• About Farm (School) House

    A Canadian farm family on the prairies, celebrating 20 years of organic certification. One-time dedicated home schooler and diligent blogger. Amateur gardener, happy reader, proficient cook. We have a family construction business in addition to the farm, and finally got around to building a farmhouse for ourselves.

    You can contact me at becky(dot)farmschool(at)gmail(dot)com

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    "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)

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

    "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."
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    Ginger Rogers to Frances Mercer in "Vivacious Lady" (1938)

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    Attributed to Groucho Marx in "The Groucho Letters" by Arthur Sheekman

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    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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Late June

The very last of the siding, on the tower, is underway. Tom is making custom window trim, using the metal brake for the folding.




The flooring is supposed to arrive later this week. And Wayfair is working on the whereabouts of the missing-in-action (somewhere in Canada, apparently) dining room light fixture.

The near-constant rain stopped last week so we started cutting hay; there are several hundred acres to cut, rake, and bale. Here’s the small field by the new house, with youngest son raking (which helps dry out the alfalfa/grass in preparation for baling) and Tom making small square bales,





Paint, electrical, and soffits

A busy few weeks and some good progress. Including the new septic tank and cedar shingles for the tower siding which we picked up a week ago,

We’re using vinyl siding on most of the house (except the tower) and vinyl soffit; a compromise because of cost.

Perforated soffit has always seemed industrial, so I was happy to find unperforated soffit at one supplier. Unperforated for the front and back porches, perforated everywhere else,

Porch with soffit, fan, and newly clad columns,

At first I was planning on several wall lights on the back porch, but I didn’t want glare at night, especially for anyone seated at the table facing the wall. This is a problem I remember from my parents’ house, and we solved it here by opting for recessed pot/can lights.

The electricians stopped in for a few days and installed some lights; my first thoughts upon seeing the front door lights were, Why did I buy the medium size instead of large fixtures? And those back plates can’t stay white. A can of glossy black spray paint took care of the back plates, and I’m reserving judgment on size for now. I remember reading that older houses often had smaller fixtures.

Painting is almost all done, except for the basement ceilings (which are going to be drop/suspended ceiling tiles to make it easy to get at the wiring for any repairs or changes, and they aren’t installed yet), doors, and trim (doors, windows, walls). The suite was painted last week, all the walls/rooms are the same colour (Benjamin Moore Natural Wicker OC-1) so it went quickly.

Natural Wicker in the suite,

In the living room. When I opened the box on arrival, I thought the fixture seemed enormous (it takes five bulbs), but it fits the space well.

One of my favorite fixtures in the house, from Currey & Company,

Kitchen lights,

Industrial pendants in the pantry; the cords are slowly unkinking,

Chandelier in the front hall; missing both bulbs and sleeves, because I’m investigating replacing the ugly dun-colored metal sleeves with resin ones,

The black spray paint was also handy for some of the exterior lights, which came in an oil rubbed bronze finish,

Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter in one of the boy’s rooms,

L’s room in Windham Cream,

Our bedroom in Copacabana,

Our bathroom in Windham Cream,

The basement in Copacabana (lousy pictures — looks more tan here than yellow),

Fascia and columns all finished, with special provisions for a swallow nest (see that wooden box in front of the column?); next year, the wooden box gets attached to the inside of that column,

This week’s project: putting the cedar shingle siding on the tower,

After that, installing the septic tank. And this week or next, flooring!

We’ve had lots of rain this spring, which has meant lots of blooms and lots of fruit, including cherries on the Evans cherry trees,

Floors, and last of the siding

The flooring man came out yesterday to measure, we got our estimate this morning, and we’re giving the go-ahead.

I decided on Karndean vinyl plank flooring about 18 months ago. I grew up with hardwood flooring, which looks lovely, but aside from the expense, this isn’t the right climate, because the prairies experience such swings in temperature (from +30 and more to -40 and below) and humidity (from incredibly dry in the winter to increasingly humid in the summer).  Tom has installed lots of laminate and doesn’t like it for the same reason (and I don’t like that “hollow” sound), plus it’s not ideal for kitchens, and our kitchen is open to the living and dining rooms. And after living with wall-to-wall carpeting in the bedrooms, hallway, and living room for more than 20 years, I’m still not a fan.

I’ve chosen Karndean’s Coffee Maple, a warm rich brown with minimal “grain” and very little red tone, from their Art Select line. It’s very similar in look to the Home Depot TrafficMaster Allure vinyl plank flooring (in “Hickory”) we chose about six years ago for our current house, for the dining room addition off the kitchen, and the kitchen. It’s been a terrific choice, even if it hadn’t replaced the ugliest sheet vinyl (white, grey, pink) Tom could have picked when he bought the place. I’ve loved the look, the ease of maintenance, the price point, and the resilience (which is not only comfortable underfoot but has saved plates and glasses several times) of the TrafficMaster Allure, but wanted something more durable. I started noticing luxury vinyl tile/plank flooring in supermarkets and exhibition halls, and figured that something rated for commercial purposes would hold up well. I was referred to the nearest Karndean dealer, and after getting some samples and also reading up on Karndean online, at GardenWeb and elsewhere, I was sold. We’re using the same pattern/colour through the entire house and granny suite, including the basement, bathrooms and laundry room; I like the cohesive feel/look, and from a practical standpoint, we get a bigger discount, and will also have an easier time in the future matching flooring if we need to order a few planks for repairs, sourcing only one style rather than several.

Karndean Coffee Maple

The dealer has put a hold on our flooring, and it should arrive in two weeks. It’s fast and fairly simply to lay, so we could conceivably have the flooring done by the end of the month, or early July.

We’ve been going around and around (pun intended) trying to decide on siding for the tower. I finally suggested something like a cedar shingle/shake, something which traditionally would have been used on a tower, and Tom agreed. So the tower will have siding shortly. All I have left to do is to find a copper finial for the tower top.

Time flies

Yikes, eight months since I last posted but it doesn’t feel that long at all.

We’re still here. Work on the house slowed down for a bit in the fall, first because Winter came early (mid-October) and suddenly with cold and lots of snow, and then my father-in-law died, two years after his debilitating stroke; it was bittersweet, sad but also very much a release.

On the house front, we finished the siding, installed the garage doors, got the ceilings sprayed, collected our Bluestar range from the city, and gathered all the Ikea cabinetry, managing to hit three sales (two kitchen, one bath) for the kitchen, pantry, laundry room, and bathrooms.

Tom’s apprentice was off from Christmas until the beginning of May, to take his carpentry courses. While he was away, Tom and the boys built our new cattle handing system and building for which we received a government grant. The building is 60 feet long, and houses the new hydraulic squeeze, electronic scale, plus crowding and maternity pens and more. Everything was finished just in time for calving in March, and was especially welcome because we added another 70 cows and heifers to our herd from a neighbour’s herd dispersal.

Calving and lambing were very challenging because of several Spring snowstorms — Spring snow is always very wet and heavy. We had record amounts of mud, which wasn’t fun for man or beast.

Loading the new Bluestar range back in September,


Unboxing and unwrapping,


The beautiful blue Bluestar,


Siding done and garage doors installed (October 2016),




They poured the concrete pad outside the garage in December,


They also poured the concrete floor at the same time for the new cattle handling system,



The new cattle handling facility building, which opens into a pen on the other side,




Back to the house; we still have to get siding (something that can be used on curves) for the tower,


All the flooring underlay is now in place, so after the walls are painted, we can get the floors (Karndean vinyl plank, in a darker wood look) done; we’re using the same flooring throughout the house, including bathrooms, and in the suite, because I want a cohesive look and the bonus is a quantity discount (the floors in the bathrooms in the garage and workshop will stay concrete and will be painted).

We used TrafficMaster Allure from Home Depot in our dining room addition/kitchen several years ago, and while I love the way it looks, we decided on something harder wearing. I saw a commercial vinyl plank application I liked, that has held up amazingly, in a large exhibition/trade hall building, and I figure if it can stand up to all the two-legged and four-legged crowds, and wheels (strollers, janitor carts, food service trolleys), it can work well for us.


The silver lining to all the Spring snows — best mushroom picking in years,



I can’t figure out lighting. A lot of the more inexpensive fixtures are so ugly, and yet the more expensive fixtures are made with the same or similar finishes. And the better design, more spare and elegant, usually has fewer gegaws and curlicues. A puzzlement. Like everything else in the house, the lighting is a mixture as much low as possible with some high. I bought these exterior wall fixtures from RONA, $43 CAN each, in bulk (though I’m still debating spray painting them matte black),

Rona light

On the splurge side — Currey & Company’s “Treetop” small pendant for the tower room off the living room. I was happy to find it in Canada at Wayfair, because my other choice was a lighting showroom in the city, where it would be a special order (so we’d be charged if we decided it didn’t suit the space and decided to return it).

It’s not installed yet (we want to finish painting first), just wanted to see how it works in the tower room. I chose it because I like how it echoes the trees in the yard, and helps to bring the outdoors in.


That pendant is getting some company (both are wrought iron) in the dining room, where we’re going to use Currey & Company’s “Rainforest” chandelier, also available in Canada through Wayfair, over a c1900 mahogany table.

Since we fell behind schedule on painting and were dealing this month with 4H Achievement Days, Daniel’s high school graduation, Laura’s trip to Maine, and Spring field work, Tom and I decided to hire it out, and we’re glad we did. The painters started on Monday. Most of the main floor is Benjamin Moore Copacabana 284 (all walls, including bathrooms and laundry room, are Regal Select eggshell), a nice warm, sunny yellow, an almost exact match for our current kitchen and dining room colour. It keeps me sane from October to April, when the view outside the window is snowy white with brown/gray tree trunks and branches. The ceilings are Benjamin Moore Cotton Balls OC-122 (in Regal Select ulti-matte), a creamy off-white; the trim will be Cotton Balls as well (in Regal Select semi-gloss). I’ve found designer Laurel Bern’s blog to be very helpful when it comes to sorting out paint colors, especially when the boys decided on grey for their rooms, and I wanted to be sure we ended up with more of a warm grey rather than a cool concrete grey. We’re going with Revere Pewter, which is as close to trendy as I’m ever going to get. Some of Laurel’s very helpful paint posts:

:: 20 great shades of white paint {and some to avoid}: this is where I learned about BM Cotton Balls, which Laurel describes as “a Clean, CLEAN, but warm, lovely, lovely white. Really beautiful for walls or trim with any other color.”

:: confused about your paint sheen? here’s why

:: nine fabulous benjamin moore warm gray paint colors




Next on my to-do list is to locate flexible crown moulding and baseboard for the tower rooms.

September progress

I’m not sure where I left off on my updates, but the entire house and apartment have been primed and are ready for paint. I’ve picked (almost) all of the colours. We’ll be using our paint sprayer for most of the painting, and we were ready to start on the cold storage/rain water tank room only to discover that the filter and nozzle needed replacing because they hadn’t been used in far too long. We have some leftover white barn (i.e. outdoor) paint, so we’ll be using that.

So tomorrow we’re off to the big city for new sprayer parts, and also to pick up the new blue Bluestar (48″, eight burners!). Very exciting.

They’re almost done with the siding. They had to pause on the house to look after three major projects for clients, and we’ve been busy with haying, harvesting, and other late summer/autumn farm duties.

The siding on the west sides of the house,


Workshop (below) and apartment suite (above),


Putting on additional insulation under the siding,


Front of the house ready for siding,




Tom arched the garage door openings,



The back of the house, dining room at left,


The old table saw from my late parents’ house in the West Indies; Tom used this saw to build all of the cabinets in the guest house he built on their property. We shipped it back last year along with the workbench (below) and some other pieces, just before the house was sold.


Tom and the boys are getting ready to move all the tools from our shop building at the arm to the new workshop at the house, in preparation for adding a lean-to with concrete floor to the shop building. The shop will be dedicated farm machinery and minimal farm tool storage, and all the carpentry tools will be all together, without anything else in the way, in the workshop. The workbench,


Baby oak tree in autumn,


Curtain resources

Red Door Home blog post: How to Sew Curtain Panels with Lining and/or Interlining

Red Door Home blog post: How to Add Decorative Trim to Curtains

Red Door Home blog post: How to Dress Up Store Bought Curtains – Part 1

Red Door Home blog post: How to Dress Up Store Bought Curtains – Part 2


Rug resources

Laurel Bern blog post: What three fibers to avoid for rugs and carpets


It looks great and comes in a lot of terrific patterns, but if you spill ANYTHING on it, including water, it’s all over. It WILL be permanently stained. So, why do we see it all over the place? Beats me.


While exceedingly beautiful, if you spill anything on it including water, it will forever look like something the dog dragged in from the street gutter …


Oh, they are absolutely glorious as shown in the living room everyone adores in the movie SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE. But that’s one woman, in a white turtle neck, living alone… [and obviously above her means] :]

They look great. They don’t hold up. They ARE exceedingly fragile; they tear and absorb stains like a sponge. If you spill anything on them, life is over. I used to do a lot of them [years ago] before I knew better. Nice idea— extremely impractical.

Laurel Bern blog post: Rugs-Carpets: Which is better, wool or nylon?


Lauren Liess blog post: “Natural” Rugs: Seagrass, Sisal, Jute, Synthetic & Wool Rugs: The Low-Down


Rug Chick‘s blog posts:

Buying rugs (Tips for the nervous rug shopper)

Stop making waves

Padding every job


Old New House online vintage rug shop’s blog