School. A good foundation.

We’ve been so busy the last few weeks I didn’t take time to update you on all the work that has been going on – my apologies!  Between feeling under the weather and real jobs and rain (and snow!!), we let none of that slow us down.  Any free moment we dedicated to moving ahead.

First, the new electric panel is installed. Coming soon, the outside wires get buried, eliminating the pesky problem of hitting them when moving campers around.

I left you with a glimpse of the basement work we started – well, we rocked that.  Or maybe dug, graded, trenched and pea gravelled is more accurate.  I’m pretty sure the inventors of the tiller didn’t imagine that the basement would be where it was ever used, but it came in handy breaking up some very hard clay.  (Thank you Fredrick Hardware for the loan) 

It’s looking pretty good now.


Fortunately all the dirt we removed didn’t go to waste.  Being nice solid, heavy, thick, wet clay, it made for a great filler for the outside of the school where we need to get the grade sloping away from the foundation.  Is it just me, or does this feel a little like cutting the foot off the blanket and sewing it onto the head?








It’s a muddy mess right now, but I keep telling my self ‘work-in-progress, work-in-progress’.


Pea gravel, you say?  Here’s before and after, 1 shovelful at a time.  At least it wasn’t raining (much).




(OK, so I didn’t get rid of the whole pile, but in my defense, it was a BIG pile).

And of course, out with the new, in with the..wait…why are my brand new stairs missing??  They had to come out temporarily in prep for the new floor.  That’ll be next time – I’ve never been this excited about concrete in my life.  Stay tuned.

Buried Treasure – at last!

As you know, all along I’ve been hoping for some buried treasure.  A long hidden retirement stash, maybe stock papers for a multi-million dollar operation, something like that.  I’d even be happy with a small pile of gold coins.  Ah, but we don’t always get what we want, as the story goes.  We did find something, and it was buried, but gold coins it was not.

What is it?  Pantyhose. Yes, pantyhose.  Buried under the concrete in the basement.  OBVIOUSLY, my first thought was “I hope there isn’t a body attached to these!”  Fortunately, no bodies.  Just lots of pantyhose.  And acorns. Hmm.  As we removed more concrete, it became apparent that my treasure hoarder is a chipmunk with a love of tunnels and ladies underthings!

Nuts galore!

Chipmunk racetrack

His route was very impressive.



Beyond that, you might have guessed, the work of the last few weeks has been in the basement.  We have the floor supports replaced.  Good thing too – here’s a section on one…this holey, rotted piece was all that was holding up 1/6th of the floor.

To date, we have about 2/3 of the concrete up and out, bucket by bucket.  It’s looking a bit different down there.


We even got some help from Grace last weekend. 






But her bigger contribution was with her great eye.  I believe Bass Lake School has it’s own budding Ansel Adams.  She has a great sense of composition and perspective.  I’ll end with a sample of the school from her view:

Thanks Grace – we love them!





A good foundation

Work continued this weekend in the basement.  The hundred year old support beams were sagging mightily.  After a lot of prepping, sore muscles and dust, 1/2 of the beams are in!






I also made some progress on the precarious chimney.  I believe I have it to the state where a jackhammer might take care of the rest.

We had some interesting finds as well.  I think this may be a damper handle for an old stove (anyone want to offer other ideas?)  I’m currently brainstorming ideas to reinvent it  into some other clever usage – taking suggestions on that as well.  

Found a few furry finds as well…this guy was hiding behind some old boards.  He took a few turns around the basement before finding his way upstairs and out the door.

And you might think this is simply a small hole under the front door (as we did).  Turns out this is the superhighway for Chippy the Chipmunk.  I didn’t get a picture, but he has very little fear and visited us several times in the course of our days.  Gonna have to put ‘door repair’ on the list.  Or alternatively, ‘Chipmunk Training Class’.

Three years ago….

Hard to believe, but it was 3 years ago today that we first laid eyes on our little schoolhouse.  Love at first sight for me for sure.  For Kevin, it was probably closer to like-at-first-sight, but he’s come around.    He’s always the sensible one who saw it for what was under the dust – a hidden gem that needed a lot of work.  Well, he was right on both counts.  We’ve seen a lot of dust and dirt, and have had a lot of fun and campfires.  This year will be one of the busiest ever and we can’t wait!

So to get started, first things first.  As with any indoor project, a little clean up seems to go a long way to making the work go better.  First thing to tackle:  basement cobwebs!!






Once that was done, it was time for some treasure hunting.  This reminded me of panning for gold, except that the pan was an old hand-made heat vent…


And the “gold” we found was treasure of another sort.  A medicine bottle for sinus problems.  Main ingredients:  belladona, atropine and scopolamine.  As a nurse, I can tell you, if that didn’t clear up your sinuses, nothing would.

A softball, era unknown.


And most interesting of all, could this be the clapper to the long-lost schoolhouse bell?

This weekend will bring more changes, as we will be updating some beam work.  Stay tuned!

Ready, Set, Go!

It FEELS like spring out there, with weather in the 50’s and better all week.  By the fisherman’s standards though we are not quite there yet I guess.  These brave guys are still out there – maybe they are hoping their trucks also serve as life rafts!(This nervous Nelly couldn’t do it, just sayin’.)

But because it was good weather, and because we couldn’t wait any longer – it was just time to get the ball rolling.  No better time than the present!

First things first, shoring up that belltower.  It’s already caused me 3 years of sleepless nights (OK well, maybe restless nights, let’s not get too carried away).  But before we started doing any foundation work, I wanted to make sure it didn’t end up in a rubble heap IN the foundation.

Brave Kevin got up on the ladder to do some initial measurements.









Then, like magic, up went the first of the supporting beams.  This is looking a lot more sturdy than what was there before, and I’m feeling a whole lot better.  Granted, they’re still just supported with 2×4’s, but that will get fixed soon enough.

Before = no beams
After = beams!

Next, on what started to be a pleasant holiday Monday morning, the backhoe arrived to install the new septic tank.  A little bit of digging ensued (thank goodness for backhoes is all I can say.)  Despite what the picture implies ~ Kevin did NOT do all that himself, although he always says the world needs ditch diggers too. 

The new tank was dropped into place, seen here for the last time ever.

As the trucks pulled out just before noon, the rain started.  And we learned later at the City board meeting that road restrictions also started at noon, so we got that in just in the nick of time!  I’ve never been this excited about a sewage system in my life.

What’s next.  Wait and see…it will depend a lot on the next snow storm coming in, but never fear, more is coming and I can’t wait!



Taking a page from one of my childhood books by Remy Charlip (pun intended), our discoveries last week with the structural engineer can best be described taking a ‘Fortunately, Unfortunately’ approach.


Fortunately, we learned that the work needed in the basement will not be as extensive as we originally thought.  While we thought we would have to do some extensive underpinning to straighten out the floor and lower it enough to get the furnace in, turns out we can do a curb around the perimeter and just lower the middle.  That we can handle with lots of buckets and willpower.  I could make this exercise one in my new year’s resolution to get more fit.

Unfortunately, the bell tower is a bit more tricky.  There is a foreboding crack in the front that has to be addressed, and by someone with more skills than us.  It may come down to setting the bell tower roof on the ground (anyone have a crane they could loan us?) while the blocks are repaired.  The good thing about that is it’s much easier to re-roof at that level!







Fortunately, there is also a simple answer for the sagging roof.  He reports it’s not in terrible shape, but will of course continue to sag if we don’t do something.


Unfortunately, that might also mean pulling off what is there and re-building the roof.  Actually, we have 3 options; we just need to sort out which one might be the best. Next steps will be to get a ‘truss-guy’ in to take a look.  Kevin tells me that’s a real person, I have my doubts.  How does one get to be a truss-guy?  But anyway, having a next step is very promising.

Last but Fortunately not least, the over-all structure is ‘pretty good’.  Tuckpointing needed – but we knew that already.  Flooring needs shored up – knew that too. But altogether do-able.  And that is exactly what we’ve been hoping to hear.

OK everyone – grab a bucket, let’s start digging!



(and as a caveat to the theme….if you noticed that Unfortunately the website was down for a week or so – Fortunately I got it fixed without too much angst.  The joys of changing email addresses!)

Merry Christmas to All!

It’s a beautiful Christmas season, and the school has been blanketed in a new coat of snow.  No fires here for awhile!

Well, maybe a New Year’s Eve campfire to ring in what promises to be a great 2017?  Who’s with me???

The school is looking good too..

And although they are a bit meager, we even turned on the lights.  We worked on it on the day it was -5 (because the day after was -20), so minimal effort and maximal running back to the warm truck was part of the deal.



I’m looking forward to the next 12 months and we hope to see you at school!

Season end; chapter beginning

Although it saddens me to say so, the proof that the season is ending is all around.  The leaves are already thick around the school.Leaves are Thick

Farmer George is hard at work bringing in the corn.Corn Harvest






The dogs no longer join us around the yard, preferring instead to hang out in the truck and hope to drive somewhere warmer.

Jax in the Van









So I have to relent: it is time to tighten up the seals and bring in the flag for the season.

But with the end of the season comes the beginning of a new chapter too.  One of the most frequent questions we get is ‘Do you plan on living in the school someday?’  To which the answer has always been “Yes, someday.”  But to make that happen, we have to make some big changes.  Kevin found a good job nearby and moved up last spring.  Now it’s my turn.  And thanks to the generosity of mom and dad, we will be leaving our ties to ‘the big city’ and living nearby for the winter, saving up money for some big changes come spring.  Scary and exciting, all rolled up in one!

So one last sunset of the fall, and the schoolday is over.  (But don’t think I’m done here ~ check back soon; being closer, I’m sure we will find some winter fun to share with you all!)

Schoolhouse Sunset

Schoolhouse Soap Opera?

As the year winds to a close, I’ve thought about how to spice up the posts.  So naturally, a soap opera came to mind!  All I need is some are some interesting characters, some drama, mystery and plot twists, right?  Let’s see what I can come up with:

The one that pops in my mind right away is of course, the eternal question: Corn or Beans?  What will Farmer George plan next year?  CornWill the family veto the old standbys in favor of something more exotic?  Is there a market for rutabega?

Is there sabotage at the school?  Who was devious enough to tear down the shelf-o-old-boards?  And why?  What kind of cruel plot is afoot?  Shelf-o-boards

How about a financial crisis?  Will there be enough money from last weeks Ramble sale to complete the new shed?  Or will we have to sell the future contents of the shed to pay the piper?storage shed

And what of the schoolhouse?  How can it ever be complete without a bell?  Will this be the one?  What deal can we make with the current owners to put this in it’s rightful place of glory? At what cost? Bell







Will Kevin and Boo ever mow their way free of the future garden patch? Kevin mowingWhat about the field beyond Kevin?  What evil does the mysterious Jimmy have in mind for the new fields?  Suburban oasis?  Skyscrapers?  Rutabegas?

Last, a plot twist!  Was it murder?  A suspicious accident?  Or something more nefarious?  Racoons

Only time will tell!

Another Successful Ramble

Another great weekend at the school and another Ramble under our belt!  Sometimes I wonder if the original builders of the school would find it amazing how it has transformed through the years.  But this week, it served us well as showhouse, emergency rain shelter (fortunately we dodged that bullet once again) and backdrop for a sale ~ or as I like to call it ~ our chance to make room in our storage container!

Sale 2016

This year, I didn’t think we would have much to sell. But like our tradition of buying Halloween candy and hiding it from ourselves throughout the house all October long, once we started pulling stuff out of all the nooks and crannies, we came up with quite a lot.  On top of that, Mom and Dad contributed some great antiques and extras of their own.

We had our Consessionairess to sell snacks again, and warm coffee was NICE!  We had to try a couple different location to get one that people could see AND was warm enough to tolerate.  The back of the trailer came in perfect!Cookies and coffee





We loved all the people who stopped by to take a look, say hello and browse around.  We even had a community vote on ‘Best Roof Color’.  Since we can’t seem to make up our mind, we decided our neighbors should get to have a say in the matter.  It looks ~ much like the current presidential race ~ that it’s down to two final contenders!

Roof vote






We got a few knowledgeable people to lend some advice on the tuck-pointing saga and the ever present question ‘how to best hold up the roof??’  We depend on the smarts of our neighbors!

As we wrapped up for the evening, we had one final visitor.  We have named her Gary.  Why not?


What’s next?  Hoping to finalize the plan to sturdy up that ceiling, replace the roof and start with the Putting Back In phase.  Very exciting!

River Road Ramble 2016

Come see us at the

River Road Ramble

Tomorrow, Saturday, September 23rd, 2016, 9am to 5pm.

The weather is going to be nice, the trees are starting to turn color, and it’s going to be a great day for a drive in the St. Croix Valley.  Stop by, check out the school house, vote on your favorite roof and bell tower color, and see if there are some treasures at the sale you are dying to own for yourself!  We would love to see you!



Spit Shine

It’s that time again – getting ready for the River Road Ramble once again!  The Ramble is a once a year historical tour and opportunity to get some great values at the sales across the area.  Of course, we have both!

Here’s the link for the map of sites and sales.


We are planning having our pictures up from days of the school past, plus the drawing of what we are hoping it will eventually look like (next year??), plus LOTS of stuff for sale – from construction items to household to treasures from down on the farm.  Come take a look, stop and chat, and enjoy a snack from our happy cookie seller (Grace).

So to prep, we did a little light mowing….Light mowing

And cleaned up the volunteer garden in the basement….Basement mushroom

Straightened the new ‘work from home’ office space… Home office





And we are as ready as we are going to be!

For a bit of diversion, we headed to Grantsburg for a little fair time.  Much to my surprise, all those hours of bending nails paid off and I ended up wining the Women’s Nail Pounding Contest!  If you stop by, I’ll show you the pink tiara I’m now entitled to wear!

Hammering contest







Anyway – enough about me ~ come out and see us this Saturday !!!


Schoolhouse in July

Flag Raised

Rainy weekend, but all is not lost. Between hiding in the camper during rain showers, we did manage to get a few things done.

First things first, we raised the flag.

Flag, oneFlag twoFlag FourFlag three

We also got creative in harvesting our pear bounty.  Last year, total pear count was 1.  This year, each branch higher than 10 foot had at least 6 pears each.  Kevin rigged up a ‘pear picker’ from a paint roller extender and cup – worked fantastically!  I love multi-tasking tools!

Pear picking

Discovered that the fence at the border of the schoolyard has been there a llooonnnnggg time…


Inside the school, we did a little makeshift temporary work to make life a little easier.  Never underestimate the power of a convenient light switch in the middle of a night, when you’re making that midnight run….Temp switches

Raising the Flag (pole)

What a fantastic weekend!  The weather was beautiful, the mosquitoes were slightly less than their normally obnoxious selves, and we spent another a wonderful weekend at the schoolhouse.

The best improvement was getting the old flagpole back into place in front of the school.  If you were curious – it is very heavy.  But it looks so right, right here.  Coming soon…a flag, of course.


Next, it was time to apply ourselves to our schoolwork and finish the dismantling of the chimney on the main floor.  Here is start and finish of that project for this weekend.

Half way done    after

I don’t usually do product placement here – but for those of you who know my skill with a hammer, this little device was a life (finger) saver, many many times over.  It’s just a little plastic disk that fits over the chisel, but if ever I was in love with a tool, this is is.

Finger saver

And last but not least, we would like to introduce the newest pupil at schoolhouse.  This is Jax, a rescue dog who is now part of our forever family.  Welcome Jax – you move to the head of the class!



I know it seems like we haven’t done much this year (and hey, we haven’t!)  We’ve been spending a lot of time on the boring parts of life…work, errands, mowing, picking up sticks.  There is just so much of that you don’t want to hear about.  So if you’re like me, what do you do when you have so much to do you don’t know where to start?

You go on vacation, of course!

Headed out for a little bicycle sightseeing ~ will see you in a few weeks!


Our First Guests or Bats in the Belfry?

Sitting around the fire on a warm summer night, we watched a couple of bats flit here and there.  Back and forth and back and forth, until we got to wondering “Where are they coming from?”  So we went and sat on the road in front of the school (it was a slow night) and just watched.

Apparently, these residents have not one, not two, but three entrances to their new (?) home.


These are really, really little holes.  What was more interesting was that there weren’t just 2-3 bats.  It seems that ma and pa bat have brought their whole family!

Next adventure….research the lifestyles of the rich and famous bats, and come up with some alternate accommodations.  I love having them here – I can’t even wrap my head around how many mosquitoes they eat a day – but I’m against them living rent free!  Anyone have some good bat-house diagrams?

Happy 4th (a little late)

Happy 4th of July from Bass Lake School!

Schoolhouse in July

It was a good weekend of fun (and NO work!).  It did seem a little symbolic that the only really useful thing I did was push a rock up a hill – is this a Sisyphus-ian effort to get this schoolhouse put back together??

Sisyphus rock









But, be that as is it, we will continue on.  Meanwhile, there was goofing off and fun to be had.  A little campfire stew….Stew, a little sunning…Sunning Snake, and some great friends stopped by….Motorcycle friends.


And to top it all off, we made a slight upgrade to the campfire seating!

Campfire chair


Maybe next post I will have great news about schoolhouse progress (can you say ‘Jackhammer skills?’), but all I know is that this weekend was fantastic!

Nailed It!

You know those posts on Pinterest or Facebook that shows the coolest thing, and then next to it is the picture of how it really turned out?  Usually it’s accompanied by the phrase ‘Nailed It!’.  I’ve now experienced one of those moments.  Here is the beautiful work someone did on the outside of the school.  Note the smooth, curved line, the beautiful color that only resides on the grout and not on the brick. good tuckpointing

Aaaannnnddd….here’s my first attempt.  Ug.  not so much

I would like to mention that there is a reason I was practicing on the inside, where there will eventually be a door or be covered in insulation.  No one but you and I  ever need to know about this little incident.

BUT:  if you happen to know a tuckpointer in the area who might give me some insight on where I have gone so disastrously wrong PLEASE have him drop by!  I need help!

Meanwhile (while not making a huge mess) we stopped to enjoy a parade in town and saw our River Road Ramble represented.  Everyone come out to see us in September.  RRR float








Last thing for today – there are monsters in the woods!  Or at least giant wooden dogs!  What else is out there – is Bigfoot next???

Wooden dog

Another brick (outta) the wall

Work this week was simple.  Climb up scaffolding. Chisel brick mortar. Place brick in bucket. Repeat until bucket is full.  Repeat until 4 buckets are full. Climb down scaffolding. Lift buckets down and carry outside. Stack bricks outside. Rest. Repeat.  Only 18 trips this way, and halfway done!

Chimney 1Chimney 2Chimney 3Chimney 4Chimney 5Chimney 6Chimney 7

I all went smooth until I dropped the chisel down the flue.  Then it was down to the basement to bust my way in and find it.

Chimney basement

Turns out, it’s a good thing we decided to remove the chimney…the bricks at the floor level have disintegrated to powder – it was just a matter of time before it all came sliding down.  Had I known that earlier, I might have saved myself some work today…..


End of weekend, drove around aimlessly, found another lost school.  Cool sign.

Trap Rock School

Back to Class!

Although it’s all fun and games, at some point, you gotta get back to work.  The long weekend was the perfect time to get started.  The weekend started with a load of lumber that arrived before I did, courtesy of Bass Lake Lumber.  Hmm, this looks like a project and a half~ First question of the school year:  What can 1 man, 1 woman, and 1 chipmunk do with these supplies?Lumber delivery









Cut a hole in the floor, of course! Hole in floor

For those of you that may recognize the corner, this is (was) where the stairs to the basement were located.  Those stairs were functional, but oh, so steep.  We kept some of the treads that were worn from so many steps up and down.  Maybe make a coffee table?

Fortunately, we had more supplies than we knew we needed.  Even our chipmunk workforce pitched in – leaving us an acorn in the box of screws. Screws and acorns

Anyway, we put in new stairs that are a lot more comfortable to go up and down.  Once these are in, we can decide what the next steps might be (pun intended, slightly)

New stairs

Next subject: the schoolyard. The excellent weather was perfect for being outside, but the grass and weeds are truly outdoing themselves. But speaking of outdoing themselves, some of us were less motivated than others.  I had to mow around her! She gets an F for Failure to Complete the Assignment.

Unmotivated Beagle

She wasn’t only animal in the forest to visit.  This little guy stopped by for a look.  I’m assuming he came by to see if summer school was in session.  I think I have a new teachers pet.

Baby Deer

Pop quiz:  How many tools – power or not – can I maim, disable, or destroy in 1 weekend?  For the record, this was not my fault….Rake








And for the last remaining task, solve this word problem.  Farmer George planted a field.  Last year he planted beans.  The year before, he also planted beans.  What did Farmer George plant this year?


Answer:  Corn!  Hooray for beautiful, beautiful corn!  

(No, I’m not afraid to be corny, why do you ask?)

Pun intended 🙂