Ten months ago, my husband and I moved our two young daughters (then two ½ and eight weeks) twelve hours away from our immediate families to a grid-tie solar-powered farm in the Driftless Region of Wisconsin.
My husband first fell in love with the region when he began visiting his uncle’s and aunt’s dairy farm at sixteen years old. For up to a month, he would stay in a cabin on the edge of their property, hunting deer until the archery season passed into rifle. He loved the topography, the weather, and the corn-fed white tail buck. After we married, he wanted to share this special place with me too.
We were married a year when he first brought me to Wisconsin. The two of us scaled an eighty foot Harvestore silo, which he and his family had built a decade before, and stared at the acreage. It was also, for me, love at first sight. I cannot say I was as drawn to the corn-fed white tail, but I loved the lay of the land and the simplistic lifestyle—how the families gathered together for supper during hunting season and sang a Mennonite hymn to bless the food.
I loved how the cousins ran back and forth, bare foot, when I was bundled for winter. I loved how, in spring, the women and I talked as we pulled weeds from the garden’s rich soil—the effortless camaraderie turning work into a gift.
Wisconsin was also the place where I fell in love with rhubarb, those bitter, celery-like stalks the color of garnet, which burst into flavor when coated with something sweet.
I remember how we all sat around that long wood table—my pregnant belly almost touching my plate—and ate a grilled meal perfect for summer, and then I caught side of the glistening rhubarb pies for dessert.
That same visit, we visited a solar-powered farm located only a few miles from Randy’s family. The woman walked me through her garden and pointed out her plants. We plucked strawberries from the flowered beds and ate them, the earth in our mouths.
And then I saw the rhubarb plant. It was enormous and green-leafed, majestic in a way you really wouldn’t expect for something that could be misconstrued as a weed.
I imagined my two daughters perched beside me as I chopped this rhubarb in my simple Wisconsin kitchen and turned the bitter into sweet.
And, you know, I have turned the bitter into sweet, in more ways than one.
Though I dearly miss my Tennessee family, I have found family here, too. I am beyond grateful to them for adopting me, and for this adventure that allows my beloved husband’s dream for a simpler life to come true. That dream has become my own, as well, especially when I look out into my garden and see how my rhubarb has grown.
- Rhubarb (enough to equal 4½ cups, sliced - young rhubarb is best)
- Unbaked, deep dish 9'' pie shell
- 3 eggs
- 2 cups sugar
- 6 tablespoons flour
- 1½ cup milk
- 1½ tablespoons melted butter
- Cut rhubarb into ¼'' slices until you have 4½ cups worth
- Place chopped rhubarb in unbaked pie shell
- Lightly beat eggs
- Add sugar, flour, milk, and butter to the beaten eggs
- Pour mixture over rhubarb. Rhubarb will float to the top
- Bake until filling is set
- Cool before serving
Jolina Petersheim is the bestselling and award-winning author of The Outcast, which Library Journal gave a starred review and named one of the best books of 2013. Jolina’s sophomore novel, The Midwife, taps into her and her husband’s unique Amish and Mennonite heritage that originated in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. They now live in the mountains of Tennessee with their young daughter. Whenever she’s not busy chasing this adorable toddler, Jolina is hard at work on her next novel.
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