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…

Merry Christmas to All!

Sometimes it seems all the posts are about work – but sometimes it’s important to stop and just take in the season, and be grateful for all the good things. Some of my favorites (so far) have been…

EggnoG!! My family knows my love of this drink of the gods. I savor every last drop. This was the first glass of the season. The broken rim isn’t some metaphor, just the end of a good run for my up-cycled cup.

Sometimes you just need a hug and a protector. Boo spent quality time protecting Jax from scary construction noise.

Dinner, family, friends, food (did I cover that?), cards and laughs. It all started here.

Which clearly led to dogs in hats….

To be finished up with another glorious meal with family and friends here! We are blessed (if stuffed).

Topping it off, literally, a little holiday movie played all season in the bell tower – here’s a still…unfortunately, tech support is off today, so I can’t make it run!

From us to you, a very Merry Christmas! the Schoolmasters at Bass Lake School.


We’re Back!  After a pause to let our bank account catch up with our plans, we are back to making progress at the school.  I hinted last time that those random boxes were part of the next steps, and yes they were, in a great way!

While the kids back when would probably have been happy with indoor plumbing and losing the his & her outhouses, we weren’t quite satisfied with that.  So we carved out a bit of space at the back of the school for a little bathroom.

shower knee wall

We allowed ourselves a little creativity with the back wall tile and fancy-schmancy showerhead (available at your local Menards!).  Not exactly historical in style, but I think it’s pretty cool anyway.

shower heads and new tile

The cement tile is something I hope any good schoolteacher would have appreciated, with it’s solid geometry and ordered lines.

geometric tile

We have yet to pick the paint.  My first thoughts led me to a clear, simple white, but lately I’ve had visions of blue.  Playing with some options…

Tile wasn’t the only thing we worked on.  Really, one of the most exciting things that happened was this…


A door?  A window? It may not look all that exciting to you, but what this represents is THE LAST WINDOW to be installed!!!  Can I get a Hip Hip Hooray!!!

And in a team update, Chicago the Cat has become the bubble wrap tester.  He reports that it makes an excellent nap spot. Jax remains unconvinced.

bubble wrap

Coming up soon – drywall. 

Until next time!

Blanketed Up

Or, alternatively titled, “we got through all the things on the checklist that we hoped to do but didn’t think we would get done before winter.”

Admittedly, the checklist still has a few items remaining. (Note the Install Window = 1:  so close!!)


But if we are honest with ourselves, and willing to once again re-arrange our priorities, we got the essentials done.  The last HUGE one was spray foaming the main floor.  What a big project!

Not only does it look entirely different in here, it sounds different.  It echos in ways it never has before.

The key though, is that we can heat up here now and not have to break out this monster.

propane generator

Just opening a few vents and the door to the basement warms it up enough to work up here comfortably. 

Just in time too, as we had our first frost this week. I’m thinking it’s time to bring my work computer and the coffee pot upstairs and work where I can see the snow start to fly.

You will see less of us for the next couple months, as we spent all our savings getting to this point, so we have to wait until the bank account rebuilds and work on stuff we already have.  But never fear, the next improvement should be a good one.  Sneak peak here:

Closing note, we lost one of our team this week.  Scoobi Ruby will be sorely missed but always a part of our story.

An electrifying addition!

If you stopped by during the Ramble, you might have noticed a work in progress.  At that point, we were about half way through getting all the electric work done at the school.  It’s a bit of a tangle.

I’m quite excited that we will have lights up in the bell tower eventually, so once the bell is up there, you’ll  not only be able to hear it, but to see it too.  (Right now it’s just Whooty the Owl up there, but eventually….

We brought in Dalles Electric to do the heavy lifting, and they did a fantastic job.  They even allowed us to let Henry help, and added tasks to our chalkboard for him (and us).

Who is Henry, you ask?  Well, here he is on break.  He moves around quite a lot, but is actually quite social (and surprising when you find him in the passenger seat of your car unexpectedly.)

Another successful Ramble

It was FANTASTIC to see so many of you last weekend at the River Road Ramble.  We had an incredible time talking to as many visitors as we could and sharing our progress.  We were so busy we almost forgot to take pictures!

The school was prepped inside with a selection of historical stories, including a Day in the Life of a student from June and the story of the bell (featuring, of course the bell).

I also included a selection of ‘found’ items, from a blueberry picker to a Colliers magazine from 1925.

Historical display inside school

Outside, the sale was smaller than normal – too busy to pull much out this year.  But Mom and Dad brought some over, and we had some leftover construction items.  At the end, a lot of this went to the St. Croix ReStore some someone could get good use from them.

One of the most recent changes to show off was the bell tower.  It got a spit shine of silver, plus sealing, and soffits, and removal of an impressive family of wasps.

The week before we rented this monster – saving a TON of up and down the ladders –

and spent the weekend replacing soffits and resealing with aluminum roofing.  It is some amazing stuff.  I think it looks pretty good!

But back to the Ramble, I can hardly scratch the surface of all the people who stopped by.  We talked to tons of people who had aunts, uncles, moms, dads, or even themselves who attended school at Bass Lake.  Old (and new) friends from the ‘neighborhood’ came in droves.  Mom and Dad provided lunch, for which I am very grateful, and Grace once again took charge of refreshments and most importantly, coffee!

I was overwhelmed by a surprise visit from Janis, previously my Boot Camp Instructor, now a great friend (now that I’ve recovered from boot camp!).

Here she sits – maybe appropriately?  in the single seats, which were reserved for the ‘bad’ kids.  She kinda looks like she knows she’s in trouble ;-0

We were also lucky enough to talk my son Cody into a quick weekend visit.  By the end of the weekend we all took a well deserved break, with Grandpa and Cody getting in a little fishin’ to top it all off.  A great way to finish off a great weekend.

It’s Ramble Time!

Join us this Saturday for the 2018 River Road Ramble.  This historic, self-guided tour will let you explore the oldest road in the area.  Tons of historic sites, lots of extra stops for sales, shops and goodies.  And yours truly is once again on the route – we’re Stop K!  We would love to see you!~

The Bass Lake School address is 2509 270th Ave, Cushing, WI 54006 for your Google Mapping pleasure: https://goo.gl/maps/g3PgBhW33i22.  Hope to see you there!  


The problem:  how to raise three 260 pound window sills 5 foot into the air in order to place them in their windows?

The answer:  physics, creativity and a call to Dad.

The backstory:  At last, the last of the main floor windows are ready to go in.  (We aren’t QUITE done with the windows, but this is finally the end of the regular windows for each side of the school).  But those sills on the north side are 5 foot up.  First step:  levers and inclines.  Kevin used some left-over microlams as ramps.

Then a chain and pulley system was devised to raise the ramp to level-ish.

Add some brute strength, and before you know it, voila, sills are in (with a little fast-forward action)!  Thank you Dad, once again.

On the other side of the schoolhouse, the view to the bell tower is opening up from the inside.  Here’s a sneak peak, looking straight up.  It’s getting easier to envision how it will look when it’s finished.

Last but not least, I’ve found a new friend in this crazy Schoolhouse-saving, life adventure.  Jill is similarly saving and restoring a schoolhouse, hers being in New York and having family history, but with all the same challenges of balancing real-life with schoolhouse tasks.  If you want, jump on over to visit her site too!  

You can find it here:  https://grampsoldschool.com/.  I love the brick walls!

Just a few bandaids

Have you been by lately? Have you seen the world’s most not-historic front door? Don’t worry – this is a case of necessary form over function, and it just a placeholder – a bandaid, if you will – for better things to come.

The last few weeks have been full of bandaids. First there was rough tuck pointing on the interior of the bell tower.

This was needed not only to keep critters out, but to seal up the wind that seems to always whistle off the south field.  It’s not all that pretty, but it’s effective and once finished, no one will ever know (except you and me, and I know you won’t tell).

I wish I had pictures but I’m sure Kevin is glad I don’t: he needed a few bandaids as well, having been attacked by wasps one day, and getting a window dropped on his head another.

We have spent many many months, years now really, trying to figure out how to keep the original front doors, while working out our vision for opening up the bell tower.

We finally decided the best thing to do was to recreate it in the same style it was originally built.

So the first step was taking out the old. Here is one giant reason why it seems it might have been a good idea.

This is a view from the bottom – completely rotted out. So out with the old, in with the temporary. The plan is to replace with another set of red doors, maybe with glass to see out, and a transom above, just like they built it 100 years ago.

Seems we also may need to make some adjustments in the new glassed in bell tower.  While we saw a benefit – free solar heat – this might be more than we bargained for.

Next time, let’s open up the inside of that bell tower.  Last chance to find the secret treasure hidden in the walls (or millions of dead ladybugs, maybe that).

Bell Tower, 101: Windows!

Ta-da!  Jumping right to the end, the windows are in!!  

We started with demo.  Looks pretty simple, yes?  Just remove the rubber roofing, and away we go.  Not so fast!  Under the rubber roofing was asphalt that was VERY well tarred and nailed down. 

And under that was a full tin ceiling, also very well glued. Kinda neat printing on the back.The tin itself contained a hidden message….  Or maybe it just says ‘Tin for Roof’?

Looking down from the top, it looks like a really long way down there.  Wait, it is a really long ways down there. 

Anyway, once the old was out, the new went in.  Square framing first.  We took no chances that it would sway – thus the cross braces.

Then the plywood backing.  The purpose is to give some structure to where we will place the windows, but it looks to me like the good old school has a blindfold on.

At this point, it was hot hot hot and I was so done.  Showers, nap and and an evening bonfire were all we could accomplish.  Thank goodness for friends who stopped by!

Next morning, cutting out the shapes

…and bringing up the windows.  This was the part that gave me the most angst and Kevin the most demanding work.  

And just like that, they’re in.  It only took 4 years and 2 days (4 years talking about it and saving up, 2 days to do the work).  Time to sit back and enjoy the view (till next weekend). 

East Windows: done!

All matching, all operating, all the time!

Remember what these looked like when we first started?  Something like this, I believe….

We did have one sill failure, so we are back up to 3 sills to pour, but I’m confident we will eventually get them all done.  On to the next project – the bell tower.  Here’s a look back at how it looked when we found it… last year 

when we added the roof….  The PLAN is to bring back the arches, but with windows to keep out the elements.  But to fix the outside, we had to start on the inside.  Here’s a look from the foyer, looking up.

That lighter wood is the old bell rope access.  In our master plan, that’s all gotta go.

Here we started by taking out the wall above the door.  This has accomplished two things; one, airing it out!  This area has been an entrance way for the bats, and kinda smells that way.  Second, we can see what we have to work with and start figuring out the next steps. 

We took a side trip last weekend to the Polk County fair.  The little red schoolhouse was a neat stop, and imagine our surprise to find this along with the other schoolhouse memorabilia!  HEY, that’s us!!

The Countdown Begins

Like every good schoolhouse, we now have a chalkboard to keep track of our lessons.  Or in our case, our assignment list.

These are the ‘we should get these things done before winter’ assignments.  I really, REALLY want to get all these done before winter.  The nice part is, if we don’t, there is always next year – which gives us more time and more chance to save up.  Anyone out there want to come over for a bell tower raising? (OK, well, more specifically it will involve standing on tall ladders with the opportunity to install windows 20 ft in the air and dodge the stray remaining bat, but doesn’t bell tower raising sound fun?)

That being said – we are suddenly charging full speed ahead.  Despite how desperate the windows-left-to-do situation looks on the chalkboard, we are halfway done with the east side.  They are looking great!  





Some of the sills are more challenging than others.  We had to employ gravity as our friend on this one to get it to come out of it’s shell.   Perhaps not a traditional or accepted way, but it came out.  (I won’t talk about the liberal use of WD-40 and Pam cooking spray – that’s a topic for another day in construction.









Meanwhile outside, we created a firepit bouquet (because I was too lazy to cut them up first),and Grace spruced up the sign – a much needed improvement!









Next Time:  Stay tuned for the re-opening of the bell tower.  What’s up there?  What will come down?  How bad will it smell…. till next time!