Come and knock on our door…

It’s time to winterize!  This weekend we turned our attention to prepping the farm for fridged temps. Only we are having a heatwave in Wisconsin- it’s 70 degrees in November! The last time we had a November like this was in 1983, immortalized in the film Purple Rain when Prince and Appolonia ride down a country road on his bike, and she jumps in “Lake Minnetonka”. It’s that kind of day, although there won’t be any toplessness in this blog post. Sorry. 

Hey…don’t get my seat wet



We have heat! Steve got baseboard heaters installed in the bedroom and living room. Maybe our pipes won’t burst this winter?!?!

The front door has been getting worse and worse- sort of peeling apart at the corners. No sense in letting our newfound heat escape. Time for a new door. 

We bid you farewell, crappy door.


This project only took a morning to complete. All little sawzall action, some caulk, and beautiful summer-like weather converged to create the optimal circumstances for success. 

Daddy, can I try the Sawzall??

Normally, I’d be pretty unhappy about the gaping hole in the house on a Sunday morning in November. But with relatively few bugs, warm temps, and our resident handyman, my fears were quickly laid to rest. 

Honey, this plastic sheet just isn’t going to cut it.


Success! 

American Gothic / Three’s Company


And all this was completed before lunch on Sunday. One of our most productive weekends yet. 

Next week Steve wants to install a proper furnace, and finish up the kitchen sink. I’m dreaming of a couple of comfy chairs for the living area. I think we will be back at IKEA soon, getting our “mys” on. I think there’s a sheepskin rug in our future… and probably some snow. 

Cheers!

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Tree scouting, sink routing

We are well into fall here in Northern Wisconsin. The trees are at peak color, and the evening chill smells of hypothermia. It’s the perfect time of year to do what I call “tree scouting”- looking for the best views from the building site, so we can decide where to place large windows, decks, and the screened-in porch. 


Due to some moisture getting into our bedroom ceiling, Steve fastened a tarp over the trailer. Not only does this make our place look extra cool, it also allowed him to gaze out over the various vistas. Our conclusion: how on earth are we going to remove all these trees so that we can see some trees?!?


We also harvested the final veggies from our sorry little garden. 3 mini cucumbers, 1 mini squash, 3 regular squash. It’s a good thing I don’t have to live off the land. 

fall colors through a moist window


Steve worked on plumbing in the kitchen sink. I walked in and saw this:

Fail!


What a jokester! After he switched it around, we realized we forgot a part at home. Maybe we will get running water on the kitchen next time. 

Morning at the farm begins with coffee next to the space heater. New breakfast possibilities abound, thanks to our new cooktop. I even made the bold move of bringing actual dishes to keep at the farm. Classy! If only there were a place to wash them…

Boy with foliage


Following our hearty meal, we enjoyed a bit of a hike. We took a long stroll through the woods, all the way back to the lovely Chippewa River. Such a beautiful fall day!


Only a few weekends left before it will be just too darn cold…

Cheers!

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The summer kitchen is complete!

Finally, the big reveal! Last summer we started work on the old spare bedroom, knocking down walls, tearing out the old furnace and carpet. In case you blocked out that image, here it is. 

good times, good times


In the  last few weekends, we’ve made major strides towards completion.

Weekend 1

It started with a trip to IKEA to buy cabinets. [IKEA, if you’re following this blog, don’t feel like you owe me anything for all this free publicity…but we could use some poäng chairs] The process of buying cabinets at IKEA surprisingly efficient. When pressured for comment, Steve noted “they couldn’t make it any easier, really”. Once you’ve got your plan drawn up, the kitchen specialist sends your order downstairs. Then you go eat meatballs and shrimp sandwiches in the restaurant while you wait about 45  minutes for them to pull all the pieces together for you. They had all of it on a cart, which we then wheeled out to our car. Viölä! Pure Swedish magic!


The load was remarkably compact. How can this be a complete kitchen?! Every piece was neatly packaged along with text-free instructions. 


We assumed it would take all weekend to build a kitchen. We were wrong. We were basically finished in about 3 hours time. I’m not saying everyone can build an IKEA kitchen in 3 hours, but for the IKEA-savvy builder, this job ranks somewhere between the Billy bookcase with doors and the large Hemnes dresser. 


Weekend 2

There’s nothing quite like a new fridge. We also had a visit from our good friends Ian and Anika. What luck! I didn’t have to move that fridge! Thanks, Ian!

The menfolk


ta-da! fridge and sink in place!


We got the hole for the sink cut, and the upper cabinet mounted. Drat! The doors were the wrong size- so a trip back to IKEA was in order. 

playdate in the dirt and packing foam


Anika and I enjoying a cold one


Weekend 3

One more run to IKEA, and we were feeling confident that the big reveal wouldn’t be too far off.  We now had the right doors, the hand pulls, and some open shelving. It took about 3 more hours to get the last elements in place. Check it out!

This kitchen will probably never look this clean again.


I’m ready to do some real cooking in our beautiful IKEA kitchen! We still need the electrical outlets, but hey, I still wanted to model use of our new cooktop. 

Imaginary mac & cheese, anyone?


I even got the other wall wallpapered during this trip. 

Crappy drywall taper? try some cute wallpaper!


Before, and after. 

You can’t go wrong with marimekko


And there will be plenty to cook, as those weak little squash seedlings I planted have gone totally gangbusters! 


What’s up, Buttercup (squash)?


Fall is starting to show itself, so I’m thrilled that we will soon have a fully functioning kitchen on chilly days when the grill and picnic table just won’t cut it. 


Next time: plumbing and outlets and actual cooking! Cheers!

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Go cheap, or go home

We’ve made some real progress these last  couple weekends! We’ve gotten the temporary kitchen space whipped into shape. As we near the end of stage 1 (aka make part of the trailer inhabitable so we can start work on the REAL cabin), I thought I’d share some helpful cost-saving tips. Cabin renovation on the cheap can easily be accomplished if you follow a few simple guidelines.


1. Take advantage of free labor. My kid has been begging to “help” me paint. This project is the perfect place to let him loose with a brush. We’ve got nothing to lose. 


2. When you stand before the flooring samples at your local home improvement store, it’s tempting to buy something aesthetically appealing. But really, when you compare it to your plywood subflooring, anything will look better. So stick with the 50 cents per square foot vinyl. I figure this will only motivate us to get going on the real cabin even more. 

Actually, it doesn’t look half bad!


3. When you see something you love on sale, buy it. Especially if it’s curtains. I found these lovelies on clearance last summer at Åhléns in Sweden. I didn’t have a purpose for them at that time, but you never know when you’re gonna need funky curtains. Check out the bonus bird! I didn’t even know that was there until I opened them all they way to hang them. 


4. Don’t paint the spot where you’re putting the fridge and new cabinets. Sounds lame, I know. But I was able to do this whole room with just one can of paint! By following this simple rule, you not only save cash, but your friends won’t ask you to come help them with projects. 


5.  This final tip is perhaps the most useful. Read your new IKEA catalogue. It’s full of inspiration! Our new cabinets are coming from there- we need actual cabinets that close because of menacing rodents-I don’t have time to re-wash my wine glass each visit.  But did you see the new micro kitchen in the new IKEA catalogue? It’s brilliant! 

This tiny kitchen is fantastic!


Outside the cabin, summer is showing signs of waning. A new rug and some fall flowers glam up the front stoop. Our resident chipmunk has also been scampering by with some regularity…just a little too close for comfort. 



We have 2 apples ripening nicely in the orchard. Steve took down a couple random pine trees and a couple dead apple trees. We also discovered two more sizable Apple trees that were hidden by a massive hazelnut bush. I downloaded a book about caring for fruit trees, so maybe next year we can have an actual apple harvest.

A boy and his pick axe. Steve smashing an old stump to smitherines in the background.

I’m looking forward to putting my IKEA furniture building skills to use next weekend as we install the kitchen cabinets and sink. Until then, cheers!

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When life gives you dewberries…

Sometimes the Internet lets you down. This week’s cabin visit reminded me not to trust everything you read online. Case in point: dewberries. Are dewberries really a thing? Steve told me that all the berries growing along the driveway were dewberries, a berry I was not familiar with.  I was filled with joy as first my car, and later my legs, were scratched by their reaching limbs. 


I enthusiastically picked all the dewberries I could. I placed them in bags and took them home, eager to channel my inner Martha Stewart and create something wonderful. But first to learn more about this mysterious berry.  After extensive internet searching, I’ve concluded they do exist and they are neither blackberries nor black raspberries. But despite Wikipedia pages and images online, I was unable to confirm this species. I hope they aren’t poisonous. 



I searched for recipes that would showcase this summer splendor, and was excited to try this one: black raspberry and Brie bites. I happily bought puff pastry and got started. I also made some with cream cheese and dewberries, for Steve and Ivan (they simply don’t share my appreciation for Brie). Things looked so promising…


And then they baked. 


Only one stayed shut during the baking process. But I was still hopefully that they would be delicious. 


Er. Nope. The cream cheese version turned the dewberries into “don’t berries”. But the Brie ones were pretty good. I’m not satisfied with the dewberry baking projects yet: there’s more work to do!


After all that work, we threw most of them away. And I only made a small dent in the dewberry stores. Do you remember that Friends episode with all the jam? That might be me tomorrow. 


While I was picking berries, Steve got the gate up at the end of the driveway. 


I think it turned out quite nicely. It’s really welcoming, while also saying “stay out, you!”  I think we were smart to avoid the lion statues. 

Oh wait, wrong picture. This is our gate. 


The mosquitoes have been frisky this summer, so Steve decided we needed a net enclosure. I think we need to hire a contractor and just build the screened in porch (along with the the rest of the cabin). It looks like we are ready to host quite the party now! Maybe a pool party?


Next visit will involve painting the temporary kitchen. But to make you thoroughly jealous, here are some sweet photos of early mornings at the farm. Enjoy!


Long-legged boy with his iPad. 


Until next time…Zzzzzz….

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Picnic table bliss

After spending last weekend at that beautiful lake cabin in Minnesota, I was worried that I might find the farm a bit disappointing. But as I bumped along down the driveway in the John Deere mower tractor yesterday, I found that I felt pretty content. Each trip to the farm brings a little more comfort. This week our progress included a major improvement– a picnic table! 

Men at work

At last!


No more lugging cinder blocks around the yard to fashion a table out of a warped piece of plywood that’s the wrong height for any chair. No, this is legit. And it’s beautiful. 

Tablecloth by one of my favorite Swedish designers- GudrunSjoden.com

In the morning we woke up to some rain, which was fine since our building task was to tape and mud the temporary kitchen. I grilled up some maple sausages from my favorite butcher shop- McDonald’s Meats in Clear Lake, MN. This breakfast of champions was served up in the future kitchen amidst sawhorses and 5-gallon buckets. Now that’s classy!

Coffee with a side of drywall screws


We finished the taping and mudding. Can you picture our kitchenette there? It’s coming! We planted some sad little seedlings so hopefully I’ll be cooking up something tasty in that kitchen by the end of summer. 

insert kitchen here

Deer food or just plain doomed?


Until next time…cheers!

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Stateside for the 4th of July

I spent this 4th of July weekend in northern Minnesota together with some of my graduate students. The holiday fell in the middle of the summer course I teach (and yes, we have class on both Sunday and on the 4th) so we made the most of our situation and enjoyed the hospitality of one of my amazing students and her lovely family. I thought this was a great opportunity to reflect on what makes summer cabin life so special in Minnesota lake country.

When we arrived at the cabin on Gull Lake, I quickly realized that there were some qualitative differences between our Cabin Rehabin’ property and this summer home. Can you find 5 differences between these cabins?

Cabin A

Cabin B

If you struggled to spot the differences,that’s understandable. Both A and B feature inviting ambience nestled in the woods.  But the similarities end there. Consider these two pictures of the proud cabin owners. In Cabin A we see Mary and Steve, the happy cabin dwellers, hosting friends and family for a weekend of fun. In the Cabin B picture we see another Steve, but this one is wielding a machete. While the Cabin B Steve looks happy, one might wonder whether he is able to enjoy his cabin retreat to the same extent as Mary and Steve?

Cabin A owners

Cabin B owner

I am looking forward to the day when that machete in his hand can be replaced by a martini.

Mary, Steve, and Steph (my student) were so gracious in hosting us. They put me up in the loveliest cabin guestroom, as seen here. They really capitalized on the feeling of the north woods through the use of warm woods and cozy lighting.

Now, thats what I call a guestroom!

We awoke to a glorious morning on Gull Lake. My student, Steph, summarized the summer cabin dream just perfectly with her adorable Happy Cabin’er shirt. This is how great she looked after an early morning stand-up-paddleboard voyage around the bay.

Ah, the beauty of the water! And when your feet get a bit sandy, they even had a handy-dandy foot washing station. Brilliant!

Foot washing station- pedal powered!

 

 

I love how warm and welcoming this space is. We had such fun gathered around the seating area playing games following the fireworks. Thank you to Mary, Steve and Stephanie for welcoming us to spend the 4th of July with you. You’ve given me inspiration to keep moving head so we can create our own special cabin dreams.

Next week- it’s back to Wisconsin where we will work to tame the mosquitos and realize my picnic table dreams.

Skål!

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