I received the most recent issue of the Acres U.S.A. magazine a few days ago and there was a familiar face on the cover. It was Mary Jane Butters in her field, digging garlic.
I was introduced to Mary Jane a couple years ago when I discovered the magazine, Mary Jane’s Farm at a bookstore in Syracuse, N.Y. Though geared more toward a female readership, I was smitten with Mary Jane’s Farm because it was a celebration of so many things that I hold dear: good homegrown food, a simplified rural lifestyle, organic and sustainable agriculture, physical work, creativity, family, and close community relationships.
Another thing I appreciate, and I think Mary Jane has done it in every issue of her magazine, is that she writes stories about her parents, honoring them for their simple down-home virtues. MJ frequently does the same thing with elderly people she knows or has known.
The only thing missing from Mary Jane’s Farm that I would so love to see in such a publication is an overt Biblical worldview. Mary Jane grew up Mormon and her current theology, as expressed through the magazine, is unclear to me. Nevertheless, so far, I’ve really enjoyed looking into the artfully crafted and vary carefully presented world of Mary Jane’s Farm.
I saw in my first issue of the magazine that Mary Jane was a devoted garlic grower, so I sent her a copy of my book, The Complete Guide To Making Great Garlic Powder, and a jar of my homemade garlic powder. To my surprise, Mary Jane published my letter, a picture of my book, and a hearty
endorsement in the next issue of her magazine. It was in the “Plateful” issue. All back issues, except the first, are still available (and I have them all).
Mary Jane is exceptionally good at promoting herself and her business. That is self evident when you read the magazine or click your way through her web site. Earlier this year she published her first book, an expanded agrarian celebration, much like an issue of her magazine but considerably bigger. I understand that Mary Jane got a 1.35 million advance from the publisher for that book.
I once got a $10,000 advance for a book I wrote for The Taunton Press. At the time, I thought that was a lot of money. But I had not yet written the book. After I got it done, I realized the advance wasn’t much at all. Obviously, Mary Jane is in a different league than I am! I don’t begrudge her the success. In fact, I am
delighted to see it because I think MJ is a sincere woman and, like I said, I like most of the message she is so capably communicating.
Well, I guess what I’ve written thus far is an introduction because I haven’t yet told you about what I posted this blog for. My actual purpose for telling you about Mary Jane is to tell you about the Acres USA article.
It so happens that, along with everything else she does, Mary Jane has a most unusual Bed & Breakfast on her organic farm in Idaho. Mary Jane’s B&B guests stay in tents. No kidding. But these aren’t your typical Coleman nylon camping tents. They are big canvas wall tents. Here’s a quote from Mary Jane’s daughter, Meghan:
“We have five secluded wall tents nestled throughout our orchards,” said Meghan, “each with a salvaged barn-wood floor and a full antique iron bed blanketed in organic sheets and piled high with goose down pillows and comforters. The tents are lit with oil lanterns and warmed by wood-burning stoves that can be used for cooking. Each tent also has front and rear decks for enjoying a good book to the chorus of crickets, and a fully functional outdoor kitchen with propane stove, cold-water sink and campfire. Our guests share our environmentally friendly outhouses and shower houses.”
You can (and should!) see the tents here. And check out the prices too.
How many people would have thought that putting guests up in tents would be so popular and profitable? Such an idea is a tribute to Mary Jane’s practicality, resourcefulness, and ingenuity.
Back in the summer of 1977 I lived in a small tent in Craftsbury Common, Vermont. I was working for Bruce and Patty Womer, helping them restore a large, old, New England clapboard building that would become part of the Craftsbury Inn. My tent was a two-man backpacking tent—far smaller than a 12-foot by 14-foot wall tent. I didn’t have goose down pillows or any other fancy amenities. But I was still cozy and comfortable and dry (even in the rain). Sleeping outside close to the night air was so refreshing. It’s a nice memory.
In my dreams, one day, perhaps, when my family gets ourselves some field and woodland acreage, we will find an appropriate spot, build a platform, and put up a wall tent. It can serve as an inexpensive family getaway, a base camp for the kids to hunt from, a place for us to stay as we work and improve the land. In time, we
would think about building a home for ourselves. You gotta have a dream. That’s what we are working towards and I think a wall tent will fit into it very nicely.
Oh, and here is another really great thing about a wall tent base camp-- you don’t have to pay taxes on a tent!
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