• 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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The five of us met my mother at JFK in early October, to fly with her to her vacation home in the West Indies.  The plan was, after my father’s unexpected death earlier this year, to sort through my father’s things and also sort out the house, which for some years has needed repairs, touch-ups, and general decluttering. We had been making good headway and also making time for some fun — the local Halloween party at the nearby beach club, a lovely dinner party for my mother’s 79th birthday, a very fun meal at a new restaurant in town — when things came crashing down four weeks ago, when my mother died even more suddenly than my father did.  He died not three months after being diagnosed with brain cancer; she died two days after going into the hospital feeling faint, dizzy, and hot.  It turned out to be advanced heart failure and kidney failure, not altogether unexpected for someone with diabetes and high blood pressure who has made the most of life and ignored doctors’ warnings and daughters’ pleas for years.  But still terribly sudden and shocking for all of us, and just days after a happy birthday. I’ve taken comfort knowing that things moved so swiftly that she had no idea what was happening before she lost consciousness, that she was in no pain, wasn’t scared.  And that she hadn’t been home alone in the apartment in New York.

Some 35 years ago, on her island,

We are bereft, and marooned, emotionally and almost literally, not able to come home last week as planned.  With so many extra loose ends to tie up, we delayed our departure until this coming Sunday (weather willing, and we are hoping it will be more willing than the weather this past weekend), and even then we are leaving many things undone, in an upside down world, though we have fixed and cleaned and painted and tidied.  The kids have been troopers, coping with the work and the sadness.  Poor Davy had expected and hoped to celebrate his 10th birthday with Grandmama, and Thanksgiving the next day was a shadow of its former self.

Instead of an overnight stop at the airport hotel as originally planned, we’ll spend several days in NYC , to see my sister, the lawyer, the office, and leave for Canada on Wednesday, which should get us back home in time for Christmas Eve.  Our holidays will be considerably diminished, but the kids at the moment are craving home and home comforts. I would be happy to crawl into my own bed and pull the covers over my head for the next six months, but thanks to rent control laws in NYC, we have 90 days from the date of death to empty my mother’s apartment.  We need to get back to farming and real life in February, so next month we’ll be driving across North America with a truck and trailer.  No, it’s not my first choice, either.

I came across this poster recently and I find it much more reassuring than the slogan I’d come up with about halfway through 2010, “One damned thing after another”.

Definitely an approach my life loving mother embraced, though she would have asked for vodka. And extra ice.

*  *  *

“To lose one parent, Mr Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde (1895)


19 Responses

  1. Becky, I’m so very sorry to hear of your mom’s death.

    Hope you find home again soon.

    Thinking of all of you,


  2. Great shot (your mum, not the tea towel).

    Good luck getting it all done. I will think of you next time I am lying in a Seattle motel room listening to my mother snore and wishing I were back in my own bed again. I might even get up and pat her on her snoringly loud head and think a tender thought or two.

    Take care.

  3. I wish I could send you some hugs across the miles. She sounds like someone I’d have loved to meet! Take care Becky.

  4. Hi Becky,
    I am so sorry to hear about your loss. I wish your family well….

  5. Rebecca, thank you. And you hit the nail on the hand. We’re all desperate to find home again, and don’t want to have to spend too much time looking.

    Sheila, that was my dad’s handiwork. The original is much better, I had to a take a photo with my little Canon Powershot of an old, tired print here at the house. I’d pay good money to hear my mother snore again : ). Yes, by all means give her a pat for me!

    Suji, she was tremendous fun. Thanks for the good wishes.

    Subadra, thanks for the hugs and wishes. Hope all is well on your adventure overseas…

  6. Oh Becky, I am so sorry to hear this. I’d been missing you and wondered if all was well. I know this will be a hard Christmas for all of you. I’ll be thinking about you.

  7. Becky,
    I’m very sorry to hear of your loss. I hope you arrive home safely in time for Christmas.

  8. Becky, I am so sorry to hear about your mom. What a year for all of you. Let me know if you need moving help in NYC; i’ve held elevators, stuffed futons into station wagons, and guarded the car on the street many a time!

  9. I am so sorry, Becky. You and your family will be in my thoughts and prayers. That is a beautiful photo of your mom.

  10. My sympathies. What a year for you all…oy. Here’s to 2011 being brighter. And speaking as someone who drove a UHaul (towing a car, no less) from Boston to Calgary, I highly recommend sticking a “student driver” sign on the back of the truck. Don’t think we would have made it thru Chicago’s traffic without it!

  11. I am so sorry for your loss. What a year. It takes so long to process one parent’s death, then another so swiftly. Best wishes for safe journeys.

  12. I am so very sorry for your loss. It’s been a hard year for us, as well, but not as hard as yours. Prayers and blessings to you and your family.

  13. Becky, I have been thinking of you during this month, and hope things are beginning to appear a little less overwhelming. I hope that time is kind to your grieving heart, and your sense of loss is replaced with many fond memories. Merry Christmas to you and your family. Regards, Rita

  14. Oh my word. I’ve been totally out of the loop, not reading blogs for months and months. Now, in trying to organize my Bloglines, I came specifically to see what you’ve been up to. I’m so, so sorry to read this. I have to agree – we all say we’d like to go fast and not linger; your mother had the best of that. Unfortunately, I think such a fast death makes it so much harder for those left behind. Take good care of yourself and your kids.

  15. I am so sorry to hear about this second loss, right on top of the first. It sounds like you spent some good time with your mother at the end, which might be some comfort. It’s been a rough year, but I hope your cross-country drive goes as smoothly as possible and your life settles back down soon.

    Take care. …kathy

  16. Oh Becky, I am so sorry to read about your losses this year – you and your family are in my thoughts and I sincerely wish you some kind of peace as you sort out life going forward. A cross country drive sounds like a good gin & tonic for sure.

    Like Kris, I’ve been out of the loop, and am so very sorry to read this. Take care.

  17. I’m an idiot. I thought you had an adventure planned going cross country – upon rereading your post, I see that it’s not that at all. Apologies for the insensitivity, and again, my condolences and best hope for some peace.

  18. So very sorry. Thinking of you.

  19. Thank you all. I had a hard time coming back to this post — my apologies for the delay in acknowledging such wonderful, kind thoughts.

    And Penny, yes, it will be an adventure, we’re going to make it one : ).

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