Monthly Archives: January 2014



Mason Bees

Calling all beginning beekeepers!

The Raindrop Mason Bee House Kit is a simple starter hive that will have you buzzing for joy.

Just look at it—a lovely bit of apiarist architecture, is it not?


Photo courtesy of

This elegant raindrop-shaped pine hive is designed and carefully handcrafted by a team of Ixil carpenters (indigenous Mayan people) living near Nebaj, Guatemala. The hive holds about 100 tubes or reeds that are protected from rainfall and moisture accumulation.

What’s more, all profits are donated to the Agros International training center, which helps rural families in Latin America escape the cycle of generational poverty and participates in local Guatemalan reforestation efforts.

Buy your hive at, where you can also find advice, mason bees, and other supplies for launching your hive.

Here’s a nifty video packed with info about the raindrop hive:




Sweetheart and Charlie

Mother and child. Or rather … sweet and sweeter.

Meet Lord Charles (properly), Studmuffin Charlie (daily), and his mother Sweetheart (properly), Loverly and Sweetie Pie and Dream Girl (daily).

Don’t you love they way they posed for you? Not at all camera shy these two.





Limber Up Your Lips, Ladies!



Photo from “Facial Exercises 1: Discover a Lovelier You” via Woman Alive magazine, 1972


“In the early 20th century, a man named Sanford Bennett wrote rapturously about his face workouts in a book called Exercising in Bed,” explains Elizabeth Weingarten in Slate magazine. “Troubled by how quickly his face and body had aged, Bennett began exercising at age 50; after two decades, he was a regular Benjamin Button, known by some as ‘the man who grew young at 70.'”

Taking Sanford’s cue, an entrepreneurial gal by the name of Kathryn Murray published her System of Exercises for Facial Beauty in 1912, which was advertised far and wide as a veritable fountain of youth:



Now, before you dismiss these early facial fitness gurus as mere snake oil vendors, consider this:

“[T]he action of a muscle drawing in blood to itself [is] very important to the effect of my exercises for keeping youth and beauty in the face,” wrote English novelist Elinor Glyn in 1927. “The reason for this is fairly obvious, I think. The blood is the life, in it are contained all the gland secretions and nourishment of the body which are necessary for its upkeep and wellbeing. Therefore, if you draw blood to the flesh of any given part you nourish and renew it.”

It’s hard to argue. Much to the dismay of the multi-billion dollar cosmetic industry, Glyn’s wisdom makes darn good sense to this day.

Does facial exercising erase all signs of aging?

Don’t I wish.

Even so, contorting one’s cheeks is completely toxin-free, infinitely cheaper than cream and lotions, and …

it feels good. A real stress reliever.

Yup, I’ve done it for years after featuring the idea in my magazine eons ago, but you’ll find no photographs of me “drawing blood to my face.” Confession: I do it when I drive. Alone. On empty country roads.

So, give it a whirl, farmgirl—here’s a whole series to inspire you, from a 1966 record album called Facial Exercises and Massage Routines for Skin Beauty:


Photos courtesy of


Photos courtesy of


Just be sure to keep in mind the words of Lillian Russell, published in the Washington Herald in 1911:

“The use of facial massage and good cold cream or skin food will be found generally beneficial, but the most important factor in all beauty, as in health, is the mental attitude. If you would be beautiful, avoid all thoughts of evil, all unkindliness, all malice, all worry and dislike; learn a broad tolerance of sin and weakness and a general love for all mankind. Realize that no one can injure you but yourself. Take this mental attitude and try to maintain it at all times. You may not wholly succeed, but you will not wholly fail, and then, as day after day you make the same effort to live upon a higher plane, your face will relax and its contour soften.”




Cheese Making Merit Badge, Expert Level, Part II

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 5,602 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—7,898 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  

After my cheese was ready, I got Mr. Wonderful to heat up the ol’ smoker. This was what I gave him for a birthday present and he’s a bit … cantankerous and possessive about it.

To put it mildly.

I’m not allowed anywhere near it without his hovering and supervision.

Sheesh. Attempt to smoke salmon without reading the instruction manual one time, and you’re branded for life.

While he got things heated up and practiced giving me the stink eye, I went back to the kitchen to check on my mozzarella balls. While there, I mixed up a batch of Gouda to smoke (I didn’t want the mozzarella to get lonely). It seems weird, doesn’t it, that making your own cheese is less time consuming (not to mention less expensive) than getting in your car, driving to the supermarket, finding a place to park, locating the cheese aisle, getting in line, paying, remembering where you left the car, and driving all the way home again?

Well, when I put it that way, maybe it’s not so surprising.

Anyway, making my own cheese is practically second nature by now, so I thought I’d share my handy-dandy recipe for The Most Delicious Homemade Gouda That Will Ever Pass Through Your Happy Lips. From now on, we’ll just call it M.D.H.G.T.W.E.P.T.Y.H.L. (I’m all about efficiency. You know.)

In order to start making your own homemade Gouda cheese, you have to begin by making mesophilic starter culture. Now, the one and only ingredient for mesophilic starter culture is buttermilk. Yep, it isn’t just for ranch dressing any more or Sunday biscuits.

Pour 2 cups of cultured (this is important−read the label!) buttermilk and let it sit for 6–8 hours at room temperature, until it has reached a yogurt-like form. Once it reaches this consistency, you put it into an ice-cube tray and freeze it. That’s it!

There are only two more ingredients needed to make Gouda cheese: rennet tablets and milk.

Warm 1 gallon of milk to 85°F, then add 4 ounces of mesophilic starter culture (about 4 ice cubes). Next, dissolve 1/4 of a rennet tablet into cold water. Hot water will destroy the rennet enzymes. After that, pour the rennet into the milk and stir for about 5 minutes. Let it sit for 1–2 hours. Use this time to convince Mr. Wonderful to lift the restraining order between you and the smoker.

When the milk reaches a firm curd, cut the curd into 1/2-inch squares. Set it in the oven at 102°F. Once the curd reaches 102°F, carefully remove 3 cups of whey from the top surface. Replace with 3 cups of water. Reheat to 102°F and repeat the process 3 times.

Drain the cheese onto paper towels or cheesecloth, then press the cheese with 45 pounds of weight for 3-1/2 hours. You can use bricks wrapped in aluminum foil. Or overdue library books. Just kidding! Pat dry the cheese, then stick it in the refrigerator and let it age for up to 25 days. Use this time to snack on your smoked mozzarella.

Don’t forget to flip the cheese about every 3 days. Voila! Smoke away …



Charlie Chasin’ Chickens

Our latest addition, Charlie, loves to chase our chickens. (I think they secretly like it.) I might add, I’ve never had such a playful calf. He’s constantly on the go.

First he stalks them, moving only inches at a time—the two girls are just walking along, visiting about the latest American Idol winner—when …


Pounce! (Auntie Etta Jane stands by, shaking her head, “Kids.”)


“It’s him again!”


“Run for your life.”


Meanwhile, auntie watches patiently.