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This old farmhouse

Agriculture.com Staff 07/09/2007 @ 12:28pm

A man's home, they say, is his castle. Implicit in that statement is the fact that he is also responsible for its upkeep: Tuck pointing those massive stones, dredging the moat and restocking it with vicious alligators and bloodthirsty piranhas. Have you any idea what it costs to overhaul a drawbridge nowadays?

The older a house becomes, the more TLC it seems to need. My mom's house, where my siblings and I grew up, is over a hundred years old and needs a good bit of care.

I recently noticed that Mom's house was in dire need of paint, so it became my Official Summer Project to give it a new coat. Of paint, that is.

First comes surface preparation. I have watched enough "This Old House" to know how to properly prepare an old house for a new paint job. The first step, apparently, is to secure funds from a large paint-related corporation so you can hire a crew to scrape and sand away every last atom of old paint.

But, alas. No such corporation showed any interest in my painting project, so I was left to my own devices.

The first device I turned to was a rented power washer. It was similar to a power washer one might use in a car wash, except this machine had a ton more attitude. In fact, a careless person might accidentally discover that the pressure washer would not only remove the old paint, it could also remove some actual wood.

I have a theory regarding paint removal: If the paint has been there for more than a century and can hold up against the blast of a pressure washer, maybe we should leave the stuff in place and let it continue to do its job.

Washing my way slowly around the old farmhouse where we eight kids grew up was an archaeological expedition of sorts.

To start, the house sits on a stone foundation that was laid up by my Grandma Nelson's uncles Jens and Ole, the original homesteaders. I was told that there weren't enough stones on the farm (which I always found hard to believe) and that Jens and Ole drove a wagon some 15 miles to Lake Campbell and hauled back loads of rock.

Boy, were they Norwegian! They undertook a beach improvement project that they never benefited from while bringing rocks to a farm that was already stony enough.

Here on the east side of the house there once was a porch. Two of the upstairs bedrooms have windows that gave easy access to the roof of the porch -- a good place to lay and daydream and savor warm summer evenings while escaping the smothering heat of the house.

The porch roof is also the site of an infamous family incident wherein the twins coaxed their little sister into jumping. The younger sister took the leap after the twins convinced her that doing so while flapping her arms would enable her to fly.

And she did -- albeit just the eight feet to the ground.

Here on the south side of the house is the pipe that once carried fuel to our Ziegler oil burner. The sole heat source for the house, that black beast was so hot we often entertained ourselves by melting crayons on its side. We thus quickly learned the truth behind the admonition "Be careful, that's hot!"

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