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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 … Jill Schrader!!!

Jill Schrader (#6177) has received a certificate of achievement in Outpost for earning a Beginner Level Speak for the Trees Merit Badge!

“Since I live in the woods, out of town, this was an obvious merit badge to earn. I have always loved identifying trees, as well as native wildflowers, mammals, birds, and insects. I’m always pulling out my reference books when I see something past my window that I can’t identify.

I take my books with me whenever we go camping and keep them handy at my coffee table. My relatives know I’m the go-to person to ask if it comes to a nature question. I about have my field guides memorized by picture. If I don’t know the answer, we look it up together and find the answer!


I have Western Red Cedar, Western Larch, Douglas Fir, Quaking Aspen, Lodgepole Pine, White Pine, and Hemlock growing on my property. I love to study nature and am always learning and love to share this information with others as they show an interest in the great outdoors!

I was able to identify most, if not all, the trees growing around me. My uncle was a logger, so he has taught me the common names, as well as some of the “slang” names, which often go by color, such as a Ponderosa Pine is also known as a yellow pine, a Douglas Fir is also known as a red fir. I have enjoyed being able to identify trees whether I’m here at home, or traveling and see something different.”




Hear Ye!

Welcome New Sisters! (click for current roster)

Merit Badge Awardees (click for latest awards)

My featured Merit Badge Awardee of the Week is … Debbie Klann!!!

Debbie Klann (#770) has received a certificate of achievement in Farm Kitchen for earning a Beginner, Intermediate & Expert Level Bread Making Merit Badge!

“I have been baking bread since I was a newlywed 32 years ago, but have learned MUCH in those 32 years! I’ve always known baking is more of an exact science … getting just the right amount of leavening agents so your product turns out the way you want it to.

While I’ve always used baking powder and baking soda when called for, I was never exactly sure what made each one similar and different. I recently read up on how each works and how they are not interchangeable!

I also learned that baking soda is about 4x the strength of baking powder and why you will sometimes need to use each one in the same recipe.

I’ve made several recipes using baking powder, baking soda, and cream of tartar. One of my favorite recipes was an Amish Sugar Cookie, which used cream of tartar and soda. I loved the silky texture. My favorite biscuit recipe calls for an addition of cream of tartar. They were higher and finer textured than some that I have tried. I also tried making a Cream Biscuit using a self-rising flour and cream. These seemed to raise well … and then deflated quickly! I always use unbleached flour and have recently found a whole-wheat pastry flour from soft wheat that makes the most delicate pie crust!

For my Intermediate level, I baked some bread. I love making my own bread. Store bought does not even compare. And the smell that fills your house is wonderful!

I’ve used several types of yeast in my breadmaking … regular active dry yeast, quick-rising yeast, and a special yeast for pizza dough. I prefer just the regular yeast over the quick-rising. I just prefer the texture and how it works better. I really do like the pizza-dough yeast. I think it gives it just the right amount of leavening.

Besides making our weekly bread, I also make some special dark dinner rolls that have cocoa powder, whole wheat flour, and orange juice. They were a big hit with the family!


I also tried an Irish Soda Bread. I remember reading when I was young in the Little House books how Laura’s mother would make it for the holidays. The recipe I tried included whiskey, caraway seeds, and raisins, but I substituted currants. I wasn’t too sure how this mix of ingredients would taste together … but it really wasn’t too bad! I still prefer the texture of a yeast bread to one made with baking soda.

Expert level required sourdough mothers. Over the years, I have tried several different sourdough starter recipes … some created so much gas they blew the lid right off the jar, and some never did much of anything. I finally found one that worked for me. I used the starter recipe in the King Arthur Flour baking book. This one uses a rye flour to start, eventually being replaced over the next 10 days or so with unbleached flour.

This starter was by far the best I’ve ever used. I tried a new sourdough biscuit recipe that was “ok.” I thought it was a little dry. But the sourdough pancakes were divine! The batter foamed up like meringue, and they were a little slice of heaven! Definitely worth keeping a starter JUST for those pancakes.

I did learn that even if you keep your starter in the fridge while you’re not actively using it, you still need to feed it once a week.”



Get ‘er Done Merit Badge, Expert Level

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 6,629 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—9,365 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 Get ‘er Done Expert Level Merit Badge, I was already sore and in the swing of things from helping my farmgirl friend move houses (and thereby earning my Intermediate Level Badge), so I decided to go with the flow and earn my Expert Level Merit Badge next. A house built by Habitat for Humanity was going up right down the street from me, and it was just the thing.

Photo, Navy Visual News Service via Wikimedia Commons

Twelve hours required for this badge, and I was rip roarin’ ready to go.

It took a while to prepare. I mean, I couldn’t just show up with a hammer and call it good. No, siree! They would know I was a novice. I knew exactly what to do: after all, I have watched Seven Brides for Seven Brothers often enough.

I knew how to raise a barn—how could building a house be any different?

I made several pies (rhubarb, raisin and sour cream, egg custard, and good old-fashioned apple), ironed my best country dancing dress, practiced my DoSeDo Flutterwheel Reverse Square dance moves, and headed out.

I would have hitched the horses up to the buggy and arrived that way, all proper style and all, but I don’t have a horse.

Or a buggy.

Photo by dee & tula via Wikimedia Commons

I plan to remedy that eventually, though. They’re on my grocery list, right before buckwheat flour and right after tropical fish food.

Anyway, I was surprised and kind of disappointed that none of the other volunteers were as prepared as me. It’s a good thing I brought so many pies, because evidently all the others forgot. At least I’ll win the blue ribbon, so all was not lost.

They also seemed a little under-dressed for the occasion, but I let that one slide.

They also were a shy bunch. Why, it took me at least an hour to get a dance going! Part of that time was trying to roll the nearest felled tree over to the dancing area, though. That was tough. But I made it, and when everyone quit staring (they really weren’t the most self-motivated group, I gotta say), I demonstrated a little quickstep atop it. Of course, I knew my limits and I didn’t do any backflips or add in any ax swings at the same time, but I must say, I have feet like lightening!

After that, I kind of expected a fight to break out over which girls wanted to marry which guys, but the volunteers were sort of a focused bunch, and instead we put up some walls.

I guess walls are good, too.

I kept my eyes out for a batch of good-looking, single brothers (you know … for my single, good-looking girlfriends, of course) but no one seemed related. Or single. Or good looking.

All in all, I had a nice time and earned my badge, but the whole experience was a little strange.

It’s almost like people don’t know how to properly do these things. They did appreciate my pies, though.

Hear Ye!

Welcome New Sisters! (click for current roster)

Merit Badge Awardees (click for latest awards)

My featured Merit Badge Awardee of the Week is … Sonja Gasper!!!

Sonja Gasper (opengatefarm, #5671) has received a certificate of achievement in Each Other for earning an Expert Level Connecting Growers & Eaters Merit Badge!

“I am now a co-organizer for the Garden to Pantry project that I got my beginner and intermediate badges from last year. Our garden was started to grow vegetables for the area food pantries. All food grown goes to area people in need. Last year, we donated over 4,000 pounds of produce.


This year is going very well. We do not expect to have anywhere near last year’s numbers for poundage, as we have adjusted our plantings to what area pantries felt there was a greatest need for. This meant no more cucumbers or squash, and more focus on peas and beans. Instead of looking at pounds, we are focusing on people helped. This year, we have also included area Master Gardeners and volunteers who are pantry recipients.”



Know Your Food Merit Badge, Intermediate Level, Part 2

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 6,571 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—9,327 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 Farm Kitchen Know Your Food Intermediate Level Merit Badge, Part 2, I soldiered on with my all-homegrown/local/organic dinner at my friend’s home. As I mentioned before, these friends, while near and dear, were not exactly farmgirls, and nary an organic ANYTHING had passed their lips.

They had enjoyed their first heirloom tomato though, and that’s when I got cocky.

The homemade wheatgrass, maple syrup, kale, and green-apple smoothie was not a hit.

Photo by Kari Sullivan via Wikimedia Commons

The looks of horror on their faces though … priceless.

I had to start smaller. And quick, before they ordered a High Fructose Corn Syrup and Preservative Pizza and locked me outta their house.

Hastily, I assembled the ingredients for my next course:

Chicken and Bacon Panini Sandwiches with Homemade Roasted Garlic Aioli and Sweet Potato Fries

  • Homemade or locally made and organic, good-quality bread. I used white, as we were easing into this territory with my friends and had learned my lesson with the kale smoothie. I wasn’t sure they were ready for my Fifteen Grain Whole Wheat and Sprouted Barley Dark Rye Bread …
  • Organic butter from happy cows
  • Organic chicken breasts, pounded thin and grilled in organic extra virgin olive oil
  • Nitrate-free bacon slices (sprinkle with a little brown sugar or honey for some extra sweetness)
  • Heirloom tomato slices (unless your guests already ate them)
  • Baby lettuce/spinach/sprouts, whatever floats your green boat
  • Red onion

Butter bread. Assemble sandwiches and grill in a Panini press, or in a pan with a very heavy pot placed atop your sandwich. You can add the lettuce after grilling if you like, but I don’t mind a nice charred Romaine, myself.

photo by Tmannya via Wikimedia Commons

Homemade Roasted Garlic Aioli

  • 3/4 cup organic olive oil
  • The juice and zest of one lemon
  • Several cloves of roasted garlic (homegrown if you have it). How many depends on your taste; I recommend at least three! Extra delish, and keeps the vampires away, to boot.
  • 2 egg yolks from happy, free-range, organically-fed chickens
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Use a blender or food processor to combine everything except the olive oil. Drizzle oil in in a steady, but thin, stream as you blend.

Sweet Potato Fries

  • Sweet potatoes or yams from your garden. I like to figure two potatoes per foodie.
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Slice potatoes the way you like ‘em: shoestring style or steak-house style. Drop them in a large pot of boiling and salted water. Leave ‘em there in their bath for 15 minutes or so.


Line up on a baking sheet that’s been wiped with olive oil (or organic oil of your choosing). Drizzle a little more oil on top. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Bake at 400ºF for about 20 minutes, flipping halfway.


My “come to you” dinner party was a rousing success. Not only were the sandwiches a huge hit, but my skeptical eaters devoured the fries. They said they were even better than McCarl’s Burger Dairy Jr. and the Roasted Garlic Aioli was much tastier than Miracle Whip.

I swallowed my horror and pride and took it as a compliment.

Hear Ye!

Welcome New Sisters! (click for current roster)

Merit Badge Awardees (click for latest awards)

My featured Merit Badge Awardee of the Week is … Michele McElwee!!!

Michele McElwee (#5969) has received a certificate of achievement in Farm Kitchen for earning a Beginner, Intermediate, and Expert Level Icing on the Cake Merit Badge!

“I have taken all of Wilton’s cake decorating classes in order to earn the Beginner badge. I loved the classes so much. I also taught Wilton Method classes for two years.

I made this cake for my daughter’s going-away party (boot camp) using different techniques I learned with icing/fondant.


I think it turned out well. I always know I have lots of room for improvement and I continue to learn, but I was pleased. A few people wondered why I had boots on the table with the duffle bag cake!

I was contacted by a company (Icing Smiles, Inc)… to bake a cake for a little boy named Hudson. About the company:

Icing Smiles Inc.

We are Baking a Difference.

Icing Smiles is a nonprofit organization that provides custom celebration cakes and other treats to families impacted by the critical illness of a child. We understand that the simple things, like a birthday cake, are luxuries to a family battling illness. Our goal is to create a custom cake for the ill child, or their sibling, that provides a temporary escape from worry and creates a positive memory during a difficult time.

Memories have magical powers. Long after the cake is gone, the memories linger – memories of the kindness of a stranger, of the art of the design, of the sweet smells of a special treat, of the smiles and laughs, of a normal childhood experience so often stolen from these children. These memories are why we say, “It is so much more than a cake.”

With that being said, I was asked to donate a cake for Hudson, and I was very blessed to be a part of this! (I continue to be involved with them.)


Hudson’s mom sent me a video and pictures of Hudson seeing his cake … and in the video he said, “Thank you, it’s the best cake ever!” So as long as Hudson was happy, I believe it turned out great!”