• About Farm School

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

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

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

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

  • Notable Quotables

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "If we bring a little joy into your humdrum lives, we feel all our hard work ain't been in vain for nothin'."
    Jean Hagen as "Lina Lamont" in "Singin' in the Rain" (1952)
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  • Copyright © 2005-2016 Please do not use any of my words or my personal photographs without my express permission.

Taking the chill off, with Gingerbread Upside-Down Cake

In need of some cheering up after that sad business about happy endings , I decided to make Gingerbread Upside-Down Cake with pears, from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook (13th edition). Very nice for fall, by the way, or to jazz up a simple autumn supper of venison sausages, creamed garden potatoes, garden tomato salad, and home-pressed cider.

Gingerbread Upside-Down Cake (makes one 8- or 9-inch cake, square or round)

12 tablespoons butter (unsalted)
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
3 ripe pears, peeled, cored, and sliced
1½ cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. powdered ginger [I use 1 tsp. and also add 1 tsp. cinnamon and a pinch of allspice]
½ tsp. salt [I use just a pinch, and I omit it entirely if I’m using salted butter]
½ cup sugar
½ cup milk
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a small pan, add the brown sugar, and stir over low heat until blended. Pour into a square cake pan and arrange the pear slices in the pan; set aside.

Mix the flour, baking powder, ginger and any other spices, salt, and sugar in a bowl.

Melt the remaining 8 tbsp. (4 oz.) of butter in a small pan [I use the same small pan from before]. Remove from heat, add the milk and egg, and beat well.

Add to flour mixture and beat until smooth. Pour over the pears and bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick/cake tester comes out clean.

Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a serving plate, fruit-side up. Serve with whipped cream [or vanilla ice cream, or a drizzle unwhipped heavy cream] if you wish.

There, I feel better already. Don’t you?

PS The above recipe is also very nice — especially if you’re a gingerbread purist who requires molasses in your gingerbread — if you substitute one of Laurie Colwin’s recipes, such as this one from Home Cooking, adapted from the Junior League of Charleston’s The Charleston Receipts (first published in 1950), though admittedly she likes her gingerbread more gingery than I do:

  • Cream one stick of sweet butter with ½ cup of light or dark brown sugar. Beat until fluffy and add ½ cup of molasses.
  • Beat in two eggs.
  • Add 1½ cups of flour, ½ tsp. of baking soda and one very generous tablespoon of ground ginger (this can be adjusted to taste, but I like it very gingery). Add one teaspoon of cinnamon, ¼ tsp. of ground cloves and ¼ tsp. of ground allspice.
  • Add two teaspoons of lemon brandy*. If you don’t have any, use plain vanilla extract. Lemon extract will not do. Then add ½ cup of buttermilk (or milk with a little yogurt beaten into it) and turn batter into a buttered tin [buttering not necessary if you make the upside-down cake version].
  • Bake at 350 degrees F for between 20-30 minutes (check after 20 minutes have passed). Test with a toothpick/cake tester, and cool on a rack.

* Lemon brandy: “a heavenly elixir easily homemade by taking the peel from two lemons, cutting very close to get mostly zest, beating up the peels to release the oils and steeping them in four ounces of decent brandy.”

New and noteworthy, for holiday giving and receiving, for children of all ages

And in no particular order:

Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beth Krommes

The Barefoot Book of Classic Poems, compiled and illustrated by Jackie Morris

D’Aulaires’ Book of Trolls by Ingri and Edgar D’Aulaire, recently reprinted by New York Review of Books Children’s Collection

Exploratopia: More Than 400 Kid-Friendly Experiments and Explorations for Curious Minds by Pat Murphy, Ellen Macaulay, and the staff of San Francisco’s Exploratorium

Alistair Cooke’s American Home Front: 1941-1942

The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within by Stephen Fry

Sheetrock and Shellac: A Thinking Person’s Guide to the Art and Science of Home Improvement by David Owen

Home Schooling by Carol Windley, which did not win the Giller Prize this year

Through the Children’s Gate: A Home in New York by Adam Gopnik; pair it with his previous Paris to the Moon

Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India by Madhur Jaffrey; two thumbs up from my mother, to whom I sent it for her birthday recently; good though not too new companion books would be the gorgeous Mangoes & Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent by Alford & Duguid, and Jaffrey’s own classic Invitation to Indian Cooking

Rose Levy Beranbaum has a blog

Go figure.

I’ve been a fan of Rose Levy Beranbaum‘s for years, and have used her Cake Bible as, well, my bible for about 15 years, but only this week I discovered her blog. And not only that, she answers readers’ questions, just about all of them from what I can see. So if you haven’t discovered it yet either, this is one of my gifts to you this holiday baking season, along with the advice that her other books, especially Rose’s Christmas Cookies and Bread Bible, are as much fun to read as they are to cook from, especially if you enjoy the “kitchen chemistry” approach, which is especially handy for homeschoolers…

(Christmas Cookies also makes a very nice present this time of year, especially if you tie a cookie cutter or two onto the bow, or add in some pretty sprinkles or sugars. And don’t forget to give it early enough so that the recipient can make use of it during the month of December!)