• 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.

Kitchen addition progress

Tom and his crew, which includes the kids most days, are making good progress. Early this week they started insulating and putting up drywall, and yesterday they broke through the existing exterior wall.  Which meant we had Tom’s birthday dinner last night with a large sheet of plastic sheeting hanging in the room, between the table and the addition (though compared to the two-hour delay in the meal because the water heater all of a sudden collapsed after 17 years, spewing hot water all over the laundry room, the sheeting was minor).  And of course, with the ceiling supports and sheeting, we now have even less room than unusual in our bowling-ball-narrow eat-in area.  But with any luck not for long.

Insulating in progress,

Once the new windows were installed at the north end of the addition, the only way in or to out was through the old kitchen window, as Davy demonstrates.  The window with about 16 feet of wall are now gone, but the broom closet at left (part of the remodel 12 years ago) stays.  Soon to go will be the dreadful pink, white and gray vinyl sheet flooring Tom picked out 17 years ago (before we met),

Vapor barrier over the insulation, which looks rather ghostly,

The one bright spot in the kitchen at the moment; kitchen addition through the no-longer-in-existence window on the right; what you can see in the background is the cooking part of the kitchen.  Please disregard the 70-year-old popcorn ceiling over asbestos, as I’ve been doing; knowing that we would build a new house one of these days always helped…

The drywall going up; next week’s project is taping, etc.

The old kitchen window on its way out; you can see the lovely supports now temporarily part of the kitchen, to keep the ceiling in place,

When the wall was removed yesterday, the kids and I saw the original wallpaper for the first time. Tom had covered it up when he fixed up the house 17 years ago, just before we met, because it was faster and easier to lay drywall than to strip 50-year-old drywall,

Ta da — the wall is gone.  The view at dinnertime last night.  The Rubbermaid plastic wash tubs you can see on the floor at the bottom right are what Tom and the kids use to store their books and papers (work for Tom, school things for the kids); these will finally find a home in drawers/behind doors when the built-ins in the addition are completed,

Peeking in to the new addition from the existing kitchen after the wall came down,

Hee! Standing inside the new addition, looking toward the old kitchen.  It’s so much wider than I imagined it would be. If it were warmer, I’d move the kitchen table in there RIGHT NOW (it went down to -17 C last night, or not quite 2 degrees F, ugh),

Old and new,

Question of the week

‘Why, exactly, is a reader who comes to the website via Google or Facebook more desirable than someone who types in “www.nytimes.com”?’

Asks The Economist.

The New York Times has always been my hometown newspaper.  It was one of the few things I was sorry to leave behind when I left New York, even though it was getting smaller and skinnier by the year, even then, realizing as I did that home delivery of the Times would no longer be possible living in the country in western Canada. When we finally got internet, especially wifi the other year, it was wonderful to have daily, or depending on my schedule, weekly access to the Times again.  But now I may be losing it again, or at least if I want to read more than the five articles a day I can access for free via Google.

Lucky Canada is the guinea pig of the experiment.  As Arthur Sulzberger wrote on March 17,

Today, we are rolling out digital subscriptions to our readers in Canada, which will enable us to fine-tune the customer experience before our global launch. On March 28, we will begin offering digital subscriptions in the U.S. and the rest of the world.

The cheapest option, nytimes.com and smartphone app, is $15/month or $180 a year.  I don’t have a smartphone, and it occurs to me a nytimes.com only and/or foreign resident option, for those of us who are unable to buy a print subscription to the Times (which automatically nets you digital access), would be a nice thing.  But it took the Times a year to figure out the newly premiered three-tier plan.

The pop culture perils of being relevant and engaging

From The New York Times the other day,

Every year, the SAT reduces more than a few teenage test-takers to tears.

But few questions on the so-called Big Test appear to have provoked more anxious chatter — at least in this era of texting and online comment streams and discussion threads — than an essay prompt in some versions of the SAT administered last Saturday in which students were asked to opine on reality television.

“This is one of those moments when I wish I actually watched TV,” one test-taker wrote on Saturday on the Web site College Confidential, under the user name “littlepenguin.”

“I ended up talking about Jacob Riis and how any form of media cannot capture reality objectively,” he wrote, invoking the 19th-century social reformer. “I kinda want to cry right now.”

Less than a minute later, a fellow test-taker identified as “krndandaman” responded: “I don’t watch tv at all so it was hard for me. I have no interest in reality tv shows…”

The commenter ended the post with the symbol for a frowning face.

By Wednesday, comments on the now-infamous prompt — which included the question, “How authentic can these shows be when producers design challenges for the participants and then editors alter filmed scenes?” — had stretched across nearly 40 pages on College Confidential. Media coverage added to the scrutiny.

Angela Garcia, executive director of the SAT program, said she did not think it was unfair to ask that question of students who had neither the time nor inclination to watch Mike Sorrentino on “Jersey Shore,” or Kim Kardashian on “Kourtney & Kim Take New York.”

“The primary goal of the essay prompt is to give students an opportunity to demonstrate their writing skills,” she said.

This particular prompt, Ms. Garcia said, was intended to be relevant and to engage students, and had gone through extensive pre-testing with students and teachers. “It’s really about pop culture as a reference point that they would certainly have an opinion on,” she added.

How the other half lives, eh?  Am tempted to think that if Jacob Riis were around today, he’d find his tenements on television.

We have walls

for the kitchen addition.  Well, we’ve had the walls built for a while but just haven’t been able to stand them up until the -30C blustery weather and snow stopped.  For good, we hope, considering the date on the calendar, but who knows this year. Snow we expect through the end of the May, but -30 is usually a thing of the past by now.

Apologies for the pic quality, I took these from inside the house, which gives the best view.

Our telehandler helping out,

The west wall going up,

West wall attached; there will be built-in shelves with the window in the center (it was either that or two very narrow windows on the edges) with the countertop and cabinets underneath, as a sort of dining room/school room hutch.  There will be one “hutch” on each side, east and west,

The east wall going up,

The north wall; Laura was just telling us the other day that it’s time to get rid of the swing set, so we’ll pass it on to some friends with young children,

Next up, literally: trusses.

Pickle emergency

One of the foods I’ve missed most since leaving NYC 17 years ago is kimchi, Korean spicy fermented cabbage.

I’ve never bothered trying to make it because I hadn’t found any simple recipes to accommodate what’s not available here on the prairie, including Napa cabbage, sweet rice flour (which is available all over Amazon.com but not Amazon.ca), daikon radish, and fresh squid or oysters. So I was very excited the other day to discover Maangchi’s recipe for “emergency kimchi”, which is made with regular cabbage and without the seafood, which is always a problem here in our land-locked province; I’m not the only family member pining for seafood since at a recent 4H meeting, in response to a roll call question about their favorite foods, one landlocked child of mine answered “lobster” and another “crab”.

But I just stumbled over Maangchi’s “emergency kimchi” recipe, which is not only made with easy to find ingredients (think midwest chain grocery store where the shelf with organic canned tomatoes is considered wild and exotic) but quick, so that I don’t have to store the clay pot under my front door.  Preparation time is just 30 minutes, and the recipe uses regular cabbage and avoids the traditional porridge made with sweet rice flour.  It does still call for Korean hot pepper flakes, but I plan to use the supermarket brand (sigh…). If I’d found the recipe sooner, I would have stocked up last month on Korean hot pepper at the Korean greengrocer near my parents’ apartment. I do see a couple of Korean groceries in Edmonton listed on this page.  Thank you, Maangchi, for making kimchi a possibility out here.

If you live somewhere more civilized, here’s Maangchi’s traditional recipe, and here is the easy time-saving recipe with traditional ingredients.  You can find all sorts of Korean recipes, cooking tips, and even YouTube cooking videos, at her website.

Spring thoughts

Happy Spring thoughts, thanks to Book Depository,

Just don’t get me started on the idea of “pre-ordering” which is in the same category, for me, as pre-registration.  You can order, or register, early, but you simply cannot order before you can order.

In this case, I’ve placed my order before the book’s April 16 (re)publication date by Persephone Books, which brought out the delightful Miss Buncle’s Book not too long ago.


The princess and the pea

I know you’re supposed to replace a mattress every eight or 10 or 15 years.  But for the first eight, 10, 15 years and even longer, the mattress was just fine.  So fine that we didn’t think about it, though every so often the idea would flit through my brain, only to be dismissed by  concerns that, with my history of  back trouble, a new unknown mattress wouldn’t be as good as the old one. And that our sheets wouldn’t fit the new, thicker mattresses.  Last year the mattress started poking us, as if to say, “Hey, remember me?” and we knew then that we had run of out time.  But family emergencies and too many trips away from home meant that we weren’t getting to the nearest mattress venue — the Sears store in the little city an hour or so away — any time soon.

We finally got there the other weekend, while the kids were curling in a bonspiel.  It was an awfully long afternoon, though the choosing would have been much faster if we had been told at the beginning of the mattress testing process rather than at the end that one of our choices had been discontinued by the manufacturer, harumph. I made a point of avoiding the euro- and pillow-tops and focusing on the “slimmer” mattresses. After about an hour, we left, having paid for our new mattress and boxspring and arranged for delivery.  Since we live in the country, the mattress set would be shipped to our local Sears pickup depot, from where we’d collect it in the truck and bring it home.  Which Tom did at lunchtime today.  Which meant that about 10 minutes later, we were all standing around our lovely Henredon mahogany sleigh bed, staring UP at the mattress and boxpring that looked like something from the story of the princess and the pea.  It was all just so very high, so very tall, so much closer to the ceiling.  Too high, too tall, and quite odd.  Sitting in bed, my head is well above the top of the table lamp on the nightstand, and when I sit on the bed, my feet no longer touch the floor but dangle in the air about 12 inches off the ground. I think I’ve figured out that what we need is a “low profile” boxspring, so we’ll have to order a new new one and return the old new one.  It’s either that or a set of Victorian bed steps and a good memory from my perch in the middle of the night when I’m half asleep and in need of a glass of water. With any luck, our only difficulty will be exchanging the bedspring, and the mattress itself will be suitable.  We have 60 days to find out, with Sears’ return policy.

We still do much our reading aloud in this bed, and when the kids were little they would pretend we were on an island.  This is truly an island now, and I fear for books, the television remote, and especially my laptop should they happen to fall from on high. In the meantime, now that I can reach the ceiling fixture by standing up on the mattress, I may as well take advantage of the situation and change the lightbulbs.

UPDATED to add: The kids measured the old mattress/boxspring set and the new one, and the difference is 10 inches.  Yikes.

PS Oh joy, more snow on the way. Four inches.  Gah.