• 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.

The return

We returned home late on February 14th, after about a month away.  While the rest of North America was celebrating Valentine’s Day with chocolate, cards, and crafts, we were driving west from Regina and just relieved to be home, from which we have been absent for four months since October, which seems crazy when I think about it.  My husband and kids have been absolute rocks to put up with all of this coming and going, emptying almost 50 years’ worth of furnishings and memories from a New York City apartment, getting on a first name basis with the staff at the nearby Salvation Army, and, the worst part of all, driving on the NJ turnpike from the Lincoln Tunnel to Jersey City, the trip’s true low spot.  We left last Wednesday, and made it to DuBois, PA the first night; our other stops each night, after driving about eight hours a day (except in North Dakota, where we had to keep driving past Fargo and Grand Forks until we finally, finally found a hotel room) were Danville, Illinois, Des Moines, Iowa; Grafton, ND; Regina, Saskatchewan; crossing the border into Canada north of Grafton south of Winnipeg, and home.

To counter the lows, which also included unhelpful apartment building staff (thanks to co-op board regulations and union regulations) and legal action taken by the landlord against us although my sister and I tried to explain that we had no interest either in the apartment or in prolonging the clearing out process (thank you co-op board and union), some of the highs:

* the vastness and beauty of the Canadian Shield, and the beauty of northwestern Ontario, especially Kenora, where we spent a night (all photos by the kids, often from a moving truck),

* some other sights we saw, including the Terry Fox statue in Thunder Bay, where he was forced to end his Marathon of Hope by the return of cancer; the Big Nickel in Sudbury, Ontario; and the CN Tower in Toronto,

* the magic of Niagara Falls in winter, when everything in the path of the mist is transformed into an ice sculpture,

* Le Roy, NY, the home of Jell-O, which I discovered just a few miles outside of LeRoy while reading through the AAA guidebook, because Davy has always been a keen fan of Jell-O.  We made it to the Le Roy museum just minutes before their 4 pm closing time, and the staff were gracious enough to let the kids have a quick look around the Jell-O gallery while I made a quick tour of the museum shop and made some purchases. Le Roy is a beautiful village in Genesee County, with lovely old houses

* AAA guidebooks and maps, which are all free when you join CAA/AAA, and the free online Triptik service, which was a great help in planning our route;

* meeting Susan Thomsen of Chicken Spaghetti after about five years of online friendship, because she was kind enough to let us park our 16′ cargo trailer in her driveway for more than a week, and during a crazy snowy month which shrank driveways considerably.  We also got to meet her husband, and son Junior (who quickly took in the boys and shared some Lego with them, much needed and appreciated after a week in a truck), and inlaws, who were all so warm and welcoming.  And we saw her chickens, and she and Laura talked about birds together. Thank you for everything, Susan!

* Laura’s and Tom’s bird walk with “Birding Bob” DeCandido, through a snowy and icy Central Park, where they saw an adult male Cooper’s hawk, brown creepers, a white-crowned sparrow, brown-headed cowbirds, red-wing blackbirds, and wood ducks.  Laura and Tom were the ones to spot a male yellow-bellied sapsucker.  Although Laura was disappointed not to spot the celebrated varied thrush, she was pleased with all the other birds.

* the kindness and pleasantness of motel clerks to NYC and back, despite our lack of reservations, and modern m/hotel thinking that makes a swimming pool, free wifi in rooms, and free hot breakfasts the new standard.  A special thank you to the woman at the Travelodge in Kenora who let me use the coin-operated laundry well past the 9 pm deadline to wash clothes after Davy lost his breakfast outside of Regina; and to front desk staff at the AmericInn in Des Moines, Iowa, who gave me two rooms with queen beds for $50 each, so that the kids each had a separate bed for the first time since leaving home.  If we are ever in your neighborhoods again, we will be back.

* the kindness, pleasantness, and professional manner of staff working at truck stops throughout the U.S. Remarkable people who probably don’t receive enough thanks and appreciation;

* being in NYC and being able to go to Barnes & Noble on the publication day of  the latest Flavia de Luce book, A Red Herring without Mustard by Canadian Alan Bradley.  I bought it for Laura who started reading it as soon as possible, and it’s at the top of my “to be read” pile now.  And now that we’re home, I’ve ordered, from the library, the Book Depository, Amazon.ca, and Chapters.ca, for my own reading, which at the moment seem to be limited to escapism (of the genteel and also the more murderous sort); sentimentality and nostalgia about leaving New York, the apartment which my parents had lived in since I was born, my parents; and planning our new house*:

* lobsters at Fairway, which are inexpensive and which the staff will steam and crack for you.  It was Laura’s idea, and made for a delicious dinner on one of our last nights in the apartment;

* our overnight in DuBois, Pennsylvania, which I didn’t know until our arrival was the hometown of Tom Mix — my father would have laughed;

* our afternoon visit in Moline, Illinois to the John Deere Pavilion in the city’s downtown and to Deere’s world headquarters, which also had a nice display. Laura found mute swans swimming in the lake near the building.

* the beautiful barns, graineries, and corn cribs in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Minnesota

I’m sure I’ve forgotten some things, and I know the kids have more pictures, so I may have to have another post.  I just wanted to post a bit about the journey, and say thank you to

* which will be a combination of these two house plans, this one for the outside details, and this one for the inside floor plan (though it needs lots more rejiggering), especially on the main floor.  Work to begin in late May, and all I can say is that after having a new house as our five-year plan for the past 17 years (oy…) and everything we have gone through in the past 18 months, I am beyond excited to plan the new house.  Even better is the fact that we decided the other year to keep our current house, so we get to live in it during the building process and not live in a trailer or  a shipping container.

10 Responses

  1. Glad you are back! I’m exhausted just reading about your experiences.

  2. Hi Becky,

    I haven’t commented in eons, but have been keeping my fingers crossed for you and the big trip. Glad to hear that, despite the lows, you’ve all made it back and have the building of your new house to look forward to.

    “Diary of a Provincial Lady” is funny…read that this time last year. I’ll have to have a peek at “Consequences”.

    Looking forward to hearing more about house building and dangerous kids and summer gardens!


  3. So glad to hear you’re finally back home.

    Had to comment on book choices – I too love Delafield! Happy reading!

    On a more serious note, this has been a year of great change and many sorrows for you all; here’s wishing you smooth sailing ahead to balance out the turmoil you’ve been through.

    Sadly, no stranger to turmoil myself; have had a similar year with sudden loss of parent and subsequent dealing with much too much “stuff” while emotionally fragile. Take heart – you will get through it OK, and all the cliches about the healing balm of time are indeed true.

    Sending good thoughts your way,


  4. Rebecca, thanks. I thought you’d have something cheeky to say about the chemistry set, though!

    Jen, thank you for crossing your fingers : ). I haven’t read “Diary” in years and figured it would be be just the thing for right now. I haven’t read the London and Russia ones, so might add those to my pile afterwards.

    Barb, thanks for the good thoughts. I’ve had a chance to think about things this last while (long drives are good for that), and I think my problem has been that after my father’s death, earlier than expected, we were all rather stunned, and not dealing with our grief because we were so busy trying to sort things out and to keep my mother cheered up. When my mother died, that put any grief for my father on the back burner, and grief for my mother had to go there too because of everything we’ve had to deal with — house in the Caribbean, business in NYC, apartment in NYC. The grieving is still on hold while I deal with endless reams of paperworks, including bank statements from various banks in NY and the Caribbean which need to be faxed to the accountant, lawyerly things, and sorting out the sale of the Caribbean house and the business. I am hoping that by the end of the year, I will have been able to grieve for each parent, separately and together.

  5. Glad you’re all home safe and sound Becky – I’ve been thinking of you.

  6. You have been in the thoughts, Becky. I’m glad you are back home.

  7. Glad you made it back safely. Living in a house while building a new one will reduce the stress level considerably, I imagine. New Reginald Hill? Can’t wait.

  8. Becky, you’re home! We are all glad that y’all made it back safely. It was a delight to meet you and your wonderful family.

    It snowed again last night. We were actually in NYC, and it was lovely. This a.m. we went to the Guggenheim, and Jr. LOVED the building and breezed right by the art. He was hoping for a skateboard, like the New Yorker cartoon in which a kiddo rides the spiral down….

  9. Thank you, Penny — no one was gladder than we were!

    Rita, thanks for the good wishes.

    Mary Lou, I thought of you going through the Twin Cities and would have called if the weather hadn’t co-operated! And the kids used up any extra time we had in MN at the Cabela’s store in Owatonna! The Reginald Hill is *good*, by the way.

    Susan, you are a doll. Thank you so much for everything. Now that we know what you all look like, I can just picture Jr. on his skateboard going around and around and down at the Guggenheim! Tell him next time! Hello and warm wishes from all of us, and with any luck March isn’t coming in like a lion back east…

  10. Hi Becky,

    You’ve had a lot to deal with.

    When you wrote “When my mother died, that put any grief for my father on the back burner, and grief for my mother had to go there too because of everything…” it struck a chord with me. In 2009, my sister died of cancer (after a few years of dealing with it) on June 30th, & my niece died of pancreatic cancer on August 7th. My niece’s death (40 yrs old) was so fast, so shocking, that my other sister & I felt like we had almost forgotten to grieve for Judy, our sister. We both felt bad about it. I don’t know if we have grieved yet in the usual way.

    I wish you the best and with joy returning to you & your family.


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