Monday, February 23, 2015

After: The Munchkin's Room

Laying floor
Don't take that literally. As you've seen from the recent post on her new closet shelving, Munchkin's room is definitely not done by any stretch of the imagination. But we should wrap up the general storyline anyway.

Making curtains
We laid new flooring. We again chose floating Linoleum-style flooring, this time in a light maple. Munchkin even helped with that. While the others were working on the parental den, I put up her new track lighting -- rubbed bronze, and curvilinear. Very nice, and allows her to customize where the lights point.

There was a flurry of activity the week or so before we moved in. During a snowstorm just after Thanksgiving, Maestro and the Accompanist, Ma and Pa, and Curmudgeon came out to work for the day. That's a different post, but the Accompanist set to making curtains for the Munchkin. She had taught the young one to sew several years before, and so employed her in getting this done. They had picked out a lovely blue and purple tie-dye, and added a pretty strip along the bottom and tabs at the top.

Pre Cubbies #1
We brought up the old school shelves, to be replaced by built-ins later. The old pressboard shelves, painted for her childhood room, came up too, and were filled to overflowing, as was her vanity. Her childhood dresser went into the tall closet (now replaced by the new cubbies). I gave her my drafting table (which she's never used -- I'm taking it back). And we finally moved up her bed (my old canopy bed without the canopy).

Pre-Cubbies #2
There's so much left to do. There's no trim yet, and the sills aren't finished out. The closet lights and switches aren't in yet. The closet door isn't back up. The barn door over the L closet doesn't exist yet. The bedroom door hasn't been refinished. And the poor teenager has nothing on the walls but her pink rhinestone clock from her childhood.

Pre-cubbies #3
We've discussed ceiling level box shelves for storage of her geology and trinket collections, maybe even a few books. We want to replace the school shelves with cubbies to match the closets, maybe even built in. And when my old bed fell apart, she inherited AuntI's old frame (too big for this room); she hopes to replace that with a grown-up daybed. She now plans to refinish the old vanity from AuntI, maybe with paisleys on the mirror frame to match the basket liners we'll be making soon for the cubbies.

I hope we can get this all done before she graduates in a few years... She needs an organized, un-boxed room for the first time in eight years.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Construction: The Munchkin's Room

Redoing the closet door
As we mentioned last time, the second room we remodeled was the master bedroom, which we gave to Munchkin and her homeschool supplies. Besides, with our strange schedules, nothing but sleeping ever happens in our room, so this was a much better use of the big space. Now it was time to rebuild.

Square windows in skewed walls
There was no plumbing to deal with in this space (thank goodness!), but there was far more electrical than in the bathroom. A modern kid needs so much power! Plus, we were adding lights to both closets. Really, the only tough part was maintaining the power box in AuntI's room while we updated those in Munchkin's room and filled the walls with insulation for the first time ever. It worked, but probably only because AuntI didn't use her room anymore; our many tools and music players ended up being the only things plugged in there. We did, though, think ahead and add a plug-in from the bedroom side into the kitchen -- hoping for a tech charging station!

Bones and Mrs. Dude in mud
Maestro built the closet over the stairs -- what we call the L closet, for its shape -- making it strong enough for him to sit in too (ever his style). He sheetrocked it in, both from inside the room and inside the stairwell. He added shoe cubbies with a bench to the original closet (the tall one, in our parlance).

We then moved to the windows. There were -- and still are -- two in the east wall, nearly contiguous. As in all old homes (and especially this one), none of the walls are straight or plumb, so we simply replaced the center mullion between them. We put in two new windows, double-pane, double-hung and low-E glass, with nice white frames. That was fun! Putting in windows from a second-story ladder (Maestro) with a weaker helper inside (me) makes for lots of excitement!

finished paint job...except closet
One of the decisions we had made since the bathroom project involved insulating the entire house. We had discovered the exterior walls -- made of double-lap siding inside and out (don't want to take those out -- the house would collapse) -- were only filled (not quite) with paper-thin insulation inside black plastic. How that was even helpful, I have no idea. So we decided to add 1x3's to the exterior framing (waaaaaaay down the road) with board insulation, and then new siding. So we needed to shift the windows to the outside more. The benefit is larger window sills! Which we now had in Munchkin's room.

The team fighting concrete
We put up sheetrock on the walls and the ceiling. Again, no straight walls or square corners... But Maestro had learned from contractors working on churches throughout my childhood, so knew how to handle it. He had all kinds of lovely tricks, like the lipstick stamp to mark electrical outlets and giant T-square type things that held up ceiling sheets I was too short to reach. The ceiling was of particular interest: the double-lap ceiling meant we could screw in the sheetrock anywhere, instead of just into the rafters. Beautiful. Until you get to our current situation with putting in attic insulation....

Maestro laying concrete
Maestro mudded. Bones helped sand. Munchkin helped me paint. Seems a simple thing here, but believe me, it took forever. It's a big room (relatively for this old house), and we overstuffed the walls with insulation (important when housing people other than immediate family with thin original walls). Plus, I made the stupid decision to go with flat paint and flat, lint-ridden rollers. I thought I had to shave the ceiling by the time I was done! Munchkin chose light blue and soft lavender as her colors, and we did a white stripe between them at the same level as the bronze tile stripe in the bathroom (beginnings of a home theme). We used the stair-step design of the cubby to inspire the stair-step checkerboard pattern on the white strip, in alternating blue and purple.

Munchkin removing her door
We took down the yellow closet door, and I spent far too much time stripping and sanding it; after spending most of the summer on the bathroom door, I never did get it restained and rehung. The bedroom door was taken off by Munchkin, but only long enough to get the flooring done. We first laid a layer of self-leveling concrete, after screwing the floor down better. That was a big project, with a few great lessons learned! Don't mix too much at once. Make sure you have enough water in it. And clean it up before it dries. And a huge thanks to Maestro, Curmudgeon and Dude for handling that project. Anyway, the bedroom door went back up without being redone.

First night on-site
In the midst of all this, we spent our first night at the ranch. Driving back and forth weekly was just not letting us get enough done. So I had hoped to accomplish more by staying two days. Not exactly. I'm too old to sleep on the floor. And the mud dust doesn't entirely settle when you're moving around in it. Munchkin loved sleeping in her L closet, though.

With that, we were ready to put in the finishing touches. Next time....

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Before: The Munchkin's Room

Well, now that we've introduced you to the Munchkin's bedroom, let's step back and look at how this one was remodeled.

Almost cleaned out...
First, you have to understand that this was Unc and Oxnix's room -- the master bedroom in the house. Dude will have to share a few pics with you as to how it looked back then. When we first entered it more than six years ago, we almost couldn't enter it. Unc, ever the private one, had filled it nearly floor-to-ceiling, back-to-front, with the stuff he didn't have the strength or desire to deal with anymore. The door barely opened, so it just stayed shut.

Dude spent a couple of weeks cleaning it out. Besides the many evidences of a very ill man towards the end of his life, there were old Avon cologne bottles in various shapes, tins of marbles and coins and nuts and bolts, lotto tickets, many hairbrushes, history books, lotto tickets, treasure books and maps, agricultural publications, lotto tickets, business degree papers, personal writings, and... you guessed it... lotto tickets. It was a little more interesting than clearing out the piles of similar stuff from the living room, but it was still a disaster.

Dirty girls!
When he finally finished, we were left with four yellow walls, "cattail" ceiling, nasty flooring, and some old 1950s doors. They weren't supposed to be yellow. Originally, as evidenced by hidden portions of wall, they were blue. Cigarette smoke and tar had discolored them years ago. Much as we loved Unc, that was just too much.

So the master bedroom became the first room we remodeled after the bathroom. (Gotta have priorities!)

We designated it Munchkin's room simply by reason of storage needs for all the homeschool stuff. And we set to it. Again, all the wallboard was ripped out ("Destructo" loved this). The ceiling was taken down, puffing out with each piece torn off. The flooring was busted out. We were again left with stud walls and subfloor.

Finally done digging... and happy!
With wallboard in it. Apparently, the stud walls were put up and covered with wallboard before the finish floor was put in. We thought it would pull out when we removed the rest of the wall, but this stuff comes out in little torn pieces, instead of large chunks like sheetrock. We tried using a flush cut with a mini multi-tool, but the nails holding it in place were right at floor level, and threw sparks into the now bare wood room. So Bones and I sat on the floor for a couple of days, prying it out with screwdrivers. What tedious work! Munchkin joined in until she got bored.

Impromptu theater stage
Then we demolished more. The closet was tiny, and oddly shaped; it was deep rather than wide, but really didn't accommodate hanging clothing well. So the Maestro built Munchkin a second one above the stairs, starting with tearing out and framing new surfaces. We had no idea how we'd fit it out, but it would give her more space. This cubby would later dictate many design decisions in her room, as you'll see. So, for a few days, there was a big gaping hole over the basement stairs and into both the existing closet and the room, providing some great fun for Blondie's kids and Munchkin.

Next time, we'll cover the actual remodel.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


 Our progress out here seems to come in spurts. Dude still works a full-time commission job, and this is the first time I feel like I'm full-time out here. We work hard for several days, and then have to deal with other areas of our lives. Let me give you an example.

Tall Closet, before
L Closet, before
After our garden day last week, Dude and I took a day in Big Town, me hoping for a merciful chiropractor after a winter fall. He's on vacation, the lucky bum, so we went to Home Depot instead. It was actually in the plans, but now we had more time. We picked up several cubby pieces for Munchkin's bedroom, three shelving units and one bench. It was time to start organizing her messy room. Not her fault -- we shoved all her stuff and all the homeschooling stuff in the master bedroom and got to work on other things. It's her turn.

She refused to let me put them together. We usually call her Destructo, so it was fun to see her creating something. (Read that as an understatement -- she really is a creative and handy gal.) The bench was up in an hour or so, before leaving for youth group. She was so excited!

my new toy
Day Two: Dude and I drove almost to Giant Town to pick up a used Bowflex. I used to lift weights in high school and college, and with a lack of serious cardio opportunities out here, thought some circuit training with resistance might do me some good, not to mention the Munchkin. By the time we got back, she had two more cubby units ready to go and they needed to be stacked for a six-foot-tall unit. That, of course, meant several other things had to be removed: the cheapo Walmart dresser we bought her as in infant, several smaller storage pieces she was using temporarily, the kid-colored shoe shelf that matched her old room, and the vanity chair that won't stay together. At the same time, we now had a giant Bowflex sitting in the living room, awaiting dismantling in order to move it to the Away Room, or "Ready Room" as my Trekkie hubby calls it (AuntI's old room). I had to move all the furniture in there, and pull out AuntI's very old dresser, complete with 1970s newspaper lining the drawers. There were several other pieces stored in there that had to come out too, including Munchkin's old bedframe (my canopy set from my teenage years) and a revolving wooden CD shelf. Paired with stacks of Dude's books, cases of our favorite energy drink that showed up the same day, and piles and boxes of stuffed animals and old toys, my living room was a nightmare.

New bench/step
OCD tic coming on...
Now, I tend to get fairly OCD when my environment is chaotic. (Dude and Munchkin are rolling their eyes even now. Dude's happy place is apparently curled in a ball in a corner, crying softly.) By the end of Day Two, I was a mess.

Day Three: I finally had a day at home, so tried to get work done. Of course, Facebook, email, Blogger, pets, weather, lack of enough caffeine, health situations, Pinterest and every other possible distraction got in the way. But we still got plenty done! Munchkin finished her last cubby unit, and we loaded it into the closet over the stairs that the Maestro built for her. I finally got the Bowflex put together... properly. The shoe shelf got burned with the boxes. The old bed and temporary storage pieces were put in the storage container. The dresser and vanity were moved downstairs, the former for tool storage and the latter to be refinished for Munchkin. Other pieces were set aside for delivery elsewhere. From there, the room was easy to clean, and my OCD went away. Ah, peace.

units in tall closet
new L closet unit
Day Four: Dude had a book signing in Big Town, so the day was a total loss design-wise. But it was a good family day.

Day Five: Sundays are never good working days. Church is mid-afternoon, and then we spend our evenings with Red and ChevyMama, usually. Mornings are spent getting ready and (for me) putting together the worship music. Entirely fulfilling, but not successful as far as design stuff. Today, though, we pushed to get to town early to find fabric for the baskets to go in Munchkin's cubbies. Found and purchased a lovely, large-print white paisley on sky blue background in a heavy linen.

Day Six: Munchkin and I babysat my sister's kids due to her preemie delivery. Then we picked up the Pixie, Munchkin's best friend, for a two-night stay. Again, no design work. 

Day Seven: The three of us girls drove to Mega City for the day, mostly to visit my sis, but also to get a little shopping done and a few ceramics made. We scouted some great cubby basket ideas, but with Easter on the way, the prices are all jacked up. She really wants a flat or fine weave basket, but would prefer white canvas totes. I may have her convinced to go with wooden crates painted white. We'll see.

Day Eight: I dropped both girls off at Pixie's house for a three-night visit (I love homeschooling). So, needless to say, all design has stopped for a while. Once Easter is over, we'll hit the sales or find baskets online. On to other projects, like soap and deoderant and mascara and poo-poo spray and toothpaste and my closet and the garden and.... Flurry, flurry. Flutter, flutter.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


As much as we try to keep our identities and location somewhat cloaked, we must share this story with you even though we may give away some of that anonymity.

Our next door neighbors (not the shirt-tail relatives, but the big-city guy who doesn't know not to plow wet ground) is now state-licensed to grow pot.

Yeah. Surprised us too.

You must understand I'm a bit libertarian (little L, not party L). I don't think the government (me, since I'm one of We the People) have the right to tell someone they can't grow an herb that God created for our good (read that "good," and not "abuse"). But considering Dude's crazy dad has already admitted to trespassing on our land, it only makes me wonder who else is going to show up now and how we protect our northern and western flanks.

This guy tried to buy our northern parcel, contiguous to his, two years ago and we declined. I'm glad we did. I really want that buffer now. And tomorrow, we're planning a road trip around the area to see if we can locate the fenced zone he's required to have, and how close it is to our property line.

On a not totally unrelated
note, Dude bought me a new sign for Valentine's Day. Maybe we need to post it up north...

Monday, February 16, 2015

Happy Trees

It was a lovely weekend. Red and ChevyMama treated us to Valentine's Day dinner in Giant City. We spent a couple of hours at the public market and the museum. The kids were all at their house watching movies. It seemed like a great day away from ranching.

Then ChevyMama said those words. "Free (produce)." It could have been any produce. The subject matter really didn't matter -- it was all about the incessant preservation of food that courses through a homestead wife's veins.

Her aunt had been given a pallet of broccoli that was an overship to one of the local venues. Between all the associated other homestead wives around us, we figured we could take nine or ten boxes. And we did. We could have taken more, because interest outweighed supply. As of Sunday afternoon, all boxes were claimed and delivered.

So today, Dude set about preserving our broccoli. First, he filled our poor little dehydrator. Only four trays (but more on the way for future projects, along with a larger dehydrator too), and now stuffed to the gills. The rest, he blanched and shocked and froze. Next, he and Munchkin stripped and cut up the stalks and bagged them too. Besides the trays that still aren't dry tonight, I heard there were about 16 bags stored away in the freezer. 

Dude was so excited! He's a Master Food Preserver and comes from a long line of canners and sausage makers. He's one of those amazing men that love being in the kitchen, whether cooking up steaks or pressing apple cider or apparently, slicing broccoli. I too come from a long line of preservationists, mostly in the canning and freezing department. In fact, long before we got together, our mothers were in a gleaning program together. I still remember the year they picked up a whole trailer-load of asparagus and insulated both houses with the filled jars. Mom still has some in her basement. Ick.

But this was a beautiful accomplishment, and I know Dude felt a great sense of accomplishment. And the house smells of lovely veggies. I can't wait to hear how ChevyMama, River Song, Cookie and Crafty, Ms. Illustrious and Ms. Coupe fix up their supplies. This is going to be a great year!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Not Dreaming the Night Away

This homesteading thing gets into your head.

Yesterday, The Ditz suddenly showed up on the front porch with a snake tail from the bull snake den we demolished in December. Gross, but no big deal. My mind apparently didn't agree with that. Around 4am, I woke up from a nightmare about snakes. It was a rattlesnake according to my mind, but it looked like a cross between a bull snake and a corn snake, and with quite the diameter too. It was in the house, and I was trying to shoot it, but having gun trouble -- nothing was loaded with birdshot (of course -- this time of year, they're loaded with regular rounds), I couldn't find one of the guns (I had just moved one piece from the car to my purse), and the critter was hiding under my furniture (I had worried about spiders under a piece of furniture I moved yesterday). For some reason, I had sprayed it with a burn spray we use, and its skin reacted, but it apparently didn't die. As I finally tried to shoot it, it came after me, and I had to defend myself (now on the floor in a panic) with a large rug. Strange, I know, but in the middle of the night, it was terrifying. My heart was pounding and my blood pressure was through the roof. I tried thinking about something else, but everything I thought of came back to a possibility of being invaded by snakes.

I'm not the only one. Munchkin had a dream once about chasing bad guys through a canyon; when she picked up an old rusty can, a rattlesnake popped out and bit her. She also dreams about cougars, and more regularly than she dreams about snakes. There's the typical cougar-chasing-you-around-the-ranch dreams, and then there are the half-dream-state, cougar-causing-floor-creaking worries. Creates worries in the evening, even if you're awake.

Dude doesn't dream. He's too tired.

Can't wait to see how the wolf invasion will affect our sleep.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Hard Work is its Own Vitamin

If you haven't picked up on it from the pics, we are white. Really white. Northern European, burn easy, freckles and red hair white. Very low on Vitamin D in the winter white. I supplement heavily this time of year. Just sayin'...

So when we get a lovely, 50+ degree day in the middle of winter, it's a fabulous day to be able to go out and work in it. To soak up that natural Vit D. To work hard and then rest peacefully. To remember what warmth on the skin feels like and how bright a sunny day can be.

Munchkin and I were planning on a rousing day of closet design, expecting the now-typical foggy, cloudy, cold, wet weather streak we've had for seemingly months now. Dude, liking to throw an excessive level of spontaneity into our lives, came home earlier than normal today and declared a work day. So, in early afternoon, he announced, "You" (the Munchkin), "get your boots, gloves, coat and hat on, and come outside. You" (me) "don't get to come outside until we have a hot fire going." Thank you, my love, for understanding my hatred of being cold, but seriously, how am I supposed to just sit here and miss out on all the fun?

loading bookshelves
While I finally donned my gear, they began emptying out the garage. It's falling to pieces, so very wet and very dirty, and just a general mess. In it, on plastic crates and under a tarp, we had stored maybe twenty sets of pressboard bookshelves salvaged from the sale of our favorite used bookstore a couple years ago; several of these have been used as temporary (and easily overwhelmed) bookshelves in the house, but we didn't have enough wall space for the rest. As we discovered today, they were rat infested, soaked through due to tarp holes, and hid an ancient chicken nest. They loaded up the shelves and tarp, piece by piece, and shuttled them via backhoe to the garden. Four or five loads later and the garage seems unusually open.
everyone heading to garden

The garden, though, was filling up. This very large space has been ignored for more than a decade, and for another decade or so before that, it probably held very little in the way of edible and harvested food. It's been taken over by large desert clump grass, the dead raspberry canes that never took root several years ago due to lack of water, and an incredible mix of various desert weeds in which the deer and coyotes hide. Large branches from either the ancient orchard or the near-ancient nursery lie scattered on the ground. Llama dung piles mix with dog, coyote and deer piles. We've burned off various areas of the garden before, so there are large black patches awaiting a good rake. So this time, we centered the burn pile on the bunchgrass and canes, and gathered weeds from the rest of the garden.
beginnings of a bonfire

flaming bunchgrass
It was one of those great spring-ish days. Hubby at the flame, protecting us all with his skilled fire design. Munchkin on the backhoe, puttering through mud using her newly-acquired driving skills. The dogs and cats roaming the garden, talking to us, playing with each other, and generally getting in the way out of a desire for attention while we're outdoors for once. Me on the camera, helping here and there, and then overseeing the fire while Dude and Munchkin fed it. Wild birds even joined us as the day wore on, pheasant and nighthawks mostly.

 Dude was in shirt sleeves, Munchkin in a light jacket, and I vacillated between two and three layers, but always with a winter hat. Very typical for a hard-work ranch day.

nearly cleared
We burned off the bigger, drier clumps of grass, but the smaller stuff was too wet and wouldn't catch. So with nowhere for it to go, we left the fire dying down. We'll check on it several times tonight, but from plenty of experience, a good grasp on the conditions, and some diligent prep work, we know the coals won't do anything overnight.
Mrs. Dude and some friends

The first check was after dark (and after Dude went to bed) and several slices of hard-earned pizza. In a low lawn chair near the smoldering flame, I sat and watched the moon rise. Munchkin messed with the fire. The dogs bested each other for their favorite bone nearby. A cat sat on my shoulders. It was peaceful. If it wasn't for the settling cold of night and my dying cell phone (and flashlight widget), I could stay out here all night.

Vitamin D and heat. Good day.