Sweet Harmony

I recently shared a titch about the sweet, sweet harmony reigning in our home since both of my girls started music lessons in September. But I was skeptical about squeezing a piano into our tiny living room. A piano is generally a big-ticket item, and I really, really want to instill an appreciation for frugality in my children.

Well, it turns out I know a guy who knows a guy who is a professional tuner by day, and he gave us a great deal on a 1950s Kimball that’s in super good shape. Not excellent shape, which is perfect for me, because I’m happy to give it a little cosmetic love. So with plenty of encouragement from a music teacher that I am thankful to have in the girls’ lives, my hubby and her hubby carefully hauled it up our front-stoop stairs and into our living room.

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Here’s what the experts say: Playing an instrument is the brain’s equivalent of a full-body workout, especially for children. Learning to play an instrument develops physical attributes in the fine-motor-skills department for sure, but research is now showing that learning an instrument aids in emotional and behavioral maturation as well. That means the little ones are honing their attention skills, managing their anxiety, and gaining control of their emotions, because playing an instrument actually thickens the parts of the brain used to fight depression, aggression, and attention problems.

In school, music-makers generally understand math and science concepts more easily. By learning about note lengths and how they relate to the whole piece of music, students exercise the part of the brain that processes proportional thinking, and that kind of thinking is required to understand math and science at higher levels. It also improves spatial-temporal reasoning, which is the ability to see disassembled parts and mentally put them back together.

Wow, all that from a little ivory tickling. The results I’ve seen in the short time we’ve had our piano are rather astounding. The girls even play it while they brush their teeth! To say the least, they are appreciating it far more than I ever dreamed. This year, I’m anticipating a year filled with sweet, sweet harmony and music.

American Trade Cards, Boston Public Library via Wikimedia Commons



You know you’re a farmgirl when …

boxes like this make you extremely happy!

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But I’d better be honest and let you know that not only have I never assembled something like this, this would only be my second time using a miter saw. But I got right to work on the assembly …

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First thing I did was cut this tag off so I could read it properly …

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“Pinch and impact hazard. This cable tie prevents the stand from accidently raising during assembly. Do not cut until instructed to do so in the assembly portion of the instruction manual.”

Oops … guess I was supposed to wait until much later in the instructions to remove the tag. Needless to say, I did survive the assembly and have spent the rest of the day with my ear protection, goggles, and gloves on cutting 1x8s for an upcoming magazine project. Stay tuned …

And remember, read tags before you remove them. 😉

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Sing a Song


It’s defined as the pleasing or congruent arrangement of parts. I’d say that’s a pretty good descriptor of what’s been happening around our home on Wednesday nights. Sweet harmony.

And it’s a direct result of music—specifically, singing lessons for the girls. It doesn’t fail that after lessons, peace reigns. Sisters don’t squabble. The whole evening is perfectly pleasant, with extra pleases and thank-yous. And homework time is downright merry!

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Such happiness following their lessons.

I’m so intrigued and really grateful for this response.

Curious as to why, I dug a little. Singing helps your immune system by boosting immunoglobulin A (an antibody that fights upper-respiratory disease). Using your lungs is considered an aerobic activity since it increases oxygen in the blood, and breathing deeply from the diaphragm not only reduces stress in the body, it also exercises major muscle groups in the upper body. Singing releases endorphins in the body, which make you feel good, and your posture and circulation are also greatly improved. You’re also more mentally alert. It’s really no wonder that the girls are so blissed out after their lessons.

Ella Fitzgerald said the only thing better than singing is more singing. Maybe that’s why participation in chorale groups and community choirs has risen consistently over the last 10 years. According to Chorus America, 32.5 million adults sing in groups.

So whatever your reason for stretching those vocal chords, you’ll never go wrong. And if you’re looking for a little harmony, just sing, sing a song, make it happy, to last your whole life long …

Rain Makes for Easier Travel?

We’ve finally had quite a few rain showers here on the Palouse, and the girls and I have spent many a recent morning outfitted in our rain boots and umbrellas on our walk to school. No complaints here. I still get a thrill when I stomp through puddles!

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I’m careful with my stomping, however; there’s rarely a puddle without an earthworm in it, and I’d prefer to not squash them. On a recent return trip from dropping the girls at school, I spent some time contemplating earthworms and puddles, and I thought, “There must be more to it.” I went right home to the Internet. It turns out, they need moisture to survive and won’t drown like us humans when submerged in water. Scientists believe that earthworms surface during rain storms because it’s easier for them to travel, taking advantage of slick, wet surfaces to move quickly, something they can’t do when the weather is hot and dry. Another explanation is that rain falling on the ground gives off the same vibrations as their biggest predator, the mole, thus alarming the worms to escape to the surface.

A Day at the Junkyard

To some folks, it might be the junkyard, but to us, it’s mistitled and should be named the treasure yard. Check out the squirrel hanging above our heads—clearly a treasure for someone. He made a good mascot for our excursion.

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Looking for inspiration for new projects for both the magazine and our Sisterhood newsletter, Kristi, Cassi, and I decided to venture to the local salvage/treasure yard. I also ought to introduce these two officially. Cassi is our new Marketing Assistant, but really, she’s family, as she started out as our nanny years ago. We’re just happy we snagged her again when she graduated this past spring. And Kristi’s official title is Editor’s Assistant. What that really means is Kristi is my right hand farm hand. We work hand-in-hand on most projects, and there isn’t anyone I’d rather do it with.

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Our local salvage yard is acres of goodies. We searched high and low for a few tin-man parts (watch for him in an upcoming magazine issue).

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And for your own inspiration, here are few piles I couldn’t help but take a quick snapshot of. I’m sure we can come up with something to create from these treasures.

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In fact, I already have a plan that requires a pile of springs … every farmgirl needs a pile of springs!

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For the Love of Leaves

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

That’s a quote from Anne of Green Gables, and it’s resounding in my mind. Fall is hands-down my favorite time of year. We’re finished with harvest and wildfires around here, and thanks to a couple of good soaking rains, the ground is somewhat moist and the air is clean. The neighborhood porches are sporting a pumpkin or two, and I’ve spied more than a few busy squirrels. The month of October also begins with my birthday and ends with my most favorite celebration of all, Halloween. But in addition to all of these great attributes …

October has leaves!

So many crispy, crunchy, drifting, tumbling, brilliantly colored leaves. On a recent walk, we witnessed the glory of a maple tree that we swear was the definition of neon fuchsia! It is literally raining leaves right now, and I can hear them gently tapping against my window as they fall.

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How do the leaves know to fall in October? My curiosity sent me to Google, where I learned that trees possess an inner clock that is triggered by the length of daylight. The tree closes the water and nutrient routes to the leaves in preparation for winter, which causes sugar to build up. Sugar, coupled with a stop in chlorophyll production, is the sign a tree needs to make the pigment anthocyanin, responsible for all the brilliant reds of autumn. A succession of warm, sunny days and cool, crisp nights above freezing tend to bring on the most spectacular color displays.


Need an embroidery project?

Family business and embroidery are kind of our thing here at MaryJanesFarm. Or at least, they’re mine—either one always piques my interest and both together most certainly do!


So when we stumbled across the beautiful embroidery work of Sassy Spurs, I wanted to make sure to share. The Sassy Spurs team, consisting of mother Juli, daughter Lindsey, and like-a-family-member Robin, all share a fondness for post-World War II state pillows (as well as a 92-year-old aunt’s treasured embroidery lessons). They channeled that passion into an Etsy shop that opened in November of 2010.


And although each gal has a “real” job in addition to running the shop, they all dream of being sassy full-time someday. After much research, they’ve recently finished patterns for all 50 states, almost always including the state’s flower and bird as part of the design. They offer each state pillow pattern with a corresponding color palette suggestion, too.


So if you’re feeling sassy and looking for an embroidery project, maybe for some holiday gift-giving, take a look. I think these ladies are on to something lovely! Although, I think I might sneak my hometown onto Idaho’s embroidered piece.

Our Little Farmers

We took our Tabitha out again. On the way home, we stopped to stretch our legs in the middle of Washington state farmland.

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The gravel surrounding the silos was a perfect spot for a quick game of tag, but when I came around the side of the camper, I found Stella hunched over the dog’s water bowl with a handful of the stray wheat berries …

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… planting wheat, of course.

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And Mia, being a tad younger, was around the other side of the truck planting hers in the gravel, no water needed. Ha!



We took our Tabitha on an excursion.

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We stayed next door to NannyJane and Grandpa with Uncle Brian and Aunt Ashley and their kiddos just down the lane in the Forest Service campground we stayed in. I’m sure you’ll be seeing many more pics of NannyJane’s new glamper, but I’m sneaking you a peek for now.

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The grandparents brought the good stuff. Plenty of tomatoes from the garden, and every granddaughter needs a s’more!

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