Monthly Archives: July 2012

This old house: From two layers of icky vinyl to the original hardwood…a work in progress

After 20 years of living in this house, we both agreed that the kitchen flooring had to go. Actually, we probably agreed on that about 10 years ago, but it’s taken 10 years to move in that direction.

About a year ago, while fiddling with the edge of the vinyl flooring, I determined that under all that ugliness must be a solid wood floor. After all, over the years, we’d unearthed gorgeous wood floors throughout the house so it just made sense that 90 years ago the builders would also have used wood in the kitchen.

Here’s the thing. When we moved into the house, there was the most horrendous multi-shaded pink carpeting (my apologies to the former owners). It took us less than a day to decide it had to go and while pulling up the corner of the carpet — yes, I tend to do this — I discovered oak floors.

So on a Sunday afternoon, after sending both daughters off to Chicago/Milwaukee to spend the week with their aunts and uncles, we began sanding the floors.

I remember this part distinctly. I grabbed the handles of the sander and took off, knowing the noisy, vibrating machine would hide the sound of my sobs and take my mind off the fact that house seemed oh so empty. My husband did his best not to roll his eyes and didn’t bother asking if I wanted him to take over.

By the time we finished two days later, the floors were clear of the black stains and ready for the polyurethane.

Now we’re back at it. The girls are in their own homes now and while both think it is a fine idea we’re doing this, neither one offered to help out. That’s okay, kiddos, we’re tough old birds.

I use the term “we” loosely, because so far all I’ve had to do is sweep. The hubs has managed to rip up nearly half of the flooring while I was at work. What we’ve discovered is that these are wider floor boards and perhaps not of the same quality as those in the other rooms. So whether the sander will produce a floor worthy of clear polyurethane or shiny floor paint remains to be seen.

Hopefully, in a few weeks, we’ll be gazing fondly at our “new” floor.

Now…before, during, and….after?
After? We’ll see…and let you know. But just for the record, this is what the floors in the living room look like.

What Bluffton’s Swinging Nature Preserve has in common with Neil Armstrong and Jimi Hendrix

Some pretty major events occurred in 1969. On August 20 of that year, Neil Armstrong became the first person to set foot on the moon and immortalized the words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Just a few days earlier, more than 400,000 music lovers attended “Woodstock” to hear Jimi Hendrix; the Who; and Crosby, Stills and Nash, among others.

Opposition to the Vietnam War continued to gain strength with demonstrations staged around the country — some peaceful, some violent.

And in a tiny town in northwest Ohio, the local college completed construction of a swinging bridge that spanned the Riley Creek and became a favorite destination for those hiking the paths of Bluffton University’s Swinging Bridge Nature Preserve.

In 1969, I was 13. Go ahead, you do the math. Since then, I’ve crossed that bridge and skated under it countless times. Even so, each time I cross it, I’m struck by a sense of amazement and peace.

My guess is that a lot of people who live in Bluffton, Ohio, are not even aware that the bridge exists nor of the many trails that wind through the nature preserve.

Needing a bit of that peace and quiet, this morning’s run took me along the paths of the preserve, ending up at the bridge. Here’s what I found:

The early bird gets the….blackberries!

One of my brothers lives in the mountains of Virginia where he regularly picks a variety of wild berries on his runs up the mountainside and into the woods.  This never really impressed me because I don’t like blackberries and raspberries so why bother picking them?

Or at least that was my perspective until I heard Hank Shaw talk about hunting, fishing, and foraging your own food. Shaw, the author of “Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast”, offers advice to anyone interested in taking a more active role in determining what they feed themselves and their families.

Ironically, during a recent run I was listening to Shaw’s conversation on a Splendid Table podcast. A few minutes later, I stopped near a favorite rock to take a break. There, within an arm’s reach, grew a rambling bush of wild blackberries.

I grabbed a few, shoved them in my shorts pocket for my husband and decided to return later in the week to pick more. The next day, the destructive derecho windstorm swept through our part of Ohio, replacing those visions of blackberries with downed ancient trees, power lines, and a week of struggling back to normality.

But this morning — the Fourth of July — I loaded up my bike basket with containers and pedaled down to my rock and the blackberry bush — all the time wondering whether the winds had swept the berries into the nearby water. But no…there they were, looking as if they were just bursting with flavor.

This was not an easy task — one can’t just lift a branch to grab a bunch of berries unless one enjoys the pain of the thorny brambles. So it was careful picking. Worse, some of the best ones hung over the water, where I could just barely reach them by standing on the ancient flagstone overhang.

But hey, I felt a little like Euell Gibbons in “Stalking the Wild Asparagus”, returning home with a bowlful of berries. It was worth battling the thorny branches. And strangely, freshly picked blackberries actually taste pretty good. Might have to rethink my dislike of berries.

Did you know that long ago, people used blackberry bushes to magically cure  whooping cough? They’d pass the victim under the arching bramble seven times, reciting:

In bramble, out cough
Here I leave the whooping cough.