• About Farm (School) House

    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. We have a family construction business, and finally got around to building a farmhouse for ourselves.

    Contact me at becky(dot)farmschool(at)gmail(dot)com

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  • 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)

    "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."
    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)

    "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 © 2013-2016 Please do not use any of my words or my personal photographs without my express permission.

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




August progress

The drywalling is finished. They did four coats, and the unusually warm and humid summer weather, with nearly daily thunderstorms, meant longer waits between coats. They submitted a bid to prime everything, too, and have just started so on Saturday, after several days of online research, I began gathering up Benjamin Moore paint chip cards to finalize the list of colours. I spent an evening watching the Olympics, using the hole punch to assemble my own customized fan deck. I’ll probably do a post on paint colours just to have them all listed in one place.

The weather has also included many more funnel clouds than usual, including one very close to our house several weeks ago, and several close to town which made the national news. It rains and storms when it’s dark, when the sun is shining, and we’ve also had some dry lightning. This has meant some amazing sunsets,  an incredibly green and lush garden and yard, and lots of fungal diseases, slugs, and insects. We were lucky last month that it didn’t rain during L’s graduation party — one of the few evenings without a thunderstorm, which obligingly held off until the middle of the night.

The funnel cloud flying by our house, which thankfully didn’t touch down anywhere,

IMG_3513 IMG_3516

A pretty sunset,


The fair has come and gone, and after the last day L took off for the new western young birders’ workshop, which was a good respite. N had a wonderful time on his 10-day 4-H camping and agricultural tour of the Northwest Territories. A is making good use of his drone and campaigning for a new, better model. This month the kids are counselling/helping at various 4-H camps, in between various work projects. I think we’re all looking forward to a slightly quieter, more relaxing autumn!

“Sister Parish Design: On Decorating”

I’ve been reading and enjoying Sister Parish Design: On Decorating by Susan Bartlett Crater and Libby Cameron (St. Martin’s Press, 2009), which I found at the library. Crater is the granddaughter of celebrated American decorator and socialite Sister Parish (1910-1994). Sister Parish was the design partner of Albert Hadley (1920-2012), with whom she founded Parish-Hadley Associates (1962–1999), one of the top American interior design firms of the 20th century. Cameron worked for Sister Parish, and in 2001 Crater and Cameron started Sister Parish Design, a fabric and wallpaper company based on designs from the Parish-Hadley archives.

The book includes a good deal of Sister Parish’s design philosophy, as well as that of other designers, some with sometimes surprisingly practical advice (and some very sloppy editing, including the misspelling of architect Gil Schafer’s name). I’m saving some quotes from the book here to help me on the design journey for the new house:

:: Susan Bartlett Crater: The size of a house or rooms was never a big concern for [Sister Parish]. It was of more concern whether there was light, and ultimately, how practical the house or apartment would be. Dark rooms with no light or impractical houses that could never work for a family’s or a single person’s needs were characterized as “fatal,” her worst insult.

:: Bunny Williams: [In a kitchen] I like wood floors and I like bamboo floors, which are fabulous and very practical. I don’t like a hard floor like tile or marble, because if you drop a glass, for example, it shatters. It’s also hard to stand on, and it’s noisy. It can be a painted wood floor or a stained wood floor. I have to say Antique* makes the best-looking wood vinyl you have ever seen. I have it in my kitchen here in New York. It’s linoleum strips that look like wood. My kitchen is not huge, but it looks like it has a wonderful rich wood floor. Even Gil Schafer, who is the biggest purist, got down on his hands and knees and said, “I can’t believe it’s vinyl!”

:: Libby Cameron: I hang paintings and use furniture carefully, so that everything isn’t at the same height, so that your eye goes up and down around the room. I think it’s very important that everything in the room not be the same height, that there not be a waterline around a room. Skylines are created in rooms by the use of furniture, art, and curtains. I think that is one of the most important elements of a room to consider — creating a rolling horizontal line that takes your eye around a room.

:: Libby Cameron: I still have pieces that I found and loved when I first saw them thirty years ago … . What you buy should be bought on instinct, because you’re drawn to it. Never buy a piece just because you need something in that spot; that is how a house loses its soul.

:: Peter Dunham: I see a lot of people in the States, who basically want to live in a hotel or have the look of a hotel. I think this comes because, and this is a really snobbish thing to say, the American experience is much more limited. I mean compared to England, where there is always kind of a fancy house in the country near where you grew up, even if you grew up in a little village. In Europe, at one point or another, you are exposed to these palettes and you see the pinnacle of the amazing beautiful chateaus in France or the great country houses in England. Whereas I grew up thinking my inspiration is Lord and Lady something-or-other, who had an incredible house with incredible colors and beautiful paintings and furniture and it was all mixed together, and it was kind of roses and 17th-century Chinese porcelain. A lot of people here want what they last saw at the Four Seasons Hotel. 

:: Albert Hadley: Obviously, you can’t have much of an opinion if you don’t know anything about what you are talking about. You have to have some education or some exposure. I am always interested in young people who have some kind of knowledgeable background about the business and about the people who have been involved in it over the years. … When I was growing up, I was educated mainly from magazines because in those days that’s where you could get at it. All of the magazines were so fabulous because they showed how the best of the best people lived — the ladies and gentlemen of style and taste, and what their houses looked like. The articles were wonderful and many of the magazines in the thirties had marvellous illustrations by the artist of the day.


*I’m not sure which company Bunny Williams means with her reference to “Antique”. I’m wondering if she was interviewed on tape and some transcription errors; she could have been referring to Amtico.

Summer sky






June progress

:: School is officially done for the year and we now have one high school graduate, who will be celebrating with a party here with family and friends next weekend, more festivities than ceremony at her request. Finding a suitable date was difficult, between her job in town and other plans, which include a weeklong workshop for young birders at an Alberta observatory where she’ll be a participant as well as a team leader, and also a 4H Ambassador program, and her brothers’ summer plans. N is an escort for his good friend at today’s public school graduation ceremonies and in the middle of the month is off on a 10-day 4-H tour of the Northwest Territories. A leaves Sunday for a 5-day 4H counsellor training program. Each of the boys is counselling a 4H camp in August, and N also has 4H provincial judging for the second year in a row.

:: March and April were warm and very dry, but May and June have been hot and wet, very unusual, especially the moisture. It’s greener here in June than it’s been in 22 years, and the garden is doing beautifully.

In house progress, the metal panels are up in the garage, the drywallers have almost all of the boarding done, the siding has started going up, and we spent a day in Edmonton last week buying the remaining vanities at Ikea’s bathroom sale and also ordering the 48″ Bluestar RNB range in cobalt blue, which was as exciting as it was nerve-wracking. It’s a huge splurge, made possible by the Ikea vanities as well as the Ikea kitchen, and vinyl plank flooring instead of hardwood, etc. And I’m amortizing the cost of the new range with our current one, a 1950’s O’Keefe & Merritt gas range which we bought for $25 when we were first married, which works out to about $1/year. The salesman also tried, unsuccessfully, to talk us into a Bluestar wall oven, a $13,000 Liebherr refrigerator, and a $4,000 Bosch dishwasher (yikes). I’ve agonized over the Bluestar for several years now, but for our needs it ticks almost all of the boxes — eight burners, big oven, built very simply with few bells and whistles (including manual cleaning) so it shouldn’t need much in the way of repairs (much like our vintage range).

Also ordered when found on sale at Sears — the Electrolux 30″ Wave Touch dual fan convection single wall oven (model EW30EW55PS), which I read about at the AJ Madison website; I don’t plan to use the self-cleaning feature.

The metal siding going up in the garage,



With the siding finished, after our neighbourhood picnic (minus the tablecloths and jars of flowers, and with the addition of our Ikea purchases),


We had an interesting time getting all of this (below), and a bit more, in the back of our pickup truck last week, swathed in plastic to drive home through a thunderstorm; the vanities are Ikea’s 48″ black-brown Hemnes Odensvik with one sink and four drawers, on sale for $545. Each vanity will be placed between two Hemnes high cabinets, also on sale, for $209.


Some of the siding,


The colour is Mountain Arbor, which is a moss or olive green,



The corner of the back porch, with the doors that lead to the dining room and kitchen; we tried various window trims, including something a bit wider than this, but found it was too wide. Then we discussed porch ceiling material, and I seem to have successfully negotiated in favour of tongue and groove vs. perforated metal soffit. I’ll find out for sure when it goes up.


The arch between the kitchen and foyer,


The shelterbelt trees have been thriving with the almost constant rain,


The house and front yard, just after the boys finished baling the first cut of hay,


It’s kitten season again,


Also duckling and gosling season,