Friday, January 31, 2014


What's an hour late on delivery day when you've waited two months? It is finally here and going in!

Go Jotul!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Is it February yet?

There is a big part of me that can't wait for this month to be over. It's been one of those months where for every step forward we take in the house, it seems like we take two steps back.

We made some great progress on the living room floor. Hooray!

Then found a flood in the crawl space. Boo.

The fireplace insert was delayed. Again. Boo.

Ghon fixed the pipe. No need for a plumber. Hooray!

The well pump seems to have been destroyed from the flood. Boo.

The floor boards Ghon bought to fill in gaps in the floor won't fit. Boo.

Ghon's truck has been having issues. His truck will drive along then lose all acceleration. Big repairs. Boo.

Last week we had a snow storm come through that brought close to nine inches of snow, single digit temperatures, and lots of wind. It's been cold.

On the other hand, all the snow and cold weather has kept Jonathan home from school and we had a great time sled riding and playing in the snow. One of Ghon's days off work coincided with one of Jonathan's days off school, so both kids headed to the farm to work with Ghon. While he was there, Ghon took some great cell pics of the farm.

Telescopehead all grown up.

The Homestead from the road.

I ran lunch down to Ghon and the kids. Despite Jonathan dying to go work at the farm, he wanted to come home, and Genevieve stayed with Ghon. The two of them later went to the top of the hill to pull memory cards from the trail cams. When he got home, he found this beauty.

Coyote on the hill!

One good thing that has happened this month was finding a new church. Last year, the kids and I attended a church across town. It was nice and Jonathan enjoyed Sunday school, but it wasn't a good fit. There is a church right by the farmhouse, St. John's Lutheran, that we started attending this month. Turns out several of Jonathan's classmates and their families are members. We've gone a few times this month, and the kids like it. George Crabill, who lived in the farmhouse is buried at the church cemetery. I've promised Jonathan that when the weather is nicer, i.e., the field isn't wet or covered in snow, we would look for his tombstone.

This past Sunday, Ghon had a horrible drive to work, his truck breaking down on him several times. The kids and I skipped Sunday School to research parts prices. Ghon then called to ask that I head over to Dulles...the baby chicks had arrived!

We spent way too much time in the car. From church, to the car parts store, to Dulles and the USPS facility, where 73 chickens joined us on our ride to Harrisonburg to take Ghon his truck part. With the truck fixed, we headed back to Winchester to get the chicks settled into a temporary brooder box.

Take a peep inside...

Preparing the food dish. All hands on deck.

The makeshift brooder is ready!

Before moving the chicks into their brooder, you must make sure that they take a single drink. Genevieve helped Ghon first, while Jonathan was the official counter.

First sips!

Drink chicken! Drink!

Thirsty bird

So happy to help!

Each order of 50+ chicks from the Murray McMurray Hatchery comes with an exotic bird. Here's this order's free bird.
Mr. Exotic

I'm gonna get you...

Somewhere in the area of 32, Jonathan lost count. He was getting upset, so we had the kids switch roles.

Jonathan's turn to help.

Attempting to count.

He's so gentle with them.

Tomorrow the chicks will be getting a larger, yet still temporary brooder box. In the end, they will be in the coop for a while to grow. It's been so cold though, that despite several heat lamps, we didn't think it would be warm enough in the coop for them. A temporary indoor home they get! We had a chili gear box that had broke. We were using it to collect aluminum cans, but now, it's the chicks home.

Broken chili gear box - repurposed!

Seventy three little peeps.

Making fried chicken. Just kidding, it's just a heat lamp....

I can't wait for the end of the month. The chickens made it safely, but now we must get them to survive the cold. Then spring and the onslaught of predators.

The fireplace insert finally has an install date. By the end of this weekend, we should be able to have a fire in our fireplace! So excited about this. Now we need to get some wood down to the house.

Next week, Ghon and I have a week long staycation to work on the house. Who knows what we will get done. Regardless, we need the break. My work has been crazy busy and I need some time off. I am hoping and praying that the install goes well and ushers February in as a new, warm, and month of forward progress. And that maybe, just maybe, we can figure out how to get our well pump working without a total replacement. A week of work at the farm with no water (meaning no toilet...) is not going to be fun.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

S.S. Hummingbird

Big plans for big progress this week came to a screeching halt on Tuesday.

Ghon had two days off in a row and planned major progress on the floor. He even wanted to surprise me by starting the staircase.

After making a quick trip into town to purchase a few extra floor boards Ghon headed to the house. And heard running water.

We have a very large root cellar. The entry is from the front porch, and descends into the dining room area. There are two rooms, one that encompasses the full size of the kitchen, the other, half of the living room. The right side holds the well pump and hot water heater.

Tuesday, it also held water about 5 feet deep.

An indoor swimming pool was not in our plans.

Ghon looked down the stairs to the cellar and saw water up the stairs. It filled both rooms and was rising.

After about 90 minutes of pumping. The water covers the bottom two steps and had come up one more.

He quickly turned off the power in the house since he knew there was electric in the cellar. Frantic messages to me, at work with no cellular reception, conversations with Cindy and another trip to Lowes to buy a portable electric pump, Ghon chopped up my 100ft hose and got the water flowing out toward the creek. By the time I found out what was going on, I sat through a few more minutes of a meeting and jet. I stopped to get a stronger hose on my way in (pictured above). Fortunately, the pump was working and Ghon had pulled enough water out to drop the levels by about a foot.

You can see the water line on the door and the wall.

This looks off to the left room. See how high the water was?

This is the room on the right, and how high the water is. See the board floating with antique bottles?

Creating suction to get the pump going.

Output at the edge of the stream.

Such high hopes. Nothing was done in the house. Ghon spent all of his Christmas gift cards to buy a pump rather than a table saw. It was my birthday, and a flooded house was my gift. We had to find the bright spot. Create a little humor. Leave it to Ghon!

Big release!

Having 'fun'

With the pump running and the fun over, it was time to get the kids and dinner. Time to eat good in the neighborhood! We told our daycare provider what was going on in the house and she mentioned that the local fire department had once pumped their crawl space. Wheels in motion, I sent a message to a friend whose husband is the Assistant Chief at the local fire department. Although they were out of town, he was able to get in touch with some department members and we planned to meet up at the house after dinner and they finished calls they were on. Thanks, Assistant Chief Hagenmayer!

North Mountain Volunteer Fire Department - Attack 19 Truck

So thankful these two guys came out! It was COLD that evening.

Down the hole with a plate attachment to better suction the water.

Their hose is bigger than ours.

After a bit, I left Ghon at the house with the fire department and took the kids home. In the end, they dropped the water level to about 3 inches.

The next morning, Ghon headed off to the house to try to find the cause of the issue. About an hour later he came home and tossed this on my desk.

The culprit. Burst pipe from the main water line to the well pump.

The pipe from the well pump had burst. If you look back at the picture of the right side with the floating board, you can see some of the white wash missing on the rock wall. This is where the water was shooting out and hitting.

Ghon's not much of a plumber, but this was a job he felt he could handle, if he had a propane torch. He called Tim who thankfully had a torch. Even better, Tim had copper connectors and the right size pipe. Together, they got the pipe repaired in short order.

The electric was turned back on, and thankfully again, the well pump still worked, and the hot water heater was working too. Ghon still didn't get any work done, but not having to call in a plumber was a major bonus.

That evening, we moved one of the heat lamps from the chicken coop into the basement. All of the remaining water absorbed into the ground to create a nice mudslide. We turned on the single overhead light (a single light bulb), and ran an extension cord down to hang the heat lamp. Fingers crossed it helps keep everything warm enough to not freeze and maybe dry up some mud.

Ghon's father had put lots of pink insulation around the pipes, but we are going to update that a bit to some heat tape or new insulation. Can't have that happening again!

Despite all of the panic and the fear that comes with owning an indoor swimming pool, I had to keep reminding Ghon of the positives, and things to be thankful for, just as Cindy did.

  1. It completely sucked. But he found it before it rose another 2-3 feet, at which point it would likely have seeped into the living room, dining room, and kitchen floors. That would have majorly sucked. Not only that, but he found it period. Ghon doesn't usually have off on Tuesdays, let alone two days off in a row. So glad he went to the house when he did.
  2. Ghon really wanted to buy a table saw with his gift cards. We can use it for so many projects. Instead, it was used to buy a pump. Glad he had the cards to use!
  3. It's a good thing Lowes had a pump in stock!
  4. Now we own a pump. So if this ever happens again, we are set. Or Ghon's preferred thinking, he now has a pump to pull water out of the creek to water our garden this summer.
  5. We had the means to buy a pump, the pump was available, and well, the pump worked.
  6. Hooray for Company 19, the North Mountain Volunteer Fire Department. I am so thankful they helped pump the remaining water out. Ghon would have been there hours with no heat if it wasn't for them.
  7. No one was electrocuted. Remember, there was a bunch of electric down there.
  8. Through this exercise, we found that Ghon's dad wired the well pump and heater to the same circuit breaker. We now know to change this!
I'm sure I could think of more, but you get the point.

If you noticed, these pictures do not command the same quality as my other pictures. I've used my camera so much at the farm and the farm is so dirty, I've jacked up the lens. It started acting up here and there, and now it's nearly fried. Ghon had bought me a new camera for Christmas, but I kept saying I didn't need it. Until last weekend when I wanted to take pictures of the floor progress and the lens wouldn't extend, or would shut down at random. It just wasn't working for me. I gave in and put the new camera in my bag, and as I snapped the first flood picture...realized I'd left the memory card in my computer. We had to resort to cell phone pictures for all the flood action.

No worries, the card is now back in the camera. The new one. The one with a protection plan for when the lens jams this spring from taking it in and out of my pocket while gardening. Or taking pictures while sanding floors. You know, everyday life at the farm.

This is the official 100th post of the Project Farmhouse blog. I wanted it to be the great fireplace reveal. Instead, I got a flood. Guess it's still momentous.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Fireplace Reveal

This post has been a long time coming.

I've had the pictures in place for a few weeks.

I wanted this, the big reveal of the fireplace to be post 100! As I fretted over posting this weekend's exciting development, combining it with the big reveal, and knowing that the insert is still delayed and won't be here for at least another week, I bring you post 99. One of the most exciting in my personal opinion. I really wanted to wait until the insert was in to make the reveal, but with other news to share, it's going to have to wait for a special post of it's own.

Pictures (and their captions) speak 1,000 words. Behold, the fireplace transformation.

On the right, the only thing removed from the wall is drywall. A month later, the wood stove is gone and the fake bricks removed. Yes, fake brick front drywall.

This shot was taken after the demo party and the floor removal. Down to nearly bare logs and a fireplace filled with concrete. A total mess.

Well looky here. The first visit by our stone mason. Clearing out the fireplace.

The original fireplace exposed, mortar between the logs exposed.

Similar shot as above, but after I cleaned the logs.

Bringing the stone mason back to work - preparing the concrete forms to support the floor.

And then there was concrete.

This is where I stopped sharing pictures.Behold, the stone laying progress. Artwork in stone.

Progress after the first day of stone work.

Artist at work. Day two...

The end of day two. You may be asking what the wood pieces are there for. That's to secure the original mantle.

The end of day three. Stone to the top - and fresh mortar on the logs.

Our fireplace is alive! Live freaking moss on our fireplace!

Some artists sign their work with a signature. Ours left a smiley rock he found on the property the first time he visited. He found this rock on the hill, and I insisted it be somewhere on the fireplace.

End of day three - base mortar between the logs.

End of day four. The logs are rechinked a shade of tan and the hearth complete.


The full view. The mortar is still a little damp in this picture.

Size perspective. Roughly 8' 6" wide.

Size perspective - Hansel and Gretel style.

The final comparison. Before and after.

The fireplace was complete late last year, but we have been waiting, and waiting for the insert. Still waiting. Last Tuesday, we had a chance to get the floor timbers in the house, and seized the opportunity. Ghon, and his friends Clint and Ryan carried the timbers into the house. It definitely took three guys to do it. Even more amazing, they did it when it was about zero degrees outside.

Saturday was the first weekend day Ghon's had off in a while. We ran a few errands together with the kids then did some window shopping at Lowes before heading to the farm to work. I'd wanted to get Jonathan a tool kit for Christmas but never did. We found a complete set marked down and he was so excited to get it.

Trust me. He doesn't look excited in the picture, but that's because he wanted to work, not take pictures.

With his entire Lowes tool set on.

It was actually quite cute how many times Ghon used one of Jonathan's tools.

There was a lot of stopping through the afternoon while Ghon and I contemplating strategies, but in the end, we cut and placed two new support beams. Along the way, we tested the levelness of the floor using one of the floor boards. Too excited, we placed about 5 boards back into their spots. Tongue and groove, numbered in order as they came out - and they fit perfectly.

Smoke in the air from the chainsaw with Handy Fin ready to help. More support cutting, and finally, after about 10 months with no flooring, the floorboards are going back in!

We tested the boards out, then removed them and started over. We wanted the first board perfect to line the rest of the floor, or at least that side. Once in place, we started to secure #2, but ran into a dilemma.

Look at the picture below, and check out that little groove and where the arrow is pointing.

That my friends, is caked in dirt. That's what it looks like between your tongue and groove boards.

It was all along the board, but worst, of course, in the area by the door. Ghon kindly reminded me that a lot of it was probably old horse manure, as the the side door in the living room used to be the front.

Disgusting. One hundred year old dirt and poop.

We removed most of it off the next 2 boards. We were using a hammer and nailset, the claw on the hammer, and the wire brush with the metal scrapper. It was hard to get clean. We kept stopping and asking each other if it was worth it. Then kept doing it.

One lesson I learned that night was that I am far from the best hammerer. My Dad gave me mine own toolset for Christmas. My own tools that are black and PINK. I couldn't wait to use my own hammer. However,  Ghon would drive in the nails in 2-3 shots, while I'm on bang 20 and driving it crooked. I did much better setting the nails, so that's where we focused my attention.

We worked on the floor for about 4 hours Saturday. With a good foundation in place, we have fingers crossed Ghon gets the floor laid this week. He has off two days back-to-back. I will be so happy to be able to walk across the floor again and not worry about the kids falling into the rocks. I will be so happy to have the dirt hole covered and not worry about any critters hanging out that I can't see.

I will be so happy, as it will mean HUGE progress has been made. I couldn't wait to share the progress of floor installation - and since the fireplace made it into some of the pictures, you get the reveal as well. There are more details about the fireplace to share, but I'll save those for the final pictures with the insert.