• 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(dot)farmschool(at)gmail(dot)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"

    "‘Never look at an ugly thing twice. It is fatally easy to get accustomed to corrupting influences."
    English architect CFA Voysey (1857-1941)

    "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 © 2005-2016 Please do not use any of my words or my personal photographs without my express permission.

Carnival of Homeschooling, Schoolhouse Rock edition

Melissa at The Lilting House rocks, and so does the latest edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling.

I may not have the time to read through the Carnival right now, but I know what I’ll be humming under my breath all through the fair! Thanks, Melissa!

Even more sporadic blogging ahead

The fair starts on Thursday with the big parade and runs through Saturday at midnight; the kids and I will be there for most of it, from riding on the museum’s parade float to the fireworks that will celebrate our town’s and the fair’s centennials. Tomorrow I’m helping at the exhibit hall to accept entries (including our own, which fill half a dozen boxes — the most unwieldy items are the 16 pint sealers of threshed grains and the 14 sheaves of wheat, barley, alfalfa, etc. — currently taking up space on my kitchen floor) through lunchtime. Then I’ll pick up the kids at a friend’s, head home to pick up our rooster and four of his harem, and return to town to deliver them to the fairgrounds. While there, we’ll probably help Tom set up the museum’s display of vintage farming machinery, and help arrange the big display case.

We had a much appreciated half an hour of thundershowers the night before last, and for now at least everything is showered and dusted off. Not enough rain for the crops, but enough to keep the garden and our trees going for a bit longer before we need to water them again. And the forecast is predicting more clouds and lower temperatures for the end of the week, which would be nice as long as it doesn’t get in the way of our day at the midway; the kids are particularly excited because two of them won free ride bracelets in the draw at the work bee on Saturday (they’re not nearly as excited as their parents, who have to shell out only $25 x 1 this year).

I may not make it to Poetry Friday this week, so just in case I’ll send you to Poetry Thursday on Tuesday for something new and different.


Time to relax with the fifth Carnival of Children’s Literature

Kelly at Big A little a has done a wonderful witchy job getting the latest Carnival of Children’s Literature ready. In keeping with her witchy theme, Kelly quotes the witches from Shakespeare’s Macbeth:

Oh, well done!
I commend your pains
And everyone shall share in the gains.
And now about the cauldron sing,
Like elves and fairies in a ring,
Enchanting all that you put in.

Well done, indeed! And could that be any more appropriate for a carnival? Thanks, Kelly.

The next Carnival of Children’s Literature will be hosted at Castle of the Immaculate on August 6th. Previous carnivals:

First Carnival of Children’s Literature at Here in the Bonny Glen
No. 2: A Coney Island Adventure at Chicken Spaghetti
The Third Carnival of Children’s Literature at Semicolon
The Broken Toe Edition (No. 4) at Here in the Bonny Glen

Warm work bee

The Saturday before the fair is always the big work bee at the fairgrounds. The sheep folks ready the sheep barns, the horse folks horse barns, and this year the beef folks were helping to put up new, large cattle barn. Of course, it had to be 35 degrees Celsius yesterday while they were putting the new metal roofing on. Other jobs to do included laying sod around the new grandstand, followed by copious watering; giving bleachers a new lick of white paint; setting out, and lining, all of the trash barrels and pop can/bottle recycling barrels; hauling the small square straw bales and bags of cedar shavings into Old MacDonald’s barn, home of the petting zoo; stocking all of the bathrooms with adequate supplies of toilet paper and pink liquid soap. The kids stayed busy with the last two jobs, riding around from job to job, and enjoying the breeze, in the back of a pickup truck. The Ag Society takes good care of volunteers, most of whom are friends and neighbors (and, in small-town Canada, family more often than not), providing a big lunch at noon as well as a fellow who spent all day driving from site to site in a truck loaded with big Rubbermaid tubs containing ice and a variety of cold drinks.

By about three o’clock, I figured it was time to get the kids inside and out of the sun, and also check on our various babies at home to make sure everyone was cool enough and well-watered. At home, we also looked in on Tom, who has rarely missed a work bee but yesterday stayed home to work on a special project requested by the Ag Society, a shadow box/display case for memorabilia from the past 99 years of the fair, to help celebrate this year’s centennial. It’s about 6′ by 6′, and in the shape of a barn; the barn “door” and “hay loft” function as display shelves. Pretty nifty.

At six o’clock, we headed back to town for dinner with our friends who are moving in a couple of weeks. After dinner we headed outside to sit on the front step and eat Popsicles while the kids biked around the empty streets; our friends live, for the next little while at least, in one of the oldest parts of town, with tall shade trees along the sidewalks, and it was so green and quiet and peaceful and almost cool. There’s something nice about a place, whether it’s Manhattan or this little town, when just about everyone else has cleared out, to the cabin or cottage or beach or lake, leaving the rest for the rest of us.

Today is a tidying, catching up day. We had a much appreciated thundershower this morning, not nearly enough to save the crops but enough to be refreshing and wash away the dust on the trucks, the roads. I’m doing some laundry, the kids are helping Tom finish up the display case, and later I’ll get rid of the only dud duck egg and wash out the incubator, and spend some more time in the garden, where the red poppies have now burst into bloom, taller than the peony they were seeded around. My new hollyhocks are just about ready to burst their buttons, too, and will be a dark, rosy pink. I can see I need some more yellows in the garden — something to remember for next year — because for the most part there are blues, purples, pinks, and whites. The only yellows have come from the still smallish Stella d’Oro daylily and the three lupines, and it doesn’t seem to be quite enough; maybe some yellow California poppies next spring.

Poetry Friday

For my footsore boys and girl enjoying long summer evenings…

No Bed
by Walter de la Mare

No bed! No bed! we shouted,
And wheeled our eyes from home
To where the green and golden woods
Cried, Come!

Wild sang the evening birds,
The sun-clouds shone in our eyes,
A silver snippet of moon hung low
In the skies.

We ran, we leapt, we sang,
We yodelled loud and shrill,
Chased Nobody through the valley and
Up the hill.

We laughed, we quarrelled, we drank
The cool sweet of the dew,
Beading on bud and leaf the dim
Woods through.

We stayed, we listened, we looked —
Now dark was on the prowl!
Too-whit-a-woo, from its hollow called
An owl…

O Sleep, at last to slide
Into eyes made drunk with light;
Call in thy footsore boys to harmless

Now it’s Cool Boys for a hot summer’s day…

reading on the hammock, with a glass of lemonade perched precariously on your stomach.

Jen Robinson at her Book Page, who took on the masterful job of compiling a list of 200 Cool Girls of Children’s Literature, has now turned her attention to Cool Boys. Check out the lists so far (here and here), from Tom Sawyer and Peter Pan to the Bad Hat, and send in any suggestions you might have to help the Boys reach 200, too (the count stands at about 126).

And don’t forget Jen’s Growing Bookworms site, an index of all her reviews, which in my summer haze I had nearly forgotten!

Some answers, kind of sort of

The kids found the body of my little grayling kitten after supper in the bale yard, and it’s likely he met his end via the fanbelt in the truck. The kids have each offered to share their kittens with me.

The ducklings are probably pintails. No more hatched since this morning, but we still have two more than we thought we would.

And, in the best news of the day, thanks to advice from a dear friend of ours, an 82-year-old naturalist as well as the father of Tom’s best friend since grade 1, the kildeer and her brood are probably safe and sound and just on their way. The young are pretty “precocious,” he explained, and the birds like to get a move on right after hatching. I can certainly live with that.

Hello ducky

Some more good news this morning — one of the wild ducklings just hatched, and another seems to be on the way out of its egg. Much excitement around here and marvelling at how very, very small our new housemate is. We’ll let it dry out and fluff up and see if we can determine what kind of duck it is.

Tom had pretty much written them off, because we weren’t sure how long the duck nest had sat without the mother on the eggs, and then there was the problem of Tom’s friend, a machinery contractor, having to remove the eggs from incubator #1 and sending them along to us to put in incubator #2. All very haphazard. I had set August 4 as a deadline, allowing for a 28-day hatching period, after which we’d have to discard anything unhatched. Sometimes delicate things are much more forgiving than we expect. Thank goodness.

July goings-on

I thought I’d better take a few moments to post an update, before I completely fall off the blog wagon.

The weather hasn’t been too hot, though that’s about to change today, but it’s been dry enough that the crops are starting to “burn” and turn white, which of course is no good for yields. At least I can water my raised bed gardens, and the kids and I have been taking turns moving the hoses around. It’s hard to tell where the spinach was since the greenery of the peas and carrots have expanded to fill in what used to be a sizeable space. I was surprised to notice the size of some of the beets, which are now shouldering their way out of the earth and which will need eating soon before they turn big and woody (I like them either baked and served hot — the baking seems to caramelize the natural sugars — or boiled or baked and served cold in a salad). The kids are snitching carrots and pea pods for snacks while we work in the garden, and we’ll probably go berry picking for saskatoons in the next few days, barring any bear sightings. On the kitchen table is my large blue handmade ceramic pitcher with a bouquet of white Queen Anne’s lace, cerise yarrow, and spikes of blue veronica. And several drinking glasses full of sweet peas, which are blooming like crazy. The Knee-Hi variety that are supposed to be short are growing so tall that they’re spilling over the end of the vegetable raised bed, and the scent is everywhere, making the garden an even more pleasant place to be.

In more unpleasant nature red in tooth and claw news, the other morning we checked on the killdeer, figuring that any day now the babies would hatch and were surprised and saddened to discover no mother bird, no nest, and only small shards of the taupe and spotted egg shells. Probably discovered by a fox or coyote, as we had all feared with a nest in the middle of a field like that. For more bad news on the animal front, Davy’s kitten from the start has had the potentially fatal habit of hiding in trucks, either in the front by the engine or in the back by the wheels. Last night Tom took off with the kids for the corrals to bale some of the grass he cut around the buildings (in preparation for the organic inspector, who may be arriving early next week and not, we fervently hope, during fair time), not realizing the kitten was under the truck. For some reason, Daniel noticed the kitten tumble out near our pond, halfway between the house and corrals. As soon as I got word, I rounded up the kids and we went on a search mission around 10 pm as the sun was setting. No luck by calling “here kitty, kitty,” so we all kept quiet as we took turns meowing. And lo and behold there was an answering cry. Davy’s kitten Felix was alive and a bit dinged up — he lost some of the fur on his chin in the tumble — and avoided becoming a coyote’s midnight snack. However, when we got back to the house, my kitten and Daniel’s were missing, and are still missing this morning despite several search parties.

On the good news front, the day before yesterday my inlaws turned off the highway near their house to discover a stunned but otherwise unscathed older couple from the Eastern Townships in Quebec whose 17-foot holiday trailer had just been flattened by a sleeping truck driver hauling a cattle liner; as Madame put it, “Our trailer went from 17 feet to 17 inches.” If they had been driving a car without a trailer as a buffer, they would have been killed; some of the cattle in the liner had to be put down yesterday. They had driven out to the coast and were headed back home after a month on the road. My inlaws immediately adopted Helene and Philippe, taking them first to the hospital to get checked out, and then putting them up for the night. At the moment, H&P are trying to figure out how to get home, since renting a car and U-Haul one-way from our small spot on the map is apparently next to impossible. My inlaws brought H&P by last night to see the farm, and, except for the circumstances, it was a wonderful, bilingual time; the kids demonstrated some trick riding and the bits of French they know, and I think in an effort to repay some of the kindness received, Helene has promised to send some Quebecois French children’s songs on CD. They are a lovely couple, and we’ll probably see a bit more of them before arrangements are made for them to head home.

The kids are busily putting the last minute touches on their entries for the fair, only one of which (and a collective one at that) thankfully includes livestock. And no food items, hurray, which means no last-minute baking or fudge-making. In fact, we have to drive to town this afternoon to drop off the registration sheet for the Chicken Pen Show, for showing a pen of five birds. I was amazed to read on the sheet that prizes range from $50 all the way up to $250 (even $50 is terrific for an animal that gives you eggs every day and doesn’t require any trimming or washing to enter), and most fun of all is the fact that there will be a social following the show in the curling lounge; the kids will have a ball. Other entries include some of Laura’s paintings and drawings; painted rocks; sheaves of wheat, barley, and hay; glass jars (pint sealers) of last year’s threshed grains, including wheat, barley, field peas, and flax, some of which have required hand cleaning; Lego models; and for some strange reason, the kids’ highlight every year, the mounted display of pressed and dried leaves, weeds, and grains/grasses/legumes, all of which have to be identified. Very nice for botany/nature studies, not to mention penmanship; and last year Laura was even moved to include the Latin names for the plants, with which she credited her first place win. Charlotte Mason would definitely approve. If I get a chance, I’ll write more on this pressed and dried plant business after the fair.

Saturday is the big Agricultural Society work bee to get the fairgrounds ready. It’s a wonderful way to volunteer, and especially to have the kids understand that the fair isn’t something put on by nameless faceless types for the kids’ enjoyment; it’s also a celebration of our agricultural past and present, not just a chance to ride the Tilt-a-Whirl and eat mini doughnuts. Laura, Daniel, and Davy have understood since they were small that this is a community effort, and it happens only if enough people pitch in before, during, and after the actual fair, whether it’s cutting the grass around the fairgrounds, painting the cattle stalls, exhibiting entries, or cleaning out Old McDonald’s Barn petting zoo after the last day.

Speaking of pitching, since this year marks the centennial of both the town and the fair, the Ag Society board has decided to include with the usual old-fashioned threshing demonstration a 100-person threshing crew. The only requirement is a strong back and your own pitchfork. Tom is an official participant, the kids unofficial, and all are looking forward to the event. I’ve been doing my own pitching ahead of time, to the local papers in a bid to get them to come out and cover the event.

That’s it for now. I’m off on one more hunt for missing kittens, to help Laura mount her pictures, and then load up the truck for all our errands this afternoon — Ag Society office, library to return some items and pick up several more that have come in (those audiobooks are coming in handy in the kitchen as the kids work on their projects), Laura’s friend’s bicycle to return after their sleepover here, garbage bag of outgrown clothes and toys to deliver to Goodwill — and to think of something cool and quick for supper.

Update on the kitten saga: Daniel’s calico kitten was found, safe and sound but hungry and scared, during chores this morning. Apparently it hitched a ride last night too, but had the (small) sense to wait until the truck stopped before dismounting. It was heard mewling from the wheel on top of the small portable concrete mixer. So I’m thinking that my little gray one must have gone along for the ride too, but where it got off is anyone’s guess.

Come to the Fair!

The 5th Country Fair of Homeschooling is ready and waiting for you!

Lots of great to stuff to read, unless you happen to be busy watering the garden and preparing for next week’s real live Country Fair, in which case the reading will keep very nicely tucked away in its home.

Thank you, Susan!

The homeschooling Country Fair’s call for submissions

log thoSusan at Imperfect Genius has graciously offered to put together the July edition of the Country Fair of homeschooling next week. Submissions are due by next Tuesday, July 18th, 5 pm EST; you can post them in the comments here or email them to Susan (at imperfectgenius at gmail dot com). Not only can you submit one of your own posts, you can also nominate a post by someone else you’ve enjoyed.

For submission guidelines, read the Country Fair FAQs. And previous Fairs are here:

First (unofficial) Country Fair (April)
Second Country Fair, complete with goats and kids (May)
Third Country Fair (May)
Fourth Country Fair (June)

I’ve been having trouble getting both the Country Fair and Imperfect Genius links to work this morning, so there may be a bit of trouble at homeschooljournal.net for the moment. Which means you may as well comb through your old posts or write a new one, and check your invisible friends’ posts for something to send along. See you at the fair!

Continuing today’s French theme: Plus ça change…

or, how do you say “Tossing textbooks” en français?

Yesterday my father sent me The New York Times article on the latest on textbooks, “Schoolbooks are Given F’s in Originality”. Sadly but not surprisingly, the 2005 edition of the high school text A History of the United States by the late Daniel J. Boorstin and Brooks Mather Kelley has been adulterated by its publisher, Pearson Prentice Hall. What Mr. Boorstin, a historian, a Rhodes scholar (and Balliol man), the founder of the Center for the Book, and Librarian of Congress, would make of the publisher’s shenanigans gives one pause.

Aside from the U.S. history suggestions in my previous textbook post, I can also suggest one of Mr. Boorstin’s earlier works, the very good and unadulterated Landmark History of the American People; as many homeschoolers know, this one is required reading in Sonlight‘s Core 4. Another option by Boorstin is his wonderful three-part series, “The Americans”: The Americans: The Colonial Experience (volume one); The Americans: The National Experience (volume two); and The Americans: The Democratic Experience (volume three, the one that earned Boorstin his Pulitzer Prize).

Moral of the story: you are definitely not stuck with whatever textbook drivel you find yourself (or your child) assigned. And the more you’re willing to consider books that aren’t au courant up-to-the-very-
last-minute, the more options you’ll have. You will also spend much less for all three Vintage paperback editions of “The Americans” than you would for the one hardcover edition of the 2005 textbook, and you’ll be able to say you helped slow Mr. Boorstin’s whirling a tad over this shameful excuse for history.

Updated: I didn’t have a chance earlier to include that the business about the plagiarized passages in the two Pearson Prentice Hall textbooks was brought to light by author James W. Loewen, who’s in the midst of updating his 1995 bestseller, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, a survey of the then top 12 high school textbooks on American history. Well worth a read, particularly in conjunction with Diane Ravitch’s The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn, especially Chapter 9, “History: The Endless Battle.”

Poetry Friday: Bastille Day edition

Be Like the Bird
by Victor Hugo

Be like the bird, who
Halting in his flight
On limb too slight
Feels it give way beneath him,
Yet sings,
Knowing he hath wings.

Links a la francaise, poesie plus:

French page of the Poetry International Web

Bibliomania’s collected French verse online

And two handy blogs if you’re planning a Paris vacation (or wish you were): Secrets of Paris and David Lebovitz.

Drat, I’m it

I’ve been tagged by Frankie at Kitchen Table Learners for a “five things meme”, and since I’m still feeling guilty about the unfinished book meme LaMai tagged me with over the Christmas holidays, I will indulge Frankie this one time!

Five things in my fridge:
milk (two four-litre jugs)
a large bag of garden lettuce
a large bag of garden spinach
some more rhubarb to be cut up and frozen
a thawing bag of shrimp, to be grilled for supper tonight (and served alongside the lettuce and spinach)

Five things in my bag, a black messenger bag with oodles of pockets:
My wallet bought in Vienna with my mother about 16 years ago
a little white piece from Daniel’s Battleship game
a red bandanna
bills to pay on the next trip to town

Five things in my closet (and I’m just glad you didn’t ask about my husband’s, because I stuck a bookcase in there last year):
— clothes
— shoes
— screwdrivers, which I keep removing from the boys’ room and which they keep taking back; I could find a better hiding place, but then I’d never find screwdrivers when I need them
— Laura’s birthday present for next month from her grandparents, a second American Girl doll (Felicity, best friend of the Christmas presented Elizabeth) smuggled back from our holiday together in February
— rarely-used fax machine

In my truck:
box of Kleenex (actually Scotties tissues, which don’t self-destruct as much in the wash when I miss one of the boys’ many pockets)
box of unscented, store-brand diaper wipes for washing hands on the road
extra pair of flipflops in case the ones I’m wearing self-destruct
Peterson Field Guide to Western Birds by Roger Tory Peterson

I’m not tagging anyone, so come play if you want.

The July Carnival of Children’s Literature is coming

to Big A little a on July 23rd. Kelly is hosting, details are here (including Kelly’s cryptic warning that “the Witches are coming” — though what do you expect from someone with a black cat as her blog logo?), and submissions are due by this Saturday, July 15th.

And to tide you over, here are the previous Carnivals of Children’s Literature:

The First Carnival of Children’s Literature at Here in the Bonny Glen

No. 2: A Coney Island Adventure at Chicken Spaghetti

The Third Carnival of Children’s Literature at Semicolon

Broken Toe Edition (No. 4) at Here in the Bonny Glen

Counting babies

The chick count stands at 19, most of them black or yellow, but one cute chipmunk-striped one in the bunch, too. Yesterday Tom carefully removed from the incubator all of the eggs that didn’t hatch, the remainder of the chicken eggs and all of our friend’s wild turkey eggs. Far, far from the house and yard, we conducted a post-mortem and found that while some of the chicken eggs had partly developed chicks inside, none of the turkey eggs seemed to have been fertilized, which was a good lesson for the kids, both about biology and the old saying about not counting your chicks…

Afterwards, we headed to a neighbor’s farm to pick up our annual summer allotment of kittens. Four this time, one each for the kids and one for me, since I may as well have a little someone to follow me around adoringly, as long as he doesn’t turn my raised beds into a litter box. Laura’s kitten is black and named Shadow, Daniel’s is a calico named Top Cat (too much Hanna-Barbera on Boomerang while visiting my parents back in January, it seems), Davy’s is orange and named Felix, so of course I named my little gray one Oscar. The kids got busy with some cardboard boxes and duct tape and fashioned a kitten palace for the latest farm residents.

In other farm news, I’ve been busy harvesting spinach and rhubarb to freeze, thinning the carrots, and Tom got all but the last six or so hay bales made before the latest thunderstorm. Not quite as fierce as Friday’s storm, which had some very loud and close-sounding lightning cracks, which the kids and I discovered later in the day had turned one of our power poles into shredded toothpicks.

Truth, justice, and the American way, or, discouraging words and antelopes (in the Valley)

Thanks to J.L. Bell at Oz and Ends for an update on the library shenanigans at Vista San Gabriel Elementary School in California’s Antelope Valley, which I wrote about back in March (here, here, and here), when the school board approved the removal of 23 books from a list of books to consider purchasing for the school library. Now, as reported by The Antelope Daily News, board members have in fact come up with the guidelines they promised the other month, and from now on the books selected “cannot depict drinking alcohol, smoking, drugs, sex, including ‘negative sexuality,’ implied or explicit nudity, cursing, violent crime or weapons, gambling, foul humor and ‘dark content’.”

Furthermore, according to the policy itself: “In selected instances, an occasional inappropriate word may be deleted with white-out rather than rejecting the entire book.” Which makes me wonder whether board members also plan to go through various world history encyclopedias and art books to add discrete black magic marker bikinis and briefs (don’t laugh, I’ve encountered enough home educating parents who do just this). Or maybe those books just get chucked wholesale, too.

Other highlights of the new policy, according to the newspaper account:

  • Revisions included adding the words “socially appropriate” to one criteria [sic]. It now states books should have a ‘Fair balanced socially appropriate portrayal of people with regard to race, creed, color, national origin, sex and disability.’ [Which doubtless has filtered down from the California textbook approval process], and,
  • all books must comply with a section of state education law, titled the “Hate Violence Prevention Act”, which states, “Each teacher shall endeavor to impress upon the minds of the pupils the principles of morality, truth, justice, patriotism, and a true comprehension of the rights, duties, and dignity of American citizenship, and the meaning of equality and human dignity, including the promotion of harmonious relations, kindness toward domestic pets and the humane treatment of living creatures, to teach them to avoid idleness, profanity, and falsehood, and to instruct them in manners and morals and the principles of a free government.”

So much for Tom, Huck, and human dignity. Rather takes all the joy out of books, reading, and school, doesn’t it? Which is just as well, I suppose, since the school board has effectively taken all the good books out of the library.

Poetry Friday: Egg edition

Look at Six Eggs
by Carl Sandburg

Look at six eggs
In a mockingbird’s nest.

Listen to six mockingbirds
Flinging follies of O-be-joyful
Over the marshes and uplands.

Look at songs
Hidden in eggs.

The cheeping kitchen

A month ago a neighbor phoned to ask if I had a broody hen under which he could slip some wild turkey eggs he’d obtained from an acquaintance in Edmonton. I told him I didn’t have any broody hens at the moment, but we did have an incubator in the storage room that we could set up. The kids were thrilled to see the incubator come out again, and we put in the turkey eggs and filled up the rest with chicken eggs from our hens. Yesterday was the big day, and while the turkeys seem to be duds — maybe too much time went by getting them to us, though I’m still holding out hope — the chicks are coming out on schedule, popping out like popcorn. At the moment, I have a straw-filled box in the kitchen with four black chicks and seven yellow ones, in various stages of fluffing out. A few more are working on their escape in incubator.

Since yesterday the kids have been spending their time either at the incubator or by the box, sometimes with a meal so they don’t miss anything, from rocking and then cheeping eggs, to the first chip, to a small wet bird unfolding itself. Davy was the first to discover a hatched chick, and so he has spent hours cradling “his” chick. And last night, Laura was inspired to practice “Edelweiss” on the piano as a chick lullaby, which apparently worked as the cheeping stopped for about 15 minutes. Later this morning we’ll take the box to the corrals and set up the chicks in their new home in the second, empty coop, away from their bossy mothers. A box of chicks is cute only for about a day.

It’s been an eggy summer. The bluebird eggs hatched before Tom had a chance to move them out of the swather tube, so he moved the nest with babies instead to a wooden tube he made for them. The adult birds accepted the new container, and the babies seem to be doing well; we have to use a flashlight to peer in, and with its help can see the dud egg that didn’t hatch. The killdeer is getting used to us as we check on her daily and sometimes doesn’t even get off her nest with the broken wing routine; I got some nice close-ups of her the other day. The coots and ducks in the ponds are swimming around with their new families — in some cases, their second families of the summer.

Updated: Occurred to me to include information about our incubator, in case someone is interested. The model we bought about 10 years ago is a Styrofoam Hovabator with a picture window and a turbo fan, and I’m ever so glad we sprang for the optional automatic plastic egg turner, which I highly recommend for saving considerable wear and tear on adoptive parents. We bought ours from the Canadian country living/farm supply company Berry Hill, and I see at the Berry Hill website that Hovabator has replaced our old model with this one, which is available either as a thermal air flow or circulated air model, and includes a sanitary plastic liner. The classic manual on the subject is A Guide to Better Hatching by Janet Stromberg, who knows what she’s talking about because the family business, now in its fourth generation, is Stromberg’s Chicks and Gamebirds hatchery; you can buy the book wherever you buy your incubator.

Outdoor life, or, How to have an old-fashioned, dangerous summer

A city-living friend, who always seems half-alarmed and half-amused by the fact that my kids tend to go through their days fully armed (pockets full of slingshots, jackknives, cap pistols, and lengths of rope, the latter of which came in surprisingly handy the other week when we had to move a neighbor’s sheep) and whose idea of fun is to leap off bale stacks and on and off a moving horse, emailed me the recent Guardian article about new UK publishing sensation, The Dangerous Book for Boys by novelist Conn Iggulden and his brother Hal. My friend wanted to know if I’d heard of the book, if I would recommend it for her city boy, and if I’d be buying it for my three desperadoes. “It tells you how to make a tripwire, you know,” she wrote.

I wrote back that, based on what I’d read about The Dangerous Book, what she really wants is The American Boy’s Handy Book written and beautifully illustrated by Daniel Carter Beard, the American outdoorsman and illustrator whose Sons of Daniel Boone organization was a precursor of the Boy Scouts. Available for half the price of The Dangerous Book and endangering lives for more than 100 years, the Boy’s Handy Book includes such projects and activities as How to Rig and Sail Small Boats (so you too can spend all summer dodging drowning just like the siblings in Swallows & Amazons), Home-Made Hunting Apparatus, How to Make Blow-Guns, Practical Taxidermy for Boys, and, proving that danger lurks year-round, Snowball Warfare. In fact, with the extra money, you can also buy The American Girl’s Handy Book by Daniel’s sisters, Lina and Adelia, rather more genteel but equally nostalgic and useful; or Daniel Beard’s Field and Forest Handybook: New Ideas for Out of Doors. While poking around for links to share, I found this, for Daniel Carter Beard’s Online Books. Well worth a peek.

More old-fashioned outdoor summer fun, dangerous and not so, and don’t be put off by any of the “Boys” in the titles if you have girls:

The Boy Mechanic, a four-volume series by the editors of Popular Mechanics, reprinted by the good folks at the Canadian woodworking and gardening institution Lee Valley, which also offers the reprint Boy Craft

Historical Headgear, Hats and Helmets: Where History Meets Duct Tape: The Ancients by Jean Lockwood and Thomas Lockwood; think of it as Red Green meets the Story of the World activity book. The publisher, BrimWood Press, new to me, specializes in “Tools for Young Historians” — definitely worth a look. (The “Coloring the Western World” coloring book has me very, very curious despite the $18 price tag. Color me interested.) Your kids can wear their helmets while perusing and working from

The classic Backyard Ballistics by William Gurstelle, author too of The Art of the Catapult: Build Greek Ballistae, Roman Onagers, English Trebuchets, and More Ancient Artillery

Mud Pies and Other Recipes: A Cookbook for Dolls by Marjorie Winslow, illustrated by Erik Blegvad; more genteel but not necessarily tidy fun

UPDATED July 10th to add that yesterday I realized that Jen at her Book Page also had a post on the The Dangerous Book, which somehow I missed when it originally went up; I like Jen’s idea that “you could have a lot of fun with finding companion books where kids in the book engaged in some of the same activities!” By the way, now that Jen’s back from her holiday, she’s posted another one of her nifty Sunday round-ups.