The Lessons I've Learned From This Old Lady: Part 2

In Part 1 of this blog I went over dealing with a drafty home in winter & our many trials & tribulations of animals both domestic as well as wild.  In this part I will talk about my ongoing education about cleaning in a rural home.  

We have well water & a septic system, two things this city gal knew nothing about.  I have an Aunt who married a farmer in rural Canada, so somewhere in the recesses of my memory I knew there were some "catches"  about these systems. 

I looked up some information on the Internet.  First thing I learned: no anti-bacterial hand soaps or dish detergents.  A septic system needs bacteria to do it's job & anti-bacterial anything kills that bacteria.  We have never been anti-bacterial soap users, so this was no loss to us.  However, in today's germaphobic mentality regular hand soap is hard to come by.  Luckly, Dove makes a liquid soap with no anti-bacterial agents.  Dawn dish detergent used to make non-anti-bacterial products, sadly they too have jumped on the anti-bacterial bandwagon.  They still make the classic Dawn, which means I just have to take a closer look while shopping.

In a home with a septic system you can only use 1 cup of bleach a month.  Interesting fact - bleach reacts with high iron water (often a problem with well water) to cause yellowing in your laundry.  In this Old Lady bleach is reandered USELESS.   I use a spray bleach for tough stains on my countertops (Hubby is  frequent spiller of red wine); I use paper towels to wipe that up & throw them away so no bleach gets into the septic system.

As far as whites go, we just avoided buying them altogether.  Then my daughter & husband joined Tae Kwon Do which, of course, has WHITE uniforms.  I am not one to balk at a challenge, so I forced myself to figure it out.

After much research & many product trials this is my secret.  Whink makes No More Yellow with Laundry Detergent that took the yellow right out of the Tae Kwon Do uniforms.  I had a white flannel night gown that had been yellow for years & Whink made it white again.  I use the Whink product on whites about every 3rd or 4th washing.  Every load of laundry gets a half a cup of Borax.  Borax evens out the PH balance in well water which helps cut down how quickly yellow builds up.  Arm & Hammer makes a washing soda that does the same thing & is cheaper, but Borax doesn't clump up like the washing soda. 

After much research & many product trials this is my secret.  Whink makes No More Yellow with Laundry Detergent that took the yellow right out of the Tae Kwon Do uniforms.  I had a white flannel night gown that had been yellow for years & Whink made it white again.  I use the Whink product on whites about every 3rd or 4th washing.  Every load of laundry gets a half a cup of Borax.  Borax evens out the PH balance in well water which helps cut down how quickly yellow builds up.  Arm & Hammer makes a washing soda that does the same thing & is cheaper, but Borax doesn't clump up like the washing soda. 

Getting a water Softener is on our eventually list, but I can't expect a water Softener to work miracles in an old house using well water.   My bathroom is a constant source of rust build up.  I use the Iron Out in the toilet, to soak while I clean the rest of the bathroom.  I scrub the toilet clean then use the Whink Rust Guard tablet in the tank to slow down rust build up.  CLR Bathroom & Kitchen cleaner is foamy & works quickly to scrub off those lovely rust stain on my shower walls & tub.

For someone who doesn't like to clean, this Old Lady has turned me into a cleaning expert. 

For someone who doesn't like to clean, this Old Lady has turned me into a cleaning expert. 

I am a 5'1" woman living in a house with 9 foot ceilings & some beautiful woodwork.  Dust builds up on door & window surrounds.  Cobwebs are in out of reach corners.  I needed a quick way to clean these areas without a step stool or dragging the vacuum cleaner out.  Here is my answer..... 

Flexi-Edge Floor & Wall Duster from ecloth.com.  This little helper has an extender for little ole me.  You can wash the head & it only costs $24.99.

Flexi-Edge Floor & Wall Duster from ecloth.com.  This little helper has an extender for little ole me.  You can wash the head & it only costs $24.99.

I can be disorganized & a procrastinator!  So once I finish the 90 day de-clutter challenge my house will be in better shape.  I will then come up with daily cleaning tasks for this Grand Old Gal so I can keep the house clean while working on improvements.  In our 900 square foot house it was easy to stay on top of things.   The improvements I have made in this house have been challenging, but rewarding & fun.   

My first big project to the house was my husband's office.  In our old house, Erin had a home office in an unfinished basement.  So before I let him move into his new office I made him set up temporarly in the dining room, while I set about doing something I had never done before, but learned as I went....

Painting a floor! I didn't go simple I decided to do a checkerboard pattern on a diagonal.  It isn't perfect, but brings the character of the old pine floors out.  The middle picture is our daughter, Moya's, handprint, which is at the entrance.  I am extremly proud that my husband uses that as a background for his business cards, Mendota office sign & on his business web site for Forest City Behavior.  He works long hours serving the Developmentally Disabled population in Illinois & Wisconsin.  So it was my pleasure to upgrade his home office.

Painting a floor! I didn't go simple I decided to do a checkerboard pattern on a diagonal.  It isn't perfect, but brings the character of the old pine floors out.  The middle picture is our daughter, Moya's, handprint, which is at the entrance.  I am extremly proud that my husband uses that as a background for his business cards, Mendota office sign & on his business web site for Forest City Behavior.  He works long hours serving the Developmentally Disabled population in Illinois & Wisconsin.  So it was my pleasure to upgrade his home office.

Why painted floor?  Simple, it was already painted.  In Old Ladies such as these, stained wood was found only in areas where visitors were.  Most of the floors & wood work in this house has never been stained.  Some of the doors & wood work even have faux painted grain.  Floor painting is considered an art form.  Let's not forget a home of this age you'll find lead paint.  So stripping a painted floor in this old gal is not a task to be entered into lightly.  With that on let's move onto our Master bedroom.

With the help of my nephew, Ethan, niece, Savannah and my daughter, Moya (in the closet).  I used a safety stripper which we all scrapped off, to get to the wood underneath.  This is where I learned to use & fall in love with an orbital sander.

With the help of my nephew, Ethan, niece, Savannah and my daughter, Moya (in the closet).  I used a safety stripper which we all scrapped off, to get to the wood underneath.  This is where I learned to use & fall in love with an orbital sander.

What this project taught me was leave fancy wood work alone or repaint it.  It has big bevel in it making it difficult to sand all the paint off.   Erin had to do most of that work - my hands weren't strong enough to hold the orbital sander sideways & not destroy the bevel.  The door you see in the above picture is not stained, it is one of the doors painted to look stained.  We left that along with door & window surrounds because faux grain painting is a dying art.  Today there are all kinds of special tools, paint & videos to help you create that look.  This was done with just paint brushes & has worn in spots, but adds character to the house.

Floor in various stages of staining & polyurethane.  To finish the look of the knot on the floor I took a wine cork, cut the top off, stained it & used a rubber mallet to hammer it in.  Then the middle pic is the final look.

Floor in various stages of staining & polyurethane.  To finish the look of the knot on the floor I took a wine cork, cut the top off, stained it & used a rubber mallet to hammer it in.  Then the middle pic is the final look.

This project also taught me to not set limitations on myself just because I haven't done it before. Research it & go for it!  Learn as you go - I learned to strip paint, sand, stain & polyurethane. I even fixed a chemical spill that damaged our finished floor.

I have learned from my mistakes as well.  For instance, do not use amber tinted polyurethane on a white floor.  I knew that, but I failed to double check the can.  I also did the entire floor instead of just doing the closet, which is what my husband told me to do.  No - I went full throttle & had a yellow floor to show for it.  So I etched the polyurethane with an orbital sander & started over.  It turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  We had originally stenciled the entire floor, which was too much.  The last picture below shows a little goes a long way.  

In the end I used a clear water based polyurethane in the closet only.  It didn't match the closet baseboards, it was a touch yellow.  So I skipped the rest of the floor.  I will be doing a white floor with a pattern on the library floor.  I learned to go with more of cream base in the white instead of the white base that's in the Swan White in Moya's room.

Moya has moved into her new upstairs room, that hasn't been occupied for what we believe to be over 70 years.  Most people remember most of the upstairs rooms to be stuffed with antiques, cast aside furniture & other junk.  We'll save Moya's room unveiling for another post.

Moya has moved into her new upstairs room, that hasn't been occupied for what we believe to be over 70 years.  Most people remember most of the upstairs rooms to be stuffed with antiques, cast aside furniture & other junk.  We'll save Moya's room unveiling for another post.

This Grand Old Lady has also taught me to give second chances to furniture as well.

This is Grandma Marie's old kitchen cart that once resided in her laundry room & was used on holidays. It got banged up over the years, moved to the porch then to the garage.  When I did spring cleaning in the kitchen i found my stove overhead fixture, cabinet & drawer handles were copper not brown.  I used the copper to inspire the color scheme for the cart redo.  Grandma Marie's stool/chair is underway. note:  to restore the handles I soaked them in an equal parts vinegar & water mix overnight then washed them cleaned with brass brush while wearing heavy duty latex dish gloves. 

This is Grandma Marie's old kitchen cart that once resided in her laundry room & was used on holidays. It got banged up over the years, moved to the porch then to the garage.  When I did spring cleaning in the kitchen i found my stove overhead fixture, cabinet & drawer handles were copper not brown.  I used the copper to inspire the color scheme for the cart redo.  Grandma Marie's stool/chair is underway.

note:  to restore the handles I soaked them in an equal parts vinegar & water mix overnight then washed them cleaned with brass brush while wearing heavy duty latex dish gloves. 

 I will admit my Dad had me strip paint from cabinet doors with a heat gun when I was a teen.  He also handed me a hammer & taught me how to lay a sub floor in a kitchen of a rental house.  That same rental became our first home.  I learned first hand what happens when you fail to get nails flush on the subfloor - they pop through the linoleum after a time.  I'm 44 now, but believe my Dad, a retired electrician, has more to teach.  Learning to do simple electric work is on my list of things to do.

My Mum was a big believer of teaching her girls that we could do anything we set our minds to. Also she wouldn't  allow our gender to tell us what we can & can't do.  

My Mother-in-law Julia, who grew up in this Old Lady, has been very supportive of changes I have made & encourages more.  It means a lot to have the backing of someone who lived here - sometimes people live in this Old Lady's past & fail to envision her future.  My Father-in-law Jim gave me a Dremmel tool one Christmas.  That little baby is currently busy sanding hard to reach places on Grandma Marie's old stool/chair.  For Jim to have enough faith in my abilities to give me a Dremmel tool says it all.

So between my Mum, Dad, in-laws & a supportive husband this Old Lady & I make a great team.