• About Farm School

    "There are obviously two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live."
    James Adams, from his essay "To 'Be' or to 'Do': A Note on American Education", 1929

    We're a Canadian family of five, farming and home schooling. I'm nowhere near as regular a blogger as I used to be.

    The kids are 17/Grade 12, 15/Grade 10, and 13/Grade 9.

    Contact me at becky.farmschool@gmail.com

  • Notable Quotables

    "If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
    William Morris, from his lecture "The Beauty of Life"

    "The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall, nations perish, civilizations grow old and die out; and, after an era of darkness, new races build others. But in the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again, and yet live on, still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men’s hearts of the hearts of men centuries dead."
    Clarence Day

    "Anyone who has a library and a garden wants for nothing."
    Cicero

    "Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtile; natural philosophy, deep; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend."
    Sir Francis Bacon, "Essays"

    "The chief aim of education is to show you, after you make a livelihood, how to enjoy living; and you can live longest and best and most rewardingly by attaining and preserving the happiness of learning."
    Gilbert Highet, "The Immortal Profession: The Joys of Teaching and Learning"

    "Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment."
    Walter Wriston

    "I'd like to give you a piece of my mind."
    "Oh, I couldn't take the last piece."
    Ginger Rogers to Frances Mercer in "Vivacious Lady" (1938)

    "No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem."
    Booker T. Washington

    "Please accept my resignation. I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member."
    Attributed to Groucho Marx in "The Groucho Letters" by Arthur Sheekman

    "If you can't say something good about someone, sit right here by me."
    Alice Roosevelt Longworth

    "If we bring a little joy into your humdrum lives, we feel all our hard work ain't been in vain for nothin'."
    Jean Hagen as "Lina Lamont" in "Singin' in the Rain" (1952)
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  • Copyright © 2005-2014 Please do not use any of my words or my personal photographs without my express permission.

Poetry Friday: The scary season

Pumpkin
by Valerie Worth (1933-1994)

After its lid
Is cut, the slick
Seeds and stuck
Wet strings.
Scooped out,
Walls scraped
Dry and white,
Face carved, candle
Fixed and lit,

Light creeps
Into the thick
Rind: giving
That dead orange
Vegetable skull
Warm skin, making
A live head
To hold its
Sharp gold grin.

From Halloween: Stories and Poems, edited by Caroline Feller Bauer and illustrated by Peter Sis (1989), one of my recent treasures from the library’s autumn book sale.

For more poetry fun, and tricks and treats galore, head over to Sylvia Vardell’s Poetry for Children for the Halloween 2008 edition of the Poetry Friday Roundup.

*  *  *

The kids and I are heading for town late this afternoon for trick or treating, and I’m delighted that we’ll still have the last bit of Daylight Savings Time left to wander about the streets in some daylight.  It’s also supposed not supposed to be freezing or snowing, which is unusual for these parts.  So we’re all prepared for a very enjoyable evening, even before the chocolate.

Our home school facilitator meeting went well, again, and the kids were over the moon with the first meeting of junior curling.  They were the last ones off the ice. Not having been raised in Canada, I find watching curling not quite as exciting as watching paint dry, but Tom loves the sport especially for the strategy.  It’s something the kids can do with Tom, whether they are playing together or watching it on TV, and it’s a lifelong sport the kids will be able to participate in when they’re old and gray and creaky.  It’s also inexpensive compared to hockey, and a part of their heritage.  And I’ll be able to catch up on my reading at the rink…

Next week should be fairly quiet around here, which is good because I’m alternately excited and exhausted by the entire election process.  At this point next Wednesday can’t get here soon enough, probably regardless of the outcome.  I just want the circus to leave town. And then we start getting ready for our NYC trip, so my blog writing and reading will continue to be light to nonexistent…

A smarter defense

Nicholas Burns, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from 2005 until his retirement in April, in Newsweek on why “We Should Talk to Our Enemies”:

One of the sharpest and most telling differences on foreign policy between Barack Obama and John McCain is whether the United States should talk to difficult and disreputable leaders like Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez. In each of the three presidential debates, McCain belittled Obama as naive for arguing that America should be willing to negotiate with such adversaries. In the vice presidential debate, Sarah Palin went even further, accusing Obama of “bad judgment … that is dangerous,” an ironic charge given her own very modest foreign-policy credentials.

Are McCain and Palin correct that America should stonewall its foes? I lived this issue for 27 years as a career diplomat, serving both Republican and Democratic administrations. Maybe that’s why I’ve been struggling to find the real wisdom and logic in this Republican assault against Obama. I’ll bet that a poll of senior diplomats who have served presidents from Carter to Bush would reveal an overwhelming majority who agree with the following position: of course we should talk to difficult adversaries—when it is in our interest and at a time of our choosing.

The more challenging and pertinent question, especially for the McCain-Palin ticket, is the reverse: Is it really smart to declare we will never talk to such leaders? Is it really in our long-term national interest to shut ourselves off from one of the most important and powerful states in the Middle East—Iran—or one of our major suppliers of oil, Venezuela? …

The real truth Americans need to embrace is that nearly all of the most urgent global challenges—the quaking financial markets, climate change, terrorism—cannot be resolved by America’s acting alone in the world. Rather than retreat into isolationism, as we have often done in our history, or go it alone as the unilateralists advocated disastrously in the past decade, we need to commit ourselves to a national strategy of smart engagement with the rest of the world. Simply put, we need all the friends we can get. And we need to think more creatively about how to blunt the power of opponents through smart diplomacy, not just the force of arms.

Talking to our adversaries is no one’s idea of fun, and it is not a sure prescription for success in every crisis. But it is crude, simplistic and wrong to charge that negotiations reflect weakness or appeasement. More often than not, they are evidence of a strong and self-confident country. One of America’s greatest but often neglected strengths is, in fact, our diplomatic power. …

America faces a complex and difficult geopolitical landscape. The next president needs to act more creatively and boldly to defend our interests by revalidating diplomacy as a key weapon in our national arsenal and rebuilding our understaffed and underfunded diplomatic corps. Of course he will need to reserve the right to use force against the most vicious and implacable of our foes. More often than not, however, he will find that dialogue and discussion, talking and listening, are the smarter ways to defend our country, end crises and sometimes even sow the seeds of an ultimate peace.

A refreshing, educated, experienced counterpoint to the “Stand up and fight” rhetoric. And of course, without sowing the seeds of an ultimate peace, there’s always work for the belligerent and bellicose. Read Nicholas Burns’ entire piece here.

A political fairytale

Mudflats offers up “The Lyin’, the Witch and the Wardrobe — An Alaskan Tale”

“You want to always strive to define standards up”

I don’t take much comfort from polls and maps and statistics, whether the subject is the World Series or the election. It ain’t over ’til it’s over.  In the meantime, I do take comfort from the following:

* Christopher Hitchens on “Sarah Palin’s War on Science”:

This is what the Republican Party has done to us this year: It has placed within reach of the Oval Office a woman who is a religious fanatic and a proud, boastful ignoramus. Those who despise science and learning are not anti-elitist. They are morally and intellectually slothful people who are secretly envious of the educated and the cultured. And those who prate of spiritual warfare and demons are not just “people of faith” but theocratic bullies. On Nov. 4, anyone who cares for the Constitution has a clear duty to repudiate this wickedness and stupidity

Read the entire Slate article here.

* Lilibet Hagel‘s husband, Rep. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) is profiled in the new issue of The New Yorker by Connie Bruck,

“I don’t believe she’s qualified to be President of the United States,” Hagel told me. “The first judgment a potential President makes is who their running mate is — and I don’t think John made a very good selection.” He scoffed at McCain’s attempts to portray her as an experienced politician. “To try to make the excuse that she looks out her window and sees Russia — and that she’s commander of the Alaska National Guard.” He added, “There is no question that this candidate is arguably the thinnest-résumé candidate for Vice-President in the history of America.” …

For Hagel, almost as disturbing as Palin’s lack of experience is her willingness — in disparaging remarks about Joe Biden’s long Senate career, for example — to belittle the notion that experience is important. “There’s no question, she knows her market,” Hagel said. “She knows her audience, and she’s going right after them. And I’ll tell you why that’s dangerous. It’s dangerous because you don’t want to define down the standards in any institution, ever, in life. You want to always strive to define standards up. If you start defining standards down — ‘Well, I don’t have a big education, I don’t have experience’ — yes, there’s a point to be made that not all the smartest people come out of Yale or Harvard. But to intentionally define down in some kind of wild populism, that those things don’t count in a complicated, dangerous world — that’s dangerous in itself.

“There was a political party in this country called the Know-Nothings,” he continued. “And we’re getting on the fringe of that, with these one-issue voters — pro-choice or pro-life. Important issue, I know that. But, my goodness. The world is blowing up everywhere, and I just don’t think that is a responsible way to see the world, on that one issue. And, interestingly enough, that is one issue that stopped John McCain from picking one of the people he really wanted, Joe Lieberman or Tom Ridge” — the Independent senator from Connecticut and the Republican former governor of Pennsylvania. (Both men are pro-choice.

Read the rest of the essay, including whether Rep. Hagel would accept a post in a McCain Administration, here. Rep. Hagel is a man and a Republican I’d be proud to vote to for.

* In between wrestling with pumpkins, I did hear brief mention that Gov. Palin might, just might release some medical information this week. Then again, she did tell NBC’s Brian Williams,

“So be it, if that will allow some curiousity seekers, perhaps, to have one more thing that they can either check the box off that they can find something to criticize, perhaps, or find something to rest them assured over. Fine. I’m healthy, I’m happy, had five kids. That is going to be in the medical records. Never been seriously ill or hurt. You will see that in the medical records if they’re released.”

Note the “if” in the last sentence, which means I’m not holding my breath. Disappointing too but not surprising is the sloughing off the transparency of democracy, denigrating American citizens concerned about experienced leadership as “curiosity seekers”.

Waylaid by pumpkins

I had every intention to keep blogging through last week but getting ready for our giant pumpkin carving party (the pumpkin was big at 270 pounds, though not as big as last year’s, and the party kept getting bigger as Tom and the kids invited everyone they ran into) derailed my plans, especially when the forecast called for gale-force winds and we realized we had to turn the garage into an auxiliary kitchen/living room because the day-long festivities couldn’t be held outside as planned. And all of that bumped into my big autumn housecleaning and getting ready for our home school facilitator meeting (tomorrow), the beginning of junior curling season, two 4H meetings, and a meeting with the director/writer of the new community theater production.

I made vats of chili, dozens of gingersnaps, we grilled oodles of hot dogs, and the party festivities included carving the giant pumpkin and various smaller ones, pressing cider, a treasure hunt, and games including guess the weight of the big pumpkin. Tom and the kids had decorated with square straw bales, pumpkins and apples everywhere, streamers, and the odd spider.  A good time was had by all.

Tom and junior helpers contemplate the design,

The finished face,

One of the smaller pumpkins, carved by someone who didn’t bother with the gutting first,

The big pumpkin on its straw bale, in front of the house. It was a dark and stormy afternoon,

Illuminated, at night,

Precisely II

Ramesh Ponnuru on “Palin’s Alleged Anti-Intellectualism” in the conservative National Review Online:

Last week I asked what evidence we have that Palin is, as is often said, “anti-intellectual.” …

A friend pointed me to Noam Scheiber’s article on Palin [NB Scheiber’s New Republic article well worth reading]. The Palin of Scheiber’s portrayal certainly fits the label: She seethes with class and intellectual resentments. (The article does not attempt to disentangle the two.) But all of the evidence the article presents for this view comes from political enemies of Palin. They don’t really even provide first-hand accounts of her flaws in action so much as they offer characterizations of what was going on inside her head. Scheiber concludes, “Could Sarah Palin despise Anne Kilkenny because Kilkenny once suggested she refrain from chewing gum? I’d like to believe it’s not true. But I’m honestly not so sure.” Okay. But Kilkenny got wide attention for circulating an email trashing Palin after her selection as McCain’s running mate. How much do we want to bank on her impressions?

Yet another reason a Palin press conference is necessary.

And just for fun, some reminders of Palin in her own words:

I’m not one of those who maybe came from a background of, you know, kids who perhaps graduate college and their parents give them a passport and give them a backpack and say go off and travel the world.No, I’ve worked all my life. In fact, I usually had two jobs all my life until I had kids. I was not a part of, I guess, that culture. The way that I have understood the world is through education, through books, through mediums that have provided me a lot of perspective on the world.

Speaking of those books and mediums/media, from the CBS interview with Katie Couric:

Couric: And when it comes to establishing your worldview, I was curious, what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this to stay informed and to understand the world?

Palin: I’ve read most of them, again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media.

Couric: What, specifically?

Palin: Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me all these years.

Couric: Can you name a few?

Palin: I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news, too. Alaska isn’t a foreign country, where it’s kind of suggested, “Wow, how could you keep in touch with what the rest of Washington, D.C., may be thinking when you live up there in Alaska?” Believe me, Alaska is like a microcosm of America.

And don’t forget parsing Palin‘s own words.

Best yet, of course, would be an unscripted press conference.

Precisely

The latest word from Republican campaign spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt: “With all of the important issues facing the country right now, it’s remarkable that we’re spending time talking about pantsuits and blouses.”

Which is why Gov. Palin should hold her very first press conference now.

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