Wednesday, February 27, 2013

First Things First

One of the important things we tackled first at our house remodel was getting a usable bathroom. 

The downstairs bathroom had an old iron claw foot tub which we removed.  I stripped the many layers of paint off the outside and feet.  I repainted a light cream color.  The inside wasn't in all that bad of shape.  It originally had sets of raccoon foot prints across the bottom.  Those pesky little critters were partying again.

The window was gone.  We stripped the wallpaper, removed the old paneling, installed car siding on the bottom half, wallpapered the top half, dry walled the ceiling, installed a ceiling fixture, wall vent and various other electrical outlets and switches.  All new plumbing, sink, toilet and hardware.  New sub floor, tile and paint.  Step by step put it all together and we had become almost human.

Speaking of windows, we installed 21 custom low E double pane windows, 1 picture window and 7 other windows, one double entry door, 4 single entry doors and two garage doors.  Most windows tilt in to enable us to wash them from the inside.  The house had five little windows and screens that could be raised into the attic.  Pretty darn advanced for it's day and totally worthless at the point of our purchase.  We now have crank out windows on these.  Fortunately, Jerry had spent some career time working for a window manufacturing company and knew how to install windows.

The tile floor was my first experience installing tile and I found it worked quite well even though it was rather back breaking.

The house had all painted woodwork.  The secondary room floors were simply unpainted boards.  The formal rooms had painted floors.  The painted wood was originally done in "Swedish wood graining".  It's a process the Swedes used, applying a coat of bright gold milk paint, a coat of brown which was then made to look like wood grain, and then varnished.  At some point, all this had been painted over and over and over.  I got it in my head to strip all the woodwork.  I started with this bathroom's door.  I used stripper, and more stripper, and hand sanded, and machine sanded and scraped and finally realized the milk paint had soaked into the wood so deeply, it was never coming out.  I left the back of the bathroom door stripped and sealed but it was my only attempt.  Hence, all our woodwork is painted a cream color.  We sanded the formal (living, dining and TV) room floors.  They are wide old boards of perhaps chestnut or maple.  They have lots of "character" which is saying they show their age.  We love them.  The rest of the rooms are either carpet, tile or faux wood.   

Our little downstairs bathroom isn't large but it's quite sufficient.  And, if we need a really good hot soak, the old claw foot tub is perfect.  Once it's filled with hot water, it keeps it hot for a long time.  It's deep, it's comfortable and it was free with the house.  The grand babies have loved "swimming" in it at bath time.

I grew up in an era where everyone had an outdoor toilet (For some reason, it was called the "outdoor john".)  Although we had indoor plumbing in our homes, I remember when the power went out (and it did lots), the pump stopped working and the outhouse experience was the trip I dreaded.  I'm of the era that is still grateful for indoor plumbing and this bathroom certainly reaffirmed that gratefulness.

This was the first room finished and it was an island in a sea of construction and mess.  It gave us the strength to know there would be a day when another room was done and then another and another.  This is the reason we would try to do one room completely at a time before moving on to another room.  (The exception was the major projects like electrical, windows and etc. that impacted the entire house.)

A home with a working indoor bathroom is a lovely thing.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Made in the Shade

We are getting a beautiful snow; big wet flakes sticking to everything including this little guy.  Today I'm dreaming of summer and shade needs. I've copied some beautiful examples of porch curtains. Porch curtains provide shade, block the wind and rain - something we'll be longing for in less than five months!

Our front porch
Our back porch

The first two are from my front and back porch.  Nothing terrible exciting or elegant, but, they do the trick.  The front porch curtains are on the West and the value is shade from the very hot western sun.  The back porch curtain is mostly protection from easterly summer rains.  The back porch curtain is made from some unknown indestructible fabric I bought years ago on sale.  I never take it down in the winter and it's still "hanging in there".  The front porch curtains are white cotton.  These come down in the winter because the freezing moisture would break the fibers.
In a populated neighborhood, porch curtains add privacy.  Create the right setting on a porch and it becomes another living space.  Curtains can also hide an unpleasant view without blocking the benefits of being outside. 

Use sturdy metal curtain rods or fashion your own from pipe.  It should be a material that doesn't rust.  They need to be very durable because the wind will pull the curtains, rain makes the curtains heavy and the rod needs to be anchored tightly.   

I prefer metal hoops to thread on the rods.  They slide easily and quickly.  Gathered or fabric tabs tend to stick in damp weather.  My back porch ones are gathered tightly because I never want to move them.  My front porch curtains are on metal shower curtain hoops because I like to pull them back when I'm not using.

I like to have tie backs to hold the curtains back when not needed or when the wind gets so bad it nearly rips the curtains off the rod.  I've sewn my tiebacks out of material, put hoops on the ends and use a cup hook to secure.  Fade resistant ribbon, jute string, bungee cords, chain, or anything sturdy will do.

  The fabric should be fade resistant and fairly durable.  Sunbrella canvas is one of the best known outdoor fabrics.  It sheds moisture (helping keep mildew down) and is nearly fade resistant.  It is costly.

I like fabric that can be washed or hosed down.  They get terribly dirty, will mildew if they don't dry quickly and insects can leave tracks.  I like curtains on both the outside and inside of the screened porch because of wind.  It keeps it from blowing so much.  Where there's no screen, one layer is enough. 

Some porches have curtains only as a decorative feature; simply for looks.  I like mine for functionality; second is the beauty.   

If cost is an issue, check out discount fabric shower curtains.  Don't use plastic because the sun will do nasty things to them.  Most fabric shower curtains are mildew resistant, have metal hoops for hanging, come in plain and crazy bright patterns, most are wide and long.  If they're too short, buy another panel and sew a strip to the bottom.  

Bright colors and patterns can add zip and zing to an otherwise blah porch.  Plain fabric can cool and calm on a hot day.  Bright colors will eventually fade.  Plain light fabric will show spots.

And on this really snowy day, how about a little "Walk of Life" to set your feet dancing and your mind on the possibilities of summer.

Sunday, February 24, 2013



This is a photo from David Libovitz's food blog.  It's what real Lebanese Tabbouleh should resemble.  It's not the heavily laced bulgur recipes of many of the top chefs.  It's real, healthy, fresh and delightful.

We made a trip to Peoria especially for Haddad Restaurant's Tabbouleh and Baba Ghanouj.  Died and gone to food heaven meal! 

Often, regional or ethnic food requires most of us to make a trip to a speciality food store.  The recipes often have processes that are long and unfamiliar to the average cook.  Not so with Tabbouleh. 

Not only is it wonderful and so good for you, it's possible to raise almost everything in your summer garden.

From Mama's Lebanese Kitchen

Lebanese Tabbouleh Salad Recipe
4 bunches - Italian Parsley, chopped finely, drained
1 bunch - Fresh green mint, chopped finely, drained
1 - Persian cucumber, chopped finely  (if using regular cuke, use only 4 inches)
5 - Medium sized tomatoes, chopped, drained
1 - Small white onion , chopped finely
1/4 C - Fine Burghul (fine cracked wheat #1)
1/3 - 1/2 C - Quality olive oil
1/2 C - Freshly squeezed lemon juice (only fresh will do)
1/2 - 2/3 tsp. - Salt
1/3 tsp. - Lebanese 7-Spices  *
(* Lebanese 7-Spices contain equal proportions of ground allspice, black pepper, cinnamon, ground cloves, ground nutmeg, Fenugreek, and powdered ginger.)
1.  Rinse all vegetables and let dry, especially the parsley and mint.
2.  Cut stems off parsley then chop tops finely.  Spread chopped parsley on paper towels and let rest for a few minutes in order to get rid of the moisture.  Parsley needs to be dry of moisture before adding to mixing bowl.
3.  Cut stems off mint and chop leaves finely.  Lay on paper towel and let dry.
4.  Chop tomatoes into small cubes of less than 1/2 inch and place in strainer to rid them of juice.
5.  Finely chop onions and mix with 7-spices.
6.  Finely chop cucumber.
Once mixed, Tabbouleh gets soggy quickly so even if you have all ingredients ready, don't mix until ready to serve.  Do not omit the drying and draining steps or the salad will be soggy. 
Add lemon juice on top of dry Burghul; add the olive oil and salt.  Gently and lightly mix all ingredients with a fork.  Too much mixing turns it soggy.  "Soggy" is not a good thing for this salad. 
It is often served on a lettuce or cabbage leaf.
I like to dip a piece of pita bread in Baba Ghanouj, then heap a spoonful of Tabbouleh on it and try to get it to my mouth before it slops down my chin.  I didn't say I was classy eating this.
Some like it with French fries, others as a side to meat and still others as a light summer lunch.
It's super healthy.  For those who must eat gluten free, I suggest experimenting with a few ground seeds in place of the wheat.  Nothing too powerful in flavor so as not to overwhelm the delicate balance of this salad.
If you're like me, I had to get over the thought of a mouthful of parsley and mint.  With this salad, it's the beautiful blend of subtle flavors.  (Spoiler alert:  take a trip to the restroom after eating this salad - I guarantee you will have enough parsley in your teeth to make a 12 year old boy hysterical.)
Garden tip:  Plant Italian parsley, mint (container it if you don't want it to spread), tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions this spring.  The fresh ingredients are easily found at local nurseries, seed catalogs, and farm stores.  This salad does not keep so having your own fresh supply will enable you to have it every single day.  With the exception of the onions, you could grow them in pots.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Hyacinth Bucket


Have you ever watched Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced “bouquet”) on the PBS show “Keeping up Appearances”?  It is funny in so many ways. 

For those familiar with the flower hyacinth, it’s the basis of a spring love affair.  The flowers will bloom even with a late spring, they are tough enough to withstand a snow, all the right colors to think candy Easter eggs and the fragrance is divine.

Several years ago I saw this particularly lovely odd shaped little vase at a thrift store.  It was cheap and it is now mine.  Over the years I’ve seen similar ones and now know and love my hyacinth vases.

The odd shape is basically a rather slender tube shaped bottom with a half round bulb shaped top.  Not always but mostly and they come in a variety of colors and materials. 

I decided to investigate my little finds on the net and I found just how to use them.  Buy hyacinth bulbs in the fall.  In November, add water to the vases up to about a half an inch from the top.  Place the bulb on the top part (it holds it from touching the water) and put in a dark cool (40-50 degrees) spot until January.  Avoid freezing temperatures.  The best way is an unheated basement with a paper bag over each one.

About January, the bulbs should have started to sprout and some may have started sending down roots into the water.  Remove the bags, bring to the kitchen and change the water.  Clean any vases that have mold or other film attached.  Throw away any bulb that isn’t firm.  Fill with water as before; replace the bulb, making sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bulb.  Set in indirect sunlight and wait for the wonders of nature to take you into spring.

There are also crocus vases shaped similar but the cup is smaller.  Almost any spring flowering bulb can be forced to bloom this way.  Some may need to be kept in the refrigerator a month prior to starting the process. Experts disagree on this step so take your pick.

Another method for those who want force bulbs but don’t want to start a new collection of vases is to simply put florist marbles in a clear glass vase.  Nestle the bulb half way into the beads.  Add water but do not allow the bulb to sit in the water.  Follow the same process as above.

 And should you want to get crazy over a new collection:  Hyacinth vases, sometimes called hyacinth glasses, are a big deal in England and big deal means they can be pretty expensive.  Some are from famous glass manufacturers, glass blown, pottery, various shapes all with titles, books written and pictures taken.  A particularly lovely English book on the vases was a grand total of $78.    

I was particularly taken with a cobalt blue collection.  The blue is difficult to find and apparently the favorite of collectors.  The good thing about collecting these little gems, not many folks really go to the effort to force bulbs.  It’s one of those things people often want to do someday but never quite get it done.  Most of us are busy with the holidays about the time bulb forcing takes attention.

Hoping mine will be as pretty as these.
Some catalogs will send inexpensive hyacinth vases with your bulb order.  If you’d like to see my little collection, check out my blog.  It’s pretty unremarkable by collectors’ standards but pretty sweet with those blooming hyacinths. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tricks of the Trade

Went to "Nursery School" at the I-Wireless Center this past Saturday.  Had not registered because the last few things like this I've attended were kinda boring.  They had been targeting sales rather than education or fun.

At the last minute a friend called and had a ticket available because someone cancelled.  I figured "Oh what the heck - it will be fun to visit with the other two gardeners going in the same car."

Well surprise surprise, it turned out to be a lovely day both visiting and the classes. 

I enjoy an honest gardener.  Sounds simple, but, if they're also in the business of selling products or themselves; most often the gardener taints their talk with half truths or sucking the buck.  None of that at this event.

The day started with author and Horticulture Manager for the Greater Des Moines Botanical Gardens  Kelly Norris, talking things he likes in gardens and why.  Many of his pictures were from his own personal garden.  Often during the day I heard a speaker say, "This is suppose to work in our Zone but I've never had any luck with it."  Kelly was no different.

Bud and Lisa LeFevre, Distinctive Gardens,  presented Trendy Annuals and Perennials 2013.  Bud is fun AND honest.  Didn't hesitate to tell us "It's new and I haven't used it yet."  Other than his typical tie-die shirts, Bud is especially known for his ability to do some really woozier container arrangements for the summer garden; he didn't disappoint.  Bud hint:  Successful container gardening means giving them good drainage. 

Next a lunch that was near perfect.  If you've ever ate big mega convention center food you know this was a huge surprise.  Food was seasoned, cooked to perfection and presented formally.  Service was quick and mannerly.  SCORE!

Ken White of Corn Crib Nursery and Garden Center  presented "Fruits in Your Garden."  Ken understands our local fruit trees and bushes (brambles) well; talked planting, growing and pests.  Seriously informative!  Ken's advice: 

Always buy disease resistant varieties.
Almost all fruit trees need another one for pollination (sometimes another variety). 

Last was Damien Parizek "Internationally known florist designer" of the  Milan Flower Shop  doing a dizzying demo on flower arranging.  Damien is an artist first and his medium of choice is fauna.  Three hints from Damien:

  1. Put an Efferdent tablet in an old cloudy vase with water - let stand and it will be sparkly and good as new.
  2. Put a splash of Clorox in the water with your cut flowers to kill bacteria.
  3. Always cut flower stems under running warm water to fill the stems with water; otherwise it will fill with air and the flower will wilt. 

Jeff Johnson, Sunnyfield Greenhouse and Garden Center, was also a speaker on "Sizing Up Your Landscape."  Jeff also had a booth of pretty plants; one of many booths for all things gardening.  The trick at these things is exactly how much weight in beautiful garden things can you haul around all day.  I saw a lady with a homemade laundry cart on wheels, a wood top and pull handle.  We all looked at it with envy!  So ugly, so homemade, so perfect!

And, you know I'm all into shopping small and local. This was a perfect opportunity to get to know local garden businesses. Bought an extremely hardy (lifetime guarantee) pair of clippers from Red Barn Organics, Aledo IL. They even come with their own little belt attachment - should I ever wear a belt while gardening..

Pruning Scissor w/leather holster- Stainless Steel (Lifetime warranty)

I'm home and still reading all the garden catalogs, coupons and advertising we were given in our orange bag.  Good job U of I Extension and the Rock Island County Master Gardeners!  A choice of fifteen talks and all mine were great fun.

Flower photos taken by Nancy Anderson.   Clipper photo from Red Barn Organics.  

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Horticultural Mystries

Agatha Christie
Climbing Rose "Agatha Christie"
Photo:  Heirloom Roses
Although I might be considered a light weight by some scholary folks, I love a good Agatha Christie mystery.  Miss Jane Marple, Herclule Perot, and others.  I enjoy an adventure with no overt blood and guts.  I like the odd little slueth fooling the more worldly.  I enjoy the descriptions of English life-style in the early 1900s.  Call me sentimental and I love it.

David Sachet as Herclule Perot

Christie has more than a few references to the horticultural world.  Inspector Perot was often pictured in the movies as wearing a very perfect boutonniere and his knowledge of all things included the properties of flowers and herbs.

Joan Hickson
Joan Hickson as Miss Jane Marple
Jane Marple learned much about the people in the village of St. Mary Mead by watching and listening while working in her English gardens.  Her knowledge of poisons apparently came from that garden familiarity.

Agatha Christie was long noted to write from her own experiences, inserting places and things she had witnessed.  She then spun a tale from those observations and many included the herbal/gardening world.

 On 13th April 1917 she qualified as a dispenser thus acquiring her knowledge of poisons.
Christie's summer home "Greenway"

My Flower Garden
Agatha Christie's favorite flower
 was Lily of the Valley

"Agatha Christie's Garden: Murder & Mystery in Devon"  is a DVD documentary/tour of her garden at Greenway.  The thirty acre Georgian retreat includes secluded paths, sumptuous gardens, elegant rooms, and untamed woods.  It tells how Christie's estate and its environs fed her imagination and figured in her works.

Christie's home and gardens 
in Sunningdale called "Styles"
Because the British love all things Christie, a garden called "Potent Plants Garden at Torre Abbey" has been landscaped.  Poisonous plants used by some of Agatha Christie's most notorious villains have come together in a new garden at the Abbey in Torquay, Devon. Christie was born in Torquay and her summer home "Greenway" is located nearby.  The Torrey Abbey Garden notes that, "In a final twist the potent plants are framed by a flowerbed containing horticultural clues pointing to four of Agatha Christie's short stories."
A couple of books with garden or plant themes:  "How Does Your Garden Grow?", "The Mysterious Affair at Styles".  A Christie garden would be a fun theme if you're looking for adventure.  

Sunday, February 10, 2013


Daylily "Quilt Patch"
Oakes Daylilies is running an educational series on (wait for it - wait for it):  daylilies.

Daylilies 101 is about daylily descriptions and what they mean.  Daylilies 102 talks about parts of the daylily.  I've talked about Oakes before. 

Oakes is my vendor of choice for daylilies.  They were tops in the Dave's Garden best commercial garden products list for 2012-13.  They have exceptional customer service and product.  They have a nice selection of daylilies and add new varieties every year.  They let you review their products on line and don't filter out the negative.  They put background and hybrid information with each lily.  Their prices are reasonable and competitive.

Daylily "Myth and Magic"

If you're new to daylilies or just want to see what their saying, go to
They have a facebook page and you can sign up for e-mail newsletters and notifications.  They don't pester you with too much stuff.

If you're needing a little shot of beautiful this morning, check out their products. 

Note:  Both Quilt Patch and Myth and Magic grow in my garden and both are featured in the newsletter.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Weather Talkin'

On our recent trip to visit family in Georgia, I was amazed to see their Japanese magnolias, daffodils and spring flowering shrubs blooming beautifully.  It was a tug at this gardener’s heart and started the yearning for our own spring.  Their spring was about a month ahead of time and this recent storm pushed their temperatures below freezing.  It’s going to be another unusual weather year.  Or, is unusual weather actually normal?  Apparently, extreme weather conditions aren’t all that uncommon.   

Weather predictions and reporting was originally passed through generations by lore or sayings.  Even though we have advanced methods for predicting weather, the old sayings have scientific proof and most are still spot on.  An example:  “Birds fly low - expect rain and blow.”  Birds do fly lower when the air pressure is low (and full of rain.)

Along with the lore sayings, weather historians use records in books, diaries and documents regarding good and bad harvests, unusual happenings, and daily events such as the first day flowers bloomed, when lambing took place, and etc. 

In 900 BC, Babylonians recorded wind directions.  In 500 BC, the Greeks recorded rainfall.  An English gent recorded weather data in the 1330s. 

“Proxy” measurements to reconstruct weather events prior to record keeping uses tree ring widths, coral growth, isotope variations in ice cores, ocean and lake sediments, cave deposits and others tests covering the last 2,000 years.  Some specific ice core drillings have revealed temperature back 800,000 years.

Although the formulating of equations of atmospheric motion used in forecasting was devised in 1922, it wasn’t successfully used until 1950.  The computerized numerical weather prediction system is now standard.  Did someone once say, “There’s nothing new under the sun.”?

Methodical thermometer-based records detailing weather information started in 1850.  This is the data used when weather records are broken or compared.

1950 also saw the first operational meteorological weather monitoring radar used by the US.  First used to track icebergs for shipping purposes, it was quickly realized it had more potential for such things as storms. This was also the era to start using balloons to measure weather data.

April 1960 was the launching of the first weather satellite showing cloud movement.  Now they are used not only for cloud movement but data to monitor vegetation growth, plague damage, track migrating birds, bats and can map forest fires.

To address some weather predicting as it pertains to us locally:

The US is the only nation that issues tornado warnings nationwide.  Tornado prediction employs all the current devices plus good old guess work.  It’s not possible to predict positively if a weather system will produce a tornado.  The day we left from Georgia, weather officials said there was a good possibility of tornados around the Atlanta area.  Indeed it proved true the next day.  We also experienced how turbulent that system was when we shook, bounced and shimmied through it ascending and descending in our small jet.

China and Greece have records of earthquakes dating back as far as 1800s BC and those countries continue to have severe ones.  The first recorded US earthquake was in California in 1769 but settlers talked about them in the early 1600s.   The first device to measure earthquakes was developed in the 1700s.   Our area sits above the New Madrid fault and the Mississippi Valley experienced some very powerful earthquakes in the early 1800s.  If you’re afraid of earthquakes, the safest states are: Florida, Iowa, North Dakota and Wisconsin. Stay clear of Alaska for the highest magnitude and California for quantity (averaging 10,000 annually.)   The Chilean earthquake in 1960 caused seismic waves traveling over the entire earth for many days.  Should you want to impress friends and trivia buffs, this was called “free oscillation of the earth” and it’s rare. 

Another old saying is “Everyone talks about the weather but no one does anything about it.” is true today.  Even amid our vast weather devices, predicting weather is often a best guess occupation.  Prevention or reversal of major weather is seldom possible even though the ecology can be damaged by man.  One thing for sure, the weather provides some pretty amazing talk around a cup of coffee at the local restaurants.

Resources:  Explorit Science Center, Wikipedia, NOAA,,

Monday, February 4, 2013


Garden writers can get inspiration from all kinds of places and things - some of it depends on the depth of imagination, perhaps an artistic eye, and the world around them.  In this case, it was a photo posted to the facebook page "Hippy Peace Freaks".  Yes, I'm of the era.  But aside from going off on a hippy tangent, isn't this a beautiful photo of a purple rose?  Since I don't have purple roses, I offer theirs because it's so enticing and inspiring.

Purple is not my favorite color although I don't hate it so much as simply don't think of it as something I want.  I do have quite a bit in my garden because it showcases other colors and can be rich, cooling, heated, black, or a partner. 

Daylily "Orange Vols" with hosta flowers
One of the strange purple combos in my yard is an unknown dark purple daylily next to the bright "Orange Vols" and an unknown light peach.  And they're all mixed in with purple hosta blooms.

I depend on purple for fall color.  If I didn't have purple asters, the gardens would be pretty lifeless come September.

I don't seem to be able to pass a flat of purple pansies each spring without tucking a few in my shaded window boxes.  The volunteer violas are so sweet and it's amazing how they can pop up through cracks in bricks.

Daylily "Night Beacon"
Along with pansies, I've never considered my violets invasive weeds as many profess.  I have a large bed of purple, white and multi colored violets growing in the woods.  A photo op waiting for me to walk the paths although I've never seen a photo as beautiful as this patch is in person.

Here's some pretty purples from my gardens.

Butterfly on asters
Double Petunia
French Iris

Daylily "Wayside King Royal"

 Note the many shades of purple.

The designs, substance, forms, and the seasons.  All purple!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Dungeon

Old heating system
The dungeon is how our basement looked (and smelled) when we started the house remodel.  Only it was worse!

Our home has steam radiator heat.  A wonderful system that provides consistent and economical heat.  Once those babies get hot, they can shut off and we will stay reasonably warm for almost six hours.  Iron is a great conductor of heat. 

The furnace/boiler/fuel feed system was really old.  It's was obvious the two chimneys had openings for stoves.  Whether these stoves were for heat or cooking isn't obvious.

At some point during the road down to vacancy, the tenants used coal, then wood, and finally trash to heat the boiler.  At some point, the hot ashes were removed and put into plastic containers.  Yes, not the best of plans since we hauled out (I use that term often) melted and hardened plastic goo buckets. 

Self explanatory!
Another obvious was bags of trash were often thrown down the basement steps.  That was the bags that weren't thrown outside.  Animals, weather and decomposition had made a scattered mess.  I am here to verify plastic anything does not decompose, but, can be blown into many an odd place.

It was obvious (again) many large unhappy dogs had been kept in the basement.  Large unhappy dogs tend to show unhappy by clawing and eating in an effort to become outside happy dogs. 

Once we had everything out of the basement, we had to find the origin of the horrible smell.  It was an uncapped sewage line.  The number of times we have realized we managed to not get poisoned, blown up, burned up, or gassed during this remodel was way too many. 

My husband replaced all the plumbing and hauled out the old water heater, boiler, heating tank, fuel feeder and more often unidentifiable stuff.  He then had to start shoring up all the load bearing walls since someone had removed many of the brick walls in the basement. 

We found out a portion of the north basement wall had been replaced but the dirt had been left in the basement (I don't know why) and it filled the old coal bin.  A couple of summer's ago, we had to replace the rest of the wall and we did remove the dirt - it seemed so logical.

Prior to shoring up wall & steel basement door 
For an old basement, it is relatively sturdy, dry and serves it's purpose.  It's only under some of the back of the house.  The front two rooms have a crawl space.  Under the back entry is the capped cistern. 

On our "wish we had done", the basement is one.  I wish we had lifted the house and installed an all new basement.  It would have been nice but it wasn't necessary.  When doing a job this size, we often had to balance "would be nice" against "could use that money on something else."  Never did we want it to be the kind of basement where you have livable rooms such as dens and extra bedrooms.

Jerry did clean it up with wall covering and we are able to store things in a clean environment.  Fortunately the entire floor is cement.  We put in a steel/locking outside basement door. 

Schisler's Heating from Abingdon installed all the heating system and electricals on the first pass.  Cordrey Contractors, Kewanee, did the basement walls and our new sidewalks.  Cone' Electric and Pat Duystchaver Electric, both of Galva, did the electricals for the generator and the line to the shed.  Ferrellgas, Galesbrug, is our propane supplier, Corn Belt Electric supplies our electric power, and Mid Century supplies our phone and fiber optic computer lines.  I mention these contractors and suppliers because they all did excellent work, service and at reasonable costs.

Contemplating new stairs & wall bracing
When doing a job of this size, we learned to appreciate excellent work and service.  We always tried to use local businesses.  It also helped that Jerry had the talent to do much of the work and we both weren't afraid of dirty hard work. 

We were warned that most marriages can't stand a house remodel.  The only time it came close to a tense situation was Jerry was installing beaded board and I was painting it.  Painting goes faster than installing and eventually I was painting right over him.  When a very large drip of paint hit his head, we had a moment of regrouping while he wiped off the paint, asked me to wait a bit, and I tried to stop laughing (it was a really big drip of paint.)