Good Neighbors and World Citizens: the Simpson-Vlach Family

Simpson-Vlach-Family-v2Even with a family of four (parents, Rita and Alan; children, Andrew (6) and Marguerite (3)) with six pet hens, the Simpson-Vlachs’ “carbon-footprint” is small. Alan bicycles to Laurel School where he teaches mathematics. Rita, an “English as a Second Language” (ESL) teacher at CSU and Tri-C, when feasible, also commutes by bicycle. They even cut their grass with an old-fashioned reel push mower. While being interviewed for this article, Rita was painting a rain barrel to catch water for their garden. The family also composts and grows organic vegetables. In keeping with their wish to be self-sustaining and “green,” they were inspired by an Ann Arbor friend who raises chickens. They commissioned Cleveland Heights artist and carpenter, Tim Riffle, the owner of “Hive and Coop,” to design and construct a state-of-the-art chicken coop for their backyard. Meyer Hatchery supplied them with two Barred Rock hens, two Black Australorps, and two Buff Orpingtons, all winter hardy and good layers. Rita mentioned that when the family was driving home from the hatchery with their newly acquired chicks, Andrew, a preschooler at that time, expressed concern that because chicks have beaks, they would not be able to blow out their birthday candles. Of course Rita picked up on this idea and invited neighbors to the chickens’ first birthday party. The children blew out the candles while the hens happily wandered about the yard pecking at the grass.

Rita Simpson-Vlach with rain barrelAlthough born in Painesville, Rita, the daughter of a military intelligence officer, has lived in
many places in the United States and abroad. After graduating from Colorado State University with a degree in German, Rita spent two years in Thailand with the Peace Corps. Her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan is in linguistics. Alan, who also has lived in a number of different places, received a mathematics Ph.D. from Notre Dame University. When researching where to settle their family, they drew on their broad knowledge. Happily for this community Alan and Rita selected Lomond for its neighborliness and racial diversity. Since moving here Alan and Rita have started the “Weaving Cultures Family Camp” for multiracial families with adopted children such as they have. The proceeds from Rita’s recent neighborhood garage sale will help to support the camp. Lomond is indeed fortunate to have this talented, engaged, and interesting family.

(While being interviewed, Rita mentioned that she has a friend who is willing to conduct a rain barrel workshop for a small fee on top of the cost of a prepped rain barrel. Those interested can contact Rita via email: [email protected])