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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Bulkhead, Windows, Groceries and Rain

In my last blog I showed how we yanked down the old shed surrounding the basement stair entrance.

Now it was time to ready the frameworks over the cement stairs, and put on the steel bulkhead doors.  (Steve found a used set on Marketplace).

Steve ordered up some treated planks from the local hardware store, doing a curbside pickup. He also ordered a big sheet of treated plywood at the same time.

With careful measuring, and walking back and forth, back and forth to the saw in the garage, he created a nice angled framework that was very sturdy and would endure for many many years.

Now the task was to get these heavy steel doors carried over and put into place on the frameworks. Usually I help him with anything that he is involved in. This was a job that was too heavy for me to help with!

We called upon son-in-law Waylen to swing by after work and give Steve a hand. What a relief it was for me.

These doors are probably way in the 200 pound range I think?  They carried them out and around the newly planted grass so they didn't have to walk through the fresh dirt.


 Then they brought it over and set them carefully down into place.

Thank you Waylen!

With Steve's careful measuring, they were exactly the right size and fit for the opening and his frameworks.  I know they look rugged in the pic, wait till they get painted!   These are normally around $700, but Steve found them used for $150 from a guy tearing down a house.

After he got them bolted down into place, using a hammer drill and special cement anchoring bolts, it was now securely attached to the cement.  Next he was able to measure and cut out and scribe the two triangle plywood pieces for each side.

Now it's time for my job! We asked the hardware store to get some more paint mixed up that was good for primed metal, and had it match the other red paint on the house. It took a couple trips back and forth to the hardware store, with curbside pickup each time, to get the paint matched exactly.  (even with using the computer matching on a chip of our other paint). Reds are hard colors to match.

I gave two good coats to the plywood triangles, as well as two good coats to the entire steel surfaces of the doors and frameworks around it. It sure looked a lot better with the paint.

Once the triangles were dry, Steve screwed them into place and I was able to touch up where he did some sealing and caulking, as well as paint over the heads of the screws.


I think I am imagining the grandkids coming over and sliding down it like we used to do on the one at my Great Grandma Anna Today's home in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

We sure are missing the grandchildren...  let us hope these numbers continue to decrease in Wisconsin and we can start visiting amongst the family again.

Now that the bulkhead doors are finished, it was time to finish putting my cages around my tomatoes and wire tie wooden support frameworks to the tops of the cages. It helps keep everything firm and sturdy once the plants start growing and bearing the weight of heavy tomatoes.  I hope.

I put up the cute little white picket fences just to keep anybody from stepping into the tomato area, as well as the dogs if they are ramming around. They generally stay away and don't ever bother anything in the flower beds, but you never know. Maybe it will also detract a little bunny rabbit--- even though we really don't see many of those around in our yard. Plus this tomato area is located within the 4ft high fenced area for the dogs potty yard, so we don't see any deer or other creatures coming into that part of the yard.  I like that the rain barrel is right next to my tomatoes.  Easier to water them with good rain water, rather than icky city water!


Speaking of creatures, our two beautiful elegant sandhill cranes are back. They gracefully browse along through the yard nibbling on this or that, especially in the evenings. I think they are nesting back in the preserve land behind our home. But they come out here into our yard to wander around.


Also two blogs back, I mentioned about how Steve poured new cement window sills for two of the basement windows. I took care of re-painting the original gridded windows so they look really good again. Steve got them mounted into place. On the inside are the solid pane storm windows, and the outside ones will have the nice gridded panes for a better look.  Now we will have double layers for better winter insulation. This house never had that before!  The basement windows were single panes and we are sure there was a lot of heat loss in the winter.  (probably why the sills were so rotted)

The three front basement windows under the porch are the ones with screens to let in ventilation.  We have double panes to go in those windows as well in the upcoming winter months.

Now he will work on the two windows to the South as well as the one right by my tomato bed. They all need new window sills. The old wooden ones are rotten. So he is going to make some forms for the rest of these basement windows and pour cement window sills, just like he did for the other two. But that will have to wait until this hot humid miserable weather is past.

Speaking of the covid-19 and getting out and about, we decided on Memorial Day weekend that perhaps Sunday morning early, during the immune challenged and senior citizen hours, would be a good time to hit the local grocery store. We heard they had hand sanitizer as well as disinfectant spray in stock, an ample supply of toilet paper, and a bunch of good things that were on sale that we wanted to take advantage of.

It was really hard to make that decision to actually go out and get groceries!!!  I have had pneumonia over 20 times and have breathing challenges to this day, as well as being immune compromised after a bunch of surgeries. That is why we are being so careful.

This is the first time we have stepped indoors of ANY store since March 11th.

Our biggest worry was the tourists and vacationers returning to their cottages up north, that might have been in the store the day before.  But then they sanitize overnight and the morning is a fresh start. That is why we went early.

I am still feeling tense and anxious just thinking about the whole excursion.

On Sunday, Steve and I set the alarm and went to the grocery store at exactly 7 am. There were a number of items we wanted to get and we also were thinking that we would like to stock up in case we go camping in the near future.

We donned our gloves and masks and headed to the store with a plan. When we got there, there were only two cars in the lot!  Even still, we were VERY scared!

We got there as soon as the doors opened. We disinfected our cart in the lobby and went through the store.

I had my list all divided up by sections, because we know every aisle in the store.

We zoomed through in 20 minutes, getting just exactly the things that we wanted. They were only out of one thing that I had wanted. It's a certain type of spice that they only carry called Harvest Blend. Similar to Mrs. Dash.  Our cart was loaded with our choices as we rolled through every aisle as fast as we could go.

We scored three big cans of Lysol aerosol spray disinfectant and three tall bottles of hand sanitizer! They even had the big 24 packs of toilet paper of the brand that we like, and we were able to get the biggest container of Tide pods laundry soap. Lot of stores around here are out of all of that...

We got everything in the cart, and a few treats that Steve threw in along the way.  (he does that) We made it to the checkout with only passing one person in the store.  At the checkout, there was the only other person there. We waited at a distance while the clerk checked our things out, while the owner of the store bagged our groceries.

$247.00 later we are home, groceries all sanitized and sorted, and packaging discarded and put in holding area or the fridge in the garage.  Most of the things we leave sit out there for 72 hours, the rest of the needed items are sanitized to be brought into the house.

Then we both stripped off our gloves and masks and jackets in the garage. As soon as we came in the door of the house, we stripped off all of our clothes and they went directly into the washing machine. We both hopped into the shower without touching anything else in the house.

I am still feeling shakey and jittery.... Steve too.

But with the low numbers of only 30 cases in our County since this whole thing began, we have to start slowly getting back out there and I think we did okay.


Memorial Day morning started out with beautiful sunshine and some gentle relaxing coffee time out on the front porch.

We didn't plan on going anywhere, and instead did a few small projects around the house. We transplanted some tiger lilies from an unwanted location in the yard to make some rings around the bases of some of the big trees. Then Steve doesn't have to drive the lawn mower so close --- and the lilies kind of grow over some of the exposed roots and bumpy lumps around the trunks.

We walked to the far big backyard along the treeline, and pulled a bunch of big horrible growing vines and dead vines off the trees back there. Those invasive vines have bugged me since we first saw the property. They needed to get pulled out of those trees before they killed them. We cut and tugged and yanked and pulled until we had a big huge pile of them lined up alongside the gravel road back there. The city will come and chop them all up with the chipper for us. And all the trees, I am happy to say, are now "vine free" !!  We huffed and puffed our way back to the house, as the humidity and temperatures were rising rapidly.

We puttered and putzed with a few things, but kept an eye on the radar weather channel. They were talking about heavy thunderstorms coming up this way. The first batch kind of missed us over to the west, but the second batch was coming quickly and looked like it was headed right towards us.

We grabbed some blue tarps and clamped them down to the tomato cages, to make a barrier over my tender little plants. We knew the pounding rain was coming, and those little young plants would have been battered straight down into the dirt if we didn't cover them up.

Oh My!  The pouring rain came down and down and down! We got over an inch in less than an hour and it was just tremendously drenching us. It was coming down so heavy we couldn't even see to the far end of our backyard.

My tomatoes were safe under the tarps, and the rain barrel was filled to overflowing, even the overflow hose could not keep up.

Then, all of a sudden, the sun came out! It was still pouring rain from one cloud, but it was blue sky and sunshine right next to it.

I grabbed the cell phone and put it on video mode, looking for a rainbow. Here is what I filmed:

We never found the rainbow, 
so that means 
we never got a pot of gold.

The rain soon soaked into the ground and amazingly we didn't have too many puddles out back after it was done. Looking this morning, there's very little standing water in the yard. My tomatoes survived the storm, and now we are due for a couple days of horrible hot muggy weather.

This morning it is already 78° and muggy, we sat on the front porch for a little while enjoying coffee. Time to get back inside where the air conditioning will keep us comfortable for the next few days.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

And The Walls Came Tumbling Down

"Joshua fit the Battle of Jericho 
and the walls came tumbling down..."

(ahhhhh--- fond memories of Mr. Wilson teaching us that song back in fourth grade music class at Stambaugh Elementary School in West Iron County in the U.P. of Michigan.)

Well---- one wall DID come tumbling down. The rest needed a little "help".

Let me begin at the beginning. The best place to start. The exterior entrance to our basement has this kind of cheesy slapped together enclosure over the recessed cement stairs.  The wood siding doesn't match, and it is kinda ugly sticking out from where it is located.  The door itself and the cement stairs underneath are just fine.

Not only does it look tacky, but the bottom edges are kind of rotting away and it should be taken down.  We are planning on replacing all of the siding on the back side of the house this summer, so this is a good time to get it removed.

The other problem with that enclosure is that it was shading the area that I wanted for planting my tomatoes!!!!

Steve decided that if we tear it down, he will build a bulkhead door system. You know, those old-fashioned slanted door parts to enter into a basement or a storm cellar?

We looked at new steel bulkheads, and they were $700 on up!

Next, he put together a little diagram and cut list figuring if he would build one out of treated wood. Sounds good. But that was going to run us about 200 plus dollars.  Ouch!

Then, Mister Magical Marketplace Mogul found a set of heavy steel bulkhead doors that someone was selling, after they tore down a house. $150 later and they were loaded onto our trailer and headed back to our house. They were already red.  I will give them a fresh coat of matching Rust-Oleum paint and they will be good to go.

Yesterday afternoon, I was going to get ready to plant. I asked Steve how long do you think it would take for us, working together, to pull down that enclosure?

Well, he grabbed the tools and I put on my gloves and we set ourselves to work.

The nice steel exterior entryway door was still good, so Steve took care of removing that.  We will later install that down below at the actual basement entrance. In the meantime, I started peeling off all of the smaller boards with a crowbar, and making sure no nails went down into the lawn.

The bottom edge on the right side was so rotted it was coming loose as we were pounding loose the boards.

We decided to wrap a heavy tow strap around it, and Steve and I together on the other end at a safe distance, we did a firm tug tug tug...

Yes! That wall came right off in one whole piece and ripped away from the house and the roofline, and plopped onto the ground!

Rut Roh, that left a problem. The rest of the structure, (roof and other wall) was extremely unsafe. It would not come down when we pulled with the tow strap with our hands.

Time to enable the use of our little Tracker. With all of the recent rain, we didn't want to rut up the lawn at all. This little Tracker is so lightweight it really didn't pose a problem. It's like a nimble little billy goat and doesn't weigh much more than a side by side ATV.

We carefully hooked up the strap again to the remaining structure and put the other end over to the Tracker's hitch.

I got out the video camera 
while Steve got behind the wheel:

First it pulled off the other wall. The roof structure was still hanging there, so Steve again carefully attached the strap, ready to jump out of the way if it fell on it's own.   Naw... too many nails holding it up.  YANK YANK again and the roof was soon biting the dust----- errrr mud.

Yayyyyyy it's down!

That was kind of fun.

Underneath, we can see the original wooden siding, as well as the marks of a better overhang with a peak from long ago.  This part of the house had been originally built in another part of town, and moved here and added to the rest in the early 1950's or 60's by the Heise family.

The siding on the back portion and around the little kitchen nook windows will all be replaced soon with new fibered LP Smart Siding.  Another project for another day.

We started cleaning up the mess. Our neighbor to the south of us came over and asked us what were we going to do with that tongue and groove white wood on the wall sections just laying on the ground?

Well, we were just going to chop it all up with the sawzall or chainsaw and burn it up a few pieces at a time.

He asked if he could have it all! It was kind of like shiplap and he wanted it for two different projects. Steve said have at it!

He and his daughter came over and started knocking it all apart, board by board, stacking it up, then carting it off to their workshop. What a nice way to get rid of our excess waste. It was great to know it would be repurposed and recycled into something creative.

We finished hauling away the little scraps and Steve pulled all of the shingles off the roof section. The 2x4's from in the roof section rafters are in really good shape.  Steve is going to reuse them to build the angle support for the bulkhead doors that will go over the basement entrance stairs.

Once that was all done, I got out my garden rake and finished raking out the rectangular bed where my tomato plants were going to go.

I brought out my tomato cages, and I had to borrow two more from our daughter's house. I regularly plant 18 tomato plants a year. This year I happened to buy 20 plants when we were social distancing at the greenhouse. I didn't have time to pick one or two or three little plants at a time.  I just grabbed the four pack vegetables so I ended up with five packs of four plants each. 20 tomatoes.

8 Early Girls, 
8 Better Boys and 
4 Juliet grape tomatoes.

I spent the evening putting in all of my tomato cages. I zip tie or wire tie thin boards along the top edges of the cages to add stability. Sometimes one plant will get very heavily laden with tomatoes and it will pull one cage over out of line. But connecting them all together it gives it better support and allows each cage to support the ones next to it.

I made little walkway areas of mulch chips to reach the back rows of plants.  I need to get two more bags to go around the outer edges.  Then once we get dried grass lawn clippings, I gently place those around the plants to prevent weed growth, and add nitrogen to the soil.

By evening, all of my plants were in place. I gave them a gentle watering with water from the rain barrel which happens to be located right next to the tomatoes. It will be really easy to water them this summer.

I have cute little white picket garden fences to put along the edge of the tomato bed to finish it off and look adorable.  I can almost taste them 'maters already!!!

We are due for about 3 summer-like days of temperatures in the 70s. We are looking forward to it. This morning I am sipping coffee, looking out over the beautiful backyard, while writing up this blog.

Steve is out there zoom zoom zooming around the yard. He is pumping the water out of the big puddles. Then he is getting ready to build the frameworks for the bulkhead. I guess that means I better go and help him.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

They're Baaaackkkk!

...They're baaaaaccckkkkkk!  
The big mudpuddles and ponds
in our back yard, that is....

During the last 24 to 48 hours we have seen tons of rain here in Wisconsin. Compiled with high winds out of the Northeast there has been serious flooding along the Lakeshore in the bay waters of Green Bay.

We had made some plans about sneaking off to a little private campground that we had found about 30 miles away. The State and County and National Forest campgrounds are not open yet. But we were going to socially distance in a little small private campground. I had started loading up the motorhome with some of our items, while keeping an eye on the weather report.  We made reservations to go on Monday through Thursday, and then get home before the holiday weekend warriors descend on the campgrounds.

But with the onslaught of rain, we decided it was better to hunker down at home and not tempt fate. We are really glad we did because the winds were horrible as well as the vast amount of rain that fell.

While we were holed up for two days of rain, we kept ourselves busy playing games of Yahtzee and cribbage, watching HGTV, and doing some sewing.

Our area got anywhere from 4 to 6 inches, and some places got even more than that! The winds were 20-30 mph with gusts in the 40-50 mph range.

Fortunately we only lost a couple little branches. Even though our yard is backed up with more water than we have ever seen since we moved here, things are looking pretty good out there.

Steve's newly added dirt and grading has helped, even without any grass growing in it yet. You can see where none of the encroaching water is anywhere near the she shed or the garage like it was before.  Good job, Steveio!

I'm sure he will have to replace the grass seed that he just put down because I think most of that floated away.

As I write this, he's planning on going outside with his rubber boots and his little pump to go and divert some of the excess water down to the drainage pipe.

What a happy boy playing with his mud puddles!

Before the rain started Saturday, I was able to finish up my planting of my ivy vines. With Steve's help, we were able to weave the ivy back and forth in and out of the lattice on the back sides of the pergola.

On the front side of the pergola, where the white trellis grids are, I carefully tied up the clematis plants with little bits of white string. I can tie and retie the strings as the plants grow. Each side has two plants, one red one and one white one. I hope they intermingle to a beautiful cascade of blooms that we can enjoy all summer long as the plants get established.

Steve was working on the basement window sills prior to the rain storm. Instead of using wood, he decided to make nice long lasting window sills out of concrete on all of the basement windows.  He did a curb side pickup for some bags of concrete mix from the local hardware store.  Then he is able to mix up a small amount at a time to do each window sill.

He built little forms and mixed up the concrete to create the new basement window sills.

He carefully ladled in the concrete and smoothed it out to form the new sill.  What a nice precise job he is doing.  It is not only cheaper than treated wood sill planks, but it makes more sense when located this close to the ground.  They should have been concrete to begin with, he said.

He removed the forms today and I think he did a great job!  Next, he can place the newly rebuilt and repainted windows back into the surrounding frames.

Later today, as things dry up a little bit, I'm going to get my tomato plants in the ground. I have 20 of these things that are getting root bound in their little containers and need to stretch and grow and thrive in the spring sunshine. The weather report looks good for the next couple days so I think it will be an optimum time to get these planted.

For now, I am just getting the day going by writing this blog, and sipping from my new coffee mug that I got from the kids and the grandkids for Mother's Day.

That sounds like a good plan to me! 

Friday, May 15, 2020

Planting Projects Around the House

Well, I think I'm going to stop the "counting of the days". Wisconsin has made some abrupt changes, as many of you may have seen on the news. The entire state was released of any stay-at-home order. But then county by county, and city by city, they re-instated the orders so nobody really knew what was going on!

Some TV stations were reporting one thing, and then things would change an hour later and then they'd have to report something the extreme opposite.

I guess for right now, we will just play it close to home, we will continue to socially distance, and wait and see what happens. Texas did this same abrupt opening, and now two weeks later they have a resurgence of cases. We hope that's not going to happen here.


The day started out with a fine misty fog coming up. I woke up at 5:30 and let the dogs out. I looked out over to the big backyard and it looked so beautiful. I had to go back to the bedroom and grabbed my phone to take a picture.

The dew on the grass was 
like little pearls of glass in the light.

I started up a pot of coffee and popped a couple apple turnovers from the freezer into the oven. Within 30 minutes the house smelled wonderful... and it woke Steve up.

We shared our early morning breakfast treat as the sun came along and burned off the misty fog.  The kids texted and asked us to bring back the long extension ladder, as they had some projects figured out for the day.  We hauled it over to their house while they were gathering supplies in Green Bay.  (nicely, they picked up some building supplies for us too!  Thank you Waylen!!!)

Now to our own projects:

Steve carried my plants out of the garage to get some fresh air and sunshine.  Today I was going to try to get a bunch of them planted!

I pulled up a pile of edging stones from a different part of the flowerbeds and trundled my wheelbarrow over to make some new beds near the pergola.  Steve said he wanted to do the digging, so he could save the "turf" to put in another spot in the yard.

He started working on another basement window, and brought up the main one for me to clean up and paint.  It sure beats the cost of replacing them with new ones. I got that done before breakfast!

Then I decided to start planting some of my flowers.

When we bought the pergola last month, the seller threw in two funky looking conical shaped hanging planting baskets.

Over the past winter I had rooted some strangling ivy branches from my big plant in the office. I had them growing in little pots on the window sill in the kitchen up until now. They were getting awfully long and one vine even started crawling up the pull chain for the light fixture over the sink. Another one had started weaving itself within the lace of my window curtain! It was time to get these ivy plants out and planted to do their job outside and decorate my pergola!!

Steve screwed in two new little eyelet hooks and I planted the ivy into these funky baskets. I interwove some of the pieces through the red lattice. Hopefully they will grow up and over and around and looked absolutely beautiful.

I have more ivy plants to plant around the bottom sections of the lattice on each side. Steve started digging up the sod and make me two little flower beds on each side of the pergola.  He was happy, he got his sod!

Then I will weave that ivy up within the lattice too. Hopefully soon it will be covered with beautiful ivy on that side.

On the other side, he started digging up flower beds to put in my precious clematis plants. These were my Mother's Day present. I have a red one and a white one for each side of the pergola as we enter it from the front yard. This will hopefully grow up the front white trellises and cover up with beautiful blooms, all summer long.

I popped back into the garage to paint a second coat on the window because the first one had finally dried.

I took time to fill the bird feeders. Today we even spotted a beautiful bluebird come to hang out at the feeders and see what was going on. We've had about five or six Baltimore Orioles now because of putting out the grape jelly. I remarked to Steve after I filled up the bird feeders, that feeding these birds is costing us more than what we pay to feed our dogs!!!

Now I took out the three long red window boxes and set them on the ledges of the front porch. Into each one I planted geraniums, two deep red ones flanking each side of a white one in the middle. This year I splurged and bought a little bit bigger type zonal geranium that seem to be hardier with a thicker stem.

After I got all three window boxes done and in place, Steve came and sat on the front porch swing with me for a while.

We relaxed and reflected on how much we were doing today compared to what we were doing a year ago. A year ago we'd only been in the house for two weeks and we were going gangbusters with projects. He had already started moving the doorway and creating a half bath with the laundry room. We were still unloading one load at a time from the rental storage unit, and I was unpacking boxes and finding places for things here there and everywhere. We were painting some things and fixing other things and rearranging things and just adjusting to life up here in Oconto --- closer to the grandchildren. It was one of the best decisions I think we have ever made.

We made up a little lunch, and then I popped back out to plant all of my precious coleus around the circular flower bed and bird bath in the backyard. These are all of the plants that I have wintered over a year after year after year since the 1990s. I got them from my friend Connie, and I've been so careful to save enough every fall to keep them going all winter long.

I planted them around in the circle and I hope they will flourish. I did keep one little cluster in the window in the kitchen, sitting in a glass of water, just in case they need to root and start a new pot.

(I bought the little Dutch boy and girl
a couple years ago
at a rummage sale in Chilton)

By this time, I think I was really starting to slow down. By 2:30 I thought it's time to crawl in bed and take a little nap. Steve was still going gangbusters on stapling a new screen in the open window frames down in the basement. But I decided it was time to take a little break and close the eyelids for a while.

It didn't last long, but was enough to refresh me so I could get back out in start cutting apart some of the ivy and figuring out what needed to get planted where.

I did plant some more geraniums in the two beautiful cement planters in front of the she shed. We brought these planters up from our last home in Chilton too. I just love how they look and I'm glad that I am able to find a nice spot to put them to catch the western sunlight in the evenings.  That cement is the original apron to the single stall garage before we converted it.

The wind started kicking up and has shifted, even though the temperatures got up into the low 70s, the wind started to bite and blast from the Northeast.

I didn't finish planting the ivy, and we headed out on the front porch for a while We got out of the wind because the porch faces the West. I actually got some sunburn from sitting in the sunshine on the swing for a while. Or maybe I got it while planting or digging. We had soft music playing, glasses of ice water, and we spent a enjoyable late afternoon just relaxing. We need to learn to do more of that!!!

I whipped up some salads for supper and we cooked up a single pasty to split, made by the pasty oven in Florence Wisconsin. We are able to buy these at the local Piggly Wiggly in Oconto Falls, and they are pretty much my favorite pasty.

We did take the dogs out for a little romp through the big backyard and then hooked on their leashes to loop around the rest of the block. The wind was blasting pretty strongly now and they said it's going to not let up overnight. So I'm glad I didn't finish planting any more of the delicate plants and flowers, and I won't even think about planting the delicate thin stemmed tomato plants yet for maybe another week.

I think we will curl up for the evening and play some cribbage and Yahtzee maybe watching HGTV shows and get some more ideas???