The night we arrived there was a bit of a storm. We stood outside watching clouds boiling along the ridges and crazy fingers of lighting erupting across the sky, while it was just breezy for us. I told E about a time my dad had seen something similar and how down below the storm had blown round bails, downed trees, and hailed a foot. Then the power went out. I had just turned it on. We drove down the valley, heading to Belt for ice for the food, and saw a black bottomed anvil cloud eating the sky. Three miles down the road our neighbor’s power was out, we stopped in to say hi, they gave us flashlights and we skipped Belt and headed back up.
Still no power the next morning, so we headed down to Belt for ice, batteries, and coffee. There were trees down everywhere from 70mph winds, and 8 inches of pea hail up Belt Creek. Highway 87 to Great Falls had been closed for downed power lines. We headed back up and started in on taming the yard- the used mower I picked up last year started right up. Next was tree trimming and squaring the bushy hedge. The next day we loaded the Tandem into the truck, drove over the hill to Monarch, and cycled 17 miles from Monarch to Neihart along the upper canyon of Belt Creek. The descent maintained speeds over 30mph. Fun stuff. We planned to do this again at least every day for the remaining 7 days. That would be our only ride, as our activities took another route.
Our Land Manager, Dave, left his 4 wheeler for us to roam the ridges. We headed up through a herd of sub-let Black Angus, a nice purebred group, and watched the sunset.
It had been over 100 degrees in Utah forever, but the ranch is always cool and breezy.
Stanley learned wanting is not having, and the truths of never having and always wanting. Bunnies are quicker than Stanlies.
We had intended to do a little bit of house mending. I’d brought my usual tools and some extras. I thought I’d tackle adding in a new toilet and new linoleum for the bathroom floor, and dealing with the drippy water lines under the house in the earth basement, getting the leaking chimney re-pointed and swept, and having a bee-keeper up to look at our house bees.
Dave was letting his friend Dan (Danny) crash in his old bedroom in his mom’s house. Dan was down on his luck just then, a Bostonian, with a sometimes thick accent- and a cage-fighter, for reals. Dan was looking for extra work. He had done a lot of day-labor jobs in the classic “Jack-Of-All-Trades, Master-Of-None” school. What he was really exceptional at, was tearing things up. He poked around at the ghastly shag carpets and saw they weren’t really tacked down, and below them was linoleum in Art Deco patterns, likely from the 1930’s or earlier: under all that were lovely well preserved hardwood floors original to the 1800’s house. My project list ballooned accordingly, and Dan offered to throw down the gauntlet with us.
The old linoleum peeled up better with boiling hot water to activate the glue- a lifesaving tip from Dan. All the black is a tar-paper glue pervasive through the house. Some of the lino was backed with burlap as well.
You. Have. No. Idea.
Dan wrung the mop out in the tub, and it looked like we had been rendering humans for their tallow.
I cut out the water damaged portion of the floor near the toilet ring (upper area of ring in photo), and set in bondo. Then I used the small orbital sander to cut down to fresh wood, and sealed it with spar-urathane.
80 mile round trip to Home Depot, and we have a toilet and a pedestal sink too small for the plumbing footprint (argh!). The retired plumber in the HD plumbing section told us there was no way to affix the toilet to the old piping without a plumber, in as Lordly a manner as I’ve ever heard. Dan poked around and came up with a plan, and it worked.
20 grit paper on a drum sander. You would think that would cut through it fast. The paper filled with gum quickly and had to be constantly replaced, at $10 per sheet. Sanding began on day 5, after all other rooms were torn out, with E manning the heat-gun to lift off as much floor glue as possible. And 6 truckloads to the dump.
12:30 am: after 5 days of prep, 4 trips to Great Falls for supplies and tools (80 mile round trip), 6 truckloads to the dump (30 miles round trip each), the smallest room in the house is finally ready for polyurethane finish.
I did the laundry room as well, finishing at 2:30am, and up at dawn the next day to sand the kitchen.
Danny moves on to put all the furniture in the entire house into the old parlour in an amazing feat of strength, then goes demolition happy and removes carpet and linoleum from the living room and bedroom. Meanwhile I deal with boiling the goo-layer and scraping it from the kitchen floor= yikes!
And I am kinda crippled in the shoulder/neck/arm/lower back/ region.
Don’t forget, there is still all the lino and glue under the oven and fridge- yeah!
I hired a chimney repairman and chimney sweep to take care of the leaking chimney. The cap had completely deteriorated showering the lawn with bricks, allowing water to seep in and rain down. This had been going on while my father was still alive, he had put cans upstairs to catch the drips- so long ago that the bottoms had rusted out and the water came straight through the floor to run down the stack in the kitchen as greasy black rain. The flashing around the chimney up on the roof had given in after decades of snow and ice, and was letting in water as well. With all that taken care of by the professionals, it was time to patch up the kitchen.
Dan often had to tear out before he could patch up.
At 10pm Elizabeth draws me a bath by boiling water on the stove, revitalized I seal the kitchen floor till 2am.
The old bedroom begins to let go of that particular odor.
E and I went to Great Falls for groceries early, and to pick up the sander. I deemed it useless and swore up a blue streak driving back to Great Falls to switch it out for their burliest sander. I drifted a corner on the dirt road going down, avoiding a truck that happened to be a second cousin who was driving up and had lived at the ranch as a kid before my grandfather took it over, and she spent awhile visiting with Elizabeth. I crossed them again on the way back up, less dramatically, still not knowing who they were. With that afternoon wearing on I put two hours onto the living room floor and hardly made a dent. I decided I’d put my effort into the bathroom/laundry/kitchen portion of the house first, and use whatever sanding pads were left to tackle the rest of the downstairs. Luckily, those areas were a newer edition to the house, and didn’t have as many layers super-shellack tar-gum.
Our chimney repair man is also a chimney inspector, and on his advice we set to alleviating our fire traps. There were no codes when my dad rebuilt the chimney, and the inspector was friendly while relating his anxiety over our historical firetrap. He recommends we ultimately abandon the old chimney, which has a full 90 degree angle inside that traps pitch, for a straight run of chimney pipe- but gave us other methods to reset the stove safely for our periodic use.
Look at all these lovely flamables the stove sat on. That was mitigated by siitting on flammable dry old board wrapped in a layer of tin, pictured with Dan and I above. Plus the piping is single layer and turns in to the wall too close to the ceiling/bookcase. And the stove is set too close to the wall, that although it is decorated with a stone layer, this layer does nothing to alleviate the heat loaded into the wooden trusses behind it. All fire code no-no’s.
Did I mention we took 6 truckloads to the dump. A few of those loads were mouse mess infused pink insulation my father had spread on the upstairs floors. Dan and I opened a few of the windows up there, the first time in 50 years I would guess, and we began chucking everything out the window. Everything but this old bedspring, which was nearly too big for the narrow stair.
Dan isn’t there to help this time. As sanding moved to the older portion of the house, all the furnishings moved from the parlour to the front porch to commune with the bees.
Dan wore his cowboy boots and forgot to bring his work boots, so he was barefoot up there as the day heated up and his cries were pitiful, drawing me from the basement where I was installing new copper plumbing and tying in the electricity for the new water heater.
One of my uncles thought that the creek by the house was the perfect place to dump old barbed wire, machines, barrels, you-name-it. I have found this ecologically offensive since I was a kid, and with a bobcat and an operator I could finally do something about it. We pulled it all out and stacked it for recycling.
I will see about posting a hilarious video of this rodeo.
There were two dead water heaters in the basement. A small one that Dan and I carried out, and a really big one filled with dirt that we toppled and dragged to the bottom of the stair. I found a cinch strap for tying down hay loads on the old Chevy Viking, super industrial strapping, and cinched the big heater up and tied it to the 4-Wheeler. Dave stopped in to pick up Dan, and recommended we use the old swingset slide to ease it up the stairs. The 4-Wheeler in low, popping a big wheelie, it budged the monstrosity. Dan thought he could help by being down on the stair, but got out of the way and we tried again. I put my weight way over the front of the machine to keep the wheelie down and once the heater budged I kept it coming on up. It tore off the #150 cellar door like it was nothing. We were leaving the next day. It was storming up. Dan and Dave headed down. I had a big fix to take care of. I rebuilt the supporting side of the base that had disintegrated. The whole thing was a confusion of half-attempted patchwork for a structure long since fallen away. Luckily, the other side was still intact, so i could see what needed to be done. After scrounging for lumber throughout the ranch grounds I ran out my batteries on my power tools as the hail set in, and switched to a hammer and the only straight long barn nails on the ranch that Elizabeth had found in a pile on the remains of a shattered plastic cup along the fence line by the house.
Prior to bedroom restoration, the cats were finally content with a bed apiece.
A big step down from your own bed 😦