If handwriting often trumps typing (and research says it’s so) …

Photo by via

… then it comes as no surprise that there are perks to reading printed paper instead of plasma screens.

Want proof?

Check it out:

  • University of Norway researcher Anne Mangen determined that people retain plot elements better when they read in print than on a Kindle.
  • San Jose State University researcher Ziming Liu found that screen reading encourages browsing and scanning rather than the “deep reading” associated with printed pages.

“We need to understand the value of what we may be losing when we skim text so rapidly that we skip the precious milliseconds of deep reading processes,” contends Maryanne Wolf, Director of the Tufts University Center for Reading and Language Research. “For it is within these moments—and these processes in our brains—that we might reach our own important insights and breakthroughs. They might not happen if we’ve skipped on to the next text bite.”

With that in mind, why not put your screen to sleep now and snuggle deeply into the pages of MaryJanesFarm?







old-fashioned mad lib

Go ahead, ask my granddaughters …

I am positively mad for the madcap fun of Mad Libs.

(Did you see that I even took a stab at my own version, dubbed the “ag lib”?)


So, imagine my delight when I learned that gals like me were goofing around with “libs” long before the template took on a trademark. Leave it to Susan Odom to discover such a treasure.

Who’s Susan, you ask?

She is the brilliant proprietress of Hillside Homestead, a historic Michigan farmstay that you’ll get to visit in the Oct/Nov issue of my magazine, on newsstands now (this is one you won’t want to miss … but aren’t they all?). When Susan isn’t entertaining guests with authentic turn-of-the-twentieth-century meals and activities around her pastoral property, she blogs a bit. And in one of her posts last summer, she wrote, “Well, here we sit on the longest day of the year as we prepare for our big Farmhouse Frolic tomorrow! We are all so excited—we will be waxing eggs; bubble bowling; making rhubarb sauce; playing games; watching pigs, ducks, and chickens; and so much more. One thing we could not quite fit into the schedule was a ‘mad lib’ found in a wonderful book called The American Girls Handy Book, which was published in 1887 (read more about that here). It’s called ‘Biographical Nonsense’ … Who know that there were historic mad libs? Great fun at a party!”

Thanks to Susan, we can all access this humorous helping of history here. Print it out and present it to the attendees of your next farmgirl gathering.

Giggles are guaranteed.

Photo courtesy of SimpleInsomnia via Flickr







Back in October, I mentioned the Kirkus Prize and its $50,000 award to each writer in a variety of genres. I also vowed to devour the chosen book in their fiction category. And devour it I did.

Photo Apr 21, 8 56 48 AM

Lily King won the prize in the fiction category for a brilliant little novel by the name of Euphoria. It also won fistfuls of other prizes and accolades, and I am happy to report that it certainly lived up to its reputation.

Lily King pays homage to Margaret Mead through a re-imagined tale of a true-to-life meeting of the revolutionary anthropologist and her second and third husbands, Reo Fortune and Gregory Bateson. Using this as a point of departure, the story depicts a tragic love triangle between three rival anthropologists working along the Sepik River in Papau, New Guinea, in the early 1930s. When the novel opens, our protagonist, Nell, has just published a brilliant and controversial book about natives of the Solomon Islands that has made her very famous. She and her jealous and competitive husband, Fen, are about to set sail for Australia after a stint of disappointing field work in New Guinea when they happen upon a colleague and competitor, the desperately lonely Andrew.

King’s descriptions of the three characters’ collaborative yet colliding journeys in the hot and muggy air of the jungle, the stolen glances of hidden love, and the background throbbing of tribal drums was beautifully done. I will most definitely read the Kirkus Prize fiction winner for 2015.

Monet’s gardens

Talking about Emily Dickinson’s love of flower gardens led me down the garden path to remember another story about a famous artist who’s known for his paintings, but not especially for the passion that drove him: his gardens.

I’m talking about Monet.

Claude Monet (1840-1926) is one of the great French Impressionists. In 1883, he moved to a property along the Seine in the French countryside called Giverny. While he was already an established artist, painting both landscapes and portraits …

Le déjeuner sur l’herbe, (right section), with Gustave Courbet, Frédéric Bazille and Camille Doncieux, first wife of the artist

Woman in a Garden, 1867, Hermitage, St. Petersburg

the property at Giverny inspired him to undertake a huge landscaping project, including lily ponds that would become the subjects of his most famous paintings.

“With the help of his family and six gardeners,” reports NPR, “Monet planted, nurtured and composed his garden—a world of flowers made up of yellow, pink and red roses arrayed on the ground and draping over metal arches; patches of bright red geraniums; pale purple lavender; deep purple pansies; irises; impatiens; peonies and more.” He composed his paintings by first planting exactly what he wanted to capture on canvas.

Claude Monet, Irises In Monet’s Garden, 1900

For the next 20 years, Monet painted his gardens. He focused mainly on the water lilies, painting 250 canvases of them, some of which were multiple panels, each as wide as 14 feet.

Claude Monet, Water Lilies, c. 1915

Claude Monet, The Water Lilies – Setting Sun, 1920–1926

Today, Monet’s property at Giverny operates as a living museum, where you can experience the beauty of both Monet’s passions yearly from the end of March until November 1st. Find out more at

“Organic: Farmers & Chefs of the Hudson Valley”

In this beautiful new book by photographer Francesco Mastalia, Organic: Farmers & Chefs of the Hudson Valley,

you’ll find over 100 one-of-a-kind ambrotype portraits of the farmers and chefs of the Hudson Valley. Not only are the photos beautiful, but they are of some of the most influential members of the organic movement.

The book includes portraits and interviews with Amy Hepworth, Dan Barber, Zakary Pelaccio, Ken Greene, Steffen Schneider, and many many more. In narrating their own stories, the farmers and chefs share their philosophy about what it means to grow and live organically and sustainably.

Mastalia used the wet-plate collodion process, a technique developed in the 1850s when the art of photography was in its infancy. With the use of a large format wooden camera and brass lens, glass plates are hand coated to produce one-of-a-kind ambrotype images. The amber-toned images remind us of a time when the cultivation of land was a manual process that linked the farmer directly to the soil.

” … for anyone who likes their locally-grown, pesticide-free carrots with a dusting of nostalgia, Organic is tasty indeed.” –