the accidental project

So since the pontoon is still on land because the @)$%*@^&@)%* motor won’t start AGAIN, I decided to clean these crusty pontoons that have been sitting in the water for 35 years.

The Namekagon Waters are tannin stained meaning they’re supremely clean, but brown with the stain of whatever’s upstream.

What causes that “root beer” color in some lakes?

from Wisconsin DNR

Sometimes described as root beer, coffee, tea, or bog stain, such coloring is natural for many waters in northern Wisconsin. The coloration is not harmful and results from incompletely dissolved organic materials, sometimes referred to as tannins, which come from the decomposition of wetland plants in the watershed of the lake. Often, the greater the amount of wetlands in the watersheds, the darker the color of the water. Since the predominant land type in the watersheds of northern Wisconsin lakes is often a mixture of forests and wetlands, this can result in many lakes having this dark coloration.

Knowing full well that they were swamped with eager anglers wanting to get on the water for the fishing opener, I called Shell Lake Marine to see if they could ONCE AGAIN fix my poor crippled Evinrude and they said they could pick up the pontoon next week Friday. That gave me exactly eight days to get some maintenance done. You know, the kind that can only be done on land.

Thursday was a nice day, so I loaded the wagon with every cleaning agent in the house and shed and headed down to the lake. I sprayed and sponged on pretty much everything in my arsenal and here’s what happened.

Magic. It was Flitz Metal Pre-Clean that did this. Yes, Flitz from our own Waterford, Wisconsin. Since I had one little spray bottle of it, I knew I needed more, so I went online and ordered a gallon, paid expedited shipping and had it in hand Friday morning. Well, first I talked to a very kind woman who told me this would happen. I was delighted.

No more tannin:

I used it very sparingly and did not scrub. Just used a sponge.

Pontoons came out nice and clean. If I get time, I’ll crawl around underneath and get the black stuff off the bottom, although it’ll be far under water when the boat is launched.

It started to rain just after noon on Friday, so my work was cut short and I had to run for cover with my big rolling toolbox and collection of rags and sponges. Up The Killer Hill!

Here’s the accidental part: I pulled off the skirting around the edge and discovered that, although the deck is still firm, it’s pretty rotten and the carpeting has been driving me nuts with its colonies of algae. I debated on whether I had time in eight short days to replace the deck. [cartoon of me with hair standing on end] Yikes.

I guess the decision made itself. I’m committed now. I’ll need a new deck by next Friday when I need to have a friend tow the boat to the landing for pick-up by the marina. A deck would be mighty handy during that process..

Saturday was sunny and warm. Potential for a full day of work. So I removed the rail, skirting and the first of the 4×8 deck sheets. Everything is going well and suprisingly all the bolts and nuts removs easily in spite of a lot of rust. The only problem is that some of the carriage bolts holding down the deck are turning with their bolts because the wood is too rotten to hold them. So those have to be cut off with the oscillating tool from underneath. A bit cramped and very loud with the sound bouncing off aluminum pontoons. Plus my blades were far from sharp.

Trip to the Hardware Store for one new blade that should make it through this project, I hope. By 4:00 my body was wearing out. This morning it’s rebelling mightily. Could it have been lifting that 4×8 water-sodden, carpet-covered piece of 3/4″ marine plywood? Huh.

can-can canopy

So for the last five years, I’ve been putting up a 10×20 foot canopy on the deck at Libby’s. This is incredibly useful for things like watching Cubs games. Better than Wrigley because you have the lake and no problem with parking.

The first year, I just stuck it out there and it survived the summer without a hitch. I maneuvered a clever way to put it together myself and had a great summer. The next couple of years, with the wind as its partner, it took to dancing. Once, I found it lying on its head in the yard. Last week I watched it shuffle off in the direction of the lake taking several lawn chairs with it.

So, following the “keep doing the same thing expecting different results” rule, I


As you know, the hardware store is one of my favorite places, but this trip was especially exciting after four weeks of pandemic isolation.

After drilling 3,465 holes

through the support pipes and adding the bolts and locknuts, I had the thing pretty sturdy. I used a corded drill from Ancient Sears because my cordless was too wimpy to take on this job. I also had to make another trip to the HS to get a new drill bit when the old one wore out. I discovered the amazingness of drill bits that don’t walk. In other words, when drilling into something round and slippery, it’s nice to have a bit that’s disciplined enough to stay in the spot where you want the hole throughout the drilling process.

I also made a contraption for the one leg of the canopy that had to be on the lower deck.

In past years, I’d used the milk can that happened to be exactly the right height. But the leg never wanted to stay on the milk can. Or, it’s possible the can didn’t want the leg standing on its head. Who knows what goes on in the night?

A bit of paint on this pegleg should spruce it up a bit. And it looks like painting the deck should be added to my list of summer projects, too.

Of course, after all the work of bolting this thing together methinks it will spend its winters outside. Without the actual canopy attached, there will be no snow load so it should survive just fine.

think inside the window box

Guilty as charged. I have a LOT of fabric. Much of it comes in small, irregular shapes and as much as I’d love to stack it in a plethora of pristine piles of impeccable perfection, this is not an option. But, I like to look at it, so dresser drawers and barrels, baskets and grain silos are out. Well, not only do I like to look at it, plaids, polka dots, stripes, flannels, linens, corduroys and canvas. Oh my. Vinyl, brocade, tattersall, gingham, ticking, madras. Jeepers, I love textiles. But when I need THAT fabric I need it NOW.

So I invented a Window Fabric Box. Everyone from Wal-mart to Bed and Beyond (there’s an en suite bath in between there, correct?) to Ikea have storage boxes for all the Stuff We Need. But I wanted one where the contents and I could be friends and see each other frequently.

Window in front so I can see what’s inside.

Now, don’t judge me on the colors. Waaaaay back in caveman times, I decided that my Sewing Room Theme Colors were the blue and red that came with a recycled bedspread that I’d bought at a thrift sale. It looked like this.

Yes, I made a little sewing kit from a cigar box and lined a basket. Must have been the early 80’s. 1980’s, that is.

So, when I found this electric blue corduroy that pretty much matched, I paired it up with some of the red canvas that’s been languishing and made a box.

Why is the lining separated from the exterior? Because if I want the box to be more rigid, I can insert cardboard or plastic canvas. As it is, the contents of the box makes it stand up just fine for my needs. This would work great for yarn, craft supplies or think of your sweaters nestled cozily together in neatly stacked sublimity. HA. Probably not on my watch.

So, the next box was a bit bigger and I used a really stiff navy canvas along with the ubiquitous red.

This one is 15×15″ as opposed to the above, which is 13×13. Doesn’t seem like much, but it makes quite a difference.

Quick instructions: (Because I have a bad memory.) This blog is for me, after all, and if you’re reading it, it’s probably by mistake. Like the Apocolypse has already happened and the only server left running is the one on which this useless blog is hosted.)

  1. Cut 4 exteriors and 4 linings at 16″ square. 3 are the sides and 1 is the bottom
  2. Cut 1 vinyl 16″ square
  3. Sew the 3 sides of the lining together. Likewise the 3 exteriors. This will be 2 seams from top to bottom. (Since they’re square, this only makes a difference if the fabric is directional, like corduroy or stripes.)
  4. Hem the tops of each, Best to do this while you have the machine threaded with the correct thread color. πŸ™‚ Like right after you sew the side seams. Press seams open.
  5. Wrong sides together, sew the exterior to the lining along the seams. Remember WRONG sides together. If you’re a perfectionist, make the bobbin thread match the bottom fabric and the top, the exterior. You’re stitching in the “ditch” of the former seam.
  6. Right sides together, sew the vinyl to the front of both together. This seam allowance will show. If you don’t like this, you could cover it with bias tape or go to the trouble of making a French seam. (Not for my sewing room. πŸ™‚
  7. Do the dreaded box thing. Pin the two box bottoms, lining + exterior, to the bottom of the box matching the corners. Clip the corner seams a bit to make the square bottom go around the corners. I use a walking foot when sewing vinyl and be sure the vinyl is the top fabric. NOTE: I find round containers easier to sew, but fabric typically doesn’t fold into rounds. If this is for yarn storage, though. . . )
  8. Turn right-side out and pop out the corners.
  9. Done. Again you could bias-tape the raw edges that show in the bottom of the box when it’s empty. Which it never is. Speaking of which, these are collapsible for when you don’t have so much Stuff.
Here’s the difference. Before I made the Window Boxes, the fabric on the upper shelf looked fally downy just like the stuff on the lower shelf. I’ll still need to take the boxes down and dig through them, but hopefully this will keep me from losing my mind. Whoops. Too late.

BTW. The clear vinyl came from somewhere and I’ve been looking for a use for it. (Somewhere is a euphemism for a second-hand store.) I have a bunch of it and had been thinking of making a wall-storage deal for supplies. I still have plenty left for something like that.

buckets of fun

So, it all started with needing some rust-colored thread for a purse I’m making. I ran out just as I was about to start a bunch of top-stitching for the loooooong cross-body strap. Since Jim at the Sewing Store recommended a specific brand of thread, which I couldn’t find anywhere else, even online, I geared up for a trip to Racine, where Jim resides in his Sewing Store.

An impromptu text to my fellow shopper, Jane, got her excited enough about a Racine Adventure to tag along.

The Racine Sewing Store is a miracle of tactile delight. There’s fabric, of course, which any sewist (or otherwise, I suspect) can’t help but at least graze with fingers, but there’s an additional mother lode of incredible yarns. Complete with sample knitted projects that make me want to shed my jacket and try out various shawls, scarves, sweaters, shrugs, hats and socks. All of them creatively displayed with brooches, pins, and other accessories that always look terrific on store mannequins but Really Weird when I’m at home looking in the bathroom mirror with my own body therein. πŸ™

We ooohed, aahed and touched our way through the store until I got down to business and asked the friendly clerk about interfacing, which was on my list. My query about a seam ripper brought out this battery-operated gadget that ate its way through seams like PacMan so I succumbed and bought the little critter, fully intending to make more sewing mistakes in order to justify my purchase.

As I was checking out, the brilliant Jane asked of anyone in the immediate vicinity of the check-out counter their opinion on a good place to eat. They chimed, “Buckets!” in unison and looked at a woman standing nearby, who was obviously the owner of Buckets. We memorized her directions, which consisted of “right down the street” and soon were sitting in a pleasant bar/dining room enjoying a bowl of delicious Chicken Wild Rice Soup. Connie, (the owner we’d seen at Sewing) soon arrived, and we had a nice talk with her about Everything. Thus, we made a new friend and added an outstanding lunch place to our repertoire because of Jane’s quick-thinking query.

Upon learning that we intended to Thrift after lunch, Connie recommended the Thrift Store (that’s its real name). Again, the directions were “right up the street”, which we discovered after circling the block several times and thoroughly confusing the Google Lady. (Although this wasn’t the end of the Google Lady’s confusion for the day!! She was ready to resign her Google job by the time we left Racine.) It was a beautiful little store and we found some real bargains.

OFF! we went in search of the Elusive Racine Vinny’s, which was a study in Google Maps hilarity. The Lady kept telling us to turn onto some “path” that didn’t exist at that particular location. Around and around we went until finally stumbling upon a Vinnys that looked pretty sketchy, as did the whole neighborhood. A Very Nice Man was just exiting the store as we parked. He came over to the car and said it was closed for the day, but would be open tomorrow from 11 to 1. We laughed our way out of the parking lot in search of the Salvation Army, which after AGAIN much Google Lady frustration turned out to be a vacant building.

This was our Nevermind Moment and we decided to hit the tried-and-true, albeit messy and disorganized Goodwill. I needed snow pants for my ice fishing outing next week, so I found those in the Men’s’ dept. Kinda grubby, but they’ll do for a one-day excursion. (All mine are Up North or Too Small.) I also found a Very Red coffee cup, which I’m enjoying now and a piece of Waverly outdoor fabric in a nice periwinkle. Of course, I really need more coffee cups and fabric.

Back to Waterford, where we finally found a Vinny’s — this one we know and love. I found a nest of Outrageously Gorgeous scarves in fabrics to dye for (har har) linen, cotton, wool, silk as well as a few notions. Jane found another top Exactly like the one she was wearing which she loves, so now has two.

All in all, a great day of shopping!

fair faucet*

Most projects result in that domino thing and this was no exception. Dominoes: one project requires you to first do another and that one requires another, etc etc.

The dishwasher (yes. I wanted a dishwasher because I use a lot of dishes and like to hide them when they’re dirty. A dishwasher is good camouflage for spaghetti-stained plates and mungy coffee cups.) required a new countertop. Libby’s was due for a new kitchen counter anyway. That was in The Plan way back when I first put in the kitchen. I left a 24″ space at the end of the lower cabinets so I could move them down and fit a dw next to the sink. The New Faucet, however, was not in the plan. I really liked the little faucet that lived there for the past 20 years.

There it was, serving its purpose and being cheap and plastic for, you know, years. But, when the dishwasher and counter were installed (I didn’t attempt this. Bruce did it and he did a great job.) it lost its flux capacitor. When he reinstalled it after the new counter, it began with a bit of stiffness which led to more aches and pains, then a lot of stiffness to the point where I needed two hands to turn it on, which kind of renders the single handle idea moot. I dissembled it and thought I’d get a new cartridge. Up North has many attributes, but convenience isn’t among them. It’s about 30 miles to the nearest Menards, where I could even hope to find a cartridge for a Very Old Inexpensive Off-Brand Faucet, so I bought a new one. Faucet. Not cartridge.

So here it is all shiny and new and I guess I can part with the old one now that this one is installed and working. And so fashionably matching the old stainless steel sink.

*If you didn’t live through Charlie’s Angels, you won’t get the reference. Is there anything NOT on Wikipedia? I mean, who sat down and wrote an in-depth article about a tv show from the 70’s?

your private suite awaits

Sofa bed #2 got itself done today, thanks to the weather (no rain) and many other lucky charms, luck which apparently didn’t extend to either the kitchen faucet or my trusty laptop. So after a fruserating morning squeezed under the kitchen sink with my back arched awkwardly over the cabinet base, my patience reached its limit and I and went outside to wrap up the project that’s been languishing out there. The good thing about this project is that there are no persistent leaks or nuts that won’t tighten, just boards to be sawn and screwed together. I got the bottom portion done yesterday.

So I put on the casters and flipped it over. Then I made the backrest.

Aaaaaannnddd, prepare to be amazed! Finished product in the Shower House / Craic House / BunkHouse.

Cozy up to sleep, read, or enjoy a bit of craic. Once I get the whole space spruced, I’ll show off the rest of it. Fit for a king. Or maybe just a Jackpine Savage.

my bed-brained idea

I love things — furniture, gadgets, utensils — that are able to serve more than one purpose. Topping that list is furniture. It’s a sofa AND a bed. A sofabed. Genius. Wish I’d thought of it. (even though it was probably invented sometime in the 1850’s, I’m sure) So when I came across plans on a website called, I ciphered and outlined and thinked and reconfigured the design around in circles until I came up with the thing I wanted. Don’t laugh. It looks like this:

Tricked out with cushions and pillows, it’s much more comfortable.

I’ve always wanted a sofa-type thing in the bunkhouse, and got by for years with a fally aparty futon. I never liked that futon (I hope it found a good home after I donated it to wherever). What I wanted was a way to offer guests a couple of beds for singles or a double for couples. Most sofabeds come in Size Queen — and the bunkhouse has no business entertaining royalty, the building being classed size Gnome or littler.

The backrest is not attached so it lifts out to add more room for cozy sleeping. Here I have it tucked against the wall. Looks like a fence, I know. Don’t Fence Me In.

So that’s one single bed. The other is under construction. Don’t hire me. I’m slow. (And very bad.) But not idle. Between making the two beds, I’ve installed the water line for the ice maker in the new fridge, took a long boat ride, fixed the lawnmower so I could mow the lawn, planted the garden, created a new garden where we dug up the spot for the new deck steps last summer, went to the Spooner Garden Club plant sale to sell raffle tickets for FISH, replaced the pump head on the presser washer so I could pressure wash the deck, cleaned the tool shed, put up the canopy, took down the canopy in a blizzard, put the canopy back up, spent a weekend in Duluth to see Connor Scaro play music (he is incredible!), helped my friend, Jim Bishop, create a PowerPoint presentation, confirmed Internet service at the Trego Town Hall, and watched seven Cubs games. (Silly me. I end every day and week saying “I didn’t get anything done.” Even though I know Cubs games don’t count.)

I’m building the second bed down near the bunkhouse because they are Very Heavy. Several friends have randomly stopped by — a couple of them skilled carpenters — and politely asked why I opted for treated lumber. Because. Remember my first sentence in this post? I like things to be multi-purpose. If I ever decide I want to use these as benches on the deck or around the campfire, then we’re all set! Never mind that we need a football team to move them. They’re MULTI-PURPOSE.

Casters help.

homeless shelter

Someone has taken up residence in the outdoor shower.

They really are robins egg blue. I wonder if she’d mind if I borrowed an egg to match paint at the hardware store.