A fresh coat of paint and floors rediscovered!

One of the things I’ve been looking forward to since we began this project was pulling up the carpet in the parlor. To refresh your memory:

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Growing up, there wasn’t carpet in that room for the first, oh, decade of my life? Not sure exactly, but I know there’s hardwood in there. It’s been covered up with carpet for a long, long time now, waiting for me to show it the light of day. Had it not been for practicality, I’d have pulled it up the same weekend we pulled the linoleum off the dining room floor. But, as the parlor needed paint, may as well leave the built-in drop cloth, right? Our oldest son had gotten the ceiling painted in this room, so all that was left was the walls.

You’ve heard Erin mention her frugality before, right? You didn’t miss that? Well, she found a 5-gallon bucket of beige paint for, like, $20 and declared, “All the downstairs rooms will be this color now.” Which was fine with me. Beige doesn’t really do anything for me, but that’s the point, right? Beige doesn’t do anything for anyone. It’s just…there. Anyway, I’ve done enough painting with my wife to know that, even if it’s the plan, I should test a little area first, and let her see it, before painting the entire wall. So, I called her in to the parlor as I put the first paint up on the wall.

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Can you see it? The new paint? No, I barely could, either. I turned back to my wife who had this mixed look of apprehension and enthusiasm. It was as if she KNEW how excited I was going to be repainting the whole room almost exactly the same color.

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“Man, what a difference!” I declared, in my dry, sarcastic way. To which Erin responded something like, “At least we know we’ll like the color! Thanks, baby!” and scampered off to do more of what she was doing. Reminding myself that I couldn’t get the carpet up until this painting was done, I got to painting. Lighting can be a tricky thing. And so, while you can see a difference in the tint and sheen above, when the light was different, it was really hard to tell where I’d painted and where I hadn’t. Example:

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See how you can JUST, maybe? barely? see? But, in the end, I got it done. It was time for the main event. I called Erin down again, and we set to work.

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It was my job to cut and rip the carpet up, Erin took to removing the padding.

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With, I kid you not, “We Are the Champions” playing on the radio in the background, Erin rolled back that padding to reveal, just like I remembered it, the parlor’s hardwood floors.

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These, like the dining room, are really in good shape. Just going to need some refinishing. They’re not perfect, though. There is a patch, between the columns, between the parlor and dining room, where there used to be a grate for the old, radiant, basement furnace.

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Erin and I are currently in discussions about how best to deal with that.

But! Painting the parlor the same color, aside, we walked away from this day, feeling good!

 

Are we seriously not done with these floors yet?

On Saturday, after Erin’s week of working on the farm, she convinced (read: guilted) me into heading to the farm for a day of work. And though I was really hoping for a day of lounging about, considering the work she’d done, I didn’t have much of a leg to stand on and off we went. I WAS looking forward to seeing the progress she’d made over the week. Knowing that she’d been able to get that coat of poly on the upstairs hallway meant that we were finally done with the floors up there.

Or so we thought!

You see, what I hadn’t told any of you, is the poly that she’d selected for the floors is, apparently, some really, really, really tricky stuff. Knowing that the glossier the finish, the more glaring the imperfections, Erin went with a satin finish poly. Which was fine. That’s not how I wanted/expected the poly to be, but, Erin got the west room done just fine and it looked good!

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Clearly all sealed up, not too shiny. That’ll work just fine. So, I gave it a go:

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No problem, poly went on lickety split. It was much glossier going on than what Erin had when it all dried, but I figured that was just the way it was and it’d dry with a satin finish.

Yeah….that’s not what happened at all.

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Two days later and the poly was dry! And…all shiny! Well, doggone it. What about the south room, then?

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Well, look at that! Part of it’s pretty shiny and part of it’s pretty satin-y. That’s not what we’re going for at all! Seeing all that, it made me realize that the thicker the coat, the glossier it’d dry. For whatever reason. That’s what happened. In the south room, here, the closer to the door, the closer to the end of the first can of poly. So, I put it on a bit lighter. Going back over the north room with a really, really, light coat, it did dry satin. Even over the really shiny:

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Except right at the junction between the north room and the hall, that finish “satined” right up!

I did convey all of that to Erin. So it’s not like I purposely sabotaged her efforts in the hallway. Perhaps she was just overconfident with her success in the west room. Perhaps she was just too tired after the whole week of work. Regardless, when we got there on Saturday:

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Look at that beautiful, shiny hallway!!

Honestly, I do like the shine. Erin, however, isn’t as impressed. Especially at the thresholds where the difference is evident:

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Pretty stark difference there between the hallway and west room.

So, though frustrated, we decided to leave it. At least for now. There are other projects yet to work on. We can always tweak the hallway later.

Vacation: Days 6-7

Well, here it is, the end of my time off and I’m behind on blog posts.

On Thursday, I spent the day at home working on a few projects around the house and beginning work on my oldest son’s T-shirt quilt for his dorm room. My mom and I got a good start on that  — until we ran out of interfacing and had to quit until I can get more ordered online. I count 100 T-shirts I saved from school, Scouts, sports and music groups and events from the time he was in kindergarten. There should be plenty for a quilt (possibly front and back!).

Friday I was back at the farm.

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First coat of poly is finally on the stairs!

It wasn’t a super eventful day. More of the same, it seemed: I got a first coat of primer on the West room closet, put a second coat of poly on the upstairs hallway and a first coat on the stair treads. All necessary work, but a bit unexciting.

One of the most exciting parts of the day was my first injury of this project (unless you count sore thighs from crouching while scrubbing floors, which I won’t). Luckily it wasn’t nearly as bad as I first feared. I was trying to open a window a bit wider to turn a box fan to blow into the room. As you might imagine, the window sashes don’t all slide smoothly, so it jammed a bit and when I pushed upward on it, I managed to smash the middle and ring fingers of my left hand between the upper and lower sashes… and the window trapped them there. I panicked and yanked on them, but they stayed firmly between the sashes until I pulled the lower sash back down with my right hand. I thought for sure I’d have a nasty bruise under my fingernail (I’ve seen my dad deal with those a few times and it wasn’t pretty), so I immediately iced my hand and took ibuprofen and soon continued with my work. The fingers were sore at the joint for a couple days, so I think I had a minor sprain, but nothing major, and I’m fine now.

Another bit of excitement was clearing the last of the mayo and spaghetti sauce jars from the basement. Bri’s grandparents had quite a collection there, accumulating dust and dead spiders, so I’ve been bringing dozens back to town to recycle. I actually love old jars, so I left all of the canning jars, old blue Mason jars and some that were pressed glass and cool shapes. The rest came back to town with me.  I’ve spared you the horror of the jar that I found with 3 or 4 mummified frogs in it. I suspect some child may have collected them in the jar years ago, set them on the shelf and they were sadly forgotten. Sorry frogs!

I also got the last five bags of aluminum cans out of the basement this week and recycled them, bringing the grand total to about $25 made on the cans. Thanks, Grandpa!

While none of the projects may be really exciting or photogenic, it was still really satisfying to cross a couple more things off my lists. And Brian and I made some more exciting progress on Saturday. Stay tuned!

 

 

Vacation: Days 2-5

Days off always seem to go so quickly!

Since my last post, we had Brian’s 95-year-old great-aunt visit us at the farm on Sunday. What a treat that was for all of us! She came in with photocopies of pictures of the family and farm as well as images from magazines of items that used to be at the farm.

She walked through every room in the house, including the musty basement and told us her memories of the house: who’d slept in each room, where the potato bin was in the basement (and that they’d eaten potatoes at every meal), how they used a cistern pump for clean water in a sink in the bathroom that was then dumped into the “slop” bucket to be tossed outside later. She said she didn’t think she’d been to the basement since she was in high school, so she was excited to see if things looked like she remembered. She even knelt down at the floor grate on the second floor to show us how they’d kneel down to listen in on the adults’ conversations when company was visiting.

It was so nice to hear her memories of the house and farm from her firsthand and I think she enjoyed being back in her childhood home and seeing the progress we’re making toward making it the family hub again.

On Monday, I brought my parents out for their first visit to the farm. We took a roundabout route, stopping in the nearby larger town for some antiques and thrift shopping (no big treasures were found this trip) and lunch at a local restaurant before going to the farm.

As we’ve mentioned before, my parents are a wealth of information for remodeling for Brian and I. They’ve worked on every home they’ve lived in and I grew up in a house built around the same time as the farm house was. I wanted their advice on a couple of upcoming projects at the house: the siding and the windows.

We walked around the house and looked at the worst of the rot on the window frames and siding. We’re all in agreement that a couple of the window frames need to be completely rebuilt. Some of the rot has migrated into the siding, but it may only be one piece, so Dad said we could probably just remove and replace that one. He also thinks that the house can be repainted, though it’ll take a lot of scraping to get it ready. It looks like we’ve got a plan for our big projects before the snow flies. Now, to find the time to tackle them.

On Tuesday, I stayed at home and spent much of the day with my oldest, shopping for supplies for his dorm room and helping him begin to round up books for his classes.

Yesterday was another day on my own at the farm. Well, not completely alone, since I got to visit with Bri’s uncles and aunt throughout the day. His uncles have started the wheat harvest, but it started to rain, so they all came in to chat over strudel that was brought by their cousin on Sunday.  I’m not sure that there’s much that could be better than visiting over strudel on a rainy afternoon after a full day of work.

I puttered around the house most of the day, trying to figure out exactly what should be the priority for my time. With so many projects on my list, it’s often easy to get distracted each time I go into a new room.

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Good thing my hairdresser cancelled my appointment Tuesday. Hair care is clearly moot for me.

I spent the majority of my time finishing the painting in the East room’s closet. The old beadboard is cool, but so very dark, so I primed and painted it from top to bottom. My youngest had put the first coat of primer on the walls weeks ago and I did a second coat yesterday, then primed and painted the floor, too. The slanted ceiling made it a challenge, and I ended up (as I usually do) with paint on myself from head to toe.

I also cleared some more empty jars from the basement. I’m leaving all of the cool old jars that I hope to use to store different kitchen staples eventually. But the old mayonnaise and other nondescript non-canning jars are being hauled back home to be recycled.

While down there, I brought up a few random plates and this pretty pitcher that were covered in dust on the shelves. The pitcher cleaned up beautifully. That’s one great thing about not having a dishwasher: the colors on the Pyrex and other kitchenware still have vibrant colors.

The other big accomplishment of the day was getting our central air fixed. We’re lucky to have central air on the main floor and one upstairs bedroom, but it wasn’t cooling much, which made it uncomfortable on the 90+degree days recently. So, a repairman visited yesterday, refilled the coolant and put in some stop-leak solution that seemed to take care of things nicely. It should make it much more pleasant to work and visit the house with the air working again!

For today, I’m staying in town for a dentist appointment and to get my mom’s help on a T-shirt quilt for my oldest so he’ll have something to cover his bed when he moves out in a couple weeks!

I hope to make it back to the farm tomorrow to check a few more things off my lists!

Vacation Day 1: Tidying up

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The East room quilt is a plus pattern, using $3 fill from the thrift store, fabric from a curtain from my childhood bedroom, a couple pieces of fabrics from Brian’s mom’s stash when she passed away and some of the hundreds of spools of thread I’ve acquired from his grandmother’s collection.

Woo hoo! I have a week off from my full-time office job and have been looking forward to spending a lot of time at the farm.

I’m trying not to set my expectations too high so I don’t get frustrated by not checking everything off a massive list. Brian works all week, so I’ll be on my own most days.

We’re looking forward to a special visitor tomorrow, so today I went out the the farm to tidy up a few things. Brian’s great-aunt is coming to visit us. She’s Bri’s grandfather’s last living sibling and grew up in the house we’re fixing up, so we’re looking forward to hearing her memories of the house and how it’s evolved in her 95 years.

 

Most of my work was making the upstairs bedrooms look more like finished rooms. They’re not finished, but they’re definitely getting closer.

 

I finished my second quilt for the house this past week (and vowed to never attempt a king-size quilt again) and put that in the East room.

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The North room quilt used a torn sheet that I nabbed from my grandparents’ house, some moss green sheets that I’d used as curtains in our first house, and some fabric from my stash.

I hung curtains in the North room. The curtains actually sheets that we used as curtains for the bay window in our old house. I cut a couple up for the quilt in the room, then used a couple more for the curtains. The quilt ended up a bit smaller than I’d intended, so it’s at the foot of the bed, over a comforter my mom had given me several years ago. The bedskirt in the room is one that I’d apparently given her a few years ago (but don’t remember at all) and she no longer needed it, so she gave it to me for the farm.

I have to tell you… I used the iron that I found in the laundry room/bathroom of the farm and I’d bet it’s from around the 1960s. Holy cow, does that thing kick wrinkles’ butts! It’s big, heavy and was SO HOT to work with in 90-degree weather, but I’m kind of in love with it!

There’s plenty more projects to take care of, but I’ll keep you all posted on the progress I make this week!

 

Not ready to farm … yet

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My 3-foot by 6-foot raspberry bed.

When Bri and I began talking about taking on his grandparents’ farm house, we started dreaming about the things we could do with the place. Would it just be a weekend retreat? A full-time home? A hobby farm? Could we grow grapes for wine? Raise bees for honey? The ideas were endless from the possible to the ridiculous.

I’ve enjoyed gardening in our yard in town for several years. We have an odd nook in our yard that’s fenced and hidden from the areas where we grill, swim and lounge, so it’s been a great spot for my eight raised garden beds.

A few years ago, I planted a few raspberry canes in one of the beds. Who doesn’t like berries? My parents had a large shelterbelt around the yard of the small acreage that I grew up on and my dad added hundreds of trees over the years, including many fruit trees and berry bushes that we enjoyed during the years they lived there.

I thought that if I planted the raspberries in raised beds, they might not spread quite so badly… that was a bust, so we’re constantly pulling up or mowing suckers.

We finally had a few raspberries 3 summers ago. They were great, but as soon as they got really ripe, they were infested with beetles. I learned that if we picked them when they were red, but not purple, we could save them.

Last year, though, the fruit flies showed up. We noticed a lot of them on the raspberries, which didn’t seem like a big deal, until my youngest noticed the worms inside the berries. Ugh. So disgusting.

I did some research and found out they’re called Spotted Wing Drosphila. The state extension service information was not promising. The flies lay their eggs in the berries before they’re ripe, so just around the time that they’re perfect to eat, the insides are filled with squirming worms. They’re not dangerous to eat, but who wants to eat fly larvae? Yuck.

There are pesticides to try, but from what I could figure out, you need to put them on the fruit, but you can’t eat the fruit for several days after spraying… longer than it takes for the fruit to ripen and rot on the canes. So that seems useless. And I’m not crazy about the idea of eating berries covered in chemicals.

I also read that having good air flow and sunlight help fend off the flies, so we tried to thin the canes well this spring, but they grow so quickly that the patch was soon crowded and thick with new canes again.

This summer I had high hopes that we’d have lots of healthy berries. The bushes were covered and the first few raspberries were tasty and worm free. I was looking forward to canning some jam.

But it was not to be. I soon started seeing the flies… and then the worms. *sigh* I read

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The flies might not seem like a big deal, but their worms inside are pretty disgusting.

again, looking for other ideas to deal with the flies, but I didn’t find anything new.

I picked raspberries, inspecting each one carefully to check for worms, but on Monday night, I threw out more than I kept, wondered how many of the ones that I thought were fine were actually infested, and decided I’d had enough. I started pulling out the canes.

I decided that it was less depressing to have no raspberries, than to have hundreds that we’d never want to eat.

So, I went to get Brian and we pulled out the entire patch.

I thought of our family members who are farmers and the frustrations of weeds, pests and weather that they have to deal with every year. We won’t have a few jars of jam as a result of the flies, but they could lose an entire year’s revenue with an ill-timed storm.

So for now, I’ll stick with the tomatoes in my garden and my 40+ hours-per-week desk job, rather than considering making my living from honey, berries or wine. But I’m going to keep dreaming about bees and grape vines on the farm.

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The end of the raspberries… For this year, at least.

First night at the farm

The same day Humphrey came home was to be our first night on the farm. The boys both worked that day, so Erin and I planned a day full of work getting ready for our first overnight there.

Having used the sander to rough up the rest of the upstairs floors, it was time for me to get some more staining done.

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While I did that, Erin was busy working on the mop board in the east room. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but for some reason, none of the upstairs bedrooms or hallways had any mop board. The main floor has really tall, great, mop boards:

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but there was never any upstairs. Time to change that!

Downstairs, the trim measures about 7″. So we decided to go big upstairs as well and bought a bunch of 1×6 pine. Since the rest of the upstairs woodwork has been white forever, rather than try to change all that, this trim’s going in white as well.

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Done with my staining, Erin put me in charge of sanding while she carefully cut and installed trim.

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The day went by pretty quickly and soon I found it was time to head back to town to pick up the boys. Being the weekend before the 4th, the boys and I decided that our first night on the farm should also have fireworks.

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The good folks at Memory Fireworks set us up pretty well. It’d taken me longer to get the boys, the groceries, and the fireworks than I planned. By the time I was firing up the grill to cook dinner, the sun had begun to set. But we had a gorgeous sunset that evening.

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And while I stood by the grill, appreciating the sunset, and the quiet, history and nostalgia started to set in. I remembered my childhood weekends on the farm with family members that are gone. I remembered my brother, my mother, Grandma and Grandpa. I sent both my uncles a text that we were feeling pretty fortunate to have such a great evening. I also really appreciated that tie to the past that I was feeling.

And so, after we’d set off all sorts of impressive fireworks, we ended the night sending up memory lanterns for all our family members who are no longer with us.

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So, sure the mosquitoes were ferocious. Sure we were exhausted from another long day’s work on the farm. But in the end, I don’t know that we could’ve had a more meaningful, or memorable, first night back on the farm.

 

 

Never too late to learn

In our “about” page on this blog, one of the things I hoped was that we’ll inspire. This past week, I heard from a friend that we’d done just that. After seeing our posts on refinishing the hardwood, they were going to also take it on in their own home. So we sent some texts back and forth. I advised and encouraged and they went for it. I got some texts while they were in the process and all seemed to be going well. A day later, though, I got a text saying that the staining came out terribly and could feel the frustration and disappointment.

We’ve been in the position in (many) DIY projects where we’re over our heads and overwhelmed. In the past, Erin and I have been very fortunate to have our families’ experience to back us up. Erin’s folks and my dad have put in countless hours providing advice and labor on projects. It’s why we’re as confident as we are to take on the projects we are.

So, hearing that a friend of mine was in dire straits, after undertaking a project I assured him could be undertaken, gave me a sense of responsibility to try to help fix it.

A couple things had gone wrong in their project. First, they’d rented a drum sander (basically a big belt sander) to do the stripping, something I’ve never done because I’ve heard they can be tricky to use and that proved to be true in this case. The floors didn’t get an even sanding and that really shows when you stain. The second problem was that they’d been directed to use a really fast-drying stain (not by me) and that ended up causing streaks of darker stain where brushing overlapped.

So, they started over. This time, though, they rented an upright orbital sander. An orbital is going to give you a lot of coverage, but is much easier to use. Instead of that big drum/belt, the sander uses several five inch discs. I had read these worked really well but, again, had never used one. I had nothing to fear. Being overly cautious, we started out with a 50-grit sandpaper because I thought the 36-grit sounded scary. Soon, though, we could see that the 50 wasn’t cleaning up the chatter marks the drum sander had left. We needed to take more material off the floors. So, we loaded up the 36 and went to town. And boy did we! Soon we had the floors nearly stripped. 


 We ran the 50 and finished with the 80 as recommended. 


Good as new, these were ready, again, for stain. But, that was a project for another night. 

Inspired by that experience, the next weekend, we rented that sander, too.  

Seeing Erin’s success with just roughing up the surface rather than stripping it down to the bare wood, that’s what we did upstairs. I will say, the orbital works better on entirely level floors than the ones upstairs out at the farm. 

Downstairs, I made better progress on the maple:


But, alas, I ran out of sanding discs before the floor ran out of varnish and stains. That project will have to be on hold for a bit. But that sander is totally coming back out. Especially after I saw the photo my friend sent of his newly re-re-finished floor!


Here’s hoping ours turn out that well! Nice work! 

Successes and frustrations

IMG_20170701_110139July is going to be a bit overwhelming for me at work, so I wanted to take a few days off last week while I could at the end of June. I had very high hopes for my 5 days off and lists and lists of plans for my time at the farm. Brian will tell you I often over-estimate what’s possible to complete in an allotted time frame and when it was time to leave on Friday evening — after 3 days of work on the farm — I was in a funk.

While it was thrilling that we finally had a flushing toilet, I’d hoped to have the kitchen and bathroom clean by that time, baseboards installed and painted in the two bedrooms we’d finished the floors in and furniture in those rooms, with the early stages of decorating. None of those things were completed and I was pretty cranky about it.

Cleaning the kitchen and everything in it just took far longer than I’d ever expected. And as we dug through closets and cabinets, we kept finding items that belonged in the kitchen, plus we kept dumping other random items in the kitchen, so it was hard to work around them.

Luckily, my fantastic co-worker, Alicia, reminded me that we really haven’t been working on the house for very long, we’d had a graduation to plan for and host and we both have full-time jobs. She told me to cut myself some slack. It’s what I needed to hear.

I attacked some weeds in my garden, apologized to Bri for my surliness, then worked with him to prioritize the projects for the rest of the weekend.

IMG_20170701_110204Saturday morning I was refreshed, planning to getting things done and looking forward to fireworks and a first night in the house. After dealing with the sewer and well problems, sanding, scrubbing and wiping,  I decided that the house needed a bit of beauty in it.  I stopped along the highway and cut some alfalfa and sweet clover from the ditches and wandered over to a low spot in the yard for cattails and long grasses. I knew that all of my farming relatives and in-laws would probably be amused by me decorating with “weeds,” but they made me smile each time I looked at them.

And by the time Brian arrived back on the farm that evening (after running back to town to pick up our sons, who’d worked Saturday), I was happy with the day’s accomplishments: Brian had stained the 2 bedrooms, I’d installed the baseboards in another (though not the second one I’d hoped to), nearly finished cleaning the kitchen (there’s still a couple small items to deal with), scrubbed the bathroom floor and emptied the bathroom cabinets, made the beds and brought up a few nightstands and lamps.

As Bri grilled our dinner and the boys began lighting some fireworks, we enjoyed our first sunset and the quiet of the evening. Four days of exhausting physical work were just what I needed to prepare mentally for the busy month ahead at work.

Humphrey Heads Home

We had several significant events at the farm this past weekend. One of them was this. The return of Grandpa’s 1951 Chevy.

I’ve been a tinkerer all my life. When I was young, I’d routinely take anything interesting apart to figure out how it worked. I almost always got things back together (and working) as well. So it might not surprise you all to know that as well as home improvement projects, I’m also not entirely afraid to take on a car project.

The green Chevy had been around the farm longer than I had. I don’t ever remember it being driven much, but I always knew it was important. See, it belonged to my Great-Grandfather. When he died, it passed to Grandpa and his brother, jointly. And when his brother died, it went to Grandpa.

Some years ago, Grandpa was deciding what to do with that car that had been his Dad’s. It hadn’t run for quite a while. The last evidence of it running, actually, was a parade sign in the front seat from the 80s declaring my Great-Grandmother the town’s “Oldest Resident.”

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The car needed work. The motor was stuck, the brakes were frozen, the gas tank rotted out, the muffler rotted off. In truth, it reminded me JUST A LITTLE like the scene from “Ghostbusters” when Ray brings back the car that will become “Ecto1.”

But, it was easy to tell that, when Grandpa talked about it, he hated the thought of letting it go or scrapping it. So, I did what anybody would. I paid Grandpa too much money to buy his broken car.

Here are some shots of it from 2008 when Dad and my brother and I went out, with a U-Haul trailer, to pick it up.

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Bit by bit, and with lots of help from my Dad and my excellent friends (and excellent mechanics), Kirt and Guy, we got the old car up and running and ready for its first trip back home. It did clean up pretty darn well.

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Up and running, it needed a name. Every important car does. I’ve named several, though not all, of the cars I’ve owned. If they’ve earned a name, they’ve earned a place in my heart.

Naming is a difficult process. There’s a whole process to anthropomorphizing a vehicle. First, you need to decide if it’s a boy or a girl.

You gotta go with your gut on this. You have to considering the car, consider it’s condition, consider the life it led before it became yours. This isn’t some showroom beauty. It’s not flawless. It’s in really good shape, but it’s been driven. It’s been used as a tool. For me, my gut said, this car’s gotta be a boy.

So, thinking about the era, I immediately thought of famous actors from the time. I’m a huge fan of Humphrey Bogart. I love “Casablanca.” I love “The Maltese Falcon.” I love “The African Queen.” The list goes on. So I thought about it. My favorite characters Bogart played have been tough, experienced, both rugged and polished, and a bit sentimental.

Perfect. “Humphrey” it was.

 

Driving Humphrey out to see Grandpa the first time was a treat. Seeing Grandpa behind the wheel again made it all worth it.

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The car made it that day. But it didn’t always. In fact, driving the 60 miles from my house to the farm was always stressful. It’s broken down either on the way to or from the farm so many times I can’t even count them all.

At Grandpa’s funeral, I relayed the story of one memorable time that I got it out to the farm just fine, but, as Grandpa and I got in to drive it around, the battery died. So what does he do? He hops out to push start it. There was my, almost 90 year old Grandpa, pushing his Dad’s car in the yard.

And we did get it going that day, but when we did, we were both mad and Grandpa told me, “I’m sorry I ever got you into all this. I never should’ve sold you this stupid car” to which I replied, “Nah, Grandpa. We’re just not there yet. I’m not sorry. It’s worth it.”

For the record, the last time I drove the car out to see Grandpa before he died, it ran just fine both ways.

At the funeral I also explained that now that Grandpa was gone, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen with that car and I.

Because the truth was; every time Grandpa asked me if it was worth it, I told him it was. But I wasn’t talking about the car. After everything that car has put me through, I wasn’t even sure I liked that car anymore. But I really did love my grandpa.

And so, Humphrey sat in storage all spring. I hadn’t been to the storage space to check on him or fire him up or drive him around. My heart wasn’t in it. But there’s been some talk about me driving that car in the hometown parade coming up in a couple weeks, so if that was going to happen, it was time to get him home.

I found him in the storage space, safe and sound. Even though I’d left him the whole winter with the battery cable connected, the car started right up. However, in the spirit of maintaining our love-hate relationship, before I could get through town and onto the Interstate, a screw hit the top of my foot and I suddenly found I could only shift into 3rd gear.

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See that screw at the right? That’s the screw that holds the shifter onto the steering column. When that fell out, I couldn’t shift correctly.

But, I managed to limp it into a parking lot and reinstall the screw. A quick fix. Just a little reminder that neglecting the car does have a consequence. But this one was gentle.

And so, you guys, for the first time driving down the road in that car, I was confident it was going to be fine. For the first time I wasn’t worried that it was going to break down. For the first time, I just enjoyed the drive. It was a beautiful day, once I got off the Interstate, I had the road to myself. I imagined how many times this old car had been down this stretch of highway and I was glad to be on it.

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Wheeling Humphrey into the farmyard for the first time, knowing Grandpa was gone, was emotional for me. But with everything else we’re doing with the farm, to have Humphrey home again brought a sense of closure. Of rightness.

I realize, now, that I do value the car. And I hope that, somehow, it brings Grandpa peace to know Humphrey’s home.

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