• 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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The roof

A productive few days — the trusses went up yesterday, and today the gable ends and tower roof, with a start on the sheathing too.

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Le chapeau, or, living geometry

What the boys did for their summer vacation: help build the roof for the tower. I don’t think they’ll complain as much about there being no real life, practical applications for the math they’re learning.

I’ve started researching steel roofing because it will take about two weeks to arrive. About 10-15 years ago, when we first needed to reshingle our current house, I said no to steel roofing because it looked too commercial and industrial. Now the industrial look has grown on me, as well as the desire to spare my husband and kids the need to reshingle a two-story house with tower sooner rather than later . It’s a Goldilocks process, with black and dark brown too dark and hot, gray too cool-toned, white and ivory too light. So we’ve been weighing the lighter browns, which should go with what will ideally be a mossy green siding.

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The “gap” or hole you can see toward the top, under the peak, is to allow for a handhold in

 

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Preparing to raise high the roof beams

Tom and crew, with the help of the telehandler, last week hoisted the trusses to the second story in preparation for their erection, which should be this week. All of the interior walls are complete now on the second floor too, and it’s amazing to finally be able to see the rooms. This particular house has been our dream for the past 15 years, first waiting for the money and then the time, to begin; and I first started a “dream house” binder in my late teens, 35 years ago, and even brought it to university.

In other goings on, it’s been unusually hot and dry, which seems to be the case in Canada from BC through Saskatchewan. Temperatures are in the 30s (86-95 F), the air is hazy with smoke from the forest fires in three provinces, and we’re dealing with a drought as bad as the one that forced us to sell all of the cattle in 2002. Where our hay fields yielded 103 alfalfa hay bales last summer for the first cut, this year the grand total is nine. And we have 200 head of cattle to feed. The boys are hoping to cut the ditches along some of the nearby highways, and we’ve bought some secondhand irrigation equipment which might help us get a second cut in the fall.

We’re milking two cows who lost their calves (one a stillbirth, and the other at two months old, suddenly and heartbreakingly from pneumonia), and every other day I turn the raw milk into butter, cottage cheese (which is basically a case of letting a large soup pot full of skimmed milk with one cup of cultured buttermilk sit in the warm — thanks to the pilot light — oven of our 1950s O’Keefe & Merritt range), mozzarella (using Ricki Carroll’s 30-minute recipe), and sour cream/creme fraiche. Edited to add  I forgot to mention that my copy of David Asher’s The Art of Natural Cheesemaking arrived yesterday and I’m looking forward to reading it and trying some of the recipes. The book is subtitled, “Using Traditional, Non-Industrial Methods and Raw Ingredients to Make the World’s Best Cheeses”, which means there’s no need for packaged starters, synthetic rennets, or chemical additives. In fact, the point of the book is to encourage readers to “take back” their cheese, from the

dozens of different strains of packaged mesophilic and thermophilic starter cultures, freeze-dried fungal spores, microbial and genetically modified rennets, calcium chloride, chemical sanitizers, and harsh nitric and phosphoric acids; also, that most important ingredient (which is actually an anti-ingredient), pasteurization. None of these, however, is a necessity for making good cheese!

Asher offers a fast mozzarella recipe with lemon juice rather than citric acid, as well as a more flavourful “Slow Mozzarella” recipe, which takes 8-12 hours. More on the book here at the website of publisher Chelsea Green, including Chapter 1, “A Natural Cheesemaking Manifesto”.

Back to building, with some photos of the trusses atop the second story exterior walls,

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Wall week

The crew began the week building walls for the second story.

The telehandler is invaluable for getting the lumber up there,

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Before the walls were erected,

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One of the completed walls,

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Shop class,

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The rough window assemblies to make up the tower,

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And up they go,

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The telehandler is even more useful for lifting/standing up walls; this is the back of the house, with the dining room nearest the telehandler,

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The dining room from the other side,

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The 16-year-old running the telehandler,

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Finally on to the fourth side,

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The 14-year-old securing the temporary brace (until the interior walls go up),

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The white painted piece of lumber is salvage, when the grandstand at the fairgrounds was replaced years ago,

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Moving the top plate/cap plate assembly out of the tower to erect the wall pieces,

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I got distracted by a tiger swallowtail on the lilacs,

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Putting the top plate/cap plate in place,

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Removing the GoPro from the GoPro pole,

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A productive afternoon!

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Belated Europe

After the New Year, we spent four weeks in France and Germany, Tom’s and my first visit in 19 years, and the kids’ first ever. Home base was the house of an old family friend outside Paris, near Fontainebleau, and we took a variety of trips, to western France near Angers for a visit to a farm family, to Paris, to Tom’s family (his mother’s cousin) near Bremen, and back to France (Morzine) for some skiing.

One of the highlights was the stay in northwest Germany, which we all enjoyed very, very much — meeting some family members again, many others for the first time, the architecture, the food, and mostly the very warm welcome. And the kids were delighted to be able to help with farm chores, which helped with missing their animals at home. We had a lovely time, lots of fun and adventures, and made the most of our rental car, a BMW with GPS which turned out to be indispensable. The kids got to do a number of things on their wish lists — driving fast on the Autobahn, birding (Laura had several outings with local birders, and added 70 new species to her life list), and skiing in the Alps.

A few photos from the trip (in chronological order):

One of the houses down the lane in France, with moss everywhere (photo by Laura),

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A stone wall, more moss,

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The village’s outdoor Sunday market; yes, the butcher sells horse meat,

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During one of our drives through the forest of Fontainebleau, we came across one of the regularly scheduled hunts for deer and wild boar, necessary to keep the populations down in the area, for the safety of the humans and health of the habitat; we met the hunters who talked to us about the hunts and showed us some of the animals from that morning,

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We took a walk along the Loing river,

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Visiting a farm near Château-Gontier, in the Mayenne region, with Rouge des Prés (formerly known as Maine-Anjou) cattle,

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At the farm of a distant cousin, where they grow organic potatoes, onions, and carrots; lots of very, very old brick in northwestern Germany,

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Laura birding with some virtual friends made real,

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Peat blocks drying in stacks at the Drebbersches Moor near Lange Lohe; Black Grouse is now extinct in the area because of habitat loss caused by the peat harvesting in the moors,

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While Laura and I were birding, Cousin H. taught the rest of the family to make brooms with twigs, very good for sweeping out the barn stalls,

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The family farmhouse near Bremen is more than 100 years old, and had these lovely encaustic tiles in the main hallway,

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I drooled over the kitchen’s 1920s aluminum storage drawers/bins, a hallmark of the celebrated Frankfurt Kitchen,

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At the neighborhood beekeeper’s, old terracotta roofing tiles salvaged for a new project,

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The beekeeper also restored a 19th century bake house on his property,

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From the bake house door,

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Scenes from a French village,

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For skiing, they made do with a combination of regular clothing we brought for the trip and rentals,

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The view from our hotel room in the Alps,

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We tried a variety of local cheeses every evening and I was able to attend a cheesemaking demonstration,

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Snowing steadily in Morzine,

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Back in Paris,

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All three kids had a great appreciation for the various fast and fancy cars,

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View from the Arc de Triomphe,

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Another fast and fancy car,

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which we discovered was possible to rent,

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At the Louvre,

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An eye for an eye,

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Another story

Work on the new house stopped last October. It got too cold and snowy for working outdoors, Tom had other projects for clients, we went to France and Germany for four weeks after the new year, the kids made it to high school provincials for curling in February and March, Tom and I travelled to the West Indies to clear out the last bits from my parents’ retirement house before the sale (hallelujah), then it was calving season, and more big projects for clients.

Work started up again last week, and first thing on the schedule was to start working on the second story. The main floor now has a ceiling and the second story has a floor. Wall-building begins tomorrow, and Tom and I double-checked all the window placements this afternoon.

The view from the master bedroom’s tower sitting area (facing northeast),

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Another view from the master bedroom’s tower sitting area, facing southeast,

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View from the bedroom (facing east); you can see how dry it’s been, with only one decent rain (this past week) since March,

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View from the guest bedroom (facing north),

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The living room tower sitting area, on the main floor,

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The kitchen, with the pantry on the other side of the wall; the window is on the sink wall,

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The pantry, a very exciting prospect!

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Dining room (facing south) surrounded by the larch trees we planted eight years ago,

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Dining room door to the back porch, facing west,

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The living room, facing north and the front of the house,

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The temporary stairs (the actual stairs will be over to the right), which Tom rescued from the old farm supply store’s warehouse before it was demolished 25 years ago,

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Calving season

This time of year again, and with unseasonably warm weather — it was 14.5 Celsius on Saturday — which is much appreciated. Though not very good for the kids’ plans with the 4H Outdoor club to go skiing.

A little Speckle Park calf,

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