Let There Be Light

Let there be light!

Ever since early humans stumbled onto the miraculous power of fire to hold the night at bay, we’ve been hooked.


Photo by ltfhenry via Wikimedia Commons

Candles …


Photo by Bangin via Wikimedia Commons

Streetlights …


Photo by Tony Hisgett via Wikimedia Commons

Tiffany table lamps …


Photo by Piotrus via Wikimedia Commons

Fiberoptics …


Photo by Oliver Deisenroth via Wikimedia Commons


No, it’s not an optical illusion—you are seeing a glowing orange!

This is the work of Caleb Charland, whose artistic creations play upon a marvelous middle school science fair concept: the potato battery.

Or, in the case of the photo below, an entire potato field battery …


Potato Power, LaJoie Growers LLC, Van Buren, Maine 2012 by Caleb Charland

“By inserting a galvanized nail into one side of a potato and a copper wire in the other side, a small electrical current is generated. The utter simplicity of this electrical phenomenon is endlessly fascinating for me,” explains Charland. “Many people have had the experience of drawing power from fruit in the classroom, and it never ceases to bring a smile to the face or a thought to the mind. This work speaks to a common curiosity we all have for how the world works, as well as a global concern for the future of earth’s energy sources.”

The farm pictured above, LaJoie Growers in Maine, was the site of Charland’s first commercial farm “studio.”

“There is a lot of preproduction for the outdoor installations,” Charland told Modern Farmer. “For the potato shot specifically, it was two or three days of work because I dug up all of the potatoes and wired them and got the voltage right, and then buried them back in the ground because I wanted the wires to be coming out of the ground. When the setup is all done, I spend one or two nights shooting the scene. I’ll have two or three cameras set up, and the exposures will be set anywhere from four to eight hours long and I usually camp out there, start the exposure, set an alarm clock, and then finish the exposure.”

Charland says that it’s possible to elicit electricity from practically any produce. You just need a galvanized nail, wires, and the know-how to put it all together. The electrolytes in the produce cause the chemical reaction to occur that results in light.


Fruit Battery Still Life (Citrus) 2012 by Caleb Charland

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    I love this! Science and art combining to make incredible experiments. That lamp in the potato field is incredible!! Thanks for sharing.

  2. June says:

    This should be e-mailed to every elementary and Montessori school. Very interesting for young minds!

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Farm Voices

In the age of social media,

revolution happens in images

and stories

that grab us—sometimes in just 140 characters—and make us care enough to act.

That’s the goal of a group of young ag enthusiasts from rural Alberta, Canada, who founded the FarmOn Foundation.

“With Canada losing 60 percent of their young agricultural producers in the last 15 years, leaving only 9.1 percent of farmers under the age of 35, it was mission critical to form an organization that existed solely for the benefit of young farmers and seeing them succeed,” FarmOn declares.


Photo by Woodley Wonder Works via Wikimedia Commons

Rich in youth and vigor, this dedicated crew is out to inspire young farmers to action by equipping them with the tools, knowledge, and hands-on skills needed to increase the profitability of their agricultural businesses.

Last year, they launched a movement called #FarmVoices in conjunction with Earth Day to celebrate farmers, while giving them a chance to tell their stories and share images of the work they love.

Genius idea, right?

“Young people have been at the forefront of every important social movement in history,” the founders say. “#FarmVoices is raising the profile of farmers by sharing their stories with the world, one image at a time.”

According to FarmOn member Tom Fesnoux, Earth Day 2013 was a huge success, with over 2,000 stories and photos being shared by farmers from 23 countries around the globe. “Now we are preparing to launch and share our newest #FarmVoices video for this year’s Earth Day celebration. We would love to invite you to join the movement and consider coming on board to help support more farmers.”


Here are three simple steps you can take to become involved:

1.  Share the #FarmVoices Earth Day video:

2.  Invite other farmers or groups you know to participate in the day.

3.  Share your own story at #FarmVoices.


  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    I love this idea and message; simple, positive, encouraging and full of possibility! We need to find ways to encourage farming as an entrepreneur endeavor for young people. With a nation waking up to getting healthier and eating higher quality foods, farming can cater to the Eat Local movements to build business clientele. Since post WWII, families have moved to suburbia and children have had little or no contact with the agriculture industry. Food is so prepackaged and reconstituted in fast food, that it hardly resembles where it came from. The rural high schools in Florida have always had a FFA (Future Farmers of America) program and some even offer a formal 4 year ag curriculum for students interested in farming and animal production. But those programs a few and nothing similar exists in the city schools. And today’s youth are going to see @#FarmVoices on their Twitter feed so I hope they check it out!

  2. Karlyne says:

    With so many of our youth lost and aimless, because they don’t fit in to the college mold, how wonderful if they could fit into the earth’s mold! It’s an option that doesn’t even occur to the vast majority of kids. As you say, Winnie, city kids rarely see farms and ranches and self-sustaining acres.

    You can’t question, let alone find the answer, if it’s not part of your vocabulary!

  3. Sarah Wray says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this day! We really appreciate the help.

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Words Can Hurt

Can you think of one word that is rarely used to describe boys but may change the life of a girl forever?

While you’re thinking, watch this:

The word is “bossy,”

and it has more weight behind it that you might imagine.

“When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a ‘leader.’ Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded ‘bossy.’ Words like bossy send a message: Don’t raise your hand or speak up. By middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys—a trend that continues into adulthood,” explains the Ban Bossy Campaign by Leanin.org, a nonprofit organization founded by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to empower all women to achieve their ambitions.

Here are a few other striking facts from Ban Bossy:

  • Between elementary and high school, girls’ self–esteem drops 3.5 times more than boys’.
  • Girls are twice as likely as boys to worry that leadership roles will make them seem “bossy.”
  • Girls are called on less and interrupted more in classrooms.

Want to spread the word … er … the message?

Visit Share Ban Bossy to pass along your favorite facts, tips, and quotes that promote girl power with a passion.

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    I love this message. Raising two girls, I was acutely aware of the changes of self esteem that came with middle school years. Suddenly children who were great in math struggled. School fun was replaced with worries about looks, getting teased by boys and pressures to fit in. No matter how hard the parent tries to counter this, children make their own decisions on how best to survive the everyday school experience which, unfortunately, ends up shrinking their leadership qualities. We need more teachers working on this issue in their classrooms and encouraging and helping make it safe for girls to be leaders.

  2. Yes, it is about ” girl power”. I went to many schools growing up and one of the best was an all girl’s school because we were expected to become leaders. There was no question that we wouldn’t take on the world. There was not that line of demarcation between boys and girls and that subsequently made the students equal. Our entire society is placing the wrong values on what girls/woman should be and it starts so early now . By 4th grade the girls are all interested in “Fashion”, becoming ” famous” and not by deeds, only looks. Their studies take a very last place. It is so tragic. I was one of the ” bossy ” ones and I’m glad of it although often punished for being that way. Ok, it’s not “politically correct”, but I beat up the school bully in 3rd grade. That proved to my schoolmates that girls were equal at that time. ( mid 1950’s). It was a hugely brave moment and I felt totally justified ( which was agreed by all and sundry including parents whose children had been victimized by him .) I believe the tides are changing and more girls will be strong leaders ( but without the fists, that I needed to use )

  3. calle says:

    Ladies the B word that is used more often than “Bossy” has more damage than Bossy. I heard the word Assertive for men and hen pecking for women.
    The word “bossy” came from male bosses.

    It is someone’s job to “Boss” the crew.
    Today when older women apply to a job they are facing being interviewed by all those who will work for them. And these kids want someone to go out and drink with after work on Friday nights. They do not want a “Boss” they want a pal.
    Today many young women do not act like “young women” but more like men! Foul mouthed, can’t take little ones to the locker room at the “Y” as the room is blue with bad language.
    I would imagine that “MaryJanes” enterprise would not be this successful if she had not “bossed” the job! I see a boss as someone who cares enough to support lead and create a well run work place where all succeed.
    Weak bosses do not make good managers.
    Girls today have so many more opportunities than I ever had. If a blue color family girl can make it and succeed then today’s girls can too!

    I paid for highschool, college, cosmetology school, a graduate degree and continuing education.
    My most “Bossy ” boss Miss Jean M. Riggs was so tough but she created more department heads in all of her years at K-State than any other women I have known.
    MaryJane has made a huge difference and she made it on her own, and I bet those Forrest Rangers called her more than “Bossy”!

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This Hotpad is Just Right

When searching for the perfect porridge, chair, and bed, Goldilocks realized they aren’t all equal. Some were too big, too small, too soft, too hard, or too hot!

I think it’s safe to say I’ve had the same dilemmas with hot pads. One of our farmgirl sisters recently sent along a pair of hand-knit hot pads and you guessed it, they are the perfect thickness, texture, and size, which might not seem like such a big deal, but how many times have I grabbed my pot with a too-big hot pad all askew and found myself running my hand under cold water to comfort the burn that resulted. The perfect hot pad does make a difference, and these are just right.

Photo Mar 11, 7 27 10 PM

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    This is why I am totally addicted to our chatroom Dishcloth swaps! I have received so many beautiful and thick dishcloths and they work perfect as hot pot grabbers too! Farm girl ingenuity!

  2. Where I come from ( VA ) we call them potholders. I collect hand made ones, especially vintage ones in silly shapes like fruits, etc . The local Amish aren’t supposed to have anything not functional in their homes but hotpads/potholders are allowed as they are ” useful”. Amish homes are just filled with the most colorful and outrageous ones you have ever seen. They are hung on every door knob, on every cabinet door , on the walls, and anywhere else that needs sprucing up with beauty. They have hand knit, crocheted and quilted ones. It is a favored gift to make as well, especially for newlyweds. The ones shaped like chickens where the wings fold down over the pot handle are my favorites.

  3. Karen Hargis says:

    Does anyone have a pattern for that hotpad/potholder?? I’ve been searching for a crochet or knit pattern for a hotpad/potholder that would be just the right thickness, texture, and size. Mine always seem to let too much heat through and either burn me or the counter/table.

    Thank yoU!

  4. Cyndi says:

    Is there a pattern available?

  5. Nancy says:

    I too would love to have a pattern for the pictured hotpad.

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Here’s momma Maizy (4+ years) and her daughter Etta Jane (2+ years). Lots of cuddles and tongue lovin’ all day long. I call it cowpassion. I once tried keeping a cow-unity “licking” journal (Jane Goodall style) on all 13 of my bovine buddies, but their licking and interactions are so involved and subject to dramatic changes on any given day, I soon gave up. Who licks who is a series of complexities only they understand. Sort of like office politics or small town living. Maybe there’s a bit of gossip happenin’ here in this photo? My mother-in-law once joked, “If what you have to say about someone isn’t nice … come sit by me.”

cow_love-6876 Here’s Etta Jane (2+ years) with her only calf so far, Eliza Belle (8 months). Etta Jane is three months along with another calf. Jerseys often darken in the winter, only to turn fawn-colored again in the spring when they lose their winter coats.

cow_love-6644 And here’s Maizy with her latest addition (third calf—second calf was a boy, Otis), Rose Etta (two weeks old).

cow_love-6958 Lots of daily grooming and stimulation. Speaking of saliva baths, I remember my mother getting all five of us kids loaded into the car to go somewhere and discovering a spot on someone’s face. She’d put a bit of her hankie into her mouth, wet it, and then rub the spot off. Anyone else’s mother do that?


  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    I’m in love with your cows! This last photo is just the all time best!

  2. Paula K says:

    Oh, goodness, yes! My two little brothers hated it! They called it the “spit bath!” I, of course, loved to see them squirm!

  3. That would be way back when your mother carried an actual cloth hankie. And yes, we all got cleaned up with spit on occasion, although someone else’s mother’s spit wasn’t so nice. Love the wonderful photos of your dear cows and their much loved calves. Rose Etta is especially sweet looking, I could just kiss her, oh right , her mama is doing that all day!

  4. Karlyne says:

    Just the threat of the dreaded spit wash was enough to keep us reasonably clean!

  5. Rebecca Taylor says:

    They are all so cute!
    And ya my mom still does that and now I do it sometimes when I babysit, but I usually have them lick the napkin that way we don’t spread germs. 🙂

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Botanical Gardens

Today, I took a virtual vacation to Wonderland.

All I had to do was step through a looking glass …

my computer monitor, that is.

And the most wondrous thing about this Wonderland

is that it is as real as you and me,

a fabulous nonfiction for all to see …

Welcome to the Montreal Botanical Garden in Quebec, Canada, founded in 1931, where extraordinary thematic gardens make even the virtual visitor feel as if she is walking through a dream.


Photos courtesy of PoloPixel.com


Photos courtesy of PoloPixel.com


Photos courtesy of PoloPixel.com


Photos courtesy of PoloPixel.com


  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    These botanical creations are incredible. I visited Quebec several years ago but only had one day in the city. If I had know about this garden, it would have been at the top of the must see list. Such a good reason to go back some summer!!

  2. Jackie says:

    Wow! What a beautiful place. I could look at that all day. It’s a tonic for the mind and soul.

  3. Debbie Fischer says:

    AmAzInG! So, beautiful what an imagination.

  4. Bobbie calgaro says:

    Now definitely on my list of places to see. Thanks for sharing with us.

  5. Karlyne says:


  6. Joan Van Winkle says:

    Must go there!

  7. Joyce says:

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful place. Been to Quebec but had not heard of the gardens.

  8. Lily says:

    U can visit the botanical garden but don’t bother looking for these for these giant sculptors. They were part of an exhibit from 2 years ago. I was just in Montreal in June 2015 the exhibit had already ended for a while.

  9. Pingback: Botanical Gardens » Read, More, Source, Canada, Quebec, Montreal » Urban Angels

  10. OMG it is pretty, thx for sharing this pics!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. Bey Perry says:

    Wow Wow

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Corn Guru

Daniel and Mirra of The Perennial Plate were researching fascinating food stories to investigate during their trip to Mexico, and they encountered multiple people with the same recommendation:

Speak with Amado Ramirez Leyva of the Itanoní Tortillería in Oaxaca.

Amado, they said, is the corn guru.


Photo by Alejandro Linares Garcia via Wikimedia Commons

Renowned chef Rick Bayless is one of those who revere him. “Amado Ramirez Leyva believes that corn, domesticated some 9,000 years ago in Mexico, is the basis of Mexican culture,” says Bayless’ website. “From championing the protection of ancient varieties, to cooking and grinding it into masa for tortillas, Amado just might be the corn guru of Oaxaca.”

Daniel was intrigued. “His restaurant serves only the most traditional of Mexican foods, showcasing the various organic corns, harvested by local Oaxacan farmers in their purest form. But beyond the taste of history and tradition, Amado brings a poetic truth about the power of this ancient grain.”

Watch the resulting video, “The Flower of Corn,” and feel your appreciation for this golden … well, rainbow colored … grain bloom anew.

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Such an interesting video clip. I was fascinated with the spirituality of the ancient but still current corn growing process. It reminded me of some of our Native American rituals of planting and understandings of the relationship between the plant and the sustainable life.

  2. Wonderful and poetic video. I watched it first full screen so the subtitles weren’t visible but was able to understand most of what he said anyway. Then watched a second time. Their corn culture is hugely important as this is one of the few places on earth where the corn is still pure and not adulterated by GMO corn. I can’t grow corn for seed selling in my little seed business as I am unable to keep it pure from farms miles away.

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