MaryJanesFarm | Farm Life
Simple Solutions for Everyday Organic

In December 1999, a newspaper reporter from Washington called. He was writing a review of the book Seven Wonders: Everyday Things for a Healthier Planet by John C. Ryan. Michael Guilfoil of the The Spokesman Review newspaper asked me if I had my own “seven wonders.” The story that ensued was headlined “Simple Solutions.” Here, then, is the continuation of that story. Each issue of MaryJanesFarm will feature in detail new solutions, and will give you all the information you need to make them your own.

 

Something Borrowed Solutions: Seven Ways to Share Resources (PDF)

We learn to share as toddlers, but it’s time we tap into the vital skill of give-and-take to bolster communities and better our lives. How? By building a “sharing economy.” Pooling resources is an age-old concept that’s reemerging at the local level and succeeding on a global scale. It works like this ...

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April Showers Solutions: Seven Ways to Garden Like a Girl (PDF)

Who says gardening can’t be glamorous? Girly gals simply sow in style! After all, tulle looks terrific with the right rain boots. So spiff up, sport a sun hat, and make your debut on the “green carpet” with these seven ways to make planting a garden positively pretty.

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Piecemaking Solutions: Seven Musts for a Natural First-Aid Kit (PDF)

Whether you’re collecting eggs, corralling kids, stitching quilts, or glamping with gal pals, a few bumps and bruises come with being a farmgirl on the go. Be prepared to patch and pamper life’s little henpecks by including these natural remedies in your own farmgirl natural first-aid kit.

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For Whom the Bell Jingles Solutions: Seven Honey Facts, Tips, and Tests (PDF)

There’s nothing sweeter than a drizzle of honey, but is your go-to brand the real McCoy? Here are seven scam-busting facts, tips, and tests to make sure your honey is pure.

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Turning the Page Solutions: Seven Things You Might Not Know About Books (PDF)

You crave them, devouring pages as if stories were sustenance. But, dear bibliophile, I’ll bet there are a few things you don’t know about books. For instance, Americans buy somewhere around five million books a day! Surprised? Read on to boost your brainpower and share the literary love.

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Sunday Drive Solutions: Seven Ways to Glam Up Your Glampsite (PDF)

Late summer is the most sublime time to get your glamp on. The air is sweet with ripening fruit, and the nights are warm. What are you waiting for? Hit the road ... in rhinestones. Head for the hills ... in heels. Don’t be shy about glamping up your campsite. This trip is for the girls.

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Midnight Hour Solutions: Seven Late-night Sanity Savers (PDF)

It’s past midnight, but your eyelids simply won’t stay shut. Sleep? Impossible. You’re wide awake and suddenly beset by stress. At this hour, anxiety can run wild, leaving you feeling helpless. Instead of tossing and turning, try these surefire sanity savers to calm your mind and send you drifting back to dreamland.

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Mother Lode Solutions: Seven Ways to Pamper Mom (PDF)

What does Mom really crave on her special day? Chocolate? Flowers? Think again. Of all the gifts you can give her, time with you is the most precious of all. Here are 7 fabulous ideas for making Mother’s Day memories that the two of you can share for a lifetime.

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Saying Yes! Solutions: Seven Farms to Visit (PDF)

The urge is undeniable—you long to know how your food evolves from la terre to gourmet fare. Your hands hanker for harvesting. But how? Where there’s a whim, there’s a way. Begin your pastoral pursuit with a farm stay. Here are seven farms that will welcome you with open arms.

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Self-Rising Solutions: Seven Books for Holiday Giving (PDF)

Books make the best gifts because they keep on giving, page after page. This holiday, pass out paths to new horizons! Here are a few of my favorites. All are available on Amazon.com.

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G Is For Solutions: Seven Tips for Good Neighborin’ (PDF)

Country life has many things to offer, but anonymity isn’t one of them. We tend to know our neighbors, but city folk are often so independent that they have no idea who lives right across the hall. Privacy is great, but good neighborin’ (both having one and being one) is necessary, too. Neighbors can be your security system, support network, and information hotline. Here are seven solutions to help you say “Howdy!”

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Best of Show Solutions: Seven Sisters Who Are Making It Happen (PDF)

Our Farmgirl Sisterhood members continue to inspire and delight us with the creative ways they earn their Merit Badges. For this issue’s theme, “Best of Show,” I wanted to share the stories of seven Sisters who found stellar solutions to earn badges. Read about our Farmgirl Sisterhood and Merit Badge program at www.farmgirlsisterhood.org.

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Road Trip Solutions: Seven Methods for Compact Composting (PDF)

It’s time to give some serious thought to your garden—no matter how petite your plot. Anything grand needs good soil to grow, and the best soil is the soil you make. If making soil sounds out of your league—it’s not! You don’t need farm experience, a tractor, or even a backyard. You can convert food scraps (and even dog poop!) into compost, the most critical component of fertile soil.

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Smitten Solutions: Seven Ways to Upcycle Your Wardrobe (PDF)

Newfangled “eco” fabrics are all the rage, but if you’d like to get in on the ground floor of the greenest fashion trend going, think UPCYCLE! Reconstruct your own retro-style wardrobe or design clothing to sell on the green market with these 7 simple ideas for upcycling with flair ...

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Folklore Solutions: Seven Ways to Celebrate (PDF)

If greeting cards and boxed chocolates are leaving you feeling ho-hum about Valentine’s Day this year, get inspired by the celebratory customs of other countries around the world. Here are seven ways to put an international spin on this special day. Devote yourself to one, or flirt with them all!

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Imagine a Place Solutions: Seven Ways to Imagine (PDF)

Imagining the many paths we could pursue in life helps us get up each morning and face the world. But there’s sweeter satisfaction in finding the power to follow through. Today, try taking hold of a dream and steering it toward reality. Here are seven ways to make it happen.

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Nifty Thrifty Solutions: Snow White and the Seven Smoothies (PDF)

Smoothies are a great way to boost your nutritional intake and still feel like you’re getting away with something. Liquids make more nutrients available than solid food, and are absorbed faster, too. They’re also easier to digest and frequently more appetizing than solid food when you’re rushed, sick, pregnant, or just plain bored. So grab your blender and let’s get started.

Drop in that banana, if you like, then add some frozen fruit; flavor-wise, it’s hard to go wrong. Berries, stone fruits, grapes, citrus, and tropical fruit all contribute a tart, punchy kick that’s as intense and colorful as candy. Now for the veggies. Yep, that’s right—I said VEGGIES. Smoothies are a great way to use the fresh or frozen vegetables you have on hand. It may sound scary, but don’t run screaming from the blender just yet. Greens may have a big impact on the color of your drink, but they usually contribute a fairly delicate flavor, especially alongside all that sweet fruit. So toss in frozen vegetables like peas, broccoli pieces, or spinach by the handful. Their natural sweetness will make the vitamin boost completely painless. You can also blend in your vitamin supplement; a scoop of wheat germ; a handful of nuts; a smear of nut butter; a chunk of fresh ginger; drizzles of honey or maple syrup; or spoonfuls of milled flaxseed, wheat germ, or ground cinnamon.

Now pour in a little juice, water, or yogurt to help it all liquefy and let ’er rip. Blend everything until smooth, and then taste a bit to see if you need to tweak the flavors or consistency. There are no hard and fast ratios or recipes. Just experiment with what you have and what you know you like. Then get busy dreaming up your favorite adventurous combinations.

Still feeling less than confident? Allow me to share a few of my favorite non-recipes ...

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9–5 Solutions: Seven Ways to Recycle Your Stuff (PDF)

So you want to simplify your life. Start with a drawer, a closet, a storage bin. But don’t just send those unwanted items to your local landfill or even your local charity store. There might be an organization that can put your discards to better use. Here are a few...

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Sister Act Solutions: Seven Acts of Kid Kindness (PDF)

Helping kids become helpers is crucial in developing strong identities of generosity and usefulness. “There is an unexpected magnificence in our children and an underestimated power in their ability to change our world for the better,” writes Mary Gordon, author of Roots of Empathy. Let’s begin teaching our kids ways to offer the best of themselves to others in need. Here are seven ways to start ’em off on the right foot.

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Shelter from the Storm Solutions: Seven Sanctuaries to Support (PDF)

Storms and strife may sweep the globe, but don’t get bogged down in the gloom. Instead, reach out a hand and make someone’s day brighter (the gesture will also send your own heart soaring).

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Emotional Currency Solutions: Seven Thoughtful Gestures for Holiday Giving (PDF)

Whether you’re hosting this holiday season or heading out to visit friends and family, simple gestures of thoughtfulness and hospitality are a sure way to warm spirits and make everyone feel right at home.

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Attitude of Gratitude Solutions: Seven Ways to Save Water (PDF)

Conserving water when I worked for the Forest Service on a fire lookout tower wasn’t a choice, it was a requirement. Fetching water by hand taught me in no uncertain terms how to make every drop count. I used my bath water to wash my clothes by hand, then I cleaned with it, and after that, I watered my garden with it. Up until the time my children were teenagers, I washed our clothes in a wringer washing machine parked next to our bathtub because I could use a bucket to transfer the still warm, soapy bath water into the wringer’s tub to give our clothes a bath. If you want a lesson in gratitude, haul all the water you’ll need in a week. The invention of piped water improved our lives, but it also allows us to take water for granted.

This issue’s seven solutions came from my friend, Gail Taber, a water saver extraordinaire. Gail says, “My household water conservation began simply, with a five-gallon bucket by the bathtub. One morning, after watching gallons of fresh, clean water go down the drain while waiting for warm water to arrive for my shower, I decided to capture and reuse this precious resource. Next came a kitchen sink water bucket to save water from rinsed or cooked vegetables and fruits. I was stunned to see the amount of water that had previously gone down the drain. My kitchen conservation system now consists of two buckets: one for ‘pre-use water,’ or water collected directly from the tap while rinsing or waiting for warm water, and one for ‘re-use water,’ like water from boiling pasta or corn on the cob.” Following are seven ways Gail puts her water-saving efforts to use. If you have young children in the house, get them involved too, by creating a family “bucket brigade.” Each child can have their own color-coded bucket and an assigned task for using their saved water.

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Lay of the Land Solutions: Seven Ways to Revitalize with Simple Work (PDF)

Sometimes the daily grind has a way of grinding us to a halt. With work, kids, and never-ending to-do lists, we’re so busy that when we do get a precious moment of quiet, we often feel like we’ve forgotten how to embrace unbridled freedom. And so we tend to turn to technology for much-needed relaxation. Televisions, telephones, the Internet, and e-mail have become our “comfort” zones—the paths of least resistance. But, the truth is, technological timeouts can be more taxing than relaxing, leaving us unfulfilled and even more scattered. I’m no exception. My spare moments are few and far between, but when one surprises me, it’s hard to stop my head from spinning. I’ve never been big on television, but it takes discipline to disconnect from my laptop! The trick I use to wind down and get grounded again is simple hands-on work. I credit my mother for teaching me this vital life skill. Back when the only blackberries we knew grew plump and purple on the bush, I remember watching Mom’s steady hands as she knitted, folded, kneaded, and scrubbed. These were the tasks that needed doing in order to keep a home running smoothly, but she was rarely harried, and stress was just a kink that was worked out by hand.

Today, we can still unwind by unplugging and putting our hands to good use. There’s something about completing straightforward tasks with concrete results that changes brain chemistry for the better. By dedicating full focus to detail and making each movement a meditation, women like me are discovering that we can stitch away stresses, mop up life’s grit, and hang the hustle-and-bustle out to dry. So shut off the TV, the computer, and the chaos, and get ready to recharge. Here are some down-to-earth ideas from the women on my website chatroom (www.maryjanesfarm.org/snitz) who are finding renewed vitality in life’s simplest tasks.

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Sentimental Journeys Solutions: Seven Steps for Lowering Your Grocery Bill (PDF)

The part of your budget that has the most flexibility is often the dollars you spend on food. If you’re feeling the pinch in this challenging economic climate, don’t trade quality for quantity—with my simple solutions, your savings are in the bag.

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Garden Secrets Solutions: Seven Ways to “Green” Your Spring Cleaning (PDF)

Ah, the balmy tickle of spring is in the air. Time to throw open your windows and beat that dust from your rugs! Relishing the ritual of spring cleaning is a sure way to start fresh.

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Things We Love Solutions: Seven Ways to Tap into Your Own Brilliance (PDF)

Ready to connect with your inner brilliance? The secret recipe for discovering your innate ability to shine is simple: Take a cup of curiosity, add a pinch of pampering, simmer to satisfaction, and then savor the inspiration that springs to life.

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Old Fashioned Christmas Solutions: Seven Resolutions for a Green New Year (PDF)

There’s something about a new year that emboldens us to reinvent our lives. So with 2010 fast approaching, it’s the perfect time to muster good intentions and gear up for the opportunity to “go green.”

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Tried-n-True Solutions: Seven Ways to Celebrate Food (PDF)

To eat is human; to embrace the art of carefully prepared food is divine! When imbued with love, even the simplest meal can nurture like nothing else. Let’s celebrate food at its finest.

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Makin’ Hay Solutions: Seven Ways to Preserve the Harvest (PDF)

My family of seven grew enough produce on less than an acre of ground to feed us each year, but since most of the produce came ready at the same time (summer and autumn), we preserved it to extend our bounty.

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Plum-Easy Solutions: Seven Ways to Switch to an Organic Lifestyle (PDF)

Organic living encompasses so much more than just food choices. With all of the chemicals creeping into our homes daily, it’s important to find natural alternatives. Why? Because organic is clean, vibrant, and healthy—it keeps us young! And it all begins with agricultural practices that are gentler on the environment. So, here are seven simple ways to make a full-spectrum switch.

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Glamour Camping Solutions: Seven Ways to Go Wild (PDF)

Even if it’s a settee on the porch, we need it—gotta have it. The wild, that is. Know it, grow it, show it—just let it out.

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Simply Bee Solutions: Seven Ways to Help Our Pollinators (PDF)

The plight of the European honeybee has garnered the public’s attention largely because of its crucial role as a crop pollinator. Native bees may not make honey, but they do pollinate, along with bumblebees, beetles, birds, butterflies, and moths—even wasps, flies, and mosquitoes. Wild pollinator populations are also on the decline due to loss of healthy habitat in our overcrowded world. You can do your part to help these other pollinators pick up the slack.

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Live to Give Solutions: Seven Ways to Give (PDF)

‘Tis the season for generosity, and the spirit is catching. When others share their harvests, we get inspired to do the same. A wonderful thing to pass around, isn’t it? If you’d like to donate a bit of your bounty to a worthy cause, here are seven wondrous ways to share.

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Ladyslipper Solutions: Seven Ways to Lift Your Spirits (PDF)

The inevitable bumps and rough patches that life dishes out can be smoothed out by incorporating a few simple habits into your daily routine—a kiss here, a care there, better food NOW ... flavored with a bit of shopping and creative make-do! Here are my favorite seven salvations.

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Raising Jane Solutions: Make It Do Or Do Without (PDF)

Momma said it best: “Make it do or do without.” I’ll give you lots of ideas for the modern-day “3 Rs” (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle). But if you’re finally ready to give that old thing a new home, you can add a new R to your to-do’s: Recirculate! Here are seven ways to recirculate. Remember, one woman’s trash just might be another woman’s treasure!

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She's a Keeper Solution: Be a Discard Diehard! (PDF)

Treasures await you! In this issue, you’ll find ideas and instructions for lots of make-do, can-do, re-do projects!

  • “BeTogether” and celebrate with handmade pinkeepers, picnic fare, and games ...
  • “BeGuiled” by pretty pillows, curtains, doilies, aprons, and more ...
  • “BeDecked” with outdoor planters, and wind chimes and more made from discarded silverware ...
  • “BeJeweled” with button bouquets and jewelry ideas ...
  • “BeLoved” when you adopt or make a hand-did doll ...
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Artists in Aprons Solution: Rags to Riches (PDF)

If you don’t have a bag, basket, or bin set aside exclusively for rags, it’s never too late to discover their many uses—everything from holding up your up-do to piecing together an heirloom quilt. Had you asked my mother about her stash of rags, she would have told you it was akin to having money in the bank. Taught to value rags by my mother, I never feel poor when I can dip into a bin of rags ... oh, the textures, the colors, the possibilities!! ... a little something for my hair, a “ribbon” for a jar of flowers, a tiny bit of yellow for a daffodil. Once you decide to value and collect rags, you’ve entered the soul-satisfying world of farmer-girl make-do!

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Farm Kitchen Solution: Mother of Invention

For rural women, necessity is the mother of invention. Being imaginative and making-do is just part of the job. Actually, it is the job. It comes with the territory. Not only are stores sometimes hours away, but frittering away money on things you can make yourself will most certainly run a farm short of money.

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No Place Like Home Solution: Root Cellars

My root cellar was built around 1910. In it now are potatoes, beets, parsnips, sunchokes, carrots and cabbage. It’s an easy, “free” way to refrigerate food.

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Handful Solution: Hand Pumps

Last summer, I contacted the original 1800s company that made hand water pumps. They were about to quit when Y2K brought them a surge of orders. If the eletricity goes out, I can walk to my pump and with 15 easy strokes, a stream of water from 400 feet underground spews out of the spout.

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Plateful Solution: Sauerkraut and Kimchi

Sauerkraut and kimchi (pickled cabbage) are family staples. I make them in five-gallon crocks. I chop or shred vegetables, add a bit of dry salt and cover them for six weeks. Fermented vegetables aid in digestion, and they’re very tasty.

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Shoulder to the Wheel Solution: Lawn Alternatives

As an adult, I’ve never had a lawn. Americans spend about a billion hours a year caring for lawns, and apply 67 million pounds of pesticides. When my grandpa moved to the city, he amused his neighbors by turning his front yard into a vegetable and flower garden. Early one morning, when he was around 85, he fell over while picking beans and died in his beloved patch of food and flowers. What a nicer way to go than behind a gas mower!

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The Art of the Egg Solution: Hand-Powered Kitchen Duty

I use a hand vegetable mill to grate or slice all of our cheese, potatoes, carrots — even shelled walnuts. It’s permanently mounted in my kitchen and has four different attachments. It’s faster and easier than an electric grinder. And it’s a great way to involve kids in the kitchen.

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Backcountry Food Solution: Treadle Sewing Machines

I come from a family of seamstresses. When I left home, my mother purchased a new electric sewing machine for me. Within a year, I sold it and switched to a Singer treadle machine. I’ve reupholstered couches with my treadle, sewn sleeping bags, made car seat covers and, of course, clothes. You can’t beat the stitch and reliability of a treadle.

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Premiére Solution: Wooden Drying Racks

I’ve never owned an electric or gas clothes dryer. But I have a beautiful collection of wooden racks. Over the years I’ve found them in antique stores, or purchased them new from an Amish catalogue. Laundry is a religion for me. I love it when I’m all caught up. I love it when I have a bunch to do. I love the smell and repetitive reward of laundry.

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