Free Home Improvements

Cold weather seems to be here to stay. And since I work at home (read: sit in my living room, doing nothing but typing, for 8 hours straight) I am very much aware of my house's inability to stay warm. We don't have a thermostat that reads actual temperatures. Each room has a really antiquated thermostat that has two temperatures - 50, and 90. All the area in between is called the "comfort zone". We do have a galileo thermometer which has, for the past couple of weeks, not managed to sink the 64 bubble. So I know it hasn't gotten above 64. The frugal person inside of me liked this.

However, as I began to realize that sub-64 degrees, coupled with my perpetual lack of activity throughout the day led to a perpetual chill and fingers that couldn't type very fast, I decided it was time to crank up the thermostats (all 4 of them). Up they went - and I sat and waited for a warming sensation that would restore movement to my fingers. It didn't happen. I turned up the heat more. Still nothing.

It didn't take long to realize that all the heat (in the living room at least) was coming out of the vent and going straight out the bay window. Suddenly, my back-burner make-curtains-out-of-the-free-fabric-I-got-from-my-mother-in-law project became my highest priority.

So, without pins, without a tape measure or ruler, and without a pattern, with just my iron and my sewing machine I made these:

For the bay window.
And these:For the kitchen.

They are not perfect. The thread doesn't match the curtains. And seams are not always straight. But guess what?


And I kind of like the colors....maybe one day I will paint this place. But for now. Mission accomplished.


Now might be a good time to introduce you to the other baby creature (other than Marge that is) who has, in her own way, captured my heart here on the farm.

Her name is Molly. Molly is a black angus cow. Born sometime the end of the summer, beginning of the fall (yes, I know, I really should remember her exact birthday...but I don't). Molly was born the same day as another little cow - 2 momma cows, and 2 baby cows. Tragically - both momma cows liked the same baby cow. Neither momma wanted anything to do with Molly. So she was left motherless, friendless, milkless. It was not looking good.

Until my landlady stepped in to save the day (much like she did the day the cows escaped, only this time in a more nuturing, less rodeo-cow-girl fashion). Molly was removed from the pasture and given her own, adorable cow-house near the barns. There she was fed, walked, loved on, etc. Marge and I would visit her often. She did not so much like Marge for a while.

Molly made our farm feel almost like a petting zoo. Those who were perhaps a bit nervous around our all-too-forward dog, could be taken to see Molly, who would have liked to run and hide if she hadn't been tied to her cow-house.

Note - I used to have pics of her as a little cow. Sadly, they were all lost in the week-of-disasters-2008. So, just imagine a cute little black baby cow with huge eyes, and a blue collar. That's her.

One day, we even got to feed. Our landlady said to heat it like a baby's bottle. So we did:

She also said to test it like a baby bottle - by squirting a bit on your wrist. This was more difficult, since it actually required 2 hands to hold it steadily. So...we mostly just guessed at the tempature of the milk. We must have guessed right, cause, goodness gracious, did she ever eat it fast:

It took her maybe 2 minutes to down the entire 1.5 ish gallons. Truly intense.

Truly a we-don't-live-in-the-city-anymore moment.

Fire! (a.k.a Free Heat)

It has been a long process from start to finish. There were a few weeks of waiting on our landlord to clean the stove. A few days of denial that we would actually have to de-rust the stove ourselves. There were a few afternoons of me scrubbing the stove. There were some trips to the hardware store to buy the appropriate bolts. Then there was the move-in party. Then there were the rusty pipes that needed replacing. And the vents on the front that were stuck shut. Yeah, its been complicated. But finally....


And a video. Its not really interesting - but its kind of cozy:

It was a little smokey. Actually - a lot smokey. But I think the stove was drying out (I had previously soaked it in I guess a little smoke was to be expected). We are hoping next time their will be less smoke. If so - then we will have found a nearly-free and super-fun way to heat our small house.

A Serious Mouse Problem

Whenever you decide to do something in life, there will be undoubtedly follow a few nay-sayers who manage to find something negative to say about your decision. For example, when I decided to seriously consider going to Washington College, I knew I wanted to go there because it had a good English program, was a small school, and was fairly close to home. I was very excited about it. The first question I received from the very first person I told outside of my immediate family was; "Isn't that the college where they have naked day?!?" Yeah...way to burst my bubble. (to answer the question: yes, technically, unofficially, some of the students on campus celebrate a version of naked day. That is not the reason I went to WaC. Nor was it a good enough reason NOT to go).

Anyway...back to the story at hand.

When we moved in to our farm house, the bubble burst-er was "You're going to get rats." Yeah, that made us feel good about our decision.

Well, we don't have rats (that we know of). But we
do have mice - and a lot of them! It got cold, all the corn was harvested, and suddenly all the mice were relocating into our house. This is what we have learned.

  • You know you have mice when you start seeing little mouse droppings on the counter
  • You know you have a lot of mice when you can hear them running through the ceiling and the walls when you go to sleep.
  • You know the mice have gotten comfortable with you when they run through your living room while you are sitting there quietly typing at your computer.
  • You know your dog has gotten too used to the mice when she will nap through one running across her bed.
  • You know that you have really uppity mice when they will crawl up on the arm of your sofa, while you and six of your friends are sitting in your sofas, talking loudly
  • But, you know you have serious mouse problem when the mice start eating through your ceiling:

(yes, our walls are wood paneling and our ceilings are also wood paneling. There must have been a sweet sale on wood paneling when they built the house)

So, yes. The rumors were true. We have 3 holes in our ceiling. We have a serious mouse problem.

Our Stove Party

When we moved in to our small farm house, there was one piece of our living room we did not understand. It looked like this:

For the past 4+ months, we have affectionately as our "brick stage". It was my least favorite part of the house. Until now!

After a significant amount of scrubbing, WD 40, and much heavy lifting on the part of mon amour and some friends, we have transformed the stage into this:

Thanks to everyone who helped move the stove this weekend! We are just a few stove pipe pieces away from having a real, functioning wood burning stove in our house!

Pretty in Pinkness

Once upon a time (more specifically the late fall immediately following the summer we got married) my husband and I decided that it was time to invest in some flannel sheets. A brilliant decision considering the fact that we kept our house at a chilly 60 degrees (and only that cause the landlady said we had to keep it that warm). Consequently we found ourselves at the local outlet center at the linen store that was conveniently going out of business (read: having sweet clearance sales!). That said, there were still 3 or 4 different colors of nice flannel sheets left. Now came the big decision.

What color should we get?
Obviously, we selected these:

Doesn't the red go so nicely with our black comforter? yup. That's what we thought.

Until we washed them. Now, I am smart enough to know not to wash red sheets with ANYTHING else the first time you wash them. However, I did NOT realize that you actually must wash them by themselves FOREVER. Never ever ever should they be allowed to share a washing machine (even one washing in cold water) with anything else.

Otherwise you will get something like this:

It really is pinker than it looks. In real life they look approximately this pink:

Well, maybe that doesn't help as much as it should have. Just take my word for it. They are much pinker than they should be.

Now, I know that when we purchased these red sheets, it seemed like a perfectly reasonable decision. What could be more fun than bright red flannel sheets? In retrospect, I don't know what we were thinking. Along with fun red sheets, comes either half-full loads of sheets-only laundry, or fun pink "whites".

A Blanket Fort

Background info: I live in a very small house. This very small house has a lot of doorways. But only 2 actual doors. One to come in from outside, and one for the bathroom (this door is actually only about 5'8" tall. Tall folks, like most of my family, must duck to enter safely). We are very grateful for both of our doors. Our house also has a lot of windows (12, actually) and only 2 of those windows have blinds or shades of any kind on them. Which room has been blessed with such fabulous privacy, you ask? The laudry room. Yup, our laundry is very safe from prying eyes, or bleaching sunlight.

The remaining 6 empty door frames (including the ones to the bedrooms) and 10 windows, make for a lot of open space. Similar to the field in which we live. We do not particularly enjoy living in such a poorly insulated fishbowl of a practically one-room house. However, we also don't want to put a lot of time or money into this house that we rent. All these factors combined along with a ton of free fabric from my wonderful sewing-quilting-fabirc collecting mother in law yielded this fabulous solution:

We have turned our house into a Blanket Fort!
Like this:

Well, actually, something more like this:
Our doors (and in one case a "wall") are made out random pieces of fabric or old curtain sheers, and all the windows will soon be covered various other pieces of random fabric. To hang everything we put a nail in on either side of the top of the door frame, and strung clothes line between the two nails. This rather simplistic way of overcoming the lack of curtain rods reminded me of the blanket forts my siblings and I would make growing up. I was basically hanging sheets across all the doorways to make it feel "cozier" and "more exciting". It felt wonderfully childish.

The perks of this home project are practically endless.

  1. It was free.

  2. It gives the house "character" (in case it didn't already have enough)
  3. It makes the house look bigger (yeah, don't know how that happened, but with all the "doors" closed, the place seems much bigger)
  4. Random people working on the farm can't stare into (and all the way through) our house any more.
  5. All the heat from the vents (which are all directly under windows) does not instantly leave the house.

  6. We don't necesarrily have to heat the whole house because we can close off rooms we don't use

  7. Where once our house felt like a box, with glass walls, where we hung out cause we had no place better to now feels like a home!