Before and After Photos: Patching a Chimney Hole in the Kitchen Ceiling With a Piece of Antique Tin

3 Jun

Our very old farmhouse was built in pieces, and the kitchen (and therefore wood stove) got moved as the house got added on to. That means we had not one but two chimney holes in ceilings to deal with. We’ve yet to deal with the one in our daughter’s bedroom, but the kitchen ceiling we did tackle.


That photo above is what we had left AFTER we pulled down the old chimney, pulled the sheet rock off the walls, and stripped all the paper and nails off of the ceiling. You can see some flashing that was around the old chimney, and the brown tarp was part of our effort to keep water out, since the roof also had a hole in it once the chimney came down. The good news was, it was easy for the electricians to run the wiring at least!

Below are some photos of the hole today. Here’s what we did: We found a piece of antique ceiling tin (actually, a friend found a piece of antique ceiling tin) that was painted pink and cream. I spent hours and hours and hours (and hours!) trying to sand and strip all of the paint off, because my original vision was for a piece of shiny tin, not painted tin. When I finally got it to the state you see it in now, I said, “Forget it! We’re going with the antique-y look!”


The idea was to put a piece of tin over the hole so the kitchen table could be centered under it and it would look like it was supposed to be there.


First, we had to tackle the wall. We pulled planks off of a wall upstairs and used those to make a “new” plank wall out of old boards. When we ran out, we pulled apart an old sheep feeder in the barn and used that for the rest of the planks. The planks got primed and caulked and painted. (And you’ll see we need to caulk and paint again. Heating our house with a wood stove has meant a lot of the caulking needs to be redone, both in this wall and in the four ceilings we restored. Sigh…)


We got the ceiling all scraped, sanded, caulked and painted (see really good before and after pictures of the kitchen ceiling). Then a friend got this tin up (while my husband was deployed) and put trim around it. I painted and caulked. Then we put the kitchen table under it, centered just right, and voila! You’d never know there was a chimney there nor a huge hole!!



Although it’s not a very clear photo, you can see the detail in the tin a little better in this photo above.

We are far from done with this renovation, but it’s good for me to look at these before and after photos to remind myself how far we’ve come! And now as our Pacific Northwet spring begins to finally warm up and dry out, it has been really nice to turn our attention to starting a small farm at last, since that’s why we bought this place in the first place. Then this winter, we’ll get back to the renovating and get this old farmhouse ever closer to DONE.

We Have a Creek! How Cool Is That!!

16 May

Of all the surprises we’ve had with our farmhouse renovation and trying to resurrect this abandoned farm, this week brought one of the biggest: It turns out we have a creek at the back of the property!

We thought it was just a run off ditch. There was no way to see what was really there because the area was so overgrown with blackberries (in some places, 30 feet deep) and fallen trees and underbrush. But this week our neighbor Alan arranged for an excavator to come in and they spent 13 hours clearing out and piling up the old fencing, the dead trees, and the blackberries, and generally cleaning up the creek banks.

I couldn’t believe it when I walked to the back of the property and saw we had a creek!! Bear was ecstatic too. Within minutes, he was covered in wet mud from exploring. How happy was Bear? You can watch him do his “happy run” in a short video at the end of this post. :)


This picture above is looking north. This was my first time seeing the creek and before all the clearing was done. I can’t tell you how surprised and overjoyed I was at this discovery! I was standing there texting Bob all kinds of “isn’t this cool??” texts. :) I don’t know if you can see the burn piles on the right of the photo, but there are a lot of them and they are BIG.


Hey look! Bear’s in the creek! Shocker! But boy, do we have our work cut out for us now!! We have wood to cut up and brush to burn and blackberries to KILL. Plus there’s some cleaning up of the creek itself to do. See the metal roofing pieces and pipe? Yeah. We need to haul that out and get it to the scrap metal place, sigh…


This picture above is looking south. See all that muddy area? That was all blackberry bushes and brush. Look how much land we just got back!!


This picture above is of a clearing on the other side of the creek. We knew it was there but couldn’t really see it. Now we’ll be able to get to it and explore it. Apparently there used to be houses back in there way back when, and a pond for fishing! Hmmm… I wonder if we can bring the pond back somehow? Where’s that excavator??


For some sense of how overgrown things were, here’s a picture of where the creek starts on our property. It’s no wonder we didn’t know it was there!

And here’s how happy Bear is about the creek. Bear shows his happiness by just plain running full out…and man, he is FAST! :) I can’t run like Bear, and neither can Bob, but I’m pretty sure the joy in Bear’s run is equal to our joy at this discovery!





Funny Cow Breeds Poster…and Why I Want a Devon :-)

6 Mar

Love this cow breeds poster!! Partly because it’s funny because it includes a Cash Cow and a Holy Cow, but partly because it includes a Devon and that is the kind of cow I would reeeeeaaallly like to have as our breed as we are getting closer to starting a farm (after all of the renovations on the house which are still ongoing and our now renovations of the barn).

The Devon is a heritage breed that came over with the Pilgrims. It was a dual purpose breed, for both milk and meat, but sadly they started breeding two distinct lines in the 20th century. :-( Still, from what I’ve read of the breed and its hardiness and size, I think it would be the perfect breed for us (the milk one) and I hope maybe next year cows can become a reality for our attempt at a small farm!

cow breeds poster

Farmhouse Fixes: Using Old Books for a Table

9 Feb
When you live in a little tiny farmhouse, some things have to do double duty, like these encyclopedias that will be with us always.

When you live in a little tiny farmhouse, some things have to do double duty, like these encyclopedias that will be with us always.

With three moves in three years, I have parted with a lot of stuff, mostly games, puzzles, books and furniture, even some artwork. But every once in a while, my daughter would catch me in the act of culling, and accuse me of “throwing away” her childhood.

Such was the case with our set of encyclopedias, which are older than me. (My parents bought them when I was young, as all good parents did back then, never ever envisioning something like the Internet would someday exist!)

We have many times turned to the encyclopedias for answers to questions when, quite frankly, no one wanted to check their phones or laptops for an answer…usually because we were gathered around the table after dinner feeling very non-techy. So I was okay with keeping these books, even as I sold dozens of art books and gave away loads of fiction and cookbooks.

Still, moving into our little 1890 farmhouse, and now married and with a husband’s possessions too (and all of his books!), it’s not like I have a whole lotta room for books. So what to do with these?

Make them into a table, of course! I stacked them somewhat neatly in our office and put a lamp on that stack, and Voila! Emma keeps her childhood. I get a table. And the books are still available when needed. :-)

Another view... you know, my stack looks a lot neater in person than it does in these photos!

Another view… you know, my stack looks a lot neater in person than it does in these photos!

True Meaning of “Hen House”? Our Rooster Needs a Break, It Seems!

8 Feb

With these snowy days, I’ve noticed Rooster Cogburn has a funny habit…one that indicates life in the hen house is hard on a fellow! This photo isn’t very good, but here’s what happens: I open the chicken coop door and the “girls” decide it’s still too cold to go out so they stay inside. But not Cogburn! He’s out the door and under their little rain shelter (an old card table), and there he sits enjoying the peace and quiet. I guess life with 20 females ain’t all it’s cracked up to be when you’re cooped up with them for 14 hours straight! Poor Cogburn! :-)

free range chickens--rooster escapes the hen house

When our free range chickens think it’s too cold to leave the coop, our rooster can’t wait to get a break from the ladies it seems!

Stop with the Sterile Shrink Wrap! How to Cook–and Use–a Whole Chicken

21 Jan
basting the chicken

Basting a chicken partway through cooking.

I am working on an article about why we eat so much chicken in the U.S., and in doing so, thought maybe some people could benefit from knowing how to avoid buying the sterile, shrink-wrapped packages of breast meat so sadly prevalent in the modern-day grocery store and kitchen, and opt for a whole chicken instead. It’s really quite easy, I promise!  And it’s worth the little bit of extra effort.

Here’s what I do, and trust me, I am a shortcut cook so this won’t be complicated:

roasted chicken before roasting Aug 2012

Whole chicken tressed, with butter, salt, pepper and sage…ready for the oven!

I start with a whole chicken and roast it for dinner. (You want an easy-to-cook dinner? Roast a chicken!) If you need a recipe, check the Internet and you’ll find lots of choices, from simple to complex. Me? I usually tress it, rub it with butter, and sprinkle it with salt, pepper and stage. Sometimes I stuff it with onions and celery. Then cook it at 350 for as long as it needs (usually 1 1/2 to 2 hours because we usually let our chickens get really big before harvesting!).

roasted chicken

Roasted whole chicken fresh from the oven.

We eat slices of chicken meat as part of our dinner, then I pull off the rest of the meat and chop it into big pieces and put it into freezer bags, usually two or three, so there’s enough chicken meat for a dinner recipe in each bag.

Then I put the carcass and any skin and bones into a soup pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, then partially cover and simmer for 2 to 3 hours. After that cools, I pull out the carcass and usually find another cup worth of meat on it. I add that meat to the freezer bags I already put together.

I taste the chicken stock and cook it down if it needs to be more concentrated, adding salt as needed. After cooking it down, it goes into the fridge so the fat will solidify on the top. I skim off the fat. Then the chicken stock goes into small containers in the freezer.

These chicken enchiladas were made using the chicken leftover from roasting a whole chicken...a much tastier version compared to enchiladas using just breast meat.

These chicken enchiladas were made using the chicken leftover from roasting a whole chicken…a much tastier version compared to enchiladas using just breast meat.

Now I have chicken for at least two more dinners, and it’s already skinned and deboned and ready to go. It will get used for soups, pot pies, enchiladas or some kind of crockpot creation. Plus I have home-made chicken stock for cooking other dishes.

In addition to being cheaper this way, you get more flavor because you have both white and dark meat. And you’re ready to make two meals in a jiffy with your frozen, chopped up, already cooked chicken meat.

Doesn’t that sound better than the shrink-wrapped and sterile alternative??

Old Fashioned Recipes: Dutch Baby for Breakfast

19 Jan
Try this old fashioned recipe for Dutch Baby, for a very simple, very tasty breakfast.

Try this old fashioned recipe for Dutch Baby, for a very simple, very tasty breakfast.

This morning I wanted to have something wholesome for my graveyard working husband to eat when he came home, something nourishing to fill his empty stomach but something a little sweet too to send him off to sleep with. I was thinking on old-fashioned recipes and what might fit the bill…

Then I remembered the Dutch Baby recipe in my “Lost Art of Real Cooking” cookbook. Perfect!

Nothing could be simpler to make than this Dutch Baby breakfast. And it’s a great way to cook up tasty eggs if your hens are getting ahead of you! (Note: You  need a heavy skillet for this old fashioned recipe.)

Old Fashioned Recipes: Dutch Baby Breakfast

  • 1 stick salted butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/8 t. salt
  • 1 c. flour
  • syrups, jam, honey to serve

Preheat the oven to 425.

Melt the butter on the stovetop in a heavy skillet, then remove from the heat.

Using a whisk, beat the eggs until well blended. Whisk in the milk, then the sugar and dash of salt, and finally the flour. Mix  well. It will be still be lumpy. That’s fine.

Pour this batter into the melted butter in your heavy skillet. Don’t mix it in with the butter or anything, just pour it in. Then put the skillet in your hot oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

The Dutch Baby will puff waaaaay up and look fabulous, but it will fall shortly after you pull it out of the oven. So if you want to impress someone, make sure they are nearby!!

To serve, slice into wedges. It serves 4 but today it served 2 because I was hungry! It doesn’t need any more butter, but slather it with jam or honey or douse it with syrup.

Try it. I promise you’ll like it. It is that easy and that tasty!


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