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Friday, September 21, 2018

Our Old House Project - Corbels on Dining Room Bay Window

This morning we woke up to breezy windy conditions. That was absolutely wonderful news for us because it would blow away all of those pesky mosquitoes. We had an outside project to do and last night they were just atrocious, swarming and biting like crazy. I am not exaggerating on how bad they are this year.  After a mild winter, and lots of rain, we have a bumper crop infesting Wisconsin this summer.

When we looked out this morning and saw all of the trees bending and dipping and swaying, Steve said "Let's get out and do it" ... He had to leave for work in one hour so we hopped to it.

What did we do? 
Well, here is a little backstory:

Our beautiful 104 year old house had originally been built with wood siding and wood trim. Then over the years, it had been replaced a couple times. There were asphalt slate shingles and some wider aluminum or hardboard siding we saw in some of the old photos from the previous owners. 

The most recent covering was done most probably in the 1980s or 90s with beige/tan vinyl siding. At the same time the workers tore off any wood features and wrapped all of the exterior windows with aluminum trim. Yes, it's a no maintenance exterior, but it is also devoid of any interesting architectural details. We are not sure what was originally around this bay window in our dining room.  Inside, the dining room window is pretty leaded glass, with lace curtains and a vintage lamp.  But this 18 inch wide white expanse of plain aluminum above the windows on the outside is pretty boring.

Don't you think?

We had an idea to add some trim, called corbels, around the bay window to fill in that space. We looked at various ideas on other homes, on the internet, and at the building supply store.  Here were some of the ideas we came up with.  Trying to keep to a more "Craftsman" theme than a "Victorian" style.

Hmmmmm I added a bit of blue to this one:

We needed seven of them to adequately fill in the space. If we had to add even more wood to those to make the blue sections, why buy seven little brackets at $32 each?  Well, to the tune of spending $200+ just for some trim, we decided to maybe build our own!  (we are retired on a pretty much fixed budget as well, ya know).  Time to get creative.

I kind of like this shape best, and it also mimics the curves that we cut out on the shutters that we installed two weeks ago. We didn't want things too frilly or bric-a-brac looking.  More structural and clean lines was our goal. 

We knew it needed a little bit of blue trim behind this bracket or brace, to make it stand out against the white background. So I started thinking and went to work with some drawings. Then I traced something onto a board. 

Steve cut it out for me so we would get an idea of where we were going with this...  Here is our first prototype made from scrap wood. 

Okay, we had our idea and had our prototype. But we needed to make it thicker. We didn't want to go out and buy thick planks to cut out this pattern. That can be really expensive too. Now he started to think. Steve gets a lot of thinking done while sitting in a lawn chair out in his garage. Notice the beer sitting on the lawn mower next to him to help him think???

He had an idea--- 2 years ago I bought him a nice newer metal workbench for his garage. The old bench in the garage was wooden, made with some very heavy planks. He took that old bench apart and had saved all the wood. We always save our wood. Recycling at its finest.

He took out some of those big thick planks from the old workbench and they were exactly the thickness that we would want to make corbels!!  They are about 2 and half inches thick and would be fine for some hefty trim work.

So Debbie, Laura and Paula --- your grandpa's workbench now has a new life as trim on the outside of his beloved home!!! 

Steve cut out the big thick pieces from the old planks and sanded them smooth. He also had found some leftover 5" wide lumber from the garage attic to make the backing and top support boards as well.

Now it was my turn. I got out the solid colored stains and turned the corbel pieces white, and the backing and top support pieces blue. That blue matches the blue trim blocks we put on the shutters and the trim strips on the front porch and our window boxes too.

Yesterday, when Steve came home from work, he assembled the pieces all together on the work table.  He used coated screws so they won't rust or rot away over the years.  We want these to last. 
Oooh oooh oooh They look so cute!

The mosquitoes were just eating us alive last night when we were trying to measure and figure out exactly where we wanted them. We decided to retreat back inside and wait to install them.


This morning it was perfect with the windy breeze is blowing the little buggers away. Now we didn't have to spray ourselves full of DEET mosquito spray just to get these things installed.

Up on the ladder and leaning over the hedges, Steve started screwing in the first one after making sure it was level and plumb.  Again, he used coated screws that won't rust or make marks on the white wood or streaks on the aluminum over the years. 

It didn't take long to get all seven of them up into place. He moved the ladder over from place to place, and the birds hiding in the hedges were upset with him. They were all a-twitter and giving him quite the chewing out.

We get a lot of birds that hang out here with our bird feeder smack dab in the middle of the hedge. We just added another feeder bracket near the window by the livingroom as well (on the left) It's nice to watch them, especially in the middle of winter.

It didn't take Steve long to get the corbels all installed. 


From the road you can see the cute angles and curves. I think that the backing pieces made in blue makes the white bracket part stand out better than if they had just been white against the span of white aluminum.

So there you have it, 
Our Old House is getting a little more trim on the outside, 
to bring out the beauty that she really is on the inside.

I really think this trimmed out the window nicely and added architectural detail and interest. It harmonizes nicely with the shutters that we added. We are not sure if this was what here originally, because the only photo we have of the house from way back then doesn't show this side bay window.

I found an interesting photo editing app on my phone that made a "sketch" of our house!  I think this might look kinda cool to print out and frame as if someone really drew it. Neato!

Well, off to bake an apple pie this morning,
 and it feels like Autumn outside.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Fixing the Front Porch Door

We are working on another project on Our Old House, but I can't post about it until everything is installed.  So in the meantime I will post about something we took care of a couple weeks ago.

When you have a house that is 104 years old, things need to be fixed up from time to time. Especially when you want to keep the same things that are 104 years old as well.   The exterior front door on the porch is one of them.   Some people would just rip it out and install some fanky-swanky new aluminum insulated door.  But not us.... nope!

We know from an old 1930's era photo of our house, that the front porch door is close to original.  It gets opened multiple times a day, to put out our flag, grab packages delivered to the front steps, and take the flag back in at night.

Although we try to be gentle with things like doors and windows, (to make them last) the front door gets slammed from time to time.  Add to that the humid weather we have been having makes the wood heave and split and swell.  In the subzero winter temps it freezes and contracts too.

We noticed a pretty big split was forming along the frame on the lower edge.  Oh my!  We had to take care of that before it got any worse, for sure.

Steve sent me to the hardware store to get some long long 6 inch wood screws with a flat pan head that could lay down flat in a recessed hole in the wood (so it didn't scrape the opposite door jamb).  I searched and searched in the store and finally found some at the bottom of a bin, with other stuff piled on top. I guess they don't sell many of them, or nobody can find them?

He pre-drilled two long deep holes into the first part of the door....
(yes in his stocking feet with sawdust all over!) 

He decided this was a "sit down" job! 

Then he carefully installed the long screw into the pre-drilled hole in the first part of the wood, and then the threads pulled in snug as they dug into the second piece of wood. 

With a very careful and slow zip zip zip he let it tug in tight to the wood and draw it all together tight.  Not too tight that it stripped, but tight enough to pull the door pieces together. 

Look At That!  All Fixed! 

(don't look at his sawdusty sock)  

Then I took out my handy dandy paint brush and touched it all up again.  Good to go now for another hundred years????

Speaking of tools, did you know in the monthly newspaper from AARP (not the magazine, but the newspaper that comes folded in half in the mail) there is always a page of coupons from Harbor Freight?  They usually have something for "FREE" with additional purchase.  This month was a set of 6 magnetized screwdrivers.  Sometimes, if Steve has time to kill while his transport people are at doctor appointments in Appleton, he wanders around the nearby Harbor Freight until they are done. He has a phone on him for the transport bus that they can call him when they are ready. 

Most gals want their sweetie to bring them flowers, or candy, or sexy lingerie.... but I get a pitter pat to my heart when he brings me tools!!!  Ahhhhhh  I already have my own set of screwdrivers, wrenches, drill etc. in the house in my workroom.  Sometimes he swipes MY tools rather than go out into the garage to get his own.  I have to find them and put them back in MY drawers and cabinets. 

But I wanted a set of screwdrivers for ME for up in my sewing room.  Now I have a set!  It sure beats running downstairs to get a screwdriver when I need one. Sometimes my quilting frame needs a tweak or my loom needs to be tightened up at a joint.  Having them at hand on the second story is a good thing. Plus---- he can't swipe them.  I have a locking drawer in a file cabinet to stow them in. Tee heeee

Speaking of my sewing room, I got part of my newest quilt done on the quilting frame.  It would not stitch right on Monday when it was hot and humid. The thread kept fraying and breaking. ARGGHHH!!! I did everything, cleaned the machine, changed the needle, adjusted the tension both top and bottom, changed the thread type.  Nothing worked.  So I set it aside until Wednesday.  I walked up the machine, turned it on, and it sewed perfectly!  Gremlins, I tell ya....

This pic is a little dark, but then you can see the leaded glass suncatcher collection on the windows when I sew. This is a  Handi-quilter frame set up on two banquet tables butted up together and screwed down tight.  I set my domestic Janome machine onto a moving carriage and kinda "drive" it back and forth and around to make pretty stitching patterns.

It lets me do my own free-motion quilting on my own rolled up quilt tops, batting and backings.  I don't have the money to send them out to be done by a long-armer contract person.  This is working very well for me and the 9 or 10 quilts a year that I do manage to complete.

Here is a little video clip I made 
while working on another quilt of how it operates:

I wanted to write about our newest Our Old House project, but we are 90% done and just have to wait until tomorrow for the last 10% to finish it up... if the mosquitos are at bay? 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Power Pole Swap

I went back in my photos to see what I forgot to blog about during the last month or so. I totally forgot about this exciting day in our back yard!

In late July, we were sitting in our lounge chairs and noticed a bunch of sawdust around the base of the power pole that is stuck in our backyard.  The pole is totally ugly to begin with, plus it's tilted to one side.  It's all dried out and grey and full of holes. To make matters worse, it never got replaced when the power company replaced all of the other poles in our block.  We think they forgot us.

Our pole is at the end of a row of poles, and it supplies power to our neighbor's home via the overhead wires. Our power lines are buried.  Also we don't use the cable or the telephone lines that are on the pole either.  But we have to have it in our yard.

When we put up the fence, we inquired about having it moved to the property line 8 feet over.  The cost was atrocious!  It was about $1,200 for the power company, and another $800-1,000 for the cable and phone lines to be moved.  No thank you. 

Well.... now that we saw the piles of sawdust around the base, we looked closer and saw it was crawling with bugs!  It appears that some kind of boring beetle was having a feast on the old worn wood.  We called the power company and they someone out right away.  One good whack of a hammer sent the bugs a-scurrying!  We sprayed them down with a strong insecticide and kept the dogs away.  The guys from the power company said it would be replaced immediately, due to the danger of it snapping off in the next storm.  The base was weakened and it could cause a danger if it went over. Being at the end of a line, if it broke the wires would be on the ground.  If it had been suspended between two other poles, it would not be so tragic.  They moved us right up the line for replacement toot sweet.

Again, we asked about relocating it ON the property line, but nope--- they could only go a few feet from the present location. If we went over 6 more feet, it would be wayyyy too expensive.  Ouch!

The work crew guys arrived in a few days and we offered to remove parts of the fence to access the yard. They said no problem, they have all the equipment to reach over the fence and do it from the neighbor's unfenced backyard.  They have easement rights to drive across the lawns to get to the poles they said.
Here is the old pole:

They fired up the big tools and eased this huge hole driller auger device from the back of a truck, carefully over the fence next to the pole.  I settled down in a lawn chair to watch the show! 

They carefully dumped all the dirt from the hole onto a tarp, and made sure to not make a mess on our lawn.  Soon it was time to attach the new pole to a cable and tauntly snug it up to a large arm.  It came up up up and over the fence into place!

It was so exciting and interesting that I almost forgot to make a little video clip of it!  So here they are putting the pole into place with that big arm:

Once they got the new pole upright and perfectly plumb, they started to move over the wires from the old post to the new one.  They had to add little extension pieces to each of the lines. It was fun to watch and appreciate the care and caution they use when working with such high voltage.

While the guy was up there, he gave the top of the pole a whack and it was just crawling with beetles!  They were dropping to the ground and we sprayed again to kill them off before they infiltrated our garage or house!   Next he grabbed a chainsaw and took off the top few sections, to carefully move the nest of the bugs onto their trucks to take it away.  Then the remaining trunk (which was surprisingly more solid) was tugged out a bit at a time with their big boom. I took a video of that process too: 

Within just a few hours, they had dug the hole, put in the new pole, changed over the wires, and removed the old pole.  They refilled the hole and tamped down the dirt,  One guy even brought two big buckets of good black dirt and some grass seed as well.  They sure did a good job, and we have a nice neat upright level plumb pole!   

It would have been nice to have it relocated to the other side of the fence as we wished... Our property line is actually is almost 2 feet past the fence. When we put the fence up, we had to put the fence between the pole and two big cable tie-downs.  It was as far over as we could. The tie downs go into the neighbor's yard and we could only fit the fence along that portion of the yard.  Oh well, we haven't won the lottery lately, so no moving the pole for us.  We will be happy with the pole where it is.


Things have definitely cooled down this week in Wisconsin.  Last night we turned on the electric mattress pad heater so our bed was cozy warm.  This morning Steve had to leave for work by 6:30 a.m.  He brought me up a cup of coffee before he left, and tossed both dogs onto the bed to keep me company while I watched the news.  

They sure enjoyed the warmth!!!

When I finally did get up,
neither one wanted to leave the bed! 

I guess I can't blame them....

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Got a Shipment From Mexico

I have two sassy doggies who lead exciting lives...  and often that involves seeing what is going on OUTSIDE.  They fling their little bodies up on the chairs, footstools or ottomans to see out the windows.  It is important for them to see what is passing by. It might be the mail lady, a neighborhood doggie on a walk, or just our neighbor Diane hanging out her laundry.  It doesn't matter really what it is, just that it is INTERESTING and they need to see it.  And bark!  While they bark, they hold their bodies up on their dainty little paws, which are braced on the windowsills.

Their claws stretch out to hold them up, and they have made gouges in the woodwork of the window in the family room.  Fortunately, that is not an "original" woodwork windowsill, it had been added sometime in the 80's by the previous owners.  I have covered up the scratches with new stain and added new poly to seal it up.  But....  sometime in the future if I find old windows, we will restore that back to the way it was.  I hate seeing the scratches at any cost.

Since we rearranged the living room, now my "new to me" ottoman is located under the front living room window.  Those sassy dogs want to jump up there to see what is going on out on the front sidewalk.  When we are in the room, they know it's "OFF" and they don't dare jump up there.  But if we happen to be in another part of the house, they have no fear of our wrath, and ignore their inner warnings.  They jump up and park their paws on that windowsill and bark their fool heads off!

(they spit on the glass as they bark as well) 

I tried to deter them somewhat by filling pretty containers with rocks we collected in Canada.  It worked for a few weeks. They still prop their claws and paws in between the containers and continue to bark to their heart's delight.   I see three tiny scratches already, and don't want anymore.

Most people would just say to move the ottoman --- but but but --- it looks so good there and I just covered it to make it coordinate and round out the new livingroom arrangement of furniture.

Soooooo I came up with another idea to preserve the beautiful windowsill.....

I ordered up 20 little hand painted Mexican tiles.  They were on Ebay for only $1.60 each and they offered free shipping from Mexico as well.  I only needed 12 tiles for the windowsill itself, but I ordered 20 in case some broke during shipping. The remainder I could make into coasters by gluing felt on the bottoms.

I was amazed to see them come packed in just a thin layer of newspaper (printed in Spanish which is cool)  and a thin wrapping of foam.  Not a single tile was broken or cracked!  Wonderful! I left the seller positive feedback on Ebay.

I didn't want to adhere the tiles to the woodwork, the idea is to preserve the original woodwork.  We had a sheet of plexiglass in the garage, so I helped Steve cut off a strip just the width and length that I needed. I drew with black magic marker along the edges of each tile so they were dark instead of the clay terra cotta color.   I got out my handy dandy glue gun... and a new pack of Gorilla Glue Sticks.  What on earth did we ever do before the age of glue guns???

I glued them on one at a time to the plexiglass strip.  Working quickly so the glue didn't harden, I pressed each tile into place. The strip needed was 12 tiles long to fill the entire windowsill.

Steve came into the house and brought a 48 inch long board to help transfer the plexi strip from the kitchen island where I was working on it, to carry it over to the livingroom and slide it onto the windowsill.  Voila!  It worked out perfectly!

I still set the three containers of shiney rocks (that I had modge podge coated a few weeks ago)  and it all tied together.  I like the bits of blue and white with the Craftsman style decor in our home.

Now if those little stinkers do get up there and bark bark bark, their paws will just slip around and slide off and perhaps make them think twice about putting them up there.  The containers of rocks are serving double duty... they help weigh down the strip of tiles so they are not attached to the wood.  Also they are a way to display all the pretty rocks I picked from a beach in Canada and didn't know what to do with.

It's all worth it for these two:

Now back to the kitchen to the rest of the tiles! 
I cut little squares of felt the size of the tiles,
just a tiny smidge smaller. 

There we go... the glue gun did it's thing.  I have 8 coordinating tiles for coasters for the small end table between our chairs in the livingroom.  We often have drinks that sweat or make a ring on the woodwork if we don't use a coaster. I always have a glass of ice water at hand, so having pretty tile coasters is just the thing.  (I had some I made with other tiles we brought back from Mexico a few years ago that I can put in other areas of the house now)  I did put some on the coffee table and end tables in the family fiber room.

Our weather changed in Wisconsin overnight.  We went to bed after a high of 90 degrees, sweltering humid icky weather.  Storms moved in, and there was flooding in Green Bay overnight. They had 5-6 inches of rain in the matter of an hour or two.  Here in Chilton, we didn't get a drop, but did have a lot of heat lightning and heavy humid air feeling like a storm was brewing.

This morning things were cool, as a new front moved in.  We were down to the low 50's when we woke up.  Ahhhhh  Today was cloudy, but we had open windows, fresh air, and lower humidity.  Tonight it will be a lit fireplace in front of our chairs, but that is so much better than the humid junk we have had lately.  Actually as I type this, I have on wool socks and a quilt over my lap.

Stay tuned for an upcoming "Our Old House" project to come. We are working on it, and as soon as the mosquito population diminishes out there, we will put the new parts into action.

Speaking of mosquitoes: They are so bad that some sports teams have called off games or practices. Drive up restaurants have closed window and car hop service. Golfing and fishing numbers are down as well. Even campground reservations have been cancelled in unprecedented numbers because they are so bad....

Here is what they said on the NPR news site:

Swarms Of Mosquitoes Plague Wisconsin Residents This Summer

This is a particularly bad summer for mosquitoes in Wisconsin, because many of the insects survived over the winter.
The mosquitoes were helped by relatively mild temperatures and significant snow cover, according to Jamee Hubbard, an associate professor of biology at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
"Mosquitoes will spend wintertime alive," Hubbard said. "There are some species that spend the winter as larvae in the water. Some of them spend the winter as eggs, and some of them spend the winter as adults, maybe under leaf litter or under bark. When you get a lot of snow cover it does a good job of insulating, allowing those mosquitoes to be able to survive.”
When the snow melted, it created a perfect habitat. Then, the weather turned hot and rainy.
"We had a lot of snow melt in the spring, and this created lots of pools of water that hung around for quite a bit of time," Hubbard said. "We had an immediate warm-up, and when it's warm out the mosquitoes will start to reproduce faster, their life cycle goes faster, and you get more of them."
Hubbard said in late summer there could be an uptick in mosquito borne illnesses like West Nile virus, Jamestown Canyon virus and Eastern equine encephalitis.
She urged Wisconsin residents to take precautions.
"The best way to protect yourself is to either stay indoors or wear long sleeves and pants while you're out," Hubbard said. "If you go outside, make sure that you wear an insect repellent, particularly one that has DEET in it. If you want to use a natural insect repellent, make sure that you are applying that more often, because it's going to wear out faster."

(me again)  
We need a good hard frost or freeze to kill them buggers off!!!!