Shrubs and Fruit Cobbler

Straining the fruit from the vinegar/sugar shrub mix

Straining the fruit from the vinegar/sugar shrub mix

I finished off the last of the strawberry shrub last night. I’ve found that simply mixing the fruit-infused vinegar/sugar mix with ice and water was perfect, I didn’t even need soda water.

Combine flour, sugar and baking powder

Combine flour, sugar and baking powder

It tastes so refreshing, especially after working in the heat organizing the homeschool room or various other tasks.

I made sure to start another concoction going last night so that the flavors could infuse properly.

Melt a stick of butter into your small/medium sized bakeware

Melt a stick of butter into your small/medium sized bakeware

And if you are wondering what I’m talking about, here is a tutorial, complete with photos, on how to make a refreshing shrub and a fruit cobbler out of the remaining fruit.

Fruit Shrub

  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups fruit (I used frozen strawberries)
Add the milk to the flour/sugar mix and stir well

Add the milk to the flour/sugar mix and stir well

Mix the three ingredients together in a medium-size container that can be sealed. Mix it well, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. If the fruit is frozen, allow to sit, covered and at room temperature in the vinegar and sugar, for an hour. Then go back and mash the fruit into a slurry.

Add the batter to the melted butter. Do not mix it!

Add the batter to the melted butter. Do not mix it!

This will help it infuse the vinegar better.

Leave at room temp, covered, overnight.

Stir the mixture well, then strain the fruit, setting it aside for cobbler.

See? No mixing!

See? No mixing!

Fruit Cobbler

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups fruit
Add fruit to the middle, but DO NOT mix it in with the other ingredients.

Add fruit to the middle, but DO NOT mix it in with the other ingredients.

Set the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Using a medium sized baking dish, melt the stick of butter completely (I just stick the whole thing in the microwave).

Relax with some strawberry shrub

Relax with some strawberry shrub

Mix flour, sugar, and baking powder together and then add the milk, stirring until mixture is mostly smooth and free of lumps. Pour this into the baking dish with the butter, do NOT stir it.

Now add the fruit to the center of the dish. Do NOT stir any of it.

After 35 minutes, this was done and ready for eating. YUM!

After 35 minutes, this was done and ready for eating. YUM!

Bake in the oven for 35 minutes and remove when golden brown at the edges. Enjoy with a topping of creme fraiche or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Posted in Baking/Cooking, Recipes | Leave a comment

Wheeling and Dealing

First off, great news, the main breadwinner of the house starts a new job on Monday. I am relieved, as is he, that we will soon have income rolling in.

Meanwhile, I’ve had a couple of boons I just had to share…

1950s Chambers Stove

Six months ago, I set up an automatic search on eBay. I asked it to search for vintage/antique gas stoves within my area. The stoves are usually “local pick-up only” and for good reason. They are exceedingly heavy!

I really wanted an old gas stove, so I kept checking Craig’s List as well, which is nothing but local items for sale. I eventually found this beauty…

Roper stove, late 1940s, hooked up and functional!

Roper stove, late 1940s, hooked up and functional!

I spent two hours cleaning this baby from top to bottom, while cooing over it. I LOVE it.

So imagine my consternation a week ago when I saw EXACTLY the stove I had hoped to find pictured in an email from eBay. It was for a 1950s Chambers stove…

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Sorry, I don’t have better pictures. I’m currently copying them off of the listing on eBay.

In any case, it is fully functional and has three burners, a griddle with popup broiler, and a well with three compartments. One oven handle will need replacing, but that is it.

And I paid $108.49 for this beauty.

Better yet, I had a Paypal balance I didn’t even realize I had, so only $52 or so came out of my checking account.

We pick this up tomorrow evening. I’m so excited!

I’ve placed the Roper stove on Craig’s List for $325. That said, it wouldn’t bother me at all if it didn’t sell. I’d love to put it in The Cottage, it is such a lovely piece. The Chambers stove, however, will go in the old kitchen of our house. I can’t wait to see it there!

Amazon Deals

I have been making full use of my high Amazon reviewer status. Right now I hover just under 6,000 in the rankings, which means that I get approximately 3-5 emails per day offering various items for free, drastically reduced and sometimes just half off (I usually don’t get those items unless it is something I really need).

I only respond to the ones I feel I can honestly review. Today a vendor contacted me with an offer and followed it up with a couple of questions once I said “yes.” One of those questions was rather pointed, “Will you contact me before leaving anything less than a 5-star review?” I answered her other questions and simply stated that I always left honest, unbiased reviews.

I doubt she read between the lines. Nevertheless, I’ll be reviewing a clip on lens for my iPhone in a week or two.

I mention the reviewer status because I also make sure to ALWAYS click “no-rush shipping” when going through checkout. This gives me a steady stream of $1 credits towards digital books and music. I can only use one $1 credit at a time, however, so if an ebook is more expensive than that, it isn’t FREE.

Recently however, Amazon was handing out $5.99 credits towards Prime Pantry when I clicked the “no rush shipping.” I managed to rack up four of those suckers and just received an email reminding me I hadn’t used my credits.

Time to get shopping!

When I arrived at the Prime Pantry destination, I saw that there was also a special going on in July for free shipping if you choose five of the Prime Pantry select items. (Prime Pantry charges a flat delivery fee of $5.99 whether you have Prime membership or not.)

So I looked through the lists and ended up making four separate orders. At this time Amazon doesn’t require you to FILL your box. They would like it, but it isn’t a requirement.

So I bought:

Order #1: 5 bottles of Mrs. Meyer’s dish soap – $10.42 after No Rush shipping and PANTRYJUL code was applied. ($16.41 value)

Order #2: 4pk of Kleenex tissue cubes and 4 pkgs of linguini – $5.99 after No Rush shipping and PANTRYJUL code was applied. ($10.81 value)

Order #3: 2 boxes of spaghetti pasta, 1 bag Bob’s Red Mill muesli cereal, 1 can organic chili and 1 bottle children’s Tylenol – $8.65 after No Rush shipping and PANTRYJUL code was applied. ($14.64 value)

Order #4: 1 Aussie conditioner (reg size), 1 Aussie shampoo (jumbo size), 1 box thin spaghetti, 1 pkg Oreo cookies (don’t judge me!), 1 pkt brown gravy mix – $6.08 after No Rush shipping, instant coupons, and PANTRYJUL code was applied. ($13.57 value)

So I paid $31.14 total for approximately $55.43 in merchandise. Tax-free, delivery fee free, and I didn’t have to leave the house and drive my gas-guzzling van to at least 2-3 different locations around the metro area.

And all of that was using $23.96 in credits I had earned from having free items shipped to my house and me writing a review. I am also considering re-selling some of it, depending on what it is.

Also, with my Amazon prime membership I get 5% cash back, automatically applied, on all of my Amazon purchases.  I buy all of my toilet paper, paper towels, and huge 40 pound boxes of cat litter from Amazon. The prices are the same as in local stores and I’m getting it tax-free and delivered to my door. Who could ask for more?

Posted in Frugality | Leave a comment

Two Classes Coming Up

I have two classes coming up and they will be located here at my house. If you are interested in attending, sign up with Communiversity by calling 816-235-1448 or registering online at register here.

So far, I only have one attendee registered for each class. I need at least four more in order to hold the classes.

Here are the two classes…

Creating Zendala Art

Creating Zendala Art

Mandala and Zentangle – two fascinating and meditative art forms combine to make Zendala art! Attendees will learn about the history of mandala art and get a chance to make their own art while looking at a wide range of mandala and zendala inspired art. This class is held in an 1899 Victorian private residence in Historic Northeast and has a fee of $25, please contact Communiversity re: class 1002A at 816-235-1448 or go to http://info.umkc.edu/communiversity to register for this class.

Summer Salads & Make Your Own Dressings

Summer Salads & Make Your Own Dressings

Forget store-bought! Take a moment to whip up one of these three easy salad dressings and add them to a fresh bed of greens from your garden! All three dressings will be available for taste-testing…mmm…yum! Making your own healthy, fresh salad dressing is easy and fun! Yet another aisle to avoid in the grocery store once you have tasted your own unique design, you will never go back to store-bought! We will taste test all of these mixes on beds of fresh greens. Handout includes several excellent summer salads to pair the mixes with. This class is held in an 1899 Victorian private residence in Historic Northeast and has a fee of $25, please contact Communiversity re: Class 3002A at 816-235-1448 or go to http://info.umkc.edu/communiversity to register for this class.

Posted in Classes | 2 Comments

Can We Do It?!!

I started off this morning with the question, “What is crowdfunding and how does it work?”

By noon I had plenty of information and I was working on a list of offerings.

I won’t be pressing the magic Submit button yet, but I’ve got a great plan of action in front of me.

  1. Make a list of valuable offerings folks might be interested in, in exchange for their contribution.  – DONE
  2. Assign prices and values to each of them. – DONE
  3. Pull together a “project board” that will give folks an idea of what they are investing in. – my eldest daughter Dee has volunteered to do this.
  4. Describe in detail what The Cottage will offer in terms of sleeping arrangements and service. (continental breakfast, wi-fi, art and more) – in progress
  5. Find the appropriate kickstarter company (IndieGoGo, Kickstarter, etc) and set up the campaign.
  6. Collect and insert images to go with the various offerings (see below). Almost done.
  7. Advertise the campaign to as many people as possible (email, friends, Facebook, blog sites, etc).

I’ve worked out a list of possible offerings in exchange for a wide range of contributions:

Contribution Offer
 $  5.00 Hand-written Thank You card (You are AWESOME, thank you for your support!)
 $ 15.00 Unique hand-drawn postcard mailed or hand-delivered
 $  20.00 Hand-signed copy of one of my books: (choose one) “Get Organized, Stay Organized” or “The War on Drugs: An Old Wives Tale” or “War’s End: The Storm” or “War’s End: A Brave New World” or “Gliese 581:Departure”
 $  40.00 Zentangle name (up to 7 letters) framed
 $  50.00 A hand-drawn Zendala framed
 $  50.00 A framed – hand-drawn monogram (letter and two colors of your choice) on 1900 Encyclopedia Britannica page
 $ 50.00 One night’s stay in The Cottage with fresh homebaked bread and continental breakfast provided ($125 value)
 $  75.00 A crafts class for you and five of your friends hosted in my home or yours – choose from one of the following classes: Creating Zendala Art, Faux Succulents and Tiny Terrariums, Art of the Altered Page, Zentangle River Rocks, or Zentangle Eggs  ($200 value)
 $ 100.00 A cooking class hosted in my home or yours for you and five of your friends – choose from the following classes: Dish it Up! Condiments, Infused Oils, Butters and Vinegars, Sauces, Dips and Marinades, or Garden Desserts ($200 value)
 $  100.00 One night’s stay in The Cottage with fresh home baked bread, continental breakfast, and a personalized family monogram on 1900 Encyclopedia Britannica page framed ($175 value)
 $  100.00 Two night’s stay in The Cottage with fresh home baked bread and continental breakfast provided ($250 value)
 $ 300.00 Five night’s stay in The Cottage w/fresh bread, continental breakfast, and a signed copy of one of my books (a $645 value)
 $  600.00 VIP seven night’s stay at the Cottage, complete with your choice of homemade ice cream each day, a home baked dessert of your choice, continental breakfast, and one dozen farm-fresh eggs. Also a hand-drawn and framed monogram letter of your choice ($925)
 $2,000.00 Investor Level – receive equivalent of 30 days’ stay in The Cottage (this can be broken up into chunks over a five-year period), continental breakfast each morning, linen service, farm-fresh eggs and available produce, and a hand-drawn and framed monogrammed letter of your choice and signed book of your choice ($3,800 value)

If you know someone who travels to Kansas City often on business, the Investor Level contribution of $1,000 could be perfect for their needs. And if you know of any local businesses who would be interested in something like this for any visiting off-site employees, please let me know.

Here are some of the photos I will be including with the campaign offerings:

Terrariums class

$75 Terrariums class (paired with Succulents class – both classes for one low price)

Faux Succulents class

$75 Faux Succulents class (paired with Terrarium class – both classes for one low price)

Zentangle Rocks class

$75 Zentangle Rocks class

Zentangle Eggs class

$75 Zentangle Eggs class

Zendala

$50 framed Zendala Art

Framed Monogram Art $50 (letter of your choice)

Framed Monogram Art $50 (letter of your choice)

Zentangle postcard

$15 Zentangle postcard (This is an example, each is a unique design)

That’s just a taste of the offerings I’m thinking up.

What do YOU think?

Posted in Crowdfunding/Fundraising, DIY | Leave a comment

Chickens and Crowdfunding

And Then There Were Fourteen

Last Saturday, I taught a class at the Ruiz Library. One of the attendees asked me, “How often do you lose a chicken?

I answered, “Well, we haven’t had one in a while, but usually about 1-2 per year.”

Yesterday morning, my husband came inside from checking on the chickens, “I need a plastic bag. We’ve got a dead chicken.” He paused, “Well, what’s left of a chicken actually.”

You know how I mentioned that chickens are omnivores? They are. And they don’t hesitate at cannibalizing one of their own.

Enjoy those eggs…

Crowdfunding – Can It Be Done?

I am working on one last possible idea for getting the funds in place for renovations on The Cottage. For those of you who are new, or don’t remember, we bought a two bedroom one bath bungalow from Land Bank back in 2014. The goal was to renovate it and then rent it out.

We ran into some unexpected financial issues, and the money we had set aside for the renovation had to go elsewhere. So here we are, staring at a house just 100 feet away from ours, that desperately needs work.

I see so much potential in this house, folks! It has good bones, and the house is approximately 100 years old. I can visualize the house, the walls inside painted in soothing, rich colors of blues and greens. The hardwood floors refinished until the wood gleams, a cute eat-in kitchen in the former dining room, and the old kitchen transformed into an efficient utility room.

I see the back porch re-done, with a sturdy railing around it and a couple of chairs to sit on and look over a backyard filled with flowers and fruiting bushes in the back.

The two bedrooms updated and transformed into oases of comfort, the floor of the bathroom laid with a penny floor, and handmade art throughout the house.

It will be perfect as a writing retreat, convention goers, and more in the years to come and function as a pleasant and cheerful bed and breakfast we can easily manage from our home just one-half block away.

I can see it so clearly in my mind.

But the list of necessary repairs before that can happen is a rather long one:

Repairs Details  Estimated Cost
Roof One-layer add-on plus back porch (tear off layers, fix hole, put new layer on) $4,000.00
Electrical Demo walls and run electrical ourselves (will need to rent a dumpster)  $ 500.00
Guttering All new guttering  $ 1,200.00
Front Porch Front porch rebuild  $ 1,500.00
Bathroom – walls Need someone to sheetrock bathroom after it has been roughed out  $ 300.00
Plumbing Plumb house for water and install stack (was installing stack included in Joe Moreno’s quote?)  $ 1,800.00
Sand and refinish wood flors Do this ourselves – rent sander, supplies for wood finish from Lowe’s, install penny tile in bathroom  $ 500.00
Gas Furnace & a/c unit Need minimum of 36,000 BTUs and installation  $  2,000.00
Gas Line install and test Install gas line w/spot to tie into fireplace in future. Pressure test line for furnace and water heater  $ 800.00
Light fixtures Living room, dining room, kitchen (2), bedroom 1, bedroom 2, hall light, front porch, and attic lights  $ 200.00
Gas water heater Got water heater for $20, now just need to hook it up!  $  100
Chimney cap Install chimney cap  $  150.00
Back porch & stairs Tear off exterior walls, install railing and stairs  $  800.00
Windows Replace four windows at $300 each  $ 1,200.00
Refrigerator need a refrigerator for the space – will have to buy a used one  $300.00
Walls Replace lathe and plaster with drywall  $3,000.00
Repair holes/damage to plaster Have Levi patch holes in ceilings and repair cracks and holes in plaster in other rooms  $ 800.00
Garbage Disposal Install garbage disposal unit under kitchen sink  $  150.00
Furniture and More Two double beds, frames and headboards
Bedskirts (2), six sheet sets, four blankets, and make two quilts
4 sets of towels, washcloths, and hand towels
Curtains for all windows
Three 5×8 rugs (for the bedrooms and living room) along with 2 bathmats for bathroom
Total Cost  $19,300.00

Just the renovations are going to cost around $20,000. And that’s if nothing goes wrong. So call it $25,000 just to make sure.

So I have to wonder, can I do crowdfunding for this? And if so, how does that work? How is it all structured?

Could I offer recompensation in the form of free days at the B’nB? Perhaps one night in exchange for a $50 contribution? Or  a week’s stay in exchange for $500 contribution?

I’m planning to rent out the two bedroom, one bath cottage (will be pet friendly and able to sleep six) for just $125 per night.

Thoughts?

Posted in Challenges | Leave a comment

Working For Change

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I don’t have much patience for folks who complain about life while sitting still. Anyone who knows me can attest to this.

If you want things to be different, step forward.

Here in our neighborhood, which has been our home for 3 1/2 years now, this is especially important. Historic Northeast has seen its share of problems. Home to some of the first residential neighborhoods in Kansas City, it has gone through a series of economics dips and crashes.

Urban flight.

Crime.

Good old urban decay.

People have walked away from some of these houses. Let the back taxes pile up and the houses crumble as they sought safer places to live.

But recently there has been an upsurge in folks moving INTO the area instead of out of it. There are still some magnificent homes here, ones that can be had for a fraction of what they would cost anywhere else in the metro. It was one of the reasons we moved here.

Our 117-year-old house has just about everything I could ask for:

  • Three times the square footage
  • Five city lots (about .4 acres) to garden on
  • Centralized location
  • Cost less than our 1,100 square foot home in the suburbs
  • Quality brick walls and hardwood floors
  • Excellent neighbors

And that last one, the neighbors, really make a difference. The community as a whole seems more invested in the area than my fellow suburbanites ever were in our previous home.

Last week we saw on Real Northeast, a Facebook page dedicated to keeping residents informed and engaged, that a new local eatery had suffered their third break-in since opening in October.

Someone broke out the side door glass at Rambo’s last night. They squeezed through the security bars in place. They stole a bunch of stuff. They cannot catch a break. Please make it a point to come eat at this place as soon as you can. He needs our support.

And a while later, an event was created to show this local restaurant that their neighbors cared…

Rambos

And then someone else (not me) had the bright idea of bringing in the media. I immediately jumped on board and emailed three local stations: KCTV5, FOX4News, and KSHB.

I’ve noticed a trend in news reporting around here. Or should I say a lack of news reporting?

KSHB is the only news station that I have seen actively reporting on news in our area. And so I wasn’t too surprised to hear from them. We set up a time to meet today, and I made sure that Michael Stringer, the organizer of the event, knew about it. He was the one who had thought of it after all, and I wanted the credit to go where it was due.

That said, his schedule didn’t allow for it, so guess who got tapped?

Yep. Yours truly.

By the end of the interview, I was a bundle of nerves. Josh from KSHB news also interviewed Michael Donnici, another local resident, and the news story aired on the 6pm news.

Local Residents Rally

My point in telling you all this is not to bang my own drum. Although I will admit to a bit of fangirl “Squee, I was on the news!”

Instead, it is this message: We can change things for the better. We can stand up. We can take part. We can bring attention to hard-working, honest businesses (instead of predatory payday loan companies) and support them.

Olivia and Rambo are lovely folks. They make the best damn fried okra I’ve ever eaten and the hamburgers and fried chicken are also delicious!

I want businesses like those gracing Independence Avenue. Not some damn pawn shop.

Whether you stand up and enact change by planting flowers, helping out neighbors, or organizing an event like today – just DO it.

We can make our street, our neighborhood, our community, our city a better place. All it takes is showing up.

Posted in Advocacy, Community | Leave a comment

Urban Farm Tour – Coming Soon!

UrbanGrown_Logo_Blue_noBground

Nope, we are NOT on the farm tour this year.

Can’t be on the tour AND visit local farms at the same time after all!

I am looking forward to the tour, though. It’s been several years since I got to attend one, and I’m rarin’ to go.

Here are the details, hope to see you there!

Website: Cultivate KC

The Urban Grown Tour is open Saturday, June 25, 9 am-5 pm at Sunday, June 26, 12 pm-5 pm.

Tickets are $8/individual or $20/family and good for both days to visit as many sites as you can.

There are 31 sites on the tour this year! I can’t wait to see some of them!

Buy your tickets here!

A lovely columbine

A lovely columbine

Posted in Advocacy, Events/Tours | Leave a comment

2016 Projects!

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I have exciting news! Our house, along with at least 3-4 others, will be on the Northeast Kansas City Historical Society Homes Tour this fall!

That's a rather holey wall there

That’s a rather holey wall there

NEKCHS truly represents ALL of Historic Northeast Kansas City – and this year they are focusing on Lykins. And while I listened to them reassure us, “Don’t worry about it being perfect, just open the doors and we will do the rest,” I couldn’t help but think of a multitude of projects we needed to finish in time for the tour.

 

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I was so excited that I sat down and made these lace and burlap curtains for the main level bathroom.

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They were sorely needed, believe me, and compliment the hand towels I had the other day with the same lace.

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You know those “bath towels” which aren’t really bath towels that actually fit around your body unless you are a career anorexic or a child under 75 pounds in weight? I took one of them, cut it into three sections and made hand towels from it!

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And isn’t this the prettiest lace? I had a whole bunch of it, but with three hand towels and four curtain panels, there isn’t much left now.

The back bedroom closet door after removing the moulding prior to wall demo

The back bedroom closet door after removing the moulding prior to wall demo

And upon returning home after the meeting, I made a list:

  • Finish painting hall downstairs and extend into upstairs
  • Clean, paint, re-wire and hang old light fixture in front hall
  • Widen front porch stairs
  • Print old newspaper stories and excerpts and put on boards on easels on the front porch
  • Fix stair banister piece DONE (Dave took care of this right away!)
  • Install portiere curtains in front parlor and upstairs library
  • Clean stairs and upstairs hallway carpet?
  • Hang pictures in front parlor
  • Eliminate clutter on the porch in order to use both front doors for incoming and outgoing traffic
  • Re-upholster old couch?  The couch is in the attic, I’ll work on it AFTER the tour!

And of course, we have our regular projects going on. These include continuing to work on tuckpointing inside the basement. We have begun work on the really bad wall – the north wall of the “dungeon.”

The back bedroom of The Cottage ready for demo

The back bedroom of The Cottage ready for demo

Also, although we cannot find financing for the renovation of the Cottage, we have begun demo’ing the interior walls so we can wire the house properly. We will take this on a room by room basis. We have the electrical wire we need, along with all of the electrical boxes, outlets and switches. Once we have power outlets upstairs, we can set in a window a/c unit to keep us cool during the summer as we continue to demo the walls and do what we can for a small amount of money and large amount of sweat!

My newest book - a sci-fi/dystopian novel now available on Amazon

My newest book – a sci-fi/dystopian novel now available on Amazon

Danielle and I are building the cleaning biz up, and when fall arrives and her classes begin, I’ll take over the clients she can’t work around her school schedule.

I’ve begun work again on the van, but it is limited due to my writing and marketing projects. My first science fiction book, Gliese 581: Departure is out and available on Kindle, and should be available soon in paperback as well. I’m busy marketing that while I flip back and forth from writing a non-fiction book and working on the beginning of a 12-13 book fantasy series.

I’ve got a busy life, but I do enjoy it!

Posted in DIY, Events/Tours | Leave a comment

Oh Boy…

 

This hole is directly below the fireplace in the front parlor

This hole is directly below the fireplace in the front parlor – see the cracks to the right of the picture? This mortar is hard on the outside but sand on the inside.

When we bought this property, the inspector told us, “Your foundation and your brickwork need tuckpointing.”

He meant “now” but with all of the other things on our plate, we didn’t start right away. There was a dog fence to build, family obligations, and a lot of getting used to in this big old house.

We have had stops and starts as well. About 18 months ago we managed to get the west wall inside the large middle room of the basement done. We also worked on an alcove on the east wall in the large middle room last summer.

Some of the area we have cleared of the crumbling mortar

Some of the area we have cleared of the crumbling mortar – those dark spots often go for a foot or more back

This past winter we managed to reinforce the limestone foundation on all three walls of the “front” room of the basement where the stairs are. This is actually at the back of the house. That was a biggie, we had some holes that were extending a full two feet to the outside of the house and blocking those icy cold drafts was huge!

In early spring we managed to finish most of the east wall in the large middle room. We still have some work to go in the little alcove which is directly below our living room, but the other day Dave asked, “Have you seen the dungeon’s walls? You are going to freak.”

A close up

A close up

The “dungeon” is the last room in the basement. It is under the front parlor and hallway. We call it the dungeon because it was creepy, full of old pipes from when the upstairs of the house was divided into apartments. Cobwebs hang from the ceiling and there is one lone lightbulb to light up an 12’x20′ space.

I walked into the dungeon with a extra-long standard screwdriver which I had been using to test the mortar, and discovered that the walls were horribly degraded.

How degraded?

The north and west wall - we haven't dug into this yet

The north and west wall – we haven’t dug into this yet – see how degraded parts of the north wall are? Wait until I dig out more!

Well, in some spots the mortar is a little better than the consistency of sand. Often there is a thin veneer of still intact mortar, which can be punched through with relative ease, then sending a shower of sandy mortar pouring onto the floor.

It’s bad.

Dave found a great deal on lights at Lowe’s. They were under $14 each. The nice thing about these is that we can easily move them if we need to, and they just plug into an outlet.

What a repaired wall looks like - it isn't pretty, but it will hold.

What a repaired wall looks like – it isn’t pretty, but it will hold.

Once we had light on the situation I felt better. It’s tough digging around in the dark. At least now I could really see what was happening. Some of the holes are at least a foot deep!

All of this section of the basement is nearly completely underground, so at least I don’t have to worry about breezes. However, some of these walls are scary in how bad they are.

Another patch of repaired wall

Another patch of repaired wall

So if I seem less than active here, there, or everywhere – it is because we are making it a priority. On top of these limestone rocks and now sand-that-was-once-mortar is a three-story building made of bricks. That’s a lot of weight.

Slowly we dig out patches, vacuum it out, then add the special mortar. Some of these holes are huge, folks. If we can get this done, completely, I have no doubt that our house will continue to be safe and shelter us well in the decades to come.

And if you are interested in learning how this is done, come on by and volunteer. I’m happy to put you to work!

The north wall of the "dungeon"

The north wall of the “dungeon” – we haven’t dug into this much, so right now it looks relatively intact, but most of this mortar is nothing better than sand

Posted in Challenges, DIY | Comments Off on Oh Boy…

Our New Sign Is Up!

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Last year, at the last minute, I asked my eldest to make a sign for our garden. It was the first time we were on the Urban Grown Tour and I wanted to make sure folks could easily find us.

She did a great job, but the sign, made in haste, employed a wood that was not well-prepared for outdoor exposure.

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It quickly disintegrated and I winced every time I saw it, half peeling, wood sagging in places.

Dee mentioned it first, “I really need to re-do that sign for you.”

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Life got busy, especially with the advent of spring. But we were determined to get a new sign in place. So we took down the old one, found some pressure-treated wood in the basement, and painted it white.

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Dee spent hours on this and it was finally completed two days ago. I applied sealant to the lettering, and my husband, Dave, mounted it in the yard today. The white paint was outdoor paint, so I think we should be able to enjoy this sign for years to come.

Hooray for our new sign!

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