The Ugly Linoleum of the Year Award

We’re in the middle of doing some home improvements.  Every time we have done some work in this house, we discover “new” linoleum.

My house is old- built in 1906- a mere 20 years or less since Little House on the Prairie times. I’m not sure what the styles were back in the day. I’m assuming that linoleum- battleship indestructible linoleum- was all the rage at some point.  If that’s the case, than this house was oh-so-trendy.  There was ugly linoleum in all the rooms- even the bedrooms.  (Of course there wasn’t linoleum in the mud room, where I think it would make most sense to have it.)

Today, we ripped out a kitchen cabinet and found a “new” type of linoleum.  I am humbly submitting this linoleum into the Ugly Linoleum of the YearAward Contest.

So here you go!  What do you think?  I think I should also get extra bonus points for that fantabulous tile-look wallpaper.

We found some "new" linoleum today.

We found some “new” linoleum today.

You may remember last year when we cleaned out our basement and fixed our foundation with shotcrete that we found some linoleum on the basement floor, too.  Although this linoleum is now gone, you can remember it here now with me, in all of its splendor.

We are stylin'!

This layered linoleum is gone but not forgotten.

And don’t forget that almost three years ago now, we put new carpet in almost the entire house. When we tore up those old carpets, we got a glimpse at a lot of linoleum. It’s all gone or covered now, but it’s worth remembering.

I’m not sure if they offer The Ugly Linoleum of the Year Award or even who “they” are.  But, if they do, then I’m sure this house will win hands down.  (Of course, if it was back in the day, it would win The Really Trendy Linoleum of the Year Award instead.)

So without further ado, brace yourself for some more really ugly linoleum…

This is not berber-type carpet- this is actually linoleum in a design to look like berber. Notice the glitter specs in it too, and the oh-so-lovely pink and green design.

This is a zoom out of all that, um, trendy berber design linoleum. This was in the living room/ dining room.

I really don’t have words to describe this one. This was on the floor of the room we call the library.

This is the kids’ room, view one…

The kids’ room, view two…

My room…

My room, a closeup view. Notice the glittery spots…

I am thirty-something year old Jersey girl living in a little house the prairie.  I’d like to know if I’m missing something.  Is this linoleum all the rage?  There are pretty hardwood floors underneath all these… sigh…

I’d like you to let me know -if you had to pick just one- which one would be the winner of The Ugly Linoleum of the Year Award?  Or again, am I just missing something, and do you actually like these patterns?

Posted in Laura's Little House on the Prairie, Laura's Little Kitchen On the Prairie by with 1 comment.

Hunkering Down

“Now, Laura, you gotta hunker down.”
-my former boss

At one of my previous jobs, my boss would sometimes feel frustrated at my enthusiasm.  He was from central Pennsylvania.  I never heard the term “hunker down” until I met him, so I don’t know if it was his expression or a central Pennsylvania thing.  He’d tell me to “hunker down” often.  We had different points of view on a lot of workplace issues, but we got along well.

Now I hear his words echoing in my head at times like this- times when we’re preparing for severe snow storms.  We really hunker down, but I think my boss and I have different definitions.

In this blogpost I will give you a quick summary of what we do here at Kevin’s and Laura’s Little House on the Prairie to hunker down when we’re expecting bad weather…

1.  We already have flashlights and candles in the house.  We don’t use a whole lot of battery-operated things, so we don’t have too many batteries. I have tons on candles.

2. We kind of count on loosing power, and that’s OK.  We live a pretty simple lifestyle, so it’s be OK if we lost power for a while.  We’ll loose the computer, the oven, the lights, the appliances and the water.  That’s OK.  We’ll be fine.

3. We prepare for not having water. We shower so we’re good to go there, at least for a little bit.  We have some outdoor plastic containers with water that can be used for flushing.  We keep bottled water in the house.

4. We put away our vehicles.  We have a garage for them all but rarely use them.  We put away our vehicles when we’re hunkering down.

I took this picture of my kids a few weeks ago, just being silly.  You can see our wood box in the background.  When we're hunkering down, I overfill it, as high as I can.

I took this picture of some of my kids a few weeks ago, just being silly. You can see our wood box in the background. When we’re hunkering down, I overfill it, as high as I can.

5. We feed the critters extra.  We give extra food to the goats, pigs and cows.  It’s a lot easier to do a quick checkup on them in a blizzard and not have to feed them, too.  We give them enough food to last a few days.  We make sure they’re all snug.  We make a backup plan if we loose power and have baby chicks (which we don’t have right now).

6. We make sure we have plenty of wood.  We heat with wood, so loosing power won’t affect us.  Our backup heat is a floor furnace, which also doesn’t need electric.  We make sure we have a lot of wood next to the front door and in the indoor wood box.  We overfill the indoor wood box with enough wood to last as maybe 36 hours, even if the temperatures are cold and we need to constantly feed the wood burning stove.  (I have a huge deck box that I keep in my living room for wood.  It holds enough wood to get us through blizzards, is durable and not too tacky and keeps all the wood debris and dirt contained.I seriously recommend a deck box like this to anyone else who heats with wood everyday. This deck box is the best I’ve found and I’ve tried a few different indoor wood holding systems.)

7. We have a propane stove.  We can use the stovetop to cook without power.  We can also cook on top of the wood burning stove.  I’ve done this in the past when we used to have an electric stove.

8. We catch up on everything beforehand.  I try to be caught up on laundry.  I’m never really caught-up-caught-up, but I make sure mostly everything is done and dried before we’re expecting bad weather.  Even if we don’t loose power, we don’t use the dryer and we can’t dry clothes on the line outside in a blizzard. We’re a family of seven and laundry is critical. We burn the trash, take out the compost and what-not, too.

9.  If Kevin has to work, he prepares to be stuck there. He takes the pickup which has four wheel drive.  He packs extra food.  We hate for him to be stuck there, but it’s happened before.

10. We’re always really supplied.  Living out here, it’s a road trip and an all day adventure to go to real stores.  We always have stuff in the house.

What do you do to hunker down?  How do you prepare for blizzards?

Posted in A Day In the Life, Also Known As Logistics and Management in a Large Family, Heating the House, Knowing What to Do to Feel a Little Bit Less Like the Woman in the Shoe, Laundry, Laura's Little House on the Prairie and tagged , by with no comments yet.

Fixing a Foundation With Shotcrete

Our house has had foundation issues.

Some different "before" shots...

Some different “before” shots…

We knew about them since before we moved in.  We finally had them fixed in May.

Our house was built in 1906.  Typical of houses in this area, our house was built without a very deep foundation.  Somewhere along the way, someone came along and dug out a basement.  The basement digger left a shelf of dirt around the foundation and plastered it in.

Although it sounds like a tragedy waiting to happen, it worked well enough that the house has stood for 108 years.  It must be strong, right?  I guess, but I was scared.  I was scared a windstorm would blow the house to Oz or have the house collapse or it would take on a Charlie’s-house-from-the-Charlie-and-the-Chocolate-Factory-movie look.  Every month perhaps was pushing our luck.

The crumbling basement walls had become worse.  They were becoming worse and worse every day.  The chief reason for this worsening was probably just time, but I’m sure water was a factor, too.  I had a washing machine output pipe that I unsuccessfully tried to reroute to water trees.  That pipe had come apart where it comes out of the house and the water had gone into the basement.  It was a brief time but it was enough time to wreak some havoc.  There was also a pipe in the wall behind the bathtub that had corroded and leaked.  We didn’t know about this leak until some damage was done.   The time was just up for what should have been a temporary fix (the dirt walls covered by plaster) perhaps 75 years ago.  And really, if you think about how long it actually lasted, it lasted well.  It outlasted the basement digger.

It looks like the pressure tank never made it into the picture.

This is before…

We researched a few different ways to fix the foundation.

We had another foundation man come and look at it.  He had a different approach, an approach to put in wall anchors.  The problem was that there was not enough wall for that.

We decided on Shotcrete.  Shotcrete is pneumatically applied concrete.  The house should now stand for another 108 years.

I’ll explain a little bit about the Shotcrete process here.

The first step was to clean out the basement.  You may remember that that was an interesting process in and of itself.  As we were Kevin was cleaning out the basement, more and more dirt kept falling and falling.  It was almost impossible to keep up with.

And then last month, the foundation man, Joe Kodiak from Kodiak Concrete out of Colorado Springs came here with his crew.  They braced up the house.  They made forms.

The cement truck arrived.

Joe and his crew went to work on the actually shotcreting.

They even dug out one of our windows to give the house more support.

This shows some of the process that Kodiak Joe and his crew used to fix our basement.

This shows some of the process that Kodiak Joe and his crew used to fix our basement.

We had to stay out of the house while they were working because the dust from the shotcrete can be toxic.

Yes, our house was one of the worst ones that they’ve done, and this is their profession.

But, yes, the foundation is fixed!  Our house should stand another 108 years!  The result is a beautiful basement.  Perhaps it can be a man cave in the future or a whatever.

It wasn't really snowing.  I'm just not a good photographer.

It wasn’t really snowing. I’m just not a good photographer.

What a relief to know that the house will not be falling down anytime soon!

The water leak that was coming from the bathroom is fixed now, too.

The water leak that was coming from the bathroom is fixed now, too.

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So What Exactly Is In a Hundred Year Old Basement?

My house has had foundation issues.

I knew about them since before I moved in.  I didn’t realize exactly what foundation issues were and what exactly that meant.  Now I know that meant that we shouldn’t have ever purchased this house.  But we did and I don’t have a time machine so now I must deal.

Typical of houses of this age in the area, my house was built without a very deep foundation.  And then somewhere along the way, someone dug out a basement.  The basement digger just left a ledge of dirt around the foundation and plastered in the dirt.  The dirt and plaster were crumbling.  We were afraid our house would fall down.  It was built in 1906.

So how do you fix a foundation?  There are many different approaches actually.  After much discussion and research, we decided we would use shotcrete.  Shotcrete is sprayed on concrete, applied with an air gun.

The first step of the shotcrete was to actually empty out the basement of everything.  We saved a little bit of money by doing this part totally ourselves.  It makes for an interesting blog post anyway…

So what exactly is in a hundred year old basement?  This blog will answer that age old question.

Seven (plus two) jugs of Sevin.  Sevin is a bug killer.  And I found 9- 2.5 gallon jugs of it!  They were in plain sight, resting on the “shelf” of dirt around the foundation.  I just never bothered to look for them or at them to see what they were.  So much for organic farmer me.  I had nine jugs of Sevin.  And it wasn’t even regular Sevin.  It was Sevin which contained a label that said it was for agricultural and professional use. Even if I was the type of person who loved Sevin, it’d be illegal for me to use that type since I don’t have the right licenses.  Even though my kids didn’t have access to the basement, I am still in horror at the fact that I had this deadly chemical under my roof. For nearly six years, too.
Then there was the problem of disposing of the Sevin.  What should I do with it?  Since I had no idea, I called the extension agent.  He had no idea either, but he called me back after he did some research.  “So&So will take it,” the extension agent said. “He uses that type of chemical for his business, Blah-Blah in [that neighboring town].  He has all the licenses for it.  He will check the label and use it if it’s within date.  If it is unusable or past date,  he has all the right ways to dispose of it. Can you bring it to town?”
Yes, I can and I did, within the hour.  The extension agent helped me unload it out of my trunk so that he could get it to So&So.  Thank you, extension agent.  Thank you, So&So.  The Sevin is now gone, and gone properly.

Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 3.58.21 PM

Here are some of the Sevins…


Our old hot water heater.
A two barrel wood stove that’s not vented. Because you never know when the power will go out and our floor furnace and woodburning stove will both stop working.

It looks like the pressure tank never made it into the picture.

The good thing is that I plan to use the old water heater as a chicken scalder for when we butcher meat birds.


A creepy spider who is probably poisonous.  He may not be, but we’ll say he is just to be cautious. Better get that Sevin.

He was probably secretly plotting to kill us all.

He was probably secretly plotting to kill us all.


A well pressure tank.

You can see the well pressure tank in the background.  This is our new hot water heater.

You can see the well pressure tank in the background. This is our new hot water heater.


A mushroom.  Yes, a dirt wall corner where the plaster had fallen off had a mushroom growing in it.  It didn’t make the picture while in the basement.


A salamander.  Before now I had never seen a live salamander before.  Kevin named her Sally and took her to her new home in the stock tank.  I still say ewe and that that was an experience that I could have done without.

We put her in a Home Depot bucket for her journey to the stock tank.

We put her in a Home Depot bucket for her journey to the stock tank.



A floor furnace.


The floor furnace is in the background behind my son.


Shelves that are the size of quart sized canning jars.
A World War Two Ammunition box.  I was told that back in the day they gave these out like candy here.

When we moved this shelves out, the plaster wall behind it collapsed.

The ammunition box is on the top.  When we moved these shelves out, the plaster wall behind it collapsed.




Some paint.


So the paint never made the picture while it was in the basement, but you can see it in the corner here after we removed it. You can also see how to access the basement. I used to look for Aunty Em. Really.



A bag of cement that got wet that was now just a rock.
Really *fashionable* linoleum of two different types covered by olive green scrolly carpet covered by a mudslide that was supposed to be holding up our house.

Yes, this was the top layer.

Yes, this was the top layer.

We are stylin'!

We are stylin’!

Today the foundation man came and fixed it all. We now no longer have to worry about our house falling down. (Deep sigh of relief.)

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