Thursday, October 8, 2015


This is Eric in his natural habitat.    And he smiled for the camera, so woo-hoo!

Please note that he is in Claire's closet in front of the wall that used to be the door that we got in and out of the upstairs through.

Note that it is a wall now.     That is signficant.

But first a little back story.

This is the back of the house.   That short addition used to be a porch, later enclosed, but not actually put on a foundation. It is slated for demolition, which will be a very happy day. [We'll put on a similar addition, only a bit bigger and it will actually have a foundation under it.   The new kitchen and pantry and mudroom will be in there eventually.]

At the peak of the roof you can see the Typar 'door' where we've been getting in and out of the upstairs addition for the last year.

We've been climbing up this ladder to the roof over the back room and then up to the peak, then in and out of the wall inside Claire's closet.

I know, right?     So.     Elegant.

Seriously.    Call the Country Living people because they'll surely want to know all about us.   [Is it possible to get one's eyes stuck in the back of one's head by rolling them too hard?]

Mostly I just pretended that it was perfectly normal and that everyone goes upstairs via the great outdoors, a ladder, and a closet wall.

You know.   For a year.

But all good things must come to an end and our ladder climbing days are over for now.


We Have an INSIDE Stairway.

This is a temporary arrangement for now that will allow us to finish the upstairs and live up there as needed until we can finish the re-do of the downstairs, which will be a total remodel down to the last nail.    The final stairs will be in this general area but that's it.  The final design is very different.


As you can see, it is very steep [I come down backward like a ladder] but it is plenty wide enough to get furniture up and down on.

Which is important because the girls rooms are just about done and there is mega furniture moving in the near future!  Yay!

Also, it's just about winter.  Which brings up the question of how to winterize a partially finished upstairs with some interesting structural irregularities between floors.    I'll get to that in a post next week.   Stay tuned. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Weaving, Weaving, Weaving...

The Bloomington Artisan Guilds show is coming up quickly.   Mark your calendars for Friday, Nov 6, 2015 from 4pm - 9pm  and Saturday, Nov 7 from 9am - 5pm at the Bloomington Convention Center on College Ave in downtown Bloomington, Indiana.   The weaving, glass and pottery guilds have joined together to create one fabulous show of the area's best fine craft.  

In preparation, I have been weaving, weaving, weaving to get ready.  

New this year:   Handwoven white alpaca shawls and fine black mohair shawls, both with glittery trim.   Also a new line of luscious bamboo and silk scarves in beautiful hand dyed colors. 

You'll find my hand-dyed yarns in silk, rayon, superwash/tencel, bamboo and a new line of organically grown cotton.   I'll have some rovings and ribbons as well.   Look for my two new colorways - Blue Peacock and Red Oak.

In addition, I'll have my regular lines of hand painted silk scarves, handwoven washcloth/soap sets and a glorious array of other weavings.

Please stop by and see us!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Busy Bees

A quick look at our very busy beehives.    Blow the pic up for a better look at how many bees there were.   It's goldenrod flow time and the bee yard smells very strongly of goldenrod honey. 

Not much honey overall this year, but lots of bees.   Each colony needs lots of bees in the fall cluster to keep things warm until spring.  Every time I open a box and see it full of bees instead of just a few frames of bees, I am very, very happy. 

The hive with the yellow super seems to have quite a bit of honey in it.   Maybe the long hive with the orange super, too.  They get to keep their honey this year.    I'll take the empty supers off the hives next month and put candy on the hives..   That way everyone has plenty of feed for the winter.   Just in case.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Fall Asparagus

Pretty in the morning with all the dew, isn't it? Lily thought so, too and got this pic for me.

Four weeks ago, I cut all the asparagus trees down for the season.   

Ha!  They took right off again.  Now they are almost as big as before - blooming as well as ever, too, which makes the bees happy.

I am trying to keep these as strong and healthy as possible for spring harvest, so I have resisted going out there every day to pick the one or two new stalks.   We're enjoying the view, though.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Pink Zinnia

photo:  Lily Jenness

Lily caught this backlit pink beauty one very dewy morning. 

We love zinnias. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Apple Season

It's apple season!    Here are a few things we are doing and have done with apples.   I hope you get a chance to try a few of them.

Apple Pie Filling
Apple Pear Pie Filling
Apple Slices - canned
Apple Dumplings
Apple Tart
April's Apple Slices [Slab Pie]
Green Tomato/Apple Crisp 
Apple Pear Maple Jam
Autumn Berry [Autumn Olive/Elaeagnus] Apple Jam

One bushel of apples makes about 21 quarts of apple pie filling or canned apple slices.   I've got one bushel done [pie filling] and one more coming [canned apple slices].   Our pantry is overloaded this year, which is both a blessing and a curse.   I'm focusing on the blessing part. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Early Fall

Tis the season of dew and spiders.  They are both more spectacular in early fall than at any other time of the year.  Lily grabbed the camera and got these shots.

I saw a funny thing the other day - a large spider had spun a huge web [2 ft across] near the road, between an electric pole and the support wire next to it.   The spider sat in the center and was busy wrapping up a stink bug for later.   Half a dozen gnats were pestering that spider just like they pester us.   One or two would land on the spider's back and it would twitch a leg or two to try to get them off.  I watched for several minutes.  It looked just as annoyed as we do with those blasted gnats.    

In other news, we have a new truck - hence the radio silence last week while Eric was gone to Idaho to pick it up and visit family with our youngest, and Lily and I held down the fort here.

Also, we have hung the girls' doors, and are putting up the trim in their rooms, which means I have stained and shellacked miles of poplar trim and pine jambs.  

Also, I am a total hypocrite because I recently on this blog made a snide comment about the previous staining of light wood in dark colors [the antique flooring] and then found myself staining the very light poplar and pine trim, etc. with a couple of layers of red chestnut stain and then 6-8 coats of shellac so it would be dark to match the old doors.  Mea culpa.

Also, because the doors are so...weird...and short...we will be building transoms above them.   I'll do a post on that as we get going on that project.    In the meantime, happy creating to you all!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Berry Patch Update

The berry patch I planted this spring is doing well.   Here's a pic of it with the berries all growing up.   I keep my beehives in the center.   The berries protect the hives and the bees keep berry loving critters from getting tooo close.  Like the dog. 

I got all the berries from Stark Bros on sale, because I'm cheap and because getting those combo packs is a great way to try out several varieties. 

There are a bunch of blackberries, red raspberries and golden raspberries in here.   Many have actually borne fruit this year in spite of being babies.    This gives me hope that next year I'll have enough fruit for lots of pies.   And tarts.   And jam.   And more pies.   And maybe some to freeze.  

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Ricotta Tart with Honey Cinnamon Glazed Figs

I have figs!

Two years ago I planted a Chicago Hardy fig tree.   In November.   Right before that nuclear winter we had that lasted forever - you know, the one with the Polar Vortex from hell. 

That winter.

And the next spring, the fig came up anyway.  So here's my shout out to Stark Bros where I got the fig and where I get a lot of my fruit trees/plants.   Great stock and they'll replace if the plants don't make it a year. 

The plant died back to the ground, but that spring the fig bore 3 whole figs, which got the size of marbles and then fell off before they ripened.   

Last winter the fig died back again all the way to the ground, but popped up this spring when the ground warmed up.   I have dozens of tiny figs along the branches.    And one ripe one.

The figs get suddenly larger when they ripen, then they turn that color and droop.  And when they are ripe, I will make this tart.  Again.  I made this recipe up myself.   It is delicious.   I plan on eating it several more times this season.

Because I have figs.

 Ricotta Tart with Honey Cinnamon Glazed Figs

1 dozen or so very ripe figs [California Mission are fine]
1 lb ricotta cheese
1/4 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon for the filling + 1/4 tsp more cinnamon for the glaze
1/4 cup honey
 Your favorite pie or tart crust for bottom of tart/pie plate.

Preheat oven to 350.  Make the crust and put it in the bottom of a tart or pie plate.

Filling:  Mix the ricotta, eggs, sugar, vanilla and 1/4 tsp cinnamon well.   Put into pie crust.

Topping:  Wash and slice the figs in half.   Arrange the figs cut side up around the top of the filling, fat ends out, skinny ends pointing to the center.

Glaze.   Heat the honey and 1/4 tsp cinnamon in the microwave for 30 seconds.   Mix it as well as you can [it won't want to mix].   Pour/spread glaze evenly on all figs and around the top of the tart. [If you LOVE this glaze, feel free to make more.   It's good when it's baked and oozing all over the place.]

Bake 60 minutes.   Cool.    Delicious at room temp or chilled. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Lily's Antique Door

A year ago I got some old doors from a local salvage place. I was thrilled.  $25 each.   What a deal.


More than $200 in paint strippers [yes, plural] and hours of stripping later, I decided that would be the last batch of painted doors I'd be getting, unless I was planning to just paint over them.

Stripping [in any sense of the word] is not my idea of a good time.

I was so disgusted by the whole process, that I didn't get any 'before' pics.   You'll just have to imagine 8 layers of paint over a beautifully shellacked original finish.   The stripper killed the original finish.   The door hardware was covered with layers of paint as well and had to be stripped.  The lock was full of mud and bug guts.

The door:  Turned out to be fir under all the paint. I'm guessing the original finish was Garnet Shellac.  Gorgeous, red.   I can't get that here made up, but I can get the Amber and Clear.  [I'm not interested in cooking up my own yet.  Maybe later.]   So,  I went out and got some Varathane Red Chestnut stain and stained the door. 

If you look at the pic of the finished door, right, you'll see lots of black lines.   This door was stored in a barn and over the years it swelled and cracked the paint, then fungus got in there and started some spalting.  I love it.   I was able to save most of the spalting by not scrubbing too hard during the stripping.

Also, if you look really hard, you can see bits of paint I didn't get out.  I worked on these doors for hours, using maybe 6 coverings of stripper.   Enough already.  Plus I like being reminded of the door's past.  Plus, you already know my Let's Get On With It Already philosophy. 

In the end, the spalting looks great with the Red Chestnut stain and a coat of Amber shellac on top of that.   I love it.   Love. It.

The Lock.  Mortise lock full of crap.  Full story here.   I gerry rigged a fix, then when it came time to put it back in the door, it didn't quite fit, so I finessed a bit and now it fits and works great.

The Door Hardware.   This stuff was covered with almost as much paint as the doors.   Decades of it.   I gave it a long bath in hot soapy water [a couple of days' worth] then pulled out the paint with a bamboo skewer.   You can see bits of the old 'japanned' finish left under there, but way too much of the base metal showing....and rusting.   As much as I wanted to keep that old finish, in this climate, we'd have been fighting rust constantly, so we decided to spray.

Long story short, I went with Rust-Oleum's metallic paint in Oil Rubbed Bronze.   Note:  It doesn't say oil rubbed bronze on the can.   You have to just look at the cap.   Basically, this is black paint with bronze-y sparkle in it.   Tip:   Spray the backs first, then flip and do the tops.   This stuff dries fast, so you can do the other side in about 15 minutes.

In person it comes off as brown, not black, but it's really hard to photograph.

Still, it wasn't the look we were after, so we decided to highlight with some paint I had around the studio.  I grabbed a pot of  Versatex pearlized bronze pigment. There are other metallics also:  silver, bright gold, copper... This stuff is designed for silk screening paper and fabric [which is why I had some.]  We tested it on an iron rosette from another door and it dried fine and would not rub off at all.   A product that is designed more for this kind of thing is Amaco's Rub 'N Buff.  Check out all their colors, here.

The process is simple.   Sit down and apply with your fingers.  Stop when you think it's enough.  Since this is Lily's door, she was in charge of highlighting as much as she wanted.

When it looked right, she stopped.    We let it dry overnight, then installed everything the next day.

Et voila'!   I like how it changes in different lights.   Look up at the first pic again to see how it looks in a different light. 

Lily's bedroom door is done.    Claire's is up next with a whole different set of issues.

Thursday, August 27, 2015


In case you needed something pretty today.

We planted these around our winter squash to combat the squash bugs.  The squash are pathetic this year and mostly dead, but these 'miniature' marigolds are now over 2 feet tall.  

I guess the universe wanted us to have marigolds instead of pumpkins this year.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Bedroom Floors Finished

The bedroom floors are done!  

Before I forget, these are the products we used for staining, sealing and finishing.  

I'm very happy with the finished product.

This is Lily's floor, done, with the morning light coming in her window.    I love it. 

Love.  It.

And this is Claire's room done.   

Love. It.  

What do you think?!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

House Update: Bedroom Floors

I know it's been forever since I've given you an update on the house, but the truth is drywall is boring.

Drywall mudding is boring.   Also dusty.

Painting is boring.   Also messy.

Sorting antique flooring is boring.    Have I told you about this flooring?   I found it at a salvage place, without nails [!], for 69 cents a square foot.  About a thousand square feet of 2-1/4 inch maple and oak antique flooring from a 1910 house up near Chicago.   [With the miller's name stamped on the back.  Henry Buchholtz.]  Also, every board was numbered and labelled with the room it came out of.   Cool!   We brought it home, wiped it down and stored it for a year in the basement.   Then we had to haul the blasted stuff out of the basement to the upstairs, which meant up the basement stairs, through the house, outside and up the ladder, over the roof, through Claire's closet.   Piles and piles of flooring.  Also, it was very hot.  There was a lot of complaining.    

I wanted to sort by number/room, but I was out-voted.   Okay, the truth is, I caved to all the glaring.   We sorted by length and end configuration:  flat, tongue, groove.   Flat/flats here, flat/grooves there, flat/tongues here, tongue/grooves there.   Then it was just a matter of being as efficient as possible with the sizes so that we wasted as little wood as possible.   Once the wood was laid out by size, it wasn't too hard to find a board very, very close to the size we needed.  

Laying antique flooring is not boring, but it is a big pain in the everywhere.  Old boards have gunk in the grooves.   They are bent.   They had been refinished once before so the tops didn't match up when nailed down.  It took weeks to get the floors laid.    If you ever need tips for laying antique flooring, then give us a shout because Eric is expert now.  Triangle jigs are your friends.

Then there was hand planing the worst of the unevens down.   That was my job.   I used this Bosch 6 Amp 3-1/4-Inch Planer .  I am a great planer.   [After the first 15 minutes or so of getting used to the crouching, pushing and noise.]  Planing was kind of fun actually.   It's the loud power tool thing.  Also, planing is dusty.

Then there was the sanding with the monster sanders that we rented from Menard's.   Sanding is boring.   Also dusty.  Also really exhausting.

We had to make some important decisions during the sanding.   Most importantly, how perfect do we want the top to be? 

Answer:  Not perfect.   It's old wood.   With a lot of stories [my favorite is the very old ink stain we found in between two boards.   Very old.   The top stain had been sanded off when the floor was refinshed earlier [1970s?], but I am dying to know Who spilled that ink and when?]  There are places where the old finish is still there where the boards were uneven and the megasander just didn't get down that far.   There are places where the awful dark walnut finish from the last re-finishing  didn't come quite all the way off. [Who in their right mind would finish light maple flooring with a walnut finish?   I ask you!]   There are nail holes from when the floor was originally laid in the original house.   There are cracks and dings in some of the boards.   I want those stories to stay there.   I want to look at that floor and be reminded of all the people who walked on it and worked on it for the last 100+ years.  I love every imperfection.

Also, I'm lazy and there's just only so much sanding I can stand before Let's Freaking Move On Already.

Then there was the cleaning of all the dust.   Three times, just to make sure we got as much as possible off the walls and the floor before the floor finishing.  

In short, we've been so busying doing the house [and the jobs and the garden and the canning and the occasional house cleaning] that there just was not time to document it.   Sometimes you have to choose between doing something and taking pictures of it.

However,  this past weekend,  finally,...FINALLY! we finished the floors.  And I remembered to ask Lily to take a pic so there would be at least a little documentation.   The pic above shows me just starting the first coat of shellac in Lily's room.  Dig that apple green wall color.  It's cheery, I tell you.

This is what we did:

First coat: Amber Shellac, by Zinsser.   I heart shellac.   It's old.   It's fun.   It's got that period look we're after.   Also all of the doors and trim we've salvaged had/have shellac on them, so...matchy matchy!  Also, have you SEEN what shellac does to wood?   Gor. Geous!  

Then:  Light sand with 220 grit,  and wipe down with tack cloth [cheesecloth soaked in wax.  Awesome!]

2nd coat:  More of the shellac in Lily's room.  Claire's room is in a corner of the house with a totally different light, and darker wall color and she only needed one coat.

Then: Light sand with 220 grit,  and wipe down with tack cloth.

3rd and 4th coat:   Sealer, by Zinsser.   It seals up the wax coat in the shellac and preps the surface for the polyurethane that comes next.   Then sand and wipe down after each of these coats.

5th and 6th coats:  Minwax, Ultimate Floor Finish, Water-based polyurethane.  It was a lot more expensive, but everything Eric studied recommended it so we went with it.   We only want to do this One Freaking Time and if you don't pay in quality materials, then you will definitely pay in time and aggravation.  [I know this for a fact.]

Pics of finished floors coming soon.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...