Author Archives: maryjane

Hear ye!

Below are recently approved Merit Badges. Congratulations Sisters!

Jacque Felsheim, #8294, Mamasheim

Beginner Cleaning Up / Shopping Green

Beginner Farm Kitchen / Get It Together

Beginner Garden Gate / The Good, Bad, and Ugly … Bugs

Intermediate Garden Gate / The Good, Bad, and Ugly … Bugs

Beginner Stitching & Crafting / Sew Wonderful

Beginner Stitching & Crafting / Aprons

Beginner Garden Gate / Backyard Farmer

Beginner Each Other / Farmgirl Gratitude

Beginner Stitching & Crafting / Buttoned Up

Patricia Krug, #8551, patty

Beginner Garden Gate / The Secret Life of Bees

Intermediate Garden Gate / The Secret Life of Bees

Shennandoah Connor, #8578, shennandoah

Expert Garden Gate / Birds

Expert Garden Gate / Bee Good To Your Mother Earth

Intermediate Garden Gate / The Good, Bad, and Ugly … Bugs

Intermediate Garden Gate / Heirlooms Forever!

Intermediate Garden Gate / The Secret Life of Bees

Expert Garden Gate / Water Management

Beginner Garden Gate / Putting Away for Winter

Beginner Farm Kitchen / Recipes

Expert Garden Gate / The Good, Bad, and Ugly … Bugs

Intermediate Make It Easy / Grease Chicks

Beginner Each Other / Differing Abilities

Beginner Farm Kitchen / Know Your Food

Beginner Farm Kitchen / Bread Making

Beginner Farm Kitchen / Canning

Beginner Farm Kitchen / Food Allergy Awareness

Beginner Cleaning Up / Green Energy

Stacey Mitchell, #6969

Intermediate Stitching & Crafting / Aprons

Tina VanDaam, #8431, TinaTina

Intermediate Outpost / First Aid

Expert Garden Gate / The Secret Life of Bees

Hear Ye!

Here are Merit Badges that were recently approved.

Congratulations Sisters!

Merit Badges Approved 6/3/24 and 6/6/24

Maverin Dei, #8653, MaverinDei

Beginner Each Other / Lost Art of Letter Writing

Jennifer Chapman, #8562, JenniferAnn

Beginner Garden Gate / What’s Your Beef?

Candy Hogan, #8283, Tigger9777

Beginner Outpost / Disconnect to Reconnect

Intermediate Outpost / Disconnect to Reconnect

Linda Bowlby, #7595

Beginner Outpost / First Aid

Intermediate Outpost / First Aid

Hear Ye!

Here are Merit Badges that were recently approved.

Congratulations Sisters!

Merit Badges Approved 5/28/24 and 5/29/24

Cindy Kinion, #6058, AussieChick

Intermediate Make It Easy / Candlemaking

Expert Farm Kitchen / Food Allergy Awareness

Heather Neeper, #4701, nndairy

Expert Cleaning Up / Shopping Green

Beginner Farm Kitchen / Bustin’ Out

Beginner Outpost / Orienteering

Beginner Outpost / Buzzin’ Around

Intermediate Outpost / Buzzin’ Around

Expert Outpost / Buzzin’ Around

Expert Cleaning Up / Recycling

Tiffany Bowman, #8644, HistoryGirl17

Beginner Make It Easy / Relaxation

Beginner Each Other / Lost Art of Letter Writing

Lily-anne Hein, #6071, GinghamGirl

Beginner Farm Kitchen / Palate Pleasers

Intermediate Farm Kitchen / Palate Pleasers

Jessie Yonkovit, #134, JessieMae

Beginner Cleaning Up / Green Energy

Hear Ye!

Here are Merit Badges that were recently approved.

Congratulations Sisters!

Merit Badges Approved 4/24/24 and 5/1/24

Jill Yelland-DeMooy, #6748, jillyd

Beginner Garden Gate / Birds

Kellie Wade, #8487, kelliewade

Beginner Make It Easy / Let’s Get Physical

Intermediate Make It Easy / Let’s Get Physical

Beginner Outpost / Buzzin’ Around

Intermediate Outpost / Buzzin’ Around

Merit Badges Approved 5/7/24

Krista Davis, #528, MaryJanesNiece

Intermediate Each Other / Lost Art of Letter Writing

Expert Each Other / Lost Art of Letter Writing

Beginner Stitching & Crafting / Mosaics

Beginner Make It Easy / Macrame

Hannah Frankowski, #6994, GinnyBelle

Beginner Make It Easy / Mindfulness Meditation

Intermediate Make It Easy / Mindfulness Meditation

Expert Make It Easy / Mindfulness Meditation

Beginner Cleaning Up / Leave It Better Than You Found It

Expert Each Other / Lost Art of Letter Writing

Expert Make It Easy / Relaxation

Debbie Klann, #770, debbieklann

Beginner Farm Kitchen / Kitchen Renegade

Intermediate Farm Kitchen / Kitchen Renegade

Expert Farm Kitchen / Kitchen Renegade

Beginner Farm Kitchen / MaryJane’s Better Butter

Intermediate Farm Kitchen / MaryJane’s Better Butter

Expert Farm Kitchen / MaryJane’s Better Butter

Book Talk

A second sampling of snail-mail Book Talk letters I’ve received with my replies and the books they recommend for us to read.

Dear MaryJane, I love your magazines! Just wanted to let you know I have read four of Kathleen Shoop’s books as advertised in your magazine and greatly enjoyed them. Oh wait, now I remember, I think I have actually read eight of them 😊 The library here in Florida doesn’t have all of them. I’m anxiously waiting and hoping they will soon. Blessings to you! A wife and mom,  Rachel Byler

Dear Rachel, Thank you for sharing with me that you have read eight of Kathleen Shoop’s books. That’s quite a few! I am delighted to hear this. I, too, love to read because it’s so incredibly calming, and it transports us to other worlds and lives. I hope your Florida library will add to its collection and you will have opportunities to read more of her books. I am so very happy to hear that you love my magazine. With love and admiration, MaryJane

Dear MaryJane, I was so happy to see the section on donating books to various groups! That is awesome. Since I have no computer to submit on-line, I am using the “old-fashioned” method. Thank you for that option. One of my favorite books, and author, is Country Chronicle, by Gladys Tabor. She writes about Stillmeadow in a Connecticut farmhouse, and all the seasons of the year while living there. It is a calming, peaceful book to read, as Gladys captured her home, land, and wildlife living there. She has a way of telling just how things are. You can almost smell the iris and picture the landscape there at Stillmeadow. I get her book every year or so from our local library, to enjoy her “story telling” of her adventures there. Hope you might get time to look it up, and perhaps be able to read her book. I really think you would like it, and her writing. There are even recipes in the book, and she also wrote cookbooks! Thank you again, Sandy Riley

Dear Sandy, you have certainly caught my attention with your description of Stillmeadow by Gladys Tabor. I love wildlife living and my irises are getting ready to bloom on my property along Iris Lane! I’m looking out the window at my prairie as I write this and think I need to curl up with a cup of tea and a copy of Country Chronicle. An apple pie baking in the oven would also sound great. Thank you for sharing and when I have some spare time I’ll try to read it. With love and admiration, MaryJane

Dear MaryJane, I have read the February-March issue of MaryJanes Farm and particularly enjoyed the article on books. I love books and love to read and have many of the selections listed in the Farmgirl Book Club. I must tell you that my library does not always purchase many of the books you list but I have managed to read several. These are books I have read during the winter here in northern Arizona (February 2024): Where the Jessamine Grows by Donna Everhart. This was well-written and researched and covered a tense period in our nation’s history. There was excellent character development, as well as a captivating story line that held my attention. It doesn’t matter where a war is fought, or for what reason, it leaves long-lasting scars and doesn’t necessarily address or solve the issues over which it was fought. Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garamus. This was set in my era of high school of the 1950s and I could totally relate to the story line. I really enjoy mysteries and Survive the Night by Riley Sager fit the bill. Another of his titles, The House Across the Lake was even better. Super Cats by Ashley Morgan is all about cats and not just about their antics but also about their ability to be protectors – a good book. A Brilliant Life by Rachelle Unreich. She writes a hard to believe memoir regarding her mother’s survival of the Holocaust and death camps. Keep up the good work – I always find something new that I can use in each issue. Maybe one of these days I will make it to your farm. Sincerely, Therese Gribbins P.S. I am not on Facebook – but I do text and have an email account.

Dear Therese, I am delighted that you are sharing with me your love of books! I am also delighted to learn that you have read many of the selections listed in the Farmgirl Book Club! Thank you for sharing that you always find something new in each issue of the magazine. I love to provide new information, so this warms my heart.The daffodils are blooming on the farm. You should see them; they are abundant and lovely. Soon, the irises will be in bloom, and I can’t wait. With love and admiration, MaryJane

Joy and Smiles

In the June/July 2024 issue of MaryJanesFarm, “Donut Beat All” (on newsstands May 14), I sang the praises of lifetime flowers and led you here to my journal for a chance to win your very own MaryJane-created fake-flower bouquet. Just take a look at the photos of the flower bouquets below and guess “real” or “fake” for each one before September 1, 2024. I’ll toss the names of those who guess all eight correctly in a hat and pull out a winner, who will receive one of my year-round, lifetime flower-power bouquets. Flowers can be fake, but the joy and smiles they bring are real. 









Hear Ye!

Here are Merit Badges that were recently approved.

Congratulations Sisters!

Nancy Joplin, #8352, Nancy Joplin

Intermediate Stitching & Crafting / Crochet

Beginner Stitching & Crafting / Homespun Christmas

Denise Thompson, #43, levisgrammy

Beginner Stitching & Crafting / Cross Stitch

Intermediate Stitching & Crafting / Cross-Stitch

Beginner Cleaning Up / My Fair Farmgirl

Intermediate Cleaning Up / My Fair Farmgirl

Expert Cleaning Up / My Fair Farmgirl

Patricia Krug, #8551, patty

Beginner Outpost / Geography

Beginner Cleaning Up / Shopping Green

Intermediate Make It Easy / Relaxation

Debbie Klann, #770, debbieklann

Beginner Each Other / International Civics Challenge

Intermediate Each Other / Languages/Culture

Expert Each Other / Languages/Culture

Intermediate Each Other / International Civics Challenge

Expert Each Other / International Civics Challenge

Nancy Joplin, #8352, Nancy Joplin

Beginner Make It Easy / Collect It!

Beginner Make It Easy / Carp-hen-try

Tiffany Bowman, #8644, Historygirl17

Beginner Stitching & Crafting / Crochet

Shennandoah Connor, #8578, Shennandoah

Expert Farm Kitchen / Get It Together

Expert Garden Gate / Herbs

Beginner Garden Gate / The Good, Bad, and Ugly … Bugs

Tina VanDaam, #8431, TinaTina

Intermediate Each Other / Calligraphy


Anyone else like to make up words? Anyone else find a book to be their best excuse for procrastinating?

Book Talk

A sampling of snail-mail Book Talk letters I’ve received with my replies and the books they recommend for us to read.

Hello MaryJane. The book I have just read is Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. The reason I liked this book was because it explained that it is important that we treat the Earth with honor and we need to protect nature. Plants can be our teachers. The author has made this book so interesting, it was sad when the book ended. Robin Wall Kimmerer is a professor of Botany and a member of the Potawatomi nation. Highly recommend! -Vicki Dieter, Wisconsin

Dearest Vicki, Thank you for your book recommendation, Braiding Sweetgrass. I’ve posted it on my journal for others to enjoy. I read Braiding Sweetgrass a couple of years ago. I liked it so much that I also listened to the audible version when driving to town. It was an important book for me because I manage a 115-acre native plant prairie and wildlife preserve. Her words are with me daily as I consider my challenges and make decisions. With love and admiration, MaryJane

Hello! MaryJane! I just decided to subscribe to your magazine. I’ve seen it on display at the grocery store for years. I thought maybe it was a “hokey” text when I bought it, but it only took a quick scan before I decided to also give it as a surprise subscription to a lady I’ve known since the ’70s, as a thank you to her. She’s an avid horsewoman in her ways (as is her husband she married 40+ years ago as an older individual). It’s not often you find something so unique. I’m looking forward to my new publication! I recently decided to try, at 75 years of age, to grow something I’ve always loved – TOMATOES! Not just any tomato though. I am looking for seeds that grow at the foot of Mt. Vesuvius in Italy – PIENNOL. I haven’t yet found them, but I will. They are PULPY, and that’s what intrigued me to read your magazine (“Coat from the Storm,” MaryJanesFarm Feb/Mar 2024). I started perusing your letter about WORDS! And saw your gracious comments about if one reads this or that, you’ll donate a free book! I’m SOLD! I’ve been letting all my magazine subscriptions expire because I’m moving to try to grow – TOMATOES and LAVENDER – but not for 2 years. It looks like your “print” is a flashback to when I started to read in 1951 as a 3-year-old. I still love Little Women by Louisa May Alcott as my favorite book and the movie – the original one with June Allyson and Peter Lawford. Something about how you lay out your stories, the whole magazine, gave me a ‘warmth’ in my heart. And when I saw the picture of the 100-year-old ‘mom’ sent by Debbie through email, I knew why she was so engrossed with it! You’ve hit a GOLD MINE, not for money though you’ll undoubtedly always be in PRINT, but you’ve found a way to CAPTURE that unique USA hopefulness we felt as citizens in the 50s right after WWII.  I thank you and think all those other previous editions I’d seen on the magazine rack made me a bit sad in my tummy that I hadn’t read them. But you’ve got a lifer NOW! Thank you, for keeping the feeling of life learned, earned, and lived – at least for me. And I was touched by your story on WORDS. In 7th grade Latin, an obnoxious teacher (at least to me, a 7th grader) freed me to be in a Latin Fair in the Spring of 1961. I would have preferred to do the Science Fair on weather. Anyway, what a wise lady she was. She came to me after class, when I had received a superior medal from the fair, and she smiled widely. I wasn’t her pet; the 2 boys were – both named JOHN (but one spelled his name JON) and they both were so handsome and smart. We used to talk before and after class. I had moved from Michigan at age 11 to Utah and didn’t know anyone. In 1960-1961, these two boys liked that I was smart and were congratulating me on the superior medal I had won, when the teacher came up to the three of us and said WORDS have ROOTS that basically come from ancient Greek and Roman Latin. She told us we would be very successful in life. We were just 7th graders and wondered why she had picked us out. She told us that words, knowing what they mean, where they come from, and how to use them correctly in our written homework, and in life, would allow us to OWN the WORLD! I, and the two boys (JOHN/JON) were only able to nod. We were just 3 little kids who were barely able to pay for lunch in 1960. There wasn’t a system then to make sure children could eat. No lie, she said OWN the WORLD! It meant nothing to any of us at that time. Your article about words brought back how much I’d ‘fallen in love’ with education. Both boys left school after the 7thgrade, and I don’t know where they moved to, but they were gone the following year. I’ve always wondered where they went because strangely, even being a new child in the West, the kids I went to school with in junior high, high school, and college, meant something to me. I still love those students, even the ones I didn’t get to know. Strange how something you read, put out as a publication by a stranger, can help you close a gap. Well, again, I still need to read your publications and they are something I will look forward to for many years to come. You truly touched not just a nerve, but my heart! So, happy day to you and your staff!  I’ll read one of the books from the Salvation Army and let you know what I think of it. I’m so glad you’re in Moscow, Idaho! So Close! I do not own a computer or cell phone – I’m OLD school – but I will eventually – maybe later when I am OLD. HAH! Thank you! -Pat Gormley, Utah

Dearest Pat, Thank you so much for taking the time to write. I am so happy that you decided to thumb through my magazine at the grocery store and you will now be a MaryJanesFarm “LIFER!”  Thank you for sharing your stories of 7th grade; your teacher, the Latin Fair, and the two handsome young John/Jon classmates. I agree with your teacher that words allow us to OWN the WORLD! I can tell you have a huge heart, and your stories have certainly warmed “my” heart. With love and admiration, MaryJane

Dear MaryJane, Hello from the NC Coast! I absolutely love your magazine!! Our Book Club (called WWF-not wrestling, but Wine, Women & Fiction) recently read Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson. It’s an excellent book about family secrets, the strength of women, and love. Siblings Byron and Benny experience their mother’s wild journey from childhood through her death due to a puzzling inheritance. The picture on this notecard is an actual Black Cake made by Cathy (book club member who hosted the meeting and led our discussion). It was delicious!! This traditional Caribbean family recipe reminded me of my family traditions – all those good PA Dutch foods I grew up with in PA. I think you will enjoy the book – make sure you have some cake!! Our book club has been together for 24 years. It’s an amazing group of women – actually we are more like a circle of sisters. We meet monthly (even met during COVID – setting up an outdoor circle with our chairs 6 feet apart! 😊) We’ve read so many good books over the past 24 years. I enjoyed your article on reading the book Breath. I love every page of your magazine. Hugs & Blessings, Karen Cartlidge, North Carolina

Thank you for your book recommendation, Black Cake. It sounds like a wonderful book! I am impressed to learn that your book club (Wine, Women & Fiction) has been going strong for 24 years – even during COVID! That’s quite an accomplishment. Isn’t it wonderful to have a group of women who are like sisters to you? I enjoyed reading that Cathy made an actual Black Cake for your meeting and I appreciate that you sent me a photo of the cake. Thank you! With love and admiration, MaryJane

The Downtown Ducks

Reading this book will make your day. And if you give it as a gift, you’ll be doing the same for others, and then when your recipients call to tell you it made their day, you’ll get a made day all over again. It’s the applause kind of ripples-on-a-pond story (actually the Spokane River in Washington) that we can’t seem to get enough of. Thank you to the banker, who in real life rescued the paddling of ducklings, catching them one by one midair, and the onlookers who cheered him on. Thank you to the author, an attorney, who decided to rally his mother, age 79, and his daughter, age 12, to help him illustrate it. And if you’re a boomer like me, who raised a brood of children reading them the classic 1941 Make Way for Ducklings book about a pair of mallards who raised their brood in the Boston Public Garden and a police officer who stops traffic for them, you’ll probably still remember reading this out loud hundreds of times: Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Quark, Quack, and Pack. And you might even remember that the bronze statue of the ducks that was erected in the Boston Public Garden took on global ramifications when Barbara Bush gave a duplicate statue to Raisa Gorbechev as part of the START treaty. Now we’re talking world diplomacy, which is exactly where The Downtown Ducks is headed, because the event has already made front-page news in the UK and none other than the Whitehouse called to congratulate all involved for such a positive story. During the past few weeks, I’ve taken my morning tea in the company of a Mallard couple, this year’s residents on my pond. For me, they represent all that’s right in the world and rightly so. The Downtown Ducks does likewise; it encourages us to continue paddling against current strife and angst, underwater, just beneath the surface, as fast as we can. 

By Roberta Simonson

In May 2008, Spokane banker Joel Armstrong had been keeping tabs on a mother duck and her 10 eggs, nested on the concrete awning outside his second-floor downtown office window, for weeks.

One morning, Armstrong watched as the mother mallard flew down to the sidewalk and started quacking up at her day-old ducklings, at least 10 feet above. The first fuzzy bird waddled to the ledge’s edge and leapt.

Normally, Armstrong said, he doesn’t interfere with nature.

“But then I saw one hit (the concrete) and bounce … my heart just opened and I had to go out and help.”

Armstrong ran outside, stood under the awning and caught the ducklings one by one before setting them on the sidewalk with their mother. Then he escorted the entire duck family – the first duckling was stunned but lived – to the Spokane River.

Nearly 16 years later, in 2024, another Spokane man, attorney Richard Repp, has preserved Armstrong’s 2008 heroics in a children’s book, “The Downtown Ducks.”

“I just always thought it was such a cute story, I just thought, well, that’s a perfect children’s story,” Repp said. “The building where it happened, the Cutter Tower, my office was in the US Bank building right next door … everyone was talking about it at the time.”

Indeed, after an email chronicling the event went viral, Armstrong’s actions, which he repeated when the mallard nested there for a few more years, received national and even foreign attention.

“A lot of people just were enthralled by the story,” Armstrong said. “It was during a tough time in the banking industry, and it was some really good, positive news just to make people happy.”

Repp referenced 2008 and 2009 Spokesman-Review stories about Spokane’s “duck guy” when creating “The Downtown Ducks.” In 2009, the ducklings hatched on the same day as the Lilac Parade.

“2009 was the year that the parade was involved; 2008 was the year that it first happened. I took some artistic license and I tried to just combine the two years into one story,” he said.

Though Repp wrote the book alone, he illustrated it with the help of his mother Mary, 79, and daughter Anya, 12.

“I wanted my mom to be involved as a sort of a legacy for my mom because my mom was an artist that really contributed to my interest in art and books,” he said.

Growing up, Repp wanted to be a cartoon artist.

As for his daughter, “she already enjoyed doing art and so this was kind of fun for us, to be sitting at the kitchen table together, doing it together,” Repp said. “She was one of the ones that kept sort of egging me on, like, ‘When are you gonna finish your book, Dad? When are you gonna finish your book? I want to see it.’ ”

Repp wrote and illustrated the book over several months starting in winter 2022. When he made some copies via Shutterfly and distributed them to friends and family in 2023, “they loved it.”

“A lot of people were surprised to have learned that I could even draw because I haven’t really used my drawing in years,” he said. “Initially this was just a gift for family, but it was so well received, and people embraced it and I was like, ‘OK, well, if people enjoy it, let’s share.’ ”

Repp reached out to Armstrong in the fall and told him about the book. Armstrong bought copies for himself and his family.

“I thought it was a great job just telling the story, but I loved his artwork because he did it himself,” Armstrong said. “He’s a great artist.”

In writing “The Downtown Ducks,” Repp hopes to ensure the survival of Spokane’s duck story.

“Over time people forget about news stories, but there are certain children’s books that last forever,” he said. “I read ‘Curious George’ to my children and Dr. Seuss to my children. It was the same books that I read when I was a child.

“For me, creating a children’s story was a way to preserve the story and to pass it on to my children. It’s just such a fun, heartwarming, happy, feel-good story. I think it’s important to preserve it.”

“The Downtown Ducks” can be purchased online at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Walmart or ThriftBooks.

Roberta Simonson’s reporting is part of the Teen Journalism Institute, funded by Bank of America with support from the Innovia Foundation.