Bass Lake School

The rebirth of a country school

The End, and the beginning

Well, my friends, we have come to the end. We set out to save this school, to re-imagine it as a home for us. We have done that. This last year was phenomenal, with visits from some of you, progress from ‘construction site’ to ‘home’, and a feeling of accomplishment. Thank you for sharing the journey with us.

Will there be more – of course. We want to build a garage, and to add chickens (chicks coming this week!!). But the large part of the last 6 years – could it really be that long?? – is done. The school has new life, and we have made a ton of new friends along the way. We couldn’t be more grateful.

For those of you who are just finding this site, I recommend scrolling to the bottom and following us up to now. For those of you who have been with us all along, thank you for coming on this journey with us. Stop by, say hello – we would love to see you all.

Janelle & Kevin, Jax, Betty, Chicago, Whiskey and Tennessee.

A Visit from St Nicolas

Adapted from the original by Clement Clarke Moore

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the school

Not a power drill was running, not one single tool.

The stockings were hung by the chalkboard with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The pets were nestles all snug in their beds

While vision of scoobi-snacks danced in their heads.

And mamma in her PJs and I in my cap

Had just settled our brains for a long evenings nap.

When out in the schoolyard there a Rose Suchak ladder

I sprang from the recliner to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Tore open the curtains and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,

Gave a lustre of midday to the flagpole below.

When what to my wondering eyes did appear

But a miniature Ranger and eight white-tail deer

With a little old driver so lively and quick

I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.

And then in a twinkling I heard on the roof

The prancing and pawing of each little hoof

As I drew in my head and was turning around,

Down the bell tower St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in camo from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all covered in chalk dust and soot.

He had a broad face and like us, a round belly

That shakes when we laugh like a bowl full of jelly.

He was chubby and plum, a right holly old elf,

And I laughed when I saw rim, reminded of myself.

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head

Soon gave me to know I had no new work ahead.

He spoke not a word but went straight to his work

And filled all the stockings then turned with a jerk

And laying a finger aside of his nose

And giving a nod up the bell tower he rose.

He paused just a moment, and in a whisper, not shout

Declared that the journey has been what it’s about.

And I heard him explain ere he drove out of sight

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Over the Top

Such a great labor day weekend!!! After 5 long years (could it be that long??) of worrying over the bell tower – first trying to stabilize it, then enclosing it, next opening it up from the inside, and now – finally – the beautiful copper colored roof is on! Happy dance!! Here’s a before and after comparison.

We took some interesting shots from the rental lift while we were up there.

This is the ‘faux-drone’ perspective.

Betty was even so excited that she dedicated herself to learning to ring the bell. And she did it! I think I might regret her learning this ‘skill’ at 2am.

Not being ones to rest on our laurels, or even the couch, really, ha, we just couldn’t stop. So we drug out all the lamp parts that were stored in the basement when we first got here.

After some creative rewiring, doing some shopping in the basement for things to attach them to the ceiling, and a bit of dusting, we got them all up and working. I have to say – SO COOL! Maybe one of my new (many) favorite things about the school.

Last but not least – come visit us next Saturday (Sept 26). The great annual River Road Ramble is once again come to town, and we are a historical stop. Take a peek inside the door, maybe buy some of our great STUFF at the sale, enjoy the beautiful fall color (the leaves are really gorgeous right now) or just say hi. We would love to see you all.

15th Annual River Road Hwy 87 Ramble

          Saturday September 26th  9:00-5:00

Start at Hwy 87 in either town

Sponsored by Sterling Eureka and Laketown Historical Society

Date:  September 26, 2020   9:00 am – 5:00 pm

or as listed on Ramble Stops

Ramble Stops 2020

Ramble History Tour Booklet

You are invited to take a 30 mile ramble looping up the River Road and back on Hwy 87.  The two roads run between St Croix Falls and Grantsburg, WI.

Stop in St Croix Falls (junction of Hwy 8 and Hwy 35 9-5) at the Polk County Visitor Center and pick up a packet of  information.

Click here for a Tour Guide you can print out to take along

Polk County Information Center
Hwy 35   St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin  54024
Phone 715-483-1410
Toll-Free 1-800-222-POLK

Location:  Take Hwy 35 N out of Twin Cities to Hwy 8 Exit then Hwy 8 Wisconsin and turn north on Hwy 87 just into WI at St Croix Falls or Take Hwy 35 to Hwy 70 and then to Grantsburg WI and turn south on Hwy 87.

Then follow the map and RRR signs to visit the Wild River, Garage Sales,  Open Houses, Historic Sites, Churches, a winery, a U-Pick orchard, gardens stand and much more.  The towns of Eureka, Wolf Creek, Cushing will have local history stops as well as refreshments, places to eat and drink.


See you soon!!!

A home like everyone else.

We’ve experienced a true change from ongoing construction site to feeling like a proper home. Even though it’s been almost 4 years since we sold my house in Minneapolis and fully committed to this being ‘home’, it’s been In-Progress for so long that we’ve almost forgot what a normal house is like. But of course, the schoolhouse isn’t a normal anything, so here’s a few of the additions that we’ve been able to complete to make it feel like home.

First – the rest of the story from last month is the floors. I was completely floored (chuckling at my own humor) at what the floors looked like after we refinished them. On the left is new wood we used in the kitchen. We weren’t able to find enough to do the whole floor, but this beautiful grade 2 maple is beautiful as well. Lower right is the old floor unfinished.

Below is that same old stuff, sanded and finished, The picture doesn’t even do it justice – you’ll have to come see it yourself. Shout out to Mick at Moore’s for the fantastic finish! Who knew that under that 100 year old gray, worn wood was this amazing floor???!!

Then of course a proper home has a finished ceiling, so our friend Paul came and gave us a hand finishing off the trim in the midst of of thunderstorm and power outage, but it got done all the same.

And finally – appliances – YAY!!! A new fridge, a real stove, and a dishwasher. I’m firmly in the camp that normal kitchen appliances are the most underappreciated fixtures in a house (besides heated toilet seats, but that’s a story for another time).

Furniture is another curious addition – we pulled our odds and ends out of storage and have chairs, dressers, art and the odd radio-come-storage shelf.

Like any other home, it’s never really complete. We have the tile work on the backsplash to do, about a 100 additional little things to finish, and then of course the normal day to day. So more posts to come. But we couldn’t be happier with that.


This past month has had it’s ups and downs. We lost a huge part of our lives and our schoolhouse team when my mom Bonnie passed away. She was and always will be a part of this place and is missed more than I can say.

But she hated the spotlight and would want our adventures here to go on, so we shall! Our major focus for the last month of nights and weekends is prepping the hardwood to come back in. If you have been following along from the start, you will know that we took this up many years ago with the help from my friend Rose and Kevin’s daughter Grace across several cold winter days.

If I remember correctly, those days were a lot more fun than the long hours outside in the heat and humidity this month sanding and routering the edges of each board so it was ready to put back in place. (shout out to our neighbor Kristen for the assist!!). We put them back down in a remix pattern, and I’m really hoping that we will still retain a lot of that look after sanding.

We weren’t able to save quite enough to cover all the floors, but I am loving what we did save.

Thanks to neighbor Shane, I was able to get our first piece of ‘art’ for the schoolhouse. This is a 8 map-set from the 1930’s that came up in an auction not far from here. I love maps anyway, so this was a fantastic find, and in what other house would this be so perfect?

Last but not least, we also added to our schoolhouse menagerie. Someone dropped off 3 kittens in our woods. We found a great home for 2, and kept this one, who we call Allen. He’s an polydactyl kitten with extra toes, so he’s extra special to us.


Quite a few times lately I’ve found myself saying you can’t look at cake batter and declare a cake is ugly. You have to wait until it’s finished. And here at the school I feel we’ve moved into the frosting part of cake baking. Everything we are working on now is just frosting to the cake. (It comes to mind maybe ‘gravy’ is the right analogy, but I can’t make gravy work with my cake.)

But anyway, back to the frosting. Since we last met, we got the cabinets finished – shout out to Valley Painting and Decorating for the assist – and the countertops installed – kudos to Set In Stone for that as well! These two steps have been a long time coming, between the struggle to figure out where in the school they should live to saving up the money to pay for them. But WOW – we are so excited with the (closer to) finished project!!!

The sink came from our good friend Val’s back yard, by way of her grandmas house. It’s been sitting in our basement for a couple of years now, but it is simply AMAZING in a kitchen! And a ton of the little’s came from Menards (of course).

To save money, we did do some finishing ourselves – well us with an assist from Chicago. Why is the supervisor always sleeping????

Another awesome find is the rolling ladder. Unlike the sink, it’s still not ready for installation, but i think it’s going to work out just fine.

Springing into Work

Spring has arrived (I think) and we are making some progress. Being home more right now gave us the opportunity to get a little creative. We had 3 doors that were original to the school. We’ve been noodling over how to reuse them since the beginning.

So thinking about what else we needed in the house, it occurred to us that we didn’t have bathroom or bedroom doors yet! (Ah-Ha! How could we have missed that detail???). The problem was, the doors are regular door height, where the door openings that we made were 9′. Yes, we did that to ourselves and it seemed like a good idea at the time.

This is where having a bit of extra time on our hands came in handy. What Kevin came up with was a Frankenstein door! He took 1 and 1/2 a door, and made one giant, beautiful slider door. It looks fantastic!

The other half of the door wasn’t in as good of shape, so if you have a door that looks like ours sitting in your back shed, let me know!! Just needs to be 32″ wide.

As for the kitchen cabinets I mentioned last time, we’ve got (some) of them here! Kevin put them in their places more or less, but we’re waiting for the rest to arrive to really put them in place. There’s gonna be a whole lotta staining going on over the next month.

As always, our good neighbors lent a hand (pre-social distancing!)

Last but not least, we want to introduce you to the new schoolhouse teacher. Her name is Ms Betty White, because she is smart, funny and a Golden Girl. I’m sure you’ll be seeing a lot more of her in the future 🙂

Progress in a Time of Quarantine

OK, maybe I”m being a little bit dramatic, but it would be a great name for a novel! I’m not writing a novel, just a quick update to say that progress has been made. After a looonnng pause, we finally got the drywall patches done. As a bonus, we had the mudroom downstairs finished.

Not exciting, but one step forward.

What is exciting is the creation of kitchen cabinets! After dreaming about it for years (and moving it in our minds from one place to another constantly) it’s finally becoming a reality. These should be ready for pick up and finishing very soon. More to come!

Waiting. Waiting

January started with such promise, we were so excited about the progress made on the bell tower, It’s still something to look at each time we come in and out.

Excited to move to the next step, we quickly started work on door trim and cleared out the upstairs so that the drywaller could come in a finish another area. We need him to do his work, so we can start on the very exciting (to me) kitchen and flooring. We were ready January 15.

We’re still waiting….

But we aren’t ones to sit still, and although it wasn’t our typical productive work, we found time to have a winter fire here at home.

And a post-Valentine’s day mattress burning over at a Farmer Geoff and Kristen’s (formerly Farmer George’s place, now being revitalized by his kids).

Next month should be more productive. If we get the drywall done (fingers crossed), the kitchen cabinets should be done in 30 days. Here’s hoping the next post has some great new things to see.

The Bell! The Bell! The Bell!

In case you didn’t guess, I have GREAT news about the Bell! It’s in!! But before we get there, remember where we started?

First, there was this…

Then, a little bit of work up top…

And inside…

The next essential step – add the bell…

Fast forward to some prep work…

Now finally….hooray!!

How did we get it up there? Magic? Levitation? Extremely strong bell throwers? Surprisingly no to all of those. Truth be told, we went back to an old resource…call in Mom and Dad (and Dad’s car battery powered electric winch.) Watch all the action here.

And a final scene if you’re passing by, you can see the bell back where it truly belongs.

Happy Thanksgiving, with all the Trimmings!

Honestly, I wanted to call this post “Happy Brown Friday”, but there were misgivings in the school about that title being misinterpreted. So trimmings it is. After kicking off the holiday weekend and Mom and Dad’s, eating waaayy too much, and decorating the school for the season, we dedicated the rest of the weekend to window trimming.

Once upon a time, we started with an almost blank canvas. Bits and pieces of the original woodwork remained, but a lot had disappeared across the years. Working off designs based on the original black and white pictures, we have restored the look of the windows as they were 100 years ago – or at least as close as we could come. What do you think?

The process isn’t quick: sand – putty – sand – stain – poly – sand – poly – sand – clear poly. Thus my original proposed title of Brown Friday…

We dedicated our weekend to not going out, not driving, just focusing on the school. With the first big blizzard of the season upon us, it seemed like a great idea. However, instead of avoiding traffic, it came to us in the form of a random neighbor in our ditch.

Fortunately, Kevin was able to pull him out no problem. As for other neighbors, we were once again thankful for Shane coming up to bobcat out our driveway. My efforts with the 4-wheeler were OK, but not up to snuff against the 6″ of wet heavy snow.

What’s next – once I tackle the rest of the windows (at this point I think poly has no end) I’m thinking the bell tower is due for a little love. Now, current thought is white up there, but should we be thinking outside of the box (or bell tower)? Pink? Purple? Husker red?

And Snow it Begins…

We had a record turn out for the River Road Ramble this year. It was so good to see all of you there again, we loved talking to you and showing the progress made inside. And many, many thanks to those who carried off some of our sale items – may they all have found great new homes.


We took a breather after the Ramble to catch up with ourselves. I went exploring on the 4-wheeler, something I’ve been meaning to do since we got it, but it’s primarily a snow mover work horse and not a high powered touring machine, so never took the time. Finally I did, and puttering around, I finally was able to get a view to the school that actually included the lake.

The weekend of the Ramble was absolutely beautiful, and the very next day, Winter arrived. Well, it felt like it – and you can see snow on the chairs.

So we decided to start on the long-awaited indoor trim. Here is a view from the east windows….no trim here.

But after a full weekend of work, we got one whole window done. It looks so much more substantial and authentic, it really adds a feel of the old schoolhouse back to the place. I know I have a ton of staining to do now, but I can’t wait to dive in.

River Road Ramble – Come on Over!

The annual River Road Ramble is coming up Saturday, Sept 28th! For those of you that haven’t joined us in the past, it’s a self-guided tour and great way to learn a little about the history of the area, find some great bargains at sales along the way, and enjoy the changing of the leaves.

We will be selling a TON of stuff – a combination of old antique lumber, construction supplies, and lots that we dug out of storage that we can live without but YOU probably need!

Borrowed from my friend Russ, the short internet address to the 2019 St Croix River Road Ramble website is which takes you to the long name

So when you want to check the Ramble map, just remember Road Ramble.

Stop in St Croix Falls (junction of Hwy 8 and Hwy 35 9-5) at the Polk County Visitor Center and pick up a packet of  information or we have maps here at the school too.

Last but not least, we will have have a history of the school and interesting facts on display in the school, and you can take a sneak peak at the progress we’ve made since last year. Hope to see you here next Saturday!!

Moving forward, finally!

After what seemed like a super busy summer where we really didn’t get much done inside, I finally have something to show! Here it is almost Labor Day, but the summer isn’t quite done

First, Kevin found a map down in Osceola, so we decided it needed to go in the living room. Granted, it’s maybe not quite vintage 1940, but close. We don’t know where an original map might have hung, but this is a great place to add a little feel of the schoolhouse.

Next, for something totally different, and very UN-schoolhouse like but still fabulous, we finally completed the upstairs bathroom with a glass shower panel. My thoughts – everyone needs a little bling in their life, and this is mine. The picture doesn’t do it justice, but I’m in shower heaven.

Last – and definitely the best for last – this is big….CHALKBOARD! Not this one…(although take a note of the last winter to-do, getting the bell up, so excited!!)

THIS ONE! This is one of the two original remaining slate chalkboards. What seems long, long ago we packed this away in a crate for safety, but it has finally returned to it’s rightful place in the school. It was a bit heavy (thanks to neighbors Shane and Barkley and Kevin for the heavy lifting) – current estimate is 180 lbs , but it might be a fish story, destined to grow.To me, it seems to have a life of it’s own, giving the school a true sense of history and a link to so many kids’ pasts.

I can’t wait to start adding more of the original school back to the story!

Someone Smashed My SheShed!

Well, OK, maybe it was a tree, and maybe the SheShed was just an old outbuilding that I was thinking about converting to a chicken coop, but still! Can you even see it under all those leaves?

Last Friday a whopper of a storm came through with 80+ mph winds. I was super glad we took the tree down behind the school this spring. The one in the far corner of the schoolhouse yard was not so lucky. It was a big-un!

We even saw the effects of the storm inside the school, For about a half hour, water was pouring down this support beam and electric wiring. That can’t be good, can it?

So the last week has been spent doing storm clean-up. It is looking a lot better, but we had to bring in the bug-eating crew to do clean up after us.

Chicago the Cat was hired as job site supervisor, with mixed results.

A short pre-holiday note

We have remained tied up in chopping apart that tree (see earlier post), so this one won’t have much meat. But I didn’t want to leave you hanging!

To prove we haven’t been complete slackers so far this summer – here we are moving rocks around. OK, it does really have a purpose. This was the landing pad for the old oil stove.


It has now been re-purposed for a HEAVENLY air conditioner!! The schoolhouse has clearly never had one of these, and we’ve lived without one for a few years too. This came just in time – cuz now it’s a heat wave!

As for the nice cool indoors, the farthest I’ve gotten is to do a little shopping for doors. We have 9′ openings for the bathroom and bedroom, and want to put in some sliders, so we don’t take up a ton of space. What we didn’t figure, though, was finding vintage 9′ doors (yes, we could order some custom I’m sure, but we just don’t have those kinds of funds, and the hunt is surely more exciting!) I found these, but tall as they are, are not tall enough. Anyone have some in a back shed you want to part with?


Probably the best highlight was talking to our new (and old) neighbors. Do you remember George the Farmer? Well his wife stopped by and said hello, and encouraged us to head over to the farm to meet the kids living there now. Sometime during the week some fabulous farm fresh eggs showed up. I think they are going to be great new neighbors! (Pictures to follow – I’ve been slacking on those too.)

Happy Fourth of July to you all!!

Late Homework

OK, so I’m a bit tardy on a new post – seeing that it was still snowing heavily on my last one. To my defense, it is now 1 week til Memorial Day and it just snowed 2 days ago, I can’t be that late, can I? My apologies! I promise to write “I will post more regularly.” 100 times on the blackboard, once we get it put back up.

Fortunately, you haven’t missed too much. It’s been a cold spring, so I’ve spent a lot of time hunkered down with a book and a blanket. One of the biggest changes has been a little lumberjack work in the back yard. There was this beauty, presiding many many feet over the schoolhouse.

But inside, she just wasn’t all there.

hollow stump

So, when Kevin was hiring some tree work done for a job, we decided to get some done for us as well. It’s amazing what 1 man and his young son can do with just a chainsaw and some pulleys! I feel a lot safer, but will miss the grand old tree.

Fortunately, again, Mother’s Day came along and with it 1 new tree to start rebuilding. This one is a beauty!

Maple tree

And last but not least, Little Richard joined our class. She will augment Chicago in keeping the critters on the outside of the school when she’s bigger.

A bit of Historical Color

Long ago, as we we’re in the process of dismantling the school several years past, we discovered, way back behind some of the wainscot and lath & plaster, a tiny bit of old color. It was similar to this:

We really want to preserve as much historical accuracy as possible, so it was an easy decision to re-install the color at the school.

But like all simple answers, it inspired more questions. Was this color originally white, and somehow faded to tan? Or did it start out as yellow, and darkened over time with the addition of oil stove smoke? I’m leaning towards the latter, because the ceiling tiles seem to be of the same paint, but have aged differently being on metal.

And as you can see, we’ve re-installed the tin to the center of the schoolhouse. Due to rust and age, we didn’t have enough to cover the entire ceiling, but I think this retains the sense of the original tin ceilings.

In trying to imagine the original look, I went searching in the archives. I can just see the color above in this picture, can’t you?

This is one of my favorites, featuring the one and only Lucy Orr (who is my friend June’s mom). It seems like it was a pretty light color, at least. Anyone recognize yourself here? My notes on the back of this pictures says Walter E. is somewhere in the back. Who else is here? Roll call!

Meanwhile, outside some colors never change. This has been a historic winter of white, with 35″ of snow falling in the 28 days of February alone.

What also doesn’t change is the generosity of good neighbors who come and dig you out, time and time again. Thank you Shane.


No nono, don’t get the wrong idea – this certainly isn’t the end! But we have had some pretty significant lasts the last few weeks. I’ll start with Marie.

Back in 1943-1944 or thereabouts, our Bass Lake School was in the middle of it’s last years as a schoolhouse proper for the local kids. The current teacher wasn’t able to continue teaching at Bass Lake, so the search was on for a replacement. Fortunately just up the road at Orr School was a solution. A young teacher in her first years of teaching, just out of the Normal school in St Croix Falls was willing to make the switch. Enter Ms. Olsen, the last teacher of Bass Lake School.

I was fortunate to spend an hour talking to this amazing woman. Marie took on a schoolhouse FULL of kids, from grades one to eight. Those last years were some of the fullest the school had ever seen. Not only did she run the school like a pro, but was inspired to continue teaching for decades, in schools here and to the far reaches of Alaska. A most amazing lady and my new hero.

Would these have been some of Marie’s students? Any of you recognize yourself in here?

Talking to Marie was the first and best of the lasts, but there were others for us. This doesn’t look like much, but it is the last bit of framing to the interior.

And this, can you guess, is the last sheet of drywall.

With that, at last, we’re finished with the ‘construction’ bit of this restoration and are moving into ‘finishing’ stage. Hooray! Now we can really start to get creative and bring the personality of the school back in.

But that leaves us with one more last – one last move of all the stuff we drug upstairs for general living back to the basement for a few weeks while the taper comes in to finish the ceiling and walls. This actually created a first for us as we tried to find places for all the things. I’m thinking this should become a thing – a fridge and coffee maker in the bathroom. Whaddya think?

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