• 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.

On the eighth day of Christmas

my true love gave to me,

eight maids a-milking

There probably aren’t any dairies nowadays that use milk maids exclusively — that would no doubt fall afoul of federal legislation — but a surprising number in North America have begun again to offer milk in glass bottles as well as home delivery. One such outfit is the Dewitt family’s Dutchmen Dairy in Sicamous, BC, whose bottles are those pictured above. In addition to milk, Dutchmen offers sour cream and artisan ice creams and cheeses. The milk and milk products are distributed mainly by home delivery.

A not particularly comprehensive list of other dairies in North America offering home delivery and/or glass bottles (and usually a good deal more, including rBGH/rBST-free or organic milk, eggs, sides of beef, farm fresh baking, gourmet cheeses, and homemade eggnog for the holidays):


Avalon Dairy, Vancouver, British Columbia

Dutchmen Dairy, Sicamous, British Columbia

Jerseyland Organics, Grand Forks, British Columbia

Olympic Dairy Products, Delta, British Columbia

Ran-Cher Acres/Saanen Dairy Goats, Halifax, Nova Scotia


AB Munroe Dairy, East Providence, Rhode Island

Apple Valley Creamery, East Berlin, Pennsylvania

Byrne Dairy, Syracuse, New York

Calder Dairy and Farm, Lincoln Park, Michigan

Catamount Farm, 387 Parade Road, Barnstead, New Hampshire 03218; (603) 435-7415

Claravale Farm, Watsonville, California

Crescent Ridge Dairy, Sharon, Massachusetts

Hartzler Family Dairy, Wooster, Ohio

The Hudson Milk Company, Shrub Oak, New York

Karl’s Farm Dairy, Denver, Colorado

Lamers Dairy, Appleton, Wisconsin

Longmont Dairy Farm, Longmont, Colorado

Maplehofe Dairy Farm Store, 799 Robert Fulton Hwy, Quarryville, Pennsylvania 17566; 717-786-3924

Marigold Dairies, Elkhorn, Wisconsin

Meyer Dairy Store, 2390 S. Atherton Street, State College, Pennsylvania 16801-7613; 814-237-1849

MJM Dairy, Westchester County, New York

Mr Milkman, Waynesboro, Pennsylvania

Oberweis Dairy, Aurora, Illinois

Promised Land Dairy, San Antonio, Texas

Ronnybrook Farm, Ancramdale, New York

Royal Crest Dairy, Denver, Colorado

Shaw Farm Dairy, Dracut, Massachusetts

Shatto Milk Company, Osborn, Missouri

Smiling Hill Farm, Maine

South Mountain Creamery, Middletown, Maryland

Starlight Dairy, Yorktown Heights, New York

Straus Family Creamery, Petaluma, California

Thatcher Farm, Milton, Massachusetts

Trickling Springs Creamery, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania

Vale Wood Farms, Loretto, Pennsylvania

White Orchard Farm, Frankfort, Maine

Yoder Dairies, Virginia Beach, Virginia

You can also try the clickable map from Milkmen Across America, which just for today I’m going to think of as “Milk Maids Across America”



Interestingly, as I started my Googling after coming up with the idea for today’s item, I discovered that I’m not the only one with deja vu all over again; the other week, The New York Times had this article on the subject (free registration).

I can’t think of many things that are both as luxurious and good for you, not to mention good for your local farmers, as home delivery of fresh dairy products.

Food, Family, Fellowship: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Barbara Kingsolver is as good a farmer as she is a writer. Or maybe that should be the other way around. And her nonfiction is a delight.

I finished Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life over the long weekend, and enjoyed it very much. It’s warm, funny, and includes recipes, including one for mozzarella cheese in 30 minutes that seems ridiculously simple and inordinately tempting. What remains with me is not so much Ms. Kingsolver’s passionate argument in favor of local and especially seasonal food — she is, of course, preaching to the converted over here — but her thoughtful discussions of food and family, and even food and homemaking. For more on the local food aspect, see JoVE‘s post on the book, with good links to places such as Liz’s blog, Pocket Farm (and its new offshoot blog, One Local Summer); and also Mother Crone‘s review. My only quibble with the book — the lists and references at the end are helpful, but even better would have been an index.

What makes this book different from some of the other current titles on the subject, especially those published on the heels of inconvenient truths, is that it’s written by someone who obviously delights in and attaches importance to her roles as wife and mother. No coincidence that her co-authors are her husband Steven Hopp, who wrote the investigative, informative sidebars, and her 19-year-old daughter Camille, who wrote a nutrition and recipe sections at the end of each chapter. No doubt their year of food life was so successful simply because it was a family project. Ms. Kingsolver begins with an observation not overly common in North America:

Pushing a refrigerated green vegetable from one end of the earth to another is, let’s face it, a bizarre use of fuel. But there’s a simpler reason to pass up off-season asparagus: it’s inferior. Respecting the dignity of a spectacular food means enjoying it at its best. Europeans celebrate the short season of abundant asparagus as a form of holiday. …The main barrier standing between ourselves and a local-food culture is not price, but attitude. The most difficult requirements are patience and a pinch of restraint — virtues that are hardly the property of the wealthy. These virtues seem to find precious little shelter, in fact, in any modern quarter of this nation founded by Puritans. Furthermore, we apply them selectively: browbeating our teenagers with the message that they should wait for sex, for example. Only if they wait to experience intercourse under the ideal circumstances (the story goes), will they know its true value. “Blah blah blah,” hears the teenager: words issuing from a mouth that can’t even wait for the right time to eat tomatoes, but instead consumes tasteless ones all winter to satisfy a craving for everything now. We’re raising our children on the definition of promiscuity if we feed them a casual, indiscriminate mingling of foods from every season plucked from the supermarket, ignoring how our sustenance is cheapened by wholesale desires.

Waiting for the quality experience seems to be the constitutional article that has slipped from American food custom. If we mean to reclaim it, asparagus seems like a place to start. And if the object of our delayed gratification is a suspected aphrodisiac? That’s the sublime paradox of a food culture: restraint equals indulgence.

And there’s more, much more:

I haven’t mastered the serene mindset on all household chores … but I might be getting there with cooking. … Cooking is definitely one of the things we do for fun around here. When I’m in a blue mood I head for the kitchen. I turn the pages of my favorite cookbooks, summoning the prospective joyful noise of a shared meal. I stand over a bubbling soup, close my eyes, and inhale. From the ground up, everything about nourishment steadies my soul.Yes, I have other things to do. For nineteen years I’ve been nothing but a working mother, one of the legions who could justify a lot of packaged, precooked foods if I wanted to feed those to my family. I have no argument with convenience, on principle. I’m inordinately fond of my dishwasher, and I like the shiny tools that lie in my kitchen drawers, ready to make me a menace to any vegetable living or dead. …

But if I were to define my style of feeding my family, on a permanent basis, by the dictum, ‘Get it over with, quick,” something cherished in our family life would collapse. And I’m not talking waistlines, though we’d miss those. I’m discussing dinnertime, the cornerstone of our family’s mental health. If I had to quantify it, I’d say 75 percent of my crucial parenting effort has taken place during or surrounding the time our family convenes for our evening meal. I’m sure I’m not the only parent to think so. A survey of National Merit scholars — exceptionally successful eighteen-year-olds crossing all lines of ethnicity, gender, geography, and class — turned up a common thread in their lives: the habit of sitting down to a family dinner table. It’s not just the food making them brilliant. It’s probably the parents — their care, priorities, and culture of support. The words: “I’ll expect you home for dinner.”

I understand that most U.S. citizens don’t have room in their lives to grow food or even see it growing. But I have trouble accepting the next step in our journey toward obligate symbiosis with the packaged meal and takeout. Cooking is a dying art in our culture. Why is a good question, and an uneasy one, because I find myself politically and socioeconomically entangled in the answer. I belong to the generation of women who took as our youthful rallying cry: Allow us a good education so we won’t have to slave in the kitchen. We recoiled from the proposition that keeping a husband presentable and fed should be our highest intellectual aspiration. We fought for entry as equal partners into every quarter of the labor force. We went to school, sweated those exams, earned our professional stripes, and we beg therefore to be excused from manual labor. Or else our full-time job is manual labor, we are carpenters or steelworkers, or we stand at a cash register all day. At the end of a shift we deserve to go home and put our feet up. Somehow, though, history came around and bit us in the backside: now most women have jobs and still find themselves largely in charge of the housework. Cooking at the end of a long day is a burden we could live without.

It’s a reasonable position. But it got twisted into a pathological food culture. When my generation of women walked away from the kitchen we were escorted down that path by a profiteering industry that knew a tired, vulnerable marketing target when they saw it. “Hey ladies,” it said to us, “go ahead, get liberated. We’ll take care of dinner.” They threw open the door and we walked into a nutritional crisis and genuinely toxic food supply. If you think toxic is an exaggeration, read the package directions for handling raw chicken from a CAFO [Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or feedlots/factory farms]. We came a long way, baby, into bad eating habits and collaterally impaired family dynamics. No matter what else we do or believe, food remains at the center of ever culture. Ours now runs on empty calories.

When we traded homemaking for careers, we were implicitly promised economic independence and worldly influence. But a devil of a bargain it has turned out to be in terms of daily life. We gave up the aroma of warm bread rising, the measured pace of nurturing routines, the creative task of molding our families’ tastes and zest for life; we received in exchange the minivan and the Lunchable. (Or worse, convenience-mart hot dogs and latchkey kids.) I consider it the great hoodwink of my generation. …

Eating preprocessed or fast foods can look like salvation in the short run, until we start losing what real mealtimes give to a family: civility, economy, and health. A lot of us are wishing for a way back home, to the place where care-and-feeding isn’t zookeeper’s duty but something happier and more creative.

“Cooking without remuneration” and “slaving over a hot stove” are activities separated mostly by a frame of mind. The distinction is crucial. Career women in many countries still routinely apply passion to their cooking, heading straight from work to the market to search out the freshest ingredients, feeding their loved ones with aplomb. …

Full-time homemaking may not be an option for those of us delivered without trust funds into the modern era. But approaching mealtimes as a creative opportunity, rather than a chore, is an option. Required participation from spouse and kids is an element of the equation. An obsession with spotless collars, ironing, and kitchen floors you can eat off of — not so much. We’ve earned the right to forget about stupefying household busywork. But kitchens where food is cooked and eaten, those were really a good idea. We threw that baby out with the bathwater. It may be advisable to grab her by the slippery foot and haul her back in here before it’s too late.

“Finally,” Ms. Kingsolver writes,

cooking is about good citizenship. It’s the only way to get serious about putting locally raised foods into your diet, which keeps farmlands healthy and grocery money in the neighborhood. Cooking and eating with children teaches them civility and practical skills they can use later on to save money and stay healthy, whatever may happen in their lifetimes to the gas-fueled food industry.

She’s sensible, practical, passionate, and I’d trust her to feed or look after my kids any day of the week. For our family, how we eat, and how the kids learn, not to mention how we make our family decisions, are all of a piece. We don’t often defer to the corporate choices for society’s status quo, and, from the time the kids were in (cloth) diapers, that has pegged us around here variously as nonconformists, free thinkers, and weirdos. On the subject of home educating our children, it’s not uncommon to be quizzed about the reasons behind the choice: “Why bother,” some folks ask, “when the local public/private/parochial school is good enough?” Much as many people now ask about those seeking more local, seasonal, home-grown, or organic foods, “Why bother when the supermarket is good enough?” The answer, of course, is that for many of us, “good enough” isn’t good enough.

Reading Barbara Kingsolver, I was reminded of the late Laurie Colwin, another writer in the kitchen. From the introduction to her second and last volume of essays and recipes, More Home Cooking (1990):

These days family life (or private life) is a challenge, and we must all fight for it. We must turn off the television and the telephone, hunker down in front of our hearths, and leave our briefcases at the office, if for only one night. We must march into the kitchen, en famille or with a friend, and find some easy, heartwarming things to make from scratch, and even if it is but once a week, we must gather at the table, alone or with friends or with lots of friends or with one friend, and eat a meal together. We know that without food we would die. Without fellowship life is not worth living. …The table is a meeting place, a gathering ground, the source of sustenance and nourishment, festivity, safety, and satisfaction. A person cooking is a person giving: Even the simplest food is a gift.

Go ahead. Give a little.

Updated to add: My other, early thoughts on Animal, Vegetable, Miracle posted here.

More food for thought: connections and disconnections

I’ve been cogitating for the past week or so on the things I read in Natalie Angier’s science book The Canon, partly in preparation for my regurgitation earlier today and partly in preparation for the kids’ science studies next year (informal plans for which I hope to post before too long). So everything was rolling around in my head quite nicely when my I started to read one of the books from my father’s recent parcel*, Barbara Kingsolver‘s latest, the nonfiction Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, just published in May and which I’m enjoying very much. It sounds very much of a piece with her 2002 book of essays Small Wonder, which JoVE has mentioned at least once to me in her comments here. (My request was down pretty low on the interlibrary loan list, but after opening the package, I canceled the hold and requested Small Wonder instead.)

So on page 11 of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I discovered this passage (emphasis mine),

Many bright people are really in the dark about vegetable life. Biology teachers face kids in classrooms who may not even believe in the metamorphosis of bud to flower to fruit and seed, but rather, some continuum of pansies becoming petunias becoming chrysanthemums; that’s the only reality they witness as landscapers come to campuses and city parks and surreptitiously yank out one flower before it fades from its prime, replacing it with another. (My biology-professor brother pointed this out to me.) The same disconnection from natural processes may be at the heart of our country’s shift away from believing in evolution. In the past, principles of natural selection and change over time made sense to kids who’d watched it all unfold. Whether or not they knew the terms, farm families understood the processes well enough to imitate them: culling, selecting, and improving their herds and crops. For modern kids who intuitively believe in the spontaneous generation of fruits and vegetables in the produce section, trying to get their minds around the slow speciation of the plant kingdom may be a stretch.

What Kingsolver’s husband, Steven Hopp, a biology professor, calls “agricultural agnostics” (he and their daughter Camille are co-authors of the book, by the way). Which of course handily echoes what I had read not too long before in The Canon (one of the bits I posted earlier today):

Farmers, too, were natural scientists. They understood the nuances of seasons, climate, plant growth, the do-si-do between parasite and host [and this is much more true of present-day farmers who farm in more traditional, less conventional methods without synthetic chemicals that kill the parasite and injure the host]. The scientific curiosity that entitled our nation’s Founding Fathers to membership in Club Renaissance, Anyone? had agrarian roots. …”The average adult American today knows less about biology than the average ten-year-old living in the Amazon, or than the average American of two hundred years ago,” said Andrew Knoll, a professor of natural history at Harvard’s Earth and Planetary Sciences Department.

There’s a reason this place is called Farm School and there’s a reason we’re not budging.

Of course, The Canon goes off in one direction, toward science education, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, toward another. Here’s a hint:

When we walked as a nation away from the land, our knowledge of food production fell away from us like dirt in a laundry-soap commercial. Now, it’s fair to say, the majority of us don’t want to be farmers, see farmers, pay farmers, or hear their complaints. Except as straw-chewing figures in children’s books, we don’t quite believe in them anymore. When we give it a thought, we mostly consider the food industry to be a thing rather than a person. We obligingly give 85 cents of our every food dollar to that thing, too — the processors, marketers, and transporters. And we complain about the high price of organic meats and vegetables that might send back more than three nickels per buck back to the farmers: those actual humans putting seeds in the ground, harvesting, attending livestock births, standing in the fields at dawn casting their shadows upon our sustenance. There seems to be some reason we don’t want to compensate or think about these hardworking people. In the grocery store checkout corral, we’re more likely to learn which TV stars are secretly fornicating than to inquire as to the whereabouts of the people who grew the cucumbers and melons in our carts.

Much as Michael Pollan did last year with his Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, Kingsolver urges us to rememember that we are what we eat and reconsider what we put in our mouths. Kingsolver does it by eating locally and tending her own patch of earth as lyrically as she writes.

Which reminds me of this article, on farmers who write, from last week’s New York Times (I think it’s a pesky Times Select story, so if Bug Me Not doesn’t work, email me and we’ll sort things out). To even things out, here are some free recipes from the Animal, Vegetable, Miracle website.

Now off to the farmers’ market with you!

* Also in the package — thanks, Pop — and on the go at the moment:

The Fight for English: How language pundits ate, shot, and left by David Crystal, inspired, as you can no doubt tell, by Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots & Leaves

The Unfinished Canadian: The People We Are by Andrew Cohen

Rendered edible?

As disturbing as the news that 8,000 cattle and farmed deer in Saskatchewan are under quarantine after receiving tainted feed containing now-banned* ruminant meat meal and bone meal is the fact that what they were supposed to receive was “feather meal”**. The newspaper article in the previous link describes feather meal as “a protein source originating from poultry — which is legal to be fed to cattle and deer”. Or, in other words, the ground-up feathers plucked from chickens at the start of the butchering process. Which, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Service, is completely legal to feed to animals such as cattle. Which are then fed to humans.

Talk about an omnivore’s dilemma.


* From the Center for Food Safety,

Under FDA (Food and Drug Administration) regulations issued in 1997 [and updated in 2005], it is illegal to feed protein made from cows, sheep, deer, and other so-called ruminants to other ruminants. As of January 2004, beef blood and beef fat are no longer permitted in calf feed. But it is still legal to feed rendered cattle protein to pigs, chickens, and other animals. Those animals in turn can be rendered and fed to cows or sheep.

In Canada, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency which oversees such things,

Canadian producers may only feed their ruminants approved animal protein products such as pure porcine, equine, poultry and fish. Banned as ingredients in ruminant feeds are “prohibited materials” — protein including meat and bone meal from mammals other than pigs and horses. Milk, blood, gelatin, rendered animal fats or their products have not been banned [Emphasis mine].

Mmmm, mmmm good.

** More than you want to know about feathers as food:

1) A 2003 article from the Journal of Animal Science on the “Effect of feather meal on live animal performance and carcass quality and composition of growing-finishing swine“. Worth noting, even at the risk of spoiling tonight’s dinner, that the feather meal in the study was hydrolyzed; specifically, (and all emphases mine)

Hydrolyzed FM containing 8% blood was contributed by Tyson Foods, Inc., Specialty Products Division, and was obtained from their protein plant in Noel, MO. Briefly, fresh poultry feathers were spread evenly on a conveyor, passed through a metal detector, and hydrolyzed under pressure (2.11 to 2.81 kg force/cm2) in a batch hydrolyzer for 30 min at 76.7°C. Feathers were hydrolyzed in a batch hydrolyzer to break keratin (long-chain proteins) into more digestible, smaller-chain proteins and to reduce microbial contamination. Blood was coagulated and added to the hydrolyzed feathers in the batch hydrolyzer to increase protein content of the product.

Not surprisingly, at the end of the study is the note that “The authors wish to express their appreciation to the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association for financial support of this project”.

2) “Recycling Poultry Feathers: More Bang for the Cluck”; how Big Chicken (i.e. Tyson and Perdue) make Big Bucks furnishing feathers for, um, ” high-quality animal feed” (all emphases mine):

For the competitive poultry industry, the challenge is to turn the white plumes into valuable new products that add to the company’s bottom line. Though there has been significant controversy in recent years over the human health effects of poultry wastes, especially used litter and processing plant wastewater that ends up in waterways, chicken feathers are relatively clean and do not generally pose a health risk. Contamination of feathers with chicken blood and feces can present a problem, but in general feathers are continuously removed from the processing area to make room for new feathers as more chickens are processed. An average chicken processing plant churns out 4,000 pounds of feathers an hour and has a low profit margin per bird, so feathers must be moved or processed quickly and very inexpensively.

Poetry Friday: Vegetables

This is the poem Davy is memorizing right now, and might recite at the homeschool declamation day later this month. I’ll post Laura’s and Daniel’s selections on other Fridays.

The kids and I dug up our potatoes, all 100+ hills, on Wednesday; white ones, red ones, and a special pink-skinned Ukrainian variety for which my mother-in-law had seed potatoes. Earlier in the week, there was a frost one night cool enough to wilt all of the remaining tomatoes and tomato plants, so all that’s left in the garden are some carrots and a few beets. The petunias and gazanias in the container boxes are still hanging on, though.

A happy Thanksgiving to all the Canadians!

by Eleanor Farjeon (1881-1965)

The country vegetables scorn
To lie about in shops,
They stand upright as they were born
In neatly-patterned crops;

And when you want your dinner you
Don’t buy it from a shelf,
You find a lettuce fresh with dew
And pull it for yourself;

You pick an apronful of peas
And shell them on the spot.
You cut a cabbage, if you please,
To pop into the pot.

The folk who their potatoes buy
From sacks before they sup,
Miss half of the potato’s joy,
And that’s to dig it up.


The Poetry Friday round-up is over at Kelly’s Big A little a this week. Thanks, Kelly, and happy belated Friday to you, too!

And I don’t think Karen at lightingthefire‘s perfect autumn quote and Blade of Grass poem made it into the official list so I’m adding them here.

The Magnifying Glass
by Walter de la Mare

With this round glass
I can make Magic talk —
A myriad shells show
In a scrap of chalk;

Of but an inch of moss
A forest — flowers and trees;
A drop of water
Like hive of bees.

I lie in wait and watch
How the deft spider jets
The woven web-silk
From his spinnerets;

The tigerish claws he has!
And oh! the silly flies
The stumble into his net —
With all those eyes!

Not even the tiniest thing
But this my glass
Will make more marvellous
And itself surpass.

Yes, and with lenses like it,
Eyeing the moon,
‘Twould seem you’d walk there
In an afternoon!


Liz at A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy has the week’s Poetry Friday round-up, including news about the naming of Jack Prelutsky as the new Children’s Poet Laureate, a choice I just can’t get too worked up about…


We’ve been very busy this past month, a different kind of busy than the usual farm and garden busy that kept us so busy at home over the summer. This busy needs us in town more often and has us relying on meetings and other people. I don’t dislike it, but it takes some getting used to. Plus the kids are on a roll with school, and Davy has cracked the reading code, which is thrilling. It’s been a round of music and art lessons resumed (new voice lessons for Laura, adding Daniel to art), the semiannual homeschool facilitator meeting to check our progress (“There’s learning going on in this house!” he smiled at me), the start-up of homeschool gym days and homeschool support group meetings, and an organizational meeting for a new 4H baking club, so it looks as if Laura might be in two 4H clubs (the other meeting for the beef club is next week). And the calendar for the rest of the year is starting to fill up — Christmas music recitals, the possibility of a Halloween party at a friend’s house instead of the usual trick-or-treating, homeschool poetry recital, and more. Oh, and Canadian Thanksgiving is much too close (next weekend). I’ll try to get back here with some more posts, updates, and links, in which I’m sorely behind…

Poetry Friday: Harvest edition

For Tom, our captain during the swinging change of days

by Frances Frost (1905-1959)

My father’s face is brown with sun,
His body is tall and limber.
His hands are gentle with beast or child
And strong as hardwood timber.

My father’s eyes are the colors of the sky,
Clear blue or gray as rain:
They change with the swinging change of days
While he watches the weather vane.

That galleon, golden upon our barn,
Veers with the world’s four winds.
To fill our barley bins,

To stack our wood and pile our mows
With redtop and sweet tossed clover.
He captains our farm that rides the winds,
A keen-eyed brown earth-lover.


Frances Frost was the mother of poet Paul Blackburn (1926-1971)

Combine time

It’s combine time now. [Updated to add: When I first posted this earlier in the evening, I was just recovering from the suppertime whirlwind that was my kitchen, complete with grain moisture reader on the kitchen table, and the rosy moon wasn’t up yet. Then I realized, after we’ve been gazing at it all week that it’s finally the full, Harvest Moon. Not just great timing, but a great gift of extra light when the men are out working in the fields till midnight. Shine on, indeed.]

Tom arrived home just before eight and was grabbing a quick supper when his friend arrived and it was time to start combining the wheat. With good luck (no breakdowns and no rain — only the latter is a virtual given), they may be done by Saturday. Tom will run the grain truck back and forth from the combine in the field to the grainaries, and his friend will run the combine. The kids were getting ready for bed, Laura already in her nightgown, when our friend arrived, but they switched gears very quickly. “Please, please can we go?” Harvesting/
combining for the junior set around here is like Christmas — it comes only once a year and doesn’t last nearly long enough.

And like Christmas, I have to plan special meals. These have to be ample, tasty, and portable. So far I think it’s chili and plum tart for tomorrow, pork roast and peach pie for Saturday.

Still here but busy with harvest and back to school,

or, more appropriately, back to the kitchen table and extracurricular activities like piano lessons (with an exciting new teacher), etc.

Today the field trip is to the corrals, to watch Dad and his hired man move the secondhand grain bins — needed for the new harvest — from their old home to their new one. Requires bin lifters, giant trolleys, and various other fun stuff.

Last year at this time I wrote this; I’ll see if I can update it a bit with some more resources, and if/when I do, I’ll let you know. Also good for this time of year are this and this, for last year’s International Literacy Day (if I had the time, which I don’t, I’d look up the date of this year’s celebration); and ditto on the updates. Reruns are all I can manage right now, especially while the sun is still shining and the mercury is, unusually enough, near ninety.

Getting back into the swing of things

The school bus rumbled by Wednesday at quarter of eight, for the first time since late June. Meanwhile, I enjoyed my cup of coffee and the thought that my three were still in bed.

On Monday the kids and I did some visiting, stopping off with a casserole and some potted plants — a purple aster and two sunny rudbeckias — for a recently widowed elderly neighbor. Then we headed off down the highway a way to some other friends, an older couple with no grandchildren of their own who like to borrow our three every once in a while. On our way out, we were surprised with several huge boxes of books that had belonged to their (now adult) children, including a complete set of (be still my beating heart), the 1950 edition of Olive Beaupre Miller’s My Book House. I’m so glad they feel comfortable sending their family treasures home with us.

Tuesday we ran some errands, and at just about every stop there was someone who would ask the kids, “So. Are you ready for school tomorrow?” to which the kids gave an enthusiastic “No, sir!” (or ma’am). “Well, why not?” would come the follow-up. “Because we’re homeschooled!” and they’d collapse in giggles.

Wednesday we hunkered down on the kitchen floor, sorting through our “official” Rubbermaid homeschool organizing system. The Pottery Barn and even Ikea basket types would shudder, but the containers are sturdy and washable and that’s what counts. The kids each have a plastic shoe box for their school supplies — pencils (regular and colored), erasers, small sharpeners, reinforcements, rulers, and so on — and then, because we’re so high tech around here, they each have a Rubbermaid dish tub for their books and other curricula (Tom has one too for his papers because when I started the system a few years ago, Davy had to have a tub too, even though he was three, because big brother and big sister had them. Well, Tom thought it was a rather handy system and hijacked Davy’s tub, so I ended up getting him one of his own). The only thing I don’t like is that until we build our kitchen addition with the built-in storage unit, there are no cabinet doors for the tubs to hide behind, so they live on the kitchen floor, lined up underneath the china cabinet. The finished, used up, filled out books went in one pile, the nonconsumables were passed along to the next child down the line, and things we aren’t using for the moment (Minimus) went into another pile to be reshelved. Then I washed the floor to clean up after all the pencil shavings. The kitchen fall cleaning is almost done, with just the cabinet fronts and windows to wash; since we’re going to be spending much more time in here, I want it to be clean and tidy.

Yesterday evening we gathered down the road for the annual Horticultural Society corn roast and pot luck, the group’s traditional ending to the summer. We’re not society members, but neighbors are welcomed with open arms, especially if they bring food and garden produce for the raffle, and the kids look forward to the visiting and the corn every year. And the raffle, where last night they won two big boxes of tomatoes and some beautiful rosy apples.

Tom plans to start swathing the wheat and then the barley on Saturday afternoon; the weather is supposed to hold, sunny and still unusually warm except for the odd day, through early next week. We start school, and music lessons with new teachers, on Tuesday, and I’m hoping that harvest and next week’s organic certification inspection visit don’t completely torpedo the first week. What I would really like is a slow, easy, and gentle return, perfect for Davy who is starting first grade and all three who’ve been busy making the most of the summer. I’ll write another post about our back to school plans, though we’ve been sneaking into the French and enjoying ourselves very much.