• About Farm School

    "There are obviously two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live."
    James Adams, from his essay "To 'Be' or to 'Do': A Note on American Education", 1929

    We're a Canadian family of five, farming, home schooling, and building our own house. I'm nowhere near as regular a blogger as I used to be.

    The kids are 18/Grade 12, 16/Grade 11, and 14/Grade 10.

    Contact me at becky(dot)farmschool(at)gmail(dot)com

  • Notable Quotables

    "If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
    William Morris, from his lecture "The Beauty of Life"

    "‘Never look at an ugly thing twice. It is fatally easy to get accustomed to corrupting influences."
    English architect CFA Voysey (1857-1941)

    "The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall, nations perish, civilizations grow old and die out; and, after an era of darkness, new races build others. But in the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again, and yet live on, still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men’s hearts of the hearts of men centuries dead."
    Clarence Day

    "Anyone who has a library and a garden wants for nothing."

    "Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtile; natural philosophy, deep; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend."
    Sir Francis Bacon, "Essays"

    "The chief aim of education is to show you, after you make a livelihood, how to enjoy living; and you can live longest and best and most rewardingly by attaining and preserving the happiness of learning."
    Gilbert Highet, "The Immortal Profession: The Joys of Teaching and Learning"

    "Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment."
    Walter Wriston

    "I'd like to give you a piece of my mind."
    "Oh, I couldn't take the last piece."
    Ginger Rogers to Frances Mercer in "Vivacious Lady" (1938)

    "No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem."
    Booker T. Washington

    "Please accept my resignation. I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member."
    Attributed to Groucho Marx in "The Groucho Letters" by Arthur Sheekman

    "If you can't say something good about someone, sit right here by me."
    Alice Roosevelt Longworth

    "If we bring a little joy into your humdrum lives, we feel all our hard work ain't been in vain for nothin'."
    Jean Hagen as "Lina Lamont" in "Singin' in the Rain" (1952)
  • Categories

  • Archives

  • ChasDarwinHasAPosse
  • Farm School: A Twitter-Free Zone

  • Copyright © 2005-2016 Please do not use any of my words or my personal photographs without my express permission.

On the fifth day of Christmas

my true love gave to me,

five gold rings.

Enough with the birds already. How about some lovely old gold, including five rings found on King Tut’s mummy?

The website at the previous link has a children’s page, “Color Me Egypt“, including a link to Amira’s World, a blog by a 14-year-old girl living in Luxor.

(Notice how I neatly sidestepped Olympic rings and human rights concerns. Not to mention filthy air.)

* * *

We spent all afternoon at the provincial park in town with friends for a more or less impromptu home schoolers Christmas sledding party. It was wonderful — hardly any planning, just a hill, sleds, a fire, and enough hot chocolate, hot dogs, and buns to go around.

If I don’t get Day 6 up tomorrow, it’s because of all the gorgeous snow that keeps falling, slowly, gently, and the fog that has crept in (on snowshoes rather than little cat feet), both making such vast amounts of hoarfrost that everything, from spruce boughs to overhead power lines, are sagging from the weight. We’re not too concerned, since we have a house still stuffed with goodies, and would be happy to continue our weeklong evening Monopoly games by candlelight. And it does look pretty, just what you’d expect for the 12 days of Christmas.

On the fourth day of Christmas

my true love gave to me,

four calling birds.

Apparently “calling birds” is a corruption of the original “colly” or “collie” bird, the European black bird; from the Middle English “col”, or coal. And the European blackbird (Turdus merula) is really a small thrush with a melodious call, or song.

I’m going to skip any recipes for blackbird pie (it probably tastes like chicken, away), in favor of this nifty wooden mechanical model

from Mechanical Monkey in Cornwall, England (they have ballista, trebuchet, and catapult kits, too).

On the third day of Christmas

my true love gave to me,

three French hens

#1. It’s impossible to get the legendary Poulet de Bresse in North America, but we can come close with the Blue Foot Chicken. Though it’s better if you don’t mind when the butcher hands over a defeathered chicken with the feet and head still attached, French style.

#2. Finding French chicks, however, is easier. You can get old French breeds, such as the Crèvecoeur; Faverolle; Houdan; and the very rare La Flèche, as day-old chicks.

#3. Make any chicken tastier by cooking it à la Française. Clotilde Dusoulier chez Chocolate & Zucchini has a wonderful recipe for Le Poulet de Muriel.

Bon appétit!

On the second day of Christmas

(also known as Boxing Day, also known as the day Farm School residents refuse to go to town or anywhere near emporia crowded with mad shoppers. Sledding, skiing, and eating Christmas cookies and leftover popovers for breakfast, however, are all encouraged.)

my true love gave to me,

two turtle doves.

The Turtle Dove: oil on canvas by Sophie Gengembre* Anderson (1823-1903).

*”Gengembre” is a variation of “gingembre”, French for ginger, so it seems appropriate to share Baking Bite‘s recipe for Vanilla and Ginger Scones, which will go well with the leftovers, whether it’s roast beef, turkey, goose, or ham.

On the first day of Christmas

my true love gave to me,

a partridge in a pear tree.

(The gifts have been unwrapped, toys are being played with, new books read, outfits admired, the doll house is being adorned with its new finery — Santa Claus outdid himself with this one and I’ll seek if I can get some photos up in the next while with mention of an amazing Canadian source — and I’m testing out a new popover recipe for tonight, to accompany the roast beast.)

* * *

The partridge is a detail, the centerpiece in fact, of a lovely Christmas card that arrived yesterday from London. The work, “…And a Partridge in a Pear Tree”, is by Hazel Lincoln, and the card is being sold in aid of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Merry Christmas, from James Thurber and Farm School

Eighty years ago on this date, The New Yorker published this piece, still a classic (and longtime Farm School favorite), by James Thurber.

A Visit from Saint Nicholas (In the Ernest Hemingway Manner)
by James Thurber

t was the night before Christmas. The house was very quiet. No creatures were stirring in the house. There weren’t even any mice stirring. The stockings had been hung carefully by the chimney. The children hoped that Saint Nicholas would come and fill them.

The children were in their beds. Their beds were in the room next to ours. Mamma and I were in our beds. Mamma wore a kerchief. I had my cap on. I could hear the children moving. We didn’t move. We wanted the children to think we were asleep.

“Father,” the children said.

There was no answer. He’s there, all right, they thought.

“Father,” they said, and banged on their beds.

“What do you want?” I asked.

“We have visions of sugarplums,” the children said.

“Go to sleep,” said mamma.

“We can’t sleep,” said the children. They stopped talking, but I could hear them moving. They made sounds.

“Can you sleep?” asked the children.

“No,” I said.

“You ought to sleep.”

“I know. I ought to sleep.”

“Can we have some sugarplums?”

“You can’t have any sugarplums,” said mamma.

“We just asked you.”

There was a long silence. I could hear the children moving again.

“Is Saint Nicholas asleep?” asked the children.

“No,” mamma said. “Be quiet.”

“What the hell would he be asleep tonight for?” I asked.

“He might be,” the children said.

“He isn’t,” I said.

“Let’s try to sleep,” said mamma.

The house became quiet once more. I could hear the rustling noises the children made when they moved in their beds.

Out on the lawn a clatter arose. I got out of bed and went to the window. I opened the shutters; then I threw up the sash. The moon shone on the snow. The moon gave the lustre of mid-day to objects in the snow. There was a miniature sleigh in the snow, and eight tiny reindeer. A little man was driving them. He was lively and quick. He whistled and shouted at the reindeer and called them by their names. Their names were Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder, and Blitzen.

He told them to dash away to the top of the porch, and then he told them to dash away to the top of the wall. They did. The sleigh was full of toys.

“Who is it?” mamma asked.

“Some guy,” I said. “A little guy.”

I pulled my head in out of the window and listened. I heard the reindeer on the roof. I could hear their hoofs pawing and prancing on the roof.

“Shut the window,” said mamma.

I stood still and listened.

“What do you hear?”

“Reindeer,” I said. I shut the window and walked about. It was cold. Mamma sat up in the bed and looked at me.

“How would they get on the roof?” mamma asked.

“They fly.”

“Get into bed. You’ll catch cold.”

Mamma lay down in bed. I didn’t get into bed. I kept walking around.

“What do you mean, they fly?” asked mamma.

“Just fly is all.”

Mamma turned away toward the wall. She didn’t say anything.

I went out into the room where the chimney was. The little man came down the chimney and stepped into the room. He was dressed all in fur. His clothes were covered with ashes and soot from the chimney. On his back was a pack like a peddler’s pack. There were toys in it. His cheeks and nose were red and he had dimples. His eyes twinkled. His mouth was little, like a bow, and his beard was very white. Between his teeth was a stumpy pipe. The smoke from the pipe encircled his head in a wreath. He laughed and his belly shook. It shook like a bowl of red jelly. I laughed. He winked his eye, then he gave a twist to his head. He didn’t say anything.

He turned to the chimney and filled the stockings and turned away from the chimney. Laying his finger aside his nose, he gave a nod. Then he went up the chimney. I went to the chimney and looked up. I saw him get into his sleigh. He whistled at his team and the team flew away. The team flew as lightly as thistledown. The driver called out, “Merry Christmas and good night.” I went back to bed.

“What was it?” asked mamma. “Saint Nicholas?” She smiled.

“Yeah,” I said.

She sighed and turned in the bed.

“I saw him,” I said.


“I did see him.”

“Sure you saw him.” She turned farther toward the wall.

“Father,” said the children.

“There you go,” mamma said. “You and your flying reindeer.”

“Go to sleep,” I said.

“Can we see Saint Nicholas when he comes?” the children asked.

“You got to be asleep,” I said. “You got to be asleep when he comes. You can’t see him unless you’re unconscious.”

“Father knows,” mamma said.

I pulled the covers over my mouth. It was warm under the covers. As I went to sleep I wondered if mamma was right.

* * *

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Odds and ends

Things to do before our big extended family Christmas Eve:

Bake one more braided loaf (the dough is rising) and some more cookies. And possibly an almond roca-ish candy.

Wash kitchen floor (done — ha!)

Wrap Tom’s presents for the kids, while they’re all out this afternoon delivering Christmas cheer, baking, and cards. Which would be easier if said presents did not include the requested two bucksaws (to make cutting wood for the daily bonfires easier) and a royal blue halter for for the colt (for Laura). I cut apart some cardboard boxes from our recycling corner for the saws, so the package shape doesn’t give the contents away, and to keep the blades away from the edges. The halter fit perfectly into the box that arrived yesterday, in the nick of time (the post office is closed Saturdays, and none of us is planning to be in town on Monday), with the kids’ Sploids.

Oh. And I have to perform pompomectomies on the boys’ mad bomber hats. They’ve been wanting them for several years now, but I was reluctant to buy any lined with real fur, because of the price and the fact that the fur means I can’t toss them in the washing machine. Several weeks ago, the boys noticed mad bomber hats in the drugstore flyer, and I went to investigate while they were at play rehearsal. It turns out the hats, in a variety of candy colors, are intended for teenage girls. But underneath all the pink and lilac headgear, I found one in red and one in neon green, meant to be chartreuse, I think. Lined with washable fleece, and under $30 for both. Only one slight hitch — an oversize pompom dangling from each flap. I figure I can take care of those with a sharp pair of scissors, as long as I manage to dispose of the evidence.

Figure out what’s for supper tonight.

And tomorrow we head north for the tree.