Our Wonderful Followers who come back again and again to read about us...

Thursday, April 20, 2017

MOTORHOME MODIFICATIONS - *M* is for Maxx Air Vent, Mouse and Mr. Buddy

I am going to start off the new year with posting some of our motorhome modifications, a few at a time. I will post repairs, modifications, or neato things we have found for RVing.  I have lots of pics in my files so I will do them in alphabetical order.

Underneath that stuff, I will post my regular daily stuff..... kinda sorta fun, eh?

So here it goes, we are up to the letter M now!


Maxx Air Vent Covers:
It's raining today so instead of staining boards, I thought I would continue with my Motorhome Modification posts.

On every RV we have owned, we have added these plastic funny-shaped covers over the crank-up roof vent lids.  They are called Maxx Air covers and we sure appreciate them on our roof.  See the two blue square shaped things in the center of our roof??

They allow the crank up lid of the RV vent to open up and let air come inside, but keeps the rain or snow off the lid itself, whether open or closed. Helps deter pesky leaks around the edge of the crank up lid too. 

There are many reasons to use a Maxxair vent on an RV, whether it's a motorhome, travel trailer or fifthwheel.   When it's raining, of course, it means you can still keep your roof vent lids open for fresh air without getting rain inside.  Okay... that is the obvious one and makes sense.   

But, if you are an RVer, how many times were you AWAY from your rig, touring the sights or gone out to eat.  Suddenly it starts to rain, and you are in complete panic mode wondering if you shut the roof vent lids or not?  Was the unexpected rain pouring in on your couch, your bed, your bathroom, your carpeting?   If you had the Maxx air covers, you wouldn't have to worry about that.

Another reason is snow....   the weight of snow on the thin crank up vent lids can crack them, especially if they are more brittle after a few years of UV exposure.   I can not imagine the horror of coming out to your rig after a winter's worth of snow was dripping inside, making a mound of snowy ice on the floors and furniture, and melting as the temps warm up.  Again, if you had the Maxx air covers that would not be such a worry.

Our friends had suffered a broken vent cover in a horrible hail storm!   So now when they went to the RV dealer to buy a new vent lid, they also bought a Maxx air cover to go over it for added protection.  Guess that's another reason for the Maxx air I never thought of!  Hail protection.  

They normally come in white or black or smoke colors.  No blue.  That is why we painted ours, as I think it looks nice to have them blue to kinda match our rig. The Krylon "Fusion" paint is made for painting on plastic.  This blue color was close enough of a match to make it look "spiffy" dontcha think?

Two good coats and I let them dry between each coat.  Steve is the one in charge to put them on. I am a tad bit chicken to go up on the ladder. Tee heeee

Looks pretty good from the side profile too

 Mouse Prevention:
Every fall we go through this process when preparing the rig for a winter rest. Mouse Prevention! It's removing any and all things can attract mice.  We run a cord from the garage to get power into the rig, and we plug in three of these small mice deterrent devices that really work well.  One in the basement compartment and one at each end of the rig. They are called:

Victor Mini PestChaser Ultrasonic Rodent Repellent

You can find them in most hardware and home improvement stores, 
but also here is a link to them on Amazon.

Our RV friends Fred and Sharon told us about them.   They live in the woods and battle nasty mice sneaking into their RV all the time. Mice do horrible damage, chewing wires in the walls, or into the pex tubing water lines.  (that happened to us on our last motorhome, the Coachmen)   Since our friends bought these devices, they have no problem at all.  Fred said in a light snowfall, he could actually see the little mice footprints hopping up to their motorhome all around, but stopping about a foot away and turning around.. and going back into the woods!   They get close, hear the ultrasonic sound, and run away from it!   (our friends also have a dog who isn't bothered by it)   We put them now in our house too, and our dogs don't seem bothered by it either. No mice, so we are good.

I would rather chase away the mice BEFORE they get into the rig.  Opposed to catching them with traps after they are inside, after doing damage or eating poison where they die inside and stink!  ewwwww

Mr. Buddy propane heater:
This is such a handy little unit and we used it a lot over the years.  Since we installed a bigger Olympian Wave 8 permanently on the wall, we do not use this as much anymore. But it is worth mentioning because we do have it as supplementary heat source when needed.  (like in below zero stuff)  On one trip out west, we were in the high desert with cold nights and our Olympian went kerput.  We used the Mr. Buddy until we got the Olympian Wave 8 fixed.

Original equipment RV propane furnaces waste a lot of propane and a lot of battery power if you are not on electric hookups.  Not wanting to use the big propane furnace, we did what most RVers do…  we called on a buddy… Mr. Buddy!

Steve piped in an extra propane line through the basement, over to the passenger side of the rig, up through the cabinet that is under our table (it contains the extra leaves for our table)  …  and added a shut off valve and flexible propane hose.  Onto this hose we can hook our portable Mr Buddy heater.   Because the Mr. Buddy can operate on high pressure propane tanks, it has a built in regulator.  But so does the propane line in our rig.  Guess we were being *double regulated*  hee heee  It would kick out when on HI. Soooooo we needed to alter the Mr. Buddy by removing it’s built in regulator to let both Lo and HI settings work in our rig.
(I also set it on an aluminum cookie sheet 
to protect the table just in case. 
This pic is for illustration purpose) 

We have also used it in other situations.  One weekend, my sister and I were demonstrating fiber tools (like my sockknitting machine and spinning wheel) at a festival. We were in a large canopy tent with a big open side for customers to come in. Brrrr it was a very chilly cold autumn morning.  Note the Mr. Buddy behind our chairs, emitting nice warm heat onto our legs and tushies!  LOL 


It is a rainy icky morning, like I said above. It's too damp to stain more of the fence materials in the garage.  We did run to Menards last night and nab 50 more nice deck boards to do the horizontal fence pieces. We need 66 total but didn't want to overload the towing power of the Tracker.  The gal at Menards gave an estimate on the computer that 66 of them would weigh just over 1,000 pounds. (our limit) So we chose to only take 50 and come back for another load today.  We also have to start picking up the spindles. They come in bundles I think of 36, so we will weight one and calculate from there. We need over 500 of them to complete our fence. 

Steve is driving his Old Fart Party Bus in two shifts today, with a couple hours off in between. Maybe we will run for one more load of wood on his break.  We only have until Saturday to buy it all because of the rebate sale ending Saturday night.

Tomorrow, (Friday) we are helping with the fundraiser brat fry for the Calumet County Historical Society in the morning and Steve has to drive in the afternoon.  Saturday we are helping at the museum in the morning ----  then in the afternoon and evening we are having ALL of our kids and grandkids here for Steve's birthday!!!   Backyard cookout and family fun....  no fence in place yet, but it will get done as the weather cooperates. 

I am pleased to report our new gel memory foam mattress is a winner!  It is so comfortable that we don't really want to get up in the mornings.  LOL .... and Steve has made the coffee and brought it back up to the bedroom and we sit in bed and watch the news.  As depressing as the news is, we are at least comfy and cosy on our new mattress.  hahahahahha

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

More Our Old House Projects~

Last blog post was about our front porch... we got that done in time for Easter and family and visiting, etc.  It felt good to get it all spruced up and fresh for the season.

Our next project on our wish list is a big one (for us) ...  See, our little rescue sheltie dogs are sometimes very timid.  Often Binney will run in a blind panic if something scares her. She doesn't see or hear or come or seek a comforting master. She just blindly runs.  Fortunately she is ALWAYS while on a rope or a long flexi lead so we can grab her when she reaches the end.  I would hate to ever have her running free, because we may never catch her.

As for Finnegan, we live on a very busy four lane street which is also a state highway right through town.  If he sees someone walking on the sidewalk, I just know he would rush out there (turning instantly deaf to me) to circle them and bark and possibly go on the road.  It is a fear of mine.  So the dogs are always on ropes or leashes when we are outdoors, unless they are in their little fenced in potty yard.

We also have young grandkids who visit, and our front yard is off limits to them, due to the traffic.  Unless we are walking with them and holding their hands, they are not allowed up there.  I lost a little sister who was killed by car when she was on the road. So you can see why I do not want the grandkids up there.  But they can easily sneak around the house, like on Easter Sunday.  I looked out of the front porch windows and there were two of the little buggers, goofing off and racing each other around the front yard, oblivious to the rules. ARGGH!

We had discussed fencing in our backyard.  We had figured out a plan, and contacted the city to find out where our lot lines are. Turns out when the highway was widened up front, the stakes were never put back in the ground between the lots!  The city does not come and point out lot lines. They said we would have to hire a surveyor----  to the tune of $650.00  Ouch!

Even with a metal detector, we could not find the back marker stakes either.  Well, we needed to bite the bullet and hire the surveyor. This way our fence will be legal (it can be built right on the lot line) and nobody in the future would have a claim to our fence or the lot if it were built incorrectly.  We love love love our neighbors behind and on both sides of us. But on each side are both elderly widow ladies, and someday in the future there will be new neighbors in their homes. Knowing the exact lot lines for the fence is an added benefit. The surveyor came and placed metal poles 2 feet deep into the ground to mark our lot.

Next step was the building permit. That was $50 after getting my carefully drawn plans approved by the building inspector. Later we have to call him when it is done to get it okay'd.  Whew! $700 bucks already we haven't even bought a bit of wood.

Third step is calling Diggers Hotline to point out any underground dangers in the areas we wish to dig.  The post holes will only go down about 18 inches, but that can be dangerous if utilities are near the surface. They are not supposed to be that shallow, but over years, earth can move, settle or underground electrical cables can be pushed up towards the surface by ground pressure.  Best to be safe than sorry.

Once they come and mark the yard, then Steve is going to rent a powered post hole auger to dig the holes. 38 of them!

Here is our plan:

264 feet of fencing to enclose the area marked in red

Because our garage is between the house and the yard, we decided to make a 5 foot wide run behind the garage to include the present dog potty area. It runs right along the property line. That way we can still open the back door and let the dogs run out and they can access the back yard by running behind the garage.  We will put a gate to block it off if we want them to only stay in the smaller potty yard closer to the house. 

Soon this will be all closed in, but we are leaving enough lawn alongside the motorhome in case we have RVing visitors who would like to park a motorhome or camper there.

We checked out pre-made fence panels for sale at the home improvement stores. We wanted 4 feet high, not 3 feet that most of them were. We didn't want a tall privacy fence. We wanted white fencing, like pickets or something.  We didn't like the vinyl fencing. We could not afford the heavy steel welded fencing.  We didn't find much for pickets, and what we did find was flimsy rough wood with stapled together pieces.  That didn't look too sturdy nor would it last long, in our opinion.

On to Plan B.... we will make our own fence! 

We measured, we planned and we came up with a pretty good idea.  Our back upstairs shaker porch railing and our side gate and fence of the back steps are already made with deck spindles.  I liked the look and said lets go full broke now and make the whole fence from sturdy deck materials! We will use good heavy deck screws and make it secure and not flimsy.  And most of all.. let's make it "match"!  (I like matchy matchy!) 

These are all made with treated deck wood 
stained with Cabot solid colored stain. 

I like the Cabots solid colored stain over paint for a few reasons. First, you can stain the wood right away, because the stain breathes and lets any wet wood still dry in the air and doesn't harm the finish. Second, I like the solid color of the white but with the stain it doesn't flake or peel like paint does.  It just slowly wears away over the years (many years). If you go to restain, you do not have to scrape or sand off loose paint.  Third, I stained a wooden gazebo I made over 30 years ago, and it still looks good to this day and has not needed restaining yet ... I saw it last year and it looks great! 

Steve and I headed off to Menards yesterday to start buying our wood. They are having their great 11% rebate sale, no matter what you buy, you get 11% back in a store rebate credit.  That is fine with us, because we always need something at that store. LOL.  

Our little Tracker can only tow about 1,000 pounds and our little trailer Steve bought can handle 2,000.  We decided to make multiple trips back and forth from Manitowoc Menards, 24 miles away. 

While we were at the store to get our first load... we noticed that the kingsize Serta gel memory foam mattress we had an eye on was on a sale of a sale, plus now discontinued, plus the 11% off.  Okayyyy switch gears here, buy less wood for the first load and now toss on a mattress!  hahahahha

It really seems to be a nice mattress.  Our other one is only 4 years old, but is more firm than I like.  Steve suggested we try a memory foam and if we don't like it, we have 90 days to return it, along with a 10 year warranty from the company.  The covering seems nicer than some we saw in other stores. It's a thicker padded material that seems to be soft and is cotton, not polyester.

Steve and I hoisted it off the trailer, up the front steps and into the house. Together we managed to get it up the stairs which have three turns to get up to the second floor. On Saturday, the kids and grandkids are all coming (for Steve's birthday) and the guys can help carry down the old one and put it in the motorhome.  It's better than than the one we have in there. For now it's on end in the hallway,

Ahhhhhhh  here it is! 
Our last one was 10 inches tall, this one is 12 inches. 
I use a step stool to get into bed! 

It feels really nice and has full body support as you lay on it and sink down. It's called a Plush Firm.  Steve noticed his whole calf and ankle are supported instead of just his heels like on our other mattress.  His back felt fine too.  I noticed the small of my back getting support and when side sleeping, my hip and shoulder sink in nicely and don't hit anything firm like before.


(on edit now Wednesday morning---we both slept great and woke up feeling fine!) 

Steve had to go drive the Old Fart Party Bus this morning... so I started staining the 4x4 posts.  They are 10 ft now, and will be cut in half into 5 ft pieces.  As soon as Steve borrows his brother's chop saw to get through the whole thickness without having to turn it around with his circular saw.   I will do the second coat of stain this afternoon. 

I have them set up on horses in the garage to stain them at waist high level. Much easier to stain each piece of wood first with 2 coats than leaning over the already installed fence in the ground! 

I cranked up some tunes on the radio, and got to work with my roller and stain.  It is a very pleasant job, and I am looking forward to getting these done.  I had two supervisors on the job to make sure I didn't slack off. 

I think when Steve is back from his Old Fart Party Bus job, we will head on over to Menards for a second load.  Next come the horizontal boards (66 of them to make 33 spans of 8 feet each)   Then all the spindles for the up and down pieces...  522 of them!   We will be making three 4' wide gates, of the same materials. Then Steve can get in and out with the riding lawnmower.  

I cannot wait to have the yard done, set out our chaise lounge furniture around our little backyard fire pit, set out our little red picnic table out there and most of all, let the dogs RUN!!!!   off leash and playing with their ball, frisbee or just wrassling with each other! 


I am sure these two stinkers are going to
enjoy it as much as us! 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Cisterns and Front Porch

Question:  What does a roll of tape, a painting extension pole, and a hunk of rope have to do with a cistern?

Now, some of you are probably asking "What is a cistern"???   Well ... it's a huge cement reservoir, usually found in old homes in the basement.  The water runoff from the roof is channeled down through the gutters and downspouts into a chamber in the basement.....  Here is ours....  behind this cutout is a HUGE space with 2 ft thick walls of stone.

Here is a photo of a gentleman (George Baldock Jr.) who grew up in our home. 
See the gutter work behind him?  

There was a gutter and downspout structure like that on each side of the house to collect all of the rooftop rain and channel it down to the cistern. Once the water collects into the big holding area, it can be either filled into buckets via this HUGE faucet in the basement wall....   

Or it was pumped with a big hand pump (now gone) up through a pipe into the attic of the house!  Up in the attic was this big steel holding tank.  That would get filled by the pumping up water from the cistern.  It was usually done by a servant in the early morning hours before the household was awake.  Then the cistern water could be pressurized by gravity to flush the toilet in the water closet, or into the sink in the butler pantry.  The servant in our home in 1920 was named Josephine Flemming according to the census.  So that was most likely one of her many jobs to do.

WHY am I yammering on about a cistern?
And what did a roll of tape, 
extension painting pole 
and a rope 
have to do with it? 


The cistern is situated in the middle of our home, under the dining room.  The main electrical panel box is on the far left and the garage is out back to the far right in this diagram.  The existing power line leading to the garage was only for 20 amp.  When working on items in the garage or out in the backyard, Steve would sometimes pop the breaker when using strong power tools.  If we plugged in our motorhome to the garage and ran either the heater or the air conditioner or a vac cleaner, it would also pop the breaker. 

The existing lighter gauge wire is the red line.... Steve wanted to run heavier 6 gauge wire, taking the shortest possible path, due to cost of copper, it would save us quite a bit of money. 

But... HOW to get the wire across the top of the cistern? 
(which is long ago abandoned and not in use and all dried out) 

Steve was opting for shimmying over the top ledge, dropping down inside and taking his ladder with him to get back out.  I said NO WAY!!!!!

From everything I read, cisterns are usually 4-6 feet deeper than the basement, so that would mean he would be dropping down about 10 feet. Also, I read the bottom surface can contain multiple feet of silt that he could sink down into.  There was NO way I would let him try his idea.  Time to come up with a new one.  I came up with a better idea:

That is what brings in the tape, the extension pole and the rope! 

First, we set up a big work light so we could see down into the cistern. Oh my! It looks like a whole other world strange planet with all the dried silt and dirt over the many years (our house is 104 years old) ....  It was so deep in there, you could not even see where that pipe ended that leads to that big faucet on the outside of the wall!   So that silt could be 5-6-7 or more feet deep!   Now THAT is why I wouldn't let that goofball gungho husband of mine hop over the wall and drop down inside! 

I handled the pole and extended it over to the far corner by the floor joists open to where the electric box is located.  It was still too short, so we had to add an extra pole to the first one! Then we added a 2 ft long bent hanger to the end of the pole to reach sideways through the floor joist opening long enough to get past the 2 foot thick wall. 

I guided the pole over to the corner, and from that other room in the basement, (the root cellar) Steve reached through the opening between the floor joists, and attached the rope to the end of the pole..... 
 (ignore the cobwebs, I am not going to clean them) 

I carefully swung the pole to the middle of the cistern, 
trying to not drop it! 
I rotated the pole so now the hanger and the rope were facing the opposite way and put it through the floor joist on the other side where he wanted to get the rope to go to.  He grabbed it and pulled it free from my pole.  Whee!  The rope was now in place! 

Next, he could attach the rope to the heavy 6 gauge wire and we could pull it through from the one room through over the cistern to the other room!  Voila!  

Our electrician friend will hook it up to the box once he gets the wire fed out to the garage.  I can not imagine what an electrician would have charged us to get a wire across that cistern!  Now we also picked up a 50 amp outlet box to have him wire on the far side of the garage.  We can plug in our motorhome and not worry about popping any more breakers! 
Lowes for $27.97

Now the other project we worked on...
kinda sorta by accident!!

Sunday night we were sitting out in our front porch, enjoying the evening and watching the cars go by.  (sometimes guessing their speed if they are exceeding our 25mph limit)  LOL....  Our front porch is pretty comfortable with some handwoven runner rugs over the old wall to wall tan carpeting. 

Steve said: "This old tan wall to wall carpeting is in pretty tough shape, what do you think about replacing it with vinyl plank flooring?"

I replied: "I wonder if there are old original porch boards under the carpeting?"

That is ALL it took.... 
ten minutes later this is what was happening! 

Blue original porch boards!!!!!

I had to rush to move all the furniture off the front porch, stacking it into our foyer and our living room. He was ripping up the carpeting faster than ever, and he only took one break to help carry out the large rattan couch.  I got everything out of the way and he was able to haul out the carpeting in pieces.  It had only been lightly glued underneath and came up with ease.

I ran around with the shop vac to take up all the dust and dirt that accumulated over the years.  In talking with the gals who grew up in our house, the older one remembered the porch boards, but the younger one (my age) said she only remembered it carpeted. That made that carpeting over 55 years old!  On the back side of the old carpet, we saw written in black marker the words CITY HALL so we might assume it had been second hand carpeting to begin with, installed about 1960 or so?

Early on Monday morning, we hit the local hardware store and picked out a color....  Valspar Porch and Floor Enamel in a color called Aristocratic Blue.  I started rolling the first coat after Steve removed all of the quarter round trim strips along the floor.  He did my cutting in with a brush, even though he HATES painting.  I recently injured my elbow and it's slowly getting better. So he took pity on me and pitched in with painting duties.

The slightly roughened surface of the glue we left in place, as it would help with slippage and keep our runner rugs from sliding around. The slight texture would look okay with a painted surface, so we just prepped by a good vacuuming and sanding off any really rough spots. Steve also filled in two larger spaces between boards with a paintable acrylic silicone that would stay flexible if the porch shifts during temp changes. 

It went on pretty bright, but I knew it would darken as it dried.  Long ago, I went through Paint School with Valspar paint when I worked in Oconto.  I knew two coats would provide a good long lasting surface.

Temps dropped fast on Monday afternoon as storms rolled in.  We had to set an electric heater on the floor to blow the warm air over it to cure the paint.  We added a fan to help circulate the air too.  As much as I wanted to, I held off doing a second coat on Monday, giving it time to dry to a good hard surface before adding the second layer.

I rolled on the second layer on Tuesday and set the fan and heater again to help cure the second coat and get a good firm finish. 

While waiting, I went out in the garage and also painted all the quarter round trim on sawhorses. It would now match the floor.... instead of white, it was now blue too.

By Tuesday evening, it was kinda dry.  I ripped off the green tape I had marking off the edges, and Steve air nailed the quarter round trim into place. By Wednesday morning we would be "good to go" and move our stuff back in place!

This was looking good if I say so myself! 

This morning, Wednesday, was MOVE IN DAY!  We hopped out of bed, and after a few gulps of coffee, we got to it.  Steve and I had our porch back into shape... and sat down for a second cup of coffee before our friends Herb and LuAnn came over to walk about town for a couple miles. 

It was cold out, only 33 degrees, 
so the windows fogged up with our hard work. 

 It felt so good to put each thing back where it belongs...
including this old rocking chair we got from the previous owners. 
Perfectly occupying it's rightful place.

We spend a lot of time out on the porch, reading, sometimes eating, mostly sitting and sipping our coffee or a glass of wine.  Sometimes I roll out a table loom or bring along knitting or spinning. We try to spend time out here in the Spring Summer and Fall... and even sneak in a few Winter days if the sun is shining. It is our second "livingroom" ....

Of course, it is also Dogger Approved! 

Just wait till you see the next project in the works for Our Old House.. it's a biggie! We have to go through various stages of steps to get it lined up.  All of our projects we try to not "modernize" our house's original style. We try to just enjoy living here and make it more "restored" than "improved"!