Bass Lake School

The rebirth of a country school

Page 2 of 7

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:  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:  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!


It was bound to happen, and one night it did, just like the song.  A bear has found his (her?) way to the schoolhouse.  I’m calling him a him, although he has the appetite of a bird.  At first it was just the one big feeder, and each night he would break one more spindle on the crook.  Then one night he completely bent the pole, for easier access I guess.  We were sleeping in the camper and Kevin spotted him about 3:45am.  Big and bulky, and loving him some birdseed.  I also want to note, after he knocked one tube down, he wandered over to the pine trees.  For awhile there (it was dark) we thought we answered the age old question about bears and the woods, but turns out he was only emptying the bird feeder tube like a pixie stix.

But back inside, we are doing some fun stuff.  We took several of the old pictures and compared the window trim, then tried to duplicate it as best we could on the first of the windows.  I think it’s looking real close! 




As I was working on the trim, we got a surprise visit from neighbor John and family from down by the lake.  It was so fun to talk about the history of the school and our plans for it.  Stop by anytime, y’all!

On a final note, I usually don’t promote any specific products on here, but I have to say something about this one because it makes me chuckle.  It used to mask the window glass, peels off when you’re done.  But it’s the name that makes me grin.   

Happy 4th of July to you all!


Progress at the speed of a lazy summer evening

How does that phrase go?  Something about the best laid plans?  It seems our ideas about how much time we would have to put towards school projects is in direct conflict to the actual time we have available this summer.  Not that we have anyone to blame but ourselves, but it seems we are always running.  Maybe it’s just the frenzied pace of early summer – so much to do!

It’s not as though we aren’t getting some progress made.  Look – walls!  beadboard wallsAfter much trial and error, we came up with what we believe is the perfect combination of stains and tinted polyurethane to match 100 year old wood.  So far, so good.  I am a little concerned that it is a 5-step process we’ve created to get this look.  Well – I suppose we got nothing but time, right?  Chicago seems to think it’s perfect just the way it sleeping








One fine summer day we took these ingredients….well cleaning ingredients





and learned the in’s and out’s of well disinfecting.  We only panicked once (ok twice) when we lost all water pressure and foam started appearing in places where foam shouldn’t be.  Here Kevin is keeping close tabs on the progress using a handy sun mirror flashlight.well flashlight

Of course, sometimes summer means just watching the weather.  One minute it’s too hot to go outside, but the moment I put the dogs in the yard, I hear barking because it looks like this and they are getting rained on.  rain at the schoolBut rain makes the grass grow, so evening comes, with all the promise of fires and smore’s, and some time just relaxing (and yes, I did get the grass mowed.)

mowed grass






Next post, I promise we will have more done towards those big ideas (even if it is just more windows).  Maybe I’ll even do a little research on how to make wheat beer (don’t tell Farmer Jimmy!).

One New Room

Following in the footsteps of the weather that raced from winter to full-on summer in about a week,

April 15th!!!  

….we jumped from windows to a real-life room…the first actual room to be added upstairs.  And what better room to start with than the bathroom.In an attempt to save costs and maximize room in the rest of the school, we have kept this space tight.  It’s about 6 x 10″, but with 12′ ceilings, doesn’t feel too cramped.  We added a vanity (yet to be finished), a window or three of course, and the rough in for a shower.
Getting the look and feel has been slow going.  We want to have all the modern comforts (within budget) but still retain a feel that makes you think ‘schoolhouse’, even while singing in the shower.  We are repurposing the original beadboard from the front entrance as trim on one wall.  It’s in pretty rough shape, but some elbow grease, scrubbing, sanding, stain touch-up and polyurethane and it may not look good as new, but certainly respectable, in a still-has-a-story-to-tell way.   We’ve also been working on matching the stain from the original woodwork to be applied to the trim.  It’s proving more challenging than we expected….2 year old pine just doesn’t act like 100 year old pine.
Of course, what weekend wouldn’t be complete without some additional window work.  
Last but not least, we had extra help this weekend – Chicago supervised and ran the boombox.  He prefers jazz, but settled for country this weekend.

Happy Memorial Day to you all!

Not to be redundant….


I feel like a theme is happening here, and it all has to do with windows, windows and more windows. THE PLAN, as we thought it through last fall, was to save up money this winter, then start ordering a couple windows at a time, and when they showed up, order a couple more and install what we had. Less of a hit to the budget that way.  But we hit a budget problem – our budget of time!

January we were on track, and despite the cold we got the west windows in on a relatively warm 30 degree day, and again in February for a couple on the north. But then the temperature dropped. Normal people would probably have held off on the ordering more windows part of this plan, but we’re not that. So we continued to order windows, telling ourselves “we will catch up!”.


Fast forward to now, May already. We are about 8 windows behind! But the delay hasn’t been for nothing. Along the way we learned that painting them before installing makes a lot of sense, and that sills are easier to replace now than waiting until after we have the new windows in. So at least we are getting smarter.

The weather is turning warmer (finally!) and sprouts are sprouting. Take a close look at the windows above.  Can you see the difference?  Hint – it’s not the color.  And it’s a nice improvement to the light inside.  The view is fabulous, as Farmer Jimmy plants and the eternal question – corn or beans – is the talk of the schoolhouse yard once again.

Is that a dinosaur out there????

Now that we’ve started down this window-filled road we have to get it finished, and I’m hoping you’ll stick with us until then. Here’s hoping Jun will give us something else to talk about!

Who’da thought!

So, do you remember two weeks ago when we were taking out the old sills and putting in new ones?  Well, that went really well.  It looked like it was time, each one has a crack in them like this:

We thought we were so clever to remember to put rebar in our newly poured sills, probably greatly improving what was already there, we told ourselves.  So imagine our surprise when we pushed the first sill out the window and it cracked to expose the rebar already in there!  But on closer inspection, it appears it wasn’t exactly rebar.   Looks like they used barbed wire!  Very ingenious – I’m sure they used what they had.  Lasted a 100 years, so I suppose I can’t say it didn’t work pretty well.

We stayed the course, and even had a little help one weekend.  Grace came up and helped us mix up yet another sill.  It turned out perfectly, and only 9 more to go!   





We had a clever idea as well – when putting in the new windows, why not paint them first?  Yes!  I had a hard time painting these black, but historically, it appears the outside of the windows were black at some point. I can’t verify if that would have been the original paint – just saying at some point in history.







And we were blessed (is that the right word?) with a late season 6″ of snow.  Beautiful, and it allowed me to stay home and watch it snow from the new window.  Beautiful, but I’m ready for spring!

Happy Anniversary (and back to work)

This weekend marks 4 years since that fateful day when, while trying to avoid work at home, we took a Sunday drive to Wisconsin and found our forever home.  Judging by this old facebook post, I already knew what our future would hold:  

We have come so far since that day – but yet there is so much more to do.  I get so excited just thinking about having it come together – but that brings me to the rest of the title of the post;  it’s time to get back to work!

It’s been a loonng, cold winter, and the last month has been chock full of staying inside on the couch and keeping warm. OK, there was that work thing and a lot of work travel, but lot’s of couch time too. Spring is at least on the calendar if not in the air, as we are expecting snow today again. Warmer days (40’s, so relatively, it’s all relative) mean we need to hop to it again. But slowly.

So we will start with the windows – where it seems we left off when we were distracted by the bell.









A couple months back, we created sills for the new west windows.  Well, now they look so good that we’ve decided we need to do new sills for the other windows. These should have nice sharp corners, not these crumbly corners.






Seems easy when discussing over a beer, but realizing now that’s 10 more sills to pour. That’s a lot of bags of concrete to haul home. But one at a time, we will tackle it. 





That’s enough for now – like I said, taking it easy to start out. Gotta stretch!

The Bell

The bell has come home, and it has an interesting story to tell.  It starts this way, detail provided by Edward Moersfelder:

The 22 inch cast school bell originally hung in the bell tower of the parochial school adjacent to and run by St. Michael’s Catholic Parish located in the central Wisconsin town of Hewitt, Wisconsin.  When the school was torn down in the sixties, Alex Moersfelder bought the bell.  He erected an eight foot bell tower at the farm home of Marjorie and Alex Moersfelder three miles south of Hewitt where the bell hung, much to the delight of their grandchildren, until the mid eighties when Alex and Marjorie left the farm.  The bell tower was disassembled and Ed and Karel Moersfelder transported the bell to their home in Amery, Wisconsin.  Their intention was to build a bell tower and once again have the bell ring, but the bell remained in storage.  Years passed.  In the summer of 2017, Ed and Karel were puzzling over what to do with the bell in light of their impending move to Portland, OR.  The announcement of the musical “1776” as a part of the 2017 theatre season at St. Croix Festival Theatre provided the answer.  They donated the bell to Festival and Festival raffled the bell along with a quilt decorated with a patriotic motif and colors donated by Carol Olson. The proceeds from the raffle (over $3600) were used to help cover the costs of production of Festival’s summer musical.  The bell was rung as part of Festival’s production of “1776” and the drawing for both the quilt and the bell was held on July 9th following the closing performance of “1776.”  The winning ticket was purchased by a local theater patron, who subsequently sold the bell to Sydney Paredes, Festival’s Board President, to give to her husband, Don.

And here our story starts to join with the bell’s:

Also buying tickets for the Festival’s raffle was my dad Keith, of Atlas.  He was hopeful, but eventually unsuccessful in finding the winning ticket.  Fast forward to the holidays, when Kevin and I, mom and dad, and my son Josh and his girlfriend Erin all attended the Festival’s production of It’s a Wonderful Life, A Radio Production.  In the lobby, Keith started up a conversation with none other than Sydney.  Jokingly, he mentioned how he was ‘guaranteed’ a winning ticket last summer.  But as the conversation progressed, it turned out Sydney and Don had not decided the best use for the bell.  An agreement was made in which mom and dad became Festival sponsors, and the bell found a new home with them.  They managed to get it home and ‘wrap’ it without me ever suspecting.

The best gift is one you give away:

Attached to the present – which was labelled as “For Bonnie” was a note that on the back read “the best kind of gift is one you give to someone else”.  Handing it to me, I unwrapped the gift and was stunned to find the bell.  Well, you know the rest.  A week later, it came to it’s new home here at Bass Lake School.  For now, the bell has been tucked away in storage for the right time to be unwrapped once again. Sometime soon, perhaps this year even, it will also find it’s way to the tower, where it will ring for all to hear once again (sorry neighbors Shane, Russ and George!).  I will try to keep it to just a couple times an hour, er, day!

Windows, Wall, and Wandering Fireplaces

The last month of holiday had us starting one project, stopping for celebrations, eating, napping, starting again with a different project for awhile, remembering what we didn’t have for that project, moving to something else.  All in all, a highly disorganized last couple months.  But now that we are coming out of our post-turkey delirium, I can show you some of the work we have gotten done.

Windows.  I mentioned last week how we uncovered one of the west windows.  We started that one before Thanksgiving.  Now we have the second one in.  Just like with the first one, the light that now comes into that area is fantastic!  

Sealed up with spray foam, they should be free from drafts.  The foam seems to have a mind of it’s own. 





But we didn’t stop there! Here’s the new bathroom before…(just peer through the see-through walls)…









and with 2 new windows….   The view isn’t as fantastic here, just out to the old shed, but someday I expect to see the northern lights through these while I’m showering.

Walls.  I may have mentioned in the past that one of our goals is to keep the schoolhouse as open as possible inside, to keep that one-room schoolhouse feel.  To that end, we didn’t want to put in any more walls than necessary.  Over the last few weeks, we’ve added all the walls we are going to – a total of two.  The bathroom wall is needed, for obvious reasons, and you just peeked through it above.  This will be the bedroom.  For the longest time our plans had this as square room, but a last minute brainstorm cut off one corner.         Can you imagine a little vignette here with the chalkboard, school desk, maybe some other school memorabilia? I can.

Last of all, the wandering fireplace.  The original plan had a fireplace ‘someday’.  But we realized it would be wise to plan out where it would go before we started having electric wires and vents placed.  So in our minds, it’s somewhere on this wall.  South corner? North corner?  Next to the window?  Back were it was to begin with?

 Whaddya think?

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