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 tinyurl.com/2019RRR which takes you to the long name https://sites.rootsweb.com/~wiselhs/ramble.htm

So when you want to check the Ramble map, just remember
tinyurl.com/2019RRRSITES.ROOTSWEB.COMRiver 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?

January progress

GIVEN that it is cold. and GIVEN that it is January in Wisconsin. and GIVEN I’ve become a bit delicate, this month has been focused solely on inside work. Fortunately, we always have something to do, and I’m feeling quite fortunate for mundane things we didn’t have last year like insulation, new windows and a heated upstairs: progress has been made.

I should add here that we are so nice and warm, it appears even the neighbor’s chickens want in.

At the very end of December, our always reliable Grace stopped by and became not only our guest, but our tile-setter for the basement bathroom shower. I think she has a great eye and some natural talent (from her father?).

She got us started on the lower half tiles, and we finished the upper half the next week. I think it turned out great, and we now have the option of 2 different showers – how decadent!

We have also started the process of bringing some of the original pieces back in, which is so exciting to me. Replacing the metal ceiling panels and trim is turning out to be very jig-saw puzzle-esque. In comparison, the summer Grace and I took them down seems like a breeze – although a much dirtier process.

I think we have it figured out though, with some help from Chicago.

Sometimes you have to think about things differently. We’ve been stalled on how to best complete the inside of the bell tower. We’ve considered the simple – keep it open, to the fanciful {what about an elevator platform?!!}.

Finally, I had to build a scale version to think through it a little better. More on this next month perhaps?

Till then, I think hunkering down with a cup of hot chocolate, a movie, and a nap might be the next best move. Jax has already started with the nap…