1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Recently, I have been reading about very early american lifestyle and home decor. It has inspired me to try and see if I can embrace a more simple approach. I am especially drawn to the cabin, prairie farm style where every item had a use and purpose. Like the photo above, there is true beauty in something that is not competing with surrounding knick-knacks that are never used or even authentic. sigh. I have a lot of learning and clearing out to do! But the idea of embracing what had been the rule of thumb for households has me intrigued and inspired. I am curious to see what I end up actually doing. Stay tuned!

    • MaryJane says:

      Purging stuff and simplifying one’s home décor is like cleansing your palate. The little things get tastier, you see more, your senses become more rested, less overwhelmed. It’ll be a fun journey, Winnie.

  2. Deb says:

    Solitude, is what this reminds me of. Back to the day when some things were simpler and at the end of very long day you could just sit for a minute in front of the fire and say life is hard but good!

  3. Reminds me of a house I lived in In Vermont many years ago. I’m not good at a simple ethic for decor, I like to see my pretty things about me , especially ones that touch my heart, like ones passed down to me. My books, paintings done by loved ones, hand made quilts and so on.I live a simple lifestyle, but just not a simple home.

  4. Brenda White says:

    Simplicity ❤️

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Young Cultivators Merit Badge: Trash Talk, Intermediate Level

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 6,825 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—9,626 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! ~MaryJane 

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life   

Earning our Beginning Level Merit Badge for recycling and proper garbage disposal fired up my nephew, Andrew, so much that he was determined to earn his Cleaning Up/Trash Talk Intermediate Level Merit Badge posthaste.

He was garbage obsessed.

A stinkage fanatic. A debris addict. A litter king. A rubbish extremist. A trash junkie.

Ha! Get it? Trash junkie? Ah, I slay myself.

Anyway, after our newfound knowledge gathered from the local recycling center, the dump, and reading his handy-dandy pamphlet cover to cover, Andy was the man for the job. He recruited me as his Super-secret Garbage Spy Left-hand Sidekick Girl (his title), and we got to work infiltrating the family.

First off, he brought in his shiny, new recycling container that the friendly folks at the recycling center gave us, and plopped it dead center in the middle of the living room.

photo by epSos .de via Wikimedia Commons

(Mom quickly nixed that idea, so it moved to the kitchen.)

Andy was not satisfied though; he thought we could do better. So, using a small laundry hamper and an oversized Easter basket …

photo of The Longaberger Basket Factory by Barry Haynes via Wikimedia Commons

(not quite this big)

… he painstakingly made DIY labels for his Super-smart Recycling Center (his title), and soon enough, he had three stations:

  • Paper
  • Plastics
  • Glass

We were going to make one for cans, but the family had recently give up their soda habit, so we decided against it. Yay, family! I shall reward them with some fresh-squeezed kale juice soon. Or maybe we won’t push them that far quite yet …

I did remind Andy we could make a compost container too, so once again we were off on an upcycling quest. We took an aluminum coffee can with a lid and decorated it with scraps of paper and magazine cutouts, collage style.

photo by BrandEvangelist via Wikimedia Commons

Note to self: giving small boys access to glue is an adventure in babysitting.

Andy labeled it Compost for Auntie Jane’s Eggs Chickens.

At least, I think that’s what he labeled it.

Is there a badge for legible handwriting he can work on soon? No? Phooey.

As for me, being his Super-secret Garbage Spy Left-hand Sidekick Girl, I was put to work spying and reporting back to him, the Super-secret Top Boss Recycling Hero Man (his title). We spent a whole afternoon hiding behind furniture, sneaking in the laundry room, and trying to fit in the kitchen cupboards.

Note to self: You aren’t as young (or flexible) as you used to be, Janey, my girl.

If we saw a family member nonchalantly toss a recyclable into the regular old trash, we were to report to one another immediately.

Then we were to tickle them until they begged for mercy and charge them a quarter (his plan).


We were to lovingly and calmly instruct and remind them of the new household rules (my plan).

We compromised and went with lovingly and calmly instructing and reminding them of our household rules and then charging them a quarter.

Or was it lovingly and calmly tickling them? Well, no matter. Let’s just say, the family got on board asap. And in no time at all, Andy had earned his badge and the family was upgraded to Super-hero Recycling Experts (my title).


  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    I used to sell Longaberger Baskets a few(ahem) decades, ago and went to the Big Basket one year for a sales meeting. It is pretty awesome inside too!!

    Recycling is something our community embraced back in the 1990s and we are all grateful here for the city and county efforts to keep our water cleaner and reduce landfill waste.

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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 … Amy Cloud Chambers!!!

Amy Cloud Chambers (Song sparrow, #6098) has received a certificate of achievement in Stitching & Crafting for earning a Beginner & Intermediate Level Knitting Merit Badge!

“My mother taught me to knit many years ago, but I never really tried to finish anything (music took first place in my interests). But now I have grown very interested and wish I had paid more attention. I started with a simple garter-stitch scarf in stripes, using up yarn from Mom’s stash. I had in mind a dear lady from the nursing home, which would also help motivate me to working on another badge. It took hours to complete (way beyond the three-hour requirement). But in actuality, this project propelled me into a love of handiwork long forgotten since my childhood. And although I finished it after some more advanced projects that I tackled for Christmas presents, it was a project of the heart for two reasons. 1) Because of the person for whom it was made, who I will tell more about in another badge application; and 2) Because it brought handiwork back into my life after years of being busy with other things. This simple project became a source of great joy!


I think it turned out very well, and certainly, I have received very kind compliments from my Henhouse and Farmgirl Connection forum sisters. They seem to really like the colors, and I like the long fringe. It’s kind of glamorous for my dear friend, who will receive it as part of a Valentine’s package of goodies.

After I tackled the project for my Beginner badge, I enjoyed it so much that I decided to knit Christmas gifts for family and friends. I chose more advanced projects that would allow me to experiment with new stitch techniques and fibers. The results were mostly very lovely and I learned so very much about about the art and craft of knitting. I knitted two sets of scarves and arm warmers for my very cosmopolitan brother and sister-in-law, who are always on their iPhones. For these projects, I learned to use a circular needle, knit cables, and work with mohair- and alpaca-blend yarns. For my mother, I made a lap afghan, which introduced me to so many new stitches and techniques that I started and ripped it out eight times before I got the hang of it! Pictures of these projects are included. I also made my poor daughter what may be the ugliest sweater vest ever created, which taught me a valuable lesson about making yarn substitutes. The cats received knitted catnip fish, which taught me to knit with double-pointed needles. I even knitted a basket out of jute twine to hold the various food jars for my granddaughter’s hermit crabs, a most unusual project.


All of the gifts were well received, even my dear daughter’s ugly sweater, which gave us all a laugh. The cats have torn their gifts to shreds, but I can’t really tell if the hermit crabs like their basket.”

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Congratulations Amy!! Your knitting revival has been wonderfully successful. I saw your luscious scarf over at the HenHouse and your mother’s afghan turned out equally as beautiful. Looks like you are well on your way to being a knitting expert for sure!!

  2. My, you started with one scarf and off you went! Very impressive, congrats for your patience especially

  3. Krista says:

    Congratulations Amy! Your work is beautiful. You are truly an inspiration to keep trying more advanced projects and complete merit badges. I love that you even made the animals Christmas presents. There is nothing better than sharing homemade things with everyone. Keep up your amazing work!

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  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    These spools look like wooden one and I did not know they still made them that way. Love the colors grouped together!

  2. Lisa Allen says:

    Sewing and blue, two of my favorite things!

  3. Bonnie ellis says:

    Such beautiful colors, makes me want to make a blue quilt.

  4. Deb says:

    A Blue Palette!

    My colors and favorite vintage sewing treasures to collect!

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  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    I think this is the Western Blue Jay? He looks happy to be in that sunbeam on a cold day.

    • MaryJane says:

      Steller’s Jay I think. They’ve been coming to my feeder along with Gray Jays. I think I heard a Phoebe the other day.

  2. Bonnie ellis says:

    It is a Steller Jay. They are darker than our bright blue ones in Minnesota. He looks cold.

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Young Cultivators Merit Badge: Do Your Eyes Light Up? Beginner Level

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 6,760 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—9,508 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! ~MaryJane 

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life   

For this week’s Make It Easy/Do Your Eyes Light Up? Beginner Level Young Cultivator Merit Badge, I once again visited my go-to, would-be, wanna-be, newbie farmgirl sister (or as she would say, sistah), Piper. I was just as thrilled with this badge earning as she was—maybe a smidgeon more even—and we got to work ASAP (As Soon As Piper … fixed her hair, ate breakfast, checked her social media, watched an episode of something or other, ate a snack, sent several text messages, and fixed her hair again).

In order for Pipes to earn her Beginner Level badge, she needed to learn a few things from Yours Truly, aka Jane the Brain. Namely, we needed to identify common tools used around the house and garden. I was secretly super-excited about this for a few reasons:

  • I love tools
  • I love wearing my tool belt
  • I lost the charger to my cordless drill and was hoping we’d find it ASAP (As Soon As Piper … well, you know the drill. Ha! Get it? Drill?)

Anyway, we started out in the house and I was surprised at how few tools she could actually name (manicure set aside). Then she shocked me even further by admitting her school—like most others—had eliminated Shop Class.

Whaa? Who put who in the what now?

This was a travesty. I mean, who was going to keep everyone in constant birdhouse supply? What about homemade mailboxes, or crooked picture frames? What, no ashtrays as Christmas presents anymore? (Okay, maybe that one, no one will miss too dreadfully. Although they are handy for storing jewelry.)

Photo by Alfred T. Palmer via Wikimedia Commons

I couldn’t believe my ears. And beyond what these poor lost sheep weren’t learning in their non-existent Shop Class, where were all the ex-Shop Class teachers going?

Was there a halfway house for fired Shop Class professors? Were they hanging out like juvenile delinquents on the steps of Home Depot? Were they getting tatted up, pierced, joining a biker gang, and causing chaos due to their lack of purpose? Were they lying face down (gasp) in an empty aisle at Lowes?

I had to put the poor lost men and women of Shop Class on the back burner, though, as I focused on Piper. I wiped away a single solitary tear in memory of those who had gone before us as I lovingly showed her the license-plate birdhouse I had made in ninth grade.

“The rusted steel cut off part of my pinky and gave me tetanus,” I reminisced nostalgically. “It was the best time ever.”

“Um, yeah, okay, Auntie. What’s this funny looking thing?” Piper held up a post-hole digger.

There’s no better way to teach than to learn by doing, so we spent an hour putting a fence around my herb area in my garden. And by ‘we,’ I, of course, mean Piper. I sipped on some iced tea and fondly remembered my days in Shop Class.

The day was a success: Piper learned the identities of most of my tools, I took a trip down memory lane, and we found my drill charger when Piper went to plug in her cell phone. Thanks, sistah!

Photo by edward stojakovic via Wikimedia Commons


  1. Cindi says:

    I am really loving your time with this delightful future Farmgirl. The demise of shop class and home economics in the schools has long been an irritating thorn in my side. At first I didn’t know why it bothered me so. I mean, how many of us groaned at the thought of having to go to shop class? But now as many years have passed without it, it is clear that the opportunity for these youngsters to learn very useful things has also resulted in depriving them of a chance to feel a real sense of accomplishment. Your apprentice has no idea what a wonderful gift you are giving her, but one day she will and you will forever hold a special place in her heart. Oh, and one day she will impress the socks off some young suitor with her post hole digging skills!

  2. Winnie Nielsen says:

    The elimination of “vocational” classes in public education has been a huge loss for many kids. Parents all want their kids to go to college. But what they fail to understand is that we still need plumbers, AC/heating experts, construction workers, welders and all the rest. Many community college today have these careers in the form of certificate programs and associate degree programs to meet the needs and wishes of interested students. I worked with a man who was in charge of the career and development programs for our county schools and he reminded me one day that if your car breaks down on the roadside, do you want a car mechanic to stop or a brain surgeon? Somehow we have stigmatized these important careers as “for dummies or flunkies” instead of giving them the respect they deserve.

    Your young cultivator badge is very important, I believe, for young people because they are not going to get any encouragement or classes in our schools. I am a firm believer that if youngsters get exposed before they hear that “smart people don’t do those things” and get jaded about doing them, they are less likely to shun away from exploring.

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  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Speaking of snow, my sweet older sister lives alone right outside of Washington, D.C. and they are preparing for a very dangerous blizzard. It is scary! Meanwhile down here, the southern tip of that same storm is churning across the Gulf and dragging heavy rains, high winds and tornadoes to our area. No peaceful swinging in the snow today east of the Mississippi!!!

  2. Bonnie ellis says:

    What a well-made swing. Many of us have spent hours of fun with the wind in our face. Did you make the swing Mary Jane?

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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 … Doris Meisell!!!

Doris Meisell (#3794) has received a certificate of achievement in Garden Gate for earning a Beginner Level Backyard Farmer Merit Badge!


“I decided to jump in and get my feet wet by raising some chickens and it’s been a love affair since day one! I ordered them from a hatchery as day old chicks and have spent the past year and a half tending to them. I originally planned to order 15 to start but ended up choosing six different breeds. I plan to branch out with ducks and goats and a cow and a couple of horses … but that will have to wait until we have more space. For now it’s five dogs, three cats, and six chickens!

Did I mention how nervous this makes my DH whose planning a quiet retirement?!

This is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made! Not only do we have fresh eggs that come from a source that I control (well except for the worms and bugs they find on their own) but they provide hours upon hours of entertainment and contentment for me. We had to move them 1,200 miles and, thankfully, everyone survived. I love each and every one of them. Although I did pick them partially because they are meat birds, I have no intention of ever eating one of these. They are excellent layers and are not much trouble at all. I can honestly say that there have been days where a stick of dynamite could not rouse me out of bed but the minute I remember that I must raise the coop door, I am out there in a flash, sometimes in nightclothes and mudders (boots) … and let me tell you, on those mornings back on the east coast where we struggled just to get up to the freezing mark by midday, that says a lot about chicken love. Thank goodness we probably won’t have long hard freezes like that here back in our home state of Texas.”

  1. Brenda White says:

    My husband and I own 8 chickens. It’s been a great experience for us plus we know we have fresh healthy eggs to eat. Also we pass eggs on to our friends and family. We are urban farmers living in the city but we have a wooded area behind us. And lastly I refer to my chickens as ornamental. They trot around the yard and will not grace our table as dinner.

  2. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Dors, I am delighted to hear about your successful chicken project! I keep trying to talk my husband into letting me do the same but we travel a lot and that makes it more difficult. Enjoy all of those fresh eggs from your Girls and the peace of watching them be just who they are!

  3. Joan H. says:

    Yay! I love my chickens too! And that feeling of healthy eggs from happy chickens is the best.

    We are moving soon, still trying to figure out how to handle my girls safely.

    Goods times,

  4. Krista says:

    Congratulations Doris on your Merit Badge award. Having fresh eggs is simply the best. I love hearing how much you love and care for your chickens. They must really mean something to you when you brave the freezing cold for them! I hope your chickens bring you much joy and that you can soon branch out with new animals.

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Dyeing for Color Merit Badge, Beginner Level

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 6,760 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—9,508 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! ~MaryJane 

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life   

For this week’s Beginner Level Stitching and Crafting/Dyeing for Color Merit Badge, I was already a bit of an expert. I mean, I don’t like to brag or anything (“Toot toot!” That may or may not be the sound of my own horn.), but I have been dyeing for a long time now.

I’ve been a brunette, a strawberry blonde, a platinum bombshell, and every shade in between. I’ve had highlights and lowlights, frosted tips, and bleached roots. I’ve had Clairol and Garnier and L’Oreal. I’ve done …

Wait. That’s not what we’re going for?

Well, color me embarrassed.

(Get it? Color me?)

photo by jerebu via Wikimedia Commons

But I could still use my hair color know-how and safety lessons learned in my newfound adventure of dyeing other things besides my tresses. For example: preparing your workstation (or head). Always put on an old shirt that you don’t mind getting stained, and wear gloves, chickadees. Once I went Nicole Kidman-inspired red, and my palms were stained for days. It looked like I had murdered someone. I was housebound for a week, and by the time I could leave, my beautiful locks had faded to Carebear pink. Sigh. Learn from me.

Another precaution before you start playing around experimenting responsibly with dyes, is to choose products that won’t trigger a headache or stomachache, if you are prone to those niggles when an overwhelming odor assaults you. Or, if you must use a chemical-laden dye, do it outside. No one will appreciate your shade of chartreuse on your hand-dyed bedspread if you are face down in it halfway through the procedure, gasping for breath like a fish out of water.

For my first venture into the unknown of Dyeing for Color, I chose tea.

That’s right … tea. It’s not just for breakfast anymore.

photo by Kayla Palmer via

I decided to dye a lovely, vintage lace tablecloth that had a roast chicken stain smackdab in the center. Up ’til now, I had simply plonked a vase of flowers right over the offending mark, but now I had a better plan. Color the whole thing Roast Chicken Drippings.

Side note: Crayola should probably hire me as a color namer. I’m really good at it. Some of the others I’m working on: Wet Seagull, Glistening Pepperoni, Vampire Skin, and Tuna Noodle Casserole Surprise.

Anyway, I was hesitant to use a good-quality tea for something that wouldn’t involve guzzling it, but then I remembered if you are cooking with wine, you should use a wine you’d like to drink. So, I figured the same rule applied here, right? So, I poured myself a glass of wine and got to work. Hee hee.

I brewed up a very large batch of Earl Grey, mixed with Oolong and just a sprinkling of Constant Comment. Your tablecloth may not be so particular, so go with your gut. Darker teas will, of course, dye your fabric a darker color, but don’t worry, even Turkish coffee won’t turn your fibers jet black.

I swirled my tablecloth around in the tea, making sure it was properly submerged and tucking it in gently. Then I left it for about 60 minutes. You can go longer or shorter; just keep checking on your fabric.

Rinse and wring out. If you don’t like the smell of tea, you can wash it out. Although, if you don’t like the smell of tea, well, there’s not a whole lot anyone can do for you.

Line dry, and enjoy your pretty new creation.

Now my tablecloth is less Roast Chicken Drippings, and more Recently Bathed Golden Retriever.

Seriously. Someone get Crayola on the line. I’m on fire.

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Hahahahha, you crack me up!! I have done a bit of tea and coffee fabric dyeing and I do like the way it looks. With coffee, I discovered when I had some French Vanilla on hand, that the process smells like a bakery in the kitchen. I am thinking the fragrant teas like Constant Comment or Earl Grey are a really good idea. Hmmm, there is a possible dual badge lurking here…….aromatherapy fabric dyeing. Add some music of choice and a beverage ( I like that wine idea a lot!) and you’ve got an instant throw back to the 1960s when we were blissfully tie dyeing anything that wasn’t alive and able to run away. Now to find my old albums of Jimmi Hendrix and the Four Tops!!

  2. I have never dyed my waist length hair but once years ago I used spray color at halloween, a brilliant glow in the dark pink. Yep you guessed, it it did not wash out quickly and I was still pink hued when I went to work at an ultra conservative German corporation. I was the receptionist and the boss called me into his office and said ” you vill not come to vork until you are no longer glowing ! “.
    I have tried my hand at tea dying and its always messy but fun.

  3. Karlyne says:

    “Recently Bathed Golden Retriever”? Yep, you’re on fire, girl!

  4. Krista says:

    Oh goodness! This had me laughing. I am really digging the color names. They could be for a farmgirls color collection. I have yet to fabric dye with tea but would love to give it a try when summer comes around. It would be nice to start with smaller fabrics like a runner that I can put across my dresser. I will have to play around with some teas to make sure I get the perfect color. This means I will have to indulge in different teas… experimental of course. I can’t wait to explore this badge.

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  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    All is cozy at the MJF cow barns. It is good to have the pile up of snow for the thirsty earth from last Summer . Makes for some thick green juicy grass!

  2. Deb says:

    Oh sweet serenity! I love it,!

  3. Janice Slater says:

    Love your pictures of the snow. Out here in the PNW not getting too much snow these days. Miss it so much. Thank you for sharing!

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