MaryJane Butters is an organic farmer living in Idaho. She self-publishes a magazine, MaryJanesFarm, and is writing a series of farm-life books.
“Queen of all things organic and genuine.” The Pacific Northwest Inlander
This community has been made to discuss and promote the ideals of Mary Jane Butters and her "farmgirl" philosophy. In Mary Jane's own words:
How To Reconnect To A Healthier Past It starts with what I call a farmgirl fantasy: A job where you see and feel and eat the fruits of your labor. A place where connecting with the earth is not a to-do item but an inevitability, where work and home are not separate worlds but fully integrated. No wonder there's a new breed of farmers emerging to pick up the plow: women. But first toss out your image of “farmer.” These are farmgirls who remember the farm life they never led. Whether from the city or the country, women are the fastest growing group of people buying small farms. Even savvy authors like Barbara Kingsolver are becoming farmers. We're not interested in big commodity farms. We like feeding our neighbors. In 1997, 9 percent of agricultural producers were women. In 2002, we made up 27 percent. At this rate, in 10 years women could own 75 percent of American farmland. In my case, “farmgirl” wasn't a fantasy; it was an obsession, one I had for almost 10 years before I found my five acres at the end of a dirt road. How did I do it? I thumbed through real-estate ads as if my life depended on it. I traveled country roads knocking on doors as if I was “some kind of something.” I was undeterred and unrelenting. I hoarded my money in a can hanging from a rope lowered into a coal chute. My place showed up one day in an ad: “Remote old homestead, five acres, orchard, well, $45,000.” But you don't have to buy a farm to be a farmgirl. Whether you live in Boise or Boston, the farmgirl spirit is a way of life that reconnects our past to a healthier future. It celebrates the reusable, the homemade, and the sensible. Here are six ways to get the farmgirl feel. • Put on an apron. Where have all the aprons gone? Undone by convenience foods and politics, they're hard to find. Women's aprons are a mix of ceremony, lace, and utility. They separate your outside self from your inside self. They're a fashion statement. They also serve a practical purpose—pockets—a place for tools, biscuits, plants, seed packets, gloves, sunglasses, a flashlight, children's toys. If you can't find one and you didn't inherit any, dust off your sewing machine. Go to butterick.com, click on “shop,” and search for “apron.” Even if you haven't the time for a sewing project, get it ordered and tuck it in a drawer before it, too, becomes extinct. • Skip the dryer. Get good at nuzzling your face into line-dried linens. The smell of ozone is intoxicating. To master this one, buy a clothesline or nonelectric clothes dryer. There's no better place to do this than Lehman's (lehmans.com; 888-438-5346). With two retail stores in Ohio, Lehman's was founded in 1955 to serve the Amish, who believe in simple living without electricity. On their Web site you'll find retractable clothes dryers, clothesline pulleys, Amish-made wall-mounted wooden dryers, floor dryers, outside spinning dryers, wooden clothespins, even old-fashioned pant stretchers. • Learn to eat salad with a spoon. Quit fussing with gourmet salads, the kind you chase around your plate. Simply retool and rethink this wondrous food. Toss your salad forks into permanent hibernation. The secret to the plentiful partaking of salad greens is “the salad spoon”… as in soup spoon. Buy or grow strong, vitamin-packed greens like kale, parsley, tat soi, napa cabbage, beet greens, spinach, basil, chard, sorrel, dark lettuces, dandelion greens, and Good King Henry along with lettuce, carrots, sunchokes, broccoli, squash, etc. Put all of it on a cutting board and start chopping. Dress with olive or flax oil and balsamic vinegar. For breakfast, add a hard-boiled egg or apple chunks or raisins. If it's dinnertime, add some bits of cooked potatoes or rice or lentils. You'll quadruple the amount of greens you eat once you start eating salad with a spoon. • Darn a sock. Our throwaway society costs us not only environmentally, but also in the satisfaction of small accomplishments. If you can't find an heirloom sock darner, use a burned-out light bulb. Stuff it into your worn-out sock as if it were your heel and start weaving back and forth, in and out. Never put a knot in your yarn (or cotton thread if you're working on a pair of summer socks), because it'll feel like a small pebble against your foot. Just start weaving back and forth, up and down. The nearby threads will hold the end in place as you repair the hole. Remember “A stitch in time…” It's easiest to darn a sock just before it gets a hole. • Adopt some baby chicks. Consider a different kind of backyard pet, one that helps with breakfast. From posh suburbs to inner-city yards, chicken coops are cropping up across the United States. Sales of live chicks have boomed in the last few years; one estimate has the number of backyard flocks in Los Angeles alone at 10,000. For baby chicks delivered in the mail, go to mcmurrayhatchery.com. To buy a “hen spa,” go to henspa.com. For a beginner's how-to video, go to chickenvideo.com. • Buy the right work gloves. Your fall yard chores will be a lot more pleasant—and may inspire a deeper ambition. Get a pair and break them in. I like latex-palm gloves best because they're easily laundered. (Hint: Long bike rides soften gloves.)