• 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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Dipping a toe

… back into blogging after what has turned out to be a two-month sabbatical.  No apologies, no regrets.

It has been a marvelous summer, and at the moment we’re marveling that, here on the prairies six hours north of Montana, not only is summer still hanging on but we’re having a heat wave —  high 20s Celsius, with a forecast 33 C for Thursday.  The farmers’ crops are are drying in the fields, but the weather is perfect for the tomatoes and peppers as long as I can keep the water coming.  And it’s getting dark now disturbingly early, just after eight o’clock.

Our own crops are harvested, such as we could this year.  After we finished cutting and baling the alfalfa for hay, we cut and bale our barley crop early, several weeks ago, for greenfeed, instead of combining the grain. The boys are out as I type, with the water trailer, giving the shelterbelt trees a good soaking, and weeding the rows.

Speaking of the shelterbelt, in early July we took our first ever summer vacation, a whopping two-and-a-half days through Saskatchewan.  Our main destination was the shelterbelt tree center at the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration in Indian Head, SK, which holds an open house every summer.  It’s the first time in the four or five years since we’ve started planted trees that we’ve been able to make it, mainly because of the drought which meant the hay wasn’t ready yet for cutting.  We attended seminars, took a tour of the center, watched demonstrations of the equipment — including the where-have-you-been-all-my-farming-life Weed Badger, which we are thinking would mean an end to endless weeding — and went home with all sorts of goodies, including notepads, water bottles, posters, and more little trees to plant. The town of Indian Head not only has a lovely ice cream parlor on Main Street, but has some of the most gorgeous Victorian houses, and beautifully tended gardens, on well-treed streets I’ve ever seen in a prairie town. We also stopped at Moose Jaw for a tour of the Tunnels and (even better) the Burrowing Owl Interpretive Centre at the edge of town, where we met and handled George, the ambassador owl, fed grasshoppers to some others, and were able to buy very inexpensive owl pellets for dissection.  Next stop was Rouleau aka Dog River for the kids’ sake, though admittedly we were about two years late with that one.  On to Regina, where we managed to make a 6 pm tour of the legislature building and afterwards strolled through the lobby of the Hotel Saskatchewan since Laura has inherited from her mother and grandmother a love of grand old hotels.

Various other goings-on since my last post, but not in any sort of order (not much for pictures though, because either the camera hates the computer or vice versa and I can’t figure out which or why):

— Tom directed the kids to take the majority of the new-crop kittens to the fair, to Old MacDonald’s barn where they would be adopted. Only to turn into a softie when at said barn said kids discovered rabbits.  Laura asked first — “Dad, could I have a rabbit please?” But instead of a direct “No”, Tom mumbled something about having to make sure she’d do all her other chores first, etc. Which sounded, to Laura’s ears (and to mine) very much like “Yes”.  Which is all the boys needed to hear.  Which is why we now have two bunnies, Verbena and Claudia, happily munching on carrot tops, kohlrabi leaves, and other garden scraps.

— The rest of the time at the fair was equally exciting.  All three kids showed pens of chickens, their calves (on what turned out to be an exceedingly hot day), won prizes, spent two days riding the rides on the midway, showed off their handiwork at the exhibit hall (Laura displayed an example of handwriting, flowers, her quilling, and other things I know I’m forgetting; the boys displayed Lego creations, including Davy’s manure spreader made out of bricks, as well as first-prize winning birdhouses, one shaped like a grain elevator, and other assorted items; and all three and Tom displayed pint sealers of threshed grain, and sheaves of grain and forage).  We all ate homemade pie from the United Church booth and drank lemonade, and watched the show on the grandstand with good friends who came in from out of town to take in the festivities. And, as usual, we brought home the chicks hatched out at the incubator display.

— The kids spent the latter part of the summer getting ready for children’s day at the Farmer’s Market in town, when anyone under 14 can get a table for free, instead of the usual $10.  The boys decided to take what they learned from making my birthday present, a plant cart made from an old barbecue (I had seen the idea in the June 2008 issue of Harrowsmith magazine, and kept reminding the boys that it would make a dandy Mother’s Day or mother’s birthday present), and turn it into a business.   The first project they did with Tom’s supervision and help, and then they knew enough to set out on their own.

— Davy fractured his wrist in early August, jumping off a swing at a friend’s house.  His first injury in six or so years of professional swing jumping.  But the new doctor in town said all he needed was a splint and an ace bandage for three weeks, which was very easy to manage, especially for showers and baths. The splint and bandage just came off, and the wrist seems to be as good as new.

— Tom’s aunt and uncle in town took off for a 10-day vacation, telling us we could pick all of their raspberries.  One of the  most delicious presents we’ve ever received.  I went in every other day for an hour and a half of picking, and by the time they returned we had eaten as many fresh raspberries, and raspberry crisps, crumbles and clafoutis as we could, and I had canned the rest as jam and preserves to enjoy until next summer.  Ditto with saskatoons, some which we picked wild and others from friends’ bushes. Chokecherries, Evans cherries, peaches, and pears are up next for syrup, jelly, and canning.

— We started up our formal studies yesterday, a bit earlier than usual, but then we’re taking off for a few weeks next month to visit grandparents in NYC, and then on to Washington, DC.   Since Farm School is going to Washington, it seemed appropriate to spend our first day watching “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, which will be a springboard to the next two months of civics, folk songs, vocabulary, and more.  Next up, “Much Ado About Nothing”, in preparation for the Folger’s new production.  Oh yes, and math, grammar, writing, spelling, science…  For Laura, science will be based on around one of her recent 12th birthday present from her grandparents, Birds of Central Park. I’m looking at a bird walk or two with Dr. Bob DeCandido, and have already found the perfect city souvenir for Laura.

Many thanks to the two or so readers, in addition to my parents, who’ve stuck it out over here in the barrens. Any point in a (not) back-to-school roll call in the comments, just to see who’s still here?

36 Responses

  1. Hey I’m here and thinking that if we’d split the difference on rain and heat both of us would be happy :-)

    Glad to see you back. All that looks great. I’m going to have to figure out this fair thing but I’ll certainly be going with a different perspective this year.

    Tom is exceedingly soft on the rabbit question.

    Now, I suppose I should go update my blog and let folks know what is happening here. But I am somewhat overwhelmed with paying work and my inlaws arrive tomorrow evening… Ack.

    • JoVE, we could definitely have used some of that rain. Though we could have used this last bit of heat earlier on. It was an unusually dry and cool summer. The warmth came only at the end of July, when it usually ends.

      The fair has a been a slow and steady increase for us over the years. No need to jump in with both feet!

      Enjoy your visitors! Will have to stop by and see what I can see of the new farm!

  2. Hey! Knew you’d be back sometime around about now, though we’ve missed your informative and intelligent posts! Sounds like you had a great summer.

    We’ve just (yesterday) discovered 4 little kittens in our woodshed, a present from a stray that we’ve seen only fleetingly. Hmmm. Wonder if our fair will have an Old MacDonald’s barn.

    • Jen, that must have been a surprise! At the very least at your fair you should run into enough people (especially people with *kids*…) you can ask about adopting the kittens when they are old enough!

  3. Glad to see you back, and thanks for the update on your summer. We are diving back into homeschooling in a couple of days here, and fall is definitely on its way, with some crisp weather and all the apple-picking we can handle already giving us a taste of it.

    Have fun!

    P.S. Just had my first community chorus rehearsal last night–more Mendelssohn, yeah!

    • Fiddler, enjoy the Mendelssohn! Until this year I’ve always missed my old east coast summers that stretched out at least into September, and here we’re the ones with the longer summers, at least for now. I’ll be sorry I said that in about a week or two when the first frost surprises us…

  4. Sounds like a lovely summer, Becky! I’m looking forward to hearing more about the D.C. trip. Happy back-to-school (whenever you finally get around to it!)

    • Lynne, I’m laughing about sharing more about the DC trip considering I never posted the last of the 2009 NYC photos (I think it’s still in my draft post folder!). We started back with school on Monday and so far so good.

      Will have to check and see how you’re making out with school — three different plans for three different girls!

  5. Present! Sounds like a perfect summer.

    • mary lou, you’re so good to still be here! And I should tell you that I came : : this close : : to buying a sewing machine last month, in the hopes of finally teaching myself to quilt. But the model I wanted was unavailable. I don’t know if I’ll ever become a knitter, but sewing, maybe…

  6. Welcome back! It does sound like a great summer.

    You guys might be interested in The Sweetheart of Prosper County (in which a girl enters a rooster in a livestock show). But anyway, I’m glad to have you back!

    • Jen, I think I read something about it somewhere, along the lines of “A Girl and Her Chicken”! Will have to keep my eyes open for it at the library, where we have a new and wonderful librarian eager to improve the kids’ selection. Hurray!

  7. I’ve got you on my reader, so I was happy to see what’s happening on the farm. The baby just turned two, today was the first day of school (which was a bust because I was too optimistic), and were waiting for autumn so we can spend the day at the beach.

    Your kids are going to love DC. I went when I was 13 and it started my love of history. Can’t wait for your posts on that.

    • Shawna! Happy birthday to the baby, I can’t believe she’s two. How are things with big sister?

      I lived in DC for five years after college, so my husband and kids have heard stories for quite some time!

      • Big sister is the best big sister in the world. I rule at child spacing. ;-)

        She’s 11 and taller than me now. As much as she dotes on the baby in public, she’s going to attract the wrong kind of boy lol.

  8. What a wonderful summer! I’ll admit my favorite part to think about is the raspberries — yum.

    • Gail, we’ve been enjoying those raspberries ever since. My jam turned out rather runny, which works well since you don’t need much on toast and it’s perfect over ice cream!

  9. I’m here! And delighted to hear from you. Sounds like a marvelous summer. LOVE the bunnies’ names.

    • Melissa, I’ll have to pop over one day soon and see what your summer was like! I can imagine you’ve had children and flowers growing like weeds : ). I had such good luck growing verbena this year that it seemed like the perfect name for Rabbit #2 (though the boys still insist on calling her Bugs…).

  10. Glad to see you back. I was concerned but then I saw a few of your posts on the Yahoo group. As a very urban individual I’m greatly amused by your rural marriage and rural upbringing of your kids. I have an 11 year old son who gets afterschooling in Decatur, GA next to Atlanta. I think that NYC is the best deal for your kids with your parents present. When we were in DC a few years back my son and I greatly enjoyed the Spy Museum close to Ford’s Theater. You don’t have to explain rural fairs to me in that I have often been to the Great Darke County Fair in Greenville, OH, an incredible experience every time. Have fun.

    • Tom, there was only so much I had time for this summer, and honestly by May I felt blogged out.

      Now you know the dangers of a childhoods spent rereading the Little House and Anne of Green Gables series!

  11. I’m still here, reading over Bloglines. I always enjoy hearing about what you and your children are reading and doing.

    • Sherry, I’ll have to catch up with you and see what you’ve been reading, though I don’t think my pile could stand to be any bigger right now!

  12. Definitely still here but subscribed via Google reader so I probably don’t show up in your stats. Looking forward to hearing about NYC – somewhere I would absolutely love to visit one day. Think it will have to wait until all the kids grow up and I can get a paid job again. Not sure I actually remember what one of those is mind you.

    • Sandra, I do most of my own blog reading through Bloglines, so don’t worry about not showing up!

      Let me know whenever you go and I’ll give you some ideas for cheap (or free) fun!

  13. I’m hear! *waves* I’ve got my trusty google reader keeping tabs on everyone I read. Glad you are dipping your toes back in!

  14. It’s you! Huzzah!

    So nice to read your post. Sounds like a fabulous summer on the prairies.

  15. By the way, I lived in Moose Jaw for 5 years while growing up. I remember walking home from school (along the railway tracks – eep) and having to fish the grasshoppers out of my shoes.

    • Rebecca, the grasshoppers are everywhere right now. I keep my red gardening crocs outside on the deck, and have to dump out grasshoppers (alive and dead) before putting them on in the morning…

  16. Sounds like a busy and wonderful summer! I have been enjoying your blog for quite some time. Although this is my first time commenting. I am a homeschooling mama to 4, livingin northern ontario. We are in the middle of fair prep taking place next weekend. Our ‘back to school’ takes place next week, breakfast in bed (which is cookies) reading a stack of fifty books :)

    • Emma, welcome, and thanks for commenting!

      That fair prep can be a killer, but it’s worth it in the end. Have a wonderful time at the fair!

    • hey you – know you know where I get all my good stuff – from Becky’s blog!

      Welcome back Becky – so nice to see you posting again. Can’t wait to hear about Washington DC. It’s on our list in about 2 years when our youngest is old enough to walk for a week. We’re just back from a long weekend in Ottawa which we consider to be training for DC.

  17. I’m here too Becky, although a bit slower than the rest!

    Love the bunnies names :)

  18. Welcome back.

    Danny was after us for a bunny, so we bought him the stuffed variety. I don’t suppose that works with older children.

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