Summer projects

I have two projects I wanted to complete this summer. First is getting rid of the stippled ceiling in the bedroom. Second is redoing my bookshelves.

Given my lack of success last month with the ceiling, I think both of these tasks are going on the August list.

You’ve already heard about the ceiling, so how about a little bit about the bookshelves?

Bookshelves and boxes of books

(Yes, this corner has looked like this since we moved in more than two years ago).

My Dad and I made these bookshelves for our first house. They’re shallow, so they don’t take up much space. They have adjustable shelves, which is handy. They’re going to work well for us here with just a few tweaks.

First on the list is cutting down one of the shelves. It’s twice as deep as the others because it held our TV back when it was a giant square box. I figure I can get two bookshelves out of this one.

Second on the list is putting another bookshelf back together. It was damaged in our move and is pretty wobbly.

Then, I plan to add some trim and paint everything white.

I’ll replace the adjustable shelving tracks with white ones and set the shelves in place.

Then it’s on to the best part: loading the shelves.

Boxes of books

My books have been packed away for more than two and a half years. I want them back.

Popcorn ceiling and barn doors

So July’s project was my biggest failure yet. Remember that dirty bumpy stippled ceiling in the guest room/soon-to-be master bedroom?

Popcorn ceiling

Yeah. It’s still there.

The week that I was planning to start operation popcorn, Kate posted about removing the stipple ceiling in the flip she and her husband are working on. She mentioned doing an asbestos test before she started. Our house is built the era where asbestos might have been used, so I thought a test sounded like a good idea.

However, finding a test kit was harder than expected. It seems home tests are an American thing. I ended up finding one online. So the extent of my progress this month is a credit card charge and my Dad’s drywall sander sitting in a corner of the guest room. :( (Please note as well the light switches behind the door. Really convenient.)

Drywall pole sander

Wanna see some actual progress? Let’s look at some other doors instead.

Hello basement barn doors.

Basement door makeover

Here’s the before picture just for reference.

Slab doors

Yes, redoing the doors was June’s project, but the painting was left until July. It must have been something about this month because, like with the stippled ceiling, the final stages of painting and hanging the doors didn’t go smoothly.

For painting, I planned to use my Dad’s sprayer… or rather I planned to have Matt use my Dad’s sprayer. Well, the air compressor conked out, so spraying was a no go. So much for all of the time we spent tarping the driveshed.

Our mechanical difficulties are totally on me. I was the one who set up the air compressor. Earlier the same day I’d killed the push mower, so I obviously had a hex working when it came to mechanical objects.

Painting became a team effort as Matt rolled and I brushed. Soooooo sloooooow.

Painting the basement doors

Installing the doors turned out to be another headache. Only five out of the nine doors that we made over fit smoothly back in place. Somehow, two doors grew so that they were too fat for their openings. The closet door that we’d accidentally put the trim on the wrong side wouldn’t close because the trim hit the doorstop (I don’t know why I didn’t realize this would be a problem). The best one was discovering another door where I’d put the Z on the backside. No idea how I missed this.  My mistake left the completely flat slab door facing out into the room–exactly the situation I was trying to correct.

Ugh. I was very frustrated.

It took a few hours of work spread over a few days to fix my mess ups, including repainting. Double ugh.

Matt was very patient, installing and removing the doors multiple times as I tested the fit.

Finally, all of the doors fit, swung smoothly and closed properly.

I installed the old hardware that I’d ORBed, and I called this one done.

ORBed doorknobs

The Z detail is subtle–the strips are only about an eighth of an inch thick–but I think it’s a really nice touch. Our barn doors are absolutely a lot more interesting than the flat slab doors. Plus they fit really well in our farm setting.

Slab doors become barn doors

Slab doors become barn doors

Issues aside, this is a pretty easy update–and much, much more affordable than buying nine new doors. It would have been even cheaper if I hadn’t bought all new hinges. All in, this makeover cost less than $200 (although I did use glue and nails that I already had):

Panels (two sheets of hardboard cut into 6-inch strips): $18.53
Hinges (Stanley Home Designs in Egyptian bronze-I couldn’t find the exact version online, but this one is close although a little more expense): $96.39
Paint (Benjamin Moore Cloud White in the pearl finish): $59.67
Spray paint (Rustoleum Oil Rubbed Bronze): $11.28
Total: $185.87 (just over $20 per door)

Our master bedroom makeover may not have started, but our basement makeover came a lot closer to finally being finished.

Let’s just not discuss that the basement was summer 2012’s project.

Now for the pot of gold

Rainbow over green fields

A late afternoon downpour followed by a sun shower was followed by the biggest rainbow we’ve had at the farm. It spanned from the front field all the way to the back woods. It was so big I couldn’t fit it all in one picture. I had to stick two together to get the full arch.

Matt and I are taking some time off this week to search for the pot of gold. I’ll still be posting, but I may not be responding to comments as quickly. I hope your week is full of sunshine and blue skies.

Just a farmer

I think intuitively I knew farming was a hard job. But since moving to the country, I have a whole different appreciation. Equipment, land, time–farmers respond to a higher calling.

When I see tractor lights circling around our fields at 9:30 on a Sunday night, I understand that this is not a job.

Spraying the fields at night

Our local community newsletter printed the following poem last year. It said all of the things I’ve seen from our farmer.

“Just a farmer,” you said
And I laughed ’cause I knew
All the things that farmers
Must be able to do.

They must study the land,
Then watch the sky
And figure just what
Is the right time and why

To sow and to plant
To buy and to sell
To go to the market
With cattle, and well.

You know all the books
That farmers must keep
To pay all those taxes
And be able to sleep.

And you know the fixin’
That farmers must do
When machines like mad monsters
Blow a gasket or two.

I guess when God needed
Folks to care for His earth,
He chose “just farmers”
Cause he knew their true worth.

By Helen C. Coon

Silver wings

I had been to auctions before. My Dad enjoyed them, and it was a cheap activity to do with little kids. These were country auctions. Outdoors. At farms. There were usually wagons and trailers spread over the yard piled with boxes that themselves were piled with goods for sale.

At this particular auction, there was a wagon full of cartons that seemed to have been packed in the kitchen. There were dishes and spatulas and gadgets. One box was full of tarnished silver dishes.

Butterfly topped silver butter dish

I was young, maybe just a teenager. But I’d started collecting a few silver pieces.

This box had a dish that I wanted to add to my collection. It was a silver butter dish. What made it special was the lid, which was capped with a butterfly. My Dad agreed that it was pretty, and he said he’d bid on it for me.

Butterfly topped silver butter dish

The auctioneer circled around the wagon, selling off boxes one at a time. Then, he pointed his cane at my box. One of his assistants picked it up. The bidding was on.

My eyes shot back and forth between the box and my Dad. The assistant reached into the box and pulled out a dish and held it up for people to see. The auctioneer kept chattering, calling the next price, driving the bidding on. The assistant pulled another dish out of the box. It was the bottom of the butter dish.

My Dad looked at me. He said, “Are you sure that’s the one?” Nearly frantic, I nodded yes. He bid. The price jumped maybe twice more, and then the box was mine.

Butterfly topped silver butter dish

We came forward to take the box and moved off to the side so that we could look at what we bought. The butter dish, including the lid, was there.

People started coming up to us. “I didn’t realize this was the box. Would you consider selling the butterfly dish?”

No, I wouldn’t.

Butterfly topped silver butter dish

Inside, I was gleeful the assistant had only held up the bottom of the dish and not the lid. I was grateful that my Dad had trusted me that this was the box. I was thankful the price hadn’t gone too high (I think my Dad paid just either $20 or $50 for the box). I was excited the butterfly was mine.

I’m still all of those things.


Harold the barn cat

Harold was hit by a car very early Monday morning.

He was dead by the time I found him on my drive to work.

I was not able to bring him back to the farm to be buried.

Although Harold never truly became our cat, I wanted to commemorate him.

I only wish that this scared creature had been able to find a little more comfort and peace in his life.

Fraidy cat

Two cats outside in the snow


At Baxter’s annual check up, I had lots of questions for the vet about ticks. He wasn’t too concerned about them. Then he looked in Baxter’s ear and found “a passenger.” We went home with new anti-tick medication, tick removal tools and instructions to check him over carefully after each walk.

Tick removal tools

Then a few weeks later I felt a bump on my back. I thought, “Gee that pimple came up really fast. And it feels weird.” The mirror confirmed that there was a black dot–not a red one–in the middle of my back. I gathered a container, tweezers and Baxter’s tick tools and went to find Matt. Sure enough, he confirmed I had a passenger of my own.


I didn’t feel the tick bite me, but he certainly had a good lock when Matt went to remove him. It hurt more than I expected. And Matt found that the vet’s tick removers didn’t get a tight enough grip. The tweezers worked best.

The tick (who was still alive–double eww) went into a jar and was immersed in rubbing alcohol.

Tick in a jar of rubbing alcohol

My brother-in-law the MD provided assurances that I probably was going to be okay and gave me the symptoms to watch out for (which caused a Google search that I can never unsee–seriously, don’t look).

It’s been a few weeks now, and Baxter and I both seem to be fine. We’re waiting for Matt to have his turn with a “passenger.”

It seems to be a right of passage in country living.

Anyone else ever been bitten by a tick? How common are ticks in your area?

Service call

Wiley has come of age. Our little Kioti tractor had his 50 hour service. Sniff.

Now, lest you think this is a how-to-do-a-50-hour-service-on-a-Kioti-CS2410-post, let me correct you.

We dropped off the tractor manual with my extremely obliging, mechanically-inclined cousin. He studied it for a few days and provided us with a list of materials to buy.

Kioti CS2410 manual

Matt spent nearly $200 on fluids and filters at the tractor dealership.

Fluids and filters for tractor service

Then, my cousin and Dad came up and did the service while Matt, Baxter and I watched.

Changing the oiil on our tractor

Well, we helped a little bit.

Matt blew the dead grass and dust off the engine screen with my cousin’s air compressor. My Dad and I greased all of the fittings. Matt was responsible for detaching the grease gun when the nozzle got stuck on the first fitting.

Grease gun stuck on a fitting

Then Matt and my Dad cleaned the battery terminals with baking soda. Another use for baking soda. Who knew? (My Dad, that’s who).

Cleaning battery terminals with baking soda

Our little tractor is two years old. We probably should have done an oil change by now, but we were waiting for the 50-hour milestone as instructed by the dealership. Most people would have gotten there sooner than we did, but we apparently don’t use the tractor that much.

However, after making multiple comments about how black the oil was, my Dad has now guilted me into taking better care of my equipment.

Changing the oiil on our tractor

Besides, my cousin volunteered to come up and do it for us any time. He even took our push mower home with him and got it running again (yeah, we’re not at all mechanically inclined and we pretty much abuse our equipment).

Who out there is mechanically inclined? Did you know you could clean a battery with baking soda? Anyone else have a handy obliging family members?

Raised dog food stand

Special occasions should be marked by presents. So for Baxter’s Gotcha Day, I made him a dinner table all his own.

Dog food stand made of old barn wood

I took inspiration from the DIY Pet Food Station that Kim and Scott made for their Jack over at Yellow Brick Home. As much as I coveted the hairpin legs that they used (love the industrial-rustic mix), I didn’t find any at a price I was willing to pay. So I went to the bench I made for the mudroom and adjusted it to be doggie size.

Like with the bench, I dug into my beat-up antique lumber stash in the barn. People, these planks are absolutely amazing. Sure they weigh 3 tonnes and are covered in poop and who knows what, but they’re phenomenal. The plank I chose was too big and heavy for me to move on my own, so I lopped off a 4 foot piece with my circular saw and got to building.

I think the details on the construction are pretty self-explanatory, especially if you reference my bench plans. I used my Kreg jig to attach the legs with three screws each. In terms of finished measurements, the stand is 10 inches high, 24 inches long, and 10 inches deep. The legs are at about a 15 degree angle and are 8 1/4 inches end to end. The bowls are 7 1/2 inches in diameter.

Dog food stand made of old barn wood

Cutting the circles for the bowls was the hardest part. I drew my circles using the bowls for a template. Then I drilled a hole so that I had a spot to insert my jigsaw blade, and I cut along the line. I think I figured out why this wood is so darn heavy. It is super duper dense. My jigsaw blade broke before it was even halfway around the first cutout. Initially the cutting was so slow that I thought my blade was dull. But when I installed the new blade after my first one snapped, it still took a significant amount of force to push the jigsaw along the line ever, ever so slowly. And I had to do it twice! Darn dog needing water as well as food.

To seal and protect my dense, hard, beat-up beautiful wood, I turned to Waterlox, the same solution we used on our DIY kitchen counter. It’s food safe for humans, so it’s an appropriate finish to use on a stand whose sole purpose is to hold (dog) food. Nothing’s too good for my puppy.

Dog food stand made of old barn wood

From my past experience with the bench when it turned black because it sucked up so much stain, I knew that the wood would be thirsty, and boy was I right. It took about three coats before the finish started to build up and look shiny on the wood. Even then, there were some sections (the ones with the most worm holes) that just sucked the Waterlox right in. All in all, I did a total of 6 coats of finish.

After that, it was simply about putting the bowls in the stand and filling them up! Tip: kibble on its own isn’t very appetizing. Sweet potatoes make it much more palatable. (That is, if you’re Julia. If you’re Matt you give in to the sad eyes and put ketchup on it. Yeah, my husband and the dog are totally related.)

Dog food stand made of old barn wood

Bon appetit, Baxter. Or as Matt says, “Mangey, mangey”–as in French “mange” with an “ee” ending. (He and the dog share their own language as well as the same taste buds.)

Do your pets get presents? How do you handle pet food at your house? What’s your pet’s favourite food?