Monday, April 2, 2012

And Now You Know The Rest of the Storage

Remember this story about storage under the stage?  Paul hadn't finished it yet when I posted it, so here's how it turned out:

The rounded part of the stage is an addition to the original, so the floorboards never matched to begin with.

Using a good friend's suggestion and an old piano hinge, Paul turned what had originally been a plan based on pull-out drawers and made something fabulous and immediately vulnerable to stashing.

Someday we'll get more serious about organizing it, but for now it works great.  Especially when we can keep the cats out of it.

Storing the Storage

What do people do when, on one hand, they need lots of seats for hosting several families at once, and on the other hand, don't have lots of space to store the seats when they aren't hosting several families at once?

The answer: they make storage table benches and store the benches as tables.  At least, that's what the people at The Swallow's Nest did.

I always loved our antique coffee table.  My grandma tells me that my great-grandfather adapted it from a discarded library table by cutting down the legs.  You can see a picture of it at the end of this post.

What you can't see in that picture is how incredibly small and inadequate this pretty piece was in our living room configuration after we moved more furniture in.  Here is another picture, but we've never kept our chairs and sofa as close together as they were when it was taken.

Even from the start, though, we knew we'd need something different.  This is where we turned to one of my favorite blog authors: Ana White of  With some simple instructions, we were able to turn out three of these great benches in one weekend, and with plenty of time for us to put them to use during our hymn sing on Sunday night.

They worked beautifully!  We had plenty of room for plates and beverages during the meal while the kids ate outside, and when everyone gathered around to sing, none of the 33 people here had to sit on the floor.

Add to that the additional storage under the flip-top lid and the shelf below, and we have great potential for tidy organizational happiness.  *contented sigh*

They still need to be stained and finished, though, so you haven't seen the last of this project.  We made them out of pine, so I don't expect them to look like fine furniture when we're done, but we'll get them as close to it as we can.

In the meantime, it's time to purge in preparation for this weekend's garage sale!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

If It Looks Like a Duct...

Are you ready to reach a new, deeper level in your friendship with our church home?  Take a deep breath and join me in the basement.

Yes, so far I've been very selective in the views you've been getting of the place.  I wanted to spare you the shock and discomfort at seeing how we really live.  =)

I'm still being selective.

Do you remember when Paul's parents were staying here and helping us get the bathroom ready for us to move in last winter?  The basement hasn't changed much since then, except to fill up with our stuff when we moved in.

We're not in a position to make any changes just yet, but it's nice to have a plan.  I looooove to plan, but up till recently, I kept running into problems with the infrastructure of the downstairs space.  The most prominent feature down here is the ductwork, and second to that are the beam supports.

I just didn't know how to work around them.  Oh, if only they didn't need to be there!

Well, do you remember how I said I'd we could replace our furnaces with something better?  That something better is radiant floor heating.  Beautiful, comfortable heat right where we need it.  And even better: no forced air, no ductwork!

How liberating!

Freshly freed from the metal monster, I set down this week to explore the limits of a space which still needed to:
  • have at least one window for each bedroom.
  • maximize the amount of natural light from the windows.
  • allow for the beam supports.
  • provide a place for using both of our vintage stoves, one gas from the 40's and one electric from the 50's.

Little did I realize that I really could get a master bathroom out of it!  A friend of mine had suggested as much, and now we can make it work!

Oh, but there was one detail that really made Paul uncomfortable as he peered over my shoulder at my developing plans: how were we going to get the waste water to the septic tank?

"Easy," I said, without really knowing what I was talking about.  "Upflush toilets!"

And so we researched them a little and found that, while the system is not going to be cheap, it will be a solid choice for both the bathroom and the kitchen.  And so worth it.

For those who are prone to study the floor layout, here are a couple of points not to be missed:

Paul thinks the below-grade wall on the right which separates the basement from a dirt-filled crawlspace can be pushed back a foot or two, giving us more room.  If we can accomplish this, then the bathroom and pantry will also shift over, giving us more room to access the dishwasher in the kitchen.  One could say that I'm rather counting on that being the case.

This layout doesn't show the entire floor plan of the basement; on the other side of the wall on the left is the bathroom and the water heater.  Our freezer and table saw currently occupy the future laundry area, but you'll see that we've made room for the freezer in the pantry.  Until we have a storage shed built, we'll have to let the table saw stay where it is.

The light gray features in the drawings indicate features that currently exist but will be removed to make way for the new features.

We will open up the stairway to unite the upstairs and downstairs living spaces.  The area below the stairs will still be for storage, and the new electric panel is already located there, waiting to be hooked up to a new electric service.

Having an open stairway will be a happy change for the cats: being downstairs is like obtaining the holy grail to them and their little questing spirits.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Organ Donation

Remember how we used to sleep on the stage?  Well, the kids were the first to move their quarters to the basement.  We moved them down there before the heat of summer set in.

And I loved having the entire nave as a bedroom.  It might have been a little weird for our guests to walk into our master bedroom, and all the cats may have started pa-dumping across the floor and around the furniture just as we were ready to get serious about falling asleep, and it may have been hard to fall asleep in an 88-degree room, but I really liked it up there.

Only something really great would entice me to give up that spot.

A couple weeks before my birthday we received word that a family had moved away from their home, leaving behind an organ.  Yes, they were offering to be an organ donor.

The perfect birthday gift, and perfect for the birthday budget!  I'd often dreamed of owning our own church organ ever since we'd moved into our own church building.  And so my darling, wonderful husband man, with a lot of help from some really kind men, loaded it into and out of the van, hauled it up the stairs, and into its new home.

I'm not an organist, but I'd like to play well enough for congregational singing.  Mastering some good organ literature wouldn't hurt, either!  I just wish I could dedicate more time to practicing.  *sigh*

A funny thing about Pipes: she, of all the cats, has been the most interested in befriending the organist.  How sweet that she's so aptly named!

Monday, February 20, 2012

It Started with Storage

Paul figures we spent 5% of our income this past year on paying rent for our storage unit, and he rightly observed that it's like buying all those things we're storing all over again.  Arg.

So until we can purge our unit of stuff we don't need, and until we can build a storage shed on the property, we're exploring how we might use what we already have at our disposal.

I've long had my eye on the space under the stage: it seems like a perfect place to store camera tripods, light stands, and other such equipment.  But we wouldn't know for sure until Paul could open it up and look at it himself.

The cats enjoyed their look under the stage, too.  Elliot dubbed this chubby guy "Dust Bunny Dilly."  The top of his feet are dirty?  Hmm...

The portion of the stage that Paul tore up was an addition to the original stage and was built on top of the original flooring, so he took advantage of the exposed floorboards to replace a plywood patch in the floor.

The crisp boundary and color difference between the old and the replacement don't really hide the fact that it's a patch, but we figure that it will look better once it's refinished.  Besides, it's part of the building's history, and it's a lot nicer than it used to be:

(Naughty kitties.)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Cat Fur fer Kitty Pants

Whenever Grandma didn't want to bother answering my "What for?", she would reply, "Cat fur for kitty pants."

I don't think I ever thought to ask who made these kitty pants and if they were sewn or knitted from homespun cat fur.  I suspect that was beside the point, but if I were to make kitty pants today, I would prefer to sew them.  However, as I'm sewing them, I could also collect the cat fur from the project fabric and spin some cat fur yarn with what the cats leave behind.

As you can imagine, I haven't been overeager to set up shop where the cats are ever looking for that novel surface to lie on.  Until...

We weren't using the cracker jar in the kitchen.  Perfect!  Now I can decorate with the pretty fabrics I'm sewing together even as I keep them safe from the cats and their kitty pants.

I'm very happy with the solution.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

No Smoking, Please

While the weather forecasters were predicting a cold, snowy season, I was praying for a mild winter.  For some reason He saw fit to provide us with just that.

Even so, it gets cold around here.  The building is poorly insulated, and it would be irresponsible of us to set the thermostat for our casual comfort.  So instead of relying solely on our 60-year old furnaces, we turn to our soapstone wood stove for some zone-specific heating.

However, the ridge on the roof is impossibly high for getting a good, consistent draft in our chimney.  Far too often the smoke would either refuse to go up the flue or it would play nice for awhile, then wait till we were asleep before it would retreat out of the wind and into our living space.

Choking on smoke and smelling like stale smoke has a way of making a person feel impoverished.  So I urged Paul to purchase an electric motor draft inducer which is installed directly on the chimney pipe.  It's visible in the picture above.

What a great thing!  Aside from occasional user error, we no longer have smoke billowing where it oughtn't.  It's wonderful!

When he installed it, Paul made a couple modifications to our set-up: instead of hard wiring the draft inducer to an electric box, he attached it to a cord with a 3-prong plug.  This allows us to plug it into a timer so that the fan can be turned on and off at regular intervals when we're not attending to it ourselves.

Paul also connected the wood stove air intake to a piece of conduit that he fed through a freshly bored hole in the concrete wall.  Now the fire consumes cold air from outside instead of drawing from the warmed air inside.

A homesteading book in our library speaks well of newspaper logs.  Rolled tightly and held together with wire, they burn much like wood logs.  We appreciate how they help make the wood stretch, and the post office always has a nice stack of newspapers for us to take.  We have giving friends, too.

The door to the 3-H is on the left, and the door to the basement is on the right.
The bright green balls are osage oranges placed there to supposedly repel the bugs.  We really don't need them to come in with the firewood.

One man's trash is another man's treasure, and we treasure the cast-off wood that we've gleaned from our friends.  Fred needed some trees removed from his property, and Bill and Patsy had some demolition wood from their kitchen redo.  So did our new neighbors who just bought the property across the street.  God has blessed us with wood enough for our needs so far, and we haven't even considered buying any yet this year.

Of course, all of this is just to get us by until we can replace the furnaces with something better.  I have an idea, but I'll save that for a different post.  =)

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Social Ladder

It's that time of year again. Only this time we have have curious cats to deal with.  Most of the climbers managed to find their way down without falling.

But oh, they're so naughty!

(Paul was not amused.  He was less amused than I was when we came home from church to discover the full length of the nave floor covered in a complex web of yarn one Sunday afternoon.)