Monday, January 28, 2013

Down On My Knees

I've been spending a lot of time on my knees lately. Although a little of it has been spent in prayer, all of it has been spent scrubbing. As a result, I have a new and lasting appreciation for polyurethane. You see, I've been  on my knees scrubbing the farmhouse dining room floor with paste wax and steel wool and elbow grease. Lots of elbow grease.

When we had a contractor working on the house for major things like re-wiring, plumbing, and structural changes (cutting new doors and taking out old windows), we also had the crew rip up the old tile that covered the floors in the kitchen, bath, and laundry. Underneath, much to our satisfaction  was beautiful solid oak flooring.

While they were at it, we also had the contractor crew sand and finish these floors with polyurethane.

Now, we all know that wood surfaces finished with polyurethane can stand up to wear and tear, water, and all the abuse of normal living extremely well for a long time, with only minimal care. But there was a time when polyurethane was not available. That was the age when the dining room floor was laid.

The dining room floor is also beautiful oak. We think it was put down in the late 1950s, perhaps, but certainly in the days before polyurethane. When we got possession of the house, most of this floor was covered with a piece of linoleum  Only about two feet all around the walls was exposed to wear. Once renovations started in earnest, we pulled up the old linoleum, swept with a broom, and covered the floor with large pieces of cardboard in an effort to protect it while all the work was going on. About a month ago, maybe, I started cleaning the edges of the floor. I'm still at it.

Now I know why perfectly intelligent people covered up their beautiful hardwood floors with carpet back in the dark ages before polyurethane! Without that miracle coating, the wood requires a lot of care to keep it rich and glowing and protected. And it requires such care often! And such care is a lot of work!! I tackled the crud with good 'ole paste wax and steel wool. It does do a good job, as wax is a solvent, and coupled with the steel wool, it dissolves away a lot of the grime. There were places I had to use a scraper to get up some decades-old paint splatters and other unknown stuck-on stuff, but mostly the wax, steel wool, and circular pressure did the job. Oh, and don't forget the buffing: using dry rags and yet more of that elbow grease to rub away the dirty wax and bring on the shine.

It took a lot of scrubbing, scraping, and buffing to go from this... this!

I'm very thankful I do not have to scrub the entire floor on my knees. The biggest area that was underneath the linoleum is in really good shape. A good mopping with soap and water was all it needed.

It will be covered again, this time with a nice area rug to make the room cozier and the floor warmer. The outer two feet or so will be exposed like before, thus all my scrubbing. The edges that were underneath furniture year after year cleaned up beautifully with the wax job, looking almost like new.

The doorways, however, show a lot of wear, even after all my scrubbing and buffing. Makes you wonder how many folks went in and out, and what they were up to all those years.

Now that I'm almost finished with this lovely floor, I've discovered another reason to have it sanded and finished with polyurethane as soon as we can afford to: it's hazardous to your health! To protect my hard work, I put down some scatter rugs in strategic places, only to find that the wax makes the floor so slippery that one step on the rugs will send your feet flying out from under you! Not good, to say the least. Before we open the house for guests, I'll be sure to invest in non-slip rug pads to prevent any falls.

It's said that experience is the best teacher. That's debatable, but in this instance, my experience waxing the dining room floor has been a good teacher. I've learned that I really appreciated the people who invented polyurethane, that waxing hardwood floors on one's knees is a young person's job (at least a person younger than me), and that when you've worked really hard at something and everything you have aches, the satisfaction of a job done to the best of your ability is worth all the time, trouble, and pain. Almost.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Up On All Fours

Our roly-poly puppies are becoming Weebles. Remember the commercial? "Weebles wobble but they don't fall down." Except the puppies fall down...a lot! They are getting up on all four feet now and wobbling along for a step or two before they "stop, drop, and roll." (That's a phrase to teach children what to do in case their clothing catches fire.) The little fellas are so chubby that when they drop, they automatically roll. All six of them have their eyes open now, and they have gloriously mastered growling and barking. Even so, they still sleep a lot.

They are also trying to play a little, which is when they really weeble, wobble, fall down, and roll.

We moved them to the basement a couple of days ago. When they get going with the growling, yapping, and barking, which seems to be mostly in the wee hours of the morning, the noise is not conducive to sleep. Besides, the hearth was getting a little stinky, so it was time for The Big Move. Robin put together a pretty neat puppy palace using the unused whelping box and some sheet metal. I moved the carpet piece and towels from the hearth so their new home would smell familiar. Then we added a heat lamp and space heater to help them get used to a slightly cooler environment, hopefully with no shivering.

I moved the puppies while Leah was outside, two at a time. They're so fat I was afraid to try carrying more than two! When I set them down on the carpet, they were initially frightened a little, but once all six of them got there, they weren't so scared. Leah didn't have any trouble finding her babies when she came back inside and immediately set to work getting them settled in.

Next I moved the family inside the box, where things would be more cozy. Once Leah joined them and started dinner, it was quite cozy indeed.

Along with sleeping, eating is the other important activity in the puppies' lives. They nurse heartily, sometimes too much so, it seems to me. Leah is very patient with them, but then, they don't have teeth yet.

Although it was time to move the puppy family, I miss having them on the hearth. While they were there, they were a part of my day, most of the day. Now that I have to go downstairs to see them, I feel like I'm missing some cute moments. However, there are several jobs that need doing in the basement.  The Big Move might mean that I'll have a neater and cleaner basement in the end. Not a bad deal, don't you think?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Roly-Poly Puppies

Leah's little family isn't so little any more! In 12 days they have more than doubled their birth weight, coming in at over two pounds each now. They are round and roly-poly and sturdy.

They are still doing a lot of eating and sleeping and growing. They can crawl around pretty well now, but have not really tried to stand up yet. I love listening to them as much as watching them. They make quite a variety of sounds to be so young, and once in a while there are some little barks and growls.

The puppies haven't outgrown our hearth yet. It's actually quite a nice place to have them. In case you've been wondering, there's no fire in the wood stove! Our heat comes from an outdoor wood furnace and the pretty stove on the hearth is only for emergencies.

Yesterday, the two black and tan little girls opened their eyes! I don't think they are seeing much yet, but it won't be long.

Leah is such a good mama. She is comfortable leaving them for as long as an hour now, glad to get outdoors for some fresh air and exercise. Although she is committed, I think she's also bored sometimes, so a break is good for her. She's also eating twice as much as normal, reminding us in the mornings to feed her, since she usually eats just once a day in the evening. By the way, that cut on her leg has healed almost completely now, thank goodness.

Here are a few more pictures to enjoy. Someday it will be hard to believe they were ever this small.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Seeing the Forest and the Trees

You've heard the saying, "Can't see the forest for the trees," I'm sure. When you live within spittin' distance of the forest, however, you don't get to use that excuse for not appreciating the beauty around you.

Yesterday was unseasonably warm all across the mid-Atlantic. Here in our neck of the woods, temperatures soared close to 70 degrees. Robin and I took advantage of this mid-winter rarity to go hiking in the woods with some friends. We walked,

and hiked our way through the woods for nearly three hours, relishing the fact that we needed only a light jacket or sweatshirt on a January afternoon.

You might think there wouldn't be much to see in the woods in the middle of winter, but you'd be wrong! We marveled at God's handiwork, both large and small. There were lots of rocks.

There were rocks with water rushing over them, creating that wonderful sound only rocks and swift water can make.

There were towering rocks

and rocks weeping tears of blue.

There were several different kinds of moss underfoot

and a limb of gold glowing in the afternoon light.

There were gnarly tree roots

and stunning views.

Before we turned around and headed back to where we started, there were some snacks and cold drinks and a few minutes to rest.

Although we were surrounded by all the wonders of the woods, we were grateful to have the curiosity of youth

and the wisdom of experience.

As we made our way back to civilization, we were all tired and satisfied. I can think of no sweeter way to end a day.