In the clear!

Finally! We can use our water again!

When it was almost 4pm and the septic guy hadn’t showed up yet, I called and left a message, asking if he was still going to be able to make it. I got a call over an hour later. He’d had a breakdown, but everything was up and running again, so he was on his way over. It was almost 6pm when he got here!

Then he had the “fun” job of turning his truck so he could back through the gate in the chain link fence and down the newly cleared lane in the snow. He did get a bit stuck a couple of times. Not because he was sinking in soft ground – that was still well frozen. Because he was driving so slowly and carefully, he ended up spinning his tires on ice!

One of the spruce trees at the edge of the grove, closest to the house, died last summer. I’d been thinking that, when we have it cut down, we could leave the stump to use to support one of the tables and benches we want to put in the area, eventually. Or maybe a platform feeder for critters.

I’ve changed my mind.

We’ll get that tree, and the other dead one next to it, cut down as flat to the ground as possible, so the septic truck has more room to maneuver! It’s pretty tight in there for such a large truck!

Then, as he was setting up the hose to the tank, he had to take a blow torch to the lever to turn on the suction.

A blow torch wielding septic guy. I love it.

Meanwhile, I made sure to uncover the tank, and take out the screw that holds the lid in place.

Unfortunately, I had to switch tips on the screwdriver, and the tips were frozen into their holder, so it took a while to get the one I needed out!

I got it done, though, and he was finally able to empty our tank for us.


Shortly after he started, he suggested I check the drain in the basement, which I did. I was happy to see that yes, the water level did start to drop.

The tank did not seem unusually full, but there really isn’t much that can be seen in this type of tank. Still, he made sure to empty both sides as much as he could. For the new folks following this blog (welcome!), our system is not the typical gravity based septic tank, where all the effluent drains into a single tank. The solids sink to the bottom and the liquid, when it reaches high enough, begins to drain through a one way valve to a septic field some distance from the tank. Under such a system, we would have had to put an insulating cover over the tank itself, then along where the buried line is, and finally a wide area where the field is. That’s the system most people have. Our system is a double tank system. The effluent goes into the first, smaller, tank. The solids sink to the bottom while the liquid eventually drains into the larger overflow tank. That tank has a float that triggers a pump in our basement. The pump then suctions the fluid through a pipe to a septic field that is way out by the barn. That outflow pipe is not buried, but sticks out of the ground, and the fluid is ejected from several feet up.

For the septic guy, that means he has to run his hose into both tanks. Several feet down from the surface, deep enough to hopefully not freeze in winter, there’s a top to the two tanks, with different sized holes for each tank that he has to fit the hose through. There just isn’t much that can be seen

In theory, we shouldn’t have to cover this type of tank for the winter at all, but it would be remarkably unwise to take that chance!

It’s not a common system, and plumbers really don’t like them. 😀 However, it does ensure that the septic fluids are nowhere near the house and well.

It also seems to be having all sorts of problems, though some of them would be problems whichever type of system is used.

Like what happened this time, it seems.

After the septic guy was done and the tank was all covered with the insulated tarp again, I quite happily flushed the toilet before heading into the basement.

Only to find the liquid in the drain had increased again. The pipe to the tank was still mostly blocked.


Honestly, I was expecting that to a certain extent, but it would have been nice if it had actually drained properly again.

It was definitely rubber boots and latex gloves time.

The first thing I did was loosen and remove the cap to the access pipe. It, too, had disintegrating toilet paper visible in it.

I’d had previously used the old hose we kept hooked up from the last time we fought with the system and pushed it through the floor drain for quite some distance, though not all the way to the tank. I tried it through the access pipe this time, and still couldn’t get it all the way through.

The other thing we’ve kept handy from before is an old wire chimney sweep. The wire is just the right combination of sturdy and flexible, and we could shove the handle end through the pipes, forcing it through any blockages, even when the pipe was full of roots. So I got the old chimney sweep out and tried to push it through. It was definitely hitting something that didn’t belong! I was able to force it through, and reach all the way to the tank. After I ran that back and forth a few times, I was able to get the hose through the blockage, too. Once I managed that, I finally turned the water on. It didn’t take long, and when whatever was blocking the pipe gave way, I could really tell the difference. Even the sound of the water was completely different. I was able to push the hose all the length of the pipe, until I could hear water splashing into the newly emptied tank.

What a beautiful sound!

After clearing the access pipe out, I moved the hose over to the drain in the floor. I’d already cleared as much of the muck into a garbage can that I could, but it was still pretty… thick. Thankfully, I wasn’t seeing any brown in there! Still, the pipe between the floor drain and the access pipe was pretty stuffed. It made me wonder just how long this had been building up! Especially after I changed directions and ran the hose towards the weeping tile under the new part basement. Yes, things had backed up all the way to there, too!

My main concern with the pipe in that direction was tree roots. Yes, I did find more small tree roots as I was working on it, but not enough to be blocking anything. The blockage was all from the plumbing backing up into it.

So… that took a while, but I finally got water free flowing through the whole thing.

One good thing about having an unfinished basement with a concrete floor is that I can just take a hose to it to clean things up! With the drain clear, the floor got a cleaning before I could finally close everything up again and put things away. The very last thing to do was set up and plug in the blower fan, to help everything dry out faster.

How wonderful it felt to be able to wash up when I was done! Yay, freeflowing water!

For all the work that was involved, it really was just a one person job. Before I’d headed down to start, my older daughter had a proposition for me as their contribution.

Chinese food.

Which I gratefully accepted!

So after getting all cleaned up and changed, we got Chinese food for supper. The handy thing is that it takes the same amount of time for them to prepare an order as it does for us to drive over to pick it up. 🙂

We can tackle dishes tomorrow. For today, we’re far more interested in being able to take showers and do laundry!

Meanwhile, there is still the sump pump to deal with. I checked the hose while I was outside. Though cold, the sun on black plastic did seem to make a difference. At least as far as I could tell with the flexible hose. No way to know about the pipe through the wall. When things warm up again, I want to see if I can take the hose off and check the pipe to make sure it really was just ice that was blocking it, and not something else! I don’t want to open it up while things are still cold, and the plastic might crack. Until then, I’m leaving the sump pump unplugged.

What we still don’t really know is, why this happened at all. While clearing the access pipe, which is cast iron, I felt what seemed to be a bottleneck of some sort. Or maybe just a really rough area. There could be damage to the pipe that toilet paper catches on – and once that catches, anything else, whether it’s from the bathroom or the kitchen sink, could start getting hung up on it. We’re forever pulling cat hair out of the drains, so even that could be getting caught, though to be honest, I saw no signs of that.

The only way to know for sure would be to find a plumber that has one of those fibre optic cameras, so we could actually see the problem. And that’s not going to happen, any time soon!

However, it does mean it would probably be a good idea to regularly run that hose through the floor drain and run water through the pipe to clear anything that might be building up, as a regular maintenance thing.

This makes the third time since we’ve moved here that we’ve had septic issues leaving us unable to use our plumbing.

Very annoying!!

The Re-Farmer

Sump pump issues!

In the 4 summers we have been here, I think our sump pump turned on only a couple of times, in the first two years. Conditions had bee so dry the next two years, the reservoir was pretty much empty. The only times it turned on was when we had to empty the hot water tank completely, to replace it. We partially drain it to shock it hydrogen peroxide every now and then, but not enough drains out to trigger the float.

So when I heard a pump running while in the bathroom during the night – we could hear it nowhere else – I didn’t even recognize it for what it was. When the noise was still going the next time I was in the bathroom, I was flummoxed. At first I thought the sound was actually coming from the space heaters our daughters use upstairs. Sound carries strangely in the house. I thought nothing of it, and went out to do the morning rounds.

Later, I tried to use the hot water in the kitchen, and had issues. I didn’t know my daughter had shocked the tank last night, after I’d gone to bed, so I went to check in the basement.

Which is when I found this.

This is our sump pump set up, which is directly under the bathroom. The pump was running, but there was enough seepage to create that puddle on the floor. The water was not draining out of the reservoir. Thankfully, it wasn’t getting any higher, either, but the pump just kept running.

So back outside I went. The first thing I had to do was dig out the end of the drain hose, which runs into the old kitchen garden.

It was under a drift, of course.

There was no sign water had drained out the end, and it was completely unclogged.

Then I dug out the area in front of where the drain pipe comes through the basement wall. Once that was free, I could pull the hose from where it ran along the side of the house and the sun room, all the way out, then run it down the access path to to the wall.

From the flexibility of the house, I could determine that the first couple of feet from the wall had ice in it. The rest seemed pretty clear. Yes, I could hear the crunching of ice in places, but no blockages. I didn’t want to bend it too much, though, so as not to crack the frozen plastic.

The next thing to do was set up an extension cord and a hair drier.

Since I was going to have a cord running through the doors, this meant Butterscotch and Nosencrantz couldn’t stay in the sun room. I was able to get Nosencrantz into the old kitchen, but one of my daughters had to catch Butterscotch and get her into the old kitchen.

Well, we were talking about bringing them in earlier. My daughter had through Saffron and Turmeric would be going to the vet yesterday, not next week. So we talked about bringing them in tonight.

Nosencrantz is currently isolated with me in my bedroom/office right now. Butterscotch is still hiding somewhere in the old kitchen.

I had to unplug the power bar for the heated water bowl and ceramic heater bulb in the sun room, then run the cord across the outside wall.

The next while was spent warming up the hose, pausing to try and break things up inside very now and then (using the snow shovel to keep the hair dryer off the snow!). Meanwhile, a daughter was in the basement with one of the space heaters, trying to warm up the hose where it came through the wall, as it seemed to be blocked straight through.

Things did start to drip. Which should have melted ice from the inside, so that the water could finally get pumped through, but it never got more than a drip.

After doing as much as I could outside, I joined my daughter in the basement and simply used a bucket to drain the reservoir. It’s not all that deep, but deep enough that I ended up having to attach wire to the handle of the bucket, then used the handle of a broom to push it down and fill it with water until I could pull it up with the wire. Then I could drain it into the old laundry sink. My daughter, meanwhile, was stuck standing there, holding a space heater and aiming it at the pipe.

Once we could be sure the pump wouldn’t turn back on again, we stopped. That the water didn’t drain at all in this time has be concerned that the blockage might not be ice, but some sort of crud. Which shouldn’t happen. The foot of the sump pump has a filter to keep stuff out.

I think the only way to know for sure would be to take the hose off the pipe on the outside and actually look. There should not have ever been water in there to freeze. Not only because the pump hasn’t turned on in ages, but even if it had, water should have drained away from that section of pipe, not sat there to freeze.

It’s not something we can do now. I don’t want to risk cracking hoses or pipes or fittings in this cold. We’ll just have to keep an eye on the reservoir and make sure this doesn’t happen again. The hose end, meanwhile, now runs into the main path, and we can see it from the kitchen window.

Meanwhile, we are now working on Nosencrantz and Butterscotch. Butterscotch could not be lured out even with cat nip, though I have at least seen her skulking around under shelves and whatnot in there.

Nosencrantz, on the other hand, is quite happy in her new surroundings. The girls came in while I was writing this to give her some attention, and she was just luxuriating on the bed, reveling in skritches. We will slowly let other cats in, one or two at a time, to introduce them. Right now, Cheddar is in here, as one of the more laid back cats. Nosencrantz did hiss at him a bit, even though he was just sitting there, looking at her.

So far, so good.

Let’s hope it stays that way!

The Re-Farmer

Getting all knobby

In my last post, I commented that it sounded like my daughter was finished cleaning the knobs that we found to fix the door to the old kitchen.

I was wrong.

She was down in the basement, using the buffer in my Dremel kit on the knobs!

She just took this project right over, and I’m happy she did. She did a much better job than I would have! 😀

This is how the knobs looked when I dragged them into the light.

Even as filthy as they were, they were still kinda pretty!

Oh, did they ever clean up good!

These two were out of the running. We were never able to get that screw out, and the bar was very wobbly. Also, there was no screw to fit the black knob.

We had these two bars to work with. They were both the same size as the damaged one, except for the length. These are shorter than the damaged one.

These are the knobs that came off the door, with crud and paint removed, revealing some of the copper.

These fit on the threaded bar, and had their own screws, but we didn’t want to use these again. Not when we had such pretty alternatives!

Aren’t these pretty? Uncovering the gold colour on the one was a very pleasant surprise.

These are threaded, so we could use them on the threaded bar. They are a bit smaller, though. Plus, we liked these ones, better.

We did not expect one of them to turn out to be brass! And that decorative one… wow, did my daughter do a great job cleaning that up! Especially where the paint had gotten right into the design. Their large sizes are more comfortable in the hand, too.

These fit on the non-threaded bar.

Sort of.

There was only one screw between them. Though we had screws from the other knobs, this one was longer, to fit into the holes in the bar, and the threads were different, too.

The screw went into the silver knob, which is where it came from originally. The bar fit very tightly into the brass knob, but without something running through the knob and into the bar, it could still get pulled off.

If we didn’t have a screw, we could still use a peg, right?

My daughter ended up using a piece of bamboo chopstick and trimmed it to fit. Then she installed the knobs into the door.

After hours spent scrubbing, cleaning and buffing, it took about a minute to install! 😀

The only problem is, the bar is too long. Even taking into account the different holes at each ind of the bar that would allow for some adjustment. With the original bar, the knobs could screw in as far as necessary to fit. The non-threaded bar isn’t that flexible. There are only so many holes that could be used to set the knobs.

Which means the whole thing gets pulled in and out while being used. The knobs actually fit into the openings in the plates perfectly, though.

Man, that door looks so battered and gross, now that it has these shiny, pretty knobs!

You can see the peg on this knob, left long to make it easy to remove, if necessary.

As we tested the door, there were still some problems opening and closing it that left us concerned that we’d be breaking the bar or something. This has long been an issue with the door, completely aside from the troubles with the knobs. It reminded me to take a closer look.

Sure enough, the top hinge plate was coming loose from the frame.

The hinge plate – and the screws – was painted over, of course.


My daughter was able to get it tightened, though, and that solved the problem. The door latches open and closed much more smoothly now.

Looking at the door while it was closed showed something very odd. I’d never looked closely before. I’d noticed the gap between door and frame at the top before; that’s easy enough to see. This is a very dark spot, so I used a flashlight to examine the rest of the door and frame and discovered that, by the middle, the door was flush against the frame. At the bottom, however, there was a very small gap that had opened up after the top hinge plate was tightened against the frame.

Normally, I would say that this was because of the house shifting, but the size of the gap at the top of the door, where it ends up snug against the frame in the middle, only to pen up again at the bottom, suggests to me that the door itself isn’t straight at that edge. Chances are pretty good it has been like this since the door was first hung!


Now that the door is secured and the knobs replaced, we’ll just need to add something to keep the knobs from sliding back and forth as the door is used. I’m not sure what to use, yet. Need to think about what we’ve got, lying about!

I think, in the future, I’m going to be keeping an eye out for any other old doors lying around. If we’ve got another similar door in a shed somewhere, we might be able to salvage the parts and pieces and replace the current bar with a shorter one.

The important thing, though, is that it’s fixed. That means, when I go out to do my rounds in the morning, I won’t have to get someone to let me into the house when I’m done!

The Re-Farmer

Dealing with knobs

The delay we had as we prepared to take Tuxedo Mask to the vet requires a bit of background explanation.

For the past while, we have been going in and out of the house through the sun room. While I did a repair on the door of the main entry, where it was falling off its hinges, it didn’t last. The wood continued to split, and the door frame itself is splitting. Basically, we need to replace the entire door and frame set, which I hoped would have been done by now, but other things laid claim to our budget. We avoid using that door, so as not to damage it even worse. We do have another door in the dining room, but that one doesn’t have a key lock, and has troubles closing. Yeah, that door and frame needs to be replaced, too, but at least nothing is splitting apart. Anymore. The storm door on the outside was badly rotted at the bottom, and my brother repaired that before we moved in, sweetheart that he is.

Going outside through the sun room, however, means first going through a door to the old kitchen. That room isn’t heated and has little insulation, so we use it for storage and the chest freezer, and it’s a critter safe place to store our garbage bags until we can get to the dump. The cats are not allowed in there, but they sometimes slip through.

The good thing is, it is a buffer zone. The old kitchen goes out into the sun room. There is the original (?) wooden door on the inside, and a storm door on the sun room side. When the sun room was added on, the storm door stayed, and comes in quite handy.

The sun room acts as another buffer. There have been times where inside cats have made it as far as the sun room, or outside cats as far as the old kitchen, but not at the same time, thankfully! 😀

Then there are the sun room doors to outside; an inner door and a storm door, both salvaged. My late brother worked in demolitions, and most of the sun room was built with material he was able to salvage from who knows where!

It’s the old kitchen door that has been increasingly a problem.

From the inside, the knob worked only in one direction. If you turned the other direction, it would just spin in place. The door itself didn’t want to stay closed, and sometimes I would think I closed it behind me, only to come back later and discover cats milling around the old kitchen! Both knobs were also loose and rattled, but the outside knob (the old kitchen side) seemed to work better.

Until today. When it suddenly just didn’t.

While getting Tuxedo Mask into the cat carrier, my daughter needed to go back into the house, and couldn’t open the door. The knob just spun in place, doing nothing. My husband had to open the door from the inside to let us in!

Before we left, I quickly took a couple of photos of the door knob, with plans to go to the hardware store while my daughter took Tuxedo Mask to the vet.

Yes, this is a very, very old door. It’s the original, I believe, which would mean it’s been there since about the 1930’s. I don’t think that’s the original knob, though.

Once at the hardware store, I asked for help, so I could be sure I got the right kind of replacement knob. The first two staff weren’t sure, so they got the manager to help me.

He took one look at the photos and said, “no.”

He had no door knobs that would work. If we tried with a modern door knob, we’d have to drill a new hole.

That would mean removing the plates, of course.

You’ll notice how thoroughly painted over it is on this side. Even if I manged to get the screws out, getting it free of the door, without damaging it, would be difficult.

Of course, the other side is painted over, too.

He suggested that I try a second hand store. Sometimes, people donate their old door knobs.

Which is when I remembered finding door knobs when we cleaned out the new part basement. Some downright pretty ones, in fact.

Once we got home, got Tuxedo Mask set up in the sun room and my other daughter let us into the house, I headed straight for the basement. The knobs were easy to find, as I’d put them all in the same drawer.

Rifling through, I found three potential pairs of knobs. There was one more, but it was a more modern knob with its own plate that couldn’t work.

I started off by trying to clean them first. My younger daughter came along to help and, from the sounds of things as I write this, she finally finished. She was absolutely determined to clean all the recesses in that one more elaborate knob. A couple of them had paint on them, and all of them were incredibly filthy.

I’m going to have to take a photo of how they look after cleaning. They are gorgeous!!!

The screw on the white enamel one, however, is damaged and we can’t do anything with it, so that one’s not an option. My daughter worked out which two fit knobs together best while cleaning them.

After a while, I went to take off the old knobs.


One of these days, I’d like to get the paint off this door and refinish it. Maybe with a nice stain or something. It’s not a standard size door, so if we were to ever replace it, we’d be resizing the entire door frame. It’s in a log wall, so that’s probably not an option.

It took a while to get the knobs off, as the bar was deeply threaded into each of them.

Can you tell which one is the one I took off the door?

Yeah, the bottom one.

No wonder the knobs wouldn’t work right.

My daughter and I were just starting to clean the knobs I found in the basement when my mother phoned. Eventually, I mentioned to her what happened to the door. As I described it, she started telling me that I could get my brother to fix it. You know, the brother that lives an hour and a half away. :-/ I told her that we couldn’t do that. Then I had to explain – again – that we don’t use the main doors anymore, and why, so these doors are the ones we use all the time, now.

As I was adding in why we couldn’t use the dining room doors either, my mother started asking, why is everything breaking down all of a sudden? I told her it isn’t “all of a sudden.” These things were breaking down for many years. It’s just that nobody noticed it happening. Even my dad, while he was still living here, would no longer have seen a lot of it and, even if he did, was in no position to do anything about it. Now we’re here, and very active, so things that have been slowly breaking down over the years are finally just giving out.

Aren’t we the lucky ones? 😀

I think she even got it a bit, because she started talking about how she had relied so much on the boys taking care of things, she didn’t know anything about it all.

Which is a huge step forward from her usual, “you need a man in the house” lecture! 😀

So, hopefully, we’ll get the door working again tonight, or maybe tomorrow morning. The knobs have been scrubbed with vinegar and water and I want to make sure they are completely dry before we put the ones we’ve settled on, into the door. Once I got them off, I realized the knobs themselves are just fine. They even look a lot nicer, once the paint and scunge was removed! We much prefer the pretty ones, though. Hopefully, it’ll work.

If not, we’ll have to start digging through some of the sheds and the barn, and see if there are some really old doors we can steal the knobs from.

The Re-Farmer

Pretty faces, and most of a day gone

Just look at who I got to say hello to, this morning!

The beautiful Nosencrantz let me pet her, but wasn’t too happy about me coming any closer, so I let her be.

While this handsome gentleman (yes, we have been able to confirm Agnoos is male – and I may as well spell his name phonetically! LOL) was the opposite. He started off stand-offish, letting me pet him, but moving away, letting me pet, moving away… Then I straightened up and was about to move, then I felt a cat winding around my legs. Yup! Agnoos actually came over for more pets, and I was even able to pick him up and cuddle him!!! Yay!!!

I had a bit of a change in plan today. I had called my mother last night to see if she needed any help with grocery shopping. She said no, but then mentioned the heat wasn’t turning on at her place, and it was very cold. She had just been talking to my brother and he had said something to her about it, for me to check. She couldn’t repeat what he had said, and I couldn’t figure out her paraphrase. But it wasn’t a big deal, she insisted. I didn’t have to come over. She would wait until my brother came out to check it. *sigh* It was a short call, as her program was about to start, so I called my brother immediately after I got off the phone with her. It turned out he wanted me to check the breakers. Which I could never have been able to figure out from what my mom had said! I mentioned her saying she would wait for him to check it, which just left us shaking our heads. Why make him drive almost 2 hours after work, when I’m less than half an hour away and can do the same thing?

So this morning, I did a short version of my rounds, then called my mother up about coming over. It turned out she’d had a sleepless night, so she asked me to come in the afternoon. That gave me enough time to finish my rounds and grab a quick lunch, then I headed over.

The breakers were fine. She though she’d turned her thermostats up to 25C, but it was only at 20C, and wasn’t turning on. So I turned them up. Then, since she knew I would be coming this afternoon, she asked if I could help her with grocery shopping.

I had used her car, just in case that would happen!

So we did that, but as I was folding up her walker in and out of the car, I noticed the seat was falling off. Once back at her place and the groceries were put away, I checked it out. The seat is attached to the frame with a pair of loops, so it’s like a hinge. I could see both screws were getting loose, but one was falling out completely. I flipped it around to look at the other side, and discovered that both loops were already missing their screws on the other side!

Of course, these aren’t ordinary screws. For starters, they needed a hex key to tighten them, which I didn’t have, but I did have a screwdriver with Robinsons tips (square tips: it’s a Canadian thing), which worked well enough.

While I was working on that, my mother made tea, so of course, I had to stay for a visit. 😉 I don’t mind, since I know she is lonely will all the social activities still banned in her building. Still, by the time I was leaving, I had to rush to get to the post office before it closed, to pick up a package.

Oh, and I remembered to turn her thermostats down before I left. When we got back from grocery shopping, the apartment was way too warm, so I turned it down just a few degrees. Hopefully, she will be happy with that!

By the time I got home, I noticed that, while we have a nice, warm and sunny day, the wind has picked up a lot. I had intended to be working outside today, but have missed the best hours for the work. Ah, well. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get some of it done before it starts getting too dark, and the weather holds over the next while. In fact, now that I’ve finished grabbing a quick supper, I’ll be heading out now!

So much work to go, so few daylight hours to do it in!

The Re-Farmer

Our “second bathroom”; footing

Today, temperatures dropped quite a bit from yesterday’s warmer than forecast day. We reached a degree or two warmer than forecast, with rather high winds. I used it to do a bunch of jobs outside. One of them was to finish putting rigid insulation around the bottom of the house, in preparation for winter. The only area I didn’t finish was around the back tap for the hose, since we will be using it for a while longer.

We seemed to be short some insulation pieces, though. My daughters had brought them from summer storage in the old barn for me, so I went to see if maybe some pieces got missed among the junk.

There wasn’t any, but I did use the opportunity to grab some stuff I decided to use on the floor of the outhouse, with an extra piece for outside the door.

I’d noticed these scrap pieces a while ago and thought they were some type of black, high density foam. Sort of like the super durable stress reliever stuff used on shop floors. Well, that’s probably what these were originally used for, but they turned out to not be foam, but some sort of synthetic rubber.

The pieces I grabbed had already been hacked to smaller sizes, though still bigger than the outhouse floor. They also turned out to be far heavier than expected, for their size.

I trimmed one of them to fit on the outhouse floor, then washed them down with a hose…

… and discovered they were actually blue!

I didn’t scrub them any more than this, because I really don’t care about their colour. What scrubbing I did was good enough for the outhouse floor!

I didn’t bother trimming the second piece at all. This stuff is not easy to cut! It just got a bit of a cleaning to get the big stuff off. This piece is to for a non-slip surface on the metal sheet that’s covering the gravel used to patch and fill the hole was under the door.

I had trimmed the rough edge on the piece of inside, then cut slits to match the door frame, so it would fit around it.

This stuff should work well to protect the floor. If one of the boards ever does go, it’ll keep a person from having their foot go through! Plus, it’s not so thick that it would make it uncomfortable to sit while using the… facilities. 😉

Though it does look like we’ll need to paint the floor, after all. Which will get done when we’re ready to paint the outside, which is a project for next year.

The Re-Farmer

Clean up: our “second bathroom”, done for now!

Well, we’ve done as much as we can with the outhouse for now, and I think it’s turned our rather well!

The first order of business was to paint the shelf boards.

The longer one was the one that got painted on one side, and the edges, yesterday. I decided to paint the remaining section of the board, too, for a future shelf after we get more shelf brackets. After a cleaning and a sanding of the rougher edges, it gone one side and the edges painted, too.

Leaving those to dry, I put up the shelf brackets, living them up with the top of one of the boards.

That screw in the top corner was a real pain in the butt to do. There’s almost no space for the screwdriver! I also put the screws to attach the board part way, so that when I came back later, I’d only need to bring the screwdriver.

I noticed one of the girls had moved the mermaid toy into the middle shelf (I’d put it on the bottom). Remembering that there were some fake flowers in the garage, I went digging around and found some small ones to put beside her. 😀

After giving the shelf boards a couple of hours to dry, I came back later to put up the longer shelf board.

We wanted the shelf to be pretty high up, but when I tried to put it in place, I found it was narrower than where I’d checked the fit, before! Not by much, though, and I was able to jam it in and screw it in place.

That done, it was time to paint. Since there was so little paint left, the first thing that got done was the other side of the second shelf board, then the inside of the door. The back wall was done as high as the shelf, and the wide walls on either side of the seat box were done.

There was just enough paint left to do the wall joists in the middle, and the final dregs were used to paint the inside edges at the bottom boards under the joists. I’d painted the tops, but not the inside edges before. One of the boards only had half an edge along most of its length; a chunk seemed to be missing! LOL

Then I cleaned off the paint brush on the toilet lid again. 😀

After washing up the paint supplies (including the empty can; I figure we can reuse it for something), I took a couple of decorated terracotta plant pots we’d found when we first cleaned out the sun room and put them on the new shelf.

Gosh, that looks so much better!!

The girls are already talking about getting another gallon of paint to add another coat in the future. Other than adding the battery operated light inside, whatever we figure out for the floor, and eventually replacing the toilet seat, it’s basically done on the inside. Oh, and the latch for the inside.

While waiting for the painted shelves to dry, I took a closer look at the outside.

This is one of the hinges that needs to be replaced.

Why does it have four different screws???

The other one has three different screws.

I also took the metal thing that had been in front of the door, to cover the hole that was getting bigger, over the wire mesh at the back. I didn’t even bother to level it or anything. That can wait for when we actually paint the outside.

I also looked at the roof, thinking ahead to when we fix it up. There’s quite a lot of rotted edges on there. :-/ One of the things I wanted to do in repairing it was making an overhand above the doorway. We definitely want to have it overhang the roof trusses, too. After they have been reinforced because of the rotten edges!

It would be good if we can get that done before winter, but we shall see. After the roof is done, we’ll work on painting the outside. The front of the outhouse is white, but the other three sides are a pink. It may have started out as a red, but there’s so little left, it’s rather hard to tell. You can see some of it in the above photo.

The girls want to keep the pink. 😀

By the time we’re done, this thing is going to be downright adorable. Plus, it will last longer, until we build the outdoor bathroom we have planned.

The Re-Farmer

Clean up: our “second bathroom”, inside and out

I’m a sucker for punishment.

The plan was to head over to the outhouse, quickly do a second coat of paint until we ran out, then get back to working on the bread baking.

Instead, I kept adding more things to do, and by the time I got inside, I had to get my daughter to continue the bread baking, as I was no longer physically able to do it. Which is what she is working on now, as I write this blog post!

While looking for something else entirely, I found a pair of wooden shelf supports and instantly realized that they could be painted and used to put a shelf in the outhouse. So when I headed out to do the second coat of paint, I also poked around the barn and a shed to find a thin board wide enough for the supports. It was about six feet long, though, so I basically held it up to the outhouse door from the outside, and eyeballed where to cut it to fit along the back of the outhouse. It ended up being just over half the length of the board, so I figured if I was off with the longer one, I could still use the slightly shorter one.

It ended up being just a hair too wide to fit between the corner posts. A few swipes with a micro plan and some sand paper was enough to get it to fit perfectly!

That done, I sanded the rough edges, then scrubbed and hosed it down before setting it aside to dry. Then I added a second coat of paint, just to the seat box inside, before painting the shelf supports.

I’m thinking I might paint the rest of the board, too. If we get more shelf supports, we can add it onto one of the side walls.

It took a while for the washed shelf board to dry, so I decided to give the mirrored shelf a scrub down, too, then once that was dry, I hung it back up inside the outhouse.

Rolando Moon decided she absolutely had to be on top of where I was putting the tools and screws! The violent beast went from demanding I pet her, to attacking the hand that was petting here, making me bleed! I did manage to get the screws with washers out from under her, though.

I just wanted the washers, though. There were just two, for the top screw holes, which are slightly wider than the bottom ones. I used new screws to hang the mirror back up. After washing the blood off the new screws and washer, from the wound Rolando Moon gave me!

Previously, it had been hung up right against the centre joist, but I chose to centre it between the corner and the joist, instead.

Then, I just had to do it…

I just had to put the little mermaid I found while I first emptied and cleaned out the outhouse, inside the cabinet.

She lives here now.


Once we’ve picked one up, the LED battery operated light switch will be mounted directly opposite the mirror.

By the time this was done, the shelf board was dry.

After removing Rolando Moon, I got the one side painted. Tomorrow, I will paint the other side. By then, I should be able to mount the shelf supports, using the boards on the wall to make sure they are level, then attach the shelf board once the paint is dry. Only then will I continue doing the second coat of paint inside, until the can is empty. If I end up not doing the ceiling, or the narrow parts around the door, that’s not going to be a problem. As long as the areas that are most likely to get scrubbed in the future get a second coat, it’s all good.

Since I could no longer work on the inside, I decided to work on the outside, and empty the pit of groundhog gravel.

The wire mesh on the back was held in place by being hooked onto two bent nails, that were nowhere near each other. You can see one at the top right. The other is barely visible, near the bottom left. It didn’t take much to remove the mesh.

There was a second, smaller piece of mesh, partly buried until a thick layer of grass and roots.


That took some doing to move out of the way.

I thought I would be able to remove the two bottom boards by taking off the smaller pieces on the side, then pulling them off. They where, however, thoroughly nailed in place, with old and rusted nails that were not about to come out. So, I instead dug out my jig saw and used it to cut a piece off the bottom.

As you can see, it’s solid gravel against it! I ended up having to cut a second piece off. I was then able to start shoveling the gravel out, and when I could no longer get the shovel far enough in before the 2×4 across the bottom stopped me, I used a garden hoe to move more gravel closer, then shoveled some more.

I never did reach the … compost… layer. I did hit a lot of rocks, though! I emptied it as best as I could, without removing the more recent… deposits.

Then it was time to cover the hole back up.

I put the two pieces of siding back, then screwed the bottom one to the 2×4 behind it. The next time we need to get under there, we can just remove the screws and the boards will easily pop out again.

I then folded the smaller piece of wire mesh to fit the opening. I found a scrap piece of board with screw holes already in it, so I used that to fasten the mesh in place. The wire is folded at the bottom and weighted down with rocks. Critters can still get in if they really wanted to, but this is temporary. When we get to painting the outside, we’ll make things more permanent, perhaps replacing the cut boards with a hinged flap that can be latched to keep the critters out. Who knows.

I have no idea why that other large piece of wire mesh was used to cover almost the entire back of the outhouse. It really served no purpose, since only the gap at the bottom needed to be covered. Even the smaller one on the bottom couldn’t keep the critters out.

I was able to fill the wheelbarrow with clean groundhog gravel! If there was any chance the shovel full I pulled out wasn’t clean, it went onto the nearby cat litter compost pile, instead.

The clean gravel was put to good use.

It was enough to make a thin layer on top of the boards in the path between the new low raised bed boxes. The bigger rocks went up against one of the boxes, where there is a larger gap, then it all got spread out and hosed down, so that the finer particles would wash into the gaps between the boards below. It seems to be more clay than sand and gravel, though. We will still need to add more, but this is a good start.

And that was it for today!

Deciding to include a shelf added at least an extra day to finishing the inside, but I think it will be worth it. I’m more happy about getting the pit clean up over and done with for now!

The Re-Farmer

Clean up: our “second bathroom”, prepping to paint inside

While it was incredibly handy that the old outhouse had been made safe and cleaned up inside, when we found ourselves unable to use our indoor bathroom, the reality is, it was still pretty… unpleasant… using it.

So now that we have the scrubbable, high traffic paint, I decided it was time to work on the inside of the outhouse. Because the way things seem to go in this house, we never know when we’re going to have to use it again!

Which means that today, I worked on preparing the inside for paint, starting with removing the remaining stuff stuck to the walls, after taking down all the colourful paper my mother had put up.

Thumb tacks, nails, staples, bits of paper, and bits of packing tape. Some of those tacks, I’m sure a hammer was used to put them in! I found myself using a staple remover, a screwdriver small enough to lever under the thumb tacks, and even a wrench, to yank out the most stubborn bits. They were all over the walls, on the top and front of the seat box, and the inside of the door.

Of course, I found more that I’d missed, after I took the photo, too!

My mother was very through in covering those walls! 😀

I also removed the mirrored medicine cabinet, then used a broom and brushes of different sizes to get as much dust and dirt off the walls, ceiling and floor, and out of the corners, as I could. The inside latch on the door was also removed. It was held in place with two very rusty screws, and a bent roofing nail!

The final step was to power wash the inside with the house. Remembering how difficult it was to go the front of the inside, before, that was where I started this time. By standing on the seat box, I was able to get at the cracks and crevices fairly well, without being splashed with water too badly! 😀 Even doing the underside of the roof worked out all right. Once the front was done, I could get down and do the rest from the doorway.

Now it needs to dry overnight. It will be ready for painting, tomorrow!

I am happy to note that the floor is a lot sturdier than I thought it was. I had still been wanting to reinforce it by adding more boards on top. However, the seat box is pretty low. If we add any more height on the floor, it will make using the seat pretty hard on the knees. So I will have to rethink what to use to reinforce the floor. A sheet of metal could be thin enough, and strong enough, to do it. We have more like what is now in front of the outhouse, but they are huge pieces and I don’t have the tools to cut them with. Not that I would want to. I have no doubt that, some time in the future, I’m going to be thankful to have such large sheets of metal for some project! 😀 There is no hurry, though. After it is painted, we can poke around the barn and the sheds and see what we can find.

After it is painted, I am thinking it would be good to replace the inside latch with a new one, as well as adding a handle or latch to the outside. Right now, it is kept closed with a piece of wood nailed loosely to the frame.

I should probably pick up new hinges. The door is starting to sag and I want to straighten it out, too. And if I’m going to do that, I may as well get matching handles and latches for the outside, too. There is not as much of a hurry on that, though, as the outside needs to be scraped and painted, and that likely won’t happen until next year. Fixing the roof is more of a priority, and I still hope to get that done this year. For now, I’ll just replace the inside latch with a new one.

Hmm. Now that I’m thinking about it, there is another medicine cabinet with a mirrored door in the basement. I think it’s in better shape than the one I took off. If it is, I’ll use that one, instead.

It may be just an old outhouse, but if we’re going to have to use it, we’re going to make that thing as pretty and pleasant as possible! The girls already have ideas for decorating it inside. 😀

The Re-Farmer

Shut off valve installed!

Well, that didn’t take much at all!

With the help of my younger daughter, we got the shut off valve installed on the hot water pipe.


Just kidding.

My daughter did all the work. I took pictures and passed her things.

The first thing we needed to do was take off the “clamps” holding the pipe to the exposed floor joists above, on either side of where the pipes were in contact with each other and, I believe, the source of the vibrating noise that is so alarming. The “clamps”, however, were small strips of aluminum, hammered into place with finishing nails. We never did get the nails out. My daughter ended up ripping the aluminum off, instead. !!! While my daughter worked on that, I shut the water off to the hot water tank, then opened the tap to drain the pipe.

One of the things she noticed while trying to remove the aluminum strips is that the hot water pipe was actually bent upwards at this point. No wonder the crossed pipes were so jammed together.

Once there was a bit of flexibility in the pipe, it was easier to access and work on, too.

After deciding where to put the valve, the pipe got scrubbed clean, then the shut off valve was used to place marks on the pipe, so we could see where to cut it, and later see that the pipe ends were far enough inside the valve once installed. Thanks to needing to fix the kitchen sink a while back, we did have a nice little pipe cutter for the job. 🙂

About two inches of pipe was removed, to make room for the valve.

The cut ends then got scrubbed and sanded, inside and out.

Then is was just a matter of sliding it in, and making sure the pipe was as far as it needed to go. The water to the tank was turned back on so we could test it for leaks, then the valve was shut off.

The whole thing took about 10 minutes.

With the valve in place, there is no water to leak at the tap, but if we need to use it for some reason before the tap can be replaced, we can just turn it on, use the tap, then shut it off again. Very handy.

Meanwhile, there is still the issue of the pipes.

For some reason, we have short lengths of pipe foam in the basement. It’s meant for a width of pipe I don’t see around. I put a section on the pipe, under the floor joists the pipe had been clamped to. It was just long enough to go under both.

I didn’t have any foam that was thin enough, so I jammed an old sponge I’d been using before, in between the two pipes that had been in contact, to absorb vibrations. I’d tried to squeeze it in before, but there was no give at all. I could only get it part way under, so it didn’t really stop the noise, though it seemed to make it better.

Now I am just waiting for someone to use the enough water to trigger the well pump, and see if the noise is still there.

We didn’t add a shut off valve to the cold water pipe, yet. For that, we’d need to shut water off to the entire house, and the pipe is behind the hot water pipe, so it will be harder to reach. That can wait until we are putting on the new taps.

I am quite pleased with how this worked out. I keep expecting things to go horribly wrong. 😀

So far, so good!

The Re-Farmer