I feel like a theme is happening here, and it all has to do with windows, windows and more windows. THE PLAN, as we thought it through last fall, was to save up money this winter, then start ordering a couple windows at a time, and when they showed up, order a couple more and install what we had. Less of a hit to the budget that way. But we hit a budget problem – our budget of time!
January we were on track, and despite the cold we got the west windows in on a relatively warm 30 degree day, and again in February for a couple on the north. But then the temperature dropped. Normal people would probably have held off on the ordering more windows part of this plan, but we’re not that. So we continued to order windows, telling ourselves “we will catch up!”.
Fast forward to now, May already. We are about 8 windows behind! But the delay hasn’t been for nothing. Along the way we learned that painting them before installing makes a lot of sense, and that sills are easier to replace now than waiting until after we have the new windows in. So at least we are getting smarter.
The weather is turning warmer (finally!) and sprouts are sprouting. Take a close look at the windows above. Can you see the difference? Hint – it’s not the color. And it’s a nice improvement to the light inside. The view is fabulous, as Farmer Jimmy plants and the eternal question – corn or beans – is the talk of the schoolhouse yard once again.
Now that we’ve started down this window-filled road we have to get it finished, and I’m hoping you’ll stick with us until then. Here’s hoping Jun will give us something else to talk about!
So, do you remember two weeks ago when we were taking out the old sills and putting in new ones? Well, that went really well. It looked like it was time, each one has a crack in them like this:
We thought we were so clever to remember to put rebar in our newly poured sills, probably greatly improving what was already there, we told ourselves. So imagine our surprise when we pushed the first sill out the window and it cracked to expose the rebar already in there! But on closer inspection, it appears it wasn’t exactly rebar. Looks like they used barbed wire! Very ingenious – I’m sure they used what they had. Lasted a 100 years, so I suppose I can’t say it didn’t work pretty well.
We had a clever idea as well – when putting in the new windows, why not paint them first? Yes! I had a hard time painting these black, but historically, it appears the outside of the windows were black at some point. I can’t verify if that would have been the original paint – just saying at some point in history.
And we were blessed (is that the right word?) with a late season 6″ of snow. Beautiful, and it allowed me to stay home and watch it snow from the new window. Beautiful, but I’m ready for spring!
This weekend marks 4 years since that fateful day when, while trying to avoid work at home, we took a Sunday drive to Wisconsin and found our forever home. Judging by this old facebook post, I already knew what our future would hold:
We have come so far since that day – but yet there is so much more to do. I get so excited just thinking about having it come together – but that brings me to the rest of the title of the post; it’s time to get back to work!
It’s been a loonng, cold winter, and the last month has been chock full of staying inside on the couch and keeping warm. OK, there was that work thing and a lot of work travel, but lot’s of couch time too. Spring is at least on the calendar if not in the air, as we are expecting snow today again. Warmer days (40’s, so relatively, it’s all relative) mean we need to hop to it again. But slowly.
A couple months back, we created sills for the new west windows. Well, now they look so good that we’ve decided we need to do new sills for the other windows. These should have nice sharp corners, not these crumbly corners.
That’s enough for now – like I said, taking it easy to start out. Gotta stretch!
The bell has come home, and it has an interesting story to tell. It starts this way, detail provided by Edward Moersfelder:
The 22 inch cast school bell originally hung in the bell tower of the parochial school adjacent to and run by St. Michael’s Catholic Parish located in the central Wisconsin town of Hewitt, Wisconsin. When the school was torn down in the sixties, Alex Moersfelder bought the bell. He erected an eight foot bell tower at the farm home of Marjorie and Alex Moersfelder three miles south of Hewitt where the bell hung, much to the delight of their grandchildren, until the mid eighties when Alex and Marjorie left the farm. The bell tower was disassembled and Ed and Karel Moersfelder transported the bell to their home in Amery, Wisconsin. Their intention was to build a bell tower and once again have the bell ring, but the bell remained in storage. Years passed. In the summer of 2017, Ed and Karel were puzzling over what to do with the bell in light of their impending move to Portland, OR. The announcement of the musical “1776” as a part of the 2017 theatre season at St. Croix Festival Theatre provided the answer. They donated the bell to Festival and Festival raffled the bell along with a quilt decorated with a patriotic motif and colors donated by Carol Olson. The proceeds from the raffle (over $3600) were used to help cover the costs of production of Festival’s summer musical. The bell was rung as part of Festival’s production of “1776” and the drawing for both the quilt and the bell was held on July 9th following the closing performance of “1776.” The winning ticket was purchased by a local theater patron, who subsequently sold the bell to Sydney Paredes, Festival’s Board President, to give to her husband, Don.
And here our story starts to join with the bell’s:
Also buying tickets for the Festival’s raffle was my dad Keith, of Atlas. He was hopeful, but eventually unsuccessful in finding the winning ticket. Fast forward to the holidays, when Kevin and I, mom and dad, and my son Josh and his girlfriend Erin all attended the Festival’s production of It’s a Wonderful Life, A Radio Production. In the lobby, Keith started up a conversation with none other than Sydney. Jokingly, he mentioned how he was ‘guaranteed’ a winning ticket last summer. But as the conversation progressed, it turned out Sydney and Don had not decided the best use for the bell. An agreement was made in which mom and dad became Festival sponsors, and the bell found a new home with them. They managed to get it home and ‘wrap’ it without me ever suspecting.
The best gift is one you give away:
Attached to the present – which was labelled as “For Bonnie” was a note that on the back read “the best kind of gift is one you give to someone else”. Handing it to me, I unwrapped the gift and was stunned to find the bell. Well, you know the rest. A week later, it came to it’s new home here at Bass Lake School. For now, the bell has been tucked away in storage for the right time to be unwrapped once again. Sometime soon, perhaps this year even, it will also find it’s way to the tower, where it will ring for all to hear once again (sorry neighbors Shane, Russ and George!). I will try to keep it to just a couple times an hour, er, day!
The last month of holiday had us starting one project, stopping for celebrations, eating, napping, starting again with a different project for awhile, remembering what we didn’t have for that project, moving to something else. All in all, a highly disorganized last couple months. But now that we are coming out of our post-turkey delirium, I can show you some of the work we have gotten done.
Windows. I mentioned last week how we uncovered one of the west windows. We started that one before Thanksgiving. Now we have the second one in. Just like with the first one, the light that now comes into that area is fantastic!
But we didn’t stop there! Here’s the new bathroom before…(just peer through the see-through walls)…
Walls. I may have mentioned in the past that one of our goals is to keep the schoolhouse as open as possible inside, to keep that one-room schoolhouse feel. To that end, we didn’t want to put in any more walls than necessary. Over the last few weeks, we’ve added all the walls we are going to – a total of two. The bathroom wall is needed, for obvious reasons, and you just peeked through it above. This will be the bedroom. For the longest time our plans had this as square room, but a last minute brainstorm cut off one corner. Can you imagine a little vignette here with the chalkboard, school desk, maybe some other school memorabilia? I can.
Last of all, the wandering fireplace. The original plan had a fireplace ‘someday’. But we realized it would be wise to plan out where it would go before we started having electric wires and vents placed. So in our minds, it’s somewhere on this wall. South corner? North corner? Next to the window? Back were it was to begin with?
Some of you may remember a post many moons back about the west windows of the school. I believe I called it “Why Are the Windows to the West Bricked Up? (yes, very original, I know. ) You can jump to it here:
Anyway….a few weeks ago, before this recent cold snap, we created the first view west in about a 100 years.
We’ve already spent hours (OK, well, maybe just minutes at a time, at these temperatures, let’s be realistic about it) gazing out the window and the new view. We can see our little frog pond, and all the way down the hill to the bigger lake. Glimpses of Neighbor Shane’s and even all the way across the fields to Russ and Margo Hansen’s farm are even possible.
A second window will be going in the future bedroom space once it warms up again. Adding windows to a stone house involves cement work and tuckpointing, which is my specialty and has to wait until the water in the mortar doesn’t freeze immediately.
We got another wonderful Christmas gift this year in the form of a picture of one of the teachers at Bass Lake School. Her name was Lucy Orr, which is ironically the name of the school up the road. Perhaps she was in attendance when the windows were blocked up, making it highly appropriate for her to join us now as we unveil them again. Her daughter stopped by this summer and promised to send this picutre and was good as her word. She was a beautiful lady and her picture and story is a beautiful addition to our history.
Last but not least, have a wonderful holiday season and we will see you in a
Happy New Year!
Christmas morning dawned clear and COLD!!
-10 is enough to make you want to crawl back under the covers and hibernate until spring. But thank goodness we didn’t.
Biggest news ever….we have a bell!!!!! Thanks to a chance encounter with a hostess at a theater, a raffle gone awry, and a generous donation from Keith and Bonnie, may I present the New Bass Lake School Bell!
Hoping in the coming weeks we will have more details about it’s history, and how it came to be ours. But for now, we are happy to share our exciting news and wish you
a Very Merry Christmas!
Ah, the smell of roasting turkey and stuffing, pumpkin pies and all the goodies of the season. Fortunately for us, mom and dad put on a wonderful Thanksgiving Dinner, as the accommodations in the basement are a little tight yet for hosting large groups. Ever try cooking a 20 pound turkey in a toaster oven? Me neither, and this wasn’t the year to start.
We did get to host visitors at the school for the holiday, a first for us. Grace was here for the whole weekend, and among other activities, helped G&G pick out a Christmas tree..
And the California cousins stopped by to take a tour as well. I think they were impressed by our high-class living accommodations. Except for this picture, they generally bundled up well and kept warm (and then, like true Wisconsin-ites, we went and ate ice cream at the dairy).
And we notched up our Christmas lights on the school from last year. This year we are featuring the bell tower (although I suspect it looks somewhat like a rocketship).
Happy Thanksgiving and looking forward to a Merry Christmas for you all!
…especially if it happens before my birthday; that’s what I’ve always said. So along those lines, it was a good year. A year of firsts, for sure, including being able to gaze out the window at the snow without having to go out in it first.
And speaking of birthdays, I came home from a long business trip – you know the usual big celebrity stuff…book signings, paparazzi, glamorous events – no wait, that was just the crazy dream I had the night before, it was just a business trip – anyway, coming home I had cause for alarm. Looking up as I walked in, it appeared we had an infiltration of yellow snow. Or maybe the Blob? Best case, someone had filled the attic with vanilla pudding.
With a closer look, I found it was hard as a rock, and an excellent application of spray foam. We’re confident this will serve a few purposes….heat retention, for sure, but also as a deterrent for the chipmunks and mice that thought the attic – now cleared of raccoons – would be an excellent winter home.
Since it’s still a snowy / rainy / cold mess out there, I think the rest of today will be focused on some important in-house projects. I’m thinking baking blueberry muffins, Netflix, laundry. I’m not sure this is how the students of old spent their days here, but I argue it’s an acceptable improvement.
As much as I really don’t want it to, the time to do some final prep for fall has inevitably come. But if it must, today was as good of a beautiful fall day in Wisconsin as you could ask for. For example, if I have to spend the morning with the chainsaw and loppers clearing the deadfall on the side of the school, at least I can appreciate the beautiful maples turning golden around me.
But in doing some land clearing, I discovered we had our first garden crop and didn’t even know it. One cute little baby corn was growing in the back forty. I wonder if I could make a meal out of this?
But alas, all good things must come to an end, and the clouds gathered and the raindrops flew. I made the best of it for awhile, moving inside to do some therapeutic sawing (yes, that is a thing!) Here I’m even recycling some cast off boards into supports. Always looking to save some dough. Eventually, I threw in the towel (but not the saw, that would be bad). A shower, some of Kevin’s specialty White Chili, a good night hanging with my parents, even if my Huskers didn’t do so good this week.
I’ll leave you with my latest find, a little zen butterfly windmill. So relaxing. Maybe I can install this in the living room.
In the past, this time of year brought in inevitable post about closing up the schoolhouse for the winter. Boy is this year different! This year, October brings move IN day instead. Yay! Now, is it move in to a finished schoolhouse? Well, of course not. Enough of you visited 2 weeks ago to know we just aren’t there yet. But there was a portion of the tour that you didn’t get to see. So today I’ll share the less glamorous, basic living standards that we are making home for the next 6 months or so (and strangely enough, are ridiculously excited to be doing).
To set the stage, we set up a living area in the basement. So much of what we did this year – aside from the fantastic red roof – was foundational that no one could see; that it seems right for us to live where that work happened. Next year will be different, but for now, this is home.
First up, our kitchen. It’s a bit messy (ok all the pictures are messy, taken on moving day, so please grant me some leeway!) Comprised of a upcycled cabinet and top, a microwave, hotplate and toaster oven, it’s already produced some fabulous breakfasts and dinners. Gourmet, all the way!
We also have a bathroom, complete with full-sized shower, repurposed from mom’s refinished bathroom. It feels a bit like showering in a zip-lock bag, but the water is clean and hot ~ good enough for me! .
A good nights sleep is probably the most important part of any successful project. This is my favorite part of the whole “suite”. (Note the WI for NE plaque, handmade by my boys. Always a Cornhusker at heart). .
But just to prove life is not all champagne and roses, sometimes the problems leak in (literally). In this case, it turns out 3+ inches of rain will test any foundation, even a 100 year old one. A little grading should make a difference (I hope).
In the next few weeks, we need to decide next steps. We will be transitioning from ‘get this done to get settled in before winter’ to ‘now we’re here, what to do next?’ . I’ve got lots of ideas, but we will see if those dogs suck me into the couch-potato life. It doesn’t seem so bad….
Last weekend was a busy one. The River Road Ramble open schoolhouse and yard sale was a huge success. We were so excited to see all of you out here. We had lots of visitors stop by.
And inside, so many great conversations! Visitors whose moms, or dads, aunts or uncles attended school here or taught school here. It was wonderful to meet you all and I hope you come back soon – stop by anytime and say Hi! Of course, I put up my display of found items, pictures (those I could find – I apparently hid a box of these from myself)
And another vote: which color for the bell tower?
Sunday – what do you do after a long day in the hot sun? Sleep in, naps and movie watching, of course. Work? Maybe next week.
A picture speaks a thousand words, so here we go!
A beautiful morning and a beautiful new red roof! Words don’t begin to describe how good it feels to get to this point. Everything we’ve done over the last 3 years has been with the goal of prepping for the roof, and there it is. I really love seeing it as I’m rounding the corner on 87 (and can’t wait to see it after Farmer George harvests his corn this year from across the field!)
Another view (because I assume everyone is as infatuated with it as I am)
In dismantling the old roof, the roof caps were really cool. These almost went back up on the roof, but at the last minute we decided to leave them off in case we can think of another cool use for them where they can be seen up close.
Next decision is going to be whether we do the bell tower in copper, or leave it tin like it is. I like it better against the red now than I did before, so maybe I’ll solicit another round of votes at the River Road Ramble.
Speaking of the ramble, everyone be sure to stop by the
River Road Ramble
A motor tour of the River Road and Hwy 87
September 23rd, pretty much all day
You know how we like to talk about the school We’d love to show it off in person and we will have the pictures of how it used to be and former classmates there too. Stop on by, we would love to see you all!
We’ve been so fortunate to show some great progress in the last couple posts, but I wanted to take a step back and show some of the little things that are happening as well. Or maybe, I just want to prove I do more than take pictures and write for my part in all this. 😉
Project one: bat houses. A couple evenings we sat out front and just watched the school in the late evening, counting bats. Turns out, we have about 15 mama/baby pairs. Fortunately the babies are now big enough to manage on their own and fly about in the evenings. Just in time, as the roof replacement is looming. To encourage them to find a new apartment, we built and hung 5 of these around the yard. We love the mosquito patrol they do, but we’re not so hip on sharing our attic space.
Project 2: tin ceilings. Eventually, all the tin ceiling will need to go back in, but before then, each one need to be reshaped, sandblasted and fit into the plan. I’ve taken on the sandblasting project, one tile at a time. At least I can catch a few rays while I do it.
Project 3 (see, I told you I was busy!): tuckpointing. You might remember my desperate plea for knowledge on how to conquer the tuckpointing technique. After questioning everyone that even looked at it, reading whatever I could get my hands on, and about a dozen failed tries, I think I have it figured out. I’m at least to where I’m ready to add the red colorant again. (this picture is an earlier attempt…I did get better after this….
Another biggie was opening up a back door. We removed some of the brick under one of the windows to put in a second access. The door is cool, but the bricks are cooler. Miracle brick, the form is stamped 1903? 1909? From the archivist, we are guessing they were made right down the road in Cushing, or right up the road in Atlas.
Check back after this weekend or drive on by if you’re up this way. Things are looking rosy!
As much as I thought getting the beams in was the pinnacle of accomplishment for the summer, we have literally topped it. Last weekend we tackled that leaning tower of bell and got it standing up straight and in the front of the class. If I start out with the before and after pictures, can you see the difference?
It’s subtle to the naked eye, but significantly straighter now. Not only did temporary bracing go in, but a back wall and saddle too. Those get the water moving off the roof, and not down the trough into the middle of the school, like it must have done for the first 100 years.
We had to raise the back support posts quite a bit to get things level. See the 2×4 we stuck in there? That’s how much it went up, plus a little on the top as well. And don’t worry about the now-missing arches…they will go back in eventually!
A lot of people ask us what we are going to do with the bell tower when we are all done, and I’m keeping that a surprise for later (although I know I’ve already spilled the beans to many of you 🙂 ). Home office? breeze-way? sleeping nook? OH the ideas!! But I do have something in mind, at least for the first iteration. Here’s a sneak peak…this is the new view from inside the school looking up. You can see all the way up to the floor of the tower. Can you see where the old door used to be? With the old ceiling removed, it looks a looonnng way up there.
I wanted to name this post off something catchy like “Beam Me Up!” or “BRD – Beam Raising Day’, but I am just so excited about finally getting them up after talking about them for so long, I took the straightforward route. Long story short, we went from this…
Of course, no friend or family is safe from being recruited when it comes to weekend warrior projects of this magnitude. We talked Mom and Dad and buddy Paul, who are all trying to be retired in some fashion or another, into helping us raise the beams. Everyone had a job – Dad and I cranked the lifts, Mom was in charge of getting the shims in, and Kevin and Paul up on the plank guiding it into place and securing it there. All for the price of brats on the grill and some cole slaw!
In the on-going war against the chipmunks, I think we are one up. One little guy kept burrowing his way in the well access. So I poured a bit of leftover grout in there…let’s see him chew through that! He’s gonna need a Chipmunk dentist!
As promised – a fireworks picture (thanks Grace!)
As for work in the school, we have officially moved to the next level – literally. Although we are far from done with the basement, now we can start to focus on the middle…shoring up the skeleton so that the roof can be next. We put in these temporary posts to help support the roof while we worked, and have already ‘raised the roof’ an inch!
We also laid down a subfloor of plywood. Not only is it a great level place to eventually reset the original flooring, but it serves as an excellent dust catcher to keep attic and roof dust from falling through to the basement.
Cryptic markings on the subfloor are our roadmap to walls, posts and hallways. But now, what do they mean? I thought this ‘You are Here’ right in the geographical middle of the schoolhouse might be helpful.
In the process of putting the floor together, we really had to put the floor together. At some point in the past, someone thought it would be a good idea to cut through this support beam, saw a chunk out of it so a floor vent would fit through, and push it over. We have made it all right again.
Outside, we have added some ambiance, by way of some outdoor lighting so we can find our way inside in the ‘wee’ hours.
And last but not least, just to prove that we don’t always just work, Grace came up and gave grandpa a run for his money in the fishing arena. Way to go!!
As the summer progresses, so does our schoolwork (although I’ve been a bit lax in turning in my homework assignents here – I promise to do better!) The whole month of June was spent settling into our new surroundings, getting Kevin’s new business up and running and reconnecting with family and friends. Not a bad way to spend a month.
But I digress….back to the new vocabulary list. For mid-summer enrichment, I want to add some new words to our repertoire. Here we go…
“Flooring”. Previously, this meant carpet, tile, or hardwood. In our reality, it can consist of plywood or paper (or dust).
Here’s one for the more advance grades….”Matches”. Yes, they may look like logs, but we call them matches here, because we put one in the fire pit before bed, and in the morning we can just throw a couple sticks on it, and the fire starts right up.
With the fireworks fourth coming up, we are missing our Grace to light them off, but are looking forward to her smiling face joining us soon. Fireworks pics and big changes in the school coming up soon!
Despite it being a rainy week and a complete rain out last Saturday and Sunday, and spotty showers this weekend, there was progress made. And oh, what progress!
Upstairs, we cleared one half of the school of all our stuff and laid down a new underlayment over the oak boards. This will provide a nice smooth surface when we reinstall the original flooring, and also serves as a nice grime catcher so we don’t leak dust and debris from the eventual roof replacement down to the basement.
And speaking of basements, what a change there. With the concrete in and curing, next was some framing for a bathroom and mechanicals room, and insulation. It looks like a snug blanket (and as a bonus, the baby garner snakes that keep sneaking in from somewhere are going to have to find another place to hang out).
On top of that, check out this magnificent piece!
The camper fridge is fantastic, but this is a work of art (OK, maybe it’s an $80 Craigslist find, but to me it’s beautiful). Think of all the bee…er….I mean SALAD that thing can hold! At the very least, it redefines the distance traveled when someone declares ‘Beer run!’.
And the piece that made it a monumental weekend, we have made the big move to the school. As much as we’ve appreciated the place to live provided by mom and dad these last months, there is something exciting to finally being on-site, 100% of the time. Even though most of our stuff is still in storage, just being here is so fulfilling – something we’ve been waiting for a long time.Time to just put up our feet, watch the fire and the rain, and take a moment to relax.