• 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.farmschool@gmail.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"

    "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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Thinking kitchen

We had to drive Laura to the city last Monday to meet the bus for the big 4H camping trip to the Northwest Territories, and took advantage of our time in Edmonton to check out the new Ikea Sektion kitchen cabinetry. We also stopped off at the KitchenCraft showroom, near Ikea, just to see what they have to offer. There were some door/drawer fronts in the old Akurum kitchen line we liked, but the new Sektion ones are rather underwhelming.

After going to Ikea and the other showroom, we’re still leaning toward Ikea, for value, quality, and the chance to be more hands-on with installation and things like countertop selection. There are only two Ikea door/drawer styles I could live with — Bodbyn off-white and Edserum (which Ikea calls “wood effect brown”) — and I wouldn’t be 100 percent happy with either. Bodbyn, in particular, which I like best of the two, looks very, very plastic-y, unpleasantly so. If this is going to be the only kitchen from scratch I get in this lifetime, I’d like to be crazy in love with the way it looks.

I’ve read a lot, particularly at GardenWeb, about Scherr‘s custom door and drawer fronts for Ikea cabinetry, but shipping from the US plus the exchange rate (which seems to be falling almost daily) don’t work in our favour. So I was very happy to Google my way to Allstyle Cabinet Doors in Mississauga, Ontario. They offer doors and drawer fronts in solid wood or MDF, with a variety of stain and paint finishes, including custom.

We’re also going to have in the new dining room what we have in the current dining room, base cabinets along the wall, and to have high-quality drawer fronts would be ideal.

Just for kicks, also based on good GardenWeb advice, we’ll give the plans to some of the smaller, independent cabinet shops in the city for quotes.

Ikea cabinets, possibly without custom door/drawer fronts, are probably our likely choices for part of the pantry (one wall will be floor-to-ceiling shelving), the bathroom vanities, and the laundry room.

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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Sheathing and house wrap

Tom and crew took some time off last week so that our family could work at the fair, but they made good progress this week, finishing up the sheathing  — the plywood sheets on which the shingles will be attached. — and start the house wrap. My job this week is picking out the shingle colour.

The house seen from the pasture to the east,

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Our bedroom with the tower sitting area, now with ceiling,

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The roof

A productive few days — the trusses went up yesterday, and today the gable ends and tower roof, with a start on the sheathing too.

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Le chapeau, or, living geometry

What the boys did for their summer vacation: help build the roof for the tower. I don’t think they’ll complain as much about there being no real life, practical applications for the math they’re learning.

I’ve started researching steel roofing because it will take about two weeks to arrive. About 10-15 years ago, when we first needed to reshingle our current house, I said no to steel roofing because it looked too commercial and industrial. Now the industrial look has grown on me, as well as the desire to spare my husband and kids the need to reshingle a two-story house with tower sooner rather than later . It’s a Goldilocks process, with black and dark brown too dark and hot, gray too cool-toned, white and ivory too light. So we’ve been weighing the lighter browns, which should go with what will ideally be a mossy green siding.

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The “gap” or hole you can see toward the top, under the peak, is to allow for a handhold in

 

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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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