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.


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.


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.”


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.

The elephant has left the room

After a less-than-satisfying start to our Labor Day weekend — but a decent night’s sleep, since we’d gone back home — we were ready to make some progress on the Sunday of the long weekend.

We’d bought every package of 36-grit sandpaper for the rented sander that the hardware store had and were ready to make some headway on the floors. But first, we had deal with another issue:

IMG_20170826_130313The damned couch.

We’d fought with it and eventually got it into the main floor bedroom the previous weekend, managing to scratch and gouge the floor in the process. At first, I thought that’d pretty much be the end of it. We’d refinish the floors, haul it back to the living room, maybe throw a blanket over it and live with it until I found something that I loved for a fabulously low price.

Then my mom mentioned that it’s probably holding much of the lingering cigarette smell that’s left in the house. True.

Then Bri brought up the question of “what if we refinish the floors and have them looking great and we bring the couch back out and it scratches the floor again?”

That sealed its fate.

Bri brought the reciprocating blade saw from home. He cut away the fabric to get a look at the frame. We measured the outside door (still not sure how they got that couch in the house in the first place), then decided about 4 inches needed to come off the back so we could get it out without doing further damage to the house.


Yup. That was about perfect.

The two of us got it out of the bedroom, out of the dining room door, and Bri unceremoniously pushed it off the cement steps.

We decided that Bri’s grandmother would have been APPALLED that we’d ruined a perfectly good piece of furniture. And to be honest, a little part of me feels the same way. I definitely grew up with the values of using things until they wore out and if you didn’t want them anymore, you took them to the thrift store so someone else could get some use out of them.  But we had a vendetta against this thing. It had to go.

We pulled it apart, hauled some of it to the burn pile (sadly, it was too windy to burn that weekend, so I’m not sure we’ll get the pleasure of seeing it go up in flames), and dismantled the pull-out mechanism. Bri has the idea of trying to make it into a roll-away cot. We’ll have to see if that comes to fruition or if the metal gets hauled to the scrap metal dealer — for now, it’s hanging out in the garage for later while I look for ideas on Pinterest.

And now, with that task out of the way, we could get on with the floors.

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.


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.


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


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.


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


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


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.


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

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.

Feeling spice-y

While tidying the kitchen, I cleared out a number of cabinets, including the one containing all of Brian’s grandparents’ spices. It was quite an assortment of items.

I know that his grandpa hadn’t done much cooking — or probably baking — in the years after his grandma died, so most were expired by at least 4 years. As Brian pointed out, most spices should be replaced after 6 months (we certainly don’t always adhere to that, but Bri does all the cooking in our house and seems to move through spices quite regularly).

We were amused by the enormous bulk-size containers of nutmeg, ginger and chili powder. And ground cloves! The whole cabinet smelled of the cloves.

We were particularly interested in the mustard seed priced 23 cents and red peppers priced 29 cents. And the pickling spice that was best used by April 2, 1988!

IMG_20170618_131724We decided that there were a few items that were probably fine to continue using, including the onion salt container at right. The onion salt appeared past its prime, but the jar is pretty cool and will likely come in handy for another spice or mixture later!

A full day on the farm

The day before Father’s Day, Brian made plans to spend the day golfing with his dad and brother. Since I knew I’d be on my own, I figured I may as well spend the day at the farm.

IMG_20170618_191601After Brian’s last septic adventures, he found some main line drain cleaner that we hoped might take care of whatever the blockage was.  The only issue was that it needed to sit in the lines for 8 hours, then be flushed with hot water for 5 minutes. I planned my day’s strategy around that 8-hour window.

Our youngest was at work all day, but our oldest has been waiting to be scheduled at the job he was hired at recently, so he opted to help me, rather than go golfing (what a kid!). We threw sodas in the cooler, picked up a ready-to-bake pizza and hit the road.

When we got to the farm, I immediately went to the basement to open the cleanout to pour the cleaner in. There was water (let’s just imagine that it was only water, shall we?) in the line, which started running out as soon as I loosened the cleanout. I’ve seen Brian’s posts about what happens next, just like you all have, and I decided that was not for me. I closed it back up and headed upstairs to dump it down the tub drain instead (which was an option listed on the bottle).


This stuff says it’s guaranteed to work or our money back. I’d rather have a working toilet than that money back!

Our oldest and I started the clock… we knew 8 hours of work would be a full day, so we hoped to head out immediately after successfully running hot water. … Which brings up another issue: the hot water heater also needs a repair. Several weeks ago, Brian noticed that it was leaking and needs a new relief valve, but hasn’t gotten to it yet. So, I turned the hot water heater back on and hoped it would get hot — but not so much that it started leaking again.

Our oldest and I headed up to the second floor to check out how the floors that we stained the previous weekend turned out. I briefly glanced at the East room, which as good as expected, since they’d taken it down to the raw wood, then went to the West room. It looked pretty darn good, too, without nearly as much effort.

I heard my oldest cursing suddenly and rushed back to the East room, where he pointed to the floor. He’d walked across it to check every corner and made big, dusty footprints on the floor. I assured him it was fine and put rags under my sandals to shuffle across the room, wiping them away.

I prepped the polyurethane and got started on the West room. Since the can said it would take 4-6 hours to dry between coats, I knew I should be able to get two coats down in our 8 hours at the house.

IMG_20170617_124343If you’ve never used poly before, a couple tips: NEVER shake your can of poly. It will cause bubbles that you don’t want in the finish of your floor. And on a related note: Get a decent applicator to put the poly on the floor. We used a cheap floor mop once and every time you pushed on it, it made bubbles in the poly. You can use a brush, but that’s a lot of stooping over or kneeling, so I prefer the applicator shown at left, which you can screw onto a mop handle. Use the brush for edges, corners and brushing out any bubbles you see. It took me just under an hour to put the first coat in the West room and half an hour to do the East room. I left the windows open and put fans at the doorways to aid drying.

I then gave our oldest the go-ahead to start sanding the North room. Because of the wet poly, he had to close himself in the room with a fan in the window and a towel at the base of the door so none of the sanding dust would get into the newly finished floors.

I headed down to the kitchen to continue cleaning cupboards and dishes. I set our camping dish pans in the sink and got to work (I couldn’t bear to work out of the tote on the floor that our youngest dealt with last weekend.) We may not be able to run water in the drains or flush the toilet, but we have running water — as long as we don’t run it too long (the well is going to be another issue to deal with soon. *sigh*).

It was satisfying to finally clear the countertop of all the stuff we’d be piling on it for the past few months and put clean dishes and glasses into clean cabinets. I didn’t get through all of them, but I got through a lot of them!

We did also fire up the oven for that pizza and though it may run a bit hot, it got the job done, so that’s on thing we don’t have to put on the “fix immediately” list.

We also had a heavy rainstorm during our day. I’m not sure how much it was, but it was enough that I was really glad that the new roof was on and doing its job!

Soon it was time for that second coat of polyurethane on the floors, which went without a hitch. I did a light sanding and mopping, then put the second coat down (with the rainy weather, I couldn’t get decent photos, so they’ll have to wait for the next visit).


Our final chore of the day was to run hot water down the drains to clear the sewer line. Let’s just say that it went about as well as we all suspected it might. The hot water ran for a minute or so, then the toilet started bubbling, I ran down to the basement to see water running down the wall from the tub’s drain pipe.

Gah. I knew Bri would be unimpressed. We continued trying to run water through the two sinks, but they backed up, too.

I guess we’ll be searching for more ideas on fixing the sewer system (that hopefully won’t involve digging up the entire septic system).