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

On the eleventh day of Christmas

my true love gave to me,

eleven ladies dancing.

And a few of their friends,

You might know them as Rose campion (Lychnis coronaria) “Dancing Ladies”, because they look like little swaying dancers in brightly-colored ballgowns. Especially if you are in the garden early in the morning before that first cup of coffee and without your glasses.

The picture above is from the online catalogue of Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Maine, which offers a great variety, including organic and heirloom seed. Imagine a whole garden full of dancing ladies, for the bargain price of $1.80 — the cost of a packet of seed.

This is the season gardeners love, planning the new year’s garden while snow is still on the ground. For me this involves stacks of printed gardening catalogues (and no, it’s just not the same online, though I do request them by email), a pen, Post-It notes, and a graph paper pad filched from Tom.

This recent Sioux City Journal newspaper article includes a number of good US seed and plant houses to contact for catalogues.

And here’s an online Guide to Gardening by Mail, Mail Order Gardening, and Catalogs, from DavesGarden.com. Very, very thorough, and includes Canadian seed and plant companies as well; there’s a nifty “Browse by North American State/Province” feature.

Canadian Gardening magazine has its 2007 list online.

I’ll leave the last word to Katharine S. White, E.B. White’s wife, an editor at The New Yorker, and ardent and opinionated gardener. After she retired from her editing duties, in the late 1950s, she began a series of garden pieces for the magazine. More than a few columns were reviews seed and nursery catalogues, which Mrs. White considered as seriously as any other American literature. After Mrs. White’s death in 1977, her husband collected them into a delightful volume, Onward and Upward in the Garden. From her first piece, dated March 1, 1958,

For gardeners this is the season of lists and callow hopefulness; hundreds of thousands of bewitched readers are poring over their catalogues, making lists for their seed and plant orders, and dreaming their dreams. It is the season, too, when the amateur gardener like myself marvels or grumbles at the achievements of the hybridizers and frets over the idiosyncrasies of the editors and writers who get up the catalogues. They are as individualistic — these editors and writers — as any Faulkner or Hemingway, and they can be just as frustrating or rewarding. They have an audience equal to the most popular novelist’s, and a handful of them are stylists of some note. Even the catalogues with which no man can be associated seem to have personalities of their own.

Before we examine the writers and editors, let us consider the hybridizers, and the horticulturists in general. Their slogan is not only “Bigger and Better” but “Change” — change for the sake of change, it seems. Say you have a nice flower like the zinnia — clean-cut, of interesting, positive form, with formal petals that are so neatly and cunningly put together, and with colors so subtle yet clear, that they have always been the delight of the still-life artist. Then look at the W. Atlee Burpee and the Joseph Harris Company catalogues and see what the seedsmen are doing to zinnias. Burpee, this year, devotes its inside front cover to full-color pictures of its Giant Hybrid Zinnias, which look exactly like great shaggy chrysanthemums. Now, I like chrysanthemums, but why should zinnias be made to look like them?

By the way, any Katharine White fans who have despaired of ever reading more of her garden writings would be very happy with Emily Herring Wilson‘s 2003 compilation, Two Gardeners: A Friendship in Letters, Katharine S. White & Elizabeth Lawrence, the latter a talented and prolific garden writer.

Still in the garden

The raised bed flower garden behind the house, back in May.

Same raised bed flower garden behind the house, in the last week. Columbines at far right, poppies to their left, tall things in the center are monkshood. I’m happiest when the cows and calves stay on their side of the barbed wire fence (in the background, at right).

Same raised bed, last week, but from the other end.

Same raised bed, other side. Large rounded clump at far right is a type of daisy. I hacked back the catmint at the front along the corner, so it wouldn’t go to seed and stop blooming.

In the garden and around the farm

The kids’ frog farm, with tadpoles and baby frogs found in the ditch by the house. Tom says he’s never seen as many frogs as we have this year because of all the rains. Odd to think as children that I did more tadpole hunting, albeit at the Bronx and Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, than my country husband.

A closer view of one of the older frogs. Yes, one of the kids thought that the frog needed some lettuce from the garden.

The neighbors’ derelict barn, amidst the (genetically modified) canola…

More from the garden

Eggs from the duck nest in the backyard, not 10 feet from the house. We watched over the duck and her nest for almost a month, mostly from a distance and not too often, and despite the nearby marauding magpies, the duck managed to hatch out all 10 eggs. We checked on the nest on the second to last day to find it full of nine ducklings, with one to go. The next morning, mama and her babies were gone, and a tenth cracked eggshell was left in the nest. Success!

One of the planters in front of the house, last month.


Violas and pansies, and a pink double impatiens that looks like small roses. The big leaves belong to the nolana (see next picture, below), which hadn’t started flowering when I took this picture. The nolana stems and flowers took off right after; the stems are thick and almost vining, and the bright blue flowers with white centers resemble morning glories, but stay open all day.

The nolana, at far left, blooming in the planter. The blue lobelia at right I stuck in a few weeks ago, when it threatened to take over another planter.

The planter the other day. Colors a bit washed out though in this picture…

Mary Mary quite contrary

And Becky, too. Recent snaps from the garden. I’ll post more as Blogger and dial-up will let me.

Columbines

More columbines. They’ve been blooming for almost a month, show no signs of giving up any time soon, and their shapes and colors make me happy.

This is cheating a bit. This is the Dropmore honeysuckle, above, when it was blooming last month. Gorgeous and pink for the brief while it lasted.

Autumn is a-cumin’ in

Saturday evening we headed for town to help celebrate our little town on the prairie’s 100th birthday. Not a great age compared to many, even in eastern Canada, but quite an achievement and a thrill for the kids especially to be a part of the occasion. There was a big dance followed by fireworks, then more dancing, and oodles of food throughout. And a chance to remember the pioneers who started it all with their hard work, and those who carry on. To whom we all say a well-deserved thank you.

Speaking of thank yous, Tom arrived home on Friday with a case of very, very ripe peaches. I’ve come to be very wary of this sort of gift when I’m least prepared and usually up to my armpits in some other garden preserving activity, and I’ve told Tom in previous years on various occasions that yes, dear, I will buy and can cases of peaches and pears — Davy calls them “hot sugared fruit” — but on my own schedule, dear, since that I had planned to deal this weekend with the last of the green beans, rhubarb, and a few other housekeeping projects. The peaches were well on the way to beyond ripe, so I had to do something fast. And quick and easy, to, which meant one cobbler, one pie, and peeling, chunking, and sugaring the rest for pie filling.

The leaves on the Virginia creeper have turned bright red already, harvest is in full gear in the fields around us, geese are honking and ducks gather on the dugouts and sloughs and the hunters from the U.S. are starting to circle too, our neighbor’s famous end-of-summer “corn supper” is next week, and though it’s still unusually warm for this time of year (we watched the fireworks at 10:30 pm in light shirts), the light definitely looks like autumn. I’ll miss the carefree summer weather and schedule, my garden especially — I’m enjoying great big blowzy bouquets right now, zinnias, cosmos, hollyhocks, cornflowers — but there’s something exciting about the change in seasons, especially this next season. Autumn usually means a withering and a decline, but as someone who always loved school (Tom and I decided to homeschool Laura in part because we wanted her to love school and learning as much as we had), this time of year to me signifies not only an ending but also a beginning, marked by kraft-paper covered books, new knee socks and art supplies, the excitement of new friends and activities. Now that the days are dramatically shorter — it’s getting dark before nine now — even the kids are starting to show a bit of curiosity and interest in our new schedule, not as freeform and out-of-doors as it’s been. Where and when will the 4H meetings be held? What will the new piano and voice teachers be like? What new books will be using? It’s all part of the new adventure!