Sunday, August 23, 2015

Uncovering a hidden driveway

We knew that there was asphalt under the lawn behind the barn.  Our assumption was that they covered it with dirt because it was in bad condition, so we left the dirt in place.

Recently I began to poke around to see exactly where the asphalt ended. The more I poked the more I thought that it extended all the way back to the original location of the barn.  This would give us a parking area behind the barn and an a area for our compost bins.

During a rain delay, of which we have had a lot of, we started scraping the dirt away.  The large silver maple needed dirt on the back side so we relocated the majority of the dirt over to that area.

The area next to the barn will require a small retaining wall along side of the asphalt.  This will leave an area for the bee hives.


I will probably return to paint scraping on Sunday.  The bottoms of my feet feel much better and I think I can stand on a ladder again.  I can always scrape on the back of the barn if they start to hurt again.

R started another project on the front of the house.  It's a small area with a lot of issues.  He will need to remove and replace cedar shingles, re do the exhaust for the two furnaces, adjust the gas meter on the mounting bracket so that it is straight, remove old paint from exterior conduit, repair concrete foundation, and remove downspout and re install.  All of those repairs are located on a wall 2 foot wide wall and about 3 feet of the adjacent wall.

The weather forecast is for rain on Sunday night and then a stretch of good weather for about 5 days. The last two days have cooled just slightly but it is a vast improvement over last week.  My pace slows to a crawl when it is hot and humid.  If only the grass would slow it's growing just a tad bit.


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Barn Spruce Up Part 5 and Green with Envy

I ran out of extension cord and energy at exactly the same time.  How's that for project management?

R finished the corner boards on the two back corners while I used the heat gun.  I have no idea how many times I went up and down the ladder today but my legs are screaming and my feet are making it a duet.  I think it would be a good idea if I stay off the ladder tomorrow.  I can always move to the back of the barn and scrape paint while actually standing on terra firma.

Tomorrow's plan is cut and install cove moulding under the windows on the back of the barn, scrape paint on the back of the barn, scrape paint off of the glass on the remaining 4 windows, nail any loose boards, and epoxy holes and checked rough wood.

The zinnias that I planted from seed are doing great.  The last two years I have purchased zinnias plants that were already about 6 inches tall with a lot of buds and some open flowers.  It's nice to have instant flowers and colors but both years it results in bent plants and ultimately flowers that fell over and looked bad.  The zinnias this year are standing tall despite some extremely strong winds. Winds that broke a huge limb in one of our black walnut trees but yet the zinnias are standing tall.

I planted a tall zinnia variety in a chartreuse green called Envy.  I like them but they are not as bright green as the package indicated in the photo.  The other variety is a shorter multi color zinnia. I will probably plant both of these varieties again next year.


This year I was kind of late in planting so hopefully an earlier planing will give me earlier flowers. Maybe El Nino will allow for early May planting.  Fingers crossed for El Nino.  I cannot handle another 95+ inches of snow. 

Barn Spruce Up Part 4 plus Other Stuff

First off.....the other stuff.

We had a storm blow through on Friday evening.  The temperature dropped from 89 degrees to 68 degrees in about 20 minutes.  R and I had just decided to call it quits at about 6PM.  It was hot and we had just made a mistake in ripping down a board because we were tired and hot.  It really pisses me off when I make a mistake like that because when I do my lumber list I do not add any extras and I hate running to the store for 1 board.  But luckily we can use that board on another corner so nothing was wasted.

Our yard has a lot of trees and we were unaware of the storm that was coming.  It was sunny until the storm was on top of us.  We were just about done picking up and rounding up the cats for the evening when the wind started to pick up.  Then the wind got cold.  It was so odd.  I looked up and saw that the storm was coming from the northwest which is weird because normally our storms come from the southeast.

Just as we got inside it started to really blow, like trees sideways blowing.  R forgot his phone in the truck and ran back outside.  When he came back in he said he could hardly open the door of the truck. Unfortunately, I reminded him that he was parked under the large silver maple that has several large broken limbs in the top of it from the winter ice storm of 2013.  So back outside he went to move the truck.

He no sooner got back inside when we lost power.  I swear the last two times we lost power were when we had been outside all day and needed showers badly.  Power was restored at 1AM and it was a mad dash to see who could get to the shower first......I won!!!!

Today I picked up and burned branches while R delivered our last kitten.....yes, we had another stray who had 7 of the cutest little kittens.  She will go to the vet on Monday for shots and then 7 days later she will get fixed.  Hopefully we will be able to rehome her without too much problem.  She's friendly.  Our kitty tally is 36 kittens and cats rehomed in 2 years.  I am hoping for 2016 to be kitten free.

Update...Grandma Cat is living large at my mother's condo.  She's been renamed Pumpkin. That cat has been a godsend for my mother since my father died.   This is my mother's first pet EVER.  In 80 years she had never even touched an animal so it is beyond amazing how she has bonded with Pumpkin.


The barn spruce up is moving along.  The drip cap is ordered and should be her on the 25th.  We have one corner complete and the bottom boards installed.  The plan is to finish another corner tomorrow. It takes a while to install the boards because the clapboards are not perfect and the new boards are not always as straight as one would hope for when buying new. So sometimes we have to use a bottle jack to press the board up against the bottom of the clapboard and then we nail it in place.  We have to keep telling ourselves that it can't be perfect.  The barn is almost 100 years old and as a result of age and being moved the barn is no longer exactly square and plumb.  Our goal is to make it possible to get another 100 years service out of the barn.

There is a lot of rain in the forecast for the coming week so I need to concentrate on using the heat gun to remove paint.  When it is damp or sprinkling we can do clapboard repairs etc but I cannot use the heat gun.

I think we need another ladder on the job site.



Garden update......tomatoes are doing great, cauliflower is small but growing, red cabbage is hanging in there.  Green beans....nothing.  Between the deer and the black walnuts they really didn't have a chance.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Barn Spruce Up Part 3 and Vintage Fels Naphta Soap Crate

We got a late start because we needed to mow the lawn at the other house. But once we arrived back home we started working on the barn.

R worked on folding up the straps that hung down below the wood sheathing on the barn.  At the same time he drove in any protruding nails and added fasteners to pull the sheathing back into place and connect it to the barn framing.  We are guessing that a lot of the loose nails etc came from when they moved the barn, which occur before we purchased the house.

He also replaced 4 small pieces of clapboard that were cracked and broken.  These were located next to the garage door and were only about 5 inches wide.  R was able to use a long piece of old clapboard that we removed from the bottom of the clapboards on the back of the barn.  Luck was on his side and he was able to get 4 good pieces out of the one long broken piece.  He also saved the nails that held the broken pieces in place.  Because the clapboards are face nailed, we felt it was important to face nail the replacement pieces and to use a nail with the same size head.

While R was working on repairing clapboards, I was back to using the heat gun to remove paint.  I was just getting into the groove when the heat gun got real loud and started smoking.  Another heat gun bites the dust.  I usually buy heat guns two at a time, when I go to the store.

I, then moved on to scraping the paint off the glass panes in the barn windows.  When we purchased the house almost all the windows in the barn were broke, missing, or at the very least had broken panes.  We were able to locate the exact size we needed at a salvage place in Grass Lake, MI.  They weren't pretty but they were in whole condition and would keep the snow, rain, and critters out of the barn.

After I finished up with the windows, I started to poke around in the barn.  We have so much stuff (good, bad, and useless) stored in there.  I soon found a old wood crate printed with the words Fels Naphta Soap on the sides.  It had 2 pieces of sheet metal nailed to the  top and was filled with straw, so I am guessing it was used as a nesting box.


I just did a little research and on eBay someone is selling this same crate for $116.10.....Really?

Monday, August 10, 2015

Adding a Solar Light to our Mayne Mailbox Post

We replaced our old wood mailbox post in the spring of 2012 with a black PVC decorative post from Mayne.  You can read about the installation here and here.

I've also mentioned before how dark it is at night and how  people seem to not be able to find our driveway.  So when I realized that Mayne offered a solar light that fit right on the top of the post, I hit the BUY button.

I'll admit that until the light arrived and I was able to read the instructions, I was unsure how this light was installed.  Do we need to cut off the top of the post?  Does the top of the post come off and we replace that with the light?  Oh boy....I sure hope this isn't one of those small projects that turn into a nightmare.

Nope....none of that.  Four self tapping screws (included) and the light was installed.  It took me longer to open the box and find my screwdriver than it took me to install the light.  Basically the light just sits on top of the post and is secured with four screws.

First, you remove the top of the light with a slight turn.  This exposes the holes that you use to attach the light.  The screws are self tapping so they only require a little effort to screw in.  No pre drilling, a little tap on the head of the screw with the handle of the screw driver will set the screw and aid in the install. Just place the light on top of the post, install the 4 screws, replace the cover, and lock into place with a slight twist.  Don't forget to remove the plastic strip from the battery (pull to remove) before replacing the light cover.

The light is quite bright for a solar light.  We needed to trim the tree that overhangs the mailbox so that the solar panel (located on the very top) wasn't in the shade.  The solar light requires 8 hours of sunshine to charge the battery.  Speaking of battery.  When the need arises to change the rechargeable battery all you need to do is give the light cover a slight twist and lift and the battery is located right there in the removable cover.  No tools needed.  No screws to accidentally drop into the grass never to be seen again......been there....done that.

The website indicates that the light uses two batteries but they have made a recent change and now the light uses just one battery.  I know this because when my light arrived with one battery I contact them and they replied with the updated info.

I've been very happy with my Mayne products.  I have also ordered two large planters for my deck and have now decided to replace all my pots with the Mayne planters in the Cape Cod design.  Make sure you check out their rain catcher.


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Perfecting my bacon wrapped cheesey weenie recipe

Today was the second time I have made this appetizer and this time it was a little better than the first but it stills needs some work.  Currently the cheese melts and runs out of the weenie leaving me with a barely cheesey weenie.  But I have a plan for the next batch.

Here is the current recipe

Makes 24 appetizers

1 package quality all beef hot dogs (I use Koegel all beef frankfurters)
cheddar cheese (either block or slices) I prefer sharp but it is up to your taste
1 lb uncooked bacon
1/4C brown sugar
parchment paper
tooth picks

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F

Cut the package of bacon in half.  This will result in 24 half slices instead of 12 whole slices.  Cut the hot dogs into thirds.  Most packages of hot dogs contain 8 pieces and when cut into thirds results in 24 pieces.......lucky coincidence or part of my master plan?

Cut small slivers of cheddar the length of the cut hot dogs.  Cut a slit into the side of each piece of hot dog and place a cheese sliver into that slit.  Now wrap each weenie in a piece of bacon and secure with a toothpick.

I'm firing my photographer
Roll each appetizer in the brown sugar, making sure to coat all sides including the ends.  Place in a covered container in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook and serve.  I let mine sit in the fridge over night.

When you are ready to bake, place the appetizers on a cookie sheet that has been lined with a piece of parchment.  I added this step after the first attempt because I ended up soaking my cookie sheet for two days before I was able to remove all the burnt on fat and cheese.  This time around the parchment kept my cookie sheet clean and soaked up all the fat as a bonus.

Bake for 10 minutes then flip the appetizers and bake for another 10 minutes but monitor as the other side may not need the full 10 minutes.  Please do not look at my cookie sheet.  This is the cookie sheet I use to catch drips etc.  After having to soak my good cookie sheet for two days to remove the burnt cheese, I decided to use this one and if the parchment didn't work I was going to toss the cookie sheet in the trash.  But the parchment paper worked great so next time I can use my good cookie sheet.

Remove from oven and place the appetizers onto a plate but first touch the appetizer to a piece of paper towel to absorb any excess fat.  Do not let the appetizers sit on the cookie sheet because they will absorb too much fat and if they cool they will stick to the parchment.

Appetizers can be eaten hot, warm, or cold.

I added the brown sugar step this time to add a crispy brown coating.  But next time I make these I am going to also partially cook the bacon so that my baking time will be reduced and hopefully help with the cheese melting out of the weenie.  Using the broiler might also help with the melting cheese problem. 
I also like using these cheap tin foil containers that have a plastic lid.  I buy them at the dollar store for 2 for $1.00.  I keep several sizes on hand so when I have to take food to a gathering I can use these and not have to worry about retrieving my dishes or worry about breakage.  The plastic lid also works much better than plastic wrap and allows for stacking in the fridge if you are making several dishes.  I agree, that these are not as nice as a pretty decorative plate but for an informal casual family get together, they work perfect.

Anyone else have any ideas on how to keep my cheese from melting?

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Barn Spruce Up Part 2

Paint removal is going slightly slower.  My thumb is sore from holding the putty knife and all the scraping is now done while on a ladder, so this slows me down BIG TIME.

Today after we brought out the extension cords, heat gun, and extension ladder it started to slightly sprinkle.  Normally I would continue doing whatever I was doing but rain, electricity, and metal ladder didn't sound like a good idea.  So we took care of small things until the spritzing stopped.

The first small thing on the list was to re install the header board over the second window.  We then cut the cove trim for under the window sills.  These barn windows did not have trim but the windows on the house all have this small trim piece so the barn will, too.

We also removed two metal rods that were sticking out of the clapboards.  R used vise grips to hold onto it while he turned it counterclockwise to remove it.  The jury is still out on what they were and what was the purpose of them being there.  Someone at one time cut them off leaving just a barbed end left in the wood clapboard.  There were two at the front part of the barn and two towards the back.

For the last little project we added 3 twisty nails to a portion of clapboard that had popped out of place.  Just as we were finishing up the two male cats (Morrie and Elvis) got into a fight.  They were playing and one of them went just a little too far and then they were one big rolling ball of fur.  This has been happening more frequently so we keep a bucket of water on hand to bring a stop to those tussles.  They will both be visiting the vet soon and hopefully that will stop the tussles.

Then the sprinkles stopped and I was able to finish up the paint removal up to the top of the windows. By this time it was 630pm and time to call it a wrap for the day.  Sunday is an off day for us as we have a family August birthday party to go to.  R is always happy when my sister cooks....LOL  I usually do appetizers and sometimes cake but this time just the appetizers.  Belly buttons (ham roll ups) and a new one that I am still perfecting.  It's a 1/3 of  Koegel frankfurter with a slit down the side, filled with cheddar cheese, and wrapped in a half slice of bacon.  It is held together with a toothpick. The first time I made these I just baked them at 400 until the bacon was done.  This time I rolled them in dark brown sugar and placed them in the fridge until I bake them.  Hopefully they will have a nice sweet brown crust on them when they are done cooking.