• 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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Trip report, part II

The day after Davy’s birthday (Tuesday, November 25), the kids asked to go to the American Museum of Natural History, a few blocks from the hotel and just across the street from my first independent NYC apartment.  I figured a weekday would be better than a mobbed weekend, so off we went, with a packed lunch in a Zabar’s shopping bag.  We set off in sogginess.

Having been to the museum on our last trip four years and having seen “Night at the Museum” (I overcame my Stiller/Meara/Stiller antipathy this one time, for the sake of the kids) just before our departure, the kids had an even grander time.  And a surprise bonus, when we were done with the last floor and what what we thought was the very last fossil hall on the fourth floor, we discovered tucked away in a quiet gallery a majestic display of John James Audubon’s mammal illustrations.  Highly recommended by Laura —  her favorite exhibit — and me.  Davy, on the other hand, was thrilled to see the big blue whale, since last time four years ago he had been asleep in the stroller.

By the way, if you go to the American Museum of Natural History, remember that it has only suggested admission fees; you are free to pay whatever you like.  The coat check has a small fee, but definitely worth it so you don’t have to schlep your coats and bags around.  Around 1 pm, when we figured the school groups had thinned out in the basement’s school lunchrooms, we retrieved our bag and sat at a nice big table with our sandwiches and apples. I don’t think enough families know about this option, since we saw only one other non-school group there; and it’s so much cheaper, and faster (so you can back to the exhibits), to avoid the museum’s café fare.

While the museum wasn’t as crowded as it could have been, one thing that prevented us from seeing exhibits properly was the abundance of adults wielding digital cameras and cell phone cameras taking pictures of each other in front of displays.  Curiously, they never seemed to actually look at the exhibits; they’d just shoot and go, rapidly replaced by another set of shooters-and-goers.  Perhaps they go home and look at the pictures in uncrowded privacy?  But it certainly makes life difficult for those of us, especially shorter younger children, who want to get past the taller posing and camera-wielding adults to see the exhibitions in situ.

At the end of the day, we walked over to my parents’ apartment for more of Grandmama’s famous lasagna, which the boys had specifically requested.

Next day we headed to midtown south on the subway to my parents office, a historical picture library, to have a look around and to have lunch before heading to the matinee peformance of “The 39 Steps”.   For lunch, my father treated to us to a table full of very, very good hamburgers at Primehouse New York (you can read a much more thorough, serious review here); while waiting, Tom and the kids enjoyed a tour of the “Himalayan Salt Room”, where some of the beef is aged.

The play, with only four actors, one of whom is Sam Robards, was terrific and all the better for the kids having seen the movie version of Alfred Hitchock’s “The 39 Steps”; there are two, the more easily obtained one with Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll (1935) and the very enjoyable but rather harder to find 1959 remake with Kenneth More.  And for any junior actors and behind-the-scenes types, the Broadway production is a revelation of just how much can be accomplished with a limited cast and set and unlimited imagination and creativity.  Another highlight for me, while waiting for the curtain to go up, was sitting one row behind an entire wired family of three generations: everyone from Grandma to Mom to granddaughters was engaged not in reading the Playbill but in pushing buttons, on a Blackberry (the first time I’d seen one in real life), cell phones, digital cameras, and a Kindle (my first sighting of one of those, too, and even after the curtain went up, one of the girls spent her time reading her Kindle by the light of her cell phone).  It’s definitely quieter and less wired on the farm.

After a stop but no purchases at the overly crowded M&M store, which Grandpapa had told the kids about, we headed back to the hotel to change and head out to see if we could watch the Macy’s balloons being blown up. When I used to live on West 77th Street for a few years in the early nineties, the street the night before the parade was busy but not a madhouse.  Now that Macy’s has, in recent years, decided to turn the event into an EVENT, funnelling crowds from 81st Street to 77th along Columbsu Avenue, the area is indeed a madhhouse.  Here was our view from the corner of 77th and Columbus,

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The next morning we were up and on our way early to the parade, after breakfast and the kids’ discovery of their chocolate turkeys (a tradition when I was growing up, but try finding chocolate turkeys in Alberta in October). Until the night before, I’d still been thinking we might be able to find space on Central Park West, despite the fact that in recent years Macy’s has filled the east side of the street with bleachers for employees with tickets. But then just before lights out I read in Time Out magazine that viewing is pretty good inside the new Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle; with the benefit that kids who are too big to ride on shoulders any more but still too short to see over taller people blocking the way could see well from on high. We did try to make our way toward Central Park West around 64th Street (well away from subway stops at 72nd Street and 66th Street, where the mass of the disgorged just start heading east), but couldn’t get anywhere near the curb. So on we continued to TWC. Inside, we rode the up escalator to the second floor, where lots of viewers had already staked out space. We found an area with a good fairly unobstructed view, not too far from the bathrooms (an unexpected bonus), and settled in. In the end, we could see well, though I missed the parade sounds. But I’d asked my father to tape the parade on TV, so the kids were able to hear everything they missed, and see the Rockettes etc. in front of Macy’s, later on.

The view from inside the Time Warner Center; it took me a while to realize that the stars were changing colors and my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me,

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After the parade, we headed the two miles up Broadway to my parents’ apartment, stopping off along the way to pick up green beans, a (Canadian!) rutabaga, sweet potatoes, and brussels sprouts. The turkey arrived, after some adventures, from Zabars; the holiday staff first mistakenly sent the bird to my father’s billing address (the office, closed for the day). A replacement bird was then sped rapidly to the apartment, where we decorated it with frills.

We planned to spend Black Friday avoiding the shops, and Davy was eager for his promised skating in Central Park, so off we went to Wollman Rink, on what turned out to be the warmest and sunniest day of our stay,

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Tom and the kids near center ice,

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Davy, at center, streaking around the rink,

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Trip report, part I

“We are not giving you the advice to start smiling at everyone you meet in New York. That would be dangerous.”
Researcher James H. Fowler in yesterday’s New York Times

* * * * *

We had a marvelous, wonderful holiday visit with my parents.  The highlights were American Thanksgiving and Davy’s eighth birthday, both with all the trimmings.

The trip trimmings included a variety of entertainments (opening night at the New York City Ballet’s annual Nutcracker, at Lincoln Center; “The 39 Steps” with Sam Robards, very clever and eminently suitable for children; and Cirque de Soleil’s “Wintuk”, which had Davy at the edge of his seat all night) and sights/sites.  We made it to the New-York Historical Society (where the Grant-Lee Civil War exhibit didn’t quite make up for the dearth of Audubon bird prints), the Museum of the City of New York, the Museum of Natural History, and the Metropolitan Museum.  And South Street Seaport, Battery Park, Little Italy (where Davy discovered a leftover $20 bill in an ATM), and Chinatown. Also Santa Claus at Macy’s, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (viewed from the height and relative comfort of the Time-Warner Center at Columbus Circle), Davy’s birthday celebration of visits to FAO Schwartz and the Times Square branch of Toys R Us, as well as Brooks Brothers for big boy ties.  Rockefeller Center and the tree.  For Laura, pilgrimages to the American Girl temple and the Tiny Dollhouse shop on East 78th.  Skating at Wollman Rink in Central Park on what turned out to be the warmest, sunniest, calmest day.  The kids watched candy being made at Papabubble in Little Italy, and ate cannoli.  We came home with our bags full of Zabar’s blend coffee, a couple of Zabar’s coffee mugs ($1 each!), escargot dishes and escargot shells for our family fixation, chestnuts.  And then there were the six small duffle bags each packed with 50 pounds of publishers’ checking copies of children’s books (many library press books, but also dozens of back issues of Cobblestone, Calliope, and Kids Discover magazines, a puzzle, and some CDs) from my parents’ office, a historical picture library.

The view from our hotel room window, Fairway Market on Broadway between 74th and 75th, and its rooftop,

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The view on the street, near our hotel on the Upper West Side,

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We stayed at The Beacon, which isn’t cheap but definitely reasonable by NYC standards, especially since the room had a kitchenette, which we put to good use with staples and the occasional treats from Zabar’s, H & H Bagels, and Fairway right across the street.

The first morning, we walked up Broadway to my parents’ apartment, stopping along the way for provisions for our first lunch together — bagels at H&H, French ham and pepperoni from Zabar’s, pickled herring in cream sauce and proper fruit leather from Murray’s Sturgeon Shop.

We had a quick dinner of dim sum that evening with my father and family friends at Shun Lee Cafe near Lincoln Center, then hopped on the subway to see Cirque de Soleil’s “Wintuk”.  Highlights on the way home included Daniel’s first Norway rat sighting and my first dead tree Sunday New York Times in four years.

Sunday morning, we set off for the Historical Society a few blocks away. We arrived a bit early at the Historical Society, so Tom and the boys decided to investigate the VIP seating for the parade later on in the week,

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Davy’s birthday began with a quick trip to Zabar’s to pick out a cake (there it is on the lower right, the Chocolate Lover’s cake, with the hand coming to put in a box),

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On the way home with the cake, Davy and I watched city workers decorating the trees on the traffic island in the middle of Broadway,

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The kids in front of big Christmas lights on Sixth Avenue, on the way from Times Square to Central Park,

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Davy and Daniel with a lifesize Lego Batman at FAO Schwartz,

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At least they didn’t make me wear a jacket that says “TOURIST”,

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After the toy stores, Davy had planned for us to meet my father at Wollman Rink for ice skating in the park. But somehow, despite all my planning and printed out pages, I overlooked the fact that on Mondays and Tuesdays for some inexplicable reason the rink closes at 2:30 in the afternoon. We arrived at 2:20. Great big silent tears fell, and fortunately I remembered that the carousel was nearby, and promised that we’d go skating in a few days.

The birthday boy enjoying his dinner of spareribs at Shun Lee West,

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The Chocolate Lover and his cake at the hotel room,

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To be continued…

New York: Autumn 2008

We’ve decided to head to NYC to spend American Thanksgiving with my parents. We haven’t seen them in a year and a half, and we’re all excited to spend part of the holiday season in NYC, where we haven’t been for four years.

I’m using this page to keep track of some of our readalouds etc. in preparation for our trip, and also some sites/sights we’re planning to visit and revisit.

BOOKS

Storied City: A Children’s Book Walking-Tour Guide to New York City by Leonard Marcus; found at BookCloseouts a few years ago and bought on a whim. I just wish there was a book like this for most cities.

The New York Chronology by James Trager, a great big doorstop of a book (for adults and older children), found not too long ago at BookCloseouts and still available there

The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden; we read this four years ago, but Daniel, who was five-and-a-half, remembered little, and Davy, who was four, remembered nothing.

Chester Cricket’s Pigeon Ride by George Selden

This is New York by Miroslav Sasek

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg; same as Cricket — the boys remember little to nothing.

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

A Rat’s Tale by Tor Seidler, illustrated by Fred Marcellino

The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins by Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Brian Selznick; also very good for chapter one of SOTW4 (about Queen Victoria and the Crystal Palace)

On This Spot: An Expedition Back Through Time by Susan E. Goodman, illustrated by Lee Christiansen; also good for prehistory/evolution

My New York by Kathy Jakobsen

You Can’t Take a Balloon into the Metropolitan Museum by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman and Robin Glasser

DVDs

Miracle on 34th Street with Edmund Gwenn and Natalie Wood

On the Town with Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Jules Munshin, Ann Miller, Vera Ellen, and Betty Garrett. And Comden and Green and Leonard Bernstein.

My Sister Eileen with Betty Garrett, Jack Lemmon, Bob Fosse, Tommy Rall, and Janet Leigh

A Night at the Opera with the Marx Brothers and Kitty Carlisle

Life with Father with William Powell, Irene Dunne, Elizabeth Taylor, and Edmund Gwenn

It Should Happen to You with Judy Holliday and Jack Lemmon

Guys and Dolls with Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, and Jean Simmons

Bell, Book and Candle with James Stewart, Kim Novak, and Jack Lemmon; somehow it’s just not a NYC movie without Jack Lemmon…

An Affair to Remember with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr

The World of Henry Orient with Merrie Spaeth, Tippy Walker, Peter Sellers, Paula Prentiss, Angela Lansbury, and Tom Bosley

Funny Girl with Barbra Streisand and Omar Sharif

King Kong with Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, and Bruce Cabot

West Side Story with Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn

Splash with Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah and John Candy

The Muppets Take Manhattan

American Experience: New York directed by Ric Burns

“The Odd Couple” with Tony Randall and Jack Klugman

Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts

SITES/SIGHTS

Free 90-minute walking tours of the Flatiron District, starting at 11 am every Sunday

Museum of the City of New York, especially the exhibits on NYC theater and my childhood favorite toys (including the dollhouses for Laura) and the fire engines

New-York Historical Society, especially the new exhibit on the Hudson River School, “Nature and the American Vision”; and Audubon’s incredible watercolors for his “Birds of America”.  And, good timing for our current Civil War studies: “Grant and Lee in War and Peace”, the new exhibit at The New-York Historical Society; particularly good along with the NYHS’s the permanent exhibit “Slavery in New York”

American Museum of Natural History, especially the new Horse exhibit; and the Planetarium/Rose Center

The Maxilla & Mandible shop near the Museum of Natural History

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade; the parade itself and the balloon blowing-up the night before, on my old block (West 77th Street)

USS Intrepid/Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum for Daniel

South Street Seaport — the museum, not the shopping (oy). Some interesting looking family programs on Saturdays, free with admission.

Gramercy Typewriter Co. for Davy

New York Doll Hospital

Zabar’s

Bronx Zoo

Watching Jacques Torres make chocolate

Chinatown

“Drawing Babar: Early Drafts and Watercolors”, at the Pierpont Morgan Library and Museum from September 19, 2008 through January 4, 2009.
The Morgan Library & Museum
225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street
New York, NY 10016
closed Mondays

FOOD

New York City’s new Rat Tracker website, officially known as the “Rat Information Portal, complete with a searchable map of rat inspections and violations”; via the Associated Press

From Serious Eats/New York:
The NY Times covers cheap sandwich spots in downtown Manhattan
A Guide to the Best Doughnuts in New York
The kids are intrigued by the idea of $1 meat on a stick under a bridge, especially the hot dog flower. Less so the octopus…

Chocolate egg creams (and BLTs) at Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop, and just egg creams at Lexington Candy Shop luncheonette

Black and white cookies and chocolate eclairs at the Glaser Bake Shop, 87th and First

Economy Candy on Rivington Street

Poetry Friday: The scary season

Pumpkin
by Valerie Worth (1933-1994)

After its lid
Is cut, the slick
Seeds and stuck
Wet strings.
Scooped out,
Walls scraped
Dry and white,
Face carved, candle
Fixed and lit,

Light creeps
Into the thick
Rind: giving
That dead orange
Vegetable skull
Warm skin, making
A live head
To hold its
Sharp gold grin.

From Halloween: Stories and Poems, edited by Caroline Feller Bauer and illustrated by Peter Sis (1989), one of my recent treasures from the library’s autumn book sale.

For more poetry fun, and tricks and treats galore, head over to Sylvia Vardell’s Poetry for Children for the Halloween 2008 edition of the Poetry Friday Roundup.

*  *  *

The kids and I are heading for town late this afternoon for trick or treating, and I’m delighted that we’ll still have the last bit of Daylight Savings Time left to wander about the streets in some daylight.  It’s also supposed not supposed to be freezing or snowing, which is unusual for these parts.  So we’re all prepared for a very enjoyable evening, even before the chocolate.

Our home school facilitator meeting went well, again, and the kids were over the moon with the first meeting of junior curling.  They were the last ones off the ice. Not having been raised in Canada, I find watching curling not quite as exciting as watching paint dry, but Tom loves the sport especially for the strategy.  It’s something the kids can do with Tom, whether they are playing together or watching it on TV, and it’s a lifelong sport the kids will be able to participate in when they’re old and gray and creaky.  It’s also inexpensive compared to hockey, and a part of their heritage.  And I’ll be able to catch up on my reading at the rink…

Next week should be fairly quiet around here, which is good because I’m alternately excited and exhausted by the entire election process.  At this point next Wednesday can’t get here soon enough, probably regardless of the outcome.  I just want the circus to leave town. And then we start getting ready for our NYC trip, so my blog writing and reading will continue to be light to nonexistent…

Waylaid by pumpkins

I had every intention to keep blogging through last week but getting ready for our giant pumpkin carving party (the pumpkin was big at 270 pounds, though not as big as last year’s, and the party kept getting bigger as Tom and the kids invited everyone they ran into) derailed my plans, especially when the forecast called for gale-force winds and we realized we had to turn the garage into an auxiliary kitchen/living room because the day-long festivities couldn’t be held outside as planned. And all of that bumped into my big autumn housecleaning and getting ready for our home school facilitator meeting (tomorrow), the beginning of junior curling season, two 4H meetings, and a meeting with the director/writer of the new community theater production.

I made vats of chili, dozens of gingersnaps, we grilled oodles of hot dogs, and the party festivities included carving the giant pumpkin and various smaller ones, pressing cider, a treasure hunt, and games including guess the weight of the big pumpkin. Tom and the kids had decorated with square straw bales, pumpkins and apples everywhere, streamers, and the odd spider.  A good time was had by all.

Tom and junior helpers contemplate the design,

The finished face,

One of the smaller pumpkins, carved by someone who didn’t bother with the gutting first,

The big pumpkin on its straw bale, in front of the house. It was a dark and stormy afternoon,

Illuminated, at night,

Rescue, and a moose

I just received a digital card reader from my father in civilization — thanks, Pop! — so I could salvage the last batch of photographs from my dead or dying Kodak EasyShare; I didn’t even realize such things existed. It’s a little marvel — I put the camera’s card in the reader, the reader in the Mac Mini, and all of a sudden here are my missing photographs. I’ll probably post them in a few installments.

The moose we saw in a farmer’s field on the way to the pumpkin festival at the beginning of this month,

Tom thought we should take a closer look, but the moose thought otherwise,

He finally got away from us by running into a stand of trees.

More wildlife, this time a muskrat on the driveway, on its way to deeper water across the road in which to spend the winter. It’s been dry enough for the past few months that many of the ponds and sloughs have dried up.

Midautumn

Edwin Way Teale, in his Autumn Across America (subtitled “A naturalist’s record of a 20,000 mile journey through the North American autumn”), 1950:

There is a midsummer. There is a midwinter. But there is no midspring or midautumn. These are the seasons of constant change. Like dawn and dusk they are periods of transition. But like night and day and day and night they merge slowly, gradually. As Richard Jeffries once wrote, broken bits of summer can be found scattered far into the shortening days of fall. Only on calendars and in almanacs are the lines of division sharply defined.

And writingly beautifully about the bane of my existence, as I try to get the house ready for our giant pumpkin carving party,

…all the thistle thickets were dusty that day. Here, too, the gray autumn dust had settled. It coated my shoes. It surrounded my feet in a moving cloud when I strode through the dry vegetation. Dust — the bane of the immaculate housewife, the cause of choking and sneezing, the reducer of industrial efficiency — dust to a naturalist represents one of the great, essential ingredients in the beauty of the world.

If it were possible to banish dust from the earth, the vote probably would be overwhelmingly in favor of it. Yet subtract dust from the 5,633,000,000,000,000-ton atmosphere that surrounds the globe and you would subtract infinitely more. You would rain blue from the sky and the lake. For fine dust, as well as the molecules of vapor and the air itself, scatters the blue rays and contributes color the the heavens above and reflected color to the waters below. You would eliminate the beauty of the autumn mist and the summer cloud. For every minute droplet of moisture in fog and cloud forms about a nucleus of dust. You would hat the rain and never know the whiteness of drifted snow. For raindrops and snowflakes and hailstones also come into being about a center of airborne dust. You would remove the glory of the sunrise from the world and wipe all the flaming beauty of the sunset from the sky. For sunrise and sunset, as we know them, are the consequence of the rays passing through the hazy, dusty air near the surface of the earth where the blue rays are filtered out and the red and orange rays pass through. …

Nearly as much as the scent of leaf fires in the dusk, the smell of dusty autumn weedlots is part of the early memories of the fall. During our westward travels with the season I asked many people what scent first came to mind at the mention of autumn. To some it was the fragrance of ripe grapes, to others the kitchen smells of canning and jelly-making, to others the aroma of the apple harvest; to most, I think, it was the scent of burning leaves, but to more than I expected it was the mingled odor of the weedlot, the smell of ragweed and sunflower and sweet clover and dust, the very breath of autumn’s dryness.

(Little pie pumpkins from the kids’ garden this summer)

A harvest dessert

Just in time for Canadian Thanksgiving, and with part of the big box of BC apples remaining, I found a lovely, simple, and tasty recipe in the current issue of Harrowsmith Country LIfe Magazine (October 2008). I made it last night to rave reviews, and will probably double it to take to Thanksgiving dinner at my inlaws tomorrow.

Apple Cream Cheese Squares
recipe by Darlene King, Food Editor at Harrowsmith Country Life Magazine; I’ve added my notes in parentheses

Pastry base:
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I prefer unbleached)
1/3 cup sugar (I used slightly less, and if you have vanilla sugar in a jar, so much the better, even with the addition of the vanilla below)
1/2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup (6 oz.) butter

Filling:
8 oz. cream cheese (1 package, softened at room temperature)
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Topping:
1/3 cups sugar (again, I used just a bit list)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
4 cups apples, peeled, cored, and sliced (this worked out about four large apples, and I used Macintosh)
1/4 cup sliced almonds (I used more for good nutty coverage…)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Lightly butter the sides of a 9″ by 9″ baking pan and line the bottom with parchment (I buttered the entire pan and omitted the parchment, because I forgot to buy another roll last week, and it worked fine).

Place the flour, sugar, vanilla, and butter inthe bowl of a food processor and whirl until crumbly (I don’t like using my food processor for this sort of stuff so I just whisked the dry ingredients together and worked the butter, and then vanilla, in by hand; fast and easy and nothing extra to wash). Spread the mixture evenly over the bottom of the prepared pan and, using your hands, press the mixture into the pan. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges and set. Remove fro th oven and cool briefly on a rack.

Place the cream cheese, sugar, egg, and vanilla in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth (again, I left the food processor on the shelf; instead, I cut up the softened cream cheese into small bits, put it in a medium bowl with the sugar and vanilla and mixed it with my handheld mixer, then added the egg and beat more until the mixture was smooth). Spoon/pour the mixture over the cooled pastry base.

Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl, sprinkle over the sliced apples, and toss lightly with a fork. Arrange the apples over the filling (it doesn’t matter how you arrange them because the nuts will cover them). Sprinkle the sliced almonds over the apples (this is where I found that 1/4 cup of nuts wasn’t enough and added more so that you couldn’t see the apples underneath). Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely before serving. (Though you might like to taste it while it’s still a bit warm from the oven…).

(The fallback camera, a little Olympus FE-210 we won in a raffle, appears to be working, though anything taking with the Kodak is still stuck in there)

Poetry Friday: An autumn repeat

It’s been a long and busy week so not only am I late with my Poetry Friday post but I have a repeat of a favorite poem. In other words, I’m choosing “Choosing Laughter” again.

The morning started with the first snowflakes of the season, ugh. It’s warmed up a bit, to all of 2.4 degrees Celsius, in other words, barely above freezing, so now we have cold rain. Bah. In other news, the little chicks we brought home from the fair in late July grew so well that yesterday when we took them to the nearby Hutterite colony for butchering, they dressed out around 10 to 12 pounds each. I’m thinking that chicken pot pie would be a wonderful Saturday night dinner. When talk turned to where on earth we would put 63 broilers, Daniel earned his keep by remembering that he had seen in last week’s paper an ad for a deep freeze, free to a good home. It turned out that the older owners were looking for a way to get the old deep freeze, still in good working order, out of their basement. Tom, a brother-in-law, Davy, and Daniel were happy to oblige, and now I have a collection of five deep freezes.

The kids picked all of their little pie pumpkins, which also grew well and most of which turned orange on the vine, a first for us.

I potted up the rest of my garden plants that I couldn’t bear to let the frost take. They’re on the windowsill of the bedroom now, adjusting to their new indoor surroundings. I’ve started making some applesauce out of the remaining apples. Monday is Canadian Thanksgiving, and Tuesday is election day.

In history reading, we’re up to the Civil War, and I can finally take out the little Playmobil soldiers I bought years ago on sale at a Winners store and tucked away.

I’ve realized that my lovely little Kodak EasyShare C875 is probably broken, with autumnal pictures inside.  Recharged, and then new, batteries don’t seem to help.  I’d been having trouble moving pictures from the camera to the computer, and tried even harder over the weekend so I could share the moose we saw on the way to the pumpkin festival.  No luck.  I have no idea where around here to get it fixed, of they’re fixable, so it may well have to wait for NYC next month.

Here’s part of my Poetry Friday post from last autumn; I left out the biographical sketch, which you can find in the original post.

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I’ve always liked the idea of Barbara Howes’s “carnival hour” so much better than the “arsenic hour” I started hearing about when my three were tots. As the Poetry Foundation’s wonderful online biography notes, Miss Howes’s “verses paint a world of family, natural surroundings, and the wisdom inherent in natural inclinations” (emphasis mine).

Early Supper
by Barbara Howes (1914-1996)

Laughter of the children brings
The kitchen down with laughter.
While the old kettle sings
Laughter of children brings
To a boil all savory things.
Higher than beam or rafter,
Laughter of the children brings
The kitchen down with laughter.

So ends an autumn day,
Light ripples on the ceiling,
Dishes are stacked away;
So ends an autumn day,
The children jog and sway
In comic dances wheeling.
So ends an autumn day,
Light ripples on the ceiling.

They trail upstairs to bed,
And night is a dark tower.
The kettle calls; instead
They trail upstairs to bed,
Leaving warmth, the coppery-red
Mood of their carnival hour.
They trail upstairs to bed,
And night is a dark tower.

from Poetry for Pleasure: The Hallmark Book of Poetry (1960), selected and arranged by the editors of Hallmark Cards, who did a surprisingly good job, all things considered

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Children’s author Anastasia Suen is hosting today’s Poetry Friday roundup at her blog Picture Book of the Day.  Thanks, Anastasia!

Another crack at Summer

We finally finished combining late last night after a week’s delay.   And now we can make bales and haul them home in the warmth and sunshine.

And Saturday is the big Pumpkin Festival about an hour away, from which we may return with our own big pumpkin.

Poetry Friday: Harvest edition

We’re in the midst of harvest. We’ve cut and baled the greenfeed (oats and barley baled instead of combined), cut and baled the second-cut alfalfa, and have just started swathing the wheat, and the mixed crop of barley and peas, in preparation for combining. Most of the harvest work is being done this year by Tom and the kids; the three of them are helping out moving trucks around, and also gathering up bales with the loader. With Tom busy with carpentry work during the day, the harvesting gets done in the evenings, which makes for late nights for the kids. They come in the house dusty, tired, but with eyes shining telling tales of the coyote pups they’ve seen in the fields, the bald eagle, and their various accomplishments and helpful activities. It goes without saying that we have a modified school schedule in the mornings, which is good news for our readalouds.

I’ve been helping out along the edges (around midnight, while the kids are sleeping, I head out to pick up Tom from the swather in our field 10 miles north), and continuing with the canning and preserving. So far I’ve made mustard pickle, chokecherry jelly, chokecherry syrup, red plum jam, yellow plum jam, peach preserves, and canned peaches. Still to come: tomato sauce (beginning today, because the 50 pounds of tomatoes from the garden have started ripening faster than we can eat them), canned pears, pickled beets, and Evans cherry jam. And the other day the kids and I picked boxes and boxes of apple to squash into cider.

It’s been a beautiful autumn so far. By the calendar it doesn’t start until next week, but in real life it’s been here for about a month. We haven’t had much rain since the cooler weather arrived, and this past week there have been some lovely, hot Indian Summer days, though the nights are quite cool. The kids’ pumpkins are still on the vine — covered with old sheets some nights — and turning orange. The leaves on the trees are particularly vivid this year, especially the yellows.

The birds are gathering and departing. Our hummingbirds have been gone for almost a month, and the goldfinches too. But we have a small flock of meadowlarks in the yard, and I’m enjoying the last burst of song before they go. And geese, oh the geese, Canada and snow — there are hundreds, if not thousands, overhead, in the pasture and the pond across the road, down the hill in the neighbors’ fields, eaten the fallen grain. There’s not much a scarecrow could accomplish around here, but I like the idea.

The Lonely Scarecrow
by James Kirkup (b. 1923)

My poor old bones — I’ve only two —
A broomshank and a broken stave.
My ragged gloves are a disgrace.
My one peg-foot is in the grave.

I wear the labourer’s old clothes;
Coat, shirt, and trousers all undone.
I bear my cross upon a hill
In rain and shine, in snow and sun.

I cannot help the way I look.
My funny hat is full of hay.
— O, wild birds, come and nest in me!
Why do you always fly away?

For more Poetry Friday fun, head over to author amok, where Laura is hosting the weekly roundup! Thank you, Laura.

September snow

Davy stood in front of the open window in the kitchen this morning, breathed in deeply and said what I really didn’t want to hear in Alberta in early September, “I can almost smell the snow coming”.