1. Love this evocative photo of an office in days gone by. I have stacks of those metal in and out trays inherited from my Aunt Mignon, and use them all the time to organize my otherwise untidy life. you can’t beat an old rolltop desk for efficiancy, just roll it down to cover up whatever mess you made , and you can lock it even from prying eyes. Writing your novel, secret love letters? Yes ,you can hide them pronto with the flick of a wrist.

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Oldest Message in a Bottle

A couple of years ago, I told you about a man who casts bottled messages off the coast of Canada, just to see who might write back.

If that story set your imagination bobbing dreamily out onto the open sea, then listen to this:

Last month, fishermen in the Baltic Sea hauled in their catch and discovered what may be the oldest message in a bottle ever recorded.


Photo courtesy of International Maritime Museum Hamburg via NPR

The message within was scrawled on a postcard dated May 17, 1913, and signed by a man named Richard Platz. His note asked the bottle’s recipient to forward his message to his own address in Berlin, reported the German online news source The Local.

Sounds like he just wanted to see if it might ever make its way back to him, don’t you think?

Instead of reaching Platz, though, the bottle ended up at the International Maritime Museum in Hamburg. Researchers managed to track down Platz’s granddaughter, 62-year-old Angela Erdmann, who lives in Berlin. Erdmann said she never knew her mother’s father, who reportedly died in 1946 when he was 54 years old, but upon hearing the news of his bottled message, she visited the museum to see it for herself.

“That was a pretty moving moment,” she told German news agency DPA. “Tears rolled down my cheeks.”

  1. As a child who lived on the water in Norfolk VA, I was entranced by the idea of a message in a bottle and sent many on their way. I imagined what far off places it would travel and dreamed of going there myself someday.

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With May Day hovering on the horizon, I thought of a fun little geography quiz: Map the Maypole!

Just in case you’re not familiar, maypoles are decorative wooden poles that have stood at the center of European May Day festivities throughout the ages. It’s no surprise that the traditions of twirling ribbons and dancing ’round the pole have spread across the globe, but can you guess where in the world the following maypoles are located?

I’ll give you the answers at the end, so don’t peek!

A. A rainbow of ribbons …


Photo by Jengod via Wikimedia Commons

B. Red, white, and blue? Might surprise you …


Photo by Grenville Burrows via Wikimedia Commons

C. Those sure are tropical looking leaves …


Photo by Vmenkov via Wikimedia Commons

D. Skirts and ribbons swirl …

Photo by Jim Champion via Wikimedia Commons

E. Renaissance garb and … a plastic coffee mug?


Photo by KenL via Wikimedia Commons

F. And, perhaps, my favorite of all …


Photo by Haxpett via Wikimedia Commons


A. Los Angeles, California

B. Offenham, England

C. Victoria, Australia

D. Salisbury, England

E. Tuxedo Park, New York

F. Dalarna, Sweden

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    When my girls were young, we used to attend May Day celebrations with maypole dancing at the local Waldorf School. I love singing the old songs and weaving the ribbons together . It is a beautiful ritual that is fading from childhood experiences in most schools.

  2. (Picture me patting myself on the back…) I got the first one, A. correct. I knew B & D. were in England somewhere but not the towns.
    For several years I worked at a local Lavender Farm during the harvest season as a docent to the visitors and at special events I taught lavender cooking to the crowds. All so the owners could concentrate on the harvesting, distilling, and operations of the farm without ignoring their customers. The owners had to take out a tall dead cedar tree on the property so they stripped it and planted it in the center of a new lavender bed like a flag pole. Then they contacted some friends wanting to know if there were any maypole dancers in the San Diego area and, by golly, there were! They came on May first and they brought their own ribbons and they danced the ribbons on and off the poll several times that day so that lots of visitors got to see it and then, when they left, the dancers the left the ribbons on the poll. It was beautiful and the ribbons lasted all woven perfectly on the poll for months and months. Great memory. My friends retired and sold the farm or I’d still work there. Because of them, although the lavender was fantastic, it was one of the best experiences of my life.

  3. Inger says:

    The one in Dalarna, Sweden, (F) is a Midsummer Pole which is danced around at Midsummer (summer solstice) in June.

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Happy Earth Day Earthlings!


  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Today I leave to see the tulip extravaganza in the Netherlands! I can’t wait to see fields and fields of these lovely spring flowers. Outside the city, the wifi gets iffy so I am hoping I don’t lose too many days of not being able to red what is happening here at MJF!

  2. Oh, Winnie, how envious I am of you to go see tulips as far as the eye can see in the Netherlands!!
    to do that and also to see ( and smell ) the fields of lavender in Provence are 2 of my flower dreams.
    Have a great time, and I know you will as the Dutch are the friendliest of the Northern Europeans.

  3. CJ Armstrong says:

    Ahhh . . . beautiful! Tulips are one of my favorites and I love purple!
    This one is just gorgeous!
    Thank you!
    Winnie . . . I’m so envious! Enjoy your trip!

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  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    I love these rural farm scenes from Europe and the British Isles. There is charm in their simplicity of their life even though it was often hard to make ends meet.

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Flower Festival

At last, spring is in the air …

Daffodils, tulips and hyacinths are heralding the warm-up, so I dug out my one small white trumpet vase that was once part of a bigger Victorian centerpiece called an epergne—French word for saving—that radiated 2 to 7 “branches” that held small glass, metal, or silver trumpet vases as shown in today’s photo (held upright by the use of a more common flower frog) … look up epergne on eBay—intact epergnes are a S-P-E-N-D-Y collector’s item.


Photo by ShakataGaNai via Wikimedia Commons


Photo by Clinton & Charles Robertson via Wikimedia Commons

That’s when a little birdie (named Megan) told me that she and her “nestlings” are already crafting their May Day doorstep surprises.


Right now, flowers are our fancy here at the farm. And that why I’m as happy as a spring chicken wandering around my own little paradise, watching for new blooms, but …

You know that I also love a virtual vacation—especially when I can talk you into tagging along.

How about it? Let’s roam the sunlit countryside, visiting flower festivals across the U.S.

Are you game?

First stop:  the Sequim Lavender Festival in Sequim, Washington.


Photo by Kgrr via Wikimedia Commons

Southward we go to the Lompoc Valley Flower Festival in California.


Photo courtesy of the Lompoc Valley Chamber of Commerce

Wagons east to Tyler, Texas, for the Texas Rose Festival.


Photo by Robert Nunnall via Wikimedia Commons

On our way back up north, we’ll head for Holland, Michigan, and the Tulip Time Festival.


Photo by BazookaJoe via Wikimedia Commons

Hold on to your bouquets because we’re landing at the Lilac Festival in Rochester, New York next.


Photo by C.C. Tsao via Wikipedia

The last destination on our whirlwind tour is the International Cherry Blossom Festival in Macon, Georgia. It looks like an old-fashioned good time with a bounty of beautiful blossoms.


Photo by Glenn Grossman via Wikipedia

Now … aren’t you glad we don’t have a long ride home?

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Mary Jane, did you ever read the Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh? You had mentioned in February about her victorian dictionary of what flowers meant. So, I bought that for my sister who was a florist and she sent me the book above. A New York Times Bestseller, it is a fabulous read!

    Speaking of flowers, we leave next Tuesday 4/22 for the Netherlands and part of the tour will include visiting the tulip gardens and learning about their flower industry. I can hardly wait!

    • MaryJane says:

      It’s on my list now! Thanks for the recommendation. ENJOY the Netherlands. Share pics!!! Better yet, put me in your suitcase.

      • Winnie Nielsen says:

        Once I started reading this book, I literally could not put it down until I finished So good!! And it would be fun to travel somewhere with you too. Farmgirls on the loose in the Netherlands!

  2. My favorite plant worthy place, is Ladew Topiary Gardens in Monkton MD. Just spectacular topiary and also many ” garden rooms” of flowers and such. A lifetime love/obsession of the late Mr. Ladew whom I met as a child. The full out life-sized running horses and fox hunt topiary is world famous.

  3. Christine says:

    Beautiful pictures!!

  4. Carole Garrett says:

    Fortunately, San Diego had more rain than usual during the Winter so we are having beautiful flowers this Spring. With almost no cold weather during our Winters, I have not lost flowers and some are in full bloom at this time. I do have water barrels to catch any rain from my roof and I also compost. It is a little bit of Country Living in the City. The wild parrots have returned and are roosting in the tall trees. Fun to watch and some with color look like flowers flying through the air.

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Caretaker Jobs

Looking for an uncommon getaway this summer that doesn’t break the bank?

Consider a caretaking position.

No—I don’t mean caretaking someONE (although that is an undeniably noble effort). I was actually talking about caretaking a place.

As it happens, prosperous property owners around the country are always on the lookout for reliable people to help keep their homes and ranches in working order while they’re away—and those homes and ranches are generally in stunning locations.

A website called provides a forum where caretakers and property owners can make a match. Here are a few of the listings I found on a quick search:

Seasonal Ranch Help Needed for Housekeeping and Grounds keeping in Glacier Park, Montana.


Photo courtesy of the National Park Service via Wikimedia Commons

Caretaker Hosts Needed for Rustic Mountain Lodge in Whitepine, Colorado.


Photo by rjones0856 via Wikimedia Commons

Property and Farm Manager for Organic Farm and Garden in Priest River, Idaho.


Photo by S.hammarlund via Wikimedia Commons

Caretaker or Caretaker Couple in San Juan Islands, Washington.


Photo courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management via Wikimedia Commons

Shall I twist your arm?

These kinds of positions make me nostalgic for my days in the Idaho backcountry … but I digress.

If you’re getting excited, don’t let the moment pass. Hop over and check out the details of these and other enticing opportunities at

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    This is a perfect opportunity for the experience of a lifetime! We are visiting Glacier National Park for the first time in late July and I can hardly wait to see it. What a fun experience this would be for a college student who is looking for a summer challenge mostly paid for and see a part of the US they have never seen before.

  2. Karlyne says:

    Priest River?!? I lived the best year of my childhood in that little town. Nostalgia, indeed!

  3. Back when I was fresh out of college and didn’t have a clue about what to do with my life I took a job as what was called at that time ” estate manager”. I ran a 1200 acre estate in the gorgeous , scenic White Mountains of northern New Hampshire. Out west, 1200 acres may not seem like a lot but there in New England that was a sizable property ! I did it all, I did have a useless odd job man but it was mostly just me, and the boss when he was home occasionally . An early 1700’s house and barn, and an early 1800’s house and barn .And the dearest late 1600’s stone cottage. All drywall stone walls dividing the meadows but mostly deep forest, some said it was virgin but I doubt it . But it was old growth. The older frame house was completey furnished in period country antiques and the other house was empty mostly. The big barn was fixed up by a previous owner to look like a Japanese home with paper walls and such ( all inside to look like a traditional Japanese home but actually the real barn was there too.) The previous owner had been a rare book collector , so the barn had about 15,000+ volumes. I spent all my free time there, especially that long snowy NH winter. I probably will never live anywhere that lovely or poetic again. I learned to cook on a wood burning stove ( the eccentric boss wouldn’t let me use the electric range!) I did a lot of target shooting with the bosses antique firearms . I became quite an ” Annie Oakley” . Much more to tell of, but suffice it say I learned more in that one year than any other in my life. To be a ” caretaker” is a great opportunity for anyone .

    • MaryJane says:

      This sounds like book material to me? How about it?????

      • Oh my MJ ! I have been working on the ” Great American Novel ” for years now. Got enough stories to fill more than one book, that I can assure you. Just need to change the names to “protect the innocent” as they always said on ” Dragnet”.

        • MaryJane says:

          Well, that’s good news. It’s easy enough to change names. Maybe even yours if it’s spicy enough:) Seriously, the world would be a better place if you gave us a book. Put me on your waiting list.

  4. Holly Roush says:

    My daughter just accepted an interior design internship in Bozeman, and now is looking for lodging for 2 months. This could be a wonderful opportunity for her! She’s used to working at a ranch-style campground for the past 5 years – not afraid to get dirt under her nails!!

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