• 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, home schooling, and building our own house. I'm nowhere near as regular a blogger as I used to be.

    The kids are 18/Grade 12, 16/Grade 11, and 14/Grade 10.

    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."

    "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.

Windows and doors

The guys have been popping windows in as if they’re Lego pieces. Between Friday and today, they have all the windows in downstairs, and all but four windows in upstairs. And the front door, and garden/patio door to the back porch, are in since lunchtime today.


The front door, with a transom above and lights on either side; unfortunately, the transom glass is cracked though it will be an easy fix. PS Ignore the bike…






The garden door, between the dining room and back porch. We’re planning to have the kitchen counter extend beyond the wall to the right of the door, to make an area where we can set dishes etc. going between the kitchen and porch.



This past week they built the front porch roof and shingled it, and finished the roofs (building and shingling) on the dining room and adjacent back porch. In fact, they’ve already moved to installing windows, but I didn’t get any pictures of the windows in today since I was busy fetching a child from camp and getting stung by wasps.

It really does seem to be taking shape, and after so many years of seeing the house only on paper, it’s all very exciting.



Windows arriving for installation,




The back of the house, with the porch on the left and dining room on the right,


Laying out the kitchen, via GardenWeb

Some reminders.

From Marcolo at GardenWeb,

Ice. Water. Stone. Fire.

Remember it.

That’s the recipe for every home-cooked meal ever made. Every one. Of course I’m not talking about baloney sandwiches or nuked chicken fingers. I mean, meals you actually cook. I don’t care if you’re making hamburgers, spag bol, shumai, boiled dinner, mac & cheese, or fish puking up its own tail (Ever see that? It’s called en colere, it’s completely gross yet strangely cool)–you’re following the same four-word recipe.

ICE. This is your fridge or freezer. Your pantry. Your stolen shopping cart full of cat food. The un-insulated back porch where your grandmother stores that stuff she uses to make that stuff you like. Wherever you store your uncooked food–that’s Ice. It all starts here.

WATER. You start a cooked meal by taking food out of Ice and bringing it to Water. Water is the sink you use to prep. There, you wash the food. Maybe you mix it with water. At minimum, you rinse your hands and utensils. At least, if you want to stay alive, you do. There was a woman here a couple of years ago who insisted she never used water to prep. She doesn’t post anymore, because dysentery.

STONE. Then you bring the food to Stone. As in, you know, granite, soapstone, marble. Or wood. Or formica, or whatever else your prep surface might be. You chop, you julienne, you trim, you pull little wriggling things out of your broccoli and show them to your annoying niece until she screams and leaves you the hell alone in the kitchen finally. Whatever. While you are doing this, you frequently bop back and forth between Stone and Water, as you clean your hands or rinse the wrigglers off your knife. The NKBA says this bit of Stone should be a minimum of 36″ wide by 24″ deep. But you really want bigger.

FIRE. Next it’s on to Fire–your range, oven, cooktop, whatever. Obvious. This is where the magic happens. You sear a steak, bake a pie, or watch a soufflé rise to fluffy heaven until your damn niece comes storming back into the kitchen slamming doors. Anyway.

So, are you doing a layout? Memorize this recipe first. Because this is the primary order you will be working in your new kitchen. Set it up so you don’t have to backtrack fifty times a day every time you cook. Also, do not make yourself dodge people getting glasses out of the dishwasher, or rinsing off whatever the hell they got on their hands which, P.S., they already wiped all over your upholstery. Make sure you have clear, unobstructed lines between Ice, Water, Stone and Fire.

What? No, that doesn’t mean they all need to line up in a row. They’re usually in a triangle of some sort, though not always.

This is why we may recommend a prep sink for you. It’s not because we get a commission on them, although we frikking well deserve one at this point. It’s because in your particular layout, your main sink is not located where it needs to be. It may cross paths with other kitchen invaders. Or it simply fails to follow the order Ice-Water-Stone-Fire in a really glaring and inefficient way.

And from NKBA,

3. Distance Between Work Centers: In a kitchen with three work centers*, the sum of the distances between them should total no more than 26 feet. No leg of the work triangle should measure less than 4 feet nor more than 9 feet. When the kitchen includes additional work centers, each additional distance should measure no less than 4 feet nor more than 9 feet. No work triangle leg should intersect an island or peninsula by more than 12 inches.
* The distances between the three primary work centers (cooking, cleanup/prep and refrigeration) form a work triangle.

4. Separating Work Centers: A full-height, full-depth, tall obstacle [i.e., a pantry cabinet or refrigerator] should not separate two primary work centers.

5. Work Triangle Traffic: No major traffic patterns should cross through the work triangle.

6. Work Aisle: The width of a work aisle should be at least 42″ for one cook and at least 48″ for multiple cooks.


Thinking kitchen

We had to drive Laura to the city last Monday to meet the bus for the big 4H camping trip to the Northwest Territories, and took advantage of our time in Edmonton to check out the new Ikea Sektion kitchen cabinetry. We also stopped off at the KitchenCraft showroom, near Ikea, just to see what they have to offer. There were some door/drawer fronts in the old Akurum kitchen line we liked, but the new Sektion ones are rather underwhelming.

After going to Ikea and the other showroom, we’re still leaning toward Ikea, for value, quality, and the chance to be more hands-on with installation and things like countertop selection. There are only two Ikea door/drawer styles I could live with — Bodbyn off-white and Edserum (which Ikea calls “wood effect brown”) — and I wouldn’t be 100 percent happy with either. Bodbyn, in particular, which I like best of the two, looks very, very plastic-y, unpleasantly so. If this is going to be the only kitchen from scratch I get in this lifetime, I’d like to be crazy in love with the way it looks.

I’ve read a lot, particularly at GardenWeb, about Scherr‘s custom door and drawer fronts for Ikea cabinetry, but shipping from the US plus the exchange rate (which seems to be falling almost daily) don’t work in our favour. So I was very happy to Google my way to Allstyle Cabinet Doors in Mississauga, Ontario. They offer doors and drawer fronts in solid wood or MDF, with a variety of stain and paint finishes, including custom.

We’re also going to have in the new dining room what we have in the current dining room, base cabinets along the wall, and to have high-quality drawer fronts would be ideal.

Just for kicks, also based on good GardenWeb advice, we’ll give the plans to some of the smaller, independent cabinet shops in the city for quotes.

Ikea cabinets, possibly without custom door/drawer fronts, are probably our likely choices for part of the pantry (one wall will be floor-to-ceiling shelving), the bathroom vanities, and the laundry room.


The house is almost all shingled after this week. They’re finishing up the tower, and then the only bit left is the dining room and back porch, which still need their roofs.

Son #1 isn’t in these photos because he had taken off for town for a haircut in preparation for this weekend’s 4H Provincial Judging, for which he qualified back in March. And on Monday morning he’s off for his first counselling gig, working with juniors at the same 4H summer camp by the lake he enjoyed for six years. Laura is off on Monday as well, for her 4H agricultural tour/camping trip to the Northwest Territories, for which I had to buy bear spray (gulp…) yesterday. She’s also helping out at Provincial Judging, as a 4H Ambassador (there are 20 or so in the province). The youngest is off to camp the week after next, and then we have three weddings in three weeks.

Our “Twilight Gray” asphalt shingles,








The back porch at left and dining room at right. The back porch will be our summer outdoor eating area, and the porch might be enlarged in the future. I’m envisioning cedar trellises along the columns for Valiant grapes, which grow well on the prairies; provided I can keep the pesky leafhoppers away.








Sheathing and house wrap

Tom and crew took some time off last week so that our family could work at the fair, but they made good progress this week, finishing up the sheathing  — the plywood sheets on which the shingles will be attached. — and start the house wrap. My job this week is picking out the shingle colour.

The house seen from the pasture to the east,





Our bedroom with the tower sitting area, now with ceiling,






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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