Before writing this post I hadn’t realized how many projects we have already done here at Crow Farm. When you get into the swing of things it all just flies by I guess. Here’s what we have done so far:
What we now call the canning shack used to be the milk house. It’s unclear if it was used to actually milk the cows in, to store the milk or something entirely different. But, now we use it as a place for our chest freezer and canning supplies and hopefully in the future as our “root cellar” as well. We wanted to be sure to watch the temperature, humidity levels and potential bugs before we put our winter supply of food in there.
The canning shack was in fairly rough shape with mildew covering most surfaces and lots of previous termite damage. There was over 3 inches of termite poo in the bottom of the cement hole that is in the shack due to them eating away at the boards above. Luckily I could rip most of this wood out and repair what damage they did on the interior wall. First came the scraping of the (lead?) paint. Next came the scrubbing of every surface with borax water (this was SO hard to do and gave me frozen fingers!). Then I had to repair the walls with wood filler and fill ALL the seams in the tongue and groove interior panels with caulk. From here I gave every surface but the floor 2 coats of primer and 2 coats of top paint. I am really happy with how it turned out but boy was it a challenging project! Next summer I hope to do the floors.
Justin was in charge of internet when we moved in and as you can imagine, he was motivated to get it up and running. The first step was to temporarily clamp wifi access points to all the main buildings which means they were all wirelessly talking to one another. This worked okay but was pretty unreliable, especially up at the schoolhouse where we rely on internet to aid in lessons. After all, the computer is our encyclopedia now.
To make the internet more reliable Justin ran wires through the crawl space under the house and up to a roof-mounted access point. We dug a trench across the driveway to burry some ethernet wires as well. Now, when I say crawl space I mean army crawl space. Poor Justin said he had to weave himself through ducting with his head sideways, cheek in the dirt, and drag his body through some spaces! This sound terrifying to me and I was glad he was brave enough to do it. Of course he was careful and wore a full body suit with goggles, gloves and a respirator. The plan is to slowly dig trenches and bury ethernet wires to the various buildings on the property to increase speed. So far two trenches have been dug. The first was a family event and the other was a lunch break job for Justin.
We quickly realized that in the country you either need a guard animal that will alert you when someone pulls into the driveway or some type of a sensor to tell you. There were many times that neighbors came to welcome us or we got a package that needed signing and we didn’t have a clue they had driven down our driveway and were standing next to our door. It’s just a bigger place. This thought didn’t cross my mind since in the city of course you will see someone approaching your house. They are right next to you! My 7 year old and I weren’t keen on the idea of getting a dog so instead Justin installed a door sensor that rings up in the school house and the main house. This required digging yet another trench and burying the sensor next to the end of the driveway. Thankfully he buried it in conduit since it is pretty squishy ground there in the fall. We are also thankful that we bought the right tools for the job. Using a tall narrow shovel in combination with a pick axe has proved to be a good investment. Every time the door bell rings I think of my wonderful childhood home where we had the same sounding chimes. I love it!
Girl’s Room Window Frame:
When we moved in there was a lot of chipping paint on the girls’ windows. As you can imagine this involved scraping off all the old paint, sanding down the surface, priming and giving it a top coat of paint. All the details about the molding that I loved so much quickly became not so nice while I was scraping the paint off. The girls had to sleep elsewhere for one night to let it air out but it was a fairly quick job since Justin could watch the girls while I worked.
The main house has a beautiful wooden deck off the back of the house but it looked like it needed a fresh coat of oil before the winter rains came. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite that easy. Justin took on the big job of power washing the deck, sanding and then finishing the deck with an oil stain. He’s so good. He bought a belt sander and finished it lickity split. He did run into some issues with ripping the belts when he would nick the side of a screw head. After he figured out the issue of the ripped belts our sweet friend helped him by screwing down all the heads so they would be less likely to rip the sander belts. I think in the end he ended up ripping through about $50 worth of belts! Ha, boy. You live, you learn. It turned out lovely though.
There are a lot of chimneys here, some fairly straight forward and others not so much. We thought to help us gain some knowledge and save us a little money we should give a shot at cleaning the straight forward ones. And by “we” I mean Justin. 🙂 The girls and I gave him pointers and cheered him on. These were important pointers mind you. For instance, I noticed Justin was using a rickety old wooden ladder he had found in the barn and advised him to get a metal one. Just after he assured me the ladder was sturdy as anything his foot broke through one of the rungs and down to the next rung he went. Luckily he was close to the bottom. We all had a good chuckle about that! After that our comments weren’t taken as lightly. Justin did a great job and now can put “chimney sweep” on his farmer resume.
We hired someone to clean our two chimneys in the main house. This is still a very sore subject, especially for Justin so I won’t go into too much detail but lets just say we picked the wrong guy. We basically paid him to break one of our chimneys making the fireplace no longer safe or usable unless we decide to dish out A LOT of cash and tear apart the living room to fix what he broke. It was both infuriating and very sad.
Sensor Alarms for Outbuildings:
Since this is our first winter here and there are various out buildings we wanted to be sure that the temperature and moisture levels in each building was appropriate and that no leaks were occurring without us knowing right away. So, Justin did a ton a research, then researched again…and again. He’s very thorough and takes pride in finding the right product for our needs that is good quality. He landed on LoRaWAN as the technology. Apparently it is designed for commercial remote monitoring or fleet monitoring, similar to a cellphone network but for low power sensors (these are Justin’s words). The batteries on the sensors are said to last 10 years which makes it more likely to be useful when we need them.
Another reason why we wanted sensors in all the buildings is because if we go away (once COVID is behind us all) we’d like to know if there is a leak or temperatures are out of wack so we can ask a neighbor to please check on it. So far, so good! We installed our first route of sensors and have another round on order.
I had been looking at some kind of a desk or table for me to have up at the school house so I would have a space to lay things out and prep lessons/projects for the girls. I found that the desk style that I was drawn to and would fit my storage needs was an old style teacher’s desk. The kind that has a fold down typewriter table in the middle. There weren’t many for sale but the ones that were were pricey and not in the best condition.
Finally I found one on Craigslist for $50! I popped the girls in the Sprinter and we traveled down a very curvy road with a handful of rest breaks because the girls were both getting car sick. It was a whammy of a road! If I hadn’t been driving I would have needed to take breaks too! We finally arrived and the desk smelled like polyurethane. The woman selling it told me she had just put a fresh coat of finish on it that morning. What timing. It was definitely in rougher shape than the picture showed but, then again, it was $50 so I figured we could spiff it up. We rode home very slowly with all the windows rolled down due to the smell (which did not help the car sickness by the way).
When we got home we looked at the desk in more detail and found the reason for why the woman had so hastily put a coat of finish on. The top of the desk was covered in wood laminate!! I didn’t even know laminate was a thing back when typewriters were being used. Ah! So, over the next week Justin and I scraped all the stinky laminate off the top and Justin sanded and refinished it for me. All in all it was still a good purchase but we certainly didn’t count on taking on another project. 🙂 It turned out great and I LOVE it!
Owning a country home also means lots of weeding, pruning and trimming which equals a lot of yard debris. We also spent a chunk of time taming back the wild blackberry bushes so we weren’t getting snagged while walking down our paths. And what do you do with it all? We don’t have a handy yard debris bin like we did in the city so, we burn it! “Of course we burn it” I thought but the thought process stopped there. It was actually a really smokey job and a tricky balance to keep the fire hot enough (so it didn’t smoke) and feed the fire wet branches enough so my bramble brush pile disappeared. The girls snipped the branches into small pieces as I fed the fire. We were a good trio and got the job done.
Pruning and Training Trees:
Have you heard, we have lots of fruit trees which means lots of pruning! I was excited to learn how to properly prune fruit trees as I had never done it on such a large scale before. It was fun, time consuming and a little scary at first. If you follow all the rules for pruning fruit trees, it feels like you are just chopping the whole canopy down! Our neighbor says the rule of thumb is that when you are done pruning you should be able to throw a cat up into the tree and have them fall right back down without getting caught. Ha! Done.
I have also been retraining the fruit trees to angle their branches back down toward the ground instead of reaching toward the sky. This was as simple as tying weights to the branches I wanted to train. It looks like I’m tying them all down for fear they will run away! This has been true for all of our projects but the right tool for the job really makes a difference. Having a pole pruner made it so I only needed the orchard ladder (another tool that is so helpful to have) for the very top of each clump of branches.
Don’t you worry folks. Many more projects to come! In fact, we are in the thick of some as I type. 🙂