Young Cultivator Merit Badge: Get Buggy, Intermediate Level

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 7,504 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—10,886 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! MJ 

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life   

For this week’s Garden Gate/Get Buggy Intermediate Level Young Cultivator Merit Badge, Piper and I wandered out to the front yard with our trusty notebook journals, magnifying glass, and a couple of glass jars with holes poked in the lids.

I think you can tell where we were going with this, righto? You got it, we were looking for some bug lovin’!

Furry, spindly, fat, eight-legged, four-legged, winged, cute, ugly (or bugly, as the pun-loving Pipes liked to say), we were all about dem bugs.

What we were not about was the anthill we accidently disrupted. Talk about ants in our pants. Okay, okay, I exaggerate, not so much in our pants as milling about our toes, but you get the drift. We apologized to the ant family (They didn’t even pause to listen though. Busy little buggers, aren’t they?) and moved to a different area of the yard.

For the Intermediate Level badge, you won’t really need the jars with lids, but we like to be prepared in case of bug adoptions. You never know when you might find a rare, exotic type lurking under your hydrangeas or scampering past your garden gnome! Why, just one of these finds of the Top Five Rarest Bugs in Nature would cement our notoriety in the world of entomologists:

  • Euspinolia militaris (the panda ant): Oh, it may look all cute and fuzzy, with black and white patches that appear positively snuggable, but this ‘ant’ is actually a member of the wasp family. And we never recommend snuggling a wasp. Lest you think you can take this little guy on, we’re here to tell you his nickname is “cow killer” (and yes, they can!). Yikes. Luckily, these stinging devils are mostly found in Chile.

photo by silamtao

  • Atrax sutherlandi (red-fanged funnel spider): Also called the Vampire Spider, this somewhat terrifying arachnid has red fangs. Gulp. Surprisingly though, for its fierce appearance, the atrax sutherlandi mostly just eats other insects, and won’t suck your blood.
  • Lycaedes melissa samuelis (Karner butterfly): Finally, one that won’t keep you up at night with bad dreams, this vibrant blue butterfly can only be found near New York, where it sadly has nearly become extinct due to deforestation. It’s a particular and persnickety butterfly and wants its habitat exactly just-so (kind of like me, now that I think about it).
)

photo by Hollingsworth, J & K via Wikimedia Commons

  • Titanus giganteus (the titan beetle): Back to the frightening kind, this beetle, native to the Amazon rainforest, can be 9 inches long! Let that sink in. Bigger than my whole hand. Or my favorite sub sandwich! Well, at least at that size, it won’t be sneaking up on me anytime soon.
  • Dryococelus australis (the tree lobster): This ginormous walking stick insect (about 6 inches long!) only lives on Lord Howe Island, between New Zealand and Australia. Entomologists thought this amazing creature was extinct back in the ‘20s but luckily for bug lovers everywhere in the early 2000s, they began popping up again. Now, experts are breeding them so as to populate the island once more. How do the residents feel about this? Unsure. How do I feel about that? Glad I don’t live on Lord Howe Island!

photo by Granitethighs via Wikimedia Commons

Well, Piper and I didn’t find any of these remarkable bugs, but we did find some beauties to mark down in our journals. And a roly-poly named Earnest lived in a Mason-jar habitat for an afternoon before we let him go back to his family.

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Welcome New Sisters! (click for current roster)

Merit Badge Awardees (click for latest awards)

My featured Merit Badge Awardee of the Week is Jennifer Chappell!

Jennifer Chappell (AdeleHale, #6346) has received a certificate of achievement in Cleaning Up for earning a Beginner Level My Fair Farmgirl Merit Badge!

“I researched the difference between conventional products and cruelty-free organic beauty products and shared it on my personal Facebook page. I replaced my toothpaste and all of my skincare products with organic alternatives. I made scented bath salts with Epsom salts and essential oils.

I like using the organic beauty products—they have improved my skin health immensely.

For the bath salts, I combined three pounds of Epsom salts with 3 drops eucalyptus essential oil, 3 drops tea tree essential oil, and 2 drops peppermint essential oil. The scent and the salts lasted about an hour and my fibromyalgia is better today than it was yesterday.”

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Young Cultivator Merit Badge: Horsing Around, Intermediate Level

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 7,466 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—10,836 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! MJ 

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life   

For this week’s Garden Gate/Horsing Around Intermediate Level Young Cultivator Merit Badge, my crew of Nora, Piper, Andy, and Yours Truly headed to the library.

Seeing as how we’ve been banned from snacking at this particular institution (We may or may not have spilled a tall mocha with whip on some encyclopedia volumes. It was only B-Y, so I feel like they were making a mountain of a molehill, but I find it’s best not to argue with librarians.), so we were forced to make sure our bellies were full. We made a pit stop at the local all-you-can-eat buffet for a midday nosh of barbequed ribs, mashed potatoes, salad bar, catfish, and tacos. You know, a little pick-me-up between meals.

Feeling refreshed—and possible slightly stuffed—we made our way to the library with smiles on our faces and a skip in our steps. Our job? To research and find books about our favorite new pet, the horse. We were to take notes, doodle or sketch, and find our favorite breed in order to earn our Intermediate Level badge. Seemed easy enough, but that librarian has eagle-eyes and insisted on doing a pat-down on me, searching for sticky snacks, liquids without lids, and other culinary weapons of mass destruction.

She says I was picked at random, but I remain skeptical.

By the time I had been detained, spoken sternly to, had my emergency stash of chocolate confiscated, and watched the required viewing of the documentary Books and How to Respect Them, the kiddos were practically done with the entire horse section. I was quite behind (and feeling a bit famished, to boot. Lobster and mashed potatoes just don’t stick to your ribs the way you’d think) and was forced to thumb through the books the children had already gone through.

How did I know? I could tell by the suspicious grape jelly and taco sauce stains on page 11. I do so feel as though I’m passing on my best traits to them, you know. It’s a feeling to warm my heart.

Actually, that may in fact be heartburn. I don’t think that buffet skimped on the hydrogenated oils.

Anyway, Piper had to tell me all about her new favorite breed, the Lipizzaner, before I could get too far in my own research. The Lipizzaner is a breed associated with the Spanish Riding School of Vienna, Austria. They would probably be anyone’s favorites even if all they did was stand there and look pretty (because they are breathtaking), but they are talented too. They prance and dance in a movement called the airs above the ground.

photo by Lucie Provencher via Wikimedia Commons

It made me feel like my childhood pony, Scamper, really didn’t apply himself in his dance classes, to be honest. I spent hours training him to dance, and he could barely trot with any amount of enthusiasm. Ah well.

Nora’s favorite she decided was Little Old Man. A breed, you may ask innocently (as did I)? Judging by her glare at me and putting her book up to her face, it is evidently the name of Pippi Longstocking’s horse.

photo by Sigismund von Dobschütz via Wikimedia Commons

Andy found his favorite in a book about American cowboys: the small but mighty Morgan.

photo by Fritz Mäder/Heidi Fontana via Wikimedia Commons

I got distracted by a book about donkeys (and a small package of Raisinettes I found that Miss Librarian of the FBI missed).

All in all, it was a good day to be a horse lover. Exhausted by all our learning, we hit the taco truck on the way home for nourishment.

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Welcome New Sisters! (click for current roster)

Merit Badge Awardees (click for latest awards)

My featured Merit Badge Awardee of the Week is Kimberly Calvert!

Kimberly Calvert (KimmyC, #7479) has received a certificate of achievement in Stitching & Crafting for earning a Beginner Level Sew Wonderful Merit Badge!

“I put together a travel sewing kit with straight pins, safety pins, needles, scissors, buttons, and five spools of thread, including one heavyweight. I also put a small retractable tape measure in there for the project that I plan to work on once we hit the road. I also put wide Velcro, reflective tape, and wonder clips. I made a bright, cheerful owl pincushion that was small enough to fit inside. I stuffed her belly with crushed walnut shells, as I read that it would help keep the pins sharp. Walnut shells are super dusty! I will do the stuffing outside next time.

As much as I love Mason jars, I needed a non-breakable container to take in our RV. I reused a bulk foods container, which is perfect! It’s transparent so that I can see what’s inside (and so that my little owl can see outside. hah!). It feels pretty sturdy and the lid will stay put, keeping my contents secure when we hit the bumpy roads.

I will be modifying dog coats for our three dogs while we’re en-route, so this sewing kit was just the thing that I needed. What a great idea! Thank you for the inspiration.”

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Be like the bee, always seeking the nectar of knowledge. Life is sweeter that way.

Young Cultivator Merit Badge: Toys, Intermediate Level

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 7,504 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—10,886 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! MJ 

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life   

For this week’s Stitching and Crafting/Toys Intermediate Level Young Cultivator Merit Badge, I brought along a willing Nora and a not-so-willing Andy. Being the eldest, Andy thought he was far too old to be playing with toys, especially of the “girly” doll variety.

I wrangled him into submission with a stern talk about being young-at-heart forever (can I get an amen?), the promise that once his badge was earned he didn’t have to play with his creations if he really didn’t want to (cough, cough), and also a rather ginormous slice of apple spice cake with homemade whipped cream.

You know what they say, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.

Or is it, the way to a man’s heart is through his ribcage?

Well, I’ve heard it both ways.

Anyway, to earn our Intermediate Level badges (Piper had earned hers earlier in the year and was patiently waiting for us to catch up), we needed to make some DIY paper dolls or finger puppets. Still nursing paper cuts from my experience with Piper, we settled on finger and sock puppets for Andy and Nora.

photo by Diablanco via Wikimedia Commons

Perfect for a rainy afternoon, I got out my basket of scrap material and the catch-all of abandoned and single socks I keep next to the dryer. You know the ones: hard to toss because you’re sure the mate is around here somewhere, but he’s probably off gallivanting in some sort of mid-life sock crisis, driving a convertible, and flirting with striped knee-highs and sophisticated argyles.

photo by Tony Alter via Wikimedia Commons

Having given up all hope of ever seeing their mates ever again, they were relegated to official Sock Puppet Status (except one polka-dotted thigh-high who had ambitions to be a Sock Monkey one day). Andy got to work, his tongue between his teeth in what I had learned long ago was standard Andy concentration mode.

Nora was more interested in the finger puppet variety (she loves her some miniatures), and she spent hours making families. A few different ways she experimented making her finger puppets were:

  • Felt. Lots of felt! Even if you don’t make the bodies out of felt, you’re going to want lots of color varieties for facial features and accessories. But if you do want to make the bodies from your felt collection, it’s easy: cut out tubular shapes slightly larger than your fingers and sew or fabric glue together.

  • Crochet or knit your finger puppet bodies.
  • Using pipe cleaners, twist very loosely around your fingers (you want to be able to remove them and put them back on again). Attach your heads made of felt to the tops using glue.
  • With construction paper or cardboard, cut out animals or people shapes. Punch two holes large enough for fingers to be inserted through in the bottom of each puppet. This will give your character “legs,” which can be quite hilarious in your puppet show.
  • Snip apart old gloves (remember when I mentioned my Lonely Hearts Sock Single Club in my laundry room? There’s another chapter in my hall closet, but for gloves). Use the separate fingers to decorate into puppets.

Don’t forget to add googly eyes, glitter, hats, sequins, etc. Decorating these are almost as much fun as playing with them afterwards. While Andy insisted his collection was being given away for Christmas gifts for his small cousins, I did notice he pocketed his favorite when he thought I wasn’t looking.

Don’t worry, Andy, real men CAN play with puppets! Think of all the Muppets! And just watch Fred Astaire and Edward Everett Horton playing with finger puppets in the 1934 film classic, The Gay Divorcee.

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Welcome New Sisters! (click for current roster)

Merit Badge Awardees (click for latest awards)

My featured Merit Badge Awardee of the Week is Kimberly Nelson!

Kimberly Nelson (kmnelson77, #3492) has received a certificate of achievement in Cleaning Up for earning a Beginner Level Shopping Green Merit Badge!

“For this merit badge, I had to acquire some reusable shopping bags. I’ve been using reusable bags for quite some time, but many of my bags needed replacing, so I picked up a few new ones so I had at least six. I also used a reusable bag I already had to hold all of my reusable bags and placed them in the bin in my car, so they are always with me on grocery shopping day.

Having the new bags has worked well. They are stiffer and stand up better for the person bagging my groceries. Having them all in one bag is easy to grab and having them in the car definitely helps to have them when you need them. No more, I forgot my bags at home!”

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Young Cultivator Merit Badge: Do Your Eyes Light Up? Intermediate Level

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 7,504 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—10,886 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! ~MaryJane 

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life

For this week’s Make It Easy/Do Your Eyes Light Up? Young Cultivator Merit Badge, I took advantage of my little helper-around-the-house extraordinaire, Nora. And by take advantage of, I mean taught a valuable life lesson.

What? You think I have an ulterior motive in my offer to babysit the little squirt? So cynical, dear reader! I would never!

Okay, maybe I would just a little. You see, I had misplaced my umpteenth tool for the last time. There’s never a hammer around when I need one, I haven’t seen my good flathead screwdriver since the summer of ’99, and when it comes to pliers … well, I know they’re around here someplace.

Nora loves a good organization project, and she was old enough now to teach the basics of a good toolbox. After all, she’d be in shop class soon enough, building crooked birdhouses, sawing off fingers 2X4s, building benches that list to one side … Sunrise, sunset. *nostalgic sniffle*

Anyway, we had an afternoon to spend and I was in desperate need of my measuring tape. Total coincidence, I assure you. First, lovingly instruct the kiddo. If we find the missing measuring tape, just a happy accident. Ahem.

First, we organized what we could find. My toolbox was frightfully embarrassing, I don’t mind telling you. I mean, it made my junk drawer in the kitchen look posh and well-thought out. There was a spilled bag of zip-ties sprinkled throughout, bent nails, broken and busted halves of things, a couple dried up paintbrushes, a butter knife (don’t ask), and some dead flies. I bear no responsibility for those guys, though.

But alas, no measuring tape or my good flathead screwdriver. The mystery deepened and the plot thickened, kind of like a Thanksgiving gravy but less lumpy.

Part of earning her badge was to learn the names of said tools, but she already knew quite a few. This led to her shouting around the house with a wrench,

It was Professor Plum in the kitchen!

Sometimes it’s difficult to get the little whippersnapper to focus. We ate a snack to feed our brains and tummies and got back to work.

After cleaning out the toolbox (Nora insisted on affixing some glitter stickers to the outside), we arranged the tools back inside in a much less haphazard way than we had found them. We also had a small, but respectful, funeral and eulogy for the flies. Nora prepared a lovely speech and we sang a few hymns. We figured that was the least we could do since they were getting the rather undignified disposal of joining the dustbin debris.

We were still missing the aforementioned tools and I was starting to panic over the lack of a decent hammer in my life. I’ve pounded small nails in my walls with a shoe one too many times to find it clever and/or cute. Also, it’s hard on the shoes.

So, off we went on an excursion to the garage. You know, the dimly lit room where perfectly good tools go to die. Or at least become missing in action. Seriously! In action! Like right in the middle of popping open a tin of paint in ’99 and wham, bam, thank you ma’am, my flathead screwdriver disappeared without a trace.

I don’t feel like Dateline or Law and Order takes seriously enough the millions of missing tools around the world.

(Don’t even get me started on socks.)

After about an hour, we found one MIA tool. As Nora exclaimed as she held it high in triumph,

It was Aunty Jane in the garage with the hammer!

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Welcome New Sisters! (click for current roster)

Merit Badge Awardees (click for latest awards)

My featured Merit Badge Awardee of the Week is Marlene Laverty!

Marlene Laverty (#7503) has received a certificate of achievement in Farm Kitchen for earning a Beginner Level Cheesemaking Merit Badge!

“I made yogurt using my goats’ whole milk. I had a choice between using a yogurt culture or plain store-bought yogurt. I have to start with a bacterial culture to get the process going. I made my yogurt with 1 cup organic store-bought yogurt as a starter. I made sure the store-bought yogurt had live culture in it. I heated up a quart of whole milk to 180ºF to sterilize it and placed the pot of milk in a sink halfway filled with cold water to cool it down to 80ºF. Using a whisk, I mixed the milk slowly into the cup of yogurt. I have a Euro Cuisine yogurt maker with jars. It’s really just a covered hot plate with jars, but it keeps the milk and starter at the correct temp to get the cultures moving and growing. I poured the mixture into the jars. Twelve hours later (the longer the time, the more sour) … yogurt!

It turned out a little thin. Nice and sour and just a bit sweet. Great for granola! I will drain some of my yogurt to make Greek-style yogurt. Using a fine mesh sieve and butter muslin, the yogurt can be drained of most of the liquid to make a much thicker yogurt. All in all, very happy with the result. It’s great with honey and peaches too!”

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Young Cultivator Merit Badge: Let’s Go to Town, Expert Level

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 7,428 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—10,886 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! ~MaryJane 

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life

For this week’s Each Other/Let’s Go to Town Expert Level Young Cultivator Merit Badge, Andy and I—you guessed it—went to town.

photo by James Steakley via Wikimedia Commons

If only earning Merit Badges were so simple …

Once we got there (several yard sales and snack breaks later), we headed over to our local library. Not for books this time, no siree, but to see what was thumbtacked up on the ol’ community bulletin board.

We saw:

  • Services from a pet psychic (Yeah. That’s all my chickens need. They already think they’re Marie Antoinette if their diva behavior is any indication.)
  • Tuba lessons (BYOT)
  • Something called Pickleball
  • Massage therapy for the ticklish
  • A seminar on DIY world domination
  • Matchmaking services for the romantically challenged
  • How to cook with inedible ingredients (say what now?)
  • Lost: guinea pig
  • Found: weird-looking rodent
  • Soccer for seniors
  • Conquer your fears through total immersion therapy (please sign waivers, provided)
  • Community theatre actors wanted
  • Underwater basket-weaving classes
  • Sign Language, Shakespeare, and You

There were probably lots more, but they were all stapled and scotch-taped and thumbtacked right over one another, all willy-nilly. I thought someone needed to offer a community class on the Proper Etiquette of bulletin-boarding, but Andy was all about … drum roll, puhleeze …

Pickleball!

To earn his Expert Level badge, Andy and I were going to choose three different after-school-type activities. He had already joined Band last week, and I wrangle him in to my Book Club meetings every third Thursday (I lure him with the scent of chocolate-chip cookies. Works every time. Little guy is cute, but he isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to noticing things. Ah well. He gets cookies and some literary education, to boot. Although, he wasn’t real fond of The Bridges of Madison County, and when it was his turn to pick the novel, he chose Sir Farts-A-Lot Eats the Booger as revenge. How childish. Although, I have to say, I secretly enjoyed the book).

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes. Pickleball was to be our third activity! We were both really excited. Andy because he likes balls, me because I love a good pickle.

Sadly (and you may be one step ahead of me on this), there were no vinegary cucumbers to be found when we got to the arranged meeting place. Instead, there were paddles, nets, plastic balls with holes in them, and a tennis court.

photo by Stephen James Hall via Wikimedia Commons

I was instantly suspicious. This looked like some sort of *gasp* SPORT.

Suddenly, I knew how Andy felt every third Thursday.

Putting my fear of all things sports-related aside for the greater good, I attempted learning the oddity that is pickleball. Turns out, I wasn’t really so bad. It’s kind of like ping-pong on a larger scale. And I’m happy to report one of the sports moms brought juice boxes and crackers, so I made it through a happy camper. And Andy earned his badge. He put it right next to his dog-eared copy of Captain Underpants (I think I know what we’re reading next month).

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