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.


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


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


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.






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.


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.


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…


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.


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…

Labor Day(s)

With the “elephant” out of the room and the downstairs painting out of the way, Erin and I had a big weekend planned for Labor Day weekend. We were going to tackle the hardwood floors. And so, Saturday morning, we made our trip for supplied and headed to the farm!


If you’ll recall, we’d done some prior sanding on the dining room floor,


but hadn’t touched the parlor. The parlor, honestly, scared me a little. The varnish on that floor was THICK. Like…THICK.



But, having bought a bunch of sanding discs, it was time to set to work. The goal for the day was to get the floors sanded and a first coat of poly on them. And so, we got right to work hoping to finish up the dining room. I started on the floor sander and Erin grabbed a hand sander to start hitting the thicker stuff in the dining room.IMG_6809

What’s that? You don’t see Erin sanding in the dining room? Oh. That’s because she only lasted about five minutes before declaring, “This sucks! I’m going to go do something else.”

I sighed, smiled and nodded, and secretly wondered if this was the beginning of the end of this project. Sanding on!

I’d made pretty good progress in the dining room but was starting to run low on the 36-grit sandpaper and wanted to hit the parlor floors while I had the heavy-grit paper. So, I moved into the parlor.


That varnish was THICK

And though things started out well, it was clear, after a couple hours of sanding these floors, that the job wasn’t going to be finished easily. There were lots of little low spots in the hardwood that this big sander just wasn’t going to take care of. I sanded for about three hours by myself. By that time, it’d gotten to about 90 degrees in the house, I was almost out of the 36-grit sandpaper, I’d started to get a headache, and I was getting tired of the project.

So, I shut off the sander and went upstairs where I informed Erin that we were almost out of sandpaper, that she was right, this job DID suck, and that I was tired of it too. In fact, I continued, with the headache building in intensity, I was becoming physically ill. So, if she wanted to see that flooring project move forward, she was going to need to come help.

She wasn’t excited about it. But she did come down and get to work on the floors again.


A couple more hours of sanding go by and it becomes clear that we’re not going to have enough sandpaper to finish the job. So, after six hours of sanding,


we agreed to pack up for the night and tackle the project again in the morning.


Had we gotten done what we wanted? Not by any means. Had we made good progress? Yeah, we had. Did I think we could still finish this project this weekend? Sure. I mean, look at all the progress we’d made! We had two more days to this weekend. Shouldn’t be a problem. Right? Right?

The Elephant in the Room

On Saturday, even though this summer cold was kicking my butt, Erin, our youngest, and I packed up the car and headed to the farm. We’ve got big plans to finish the main level floors over Labor Day weekend (next weekend!) but had to get some projects knocked out before we could make that happen. So, priorities for Saturday were:

  1. Get tack strips and staples up from the parlor floor
  2. Clear dining room and parlor of all furniture
  3. Paint dining room

Seems like a straightforward list, shouldn’t be too hard to knock out. Right?


It really WAS a straightforward list. But the thing was, this cold really WAS kicking my butt. I was ready for a nap by the time I hit the car. I decided the best thing I could do was get to the tack strips. Shouldn’t be too hard. I could sit on my butt and pull them up, no big deal. So, I donned my work gloves, grabbed my pry-bar, and got to it.


The tack strips were a little stubborn, but it wasn’t all bad. Our youngest was done pulling staples by the time I got about halfway around the room


Erin and I were glad that it was neither of us pulling up staples all bent over like this guy. Thanks, bud!

and by then, I was beat. Like, sweaty, exhausted, starting to get a little crabby, beat. We paused for lunch and got back to work. Erin and our youngest started moving furniture and I was back to pulling up tack strips. About the time I was finishing up, they’d moved everything but the couch into the bedroom. They were going to need my help for that. Because that couch…well, that couch has now been named “The Elephant.” So, if you’re paying attention, this blog post is about that stupid couch. It’s an old sleeper-sofa and weighs…a Toyota. The sucker’s heavy. Also, though I didn’t post about it when we pulled the carpet up, it’d already drawn our ire because it scratched up the wood floors when we moved it the first time.


The thing has two legs and two metal casters with plastic guards on them. Of course, as we tried to move the couch, the casters spit those plastic guards off and went merrily scratching across the floor.

Not wanting to do any more damage with the thing than we’d already done, the three of us tried to maneuver it into the bedroom. How do you get a several hundred pound couch through a too-small door?


The answer was, poorly. We tried this angle and that angle, we popped the door off the hinge. Finally, we tried one angle we hadn’t and BANG! Out comes the sleeper sofa and GOUGES the hardwood floor.


And then I was mad. Unreasonably, uncontrollably mad. I swore and declared, “If I had my sawzall, I’d cut this blankety blankin’ couch in half right now and be done with the blankety blankin’ thing!” (I may not have used “blankety blankin” in that outburst, just sayin’). But I didn’t have it. So I picked up one end and looked expectantly at my wife and son, both of them looking at me with a mixture of shock and confusion.

You see, I’m kind of the bellwether for our family. I’m generally pretty even-keeled, pretty relaxed about most things. If someone else is upset, I’m trying to calm, analyze, or resolve the problem. And so, in those few instances when I’m not, things get ugly, quickly.

So, as I’m standing there, anger growing, holding this blankety blankin’ couch up in the air and my wife and son aren’t doing anything, I snap. “Would you pick up the stupid couch, please?!?”

Our youngest’s eyes got wide and he immediately reached down to pick it up. Erin, however, said something like, “What are we doing? What’s the plan?”

I didn’t have time for logic or plans. “We’re putting it in the room!”

Now, clearly, if we’ve cautiously tried all the ways to put the couch in the room and they haven’t worked, my declaration of “We’re putting it in the room!” with an underlying inference of “I might just ram the couch through the blankety blank wall!” didn’t inspire confidence. She gave me a disapproving, wife-ly look (you all know the look) and was about to reach down to help lift and play along when I realized my arms were trembling from the strain and I just put it down.

After a few moments and some terse and succinct suggestions all around, we did get the stupid elephant out of the room.


My outburst, however, and the physical strain of moving that beast had taken a toll. The rooms were clear,


but we were all ready to throw in the towel. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t. If we were going to have success with the floors, we really needed to get that dining room painted.

So, drop-cloths went down, paint was stirred, assignments were made and we set to work painting.

I got to work on the ceiling, covering up the light green with classic white,


while Erin and our son painted the walls almost the same color they were before they were green (as evidenced by the swatch revealed when I pulled the phone plate off the wall).


As the afternoon went on, and our son began undertaking little clowning around exercises to lighten the mood,

and when Erin, predictably, put her hair in the paint,


we found ourselves relaxing and getting back to fine. As the day came to a close, we’d gotten done what we needed. The tack strips and staples were up, the rooms were clear, and the dining room painted. Next weekend, the floors!


I’m still not 100% sure, however, that the sawzall isn’t coming out to the farm next weekend, too 😉

A Bonus Project!

Those of you that know me well will remember (or at least won’t be surprised to hear) that I’ve done a bit of homebrewing in my time. My good friend, Brent, and I got into it back in college. I always enjoyed doing it when I had him to share it with. But, unfortunately, Brent passed away many years ago and I haven’t brewed since. However, one of the things Erin and I talked about, early on in the whole “what in the world would we do with a farm” discussion, was growing grapes for jellies and wines. So, it’s been in the back of my head that there might be some brewing again in my future. As it turns out, the future is now.

See, earlier this week, Erin informed me that she had a co-worker, with grapes on her property, that we were welcome to. So, I should plan to go with her and pick grapes that night. “And then we can make jelly and wine!” she proclaimed, enthusiastically. As this was all via instant messenger, I emoji-smiled at her while screwing a panicked smile onto my own face. I was envisioning us going to this place and picking hundreds of pounds of grapes. I was terrified that we were going to have a repeat of the apple…”event” of ’16 when Erin picked…oh, probably 100 lbs of apples off a neighbor’s tree.

“We can’t just let them go to waste! They’re free!”

In that situation, though I don’t remember the EXACT face I made, I imagine it was like the one I’d screwed on for this grape discussion. A panicked grin.

However, having no control over the situation. Our youngest son and I joined Erin that evening in gathering grapes.


I have to admit, the thought of giving this whole winemaking thing a shot did have some allure. But, after about 15 minutes of grape-picking, I was losing steam.


And there were a lot more grapes.

I can’t tell you exactly how many. But our youngest and I were long done picking before Erin was.



In the end, we only picked about 15 lbs of grapes. Not bad.


but then, it was time to figure out how to make wine.

The homebrewing I’ve done is all beer. Brent (and now my friend Kirt) have both dabbled, successfully, in mead-making, and my father-in-law has had some good luck with winemaking, but it’s brand-new to me. And so, I set to researching. I did a whole lotta googling and pretty much everything I’ve come up with is trying to tell me that 1. I don’t have enough grapes and 2. making grape wine is complicated.

When it comes to things chemistry, I’m a bit of a perfectionist. If my pool isn’t PERFECTLY CLEAR 100% of the time, it almost literally keeps me up at night. So, when I’m reading about carefully taking the acid content and amending it and such and such, this whole making grape wine thing started to sound a lot more like work and a lot less like fun.

And so, my brain did what it often does when things don’t sound fun anymore. It reminded me of a similar project that I could do, using the same tools, but adding in novelty and reducing difficulty.

Potato Champagne.

Yep. You heard me. Potato Champagne.

A couple weeks ago, in preparation for my great-aunt’s visit to the farm, Erin and I spent some time going through a booklet that was prepared for a family reunion about 10 years ago. In it, we found a recipe for “Potato Champagne.” Now. Does that sound good? You’re a liar if you’re telling me it does. BUT. It piqued my curiosity for a couple reasons:

  1. I have been known to be, from time to time, the guy who’ll drink something stupid, just to see if I can.
  2. It’s a recipe for a drink I’ve never even HEARD of.
  3. There’s some family history to it.

I don’t know what that family history IS mind you. It might be the family dare drink. I don’t know. But what I do know is, the recipe was simple.


As were the directions


And so, having come down with a summer cold and being home from work the last couple days, I decided, today, to give this a go.


Couple gallons of tap water – check


potatoes washed and sliced – check


That’s weird. It’s already weird.

Oranges sliced and WAIT. Oranges PEELED and sliced. I almost ruined it already. Busy thinking about how weird the potatoes are. Oranges – check!


Apples, lemons, raisins, check, check, check!


10 pounds or less (I actually used 8) sugar! Check!


Aaaand mix. Now it’s just to…float a piece of bread and put some yeast on top of it? Yeah, I’m not doing that. Here I’m deviating. That is totally legit for back in the day when folks didn’t have wine yeast. I, however, DO have wine yeast. And while it may lose some of its authenticity, I’m totally using wine yeast. But before I do! I’m curious.

Of course that recipe doesn’t say anywhere what proof/strength this concoction will come out to be. I, however, have the tools to find out. Hydrometer in!


Stirring around a bit with the hydrometer trying to get the fruit out of the way so it could float, I was surrounded by this…really pleasant aroma. All this citrus-y, fruity, sugary…with a hint of…is that potato? It made me draw a bit off to taste:


You know…


That’s pretty good! Apple-y, orange-y, lemon-y, with just a hint of potato (yeah, it’s weird), but really sweet (8 lbs of sugar, hey). This might actually end up being ok.

Anyway, hydrometer showed me just below the bottom orange band.


So, if the yeast survives (and it should, being wine yeast) this should end up about 18% ABV.


9 days, stirring daily. The anticipation is palpable over here. Updates to come! Have a good weekend everyone!

PS – we’re still doing something with the grapes, too!

UPDATE 8/28/17:

I decided to test the fermentation progress this morning and popped the hydrometer back in. As it was still showing 15%, I added another gallon of water. This should lower the total ABV to more of the 12-15% range. 18% just seemed really strong for wine 🙂

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:


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.


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.


“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:


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.


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


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.


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.


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!


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


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.


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


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:


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:


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:


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.

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.


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:


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.


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


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.


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.



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.


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! 

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.”


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.





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.



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.


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.


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.