• 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.

In case you haven’t guessed,

from all those photographs and stories of children frolicking in the snow and -20 weather, we here at Farm School like winter. In fact, we love it!

We also like the winter solstice, with the idea that more daylight is on the way (hurray!), and two of our favorite books to read on the first official day of winter (though we’ve been having unofficial winter fun for more than a month now) are

Happy Winter by Karen Gundersheimer, which is out of print but worth tracking down. I’ve written about it before here and here; and

I Like Winter by Lois Lenski. Grandpapa bought this tiny book for Davy a number of years ago and it’s delightful. There’s even a musical arrangement by Clyde Robert Bulla of the verses:

“I like winter, I like snow,
I like icy winds that blow.
I like snowflakes, oh so light,
Making all the ground so white.
I like sliding down the hill,
I like tumbling

Other favorite Winter Solstice reading:

The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice by Wendy Pfeffer

The Winter Solstice by Ellen Jackson

The Return of the Light: Twelve Tales from Around the World for the
Winter Solstice
by Carolyn McVickar Edwards

While the Bear Sleeps: Winter Tales and Traditions by Caitlin Matthews

Shingebiss: An Ojibwe Legend by Nancy Van Laan

Lucia and the Light by Phyllis Root

And some handy dandy blog posts the subject,

from Audrey at A Small Corner of Nowhere

and from Nika at Progressive Homeschool

Poetry Friday: North

by Philip Booth (1925-2007)

North is weather, Winter, and change:
a wind-shift, snow, and how ice ages
shape the moraine of a mountain range.

At tree line the chiseled ledges
are ragged to climb; wind-twist trees
give way to the trust of granite ridges,

peaks reach through abrasive centuries
of rain. The worn grain, the sleet-cut,
is magnified on blue Northwest days

where rock slides, like rip-tide, break out
through these geologic seas. Time
in a country of hills is seasonal light:

alpenglow, Northern lights, and tame
in October: Orion, cold hunter of stars.
Between what will be and was, rime

whites the foothill night and flowers
the rushes stilled in black millpond ice.
The dark, the nightfall temperatures

are North, and the honk of flyway geese
high over valley sleep. The woodland
is evergreen, ground pine, spruce,

and deadwood hills at the riverbend.
Black bear and mink fish beaver streams
where moose and caribou drink: beyond

the forests there are elk. Snowstorms
breed North like arctic birds that swirl
downhill, and in a blind wind small farms

are lost. At night the close cold is still,
the tilt world returns from sun to ice.
Glazed lichen is North, and snowfall

at five below. North is where rockface
and hoarfrost are formed with double grace:
love is twice warm in a cold place.

* * * *

If you need hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows to warm you up after reading that, see the previous post.

Tricia has today’s Poetry Friday round-up, and a lovely Dusting of Snow, over at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Sorry today’s entry is so skimpy — the kids and I have to plow through some pretty big snow drifts shortly to do the farm chores so we can get to town in time for today’s special performance for students of “Blithe Spirit”. Tomorrow evening Tom and I go. The kids have been primed with a viewing of David Lean’s movie version with Rex Harrison on DVD, and are keen to see Mme. Arcati and Elvira in the flesh, as it were…

Confections for cold afternoons

I’ve been meaning to share one of Laura’s new, easy 4H recipes, perfect for frosty December afternoons — homemade marshmallows.

I’d been intrigued since first hearing Martha Stewart talk about them — who knew you could make marshmallows, and that they were made out of real food? — but they seemed so darn complicated. I tend to prefer dessert recipes that don’t require me to keep an eye out for the “hard ball stage”, and much as I enjoy kitchen chemistry, I’ll leave cooking for engineers to hardier souls; though the pictures at the website are handy, especially if you don’t have the chance to watch a bunch of 4H kids in action.

However, I was delighted to learn that in the capable hands of Laura’s club leader the other month, the recipe is amazingly simple. So simple that we were able to duplicate the results on our own the next weekend, which was a good thing because Daniel and Davy quickly ate up the samples Laura brought home. Unlike most of the other recipes I’ve seen, this one includes no candy thermometer, wet pastry brushes, or corn syrup (in fact, a grand total of five ingredients — water, sugar, gelatin, vanilla extract, and salt).

They’re not only easy to make, but much tastier than the store-bought version. Especially if you insist, as we do, on gilding the lily — rolling them in toasted coconut or crushed candy canes, or dusting with a mixture of confectioner’s sugar and either cinnamon or cocoa (and you can make chocolate marshmallows by adding a tablespoon or two of cocoa to the recipe below). You could substitute the vanilla extract in the recipe below with some peppermint flavoring, too. My favorite way to serve, and eat, the marshmallows is to cut them in largish pillowy squares and roll them in toasted coconut, served alongside rather than in my hot chocolate. The kids like theirs with crushed candy cane, which does look spiffy before it starts to melt in the mug (see photo). By the way, homemade marshmallows make a lovely — inexpensive too — homemade Christmas present, especially tucked in a bag with a container of Ghirardelli hot cocoa mix or drinking chocolate.

Easy Homemade Marshmallows

Mix together (I do this in the measuring cup):
2 packages of unflavored gelatine (for example, Knox brand)
½ cup water

Then mix together in a large pan and heat over low/medium heat until dissolved:
2 cups white sugar
½ cup water

Add gelatin mixture to pot with sugar mixture, and bring to a boil.

Remove pan from stove and cool, for about 15-20 minutes. While you’re waiting, you can grease an 8″x8″ or 9″x9″ pan with butter, vegetable oil, or Crisco and then dust with confectioner’s sugar; I’ve also had good luck greasing the pan, then lining it with wax or parchment paper and greasing it again, with a final layer of confectioner’s sugar. Then to the cooled mixture add

½ tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of salt

With a hand mixer (or you can transfer the entire mixture to the large bowl in your stand mixer), beat the mixture until it’s white and thick and looks like Marshmallow Fluff.; this should take about 15 minutes.

Pour mixture into the prepared pan and let the marshmallows set until cool. Either tip the marshmallows out (you may need a knife or spatula) or pull out and peel off the wax/parchment paper. Cut into squares, roll in toasted coconut, cinnamon, or more confectioner’s sugar. Serve on a cold afternoon.

Poetry Friday: Winter words of wisdom from Edward Bear and A.A. Milne

The more it snows
(Tiddely pom),
The more it goes
(Tiddely pom),
The more it goes
(Tiddely pom),
On snowing.

And nobody knows
(Tiddely pom),
How cold my toes
(Tiddely pom),
How cold my toes
(Tiddely pom),
Are growing.

from The House at Pooh Corner, 1928, by A.A. Milne

Becky at Becky’s Book Reviews has today’s Poetry Friday round-up here. Many thanks!

* * *

The busy holiday season is upon us. I had a Christmas party Monday evening, Laura had a 4H meeting/Christmas gift exchange Wednesday, and yesterday art lessons in the little village, getting to which by the northern back roads was rather fraught because the lack of trees and fences meant the snow blew over the roads and made the road part rather indistinguishable from the ditches. There weren’t anyone else’s tracks to follow for love or money, though the school bus had gone by in the morning. However, we were cheered considerably by the Christmas carols on the radio and, on the way home, the sight of three moose gazing at us.

Yesterday evening the Santa parade in town, and afterwards as usual we drove around town to look at all the lights. And now, two blissful quiet days at home today and tomorrow to do our baking and start watching some favorite holiday meetings. Then the parties begin again on Sunday, with a taffy pull for the kids and the big annual gathering of neighbors on Monday.

Keeping warm when it’s 24 below…

Playing with matches

Playing with fire

Dangerous and daring

The kids asked all summer if we could make a fire pit; it’s been too dry in previous years. Just when things were looking likely, it didn’t rain for the entire month of July and temperatures were close to 30C. The grass turned brown and crunchy and fires were out of the question.

Now, with winter’s arrival, a fire pit has become a possibility. The kids spent the other day making a pit out of snow in the front yard. Yesterday they spent most of the afternoon and part of the evening outdoors, roasting hot dogs and marshmallows for lunch and dinner. Today they were back at it, determining just how many hot dogs and marshmallows are too many. Tom and I watched out the window tonight, and we could see three little shapes dancing around the flames.

For tomorrow, they’re planning to rig up a grill so they can use a cast iron frying pan to cook bacon, sausages, and eggs. Daniel even asked about sleeping outside, but I told him that freezing to death would spoil our Christmas.

And would you believe that their mother still doesn’t like to light matches (hurray for barbecue lighters), especially after that one unfortunate incident in Girl Scouts where she dropped a lit match and nearly burned down the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church. Fortunately, the kids didn’t for any adult assistance, just trotted off with the matches, and food in a metal bowl from the kitchen.

Next week: running with scissors.

Snow fun

Adding the nose

Now the celery mouth

Last minute snowman surgery (sawing off some
extra snow on the back of the head)

A new friend…

School canceled, on account of

snow and hunting.

We were surprised Sunday by a goodly snowfall overnight, and then a bit more Sunday night. Enough for the kids to make this before lunchtime yesterday,

It doubles as a (very) small sledding hill.

Last night the temperature dropped down to about -20C (just below 0F), the coldest weather so far this season; winter is here, no matter what the calendar says.

Tom shot a deer this morning, and he and the kids are at his parents skinning it before taking it to the butcher, who will cut and wrap the meat for us. It started snowing again, so thickly I can barely see the road from the front door, just after they left.

Davy already has plans for the hide, which we’ll send to the local taxidermist for tanning (though Davy wants to try tanning it himself, which I don’t think he’s quite old enough for; I found this online* but figure I’d be buying it at my own peril since he’s only seven), and Tom will have his hands full because Davy also wants some of the sinew to make a bow and for various Native sewing projects. Davy lately has been eating, breathing, sleeping (the books live under his pillow) the teachings of W. Ben Hunt, especially his Complete Book of Indian Crafts and Lore (a Golden Book), and Davy knows that Ben would want him to get the sinew. All of it. Of course, I mean need that deerskin/buckskin book so I know what to do with that sinew. Besides store it in my deep freeze.

* * *

A W. Ben Hunt library (these are all still in print); if you or your kids like old Boy Scout manuals and the books of Dan Beard and Ernest Thompson Seton, you’ll like these:

How to Build and Furnish a Log Cabin

Rustic Construction

American Indian Beadwork

These Ben Hunt titles are out-of-print but worth tracking down:

The Golden Book of Crafts and Hobbies

The Golden Book of Indian Crafts and Lore

Ben Hunt’s Big Book of Whittling

* not for the faint of heart or stomach when it comes to book titles, there is also this (consider yourself warned before you click away). I’ll admit to being a wee bit intrigued since Davy says that Ben Hunt said that traditional tanning methods yield a leather that’s much softer and more waterproof than modern chemical methods. By the way, we hear a lot of “Ben Hunt says” around here, and I’ve learned that he’s usually right.

By the way, the above link at www.paleotechnics.com has some nifty things on the “arts and technologies of early peoples”, including

a list of primitive living skills gatherings, mostly in the US, and

information on school programs for kids