Hall closet recreation begun!

I came home from work today to find that John had finished framing over the opening from the office into the hall closet.  While I still need to use it as a closet for my stuff, it is on its way to becoming a hall closet once again.  Soon it shall house only linens, blankets, laundry, and a vacuum.  I'm so excited; this is the first substantial (i.e. not just cosmetic) step we've taken in unremuddling the house.

For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about...  This is what the upstairs of the house looks like right now:

There are three closets, two of which are noticeably...odd.  The former hall closet became a walk-thru closet with an unusable shelving unit and rods hung every whichway.  The master bedroom closet is only about half accessible.  Pretty goofy arrangement.

This is what the upstairs should be, and what we're returning it to:

Four closets, all of them perfectly functional. Even John the handyman thought that the previous owners were nuts to "rearrange" the openings the way they did.  But now, finally, we're on our way to fixing it.


More stove restoration and other updates

After spending last Sunday sanding and wire wheeling the rust off of old stove parts, I think I'm just about ready to start reassembly.  I should be happy about this, but I'm actually dreading it.  When I took it apart last spring, I put all the hardware into little labeled baggies and took photos of how things were put together.  Yet somehow, about a year later, none of it looks familiar.  I feel like I'm reading a map in a foreign language.  I'm sure it will come together fine, especially since I have a very detailed service manual and great directions from someone who has done this before, but I'm still feeling very intimidated.

My only two remaining tasks for the stove are to disassemble, clean, and reassemble the broiler box and Thermowell.  The Thermowell will be easy.  The broiler box has lots of moving parts.  Sigh.

If I can escape from work a little early tomorrow, I'm going to take the stovetop and handles to a plating shop to be rechromed.  I'm really excited about this part, since it will provide the most visual impact to the finished stove.  I'm a little nervouns about entrusting my precious stoveparts to a stranger, but it seems they're the only local plating shop that does a show-quality chrome finish.  I'll definitely need to see some examples of their work before I turn over my stovetop.

I also plan on shipping out my stove burner heads, drip pans, and burner grates to IPE in Missouri tomorrow.  Turnaround time is currently around 2 weeks, which gives me enough time to get the rest of the stove in order.  Hopefully.

And, last but not least, John the handyman is coming over tomorrow to frame our "new" wall.  We're closing off where the PPOs opened the hall closet into the office.  So, no more dysfunctional closet after tomorrow!  Yipee!  By the time I get home from work tomorrow afternoon, he should be finished.  How cool is that?  I still feel like I'm cheating when other people work on my house, but I'm evem more excited that the stuff is getting done.  Sometimes DIY is less important that just being finished with the stupid project already.  I'm sure that those of you who have had projects drag on (and on...  and on...) can relate.

Pictures to come!


Chambers Stove Restoration (finally continued)

It seems I just took a break from everything over the winter...  But now that spring is funally coming, I want to get everything done, lol.  I don't think that's quite gonna happen, but I've resumed working on some projects I've left half-finished for way too long.  My Chambers stove restoration is one of these projects.

Last spring and summer I just about completely disassembled my stove.  It went from this:

To this:
Within a matter of weeks after I bought it.  Scary, isn't it?

Then I attacked it with a wire wheel and sandpaper, bring it to this:
I know, it really didn't look that much better...  But then I primed it, which really helped it along.
It's actually a little further along than what the picture shows.  The bottom edge is all cleaned off and primed, and the rust around the oven is gone too.  I can't paint there since it's cast iron, but I will coat it with stove black so that it will match and be protected from rust.

Here's the progression from the back, which was worse-looking than the front:

So that's pretty much where I stand.  I got hung up when I stripped screws on the underside of the cast iron chromed cooktop.  All the PB Blaster in the world wouldn't loosen them, and the drillout kit we bought from Sears wouldn't penetrate the heat-hardened screws.  We were at a loss.  One of  Shayne's friends who owns a machine shop had to heat the screws with a torch, then work some magic to get them out.  I have no idea what he did, but I'm eternally grateful.

This week, I'm sending out the burner heads, drip pans, and burner grates for new porcelain (shiny! pretty!).  I'm also going to start calling around to plating shops so that I can have the cooktop rechromed.  And in the meantime, starting today, I'm going to finish cleaning and priming the few bits and pieces I didn't get to last summer.

Unfortunately, the way that the stove is assembled, most of the "guts" are attached to the cooktop.  I won't be able to do much with them until the top is rechromed.  But I plan on being ready once it's shiny and new and ready for action.


Spring cleaning

No, not the house...  The yard.  This afternoon I raked approximately 250 lbs (no, I'm NOT exaggerating) of sand and gravel out of our front yard.  Since the county is woefully short of money, we didn't use much salt this year.  Instead, the highway department laid down sand to provide traction.  And since our road has a school and a fire department on it, we get plowed/sanded a lot.  And all of the crap they laid down ended up in the first 7 feet of our grass.  Sigh.

So, now that I've finished with that, maybe we can concentrate on finishing raking leaves.  Due to the torrential rain and early snow last fall, we didn't quite get all the leaves up.  We did manage to get them into piles, minimizing the areas of grass that were killed, but that was as good as it got.  I was able to strategically locate the leaf piles where the ground ivy had infested the grass anyways, so this is actually a blessing in disguise.  Now maybe we can grow some grass back there..

And, last but not least, we're finally gearing up for some spring house work!  After pretty much taking the winter off, we've decided it's time to get off our lazy asses and hire someone else to do some work for us.  I know, we're real over-achievers...  Still, since we know little to nothing about framing, we've decided to call in a handy man to help us out.  He should be coming by sometime early next week to look at the office closet situation, and we'll be going from there.  Once he's framed over the weird opening into the hall closet, we'll be able to hang the 1 or 2 pieces of drywall and finish our skimcoating.

Can anyone renovate a house slower than us?


Mmm, my house smells like a bakery!

I'm amazed!  Not only did my bread dough rise and become less sticky overnight, it formed up into a perfect little ball for baking.  And then, it turned into a loaf!  A loaf that actually tasted like bread!

The crust was a little harder than I prefer, but the inside was wonderfully soft and moist.  It had a very faint sourdough taste, which was perfect.  Even Shayne was impressed.  And it went very well with the bowl of shrimp bisque I bought for dinner.
So, as promised, here's the link to the recipe: Mother Earth News 5 Minute Bread


Homemade bread for people who have never made bread

While trying to eat more local/homemade foods, I started thinking about bread.  So many commercial breads contain high fructose corn syrup (and I don't care what the TV ads say, I don't think it's all that safe.  Too many chemicals involved in the processing), and even the ones that don't still contain preservatives.  So when I saw an article in Mother Earth News for bread that contains only flour, water, yeast, and salt and required minimal preparation, it piqued my interest.

Reading the article, I found that the "5 minutes a day" tagline was a bit of exaggeration.  The bread has to sit for a while to rise, and then sit again before baking.  But, really, all you have to do is mix the ingredients together.  Then you let it sit.  Then you refrigerate it for at least 3 hours.  Cut off a hunk and let it sit again.  Then bake.

I've got a wad of very sticky bread dough in the fridge right now, and I'm planning on baking it up tomorrow.  We'll see how this goes...  If it works, I'll share the recipe!

Chickens in the backyard??

As you may know, last year I began my quest to eat more local, humanely/sustainably produced foods.  I had been buying organic/all natural meat and produce from Meijer, which I thought was a good thing.  Then I read "This Organic Life" by Joan Dye Gussow.  I thought I was reading a book about gardening.  Instead, it almost completely revolutionized the way I think about my food.  In her witty, pragmatic style, Joan points out how convoluted America's food production system really is, while also offering an alternative: locally produced foods, purchased in season. 

The book really resonated with me, and I started applying its principles in the best way I could.  For nearly a full year, I've bought all my produce (excepting pineapples, Clementine oranges, bananas, and a few heads of romaine lettuce) from our local farmer's market.  I "put up" produce for the off-season as well, freezing beans, broccoli, corn, peas, carrots, peaches, blueberries, and several types of peppers.  I canned peaches, scratch-made pasta sauce, and applesauce.  I buy chicken and eggs from a local farm that free-ranges its birds and doesn't use hormones or antibiotics.  Beef and pork have been a little more difficult, but I settled for buying in bulk from a small, local butcher.  Not all the meat is locally produced, but at least I'm helping a small business, and the quality is MUCH higher than that of supermarket meat.  There's really no comparison.

Aside from the warm, fuzzy feeling I get from helping out local small farmers, it's been fun to really know where my food comes from.  If I go to the market during the week, it's much less crowded and I have to opportunity to talk to the farmers who grow my food.  One even saved some peppers for me after he appeared to have sold out, since he knew I'd been coming for them every week.  You can't get that at Wal-Mart!

This year I want to take it a step further.  I'm going to plant a small garden (in a different location after last year's dismal failure!) and buy two laying hens.  Part of me wonders if I've gone completely batty.  The other (larger) part is excited by the idea of producing my own food right here in my yard. 

I haven't worked out all the details just yet, but I have found a local farmer who is willing to sell me winter-hardy, laying hens for under $10 each.  They should lay about 8-10 eggs per week between the two of them, which is plenty for me to split with my mom or neighbors.  I've also bought plans for a chicken coop, which Shayne and I are going to build.  A friend from work offered up some scrap metal roofing and wire fencing, so our costs should be pretty minimal.  We'll get started once the weather warms up.

As far as the house goes...  Umm, well... yeah.  It'll happen eventually I guess.