Flour-sack Dresses

The height of DIY, pluckiness, sheer will, and creativity in America just may have been during the Great Depression. Case in point: flour-sack dresses.

photo, oldphotoarchive.com

No, don’t picture a “sad sack,” readers. These dresses had style!

Take a look at these two sisters, plus their matching dollies.

photo, oldphotoarchive.com

The flour companies were so impressed and inspired by the women making do with what they had, they began upgrading the designs of their sacks. Not just plain beige, oh no, they came up with all sorts of prints and patterns that would rival any aisle at today’s JoAnn Fabrics.

Scottie Dog lover? Got you covered, ma’am.

photo, oldphotoarchive.com

Some manufactures even began printing patterns for craft projects on their fabric. Kind of like how today’s cereal boxes have little cut-out projects for your kids to take some scissors to after they’ve gotten to the bottom of their breakfast favorites.

“Mommy and Me” dresses were popular, too, and can’t you just see yourself as a little girl heading out shopping, and spying a beautiful new play dress in that bag of whole wheat?

photo, oldphotoarchive.com

Times may have been tough and lean in the 1930s, but the ladies weren’t about to give up style and femininity.

No, sir.

Or more to the point, no, ma’am.

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Don’t Be Clingy, Please!

Why are my clothes sticking together or to me and is there a natural way to make them stop?

You’ve probably heard by now that conventional dryer sheets that work to remove static cling from your clothes contain some of the most toxic chemicals of any household products. And those anti-cling aerosol cans are full of nasty chemicals that can nearly drive you out of the room with their odors. But you don’t want to go to town with your skirt sticking to your tights, either. We’ve probably all had an embarrassing moment or two with that scenario. One time when I was flying out of the Spokane airport, I stood in a line of people waiting to talk to an airline clerk with my back to a large lobby. After quite a long wait, a woman came up to me and whispered in my ear, “Honey, I know I’d want someone to tell me this—your dress is hitched up to your panties.” {Funny how I never noticed just how large that lobby was.}

So what’s a natural-living farmgirl to do?

First, a little about electricity. When you think of electricity, you probably first think of the kind you get when you plug something in. That’s called “current electricity,” electricity that travels from a power source down a metal wire. It’s always on the move, carrying electricity from one point to another. “Static electricity,” on the other hand, is electricity that builds up in one place. Lightning is the most spectacular example of static electricity. {In the early ’70s, when I worked as a fire lookout in the Idaho wilderness, I was sitting on my little lookout stool with glass feet in the tower, nearly 100 feet in the air, during a lightning storm, when all of a sudden, my waist-length hair started dancing all around my head, cartoon-like. Startling, to say the least. The next day, a man from the main Forest Service office stopped by to check the grounding wires on my metal tower. Yikes!}


photo by Christophe.Finot via Wikimedia Commons

Static electricity can also be produced by rubbing two things together, like rubbing a balloon on your shirt to make it stick. But it’s not really the rubbing that generates the static electricity, it’s that we’re bringing two different materials together over and over, like in a clothes dryer. According to Reference.com, “Different fabrics exchange electrons as they rub against each other in the dryer. Some clothes become positively charged and others become negatively charged. These opposite static charges cause the clothes to stick together and produce crackling sparks when pulled apart.” Static electricity does do more than just stick our clothes together. Printers and copiers use it to build up ink on their drums, for one. But why do our clothes seem to stick together more in colder weather and what can we do to un-stick them?

Static cling is more prevalent in colder weather because cold air holds less moisture than warm air, allowing static electricity to build up instead of dissipate. According to TheWeatherNetwork.com, “When a furnace draws some of that frigid air inside and heats it up, the dew point doesn’t rise with it, unless your furnace also includes a humidifier to add more moisture to the air. Inside, it can become as dry as a desert, making the air about as resistant to the movement of electrons as it can get.”

So, now we know why we get static cling. But how do we deal with it naturally?

photo by Stephanie via Flickr.com

Here are a few tricks to try.

Clothing made of natural fibers retain moisture more easily and don’t usually fall prey to static cling. Try drying natural fibers on their own without adding synthetic items to avoid static cling. And don’t over-dry. Air-dry synthetics if you can.

  1. Use a humidifier indoors to keep your air moist. Or hang your outfit in the bathroom while you shower, or even lightly spray it with water.
  2. Try adding 1/4 cup of baking soda in the washer to help avoid static buildup. (It creates a kind of barrier around the clothes.) Or add 1/4 cup white vinegar to the rinse as a natural softener, which also helps static cling.
  3. Add a small ball of tinfoil in the washer (never the dryer) to attract electricity away from fabrics.
  4. Try natural dryer balls to replace dryer sheets. They help keep fabrics from rubbing up against each other in the dryer.
  5. Moisturize your skin so that static doesn’t build up on your body. Also try moisturizing your hands before you remove garments from the dryer.
  6. Run your garment through a metal hanger to discharge the electricity. Or try wearing a metal safety pin on an inside seam.
  7. Now, here’s a real farmgirl fix: Grab some grounded metal (like your metal fence—electricity turned off if it’s an electric fence) to transfer the static.

Do you have a method you use that I didn’t think of?

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turkey by the numbers

According to the U.S. Census Bureau and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), of the 243 million turkeys raised in the U.S. this year, about 45 million of them ended up on our Thanksgiving tables.

The American Farm Bureau Federation reports that Americans paid approximately $49.87 on average for a Thanksgiving Day meal for 10 people. In 2015, the average retail price for turkey was $1.45/pound (up from $.99/pound in 1995). But in a survey about pricing this year, while 29 percent of Americans said that less than $1.50 per pound was a fair price for turkey, nearly the same percent of respondents said they would pay $5 or more per pound. Sounds like more folks are going organic for the holidays!


Find organic turkeys at OrganicPrairie.com.

Cranberries: From Bog to Table

In the spirit of the season, today’s post is all about cranberries. You know, those tasty, nutrient-dense, little red morsels … you most likely passed them (or passed them by—folks usually love ’em or hate ’em) around your Thanksgiving table last week. And maybe you’ll enjoy them again at a Christmas feast. Their bright-red hues bring a festive touch to any holiday meal.

When I think cranberries, I think New England, where many of the cranberries in the U.S. are grown and harvested. I don’t think my neighboring Washington state … until now. Turns out, Washington state is the fifth largest cranberry-producing state in the U.S. Who knew?

And cranberries are grown in a unique, almost other-worldly setting called a cranberry bog. According to Cranberries.org, “[Cranberries] can grow and survive only under a very special combination of factors. These factors include acid peat soil, an adequate fresh water supply, and a growing season that extends from April to November. Cranberries grow on low-lying vines in beds layered with sand, peat, gravel and clay. These beds are commonly known as bogs or marshes and were originally created by glacial deposits. Commercial bogs use a system of wetlands, uplands, ditches, flumes, ponds and other water bodies that provide a natural habitat for a variety of plant and animal life.”

This gorgeous slideshow of cranberry production in Washington state will make you appreciate these little gems even more. And here’s a holiday-inspired recipe to get your creative cranberry juices flowing!

Day-after Thanksgiving Turkey Sandwiches


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Who Let the Cow In?

Ah, geez …

Wait, before I go on, let me throw out this disclaimer:

If you’re allergic to cuteness (or cows), cut your losses and get outta here while you still can.

Still there?

I knew you’d risk it.

You will be duly rewarded with smiles …

The video below chronicles what happened when Pennsylvania farm mom Billie Jo Decker discovered an unexpected house guest hanging out with her 5-year-old daughter, Breanna. Be sure to keep watching to the halfway point and beyond if you can stand the sweetness:

In a YouTube update a couple of months ago, Billie Jo admitted that Izzy the Cow has secured a pretty solid place in the family. “Izzy has turned into quite the spoiled cow. She is literally like dealing with a 2-year-old child throwing tantrums,” she said. “If she is not in the mood to share my company, well, let’s just say she MOOOOOOVES it out of the way. She is a very jealous cow and doesn’t like to share Mom’s attention.”

Izzy is a bit big for house visits now (she makes an appearance in this video). Hmmm … maybe Breanna needs a mini Jersey?


You went wild over the Spirograph post a couple of months ago,

Image Kannanshanmugam,shanmugamstudio,Kollam via Wikimedia Commons

enjoying a spark of inspiration from memory lane.

So, I just had to take a moment to share this with you too …

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Egg Science

Do you know how a hen’s egg is made … exactly?


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Denmark is doing it.

Photo by Witizia via Pixabay


Yes, and so should we …

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Do you love miniature things?

There’s something childlike about miniature … or for that matter, most anything on a micro scale.

Dolls’ House of Petronella Oortman, circa 1686-1710, via Wikimedia Commons

And the latest mini marvel I’ve discovered?

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Flashback Monday! I ran across something from a few years ago and thought you might enjoy reading it again. I know I did. It’s such a magical story about synchronicity …

This just in from Carol Hill, my BFF, lead graphic designer, MaryJanesFarm magazine editor, fashionista, ukelele player, Northwest Best Laugh Contest winner …

Take it away, Carol!!!!

In our Aug/Sept 2010 issue, “Lay of the Land,” we published a story from Aimee Steiner, a MaryJanesFarm reader living—of all places—on a tiny, remote Pacific island named Rota. At the time, we were astounded that our magazine had reached such faraway places. But the story had just begun.

Not only did that article result in our readers sending over 10,000 books to rebuild Rota’s library that was lost in a typhoon (read that incredible story in our Dec/Jan 2012 issue, “Come All Ye”), but it also sparked another reader to call with this fascinating story …

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