• 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.

Size does matter

Karen asked in the comments of the Squash-o-Lantern post below about the size of the squash seeds, and I replied that I’d been planning to a post a picture, as soon as the kids carved our regular pumpkins on Halloween eve.

We’d been told by one of the winners at the pumpkin festival that even more important than fertilizer and adequate heat and water is the size of the seed. Bigger is better, she said.

Here’s the picture, with the giant squash seed on the left and a regular, garden-variety pumpkin on the right,

Happy Halloween!

We’re heading into town — kids in costume, of course — after lunch for music lessons and errands (it seems I have several parcels, with any luck Cybils-related, to collect). And once all the music lessons are done, we’re meeting friends for a quick non-sugary supper before the kids head out for trick or treating. I’m holding my breath because the forecast for today, including this evening, is unseasonably warm; daytime highs of around 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit, and not below freezing in the evening. Though the kids eagerly agreed with my suggestion to wear longjohns “just in case”.

Now all I have to do is to keep my fingers crossed for more M&Ms than Smarties in the treat bags….

* * * *

by Molly Capes

Bolt and bar the front door,
Draw the curtains tight,
Wise folk are in before
Moonrise tonight.

Halloween, Halloween,
Chestnuts to roast,
A gift for the fairy,
A prayer for the ghost.

Who will have their fate told
This night is known,
Whose hand is full of gold,
Who goes alone.

Halloween, Halloween,
Snapdragon blue,
A lover for me
And a fortune for you.

Stars shiver blue and green,
Moon’s wide and white;
There tattered clouds between
Witches take flight.

Halloween, Halloween,
Apples a-bob,
Elves at the keyhole
And imps on the hob.

“Twelve” calls the deep bell
To the hollow night;
“Twelve” whisper steeple tops
Far out of sight.

Halloween, Halloween,
Fires burn high,
Who shall say certainly,
Who can tell truthfully
What solemn company
Pass through the sky?

From Ghosts and Goblins: Stories for Halloween, compiled by Wilhelmina Harper and illustrated by William Wiesner, originally published in 1936 with a revised edition in 1965 (and now unfortunately out of print). The acknowledgments page credits The London Evening Standard for the above poem, which would have been writtten prior to 1936.

Our big squash-o-lantern

On Saturday we had an autumn/early Halloween squash carving party with some friends.

The guest of honor was the 570-pound squash we picked up earlier in the month at the pumpkin festival.

The squash spent most of the month in our shop, and on Saturday morning Tom brought it, on a pallet, with the tractor to our garage, so everyone, including the squash, would stay warm in the rather chilly temperatures.

Tom tried a knife at first, and for the features, it wasn’t too bad.

But for the top, where the flesh is six inches thick, Tom decided
that Daniel’s small hatchet was better,

It’s the Great Squash, Charlie Brown!

Tom transporting the Great Squash to its final resting place,
at the end of our driveway,

Carefully sliding out the pallet,

After the carving, we went indoors to warm up with apple cider, chili, curried pumpkin soup, carrot cake, and goblins’ toes.

The view at night, with the help of a trouble light,

Poetry Friday: Halloween is Coming edition

This poem is sadly appropriate because the woods and fields are most certainly wintry this October morning, covered with more than just a dusting a snow and it is still snowing; even sadder, my children are delightedly pulling on snow pants to go out and shovel as I type. Temperatures are supposed to rise a few degrees into the the 30s today, so while I’m urging the thermometer up, the kids are urging more snow down. Drat.

The Witch in the Wintry Wood
by Aileen Fisher (1906-2002)

This is the story of timid Tim
who thought that witches went after him
when the night was dark and moon was dim.
Woo-HOO, woo-HOO, woo-HOO.

This is the tale of how Tim one night
didn’t start home until candlelight
when the sky was black and the snow was white.
Woo-HOO, woo-HOO, woo-HOO.

He walked through the woods like a frightened goat,
hist muffler twisted around his throat,
expecting to jump at a witch’s note:
“Woo-HOO, woo-HOO, woo-HOO.”

Out of the night came a sheep dog’s yowl,
which Tim was sure was a witch’s howl,
a terrible witch on a wintry prowl.
Woo-HOO, woo-HOO, woo-HOO.

Tim, the timid, began to race,
certain he sighted a witch’s face
back of each shadowy hiding place.
Woo-HOO, woo-HOO, woo-HOO.

He ran through the woods on his lonely trek
till horrors! a hand went around his neck,
holding his headlong flight in check.
Woo-HOO, woo-HOO, woo-HOO.

Around his throat went a witch’s hand
that jerked poor Tim to a sudden stand.
His heart was water, his legs were sand!
Woo-HOO, woo-HOO, woo-HOO.

Nobody knows how long he stood
with that hand on his throat in the silent wood
until he could find some hardihood…
Woo-HOO, woo-HOO, woo-HOO.

Then he looked around like a shaky calf,
thinking of words for his epitaph,
and “Oh, ho, ho!” he began to laugh…
Woo-HOO, woo-HOO, woo-HOO.

For what he saw was a funny sight —
it wasn’t a witch at his throat by night,
but a pine branch pulling his muffler tight!
Woo-HOO, woo-HOO, woo-HOO.

The more Tim chuckled, the more he thought
how most of his fears were like mufflers caught
and stretched much tighter than mufflers ought.
Woo-HOO, woo-HOO, woo-HOO.

And the end of this story of timid Tim
is — nevermore, when the night was dim,
did he fear that witches were after him!
Woo-HOO, woo-HOO, woo-HOO.

* * *

This poem is from Ghosts and Goblins: Stories for Halloween, compiled by Wilhelmina Harper and illustrated by William Wiesner, which I found on the shelf of the little village library while the kids were art lessons. The book, originally published in 1936 with a revised edition in 1965 (and now unfortunately out of print) includes not just stories — mostly folk tales from around the world, including several by Joseph Jacobs — but also poems — Carl Sandburg’s Theme in Yellow, Walter de la Mare’s Someone — and is great readaloud fun in the weeks leading up to Halloween.

Wilhelmina Harper compiled several other holiday anthologies, also out of print, including Easter Chimes, The Harvest Feast, and Merry Christmas to You. Worth searching your library for.

* * *

Sylvia Vardell at Poetry for Children had a wonderful Poetry Friday birthday post for Aileen Fisher in September of last year.

* * *

The last Poetry Friday round-up for October 2007 — boo! — can be found today at
at Sandhya Nankani’s Literary Safari. Because yesterday was St Crispin’s Day, Michele at Scholar’s Blog has the St Crispin’s Day speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V, one of Laura’s favorite passages to recite.


We started the morning with the usual round pumpkin-shaped pancakes, gussied up with orange paste food coloring, triangular cutouts for eyes and noses, and pumpkin sprinkles for mouths. And orange milk, of course. Then, on the way to do chores, the annual Halloween morning tradition of posting the “No Hunting” signs, since deer and moose hunting season begins tomorrow.

The kids are doing their schoolwork in costume this morning, so I have Harpo Marx, Fred Astaire, and Ginger Rogers around the kitchen table. After lunch it’s off to town, in costume, for errands, music lessons, and then, finally finally finally the grand Halloween dinner and party at the spooky and horrorful house of friends, who’ve been pickling eyeballs and cultivating cobwebs for at least a week now in preparation .

Since you can’t have a spooky and horrorful house without a jack o’lantern or two…

Mr. Macklin’s Jack O’Lantern
by David McCord (1897-1997)

Mr. Macklin takes his knife
And carves the yellow pumpkin face:
Three holes bring eyes and nose to life,
The mouth has thirteen teeth in place.

Then Mr. Macklin just for fun
Transfers the corn-cob pipe from his
Wry mouth to Jack’s, and everyone
Dies laughing! O what fun it is

Till Mr. Macklin draws the shade
And lights the candle in Jack’s skull.
Then all the inside dark is made
As spooky and as horrorful

As Halloween, and creepy crawl
The shadows on the tool-house floor,
With Jack’s face dancing on the wall.
O Mr. Macklin! where’s the door?

Happy Halloween to all!

Poetry Friday: Halloween edition

A couple of spooky oldies but goodies, both from the Oxford Book of Poetry for Children, compiled by Edward Blishen and illustrated by Brian Wildsmith, 1963 (the library ditched this one at a discard sale a few years ago, and their loss is our definite gain):

Witches’ Charm
by Ben Jonson

The owl is abroad, the bat and the toad,
And so is the cat-a-mountain;
The ant and the mole both sit in a hole,
And frog peeps out o’ the fountain.
The dogs they do bay, and the timbrels play,
The spindle is now a-turning;
The moon it is red, and the stars are fled,
But all the sky is a-burning:
The ditch is made, and our nails the spade:
With pictures full, of wax and wood,
The livers I stick with needles quick;
There lacks but the blood to make up the flood.
quickly, dame, then bring your part in!
Spur, spur, upon little Martin!
Merrily, merrily, make him sail,
A worm in his mouth and a thorn in’s tail,
Fire above, and fire below,
With a whip i’ your hand to make him go!

The Hag
by Robert Herrick (1591-1614), a member of the Sons of Ben, followers and admirers of Ben Jonson

The Hag is astride,
This night for to ride;
The Devil and she together;
Through thick and through thin,
Now out and then in,
Though ne’er so foul be the weather.

A thorn or a burr
She takes for a spur,
Witha lash of a bramble she rides now;
Through brakes and through briars,
O’er ditches and mires,
She follows the Spirit that guides now.

No beast, for his food
Dares now range the wood,
But hushed in his lair he lies lurking;
While mischiefs, by these,
On land and on seas,
At noon of night are a-working.

The storm will arise
And trouble the skies;
This night, and more for the wonder,
The ghost from the tomb
Affrighted shall come,
Called out by the clap of thunder.

And for something new don’t miss Gregory K.’s Halloween Poem at GottaBook!


Costume Update: Daniel is still committed to Harpo Marx, thank goodness. Laura, however, has bounced from Shirley Temple to a scarecrow, and after watching a Fred Astaire movie last night, she and Davy (formerly the jester) have decided on Fred and Ginger. I’m not holding my breath, but then I’m not helping with costumes any more either. Less than a week out, they’re all on their own!


Liz B. at A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy has the day’s offerings, along with a review of The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano by Margarita Engle. Thanks, Liz!

Two down, one to go

Halloween planning is in full swing around here, and two out of three kids have their costumes decided upon, which means they haven’t changed their minds for whopping three days in a row: Harpo Marx (Daniel), and a jester (Davy). Daniel put his outfit together with a $2 yellow clown wig and a $1.50 plastic top hat, both from the drugstore,and one of his father’s jackets, and if I’m feeling generous I just might spring for a bicycle horn from the hardware store. Davy’s costume, complete with hat, was discovered at the Goodwill shop for $10, and is lovely. Just needs some more jingle bells around the collar, wrists, and ankles. Laura is considering Little Red Riding Hood, but the jury’s still out.

We have two pumpkins in the house, both on the small side, and will probably pick up something bigger and carveable next week. Along with a stash of candy corn and tiny Hershey bars, since we’re foregoing trick-or-treating for the first time ever in favor of a party at our friends’ soon-to-be very spooky house.

I had no idea that you could find noncarveable Lego pumpkins, which are rather cute.