• 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 16/Grade 11, 14/Grade 9, and 13/Grade 8.

    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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Although we do wash our hands before meals…

“Children should be allowed to go barefoot in the dirt, play in the dirt, and not have to wash their hands when they come in to eat,” [Dr. Joel V. Weinstock] said. He and Dr. [David] Elliott pointed out that children who grow up on farms and are frequently exposed to worms and other organisms from farm animals are much less likely to develop allergies and autoimmune diseases.

Also helpful, he said, is to “let kids have two dogs and a cat,” which will expose them to intestinal worms that can promote a healthy immune system.

When Laura, my firstborn, arrived, a dear friend of the family then in her eighties invited both of us to tea.  Before we left, she leaned over and told me, “You know they’ve got to eat a peck of dirt before they die!” She’d be happy to know that the medical experts in today’s New York Times agree, though she’d be shaking her head to think that people nowadays need to buy a book explaining Why Dirt Is Good.

The compromise for the insistence on handwashing before meals is that we have one dog, 20 cats, a herd of cattle, four horses, and three dozen or so chickens (joined in summer by collections of grasshoppers, salamanders, frogs, and the odd gopher). None of them in the house, though.  No antibacterial soap in here, either. And in winter the kids wear their Baffin boots.  Bare feet when it’s -39 C, even without the wind chill, is just too much to bear.

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9 Responses

  1. I read about a contrarian view in Cheryl Mendelsohn’s Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House. She believes the home environment is less rather than more clean than in the past. I agree with her argument. Have you read Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed? The maid service she worked for emphasized the appearance of cleaning and cleanliness, when in fact dirty water wasn’t changed, the same rags were used in the kitchen and bathroom, then re-used at the next house.

    Why are there more incidences of asthma and other inflammatory diseases? How about they weren’t diagnosed in the past, they weren’t treated, fewer people with these susceptibilities passed them on to offspring — either they didn’t survive or weren’t considered suitable as mates.

    I guess I have mixed thoughts about this topic. I do agree that we’re less exposed to micro-organisms in the soil these days and then there are the scientific studies mentioned in the article. But there’s more to the story, including the roles of diet and environmental toxins.

  2. When I was 5, I ate a soda cracker covered in dirt on a dare. I lived to tell the tale.

    I believe kids should play and get filthy! Thomas carries toads, snakes and baby bunnies. He touches anything he can find. He has two (soon to be three) dogs and two cats.

    I insist on handwashing, too. He’s exposed, though, that’s for sure.

  3. My grandma used to say exactly the same thing!

    Crunching tiny rocks in my teeth was a favourite pastime when I was young and I remember a delicious mouthful of sand a neighbour caught me gobbling. Somehow I lost the taste for it along the way, but it didn’t hurt me a bit.

    Love the blog.

  4. The house inspector yesterday told us anti-bacterial soap was an absolute no-no for the septic system. Not that we use it anyway…

    And I’ve always been a believer in building strong immune systems. I noticed (anecdotally) that of the people my generation that I know with serious allergies most of them had something at birth that meant they were kept in hospital longer. Obviously they needed that sterile environment but I always wondered if it had its costs later on.

  5. Margaret, absolutely on the indoor germs; I read the same in “Home Comforts” and I think afterwards too in some shelter magazines. The Times article, especially the passage I cited, caught my attention because of the mention of farm children — the variety we specialize in here — and the role of outdoor germs…

    Frankie, I like how you slipped that third pup in there!

    Sandylein, oh, what a wonderful memory! And thanks for the kind words.

    JoVE, that soap seems to be more hindrance than help all ’round. Take care of that new house…

  6. We are all about dirt in our family. We are a pretty healthy bunch too.

  7. Antibacterial soap, ick. Someone gave me some when I had the twins down in CA. It went the way of the chicken pox vaccine shots, I think. I don’t do that. Just like I don’t do “passed on.” What’s wrong with getting a little immune-strengthening illnesses here and there? No wonder there are SuperBugs in all the hospitals.

    Although, as your earliest commenter Margaret pointed out, some of us (I’m thinking of me with my crap teeth dying of an alcohol/pain-induced overdose if not for that lovely locum with his antibiotic plugs for my diseased mouth cavity) would not have survived the “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” stuff. Still, we can change the generations after us, even if we were some of those previously meant to be caught in the crossfire.

  8. Oh dear. I should have prefaced all that with a “Heavily Medicated with Super Strong Advil” alert, I think. Did I make ANY sense?

    Think I’ll go eat some Cheesies and have a glass of wine. If I go with your time zone the sun will have already been over the yard arm…

  9. We’re all about the dirt and the washing before eating. That’s an old habit from my childhood on the farm and its carried over to my children’s growing up on a farm. We’re barefoot in the house but shoes are on outside mostly because we have bees – as in more bees than average with our hives. And a yard full of clover so shoes on for the most part. In the garden, sandbox or kiddie pool there off :)

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