon as they arrive in Madison, but my friend and I decided we were there for strictly sightseeing as we ambled along State Street and stared into the colorful, assorted storefronts.

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A quick stop at the Cold Stone Creamery was necessary, however.

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Turns out, no matter how delicious the ice cream, eating the cold dessert on the freezing streets of Madison with a vicious wind chilling you to the bone is not quite as enjoyable as you would hope, so we proceeded onward in search of a more warm adventure. What we found at the end of State Street was just the trick…Wisconsin’s majestic, sprawling Capitol Building.

wisconsin state capitol building madison

I was delighted at the idea of warmth AND a historical building.

So through the old revolving doors we went.

Our quick impromptu tour inside (conducted by myself..I took us wherever my heart led me) involved a lot of responsible and practical acts on the part of my friend and her chaperon father, and a lot of wreckless, Slattery-like acts on my part. This involved trying (unsuccessfully..dang) to find a way up to the balcony of the Capitol, sliding down multiple banisters, and sneaking into the Hearing Room, which may or may not have been a place that I was allowed to be in. But it’s all good, me and Governor Walker are like besties.

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I quickly got a picture and then ran soundlessly out after I was reminded that this is the 21st century, and there were probably several cameras trained on me in that room.

Despite all my messing around, I was reminded of how beautiful Wisconsin’s Capitol building is. There’s an amazing amount of symbolism involved in the architecture and artwork, it’s a shame I don’ remember much of what they taught me about it in the 4th grade.

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Once we left the Capitol, we made a quick random detour into a Wisconsin apparel shop, to look at unoriginal, insanely overpriced t-shirts. I tried on a cheesehead just for the heck of it, despite my extreme disdain for all things Packer-related.

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Pretty soon we had spent enough time fooling around, and made our way back through State Street to the UW-Madison campus, where we were to perform that night.

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Night fell over the city.

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I performed, earning myself a perfect score, and then it was time to get back to good ol’ rural Wisconsin. And, although I do love experiencing the hustle and bustle of Madison,

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I’m just fine with my Ridgetop view.

itsthenew

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.

On Wisconsin

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It has been a slow descent into the world of coffee for me over these past few years. My sister-in-law, Nicole, will tease me about the “coffee milk”, I used to drink when she first met me, as I drink down a huge cup of the lovely stuff on her living room couch. It was indeed just coffee and milk that I used to drink, the sweetness of the raw milk blending with just a dash of coffee in a mason jar mug.

And so, it was a no-brainer when I came to college: I was determined to get a job at the coffee shop on campus. I have been working at the Cappuccino Bar, or “Capp Bar” as most people fondly call it, for almost two years now, and I absolutely love it. Sometimes I feel that the smell of espresso has been soaked into my skin, under the fingernails and lingering on my palms.

One of my favorite parts of the job is creating new drinks. Everyone at the Capp Bar is encouraged to experiment, make some unique, make something your own. I have created a few drinks over the past two years, but recently I may have struck gold with the dawn of what a co-worker and I call the “On Wisconsin”. My co-worker, Christian, is also from Wisconsin, and one day, as we were ruminating on the glories and downfalls of the state, a friend suggested that we make an official drink for Wisconsin. We gladly accepted the challenge.

After much discussion, we agreed that the drink had to incorporate these two things: lots and lots of dairy and something German. Those are the two trademarks of Wisconsin, right? The fact that everyone and their grandma is at least a quarter German and probably drinks and eats a startling amount of dairy products. Thus, the “On Wisconsin” was born, a milky, German chocolate mocha cappuccino. And it’s dang good, if you ask me.

The ingredient that really makes this drink would have to be the (surprising) coconut syrup006,

paired with a pump of chocolate and a shot of espresso, and finally drowned in the creamy goodness of steamed whole milk.  And voila!

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As the snow falls gently and deep in Wisconsin, I am under the clouds of Dallas today, threatening a thunderstorm with temperatures in the 70s.  Perhaps I’m not so far from home, though, as I serve up “On Wisconsins” to these unenlightened Texans, bringing a little bit of comfort to my Mid-western soul.

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Grocery Girl

by Colleen

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This past summer I was lucky enough to land a job at the People’s Food Co-op in nearby La Crosse, WI, due to the the fact that I am what they call there a “Co-op Baby”.  Sweet Ridge Farm has sold produce on and off to this organic food store for years, and apparently the management has watched me and my siblings grow from toddlers to teens, wending our way through aisles of dried fruit and organic cereals, eating their legendary malted milk balls straight from the bag, and taking more than our fair share of the many free samples of chips and dips they offer in the deli section.  If there is free food anywhere within 30 miles, the Slattery children will find it.

In any case, they noticed my last name on my application, and I was in.  I spent this past summer working part time as a grocery girl, stocking the shelves with an assortment of odd goods, such as seaweed snacks and hemp milk, and chatting with the only other girl in the department, Natalya, from Russia.  When I came back home for break, they immediately offered my job back to me.  Unfortunately, my days of gossip with Natalya are gone, as she has now returned to Russia, and I have now taken the role of Only Girl in the Grocery and Produce Department.  It’s not so bad, really.  Growing up with 5 brothers has made me quite comfortable with guys, and in most cases I actually prefer it.  So now I mostly spend my days talking about Russian literature to my boss, Ed, and directing people to the chia seeds (aisle 2, on the top right).

But what really lights up my day is a visit from the sisters.  Clare and Mary decided to pop in the other day and document my job.  Mary was particularly interested in our wine selection…

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Knowing absolutely nothing about our wine, I immediately suggested a French one.  You can’t go wrong with French wine, non?

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Needless to say, Mary did not take my suggestion   Some people just have no taste (or lack an obsession with French things).  But Mary and I do share some things in common.  While she dreams of bikinis, sunshine, and flowers, I dream of the green fields of France and baguettes and berets.  So, don’t be disturbed if you wander into the People’s Food Co-op to buy some dried aduki beans and hear the shelf stocker muttering to herself  in French-it’s just a harmless, dreaming grocery girl.

Resting and Restless

By Mary

In a heavy winter coat and pink snow boots that I am often times teased about due to having two nieces 6 and under sporting replica pairs, I trudged towards “life” also known as an assortment of narcissus bulbs that are being sold at the Viroqua Food Coop. The narcissus bulbs I purchased are a representation of the eagerness I feel for the goodness of springs sunlight.
Throughout the Christmas season I got a slew of Christmasy mail. After that stopped coming the seed catalogs stated arriving in the mailbox. How those catalogs make me happy! I am a child of the sun. In November it is time to give the fields a break.

fall fields

And to put aside the boots that trod through the mud and dust.

 farm boots

The days of cow work on my horse, Mars come to an end as the fog gets thicker in the morning and the days grow both colder and shorter.

ranching cowgirl on horse

Both the Father farmer and the Farmers daughter are getting restless.

farmer and daughter brussel sprouts

My father, a former journalist (but never a poet) has now taken up the occupation of writing poetry. I came across him scribbling with his famous illegible scrawl the morning after Cale’s wedding in a MN hotel room. If any of you know Patrick Slattery you know the man doesn’t just get a little into something, He gives a full 100 crazy choleric percent. In the hotel room I said: So what’s the deal on this poetry thing? His response was that he aimed to not just produce 1 poem. Oh no, the goal for that father of mine is to write 2 poems a week. ” Um, okay” was the reply from me. Fast forward to the next next: by that time he had written 2 more pieces. It has been about a week since he has beecome a poet, and frankly by now, I have totally lost track of how many poems have been churned out. All I know is that he is scribbling and muttering a whole lot.

poet father

Dad’s wintertime mania isn’t something that I can judge fairly seeing as I am falling apart myself. I have put a considerable amount of thought into buying lambs, seeds, and most embarrassingly a 2 piece bathing suit. Never mind the 2 slight facts that I like water about as much as a cat does, and I am about as comfortable in a swim suit as a Amish woman. Hey come on now, those are just minor details! Buying a bathing suit in January just seems to make sense!

I guess poetry does too in context with seasonal restlessness. All I can say is that I am SO ready for April. As an additional note: Poetry really isn’t that great (sorry Colleen). I mean, really… I would way rather have Dad babbling about asparagus and compost.

Oh Wisconsin, you only have 3 more months of badness left to give!

More about our Farmer Father and Sumner Sister here:

Farmer Father

For Mary