• 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.

Backlog: Winter fun 1: The magic of hoar frost

Most of December and early January saw very foggy nights and mornings, which resulted in hoar frost everywhere, including power lines (we got off easily with only one short outage, while friends and neighbors sat in the dark for considerably longer).

Some scenes from around the yard,

Trio of mad trappers

I’m not sure what the matter was with my digital camera, or why it didn’t like the new batteries I fed it.  Maybe it was feeling overworked and in need of a holiday.  At any rate, I tried the darn thing again this morning, with the very same new batteries as last time, and wouldn’t you know its little eye fluttered open.  So we’re back in business, after several weeks’ rest.

Poetry Friday: Bookshelves and anthologies

When My Ship Comes In
by Robert Burdette (1844-1914)

One room I’ll have that’s full of shelves,
For nothing but books; and the books themselves
Shall be of a sort that a man will choose
If he loves that good old word “peruse,”
The kind of book that you open by chance
To browse on the page with a leisurely glance,
Certain of finding something new,
Although you have read it ten times through.

I don’t mean books like “Punch” in series,
Or all the volumes of “Notes and Queries.”
But those wherein, without effort, your eyes
Fall where the favorite passage lies,
Knowing the page and exact position —
It’s never the same in another edition!

“The Vicar of Wakefield,” and “Evelina,”
“Elia,” “The Egoist,” “Emma,” “Catriona,”
Fuller and Malory, “Westward Ho!”
And the wonderful story of Daniel Defoe,
And Izaak Walton, and Gilbert White,
And plays and poetry left and right!

No glass doors, and no “fumed oak” —
Plain deal and fumed by myself with smoke;
Stained, if at all, to a pleasant brown,
With ledges and places for putting books down,
And there I’ll sit by a blazing log
With a sweet old briar and a glass of grog,
And read my “Pickwick,” “Pendennis,” “Huck Finn,”
Cosily there — when my ship comes in.

The Rev. Robert Burdette (1844-1914), a noted humorist in his time, was born in Pennsylvania and raised in Peoria, Illinois. After graduating from Peoria High School in December 1861, he enlisted in the 47th Illinois Infantry the following August, just five days after his 18th birthday. According to this website, the Rev. Burdette’s early life also

included experience as a a Cuban Revolution blockade-runner.

His career was journalism. His humorous columns for the Burlington Daily Hawk Eye earned this paper a national circulation. He extended his success to the lecture platform, where he was compared to his popular contemporary, Mark Twain. By 1888, he was still traveling the lecture circuit, but as a Baptist preacher.

In 1907, he came to California and became the first minister at the Temple Baptist Church, where he contributed substantially to the popularity of that organization. He is remembered as “the physician of the merry heart.”

Shortly before his death and on the eve of World War I, he completed a memoir and Civil War account, The Drums of the 47th; the book was reissued in 2000.

I found the Rev. Burdette’s poem in The Desk Drawer Anthology: Poems for the American People, compiled by Alice Roosevelt Longworth and her brother Theodore (“Ted Jr.”) Roosevelt (1887-1944) and published in 1937. I ran across mention of the anthology in the new biography my parents gave me for Christmas, Alice: Alice Roosevelt Longworth, from White House Princess to Washington Power Broker by Stacy A. Cordery; they were apparently inspired by ARL’s quote over on the sidebar at left and my fondness for the way she viewed the world with what she called “detached malevolence”. As Ms. Cordery explains,

Alexander Woollcott was the inspiration [for the poetry collaboration between brother and sister]. Sunning themselves at Woollcott’s lakefront home in Vermont, Ted and Woollcott idly discussed all the poets whose works were good but “somehow escaped the accident of fame,” and how most anthologies were little more than the favorite poems of the editor. They wondered whether an anthology could be created for which all of America did the selecting. If Ted and Alice would edit the entries, Woollcott promised to use his popular Town Crier radio show to ask listeners to send in their favorite pomes for consideration — the ones they’d cut out and tucked in wallets or desk drawers so they’d have them to read again and again. More than forty thousand poems appeared as a result of his plea. It took Alice and Ted many months to read through and compile the poems, and the book was published by Doubleday, Doran just in time for Christmas 1937.

Alice, and I don’t think she’d mind me calling her that, not once we got to be friends, has proved to be a delightful companion for the past month. From Ms. Cordery’s preface,

Like all Roosevelts, Alice had wide-anging interests. An autodidact with a lifelong passion for knowledge, she taught herself Greek at age eighty. Filling her bookshelves were tomes historical, philosophical, literary, and scientific — theories of evolution were a particular interest. She retained a fascination for subjects that had grabbed her as a girl: Romany culture, fairies, poetry. In common with all her clan, Alice could and did quote liberally great passages from Alexander Pope, William Shakespeare, Rudyard Kipling, Charles Lamb, Niccolò Machiavelli, Sir Thomas Browne, and others. And the amount and type of poetry she cherished and recited from memory was staggering — from Ogden Nash’s limericks to G.K. Chesterton’s “Lepanto.” Alice Longworth’s extensive library contained battered and marked copies of anthologies such as The Oxford Book of English Verse, Burton Stevenson’s Home Book of Verse, The Modern Library edition of Anthology of Famous European and American Poetry, and volumes from poets like E.A. Robinson, Ezra Pound, and Alfred Austin, usually inscribed to her by the authors. … She loved words and word games; dog-eared and annotated in her angular handwriting were Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, The Oxford Book of Green Verse in Translation, and Aesop’s Book of Fables.

For more Poetry this Friday, and Saturday too, head over to Mentor Texts, Read Alouds & More, where Literacy Teacher is hosting today’s round up. Thanks, LT!

New home

Welcome to Farm School’s new home.

I’ve long been looking for a more legible typeface and clearer, attractive theme, plus the chance for a more customized banner (the photo above is from my vegetable garden last year) and was never entirely satisfied with what was available at Blogger. I also have categories now with a complete list of them in the sidebar, not just unlisted tags, and have “pages” which you can see above, over the banner. I’ve compiled some of my history, science, poetry posts in those pages, as well as on the subject of what I’ve decided to call “courting danger” for lack of a better term. Maybe the biggest difference is the three-column rather than two-column format. All of my links and blogroll are in the right-hand column, so push all the way over to see everything.

I’d been hesitant to ditch the old blog and jump ship, even to new Blogger, because I didn’t want to lose all of my old comments. But I think I have that sorted out by keeping the old Farm School blog up.

Some of the formatting of posts, especially italicizing of book titles, got goofed up when I imported the old posts to their new WordPress home, and a few seem to have disappeared en route, but I think otherwise I have everything.  Well, other than my new Cybils widget, which I can’t get to work and which is probably the biggest glitch. I did a quick look through my blogroll and removed some outdated ones, and think I rounded up everyone else. If there are any problem, please do let me know.

Poetry Friday: The Round Up Is Here

Peter Mark Roget, inventor of the slide rule but most famous for his thesaurus, boon to poets everywhere, was born on this date in 1779. In his honor, I give you not a poem but an entry:

poetry, poetics, poesy, Muse, Calliope, tuneful Nine, Parnassus, Helicon, Pierides, Pierian spring. versification, rhyming, making verses; prosody, orthometry.
poem; epic, epic poem; epopee, epopoea, ode, epode, idyl, lyric, eclogue, pastoral, bucolic, dithyramb, anacreontic, sonnet, roundelay, rondeau, rondo, madrigal, canzonet, cento [see below], *monody, elegy; amoebaeum, ghazal, palinode.

When I signed up several months ago for today’s round-up, I didn’t know about two days of snow and windstorms that would create drifts to complicate farm chores considerably, or that the round up would land smack dab in the midst of the annual three-day Farm Curl, where Tom and the kids and one adult friend make up one of the teams (no, I don’t curl and after 13 years still haven’t figured out the rules or the scoring; the only thing I find that makes curling tolerable, besides my kids’ shining faces, is Paul Gross). And after a morning of chores and curling all afternoon, Laura and I head to a three-hour 4H meeting at 7 pm.

So please leave your poems with Mr. Linky, and a comment below, too, please, and I’ll try to do my assembling on Saturday before setting out for the curling rink yet again.

I take it back — just a wee bit of verse from Robert Service (“the Canadian Kipling”), born 16 January 1874. He composed some of his first lines at the age of six,

God bless the cakes and bless the jam;
Bless the cheese and the cold boiled ham:
Bless the scones Aunt Jeannie makes,
And saves us all from bellyaches. Amen

Susan at Chicken Spaghetti is still celebrating Twelfth Night with Shakespeare and continuing to enjoy her Christmas present to herself, the Complete Arkangel Shakespeare. Why? Because, as Susan writes, “you can’t see, hear, or read too much Shakespeare.”

Stacey at Two Writing Teachers stumbles into a colleague’s first grade classroom and discovers poet Zoe Ryder White, who turns a sentence into a poem with line breaks.

Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect shares Louisa May Alcott’s Thoreau’s Flute, and encourages you to read this week’s poetry stretch results, which include “some great centos created from titles of favorite books”. By the way, for those of you who would like to share the Alcott poem — her tribute to her old friend and mentor, Henry David Thoreau, with whom she shared many nature walks — with your children, see if you can find Louisa May and Mr. Thoreau’s Flute by Julie Dunlap and Marybeth Lorbiecki, with illustrations by the great Mary Azarian (who also illustrated Snowflake Bentley and the new Tuttle’s Red Barn). There’s more here on Thoreau’s Flute as well.

MsMac at Check It Out is going back in time to the First Friday in January, with some original poems from some very young and very talented writers in her classrooms.

Becky at Becky’s Book Reviews has been revisiting Narnia and offers a musical Narnia tribute.

Kelly at Big A little a is making the best of yet another Snow Day, with the help of Billy Collins. And don’t miss the bonus snow day poem in Kelly’s comments, either.

Melissa Wiley at Here in the Bonny Glen is in an Elizabeth Bishop mood today, with an elegant villanelle on the relaxing art of losing.

Suzanne at Adventures in Daily Living is also thinking snowy thoughts, with Mary Oliver’s “poem of the night”, Snowy Night. And, as she does every Friday, Suzanne offers a delightful personalized Poetry Friday button, as you can see at the top of this post; the html code is available at her post. Thanks, Suzanne!

Rebecca at Ipsa Dixit offers the sheer poetry that is Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday, and a poem by some fellow named Shelley — “You just keep your mind off the poetry and on the pajamas and everything will be alright, see.” Perfectly delightful. Thanks, Rebecca.

Mary Lee at A Year of Reading, after a hard day’s work, has what one of her commenters aptly calls a most “satisfying” poem by Marge Piercy.

John Mutford at The Book Mine Set serves up pure Canadian content with the original epigram Newfoundland Diet PSA.

More Shakespeare, now from cloudscome at a wrung sponge, who has his Sonnet No. 116 (“Let me not to the marriage of true minds/Admit impediments”) and takes it out of the realm of the couple to the family. cloudscome writes, “Now that I’ve reached middle age and been a parent for over 20 years [the sonnet] makes even more sense.”

Over at Read Write Believe, Sara Lewis Holmes is Crossing Unmarked Snow with William Stafford, in a poem that reflects Sara’s post earlier in the week about her new notebook and her plans for it.

writer2b at Findings has an original poem about her young daughter’s passion and the horses that fill their worlds. And nifty quotes from Pablo Picasso and Rachel Carson, too.

Andrea and Mark at Just One More Book offer a podcast Straight from the Pooches’ Mouths — a review of the children’s poetry book Good Dog by Maya Gottfried, illustrated by Robert Rahway Zakanitch.

Laura Salas at Writing the World for Kids has two entries for today. She shares some poems and some of the process too, from her her new children’s book, Tiny Dreams, Sprouting Tall: Poems about the United States. Congratulations, Laura! And Laura also has some of the results from her snowy 15 Words or Less photopoetry project, and a standing invitation to join in the fun.

jama rattigan celebrates the birthday of A.A. Milne, born on this date in 1882, with thoughts on loving a bear and Milne’s poem Teddy Bear.

Shelf Elf shares a Pablo Neruda poem and one of her “most treasured books: Pablo Neruda’s Ode to Common Things. It is full of perfect, deceptively simple seeming poems in praise of ordinary objects and creatures.”

Elaine Magliaro as always has multiple offerings to tempt us. At Wild Rose Reader, Elaine gave this week’s poetry stretch (see above) a try and wrote two centos with children’s poetry book titles, with terrific results. And at Blue Rose Girls, Elaine has advice on How to Change a Frog Into a Prince.

Christine M. at The Simple and the Ordinary is celebrating her husband’s birthday and A.A. Milne’s too with balloons and morning walks, which sounds like a dandy way to celebrate. Many happy returns and “HIPY PAPY BTHUTHDTH THUTHDA BTHUTHDY” to you, Mr. M.! And if you recognize that from “Eeyore Has a Birthday”, you can have a balloon, too.

Mary Ellen Barrett at Tales from The Bonny Blue House offers her daughter’s beautiful selection for their home school poetry reading next month.

Ruth at Two Writing Teachers tries something new for Poetry Friday, an original poem in etheree form accompanied by a photo quatrain. Ruth writes in the comments below, “It’s focused on syllables, starting in line one with one syllable and increasing each line until you get to ten. I loved the way it stretched me creatively on this Friday morning.”

Little Willow offers up the fun to read aloud Cat Scat. No, it’s probably not what you’re thinking. Think along the lines of Ella Fitzgerald instead. Well, Ella Fitzgerald by way of Mozart.

Karen Edmisten is making a joyful noise today with her kids and a classic book of children’s poetry.

Dawn at By Sun and Candlelight and her family take a walk through the snowy woods with Robert Frost and a camera, and she writes, “Doesn’t poetry compliment nature so nicely?” Of course, Dawn goes the extra mile (in the snowy woods and elsewhere) and comes up with yet another nifty project idea.

Sylvia Vardell at Poetry for Children has a post about the surprising number of poetry books that received recognition from the ALSC/YALSA awards this week. Sylvia notes, “I’m happy to say that ALL of these books appeared on my own lists of the best poetry of 2007 (see Dec. 31, 2007) or 2006 (see Dec. 29, 2006). How wonderful to see these rich and engaging works of poetry get the recognition they deserve. Now I hope they will also find their way into the hands of many young readers!”

TadMack at Finding Wonderland has X.J. Kennedy’s moths to the flame. And don’t miss TadMack’s link to LitLinks (the first link in her post).

MotherReader is another Poetry Friday participant taking Tricia’s book title cento challenge, with some of the 2007 books she’s planning to read.

Anne Boles Levy at BookBuds has a review of Nikki Grimes’ new book, “Oh, Brother!” about the shrinking step between new brothers.

Kelly Fineman at Writing and Ruminating, with one of my all-time favorite blog banners, has an original poem and one of my favorite post titles for today — In the Bathtub of Possibilities. Speaking of possibilities, Kelly’s poem has been included in Laura Salas’s new book, Write Your Own Poetry. Congratulations, Kelly!

Jill at The Well-Read Child (where the tag line is “Instill the joy of reading in your child”) offers Phenomenal Woman, which she was once lucky to hear Maya Angelou recite in person. I have it on good authority that at least fifty percent of all well-read children grow up to be phenomenal women…

Sheila at Greenridge Chronicles writes that she’s feeling silly but short (I’m assuming she means time rather than stature), and gives us a little bit of Ogden Nash, always a delightful way to start the weekend.

Chris Rettstatt has a poetry mash-up — he’s posted the first line of a collaborative poem and has turned it into a contest. Chris writes that “the person who adds the final line in the comments “kills” the poem. And wins a signed copy of his Kaimira: The Sky Village.

It’s the first Poetry Friday for Devin McIntyre at Speak of the Splendor, and we extend a big Poetry Friday welcome. Devin has a lovely poem from Emily Dickinson.

Jennifer at S/V Mari Hal-O-Jen heads for land to go fly a kite, as she writes in the comments below, getting a jump start on the Chinese New Year with one of our favorite Christmas presents.” Don’t miss the great kite and Chinese New Year book links at the end of her post. Happy flying and sailing, Jen!

Liz Garton Scanlon at Liz in Ink makes good on a promise in a big way with an original villanelle inspired by a George Bellows lithograph at the Blanton Museum of Art (UT-Austin). Liz writes, “A poet friend solicited the work, inspired by pieces in the museum’s permanent collection. Some of the poems will eventually be posted next to their visual muses in the gallery, and all of them will come together in some sort of collection — printed or online.”

Anamaria at Books Together, who lives within easy visiting distance of the Smithsonian museums, has a review of the new children’s poetry title Behind the Museum Door: Poems to Celebrate the Wonders of Museums, compiled by the indefatigable Lee Bennett Hopkins. My request for this one has been in to interlibrary loan for a while, so I’m heartened to hear that the wait is worthwhile!

Tiel Aisha Ansari at Knocking From Inside offers an original sonnet, Paper Jam: “This is a hybrid rhyme scheme — call it a Spenserian/Italian sonnet.”

Ruth at There is no such thing as a God-forsaken town offers hope, comfort, understanding, and poetry for refugees, in light of current events in Kenya.

Miss Erin sets off on travels with Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Charlotte at Charlotte’s Library offers a look at Four Fur Feet by Margaret Wise Brown, “with never before seen illustrations and an additional verse, plus a useful poetry-related web link” for explaining alliteration to young children.

Crispus Attucks at Dominant Reality shares For I Must Sing of All I Feel and Know, probably one of the lighter and more hopeful poems by the Victorian-era Scottish poet James Thomson (B.V.).

Jennie at Biblio File is dancing in the snow with Emily Dickinson.

Marcie at World of Words is nibbling on icicles.

Anastasia Suen at Picture Book of the Day, a blog where Anastasia explains how to teach the six traits of writing, shares a bit of verse from Where in the Wild?: Camouflaged Creatures Concealed…and Revealed by David Schwartz and Yael Schy, with photography by Dwight Kuhn, which includes “animal facts (in poetry and prose) and an ‘I spy’ element.” By the way, Where in the Wild is one of the Cybils 2007 Nonfiction Picture Book finalists.

Felicity at Look Books also offers Edna St. Vincent Millay on the joys of limited travel.

The Reading Zone shares another Scottish poet named Thomson, this time Alexander Thomson and an excerpt from his ode to Glasgow.

Literacy Teacher at Mentor Texts, Read Alouds & More shares a recently discovered resource for finding Found Poetry.

UPDATED TO ADD: (Poetically) late and probably last, but most certainly not least, my old friend Greg from GottaBook is a true sport and puts in a plug for Poetry Friday, even without a poem. Do yourself a favor and for some true poetry fun any day of the week, go to Greg’s sidebar on the right and pick something, anything (everything!), from the “The Fibs”, “The Oddaptations”, or “The Poem” section. You can thank me later!

And there, that’s it — all 51 entries for this week’s Poetry Friday! Many thanks to all who participated for their poems and patience, and apologies again for the delayed rounding up. Though I’m delighted to report that the Farm School team won their second curling match in a row yesterday and head toward the last day’s game in very good spirits today. Tom told me last night when we returned from the curling rink that toward the middle of the neck-and-neck match, seven-year-old Davy stuck his head in door and asked with a grin, “Are we winning yet, Dad?”.

The 50 Greatest Books ever written

“Over the coming year, an international panel chosen by The Globe and Mail will select the 50 Greatest Books ever written. Each week, a single work will be discussed by an expert or a writer passionate about the work in question. This is the first in the series.”

Just started the other day (Saturday, in the weekly Books supplement) and not a bad way to spend a year. Up firstThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, considered by Globe & Mail Books Editor Martin Levin.

Next week: Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past.

By the way, I’m not sure of the official policy, but at The Globe & Mail anything older than a week or so is no longer accessible for free. So best hurry up if you’re interested.

Great Assumptions

Sophie Gee, an assistant professor of English at Princeton University and author of The Scandal of the Season, wrote in yesterday’s NY Times Book Review section,

Mass-market adaptations make Great Books go bad. Or so conventional wisdom would have it. But every so often, plundering and pillaging a canonical text for the sake of entertainment gives it the kiss of life. Take “Beowulf” and “Paradise Lost.” The unpalatable truth is that both originals are now virtually unreadable.

Or so conventional wisdom would have it.

I’ll bet you a loonie I already know what Mama Squirrel in her Treehouse is thinking.