• 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.

Fall work

The passionflower vine doesn’t realize it’s time to close down the greenhouse, and is flowering madly and sending out ever more crazy red tendrils,

Even more blooms on the way (disregard the greenhouse plastic in the background),

Virginia creeper vine on the trellis by the front door — hard to believe it was entirely green a month ago,

Laura’s greenhouse-grown cantaloupe, the second of two. Very tasty, very sweet, a definite go for next year (we also had good luck with tiny watermelons),

While I was busy working on the greenhouse, Tom and the kids did some fencing in the pasture where the river runs through, so there was a bit of wet work,

The kids were playing around with the special effects on the camera and got some funky color and focussing,

Tomorrow we start combining the wheat…


Autumn’s arrival

(It’s been here for a while already, I’m just late here…)

Wildflowers in the pasture, smooth blue aster (photos by Laura),


It’s been so long since I last blogged that I nearly forgot my user name and password for Word Press. Oops.

It was a fast, and extreme, summer. One minute it was June, now it’s already September. We had heavy rains, heavy wind, and hail. Severe thunderstorms almost daily. Our garden and crops, including hay, were hailed out; fortunately, the hay crop on land we rent from Tom’s father about 10 miles north of here wasn’t as badly affected, so we were able to get a second cut.

It’s been so wet and damp that in early August I ended up buying something I never thought I’d have to, a dehumidifier. This, after all, is the prairies, where the air is so dry that one of my wedding gifts from my inlaws 18 years ago was a humidifier. The idea seems ridiculous now.

The hail took off all of the paint on the west side of the house, so some of Tom’s crew and the kids repainted the house, so all looks nice now. I’d been thinking of repainting the front door for some time, and having the entire house repainted was just the kick in the pants I needed. I was tired of the dark green door after all this time (white house, dark green trim and door, and dark green deck), but needed a color that would play nicely. I liked yellow, but it’s too light for a farmhouse door. Red seemed too Christmassy year-round and would clash with the (non-red) flowers in the spring and summer. I finally settled on a dark purple, Benjamin Moore’s Peerage, which makes me very happy, though Tom and the kids — especially Laura, who’s never been a fan of purple — have reserved judgment. I’m just glad I didn’t have to go through five, or 50, shades of eggplant or plum to find the one I like. We’re still waiting to reshingle our roof while Tom looks after all of his clients; besides, if we’d been in a hurry to reshingle after last year’s hail storm, it would have been a huge waste of time.

In early August, Laura attended her 10-day Young Ornithologists’ Workshop at the Long Point Bird Observatory in Ontario and had a wonderful time. If you have a young Canadian birder, we highly recommend this program, which is free (except for travel costs) to the selected participants. The kids learned to band birds, including hummingbirds, and make study skins. Here are a few pictures of and by Laura from her stay,

Did you know that placing a hummingbird on its back immobilizes it?

Laura banding a bird in the lab,

Making a study skin of a red-winged blackbird that died hitting a window,

The lighthouse at Long Point,

Laura also went off with the provincial turkey vulture specialist to check on nests and young vultures in July, and then several weeks later returned to help band them,

The kids each had a week at 4H camp and loved it, as usual, Davy on his own to junior camp and Laura and Daniel to intermediate camp. And Laura and Davy won at the club level for the beef project books. This coming year, Davy and Daniel will be intermediates and Laura is a first year senior.

Laura turned 15, the boys were responsible for cutting and baling most of the hay again. The boys also looked after a neighbor’s grass, and Daniel had a job limbing a neighbor’s spruce trees with the chainsaw. While the boys were haying, a oil company set up a lease for some exploratory drilling. Tom’s parents’ stopped in to survey the work, and the older supervisor told that on one of his first days, he saw a tractor apparently driving around on its own. He went back to his work trailer for his binoculars, and realized it was just a very young, smaller than usual driver (Davy), and he told my inlaws how impressed he was with the boys’ care and stick-to-itiveness, especially when dealing with breakdowns and especially in comparison to his own crew.

We’re all looking forward to getting a new sofa, from the Crate+Barrel sale; with any luck we can place our order next week on a trip to the city. Our current sofa is 22 years old, from Macy’s in NYC, and in dire need of reupholstery and slipcovers — the arms have no padding whatsoever, and the cushions have tears, rips, and the edging/cording that has popped its confines. But I’ve been able to find only one place nearby (sort of) that does reupholstery. The downside is that they don’t do slipcovers, and, the deal breaker for me, it’s a smoking establishment so the workshop reeks of cigarettes. I’m not about to take a down-filled sofa there. So it looks like it’s a new sofa for us, hurray. We’ll move the old sofa to the basement and keep our fingers crossed that a new non-smoking reupholsterer moves to town!

My mother-in-law decided to cut back on her canning, so I made 30 quarts of dill pickles, in addition to the usual mustard pickle and Evans (sour) cherry jelly. I have a case of peaches in the kitchen at the moment, and when they ripen, I’ll can those. I ordered a case of green BC pears, also for canning, and they’ll come later this month. We like crunchy pickles, so I don’t use a hot water bath. But I worry about poisoning my family so like to keep the jars in the fridge and yet who has room for an extra 30 quarts of pickles in the average fridge? So I bought another refrigerator from Sears (some people have wine fridges, we have a pickle fridge…), the cheapest model, then realized I could swap our 18-year-old fridge for the new one. Of course, only after we made the switch did we realize that the old refrigerator was much better arranged, and I should have paid a bit more for more than the bare bones model. Oh well. But now we have room for all of our pickles and no worries about botulism and salmonella.

Some flower pictures from July and August, most from the greenhouse. These are my little water gardens, which I’ll overwinter in Rubbermaid tubs in the basement (it will be the third year of doing this),

I was excited to find a small container of pitcher plants at the nursery in May,

Laura’s canteloupe’s at the end of July; they’ve grown so much since that one has a t-shirt “sling” to keep the stem from breaking,

Datura, very toxic but very interesting to watch as it grows; that’s a little metal hedgehog garden ornament hanging onto the side of the pot,

Datura seed pod, which prompted the kids to rename the plant Audrey; we’re going to save the toxic seeds to start more toxic plants next spring,

The pink mandevilla, which likes to climb. I tried to overwinter both of last summer’s mandevillas but failed; however, the lobelia in last summer’s pots must have reseeded itself, because blue blossoms starting blooming in March and haven’t quit,

The red mandevilla, which has no climbing desire at all,

Because of our short summers, in June the nurseries around here start discounting plants like mad; I found this night-blooming jasmine for a song at Home Hardware on one of Tom’s quick tool runs. It’s now about a foot-and-a-half across, and I’m hoping it doesn’t do too poorly in the house until next spring,

Lophospermum, one of my favorite plants. I overwintered one, and found another this spring for $5,

One plant I don’t have a picture of is a passionfruit vine I found at one of the nurseries in town, another June “rescue”. It has been going great guns and has taken over one corner of the greenhouse, all the way up to the roof and back.

The Virginia creeper is turning red and has lovely dark bluish purple berries, the geese are flying loudly and thickly overhead…