farm dreams

If you’re a city gal who’s always dreamed of owning a farm, you might like a new HGTV series called Farmhouse Life. Based on the model of the popular House Hunters series, Farmhouse Life follows potential buyers as they tour farm properties to buy around the U.S.

Historians in period dress at the Hillsman Farm House Museum, Virginia State Parks via Wikimedia Commons

“Families wishing for wide-open spaces head to the great outdoors to search for the luxury farmhouse of their dreams,” says HGTV’s website. “From hundreds of sprawling acres to classic, quaint country living, follow along as they look for the perfect homestead and discover some of the most affordable and beautiful locations, proving you don’t have to be a millionaire to live a Farmhouse Life.”

Spark your dreams of owning a farm Monday nights on HGTV.

Farmstead, East Earl Township, Lancaster County. by Nicholas via Wikimedia Commons

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Hitching a ride …

If you’re taking a road trip this summer, you might run into a strange-looking hitchhiker. But you don’t have to worry about giving this traveler a ride …


in fact, you’d be helping to make history!

hitchBOT is a robot from Ontario, Canada. She’s already traveled … on her own! … across Canada and Germany. Then, in her own words, “I took a much-needed arts and culture vacation in the Netherlands. But what can I say … I am a free-spirited robot that loves to keep busy!” (hitchBOT’s creators refer to her as “it,” but “it” has a distinctively female voice. And yep, you heard that right … hitchBOT speaks!)

hitchBOT is the brainchild of Dr. David Harris Smith, Assistant Professor of Communication Studies and Multimedia at McMaster University, and Dr. Frauke Zeller, Assistant Professor of Professional Communication at Ryerson University, who worked with a collaborative, interdisciplinary team of researchers from the fields of visual arts, engineering, computer science, and communication with an unusual goal in mind. “Usually, we are concerned whether we can trust robots,” says Zeller, “but this project takes it the other way around and asks: Can robots trust human beings?”

“We expect hitchBOT to be charming and trustworthy enough in its conversation to secure rides through Canada,” said Zeller at the beginning of the experiment. And, after the first three legs of her adventure, he reports, “hitchBOT was very well received as it made its way across Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands, proving that robots can, indeed, trust humans.”

Humans can pass hitchBOT along to another traveler, leave her at a restaurant or shop, or simply use her kickstand to leave her on the roadside with her thumb raised for a ride. “It has a really low-tech look to it, something we dubbed the ‘yard-sale aesthetic,'” said Harris Smith, to help deter thieves. “The head is actually an acrylic cake-saver. hitchBOT looks like somebody has cobbled together odds and ends, like pool noodles, bucket, cake saver, garden gloves, and Wellies.”

In her own words, hitchBOT adds, “I am approximately 3 feet tall and weigh about 25 pounds. I have camera vision, a microphone, and a speaker system, which gives me the ability to see, hear, and speak. I also have a sense of space, thanks to my 3G and GPS capabilities, and I am aware of where I am and where I want to go next. For my trip across America, my family has been kind enough to install a battery meter on my beer-bucket torso. It can tell my new friends how much energy I have left (so they can avoid a crankyBOT!) and whether it is difficult for me to understand them.”


On July 17, hitchBOT hit the road in America for a cross-country tour, starting at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. She’ll hitch her way to San Francisco, one ride at a time, to end up at the Exploratorium. In honor of her beer-bucket torso, she’s even prepared a bucket list of things she would like to see and do while traveling the U.S., including visiting Times Square in New York City, Millennium Park in Illinois, Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, and the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

On your travels this summer, keep your eyes peeled for this unusual hitchhiker. And follow hitchBOT’s adventures at, as well as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Rural TV

Hey, Jane!

Whether you’re out weeding the garden or haying the back 40, gather your gal pals and perk up your ears ’cause I have a nugget of news to share …

The Farmer’s Wife magazine, circa 1920

There’s a presidential election on the horizon.

“You called us in from the fields to announce the election, MJ?” sighs Jane. “Heck, every farmgirl from here to Hays knows THAT news. CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC … we hear the headlines, honey.”

Hold on, sisters.

The election isn’t my news (I knew you knew THAT news).

My news concerns your news—rather, where it comes from.

Come again?

The networks you mentioned (most networks, for that matter) are broadcast by mega media corporations, far and away from cropland, countryside, and rural citizens’ concerns. Urban journalists interview urbane politicians (including potential presidential candidates) who frequently focus on issues of interest to the metropolitan masses.

What say you? “Too true!”

Now that I’ve nabbed your attention, here’s my news for you to use:

RFD-TV, a 24-hour news network dedicated to rural programming via cable and satellite, just announced that it will expand into political coverage this month with a new series called “Rural Town Hall”. This hour-long show, scheduled to air on Monday and Thursday evenings, will feature one-on-one interviews with presidential hopefuls, targeting issues specific to agriculture, rural education, development, health care, and more.

“What’s really important to us is that no one perceives us as having a pony in this race,” Patrick Gottsch, founder and president of Rural Media Group, told Modern Farmer. “We’re not Republican, we’re not Democrat. We’re not liberal, we’re not conservative. We’re rural Americans, and we’re asking the questions that are important to rural America.”

Already thinking of questions you’d like to ask? Send ’em in!

That’s right—the network is gathering questions from viewers as well as organizations like the Future Farmers of America and 4-H. Contact the network here. Continue reading

Wiki Photo Challenge

Fancy yourself a photographer?

Photo courtesy of

Well, then, focus your lens on the Photo Challenge at Wikimedia Commons.

“Monthly thematic competitions encourage participants to try new subjects, new photographic or processing techniques, and to develop skills while improving the Commons repository of free images,” explains the Wiki Foundation, which I smilingly support.

Monthly challenges (there are often more than one) are based on unique themes and run for a month. For example, June’s themes are “Eyes” and “Collections, Collecting and Collectibles,” which is right up farmgirl alley.


Wikimedia welcomes everyone to participate in challenges. You simply need to choose one or more current challenges, read the rules associated with each challenge, upload your photo(s), and submit as instructed here.

After a challenge has closed, photo submissions will be assessed by popularity voting in the subsequent month. You can get in on the voting, too, if your Commons account is at least 10 days old and has more than 50 edits or if you participated in a challenge.

The top three photos will be awarded first, second, and third place and displayed as winners on Wikimedia Commons.

If you win, be sure to post a link for us to follow to your photo! Continue reading

Look what I got!

I was astonished, amazed, bowled over, and yes, downright blutterbunged when I opened an unexpected package the other day from Magnolia Pearl’s Robin Brown. Robin had remembered that I admired a hat I’d seen in one of the gorgeous photos from our Magnolia Pearl feature in the Oct/Nov 2013 issue of MaryJanesFarm.


In the box was that very same, gorgeous, handmade, vintage, well-worn hat, along with a lovely note from Robin: “I’ve loved this hat for many, many years, but I have not worn it in a long time. I’m gifting it to you because you like it and will be gorgeous in it.”


Needless to say, I’m pleased as punch, tickled pink, happy as the day is long, jumping for joy, on cloud nine! Thank you, Robin!!!

If you haven’t yet discovered Magnolia Pearl’s one-of-a-kind clothing, you’re in for a treat. In the middle of Texas Hill Country, Robin “Pearl” Brown has created a magical recipe she calls Magnolia Pearl. With a dash of inspiration from a grandmother known for her delicate handmade lace and intricate quilts; an eye for antiques from her other grandmother, who owned “the most eclectic antiques shop in San Antonio”; a spoonful of enchantment from her interior designer great-aunt; and a heaping cup of encouragement from her artist parents, Robin has whipped up a style that’s uniquely her own—part Victorian splendor, part hippie chic. With her love of vintage fabrics and finds, each of Magnolia Pearl’s layered and embellished garments is handmade and hand-embroidered, making every one a unique work of art. Visit Robin’s truly gorgeous website, for a whimsical journey through the fun, funky, flamboyant style of a life lived in layers.

And if you haven’t seen our feature on Magnolia Pearl, you can still buy a copy of the “Turning the Page” issue in our Back Issues Bundle #10. Continue reading

farm babies

This past week, we had two new arrivals at the farm …

Welcome Elsa O’Mally (with her mother’s trademark Tinkerbell ears–cute as pixie dust). 

and Sweet William!!!


Elsa O’Mally is the daughter of Sally O’Mally, born at 11:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 14th. Sweet William is the son of Miss Daisy, born June 10 at 11:59 p.m. Our new little ones gave a whole new meaning to burning the midnight lamp oil. Calf watch for me meant a cot in the barn.

Here are the new babies exploring their domain:


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Rocky Mountain Land Library

The Rocky Mountain Land Library had me at hello.

As soon as I heard its name, I needed to know more …

It began as a dream (as wonderful things do) and began taking shape by means of old-fashioned tenacity (ditto) …

“For more than 20 years, Jeff Lee, 60, and Ann Martin, 53, have worked at a Denver bookshop, the Tattered Cover, squirreling away their paychecks in the pursuit of a single dream: a rural, live-in library where visitors will be able to connect with two increasingly endangered elements—the printed word and untamed nature,” explained Julie Turkewitz in a recent New York Times article that has succeeded in turning the eyes of the nation toward this Colorado couple’s monumental effort.

Girl Reading Under an Oak Tree by Winslow Homer, 1879, courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library via Wikimedia Commons

With their life savings and a generous lease from the city of Aurora, Lee and Martin have established a base of operations known as the project’s “headwaters” at the historic Buffalo Peaks Ranch near South Park on the South Platte River.

Photo by Jeffrey Beall via Wikimedia Commons

The main ranch site is an elaborate work-in-progress in cooperation with the University of Colorado-Denver’s Center for Preservation Research. The vision they’re working toward is a Rocky Mountain refuge that will “provide both quiet and inspiration for lifelong learners of all types, including artists, writers, naturalists, scientists, and students at all levels. Everyone will have access not only to the Land Library’s 32,000+ volumes, but also to South Park’s surrounding landscape of high mountain grasslands and alpine summits.”

Photo by Hogs555 via Wikimedia Commons

Busy building the Headwaters at Buffalo Peaks, Lee and Martin have simultaneously launched a satellite Waterton Canyon Library (located where the South Platte meets the plains) and also operate a 3,000 volume Kids & Educators Library at the Kassler Environmental Education Center, southwest of metro Denver.

In the grand scheme of this undertaking, the couple says they’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg. They envision a network of land-study centers stretching from the Headwaters of South Park to the metro-Denver plains, with each unique site united by the common purpose of connecting people to nature and the land.

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Sensory Overload

Marilyn Monroe is said to have experienced it …

Marilyn Monroe from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Have you?

That is, have you tasted green?

Or smelled peach?


Not the fruits, mind you, but the COLORS.

The sensory overlap of taste, smell, and vision is known as “synesthesia,” which Wikipedia defines as “a neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.”

Translation: turquoise blue might seem to smell something like peppermint, and pale yellow could trigger taste buds to sense banana.

“Each sense has a pathway to the brain. These paths are parallel to each other. However, in some situations, a crossover from one pathway to the other occurs,” explains “Seeing the color yellow-green may evoke taste sensations of sourness; pink may evoke sweetness. Seeing the color gray may evoke olfactory sensations of smokiness.”

Synesthesia has been described as an uncommon phenomenon, but is it really all that rare?

Here’s a simple little experiment to test your own reactions. When you look at the following images of richly colored gems, do your taste buds sense sweetness or tickle with tang? Do you associate each with a particular flavor or fragrance?

Photo by Fiona Storey via Wikimedia Commons

“Color psychologists have long known that our favorite colors tell a lot about us. They’re a manifestation of our emotions and moods, and the colors we prefer also allow conclusions to be drawn about our fragrance preferences,” reports Leffingwell & Associates, an information and service provider to flavor and fragrance industries. “A woman who picks the color combination of yellow, orange, red, and pale green, for example, is not only extroverted, active, optimistic, and positive—she’ll also tend to prefer fresh-floral fragrances.”

I’m guessing that a gal’s palette preference also varies with the day, the season, and so on. As the sun streams through my window this morning, my soul is aglow in a rich shade of yellow—amber, to be precise—and I can’t help but think of honey, mmmm …

Photo by Hashoo Foundation USA – Houston, TX via Flickr

Your turn—what colors are you feeling/smelling/tasting today? Continue reading


Why is one of the main ingredients in my toothpaste also one of the three things that were so precious in ancient times that they were gifted by the Three Wise Men to the baby Jesus at his birth?

Myrrh … even the word sounds soothing. Kind of like purr(h) …

Myrrh is the aromatic resin of several small, thorny trees in the genus Commiphora. And soothing it is. It was once used as a treatment for toothaches, and now appears in toothpaste for its anti-microbial, anti-viral, astringent, and antiseptic qualities.


Photo by Alsterdrache via Wikimedia Commons

But why a precious gift? Even though myrrh was mentioned in the Old Testament as a rare perfume with intoxicating qualities, its role as one of the three gifts isn’t as clear as that of gold, a precious metal and valuable commodity, and frankincense, another resin that was often burned as an offering in worship. Myrrh was also a component of holy incense and was used as a anointing oil, and all three of the gifts were standard offerings to honor a king or deity in the ancient world.

But frankincense and myrrh’s powerful herbal healing properties could also have had a role in their choice as precious gifts. Frankincense and myrrh both have proven antiseptic, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory properties, and were once considered remedies for everything from toothaches to chronic coughs to indigestion to hemorrhoids to leprosy. Myrrh was commonly carried into the battlefield to treat wounds by the ancient Greeks. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, mentioned myrrh more frequently than any other plant substance in his writings.

Today, both frankincense and myrrh are commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, and aromatherapy. Myrrh is used as a natural remedy for treating a variety of ailments, including skin conditions, congestion, asthma, indigestion, ulcers, and joint pain. It’s also known to protect against liver damage and has been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells and to lower cholesterol. Many natural toothpastes contain myrrh to soothe irritated gums, mouth, and throat; to fight plaque; and to promote healing.

Purr(h). Continue reading

What’s Rosie thinking?

Put on your comedic thinking cap.

This’ll be fun.

I ran across a fabulous photo called “Rosie with a lollipop and polka-dot bandana.”

Needless to say, if you’ve already peeked, the portrait begs for a caption,

and you’re just the jester for the job.

So, give it a whirl—what IS Rosie thinking?

Photo by MollyPop via Wikimedia Commons

Include your caption in the comments, below.

I can’t wait to read the silly things that feisty little farmgirl might be sayin’ … Continue reading