All is well

I do enjoy leaving posts in something of a cliff-hanger. But I didn’t want you all to worry going into this long Thanksgiving weekend. All is well.

That same evening we showed up to find the furnace not working, we did track the trouble down. I went down and attempted to hit the reset same switch I described finding and pressing in this post, only to find that there was no power going to the control board. The switch wouldn’t do anything. I checked the breaker, that was fine, I checked the fuse on the furnace itself, that LOOKED fine, so I was at a loss. We went around the house, then, firing up space heaters and getting the oil-burning stove running upstairs.

Coming back downstairs, I found my aunt and uncle in the kitchen, chatting with Erin. We shared a frustrated chuckle about the furnace and my uncle and I wandered down to look at it again. Running through all the checks again, my uncle said, “should we just replace that fuse?”

And so, going over to the workbench, we found a box full of old fuses, bolts, nuts, screws, nails, an old snuff tin, and various other bits and baubles. Scrounging through, I found a fuse that’d fit the bill. We screwed the old one out, the new one in, I hit the power switch and *whoomp* the furnace sprang to life.

We spent a warm evening.

The next day, I borrowed the farm truck and made the 20 mile trip to the nearest town and found the alternator I needed at the O’Reilly’s, there. Changing an alternator shouldn’t be too big a project as long as you can get to it. On that van, it sits right up front. The only catch is, the tensioner pulley that you need to get a wrench on so you can get the belt on and off of the alternator is NOT easy to get to. I couldn’t get a wrench on it. So, instead, I had to muscle the belt off and on again. It wasn’t easy, and I’ll spare you the cursing that accompanied the path to success. But I did find success.

It’s been a long road to get to here, and we’re not done working on the farm, but we are looking forward to this Thanksgiving weekend out at the farm. We’re looking forward to seeing the family that’ll be around. To those that won’t be, we’ll be thinking of you. Rest assured, there will be more opportunities for family time coming up.

And so, with that, Erin and I would like to wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving. Though things aren’t always easy, we know that we’ve definitely got plenty to be thankful for.

Cheers!

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Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale…

Late last week, Erin was on the road for work. In two days she’d done a whirlwind trip of Minnesota to make face-to-face meetings with some of her employees. Her old, 2006, Ford van performed admirably. It got her there and back again, narrowly missing a suicidal deer in the process. As she got back to town, however, her battery light came on. Moments later, it was off. Moments later it was on again. So when she got home, she informed me right away that there’d been trouble.

…A tale of a fateful trip.

So, knowing that she was hoping to head to the farm on Saturday for some putter-y projects, I took a look in the morning. The van fired right up and the battery light wasn’t on. I put a voltmeter on the battery terminals and found it was charging. A bit vigorously, even. I was seeing 15 volts. And so, I was prepared to write it off as a fluke.

That started from this “tropic” port,

We loaded up the van and hit the road. Shortly before hitting the interstate, the battery light came on again. We were idling at a stoplight at the time. I gave it a little gas and the light went back off. Huh

Aboard this tiny ship.

I accelerated onto the interstate, noted the light was off, and felt all was, well, not WELL, but not DIRE. Do I have a loose belt or something? I don’t hear any squealing…but anyway, the light is off.

The mate was a mighty sailin’ lad, the Skipper brave and sure. Five passengers set sail that day, for a three hour tour, a three hour tour.

So we’re cruising down the highway, radio is on, we’re singing along. As our exit comes up, about 35 miles from home, I turn off the cruise control and start to coast up the ramp. As soon as the cruise is off, the battery light is on again.

The weather started getting rough,

As I pull away from the stop sign, the battery light is off again, but a mile or so down the road I realize the radio isn’t playing anymore. I look back at our  youngest and ask, “did you turn the radio off?” He assured me that he hadn’t. I pressed the power button on the radio and the display read, “BATTERY LOW.”

“Oh, crap.” I muttered.

The tiny ship was tossed.

At that time, I looked up and realized that the external thermometer wasn’t displaying the temperature anymore, either.

“Ohhhh, crap.” I muttered again.

If not for the courage of the fearless crew, the Minnow would be lost. 

And so, even though it was dusk, I turned off our headlights. The temperature display came back. I turned them back on and the temperature display went away and the ABS light came on on the dash. We now didn’t have enough power in the system to even power the anti-lock brakes.

The Minnow would be lost.

Along the way to the farm, there’s a small town that we have to cruise through and make a turn in. The radio is off, the ABS light is on, our headlights are off, it’s getting darker and darker outside, and it’s time to make the turn. Out of habit, I click the blinker. It doesn’t engage, but the airbag light now comes on on the dash as well. Now we don’t have anti-lock brakes or airbags.

…So this is the tale of our castaways, they’re here for a long long time.

We’re 10 miles from the farm. I’ve got no headlights, an increasingly lit Christmas tree of lights on the dash from error indicators, and the occupants of the car are quiet and nervous.

They’ll have to make the best of things, It’s an uphill climb.

The nine miles until our turn-off are tense, but we do make them. When it’s time to turn again, I don’t attempt the blinker, we just roll through, taking the turn onto the gravel road a little quicker than we generally do. As we roll into the farmyard, there’s a collective sigh of relief. It’s dark, but we’re safe.

No phone, no lights, no motor car, not a single luxury. Like Robinson Crusoe it’s primitive as can be.

As we start to unload, Erin goes in and kicks the heat up. Except, the heat doesn’t kick on. The furnace is broken again. At least, if we can’t get the furnace running again, we have space heaters to keep us from freezing to death during another “relaxing” trip to the farm!

So join us here each week my friends,
You’re sure to get a smile,
From seven stranded castaways
Here on Gilligan’s Isle!

 

Taking out the chill

With our major projects done for the season, this past weekend we got the chance to go to the farm and start putting things back together. Erin actually spent several days and nights there, by herself, putting rooms back together and making things livable again. I’m going to let her write about that.

I’m going to tell you about my endeavor to get the heat working on the second floor of the house.

I’d explained earlier about the fuel oil furnace that heats the first floor of the house. That furnace also heats the south room upstairs. So, there are three rooms upstairs without any heat except what’s provided by this guy:

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Sitting in the hallway, for as long as I can remember, is this fuel-burning, “Super-Flame” stove.

I’d vaguely remembered that stove from my childhood. We spent many Thanksgivings and Christmases in this house, so this stove has a place in my memory. My uncles remember it better, having grown up with it and relied on it for years. Nobody could really tell me, though, when the last time was that it was used.

That it had seen a period of disuse was evident earlier this summer when I’d done a little cleaning in this stove. I’d vacuumed some soot out of the bottom and removed a desiccated bird that had made a fateful trip down the chimney, but I hadn’t actually tried to fire the thing up.

On Saturday, knowing we were on our way, my uncle had turned on the furnace for us.  So, when we arrived, the main floor was toasty warm. The upstairs, however, had to have been in the 50-degree range. A bit chilly! So, knowing Erin was going to spend the night, and knowing that we all planned to spend some nights there this winter, I decided it was time to see if this old stove would light again.

Heating doesn’t get much simpler than this. There’s a fuel tank with an oil control valve. You put fuel in, turn on the valve, fuel starts flowing into the stove, you drop a match in, and voila! heat! It’s a three-step process!

So? Step 1, put fuel in!

This step is accomplished by heading down to the basement, grabbing a nearby jar, and filling it up directly off the fuel line to the furnace, diverted from the outside tank. Like so:

See the red knob in the upper right? Place handy jar under the tubing above the coffee can with plate on it (demonstrated below by my lovely wife), open the valve, and fill up your jar!

Then it’s up the stairs and you dump that jar into the tank. Easy!

Then, on to Step 2! You turn the dial from “off” to “low” and wait for fuel to start trickling into the stove. Easy!

And you wait for fuel to come out. And wait for fuel to come out. And maybe adjust the dial from “low” to “high” and wait for fuel to come out.

And then you sigh, turn the dial from “high” to “off” and get down on your hands and knees, to investigate. Once there, you see there’s some words on top of the oil control, but they’re mostly covered up by years of dust and dirt, so you dip your finger in the nearly empty fuel jar and use the fuel to “clean off” the top so you can see what you’ve missed and find this

Ah! A handy arrow instructing you to press the “lever” for operation. So, you press the lever, hear the click, again turn the control knob from “off” to “low” and look for, hey! Fuel!

On to Step 3! Grandpa had matches all over the house. We found numerous matchboxes and matchbooks. But some of them, MOST of them, were really old. Ever used really old matches? They don’t work well. Sometimes they light. Sometimes they don’t. So, you open your first matchbook and strike, strike, strike, nothing. Drop the match in the bottom of the stove. So you grab another match and strike, strike, strike, hey! It lit! Drop the match in and…watch it go out as it hits the bottom. So you grab another match, the last one in this book, and you strike, strike, strike…toss the unlit match into the stove, grab the next matchbook, wonder why you didn’t think to buy new matches, strike, strike, hey! drop that match in and hey! the soot at the bottom is kind of acting as a wick for the fuel feeding in…that’s not exactly what I was expect…oh, it’s out. Another match! Strike, strike, strike, ok! lit again! burning a little, oh it’s out.

Of course. So you sigh again, turn the oil off again, and step back to ponder.

Pondering becomes the unplanned Step 4

So we ponder. We have fuel, we have fire, but it won’t stay lit. That’s gotta be an air problem.

So, how do you check airflow?

Checking airflow becomes Step 5, so you look down into the stove. And, that’s what it looks like. It looks open…like there should be air, you know, flowing…so, get down on the floor again and looking for some sort of air intake somewhere. Anywhere? Nothing? Some plugged filter somewhere?

Huh. Nope. Nothing apparent.

Finally, you decide to move to Step 6 which turns out to be reaching down there inside to feel around

and find that it’s sooty and dirty down there. So, Step 7 is underway when you grab a putty knife and scrape some more soot off the insides and start cleaning it out with your hand.  Step 8 is explaining to your child that it’s dangerous, possibly stupid, to be Step 9 grabbing handfuls of still-warm and fuel-soaked soot from the bottom of the stove and dropping them in the plastic wastebasket next to the stove (which you do not leave there, btw), before it’s back to Step 2 which is really starting to feel like Step 10 where you turn the fuel back on, and now on your fourth book of matches manage to get another match lit, drop it in and hey! bigger flame! Hey! You might be in luc…oh, it’s out.

So, you step back again, clean up your hands and chastise yourself for being an idiot before moving to Step 11 which should’ve been Step 5 in which you lower your phone into the bottom of the stove and shoot this picture:

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As you can see, Step 11 (or if you were smarter Step 5) has revealed the problem. So, a bit more scraping, some brushing of dust and such from the largely clogged air holes and:

With Step 12, I mean Step 3, you drop in a match from a box you managed to find in the basement after you’d already used every single other match that you knew existed in the whole house.

And you have success!!

All joking aside, when we finally did get it working, it burned itself out of fuel in about five hours. Erin put more fuel in later and had no trouble getting it to go again. I think that, with this working now, and possibly a space heater or two, we should be pretty comfortable for our winter nights on the farm.

Pane and suffering

I needed to use up some vacation time recently and took a five-day weekend to get some things around our house and the farm done.

With winter breathing down our necks, we knew we wouldn’t get to everything we’d hoped when we took on the farm house early this spring. But we felt that there were a few things that were in desperate need of attention. Namely, the windows.

We’re not sure how drafty the windows are, but we had similar ones in our first house, so we’re familiar with their challenges. We’d considered replacing all of the windows, but after reading some online sources, I found that if we get the originals and storms in decent working order, they could be nearly as energy efficient as new windows — without the larger expense or the potential for breaking up the plaster walls inside the house during replacement.

We knew that at least one window on the north side of the house was in dire need of help. The exterior sill is completely rotted and the rot had spread upwards into the side trim pieces of the window. It was really the project that intimidated me the most, so I decided to wait until Brian could come out to the farm with me so we could work through that mess together.

Instead, I decided to work on a couple of the other windows that needed attention, but weren’t in quite such dire condition.

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A piece of glass glued over the hole in another piece of glass? That’s too frugal even for me.

If you’re not dealing with rot, fixing up a window isn’t very difficult, just a bit time-consuming. I began by removing the storm windows. One, you can see, had an unusual repair done to it. I’m all for frugality, but a piece of glass glued over the hole in another is pushing it for me. I would’ve tried to just replace the pane, but didn’t think I’d be able to replace the dried-up rubber that had held the glass in place. Amazingly, I was able to find storm windows in-stock at Menards that were the correct size for several of the windows on the first floor. They’re Larson brand with low-E glass and less than $70 each, which I thought was pretty reasonable, especially while on sale.

I tackled four of the 10 first-floor windows. After removing the storms, I scraped off all loose paint on the window frames and trim. I then scraped and chipped out as much of the window glazing as possible. Glazing is the putty-like material that holds the glass in the window, as well as seals it to keep air from passing through. On those without rot, I immediately cleaned them up (a vacuum works well for this), then used an oil-based exterior primer, as recommended by the window glazing packaging. I moved from window to window, working on each step so while one’s primer was drying, I could be working on preparing the next window.

After the primer dried, I made sure there were enough glazier’s points holding in the glass (these are just little metal clips that are pushed into the frame of each sash to hold the glass in place). You them take a glob of glazing from the tub and push it into place along the glass and window frame. After getting the glazing smashed into place (you want it to form a wedge of material that will shed any water that may get against the glass), you run your putty knife along the glazing at an angle to smooth it out. I found an angled tool that I’d never seen before (and then looked up some videos online to find out how to use it) for smoothing out the glazing. I’m still not certain whether it’s more useful than just using a plain putty knife, but I think with a little more practice, it will be handy.

I tried to give the glazing a bit of time to set up before going back to paint the frames and window trim. The glazing is supposed to have 7-14 days to firm up, then be painted with an oil-based paint to seal it, but we just didn’t have weather (or time in our schedules) for that to happen, so I focused on getting the wood sealed instead. After the paint dried, I caulked everything that I could (without risking sealing the windows shut), and when Brian was there with me that weekend, we placed the new storms caulked them in place (but not the bottom of the storm. NEVER the bottom of the storm! You need to leave the weep holes open to help avoid the rot we’re dealing with now.).

Now, the two windows that had the rotted sills posed some extra problems. That’s where the suffering came in. First, I thought the sills were in two pieces and only the exterior piece was rotted. Unfortunately, that was not the case. It was one piece of wood that had been milled with slight lip on it, and the rot extended further than we initially though. Then, after digging out all of the rot, we found that it extended into the framework inside the wall that holds the window up. This was particularly true on the north window. We finally came to the conclusion that we’ll try to deal with that in the spring and we’d just deal with the outside issues for now (honestly, there’s a good chance that the windows have been in this condition for decades, so one more winter probably won’t make much of a difference).

The north window also had a broken pane in the lower sash. I ordered a new piece of glass from our neighborhood hardware store, since there’s nothing close to the farm. Brian and our youngest were able to get the old glass out safely (it’s somewhat unnerving to remove a 100ish-year-old piece of glass; I imagined all sorts of horrendous things happening if it happened to break unexpectedly) and went to place it in the window. And OF COURSE there was a problem. I’d measured the opening perfectly. But on the lower sash of these windows, the glass actually slides up into a groove at the top of the sash. It isn’t glazed in that area. So, the piece of glass I’d had cut was 1/4-inch too short for the window. Argh! I’d brought my glass cutter with me, so I checked some of the storms we’d removed to see if one of them could be cut to the correct size, but none were quite large enough. *sigh* There’s always a setback. And not being near a hardware store is just so frustrating, when you’re used to having several options within 10-20 minutes’ drive in town.

We switched our attention to the window trim… which I’d purchased pieces of wood that were too thick. *fantastic* Luckily, we were able to get the sills in place. To fill in the rotted area, I’d purchased a wood epoxy. It’s a several-stop process, where you brush a hardener onto the remaining strong wood, then mix a two-part epoxy putty-like substance that you press into place to form new “wood.” After it dries, you can sand, paint and drill or nail into it. I’ve never used this before, but my dad said he had with good results, so we went for it. I’m not sure that I got quite enough epoxy into the voids, but it will be fine for the winter and we can revisit them next year.

Finally, that Sunday, in cold, cruddy weather, Brian and I went out to the farm for just a few hours to finish things up. We got the correct pieces of wood for the side trim of the windows (we had to use decking material to have the correct thickness and my dad ripped them to the correct width on his table saw), finished placing, sanding, priming and painting the sills and placed the last two storm windows.

They look SO much better!

And now, the snow has already arrived, so we likely won’t be doing any more fixes until spring, but we made some progress. I’ve also convinced Brian that, after working on the windows and trim and finding more and more soft, rotten spots in the siding, we just need to accept the idea of having the house re-sided next year. We’ll continue to do smaller, more affordable projects inside the house during the winter, get the roof paid off, and start putting away some funds for new siding.

Potato Champagne – tasting

I know it’s been a couple weeks since we last posted. We did have a…fun? weekend, a couple weekends ago that dealt with windows. Erin, however, is going to be in charge of that post and she’s been busy. So, I’ve got something I can share.

If you happened to miss the blog post on the creation of potato champagne, you can find that here. I know some of you have been wondering how it turned out. This is that story.

In the last post on this, I let you all know that the original mix was very fruity, very sweet, and just a little potato-y. At the end of nine days, per the recipe, it was time to bottle. I didn’t, though. At that time, I opened it up and found that it smelled very much like a hard cider, but still pretty yeasty. It tasted much like a hard cider, but, pretty yeasty. So, I decided to go off-recipe, rack it again, and see what happened.

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Lots of yeast and citrus pulp left behind!

As weeks went by again, I’d draw a bit off from time to time and found the drink changing. It wasn’t so much a cider anymore, it was definitely becoming more of a white wine. Dry, fruity, just a little potato-y, and completely unique.

With a month gone by, I decided it was time to bottle. The drink had further settled, but, with no fining agents, didn’t come out clear. I didn’t expect it to. With some friends over one evening, I poured the first glasses.

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I would love to give you a flowery wine review here. Tasting notes, on the nose, etc. But this isn’t that. This tastes like something your great-grandparents made and drank because that’s what they had. It smells like a citrusy, yeasty, white wine, perhaps spiked with some cheap vodka. So, I guess I’m saying, it can’t hide what it is.

At the same time, this isn’t, by a far stretch, the worst thing I’ve ever drunk.

Reviews from friends have been…mixed. The general consensus is, it gets better after the first glass. There’s some evidence that it may make you sweat. But, it didn’t give me a hangover after a couple glasses, nor have I dumped the bottles I have down the drain. In fact, I may be considering another batch. It seems like something I should have on hand out at the farm.

So, next time you’re in the neighborhood, and you’re ready for something new, inquire about availability.

Until then, cheers!

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Back to (the) business (of floors) part 47

So yeah, it’s another post about floors. But, before you go, it might actually be the penultimate post about floors. So, if you’re tired of hearing about how we made the floors look pretty, that’s fine…you can go. But if you want to hear about how the flooring project concluded, read on!

To start with, the dining room floor still look fantastic.

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We’re two coats of poly in, and we’re going to be done at three. So, this job’s almost done.

Erin and our youngest had also done a heckuva job sanding in the parlor. While I was working on the furnace, Erin was doing the last little bit of hand-sanding. Then it was going to be a couple passes with the rental sander and we were going to put the poly on! So, we unloaded the beast from the van again and got it all set up. Paper on! Headphones on! Go for sand!

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Except, as it turned out I WASN’T go for sand.

I clicked the switch on the sander and…much like the furnace…nothing happened. There are separate switches for the sander and the vacuum on the sander. So, I clicked each, independently. Nothing. From either of them. I checked all the connections. Nothing. I called to Erin, “honey? can you check the breaker? I may have blown one.”

“Yep!”

*sound of footsteps going downstairs*

*sound of clicks of random breakers*

*more clicks of breakers*

*sound of Bri going downstairs to see what’s going on*

As it turned out, none of the breakers were tripped. Back upstairs we went. Just to make sure, I plugged the sander into another outlet. Still nothing. We’d hauled this 200 pounds of sander out to the farm a third time to finish the job and the thing is DOA.

As I turned to Erin, the look of disappointment/disgust/disbelief on her face as we were THIS CLOSE to finishing this project but had one more unforeseen hurdle to jump was…well, it was something. We certainly weren’t going to drive an hour back to town to exchange the sander. This project was getting done. I said, “Don’t worry about it, I’ll just finish it by hand.”

She looked at me, sighed, shook her head, and said, “No, we’ll finish it.”

And we did. On our hands and knees. We sanded the whole parlor floor. We did a light sand in the dining room and, at the end of it, a fresh coat of poly on both.

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It was a long, hard road. And at the end of the day, again, we hurt pretty much everywhere. But I know that we’ll be happy with these floors for many, many, years.

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I don’t think I’ll miss my polyurethane applicator

 

 

 

 

Back to business

Hello all! Sorry it’s been so long, but with school starting up again and various work and personal trips here and there we haven’t found any time to get out to the farm. But with autumn setting in and projects still to do, Erin and I set aside last weekend and this coming to get some more work done, finally!

The goal was simple. Finish the dining and parlor floors. With two coats of poly on the dining room floor and sanding ALMOST done in the parlor, it was just a matter of renting the floor sander one last time and getting this project crossed off the list!

Saturday morning, however, I woke up COMPLETELY unmotivated for the day. There’s stuff I should really do at home, and it’s been a long time since we’ve just been able to sit and do nothing and gosh it’d be nice to just have one of those days but, no. No. The trip was necessary. So, we packed up the van, rented the sander, and out to the farm we went.

Turning off the highway, with the farm in sight, my uncle calls. Two things are on his mind. First, he wanted to know how close we were because he left the pickup running in the yard. We were close, no problem shutting it off. The second thing was more concerning. Knowing we were coming, he’d gone and opened up the house and thought he smelled something burning. He couldn’t find anything, but thought he should give us the heads-up.

So, in an instant, the day’s priority list went from:

  1. Finish sanding and polying the floors

To:

  1. Turn off the pickup
  2. Make sure the house isn’t on fire
  3. Finish sanding and polying the floor

OK!

So we pull up, I hop out and get the pickup shut off (The heater in there works really well, by the way), and we make our way into the house. The smell of burning wasn’t faint. It was definitely prominent. I thought it was kind of like burnt toast, Erin thought it smelled like a pie had bubbled over in the oven and burned. Something wasn’t right. So, we set to work trying to find the source. Agreeing that it was strongest in the kitchen, we looked everywhere. With almost nothing plugged in, we couldn’t figure out what in the world could be causing it. We checked upstairs and downstairs and all the rooms in between.

Nothing.

There was just nothing that we could point to as the origin of the smell. Not able to find the source, but relatively certain the house wasn’t burning down, but at the same time wishing we’d bought the fire extinguishers we’d been talking about, we decided to set about the day keeping a nose out for trouble.

With task 1 out of the way and 2 partially completed, a third task popped up. It was cold in the house. Not, like, “freeze the pipes” cold, but it was 60 in there and 50-something outside. It wasn’t going to get a lot warmer, so we conceded it was time to flip on the furnace. To the thermostat! It was already in the heating position and set at 50. I turned it up to 70, expecting the click and the whir of the furnace. Instead? Nothing. No click. No whir. Just cold. So, I did what you always do when the thermostat doesn’t do what you wanted it to. I cranked it all the way off and all the way on. It’s reading 60. It should click on when I crank it to 90. It didn’t.

“Honey?” I called.

“What?” Erin replied.

“Thermostat might be broke.”

“I have another one!” She replies.

Of course she does.

And though, in the back of my mind I’m thinking, “These old mercury thermostats almost never go bad. It can’t be that it’s just bad, can it?” Erin’s hoarding I MEAN SAVING, tendencies have at least given me the option to try a new thermostat as part of my troubleshooting process.

“Oh, you do?” I call back, “you’re the best honey!”

“Yep! Just gotta…” she trails off as I hear things scraping around as she moves boxes and furniture and more boxes “I know it’s in here somewh*garbled*” And after a few more moments, which may have included a heavy thud, I hear, “Here it is!”

And so, I set to work changing out the thermostat. In moments we went from this:

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to this:

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Getting all the guts together, I turned on the heat, got the click I was looking for, but no whir. The furnace didn’t start.

*sigh*

To the basement!

The farm has a fuel-oil furnace. I’ve never had one. Well, my parents did, but I never had to do any troubleshooting on it. Dad was still handling all the repairs those days. All my furnace experience is with natural gas. How hard could it be? So I checked the easy stuff. Breaker was on. There’s a fuse on the furnace, that looked fine, but I swapped it anyway. Still nothing. So I pulled the cover.

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Yep! That’s a thing!

So I’m looking and I immediately register two things.

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This button

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this wrench

So, I did what any red-blooded tinkerer would. Decided I should press the button and then maybe hit it with a wrench!

So I pressed the button. The circuit reset and the furnace whirred to life! Success! Proud of myself, I grabbed the cover to put it back in place, when the furnace died again.

Huh.

Convinced I was on the right track, I grabbed the wrench. No, I didn’t start whacking anything. But I did press the button one more time. Furnace whirred to life again, and I paid closer attention this time. Pretty sure the motor engaged, an ignition sequence initiated, and then there was a shutdown. The thing wasn’t getting fuel.

So I looked a little closer and found this guy

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That looks like a bleeder valve and, when I tried the wrench on it, it was a perfect fit. Suddenly it all clicked into place. Looking over to the workbench, I saw a little jar. I grabbed it, opened the valve, and pressed the button again. Fuel and air came out the bleeder, the furnace whirred to life and this time, there was that satisfying “whoompf” as the fuel ignited.

Pickup turned off, house not burning down, thermostat changed, and furnace troubleshot, it was finally time to get to work on the floors.

 

 

Labor Day(s) – Part Three

Monday morning, sore and tired, we again got up to tackle the dining room floor. With just a little more touch-up, there was going to be poly. For an hour or so, the three of us worked on the floors putting the finishing touches by hand. Finally, we declared the floors ready for their finish sand and the big floor sander came back out. Having done the 36-grit, I went over the dining room with 50 and then 80-grit paper. Honestly, though it had been a ridiculous amount of work, and running, the dining room was ready for poly. With time winding down on our self-imposed, noon deadline to stop work, the floors got a vacuum, a dry mop, and the girls went out to start cleanup while I finally started to get some poly on the floor.

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Even the first couple feet of poly and the floor looked fantastic.

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The color and the grain and the character all had me feeling like this wasn’t wasted effort.

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So, at the end of the long weekend, we’d accomplished a little more than half of what we’d intended. We had some adventures and frustrations along the way, but the transformation was dramatic. And, we feel, worth the effort. We’ll be back soon to finish the parlor up as well. We’re looking forward to putting this project to bed.

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Before

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After

The Rest of the Story…

The story of our roadtrip does lose something when written down, but, here it is:

So, our friend and I went into town (with a short detour for a 5-minute tour of the tiny town near the farm) and Googled the nearest hardware store. The nearest decent-sized town isn’t a big city, but there’s a small college there, so it’s not miniscule. We found a tiny little Ace Hardware downtown. We walked in and when asked what we needed help with, I said “I need a belt sander.” The guy said, “Man, everyone must be working on their floors this weekend. Are you sanding your floors?”

I said, “Yes.”

“Boy, I never sell belt sanders, and I’ve sold two today. My only two.”

*sigh* “Do you know of anywhere else in town we could get one?”

“Not today. Not on a Sunday.”

Aack!!!

So, rather than drive the (now) hour and a half back to Fargo, we attempted to find some supplies to MacGyver the sander. Finding some gasket material and electrical tape that is good to 220 degrees, we paid and headed back out. But before heading back to the farm, we decided to be SURE that there were no other options for a sander nearby. The other hardware store that’s open on Sundays? It was closed due to the holiday weekend. So, we tried a Shopko, thinking it might be like at Kmart — but it didn’t sell tools, either. Shopko. Not like Kmart. Got it.

So, we decided to hit the liquor store before heading home. I needed margarita mix for the tequila our friend had brought.

We stopped at a liquor store with two women, seemingly loitering outside, and wondered if IT was open. Our friend suggested we take our cue from the women outside, “They look like they know their way around.”

And indeed they did, so when they went inside, we followed them in. Turns out that one of the women was the clerk, who’d been outside for her smoke break.

Finding the margarita mix was no problem and we went up to pay, but when we did, I saw something strange: little packets of pickle juice that were meant to be frozen into popsicles.

“So… pickle juice popsicles? That’s a thing?” I asked.

“Oh, yeah,” the woman said. “People like them in bloody Marys or I like them in beer with tomato juice.” She continued, “They’re GREAT on a hot day like today. I could be sitting home drinking them, getting LOADED, but instead I’m here. And it’s been busy today.”

Our friend and I mumbled our sympathies, paid and hustled out the door, barely able to hold back our laughter. We both agreed that the way she’d said that she could be getting LOADED made it sound like that was her second job…that she wished was her first.

We headed back to the farm, through road construction, a bit dejected over our failed shopping trip, but hopeful we could “Schulz it up” (that’s a family reference to making due with what you have, whether it’s because you don’t have the proper materials or you’re using a cheaper alternative).

Our friend set to dismantling the sander to try to make our modifications to it — while we all had a much-deserved drink. I headed back to the dining room to try to make just a bit more progress before leaving the house for dinner.

That old, cheap sander didn’t go down easy, though, and refused to come apart (even though our friend’s an engineer and pretty handy with tools). So into the garbage it went … along with any hopes of finishing both the sanding in both rooms.

So… to heck with it. We cleaned up a bit and headed to Bri’s aunt and uncle’s house who graciously were cooking our food at their place — in the much-needed air conditioning. We enjoyed great food, drinks and cool air for a few hours before heading back to the farm for a bonfire (in the grill, because we haven’t found or created a fire pit yet) before bed.

Labor Day(s) – Part Two

After disposing of the couch and thereby ensuring the safety of our soon-to-be-again beautiful hardwood, Erin and I got down to business sanding again. The plan for today was (again) to finish sanding and to get a coat of poly on before dinner. We were expecting a good friend of ours to come spend the evening and had also invited my uncle and aunt to come over and grill that night. And, in the dining room, things were taking shape.IMG_6838

Erin was working with our old, trusty, Black and Decker belt sander that we’d bought 17 years ago to re-do the floors in our first home, and I was sanding away with the floor unit.

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In a super-stylish mash-up t-shirt no less!

A couple hours go by, our friend shows up, and she grabs a hand-sander as well to help Erin while I continue to work on the broad strokes.

It’s not 20 minutes later that Erin’s standing in front of me, frowning. I shut down my sander, remove my noise-cancelling headphones, and ask, “What’s up?”

“I broke the sander,” she says disgustedly.

I raise a Spock-like eyebrow and she proceeds to tell me, with periodic sighs and head-shaking, that she managed to sand over the cord, which then got stuck in the belt sander, and when she pulled the cord out, she damaged the roller that holds the sandpaper on.

So I had a look. It was, in fact, broken.” The roller had been covered in a gasket-like foamy/rubber, and that was all torn off in patches on the roller. Without that coating, the sandpaper wouldn’t stay on the sander. Not enough friction or tension to keep the paper in place.

I looked at my watch. It was about 2:30, and though we did have another finishing sander she could’ve used, we didn’t have the low-grit paper we needed to make that sander effective. So, it was either going to be that one of the gals wasn’t going to have a job, or that I wasn’t going to have a job (which I didn’t believe was going to be an option for a moment), or I could send her the 20 miles to the nearest town to try to buy a sander.

The road trip won out and the girls took off, it turned, for adventure! But you’ll have to wait for that. Erin will have to let you in on the rest of that story.

Having been at the sanding for another 4-5 hours today, it again become apparent that we just weren’t going to get both the floors ready for poly today. It killed me to admit it, but it just wasn’t going to happen. I was, again, running low on the 36-grit sandpaper and, honestly, that floor sander just wasn’t going to finish the job.

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I was going to have to get in there, on my hands and knees, and get the remaining stuff up by hand. But, realizing the amount of work still ahead of me in the parlor, I decided to focus on the dining room. It was just hours away from dinner, after all…

Dinner.

Here I stood, again, in the hot house, not nearly as far along as we intended, with almost nothing to show, and we were supposed to be hosting dinner in a couple hours.

I called my uncle and asked if there was any chance that they’d be willing to host dinner, in their air-conditioned and totally comfortable house instead of coming over to this one with no a/c (because we didn’t want to blow all the sawdust around), and frankly, nowhere to sit because the table was in the kitchen laying on its side. He graciously agreed, and I got back to work.

Lowering my expectations, I decided that, if we really got on it, there shouldn’t be any reason that we couldn’t get at least one room in this house sanded enough to get a coat of poly on it before we left on Monday. And so, that’s what I did. On my hands and knees, I set to touching up the sanding left in the dining room.

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I’d made some pretty good progress again by the time the girls got back. But they walked in without a sander.

“No luck?” I asked?

Then it was storytime…