The Game of Farming

Would you like to know what it’s like to be a

REAL farmer?


Photo of land girls courtesy of Ministry of Information Photo Division via Wikimedia Commons

Well, here’s a fun way to get the dirt (while still keeping your nails clean):

gift_gab-farming2Waaaay back before video games and virtual reality, a hardscrabble rancher in central Washington State dreamed up a board game (remember those?) that got right to the heart of farming …

“It happened in a hay field just as the sun was coming up in early July 1979,” recalls George Rohrbacher. “The Farming Game really was invented on the seat of a tractor.”

At the time, George and his wife, Ann, were struggling to hold on to their family farm in the throes of a three-year drought. With little left to lose, they literally bet the ranch, mortgaging “everything that wasn’t nailed down” to produce the first edition of the game.


Photo of the Rohrbacher family in 1979 courtesy of

The entire family pitched in from the get-go, assembling parts and pieces of the game at home. Eventually, assembly was turned over to the handicapped at Portland’s Goodwill Industries, and the rest is a magical blend of history and perseverance (a trait required of any good farmer).

Suffice it to say, the Rohrbacher’s gamble paid off, and they won “the game.”

You’re wondering what makes this old-fashioned game so special, aren’t you?

The answer is simple:


Playing The Farming Game is about as close as you can get to working the land without actually diggin’ in.

“About half of this nation’s two million farmers or their spouses work an outside job so they can stay on the farm,” George explains. “They are ‘Weekend Farmers,’ farming early mornings, nights, and weekends, trying to get that next piece of land, a tractor, a harvester, to finally farm big enough to afford to quit that darn job in town and come home and farm full time.”

So, in a nutshell, that’s the object of The Farming Game.


Photo courtesy of

Each player starts the game with 20 acres—10 in hay and 10 in grain. The acreage isn’t profitable enough (at first) to feed a family, so you must also have a part-time job in town. Keep plowing money back into your farm as you circle the board, exploring the possibilities of diversification into fruit and cattle (and weathering whims of “farmer’s fate”), and you might just end up on top of the tractor!


Photo of land girls harvesting flax courtesy of Ministry of Information Photo Division via Wikimedia Commons

The Farming Game has sprouted into a crop of other fun games for all ages that you can order at, and George has even written a lighthearted book chronicling the family’s adventures in farming and gaming called Zen Ranching and the Farming Game.


Sweet Lorraine

Ready for a dose of sweet, sweet heartache?

Of course you are.

This is the kind of story that makes it feel like Valentine’s Day in August.


Image by L. Prang & Co. via Wikimedia Commons

After 96-year-old Fred Stobaugh lost his wife of 75 years, he did something he’d only done once before:

He wrote a song.

Inspired by loneliness and love, he sat alone in his Peoria, Illinois, home and penned “Oh, Sweet Lorraine.”

Oh, Sweet Lorraine

I wish we could do

The good times

All over again

Shortly after putting his love to lyrics, Fred spotted an ad in the local paper announcing a contest for singer-songwriters sponsored by Green Shoe Studio.

He didn’t suppose he fit either bill, but he just happened to have one song up his sleeve …

Oh, sweet Lorraine

Life only goes around


But never again

“I’ll just send a letter,” Fred remembers thinking, even though contestants were asked to send newfangled YouTube videos of their musical performances.

With old fashioned resolve, he sent his song on paper. He wrote on the envelope, “‘I don’t sing, I would scare people, haha!”

Fred assumed he wouldn’t hear back from young, hip Green Shoe Studio.

But you know he did.

This is just that kind of story.

Contest director Jacob Colgan contacted Fred to tell him that he would like to professionally record “Oh, Sweet Lorraine.”

“Why would you do this for me?” Fred asked.

The answer was plain, Jacob explained, “Your song touched us.”

My memories will always

Linger on

Oh, sweet Lorraine


Listen to the song in the video above, wipe your tears, then go and pick up your own copy of Fred’s song on iTunes. so that you can listen,

again and again and

think about how sweet life can be

if we just will, sweet Lorraine.

feedin’ my grandgirls

Looky at the surprise left on my doorstep. My grandgirls were here last night to harvest veggies for their household and thought to pick a bowl for me along with leaving me a sweet handwritten note. How about that heirloom tomato? It’s our best year ever for heirloom tomatoes—big, fat, sweet, red, gorgeous, and drippy-juicy, yummy good.




Like O-M-G.

What’s up with G-M-Os?

(Genetically Modified Organisms, if ya didn’t know.)

Let’s focus on one thing today—corn.

Did you know that 85% (some studies show up to 99%) of non-organic corn grown today in the U.S. is genetically modified? It’s a Monsanto product called “Bt Corn,” and its genes have been modified so an insecticide, called Bacillus thuringiensis, is produced by the plant.

That’s right, it produces its own pesticide, that when eaten by certain insects, breaks open their stomachs.

Bt-toxin, from soil bacteria, has been used as a natural pesticide for years. The difference?

The GM version is built inside the plant—the toxin doesn’t wash off, you can’t avoid eating it, and it’s thousands of times more concentrated than the spray. It even failed the World Health Organization’s allergen screening tests.

This means, no matter how hard you scrub, you’re consuming high levels of this toxin. A recent study tested pregnant and non-pregnant Canadian females. It was accepted for publication in the journal Reproductive Toxicology, peer-reviewed, and proves the toxin isn’t breaking down in our gut like Monsanto claims, it’s showing up in the blood of those who eat it.

“Doctors at Sherbrooke University Hospital in Quebec found the corn’s Bt-toxin in the blood of pregnant women and their babies, as well as in non-pregnant women. (Specifically, the toxin was identified in 93% of 30 pregnant women, 80% of umbilical blood in their babies, and 67% of 39 non-pregnant women.)” Source: 

Oh, and if you eat meat, remember that almost all cows and livestock in the U.S. are fed GMO corn (except my dairy cows, of course, who eat only local, non-GMO grass hay along with certified organic alfalfa pellets—sadly even alfalfa can be GMO now). More on how this affects these animals, and subsequently, you. Did I mention that GMOs are NEVER allowed in organic food production? ‘Nuff said?

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Okay, so you didn’t exactly relish the prospect of eating bugs when I introduced you to Ento’s avant-garde gourmet


Photo courtesy of Ento




could be heard far and wide.

But, here I am, bringing up bugs again.

Why, MJ? Why???

Hmmm … how do I put this delicately?

Crickets are an up-and-coming cuisine (yes, that IS a cricket tostado below).


Photo courtesy of Thrillist;

Better you should hear it from me, dear heart, than from strangers. We can work together to get our heads (appetites?) around this novel notion—I haven’t actually eaten crickets yet, either.

But my mind is open, and here’s why.

The impetus to eat insects is not merely based on curiosity or shock value. We’re talking about a much more dire motivation. As we struggle to feed this populous planet, we all know meat is incredibly costly in terms of energy consumption and environmental impact (read more on that topic here).


Photo by Jeff Vanuga, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, via Wikimedia Commons

While you know that I am not fundamentally opposed to meat farming, I do believe that it’s difficult to accomplish it sustainably on a super-size scale.

‘Nuff said.

This dilemma drives us to explore new frontiers of food and find alternative sources of protein.

So, you’re wondering, why crickets? Isn’t soy a perfectly suitable solution?


Tofu cooked Chinese style, Beijing, China. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons; Fuzheado

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Loopy in Love with Lupines

Do you share my love of lupines?


Photo by Theendofforever via Wikimedia Commons

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the birds out my window

Waking up each morning, I’m greeted by the wild whips, whoops, tweets, and chirps of various indigenous birds.

Press “play” below for a minute preview of what I listen to. Some may call it a bother at 4 a.m., but I call it pure bliss!

While listening, I thought you might enjoy reading this poem—a favorite of mine.

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
Without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes
almost out of sight.

They seem to become natives of that element
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves,
an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo,
with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and muck
to move things forward,
as to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people
who submerge in the task,
who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is
common as mud.

Botched, it smears the hands,
crumbles to dust
But the thing worth doing
well done has a shape that
satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn,
are put in museums
but you know they were
made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water
to carry and a person for
work that is real.

From Circles on the Water by Marge Piercy
Copyright 1982 by Marge Piercy
Reprinted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

The bird you see when you listen to the audio is the Yellow Warbler, a regular visitor. We’ve had quite a few juveniles and older warbler-types flitting around the windows of the Design Studio lately.

(Rascal has enjoyed watching them, with reverent purring. I do believe she would love to give them a love bite … or two.)

Their pretty yellow color is similar to my lovely little canary, Daffodil, who passed away a couple of weeks ago.