Young Cultivator Merit Badge: All Buttoned Up, Intermediate 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—10,782 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 Stitching and Crafting/All Buttoned Up Intermediate Level Young Cultivator Merit Badge, Nora and I picked up right where we left off.

Hands deep in the cookie tin.

No, not that cookie tin. The one with all the buttons in it.

Now that she had her very own collection of super-adorbs buttons, it was time to learn their function (besides the functions Nora had come up with on her own: sorting and piling, gluing to things, and flipping across the room like miniature flying saucers).

Sewing them on fabric.

Now I’m not saying that I took this opportunity to teach this skill at this particular time just because I was in need of a button on my favorite apron … I prefer to call it perfect timing. A complete coincidence. And it wasn’t my fault I couldn’t replace my missing button myself: Nora had pilfered my own collection to bolster hers. I didn’t have a spare button to my name.

So, I got out a needle and thread and proceeded to teach the fine art of button attaching to my little protégé.

There was much wailing and poking and pricking and screeching and losing of the needle and losing of the button and losing of patience and demands for a tea and scone break. Such shenanigans. It was embarrassing really.

“Seriously, Aunty,” said Nora, with a roll of her baby blues, “Are you about done with the dramatic show and shenanigans? I’m ready to learn this if you’re ready to focus.”

“Yes, er, sorry.” I sucked on my sore finger and wondered where I’d stashed my thimble. “I’m better now. All focused. Pass me that apron, would you?”

Next to pockets, buttons are incredibly important to functional style. Plus, buttons can say a lot about you! Square, round, pliable, stiff, shiny, dull, colorful, sparkly, you name it, you can find it in a button. My apron was a cheery blue/green pattern, so I chose a button in a shade of bright green for a nice contrast.

I suppose you could say the purple thread I used to sew it on was also for contrast, but mostly it was because I couldn’t find any green. Or blue.

I really need to organize my thread collection.

Is there a badge for that?

But back to the buttons. I worked on my apron, while snuggled up next to Nora, who was sewing her own yellow button on a scrap of fabric for practice before she attached one to a real item of clothing.

Turns out I was also snuggled up to the missing needle in the couch cushions.

Son of a tailor! My bottom was nearly Swiss cheese by the time I found that sucker. In the meantime, Nora had finished her button and was kindly finishing up mine. She really got the hang of it quickly, partly due to my What Not To Do demonstration.

The things I do for these kids. Turning myself into a sieve and whatnot.

Ah well. I can wear my favorite apron once again, Nora earned a new badge, and we finished off the afternoon with some tea and scones. It was a successful day, indeed.

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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 … Joyce Hein!

Joyce Hein (GinghamGirl, #6071) has received a certificate of achievement in Farm Kitchen for earning a Beginner Level BakeOver MakeOver Merit Badge!

“I utilized the recipes found in MaryJane’s Ideabook to cook up some delicious bakeovers. We used what we had in our garden. I hosted the family, and we explored a variety of ways to make the bakeovers, from veggies to dessert!

Everyone loved them, particularly me, as they’re so quick and easy to make.”

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Emergency Preparedness Merit Badge, Beginner 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—10,782 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/Emergency Preparedness Beginner Level Merit Badge, I had to steal myself and dig down deep for the bravery and courage I knew I had in there somewhere. It was usually located beneath the hummus and turkey wrap, below the spleen, and next to the slice of blueberry pie, somewhere deep in my guts. Don’t be jelly at my knowledge of anatomy; we all have our gifts. One of mine is an intrinsic awareness of the inner workings of my body. The other one is a penchant for blueberry pie.

Anyway, the reason I needed to find my bravado was because I had always been a little bit frightened of natural disasters. Okay, more than a little bit frightened. I still crawl under my bed when there’s a thunder and lightning storm (and the cats don’t like to share that space either; it’s dog eat dog eat dust bunny under there, let me tell you). I freak out when the power goes out. I refuse to live anywhere where there is the slightest chance of a hurricane, a tornado, a tsunami, an earthquake, a shark attack, or a meteor shower. I know, I know, I tried applying for a NASA trip, since outer space is the only place you won’t find those, but have you ever given serious thought to black holes and alien abductions?

Seriously. My mind, when left unattended for too long, is a browser history of What Could Possibly Go Wrong, with all the tabs left open. I wouldn’t say I’m a chicken, per se, but my childhood nickname was Henny Penny.

“The sky is falling, the sky is falling!”

I hate it when the sky does that.

I’ve tried to be better at dispelling the doom and gloom my fancies dream up, but it’s hard. Bear attacks, flash floods, lightning strikes! Dust bowls, plagues of locusts, ice storms! Lions, and tigers, and bears, OH MY!

So you can only imagine how long I’ve been putting off this particular badge, Madge. Just looking at the title alone gave me the heeby-jeebies. Then I read the actual requirements for the Beginner Level and my heart rate went back down to a normal rate (for Henny Penny, anyway).

  • Determine the types of emergencies that you and your family are most likely to face. Be sure to look at emergencies that only affect you, as well as emergencies that can affect your local community.
  • Make a plan with your family on how to respond to likely emergencies such as fire, flood, earthquakes, and severe weather.

Well, whew! A sense of relief flooded my body. Flooded? Bad choice of words, Jane. I was soothed, let’s put it that way. I didn’t need to focus on ALL the natural disasters and emergencies that could possibly arise (plagues, heat wave, zombie apocalypses), just the ones that might affect me. That narrowed my extremely extensive list down to a more bearable number. Wait, bears? Ack, there I go again.

Steeling my nerves with a strong shot of organic espresso and a chunk of chocolate lava cake (lava?!) I made a list.

  • Wildfires. They happen. And where I live? They happen much too frequently for this farmgirl to be able to relax in the summer. My plan? Dowsing my campfires completely, keeping the underbrush around my perimeter mowed, knowing the channels and apps for wildfire updates and storing them in my phone and in my car radio, and having an evacuation plan set up ahead of time.
  • Earthquakes. No, we haven’t had one in my neck of the woods in decades, but you never know when the sneaky little earth will decide to quake a bit. Which makes me quake a bit. Plan: know where to go immediately if Gramma Barbie’s china collection starts falling off the shelf.
  • Power outages. Okay, some of you find them fun, what with your super-nifty flashlights, scented candles, and night-vision goggles. Plan: get me some super-nifty flashlights, scented candles, and night-vision goggles.

Surprisingly, by the end of this Beginner Level badge, I was feeling mighty proud of myself and I hadn’t even thought of sharks for like, 15 minutes, which was some kind of record. I decided to bite the bullet (ack, bullets?!) and move straight along to the Intermediate Level badge …

Right after I checked to make sure the sky was still properly located and not falling.

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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 … Ginger Dawn Harman!

Ginger Dawn Harman (Ginger Dawn, #6451) has received a certificate of achievement in Outpost for earning a Beginner Level Pampered Pets Merit Badge!

“I have made a new commitment to our pets Oreo and Gelato! I have a veterinarian in my area that practices holistic and natural veterinary care but also uses other practices.

I checked out the labels and ingredients of your pet foods. It was very bad. So I am in the process of changing foods.

I love all the pets in my house … well maybe not the Madagascar Hissing Roaches that my son has. Nevertheless, I want to make sure that I am doing the best for each animal. Our one cat has a bit of a weight problem. We have noticed that in his older age, he is not able to clean himself very well. So I made an appointment at our local vet and this also provided me a great opportunity to learn what treatments are better and which food to use.

First, the food that I was using was very bad. It was filled with terrible stuff. I don’t want to cause a negative impression, so I will not list the name, but it is cheap and can be bought at any local market. The vet said it is not good to switch food all at once, so my cats are getting a mix until next week. We now are using a Natural Balance Reduced Calorie Dry Cat Food (15-pound bag).

Oh, and I learned that essential oils are great for pets, too. Just like for us, lavender is great for calming. Now this is important to know! Most animals are more sensitive than humans to essential oils. Start by diluting heavily and use in moderation. Every animal is different, so carefully observe how each animal responds to the oils. Use common sense and good judgment as you try different methods. Take special care to not get essential oils in an animal’s eyes. Avoid using high-phenol oils such as oregano and thyme with any animals, especially cats. Use special caution when using essential oils with cats. Cats are also generally averse to citrus essential oils.

Also, there are other holistic methods that can be used, such as acupuncture, massage, and chiropractic treatments. My vet showed me a few calming massage rubs for Oreo, and he was happy and relaxed and this is on his diet food. Personally, I get crabby when I am hungry. As I said, I love my pets and they deserve the same quality of care as we humans do!”

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Young Cultivator Merit Badge: Farmyard to Kitchen, 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—10,782 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 Farmyard to Kitchen Young Cultivator Expert Level Merit Badge, Andy, Nora, Piper, and Yours Truly were ready for action. We had earned our Beginner and Intermediate Level badges (and no one was harmed in the making of those badges, fowl or bovine or small children or Aunty), and we were ready to progress.

First things were first: raising baby chicks or learning to milk a cow?

Since Buttercup the Cow Princess was looking rather askance at us (talk about mooooooo-dy), we decided on chicks. Or, Baby Balls of Fluffy Cuteness, as Piper described them with stars in her eyes.

“Yes, they’re adorable right now, but let’s remember: when they are no longer shiny and new, you don’t get to drop them off at Aunty’s house, okiedokie?” I reminded them. I had heard tell of a childhood phenomenon: adopting delightful pet babies and then losing interest in them posthaste, leaving the chores to be done by their mothers.

Just another reason why I was never a kid. Fresh out of the box as a grown woman, that’s me.

But I digress.

“We’d never stop loving our Cotton Balls of Puffy Fluffy Loviekins!” Piper was insulted.

“I’m naming mine Ryan Gosling,” said Nora, who was really into movie stars lately. “Get it? Gosling? Ha!”

“Goslings are baby ducks, dummy,” said Andy.

“Nuh uh, they’re baby geese, dork-head,” she fired back.

“No arguments!” I broke in. “Arguing in front of hens makes bad layers. It’s science.”

We got our little chickies home that evening and set up their cozy new house: a large Rubbermaid container with straw and a heat lamp, food, and water. And Piper’s additions: half a Barbie’s Dream House, a few stuffed animals, some baby blankets, and a medley of soft rock playing in the background.

After I armed them with an stack of library books on how to raise happy chickens, a list of Things Not To Do (in my days as Aunty, I’ve learned those are much more applicable to their mischievous little minds than lists of Things To Do), and my number written on the fridge in case of Chicken Emergencies, I went home for a little nap.

The next day, after checking in on Ryan Gosling, Mrs. David Bock-Bock-Beckham, and Lady Clucks-A-Lot, we finished up our badge earning with a little butter making.

“I don’t really like butter,” Andy said.

I had a small stroke and had to be revived by the local paramedics. Afterwards, while recovering with a nice bread and butter sammie and a cup of tea, I decided to get to the bottom of Andy’s sacrilegious comment.

“What did you mean you don’t like butter?” I croaked, still weak. I dunked my sammie in my tea for extra nourishment.

“Well, I don’t know, Aunty,” he said. “I just don’t think it tastes all that great. Kinda oily and greasy, if you ask me.”

“I did not ask you, whippersnapper!”

“Yeah, you did.”

“Oh yes. Right. Fetch me this so-called butter, youngster. Chop, chop.”

He complied, rolling his eyes all the way (I nearly threw my sammie at the back of his head, but I’d finished it). He returned with …


I can hardly say it. Here you try and try with these kids, you nurture, you give and give, blood, sweat, tears … wasted.

It was a crock.

A plastic crock.

A plastic crock of butter impostors.

Fake butter product.

Processed, pasturized, yellow-food-coloring laden, oil.

The rest of the Expert Level earning will have to wait. Tell the paramedics to get back here.

Fading. Fading.

Going towards the light.

Goodbye, cruel world.

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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 … Jennifer Ettlin!

Jennifer Ettlin (MsKathleen, #7128) has received a certificate of achievement in Cleaning Up for earning an Expert Level Home Insulation Merit Badge!

“We got lucky on this area because we managed to get the attic insulated in mid-to-late June before the summer heat kicked in and before all of the weird natural disasters have been hitting our area. We were severely under-insulated when we had our energy audit, down to an R value of 8 in some areas. None of the attic was insulated to the same level either. So, following an insulation ruler and adding some blown cellulose insulation, we were able to bring it up to an R17 value evenly throughout the attic. It looks like it snowed in our attic.

Our walls have proven to be an interesting addition of insulation, as we are in a Berm- or Earth-contact house. It’s underground like a Hobbit hole, so insulating walls is a bit different than insulating above ground. We still get air drafts and things from the windows and skylights, but with insulation, our big problem is underground humidity. It molds extremely fast in the walls, especially if it’s a higher R value. Luckily, we were able to check the insulation to find we have stiff back-board insulation with mold-resistant barriers built in (it’s a pink sheet of solid fiberglass insulation with two layers of moisture barrier glued to the back and one on the front). This is exceptional for a house that is underground since it means all of our escaping air was going out of the attic … Which now has more insulation. And we were notified today that the power company got our rebate application.

We’re toasty and our energy bill has dropped in half this summer! I’m fairly happy. Our rebate is still under review with the power company, but they have acknowledged that they have it. They’re just having difficulty processing it with all the unusual weather going on in the Kansas/Missouri area (we had the largest flood in our area in the last 40 years just last Thursday), so they said it will be back probably around the end of the month. Three tornado incidents, a flood, and a power outage that knocked out the power for 14,000 people during a super-hot summer have kept them busy.”

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Young Cultivator Merit Badge: All Dried Up, Intermediate 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—10,782 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 Farm Kitchen/All Dried Up Intermediate Level Young Cultivator Merit Badge, Nora and I put our newfound skill and love of herbs to the test. Or more like, to the taste.

First, we scoured the ‘hood with our handy-dandy kitchen shears, eyeing and spying any fresh herbs we may have missed. Of course, we asked for permission before we picked any. After a lovely walk, we had in our possession:

  • Mint
  • Parsley
  • Basil
  • Mexican oregano
  • Dill
  • Cilantro
  • Lavender
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Chives

photo by Silar via Wikimedia Commons

We washed them carefully and blotted them dry. Then we lined them up and admired them for a bit. Then we got down to business …

We learned that fresh basil or mint—really! Either one!—pair wonderfully with watermelon, especially if you add in some feta cheese and a swirl of balsamic vinegar.

photo by Steve Evans via Wikimedia Commons

We put together a dipping oil for French bread that consisted of olive oil, balsamic, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, garlic, and chopped rosemary. We could have eaten that for days. And we did.

We made a mild salsa with one onion, three tomatoes, a jalapeno that had been seeded, the juice of one lime, salt, and a nice handful of cilantro. We whirled it up in the food processor. Just add tortilla chips and a hungry tummy!

We sprinkled the fresh parsley on the chicken noodle soup Nora’s mom was making for dinner, and slipped some large basil leaves in between slices of mozzarella cheese and tomatoes.

Nora was becoming quite the expert in all things herby, and I was having fun, too. I always thought I didn’t care for sage, for example, but it turns out I just didn’t like the bitterness of the dried variety. Fresh is super delish! I can hardly wait for Thanksgiving turkey now.

We made plans for our chives—they will be sacrificed to the baked-‘tater gods soon. And the dill … well, I had cukes just waiting to be pickled! As far as the lavender went, we decided to try something with chocolate … Lavender truffles? Why, yes please.

Later that week, Mr. Wonderful was grillin’ up a storm (actually, it was T-bone steaks, but you know what I mean) and I sneakily dabbed a copious amount of rosemary butter on top to melt when he wasn’t looking. Nora and I were becoming Herb Ninjas. Spice Vigilantes. We were out to flavor everything edible …

Today, our ‘hood, tomorrow the world …

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