Monthly Archives: November 2015

Thank you, Farmer Froelich!

John Froelich was born on this day in 1849. Who? John Froelich.

John was the inventor of the first gas-powered tractor, an invention that dramatically changed the lives of farmers everywhere. Prior to John’s invention, farmers relied on either horse-drawn field equipment or bulky and dangerous steam-powered equipment that resulted in frequent fires.

Evolution of sickle and flail, 33 horse team harvester, cutting, threshing and sacking wheat, Walla Walla, Washington, 1902 via Wikimedia Commons

photo by Brunswyk via Wikimedia Commons

In 1890, Farmer Froelich tried something new: he mounted a one-cylinder gasoline engine onto the running gear of his steam-powered thresher. (Gasoline, or internal combustion engines were a new invention; Karl Benz, founder of Mercedes-Benz, had just designed the first automobiles in production in 1885.) With his experiment a success, he went on to found the Waterloo Gasoline Traction Engine Company, and continued to work on his engine, but by 1913, he had sold only 20 tractors. That didn’t stop John though—plowing through adversity is something farmers know well. John continued to improve his tractor engine, and considered it a success when he sold 118 tractors in 1914 alone. He named his hit The Waterloo Boy and went on to sell 8,000 tractors by 1918, when plow-manufacturing company Deere & Company (later renamed John Deere) bought the company for over 2 million dollars!

The Waterloo Tractor Works, in Waterloo, Iowa, is still owned by John Deere, and is one of the largest tractor factories in the U.S.

Thank you, John, for your visionary invention.




Organic farming?


Spectacular network of farmgirl sisters?


Heritage Jersey Cattle Registry?

You betcha.


DIY dairy farming?

Done deal, darlin’.

All (and much more!) fall within the ambit of MaryJanesFarm.

Operative word here?

ambit (AM-bit), meaning scope, range, circumference.

Bottom line?

I am so grateful that YOU are within my ambit!




Pastor nourishes plants as well as parishioners

In the tiny farming community of Conetoe, North Carolina, a pastor with a passion for saving both body and soul has been named one of 10 finalists for CNN’s Hero of the Year award.

Rev. Richard Joyner says a large percentage of his parishioners in this predominantly African-American community of just 300 were suffering (and dying) from preventable, diet-related diseases. “Diabetes, high blood pressure—when we first got started, we counted 30 funerals in one year,” Joyner told CNN. “I couldn’t ignore it because I was spending more time in funerals than anything else.”

He knew a community garden with fresh produce (Conetoe’s nearest grocery store was 10 miles away) would help residents build better health, so he started a small garden with the help of local school kids. Today, Conetoe sports more than 20 garden plots, one covering 25 acres, providing 50,000 pounds of fresh produce a year. Student helpers also sell the produce to local restaurants and stores to raise dollars for school supplies and scholarships. And the kids are learning more than gardening—they’re involved in every aspect of the project, from planning the plots to marketing to learning how to cook healthy meals for their families. And parishioners are healthier. “By nourishing plants, you’re nourishing community,” Joyner told CNN. “It’s one and the same.”

Find out more and watch a video about Rev. Joyner and the community garden project:




Young Cultivators Merit Badge: Thank You! Beginner Level

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 6,724 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—9,486 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   

For this week’s Young Cultivator Each Other/Thank You! Beginner Level Merit Badge, I enlisted my handy-dandy, go-to, MBA newbies, Piper and Andy. No, it wasn’t just that they were the only two whippersnappers in my circle; it was actually their mother’s idea.

You see, she had noticed a bit of … well, negligent and perhaps slipshod behavior in her sweet little angels as of late.

Okay, I candy-coated it. What she really said was,

These gremlins who live with me and call me Mom have become entitled, selfish Twerpensteins with ATTITUDES. Suggestions?

Suggestions? Boy howdy, was I the farmgirl for the job!

You see, I too, have struggled with being negligent and slipshod an entitled, selfish Twerpenstein, and have recuperated nicely.

Hello, my name is MBA Jane and I am a recovering gremlin-with-an-attitude.

Hello, Jane!

I knew the root of the problem with the rugrats lay in their lackadaisical, cotton-pickin’ hearts. They needed a job, a purpose, a sense of thankfulness.

And maybe a cookie.

photo by Jason Lam via Wikimedia Commons

(Because everything—including jobs, purposes, and merit badges—go better with cookies).

In order to earn their Beginner Level badge, they simply needed to start a Gratitude Journal.

Easy peasy, lemon squeasy, righto? I mean, come on. Who doesn’t like to journal things in cute, little, cloth-bound booklets?

Evidently, Piper and Andy, that’s who.

You’d think I was pulling their teeth or forcing them to drink kale juice. The sounds of whining coming from my kitchen table practically made my ears bleed, I kid you not.

“But Auntie!” they cried, in unison, “It’s SUMMER! School is over! We refuse to learn anything! Bloody murder! I won’t do it! The pencil hurts my fingers! The paper smells weird! I need more cookies! This will give me Black Lung! You’ll be sorry when we’re dead!”

Yadda yadda yadda, etc. etc. etc., blah blah blah.

Trust me: I’ve toughened up since becoming an auntie. It’s not a job for the faint of heart. You need a will of iron, a spine of steel, a big heart, and a whole lotta chocolate chips.

After they realized I was not going to back down on this (and that their mother wasn’t going to let them come home until their attitudes changed), they cracked open their journals and buckled down. Well, sorta. Andy banged his head on the table a few more times for good measure, but after it made his eyes cross and I didn’t soften (but did hand him some ice), he sighed and got to work.

They were kind enough to let me read their lists:

  • Cookies
  • Summer vacation (or lack thereof, Auntie)
  • Wifi
  • Puppies and kittens
  • Breakfast, lunch, and dinner
  • Snacks
  • Mom and Dad
  • Friends
  • Slumber parties
  • Toenail polish
  • Outdoor barbeques with the neighbors
  • Horseback rides
  • Shopping
  • Holidays
  • Tree climbing
  • Blanket forts
  • Movie nights
  • Andy (don’t tell him I said that)
  • Piper (don’t tell her I said that)
  • Swimming
  • Pets
  • Pizza nights with the family
  • Vacations
  • Staycations
  • Back to school outfits and supplies
  • Lemonade stands

I thought it was a lovely list.

P.S. I may have forgotten to mention they have to write in these journals for two weeks to earn their badges.

photo by Danni Suplicki via

Ahem. Pray for me.

And send chocolate chips.




Hear Ye!

Welcome New Sisters! (click for current roster)

Merit Badge Awardees (click for latest awards)

My featured Merit Badge Awardee of the Week is … CJ Armstrong!!!

CJ Armstrong (#665) has received a certificate of achievement in Stitching & Crafting for earning an Expert Level Origami Merit Badge!

“Folding paper into tiny little articles of clothing is one of my favorite origami projects. I call these clothes “Tiny Togs” and have used them to make cards, wall hangings, tags and journals. There are several variations on folding for a blouse or shirt. You can add a tie or vest to a shirt for a masculine look. There is the A-line skirt and the pleated skirt, shorts, pants and little purses. Some of the folding is intricate to get the tapers and tucks just right. And, of course, your own imagination can take you beyond what the instruction pages, if you have them, tell you. Buttons, ribbons, and other embellishments can be added as well.


I’ve chosen this project for the expert level because it is my favorite and these “Tiny Togs” are still things I use in my papercrafting projects. It has taken approximately 3 hours to complete this project. This project, when framed, will be a great wall hanging for my sewing room or my craft room. I’ll be making more “Tiny Togs” in the future as they are so adorable and fun!”