Mia’s Day

I picked my grandgirl, Mia Marie, up from school last week for “Mia’s Day.”

Mia’s Day is all about farmgirl chores. First, she and I milked the cow and I taught her how to use her own hands to extract milk. Then we processed the milk. After that, we headed to the greenhouse for some watering and weeding (and nibbling). Then we had a late lunch. And frozen blueberries. And tea. And finally, story time.

The best part of the day for me happened early on, when I picked her up from school and she surprised me with a couple of handmade gifts. The night before, she’d made a card for me and embroidered a new dishtowel for my kitchen.




A present for me …


And inside? Why, a horse, of course!



  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    This should be re-named Mia AND Nanny’s day! Your new kitchen towel is just so sweet all stitched by Mia’s eager hands. What a treasure and of course perfect red/white/blue colors for the summer. Perfect gift for a perfect afternoon!

  2. Deborah McKissic says:

    Oh, so sweet! What a beautiful and special gift! What a joyful day spent together! There is a song by Keith Urban called “these are the days we will remember” and this reminds me of this day for you, Mary Jane! It starts out with the words, “My grandmama was a wise old soul”…my Miss Lyra and I like to sing it while swinging in our hammock….I spent saturday with her for her 5th birthday and we picked buttercups and checked to see if we liked butter, under our chins, of course..and we spotted a toad in the garden, checked the strawberry patch, and ate strawberries Miss Lyra had cut into the shape of a heart and dipped in white chocolate with her mommy…oh, the joys of grandchildren…”these are the days we will remember”….

  3. Pamela Caldwell says:

    Oh, too sweet. Those are the best. I have 10 grand kids, and each card, beaded bracelet, potholder, wooden cross, worm, frog, and other stuff is precious.

  4. Caro Norwood says:

    There’s nothing like a homemade gift from a grandchild, made from the heart. These things are truly treasures! How sweet!

  5. CJ Armstrong says:

    What a treasure! Must be so sweet to have your grandgirls nearby!

  6. Dolly says:

    I sure do love that! She is very talented!

  7. Karlyne says:


  8. And Mia certainly is a talented sewer/embroiderer. I can’t even stitch that well, honestly. But what, no cow?

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Building Recyclers

While visiting one of my favorite haunts last week, I got to thinking. Do other farmgirls have a “building recycler” where they live?

A quick Google search told me, yes, they’re popping up all over the country.

Photo May 15, 2 51 31 PM

Ours has been around ever since I was a toddler.

Photo May 15, 2 42 40 PM

Mia and I love to go there for treasure hunts. You know those fun, funky projects you’ve had your sights on forever? Well, look no further than your local building recycler.

I found a few treasures on our last foray there (Mia found a good walking stick). I can’t wait to share some of the projects I’m working on once I get them finished—everything from salvaged barn wood, to windows, piles of springs in all sizes, toilets, marble slabs, fabulous old doors, and claw-foot bathtubs (sssshhh, don’t tell Mom I’m sharing that info—I do believe she’s purchased a total of ELEVEN!!!! claw foot bathtubs over the years from our local building recycler).

Hubby and I scored the door below (that we turned into corner shelves), painted, and distressed. We actually built two of them. Check out their website!

Photo May 17, 3 48 25 PM


  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Wow, Meg, I love that salvaged door project. How cool is that for a corner shelf? Ingenious, I’d say! My problem with salvaged lots is that I don’t know what to do with the stuff. I love old anything but when it comes to giving it a make over, my mind goes blank. It takes a special artistic eye to see beyond the rough condition of the items and I guess I never got that talent in my toolbox! Thanks for sharing your creative results and let us see anymore that you create.

  2. connie says:

    We have Several in the Memphis Metro Area. Some have been in existence since the 1970’s. Many older historic homes in the Downtown riverfront area were demolished, including the famous Stax recording Studio, and since the salvage company was already downtown, they saved the majority of them. One particular one is my favorite to visit, they go all over the USA collecting salvage. One of the windows in my potting shed is from a 100 year old Farm House in Vermont, and a box of glass door knobs. The owner’s son worked there for weeks tearing down houses to make way for new construction.

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Meet Heather Benning

After I returned from my virtual vacation “visiting” Wendy Houses, I was wandering the Web and found myself way out on the desolate, windy plains of Manitoba—off the beaten path by miles, I know—where I discovered a delightful domicile designed for all of us who have entertained dollhouse dreams long past the days of youth …


Photo courtesy of HeatherBenning.ca

And, yes, doll face, it was scaled for grown-up girls like you and me!

The dollhouse was the brainchild of Canadian artist Heather Benning, who spotted the ramshackle residence in 2005 while completing an artist-in-residence program in Redvers, Saskatchewan. Rather than photograph the abandoned farmhouse, capturing the sunlight on its aged timbers the way many an artist would, Heather was struck by an entirely different inspiration.


Photo of the dollhouse prior to restoration courtesy of HeatherBenning.ca

She tracked down the owners of the property, who told her that the house had been empty since the late 1960s and was in pretty sad shape. After hearing her proposal, though, the owners donated the house to Heather so she could doll it up for a unique artistic exhibition.

“For over 18 months, I re-shingled the roof with recycled shingles and restored and furnished the house to the era the house was abandoned,” Heather explains. “I then removed the north-facing wall and replaced it with plexiglass. The house was officially opened to the public on June 9, 2007.”


Dollhouse photos courtesy of HeatherBenning.ca

“I chose to close the house in with plexiglass because I wanted it to be inaccessible and tomb-like—inaccessible in that one cannot enter a real dollhouse because of the scale, and tomb-like because it encapsulates a time and a lifestyle that no longer exists, and will never exist again,” she said.

Heather furnished the interior with items collected locally from community member donations, garage sales, auctions, and thrift stores.

Alas, we can’t hope to make a pilgrimage to the house in person because it no longer exists …

“In October of 2012, the house began to show its age—the foundation was compromised,” Heather says on her website. “The house was only meant to stand as long as it remained safe. In March of 2013, ‘The Dollhouse’ met it’s death with fire.”


Dollhouse photos courtesy of HeatherBenning.ca

Sigh … ashes to ashes, dollhouse to dust.


Dollhouse photos courtesy of HeatherBenning.ca

Doesn’t it make you want to round up the little Janes in your life and design a dwelling for dolls? Even if we can’t live it it, we can always dream!

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    In my mind, you have the perfect house on your farm. The little store you had in Moscow and moved to your farm reminds me of a perfect big girl doll house with it’s gingerbread trim and bright color scheme. I love that place and it would make a really cool “doll house” out on the prairie that one could actually stay in. What plans do you have for that building? I always wanted to know after you moved it. It looked so charming in your photos and I wish I could have visited when it was still open.

    • MaryJane says:

      We were discussing that just last week when we had our local electrical co-op out to map out how to get power to it. I’d like to turn it into a little tiny house for guests. Other ideas were a dairy museum, a classroom, and of course a store again. What do you think?

      • Winnie Nielsen says:

        Gosh, Mary Jane, how interesting that just last week, you were talking about how to get power to the place! All of your ideas sound plausible but of course, my favorite would be a store because then it would be a place people like me could come, shop and visit. A guest house would limit who could really see it and enjoy it. What about a store for your dairy products that could have a space for learning about dairy farming? A place where 5-6 people could attend a workshop day or series after hours and a store that sells your cheeses and other cow related gifts like your books? Organic dairy farming with mini Jerseys could be a useful local training site for young people who are interested but need to know how to start and what is involved. Something like training along your PayDirt school concept? Or, a Saturday workshop with guest lecturer from the Animal Science dept at the Univ. of Idaho in Moscow? I love the idea of promoting sustainable dairy farming for small farms and also hand crafted cheese for selling. It seems that the national Farm to Table movement is providing energy and opportunity for young farmers to have organic products that restaurants can offer. More and more people are looking for quality food options and chefs are looking for a way to make their new restaurants unique and fresh. Mmmmm, I am dreaming of a small local restaurant that features lots of dishes made with local handcrafted cheeses with a side salad of organic greens from another farmer’s CSA. Maybe that is already happening out your way? Oh, how about this idea that just popped in my mind? So, you open the store as described above with a Farm to Table dinner for 50 people using your cheeses as one of the main ingredients in the appetizer, entree and dessert . A fabulous pasta course and one of
        Ashley’s cheesecakes! You include a few friends who are either dairy farmers like yourself OR faculty from the University or your personal veterinarian services to also be in attendance on the guest list. That way, the others will be able to network with professional resources at the dinner. Of course, you will then have a big poster board and flyers about your upcoming workshop courses and registrations. My imagination is running wild here as you can see! I do love that little house and it would be fun to give it a new lease on life with a new purpose. What could be more meaningful that housing learning with organic dairy production? Can I be on the guest list???

        • MaryJane says:

          I’m on it! Love your ideas Winnie. Our bigger plan all along has been the installation of a commercial kitchen in our still-getting-finished facility. Dinners? Brunches? Help me keep these things in my mind’s eye. That’s how it comes to fruition, right? And yes, Pay Dirt Farm School classes are on our agenda also, specifically teaching classes about backyard cows. I love your ECETERAS. Keep ’em coming! That’s one of your many unique talents.

          • Winnie Nielsen says:

            Wow, sounds like there are many pieces already in the overall queue that would make this idea sustainable and profitable! I love brainstorming because it energizes me and the collaboration is uplifting. Nothing like a good project to sink your teeth into. There is so much reward in seeing ideas come to fruition and then taking on a life of their own. I would love to be a part of those idea keepers for you. Together, all of us will help you sort out what makes sense. It is like each of us has a little binder of ideas and as you plan and drill down to what you and your team want to do, we can be your reference library to tap into as needed. Sign me up!

  2. Karlyne says:

    I’m curious; did they torch the house on purpose or did it catch fire?
    I think your little house would make an amazing tea party house, by the way!

    • MaryJane says:

      I wondered about that myself but couldn’t find out, leading me to think they did it.

      I hadn’t thought of a tea party house. Great idea! Our only drawback is the fact that getting electricity to it where we put it will cost around 10 grand. Ouch. Might be awhile before we can pull that off:) It’s just so cute sitting out here at the farm, all colorful and happy.

      • Karlyne says:

        Solar powered? Windmill? Or just a daylight party house? Wood stove for boiling the tea water and baking the scones? Or propane? I obviously want to come for tea!

  3. Karlyne says:

    Well, sign me up for Winnie’s Brain Trust, and I guarantee I’ll be smiling!

  4. Debbie says:

    Oh, I’m so happy I stopped by for this post and all this wonderful farmgirl brain-power happening here! I have a ” thing ” for small little buildings. At the moment I’m obsessed with Shepherds Huts! Can I play too? I too would love to see your old shop turned into a ” little House on the farm ” … be re-invented with a new purpose… Maybe several? You could even name it after one of your beloved cows. The Etta Jane House, The Cottage Dairy, Moo House Dairy, or I know you could call it the Doll House Dairy! I Love the ideas for a lil’ dairy shop, schoolroom, and of course I’m all on board for it being solar powered with a cute little gas to take the chill off on cold fall days and a some solar power for lights and running a water pump to the dairy kitchen/classroom..Our cottage is only 460 square feet and my brother in law installed our solar several years ago… Do you need a reference for solar power products for small buildings? I could ask him for you! You could even have a little ” out house” or get a composting toilet for an inside bathroom…You could decorate it with the colors inspired by your Milk Cow Kitchen Book! Red/White/Cream and Jersey Cow Brown! What fun MJ!!! So excited about this! 🙂 Can’t wait to see how it all comes together… and it will!

  5. Super ideas fellow farmgirls! Around her in Amishland, its always propane for energy then solar, no need for those electric wires. They make tons of super propane appliances for the ” Amish market”, and by good names like Amana. Just plant some lilacs or pretty shrubs around the propane tank, that’s what they do here.
    I am enamored of the idea of a “cheesy ” restaurant cum Pay Dirt Farm School with talks/lectures and so forth re: cows. And the idea of a farm-to-table banquet to start it off is super. Artisanal cheeses are huge around here both with the ” Plain People” and small farmers.
    Keep those creative juices coming ( oh did i say juice? I meant milk – milk it with all your imagination )

    • MaryJane says:

      I’d like to do a sequel cow book with just artisan cheeses. Making a batch of Parm as we speak. Keep your cheesy ideas coming!

  6. Some names for your future restaurant:
    Beaumont’s Bovine Bistro
    Rose Etta’s Eatery
    Rose Etta’s Eat In Cafe
    Daisy’s Dining Delish
    Eliza Belle’s Belle Epoque ( or Elegant ) Tearoom

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Watch Tower

Something like a century ago (okay, 40 years, but back then THIS stage of my life seemed like a century removed), I spent two summers on a fire watch tower scanning the horizon for forest fires. I still have my binoculars, so during our farmgirl slumber party last weekend, I taught my grandgirls how to use them. They were enthralled and spent hours “glassing” the world beyond what the naked eye can see.

Photo Apr 26, 7 25 06 PM

Is it any wonder I perched my office on the tippy top 4th floor of our facility so I could continue to see forever? (It’s a serious addiction once you’ve indulged.) See my cows in the distance? You know, some people watch hummingbirds; I observe cow behavior. I spy!!!! I do. Fires? None yet:)

My tower was 100 feet tall so I made fast friends with the fact that HAVING to go up and down stairs many times a day keeps heart surgeons at bay. You could say that each and every time I snoop, I’ve earned it. I climb up and down our stairs about 30 times a day.

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Nothing like some interesting cardio every day to keep your heart healthy! I have to get mine at the gym and spying on cows sounds much better.

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Big Sis Loves You!

Can’t take my eyes off of you …

You’re like heaven to touch.

Rose Etta loves Beaumont so much.



  1. Thank you MJ for the sweetest cow-love portrait ever. Rose Etta is a great smothering-licking big sister to baby boy Beaumont. Just made my day !

  2. LouAnn Rice says:

    My husband and I had two Jersey milk cows when we lived in Colorado years
    ago. They were so gentle and yet had such adorable personalities. They were characters. 🙂
    Their babies were precious also.
    Of course the milk, cream and butter were heavenly. We miss that raw milk
    and cream.
    Thank you for sharing these precious photos with us.

    • MaryJane says:

      LouAnn, I can imagine your ache from missing them. Perhaps our new chatroom at HeritageJersey.org might help bring the memories even more?

  3. Lois McD says:

    We had 60 head of Jersey’s on our farm…I know what you mean about the milk, cream and butter …nothing like it…miss it too.

  4. Kaye Bishop says:

    Hello. I am an artist and love this photo! Did you take it? If so, may I paint it?

  5. Kaye Bishop says:

    Thank you.

  6. Cheri mello says:

    THIS is ADORABLE ♥️♥️♥️👍🏼AND Mary Jane IS COOL 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼 Thanks FOR sharing ! I’m DEFINITELY a MOUNTAIN 😊 G-d Bless ♥️

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  1. Terry Steinmetz says:

    How lovely! Our snow is finally out of the woods, so it won’t be long before my flowers will pop up. It is raining here & getting warmer–I’m so thankful for that!

  2. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Lovely hyacinth flowers. Their fragrance is so unique and sweet . I love to see them bunched together with all the various colors. I saw some here that were a deep purple violet color that were unique to me. I have never seen that color here in the states. Wen paired with the deep pinks, the result was beautiful!

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