• 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."
    Cicero

    "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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Stairs

All the permanent staircases are in now in the house. No more temporary stairs, or ladders, or scaffolding!

Here’s the main floor staircase,

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Calving continues but we’re on the downhill slide, with 23 or so cows left to go, and about 75 calves bouncing around. The mud (you can see a bit in the lower right corner) which was everywhere and deep has started to dry up, especially after several unpleasantly windy days. Today we enjoyed a high of 15 degrees Celsius (59 F), an increase of 14 degrees since yesterday!

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We need some new bulls for the cows this summer — they get too old and too related — so Tom and the boys went to a bull sale the other weekend, where they bought three bulls (two two-year-olds for this summer, and a one-year-old for next summer), and then the kids went to another sale yesterday, buying two bulls. The boys also went to another sale where they bought some heifers. The local college in town has a student-managed farm and so, it seems, do we.

And we dug another dugout, to help water the shelter belt trees and new garden,

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Spring progress

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All the framing, inside and outside, is done. The permanent stairs are done for the basement, in the house and from the garage. The permanent staircase from the main floor to the second floor will be completed in a few days; we’re planning to pick up the ready-made maple volute next week. The temporary staircase from the house has now moved over to the garage apartment, which will give the electrician, who just started, and the plumber (currently taking estimates), easy access. Tom will start calling drywallers fairly soon, so they can start as soon as the wiring and plumbing are finished.

I’ve started ordering light fixtures and towel warmers and have a list of things to order — more light fixtures, a corner bathtub, plumbing fixtures. One thing everyone remembered from last year’s trip to France was towel warmers, so I did some research. While Runtal is the market leader, they’re out of our budget, but I read good things about Warmly Yours and was able to order their Infinity model online from Costco.ca without a membership. A bit of a splurge, but a modest one and also practical in our climate.

On a trip to the city at the beginning of the month, we stopped at Ikea, since they were having their bathroom sale, to pick up to vanities with sink tops for the workshop bathroom (very tiny) and garage bathroom (much larger, and with a shower so anyone muddy from gardening or chores can clean up). Once we get them set up, we’ll be able to decide if we want them for the apartment and the rest of the house. The price is definitely right, especially with the sale (there’s another one in July, I believe); the quality is good; and I like the drawers and all the storage. We picked the 48″ Godmorgon/Odensvik with four drawers, in walnut, for the garage; and the 20-1/8″ Tyngen.

In between, we’ve been welcoming babies, and dealing with mud, snow, ice, mud, snow, ice, slush, snow, and more mud. Spring seemed closer one month ago than it did last weekend. But the days are slowly getting warmer and longer, which is delightful.

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Earlier this month, on a very grey day,

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The garage entrance to the house, with the garage bathroom at right (behind the landing),

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Garage doors are coming soon. In the meantime, orange tarps make for a drier, warmer place to work and give a sunny glow. Making the basement stairs for the garage entrance,

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Moving them to the permanent location,

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In place,

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The view from the basement entrance and the cold room,

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The basement stairs inside the house,

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The view from the basement,

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Electricity in the workshop!

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More stairs. Temporary ones now in place to the apartment. Goodbye, ladder!

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Working on the main staircase in the house,

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The view from the second floor,

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Extending the trusses

To keep the same roofline as the main house, Tom and crew extended the chord of the garage trusses; this also means adding a post and beam underneath to carry the extended chords.

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Speaking of beams, in the workshop Tom was able to make use of a “recycled” laminated beam he rescued from the old hardware store before it was demolished; the beam is the horizontal, shiny one below,

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On the far right, underneath that laminated beam is a metal I-beam, rescued from the old supermarket before it was demolished this past fall, that Tom turned into a support beam.

Workshop and apartment/suite progress

The weather warmed up for Christmas and the crew had some good, productive days in in between holidays.

The workshop, at the end of the garage and underneath the granny suite; some of the windows and the walk-in door are in. I’ve been researching overhead doors.

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In the workshop; the orange area will be the wall between workshop and garage.

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In the suite, the two windows at left are in the bedroom, and the two at right in the living room,

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The angled garage,

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Inside the garage, looking at the door into the house (up the stairs), and the back door,

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From the back, with a view of some of the sheathing on the garage roof,

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The apartment “door”,

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Inside the apartment; the kitchen will be to the right of the front door, and the laundry/storage room and bathroom to the left,

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Eat-in kitchen at left, living room at right,

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Happy New Year

Belated greetings of the seasons, and wishes for a happy and healthy new year, from our house to yours.

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Perversely, Christmas vacation has meant even more time to work on the house. The photo above, taken by the 15-year-old with his drone and the fish-eye lens, was taken a few weeks ago before the trusses went up. There are also fewer piles laying about the yard — all the piles of trusses are gone now, and the last of the pile of plywood is gone since they started sheathing the roof (shingling to begin shortly, hurray). I asked for some overhead shots to help me start think about landscaping, because I need to plan for “rooms” and winter interest (aka evergreens and interesting branches), and that means trees and shrubs, what varieties and where to put them.

Wishing you a happy and healthy 2016!

Garage progress

Tom and crew took a break from our house building project in September to work for paying clients. They finished up two weeks ago and came back here to start working on the garage. They’d been building the garage walls with the boys on weekends, and weekdays that ended a bit earlier, and two weeks ago started standing them up. The garage will have three overhead doors, and room to park several pickup trucks as well as house most if not all of our seven deep freezes. At the end of the garage is a workshop, where Tom will move most of the tools that are in the shop, and then the shop can house (as it was meant to) various tractors and machinery. We’re putting a “granny suite” over the workshop to maximize the space, either for Tom’s mother, if she’d like, one of the kids, or a renter. And possibly for us in our dotage! The boys are incredibly motivated to see more progress soon, and are working long days to get it done.

Last weekend Tom and the boys put in the two big laminated wood beams, for the overhead doors and for the floor joists (for the granny suite), and a steel post to support the beam for the joists. And now the trusses have started going up. I haven’t taken many pictures since the sky has been gray and gloomy, and because it would get dark before I could manage to get out of the house. Hurray for the coming winter solstice.

The garage in the centre and the workshop at right,

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The granny suite will go above the workshop,

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The boys putting up the garage trusses,

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The workshop,

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The view from the garage toward the workshop,

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Last month on a trip to the city, Tom and I stopped in at an appliance store that carries BlueStar ranges, to decide if that’s what we want for the kitchen. Definitely gas, preferably with at least six burners, and we like the idea that BlueStars are built for durability, with few bells and whistles other than electronic ignition to need attention. Out here in the country, we need something dependable that won’t need much service. And the the cast iron grates above the burners make a single, uninterrupted surface, so you can easily slide even a large, full canning or soup pot.

If we’re probably going to splurge with a BlueStar, we need to save in other areas, such as curtains, especially with all those windows. I’ve all but decided on Ikea Aina linen curtains, and I bought myself an early Christmas present — a Singer 4411 heavy duty sewing machine with metal frame and stainless steel bedplate, when it was on deep discount at Amazon.ca. I’m planning to add trim fabric along the curtain edges, once I teach myself how to use a sewing machine.

In other news, Tom had another successful PSA test, and the next test is now nine, rather than six, months away. A huge relief and not something either of take for granted. Laura is registered for an online organic agriculture course at the University of Sasketchewan starting in the new year; she said at lunch today that she just had an email advising that the syllabus and other information will be sent out next week. She’s also interested in graphic design so we’ll be looking around for some online courses in that subject as well. We’re planning a high school graduation party for summer, and with any luck will be able to have it outdoors at the new house.

Laura has had a busy month as president of the naturalist society. She organized two book signings in town, at the library and Main Street Hardware, for new book, Backyard Bird Feeding: An Alberta Guide by Myrna Pearman; as the biologist and manager of the Ellis Bird Farm near Lacombe for almost 30 years, Dr. Pearman is at the forefront of bird conservation in the province and Laura had a wonderful time working with and getting to know her. And this past weekend she co-ordinated the local Christmas Bird Count and led the Christmas Bird Count for Kids (CBC4Kids), both of which went well, with a record number of bird species sighted for the area. Not a surprise, as we’ve been enjoying lots of Snowy Owls and Redpolls so far this winter; we have a flock of about 30-40 Redpolls which are enjoying the feeders, especially the 36″ Droll Yankee feeder, which looks rather like a Christmas tree with bird ornaments, complete with one Redpoll at the very top, waiting for its turn at one of the ports.

 

Shingles

The house is almost all shingled after this week. They’re finishing up the tower, and then the only bit left is the dining room and back porch, which still need their roofs.

Son #1 isn’t in these photos because he had taken off for town for a haircut in preparation for this weekend’s 4H Provincial Judging, for which he qualified back in March. And on Monday morning he’s off for his first counselling gig, working with juniors at the same 4H summer camp by the lake he enjoyed for six years. Laura is off on Monday as well, for her 4H agricultural tour/camping trip to the Northwest Territories, for which I had to buy bear spray (gulp…) yesterday. She’s also helping out at Provincial Judging, as a 4H Ambassador (there are 20 or so in the province). The youngest is off to camp the week after next, and then we have three weddings in three weeks.

Our “Twilight Gray” asphalt shingles,

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The back porch at left and dining room at right. The back porch will be our summer outdoor eating area, and the porch might be enlarged in the future. I’m envisioning cedar trellises along the columns for Valiant grapes, which grow well on the prairies; provided I can keep the pesky leafhoppers away.

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Preparing to raise high the roof beams

Tom and crew, with the help of the telehandler, last week hoisted the trusses to the second story in preparation for their erection, which should be this week. All of the interior walls are complete now on the second floor too, and it’s amazing to finally be able to see the rooms. This particular house has been our dream for the past 15 years, first waiting for the money and then the time, to begin; and I first started a “dream house” binder in my late teens, 35 years ago, and even brought it to university.

In other goings on, it’s been unusually hot and dry, which seems to be the case in Canada from BC through Saskatchewan. Temperatures are in the 30s (86-95 F), the air is hazy with smoke from the forest fires in three provinces, and we’re dealing with a drought as bad as the one that forced us to sell all of the cattle in 2002. Where our hay fields yielded 103 alfalfa hay bales last summer for the first cut, this year the grand total is nine. And we have 200 head of cattle to feed. The boys are hoping to cut the ditches along some of the nearby highways, and we’ve bought some secondhand irrigation equipment which might help us get a second cut in the fall.

We’re milking two cows who lost their calves (one a stillbirth, and the other at two months old, suddenly and heartbreakingly from pneumonia), and every other day I turn the raw milk into butter, cottage cheese (which is basically a case of letting a large soup pot full of skimmed milk with one cup of cultured buttermilk sit in the warm — thanks to the pilot light — oven of our 1950s O’Keefe & Merritt range), mozzarella (using Ricki Carroll’s 30-minute recipe), and sour cream/creme fraiche. Edited to add  I forgot to mention that my copy of David Asher’s The Art of Natural Cheesemaking arrived yesterday and I’m looking forward to reading it and trying some of the recipes. The book is subtitled, “Using Traditional, Non-Industrial Methods and Raw Ingredients to Make the World’s Best Cheeses”, which means there’s no need for packaged starters, synthetic rennets, or chemical additives. In fact, the point of the book is to encourage readers to “take back” their cheese, from the

dozens of different strains of packaged mesophilic and thermophilic starter cultures, freeze-dried fungal spores, microbial and genetically modified rennets, calcium chloride, chemical sanitizers, and harsh nitric and phosphoric acids; also, that most important ingredient (which is actually an anti-ingredient), pasteurization. None of these, however, is a necessity for making good cheese!

Asher offers a fast mozzarella recipe with lemon juice rather than citric acid, as well as a more flavourful “Slow Mozzarella” recipe, which takes 8-12 hours. More on the book here at the website of publisher Chelsea Green, including Chapter 1, “A Natural Cheesemaking Manifesto”.

Back to building, with some photos of the trusses atop the second story exterior walls,

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Wall week

The crew began the week building walls for the second story.

The telehandler is invaluable for getting the lumber up there,

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Before the walls were erected,

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One of the completed walls,

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Shop class,

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The rough window assemblies to make up the tower,

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And up they go,

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The telehandler is even more useful for lifting/standing up walls; this is the back of the house, with the dining room nearest the telehandler,

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The dining room from the other side,

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The 16-year-old running the telehandler,

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Finally on to the fourth side,

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The 14-year-old securing the temporary brace (until the interior walls go up),

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The white painted piece of lumber is salvage, when the grandstand at the fairgrounds was replaced years ago,

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Moving the top plate/cap plate assembly out of the tower to erect the wall pieces,

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I got distracted by a tiger swallowtail on the lilacs,

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Putting the top plate/cap plate in place,

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Removing the GoPro from the GoPro pole,

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A productive afternoon!

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Belated Europe

After the New Year, we spent four weeks in France and Germany, Tom’s and my first visit in 19 years, and the kids’ first ever. Home base was the house of an old family friend outside Paris, near Fontainebleau, and we took a variety of trips, to western France near Angers for a visit to a farm family, to Paris, to Tom’s family (his mother’s cousin) near Bremen, and back to France (Morzine) for some skiing.

One of the highlights was the stay in northwest Germany, which we all enjoyed very, very much — meeting some family members again, many others for the first time, the architecture, the food, and mostly the very warm welcome. And the kids were delighted to be able to help with farm chores, which helped with missing their animals at home. We had a lovely time, lots of fun and adventures, and made the most of our rental car, a BMW with GPS which turned out to be indispensable. The kids got to do a number of things on their wish lists — driving fast on the Autobahn, birding (Laura had several outings with local birders, and added 70 new species to her life list), and skiing in the Alps.

A few photos from the trip (in chronological order):

One of the houses down the lane in France, with moss everywhere (photo by Laura),

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A stone wall, more moss,

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The village’s outdoor Sunday market; yes, the butcher sells horse meat,

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During one of our drives through the forest of Fontainebleau, we came across one of the regularly scheduled hunts for deer and wild boar, necessary to keep the populations down in the area, for the safety of the humans and health of the habitat; we met the hunters who talked to us about the hunts and showed us some of the animals from that morning,

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We took a walk along the Loing river,

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Visiting a farm near Château-Gontier, in the Mayenne region, with Rouge des Prés (formerly known as Maine-Anjou) cattle,

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At the farm of a distant cousin, where they grow organic potatoes, onions, and carrots; lots of very, very old brick in northwestern Germany,

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Laura birding with some virtual friends made real,

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Peat blocks drying in stacks at the Drebbersches Moor near Lange Lohe; Black Grouse is now extinct in the area because of habitat loss caused by the peat harvesting in the moors,

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While Laura and I were birding, Cousin H. taught the rest of the family to make brooms with twigs, very good for sweeping out the barn stalls,

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The family farmhouse near Bremen is more than 100 years old, and had these lovely encaustic tiles in the main hallway,

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I drooled over the kitchen’s 1920s aluminum storage drawers/bins, a hallmark of the celebrated Frankfurt Kitchen,

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At the neighborhood beekeeper’s, old terracotta roofing tiles salvaged for a new project,

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The beekeeper also restored a 19th century bake house on his property,

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From the bake house door,

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Scenes from a French village,

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For skiing, they made do with a combination of regular clothing we brought for the trip and rentals,

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The view from our hotel room in the Alps,

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We tried a variety of local cheeses every evening and I was able to attend a cheesemaking demonstration,

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Snowing steadily in Morzine,

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Back in Paris,

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All three kids had a great appreciation for the various fast and fancy cars,

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View from the Arc de Triomphe,

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Another fast and fancy car,

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which we discovered was possible to rent,

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At the Louvre,

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An eye for an eye,

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Another story

Work on the new house stopped last October. It got too cold and snowy for working outdoors, Tom had other projects for clients, we went to France and Germany for four weeks after the new year, the kids made it to high school provincials for curling in February and March, Tom and I travelled to the West Indies to clear out the last bits from my parents’ retirement house before the sale (hallelujah), then it was calving season, and more big projects for clients.

Work started up again last week, and first thing on the schedule was to start working on the second story. The main floor now has a ceiling and the second story has a floor. Wall-building begins tomorrow, and Tom and I double-checked all the window placements this afternoon.

The view from the master bedroom’s tower sitting area (facing northeast),

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Another view from the master bedroom’s tower sitting area, facing southeast,

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View from the bedroom (facing east); you can see how dry it’s been, with only one decent rain (this past week) since March,

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View from the guest bedroom (facing north),

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The living room tower sitting area, on the main floor,

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The kitchen, with the pantry on the other side of the wall; the window is on the sink wall,

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The pantry, a very exciting prospect!

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Dining room (facing south) surrounded by the larch trees we planted eight years ago,

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Dining room door to the back porch, facing west,

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The living room, facing north and the front of the house,

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The temporary stairs (the actual stairs will be over to the right), which Tom rescued from the old farm supply store’s warehouse before it was demolished 25 years ago,

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Christmas wishes

We’ve been enjoying warmer temperatures (closer to zero than -30) and lots of hoarfrost, thanks to very foggy evenings and mornings. The countryside looks lovely and very Christmassy.

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Other things we’re enjoying:

:: Jon Favreau’s Chef: one of the best movies I’ve seen this year (admittedly a very short list) with one of the best soundtracks ever.

:: Christmas Day dinner will be roast saddle of venison, courtesy of the 15-year-old, who shot his first deer this fall, and also won the youth division of the big buck contest. His prize was a new rifle and scope, and mine is Thursday’s meal.

:: A new favorite Christmas cookie recipe, The Kitchn’s toffee chocolate chip shortbread. Easy and fast to make too, and doubles easily. A few changes I made — slightly less sugar (1/3 cup vs. 1/2 cup), fewer toffee and chocolate chips, and I drizzled chocolate on top instead of dipping.

:: Free printable Christmas food gift labels from the talented Lia Griffith

It’s been a difficult year for us, but also a rewarding one.

Merry Christmas wishes from Farm School, and a happy and healthy* 2015!

*Advice for a new year: go to the doctor, don’t put off checkups and tests, hug your children, your parents, your in-laws, update your will, and make sure you have a living will/personal directive (no, you’re not too young) and talk to your family, including your kids, about your decisions.

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More BirdCasting

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Exciting news for us — Laura is in Washington, DC to help celebrate the 500th show of Ray Brown’s Talkin’ Birds, and will be part of the live broadcast tomorrow from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Talkin’ Birds is a live interactive half-hour radio show about wild birds and nature, airing Sunday mornings at 9:30 Eastern, on WATD (95.9 FM); you can read more at the Facebook page and listen with live streaming on Sundays here. They’ll be joined by Smithsonian ornithologist Bruce Beehler.

Ray has been an extremely generous, kind, and encouraging mentor and friend to Laura ever since she discovered the show about five years ago and then started calling in. I wrote back in June 2009 (“BirdCasting”), when she was 11,

Laura has developed an interest in, and growing passion for, birds since last summer when I helped her put up some bird feeders around the yard. Her interest in the Christmas Bird Count last year is what got our family in touch with the local naturalist society. She spends much of her free time feeding, watching, listening to, and reading about birds. And recently she realized that there might be birding podcasts she could make use of on her iPod; she’s become a big fan of podcasts. So with my researching and her vetting, we came up with this list of her favorite birding podcasts…

It didn’t take long for Talkin’ Birds to become her very favorite. And for the past while, she’s been part of the crew as a far-flung correspondent; when Ray gives her advice on how to speak on the radio, he knows what he’s talking about. I keep thinking how I, at her age, would have taken an invitation to take part in a live broadcast in front of a theatre full of people. I’m fairly certain that I would have said, thank you so much for asking, but no, and spent the rest of my life kicking myself for missing such a wonderful opportunity. The differences between extroverts and introverts!

Tom is with her, since while we have no problem sending her alone to the wilds of Ontario, we figured a major city is probably more enjoyably and safely negotiated with an adult travelling companion (the show staff are in town just for 36 hours), and Tom needed a holiday anyway. Good reports back from the hotel, the Liaison Capitol Hill (which has a pillow menu believe it or not), and also their restaurant last night, Cafe Berlin. They’re hoping to get to Bistro Cacao, not too far from the hotel, before they leave on Tuesday. Huge thanks to Talkin’ Birds for underwriting her flight and part of the hotel stay.

I’m writing this post as a thank you for so many things that have become an enormous part of my daughter’s life, and also as a reminder for any other home schooling parents who might still be reading — if your child has a particular interest or passion, even if you as the parent have little knowledge of (or interest in) the subject, modern technology has made it possible to reach out and find those who can inspire, guide, and teach your child. And if you teach your child about internet safety and writing skills, he or she can do much of the reaching out himself or herself, which is a good skill to learn. Living on a farm in rural western Alberta hasn’t been any sort of impediment, and a flexible home schooling schedule has meant Laura could take advantage of spending a month last fall as an intern at the Long Point Bird Observatory in Ontario, banding birds and working on an independent research project, or participate in an event like tomorrow’s festivities. Age isn’t a barrier either, as most home schooling families know; she’s been able to write bird book reviews, receiving printed and e- books regularly, and when she realized that there wasn’t a Facebook group for Alberta Birds (and birders), though most of the other provinces and states had something, she started one; the group now has more than 2,000 members who share their photos and videos, as well as sightings, birding stories, and blog posts. She’s made lifelong friends and learned more than my husband and I could have ever taught her, and we continue to be touched and amazed by the support and generosity of so many adult birders so eager to take young people under their wings and nurture this budding interest. It reminds me very much of gardeners I’ve met the world over who are always so quick to offer seeds and cuttings, in order to spread not just a love of nature but the joy of a passion shared.

In their absence, the boys and I are holding down the fort and farm, more like hunkering down, since winter finally arrived today, with a high of -5C and some snow that won’t be melting any time soon. Tomorrow’s daytime high is to be -11C with an overnight low of -15C. Welcome, winter. I think…

October

In the last five weeks or so, we’ve poured the concrete for the garage and workshop floors, and for the basement floor. In preparation for which, after exhausting the supply of the nearest Home Depot, we spent a long day in September driving around the big city to four other HDs buying out all of the rigid foam underfloor insulation. Tom put in everything for in-floor heating in the basement, but we don’t know that we’ll actually need it with the insulation; it’s there, though, just in case, because it’s a lot easier to put in now than later. The concrete is the last of the really season-sensitive projects for the house. In between projects for clients, Tom and the kids can do more framing for the second floor, and get the roof trusses on, through the winter.

It’s been a long, gorgeous autumn, one of the nicest and longest I can recall in 20 years, which has made all of these projects possible; of course, part of the reason it’s been long is that fall started so early, in late August. But the early cold nights made for very colourful leaves and for whatever reason they’ve been hanging on the trees. In the past month, we’ve enjoyed temperatures of 15-20 Celsius (60-70 Fahrenheit), with a few days in the high 20s. Though this is all supposed to come to an end this weekend — winter, and snow, are on the way in a few days.

Here’s the concrete floor for the workshop (over which will be a small apartment — we’re thinking we can rent it out, or one of the kids can live there, or Tom and I can move there in our dotage and let the next generation have the main house), which is at the west end of the garage,

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The garage floor with rebar, before pouring the concrete,

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The garage entrance to the house; on the left in the house is the bathroom (though there will also be a bathroom in the garage for anyone who needs to clean up from particularly messy building, farming, and gardening projects involving lots of chaff, oil, etc.), and on the right is the walk-in pantry,

 

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Stairs to the basement entrance, the cold room (to store root vegetable and canning), and the area where we will store three large tanks collecting rainwater (under that square),

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View from the other direction,

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Before pouring concrete,

 

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After pouring concrete,

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Aside from usual school subjects, Daniel, who is 15-1/2 and in Grade 10, is doing the provincial registered apprenticeship program in carpentry with his father; the program lets high school kids get a head-start on an apprenticeship, and we figured that Daniel might as well get credit for work he’s doing anyway. Daniel and Laura are also doing the Green Certificate program, sort of a farming apprenticeship; again, this way they get credit for work they’re already doing. The kids are all taking the provincial hunter education program online; Daniel went first and already got his license in the mail. Laura is off to Washington, DC in early November with her father; she’s been doing a biweekly segment on a birding radio show, and they are celebrating the 500th show with a live broadcast from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History; they are very generously and kindly flying Laura out, and Tom is going along for fun and security (mine more than hers). She was also a nominee for the Chamber of Commerce employee of the year award, not bad for her first summer job. 4-H has started, and curling too.

 

Another house

This one is for the chickens. We’re up to three coops now. Neighbours asked if we wanted their old chicken house, unused for several decades and not needed or wanted by the current generation. Laura, who had ordered day-old chicks in May to replace some of the tired old layers, and who had also hatched out several dozen exotic varieties (Chocolate Orpingtons, Lavender Orpingtons, and some more Ameraucanas) in the incubator, jumped at the offer. Laura and Davy spent an afternoon fixing the door, windows, and getting it ready for occupancy and winter. Next spring or summer it’ll get a coat of red paint to match the other two coops.

Getting ready for the trailer,

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On the move from their farm to ours,

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At home,

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Some of Laura’s chickens (photographed by her last month), some of whom will be getting a new home,

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Walls

The late June weekend before Tom’s operation was a mad rush to raise the exterior and interior walls on the first floor.

This is a long post, more for us than for anyone else, so click away now if you’re not keen on lumber. I wanted something to remember this special time, especially because a few days later Tom had such a difficult time having to set down his tool belt and hammer for several months.

Here you can see some of the stamped concrete from the porch (done a week or so prior), and some of the completed walls to be erected; Davy rolled out the foam that went underneath the walls,

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Putting up/pulling up the very first wall, Friday after supper, June 27th,

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The view through the very first wall, with Daniel running the telehandler,

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Up, up, and away,

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The front of the house, with the entryway, adjacent to the “tower room” off the living room,

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Joining the two walls,

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Part of the front of the house — from left, the front door, entry hall window, tower sitting area off the living room,

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The entire front, with, from left, bathroom (full barrier-free bathroom with shower, not a powder room), office/home school room, front door, entry hall window, tower sitting area,

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From left, tower sitting room (off the living room), entry hall window, front door, office/home school room, bathroom,

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Readying one of the interior walls (the wall between the office/home school room and the entry hall),

 

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Standing up the second interior wall, between the entry hall and the living room,

 

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Bracing the interior walls,

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The windowed dining room, to the left of the kitchen,

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The dining room again, with the windows and French door to the porch,

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The kitchen and, beyond that (if you look carefully you can see a post marking where the wall goes), the pantry; the door in the centre is to the garage; the window at far right is in the bathroom,

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Dining room at far left (beyond the orange ladder), kitchen window (to the  left of the yellow ladder), and pantry window; we decided to make a smaller kitchen, easier to navigate, with a good size pantry nearby,

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Tom taking measurements in the pantry,

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Kitchen, pantry, and garage entry,

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Dining room from the outside,

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Insulating the garage and basement foundation and backfilling,

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A visitor to the work site,

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Now that we’re done with the second cut of hay and our greenfeed, Tom and crew are back at work on the house, floors and the second story before the snow flies. Onward and upward…

Some summer scenes

Something cheerier for this post, and an attempt to catch up.

4H beef club achievement days in late May; the kids each did well with all of their animals (the boys each had a steer and a heifer; Laura had a steer, heifer, and cow-calf pair), and Laura also received her platinum award for diary points. Davy, at left, and Daniel at right, with their animals,

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In June, we had to do some fencing at our far pasture before we could move the cattle in; since we were there for hours at a time, cookouts were an easy way to have meals in the field:

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The shelterbelt lilacs in the field where we’re building the new house were beautiful this year with lots of blooms and lots of growth, thanks to heavy spring rains:

 

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In late July, I had a pile of leftover grated cabbage, intended for coleslaw (a meal I catered at the country fair), so I turned it into sauerkraut, in my mother-in-law’s old 10-gallon crock:

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First window

Preparing to install the first window in the new house, fittingly in the tower (all photos by second son),

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And it’s in,

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The tower has six windows, one of which will be operable; the east wall of the living room (the photo just above is facing east) will have window near the tower, so with both of those open we’ll be able to have nice cross breezes from Spring through Fall.

 

Tower rising

Tom (at right) and crew (including older son, at left) started building the tower today. And the windows arrived earlier this week.

Photos by younger son,

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Using the invaluable telehandler,

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A few shots I took this evening,

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Inside the tower,

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Spring

Spring arrived with a cold snap, heavy winds, and the possibility of snow. The overnight temp is forecasted to be -20C, with a wind chill of -30. Not ideal for calving, especially since we had three calves last night and one this morning. Tom and the kids spent part of the moving calf sheds into the pens for extra shelter.

One of my amaryllises from two years ago started sending up a flower stalk, and began blooming over the weekend (ignore the brown on the edge of one of the petals). Right around the same time I picked up these tulips at the florist shop in town, and they’re still hanging on.

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