Hodgepodge Garden

We decided that this year we were going to have a garden. In San Diego we had a very large aquaponic garden in our back yard along with many fruit trees. A couple years ago we attempted a small garden but it didn’t really produce much. The only thing that had really taken off was the volunteer massive pumpkin patch we had a few years back. We have been *so* busy for the past 5 months and once our starter seeds had all sprouted inside it was a race to figure out how the heck we were going to actually put together the garden and where. Then the idea came to Atom-

Tires.

I wanted a gorgeous raised planter garden in the back lot that we would share with our amazing super friends/neighbors that live behind us. We had recently gotten new tires on my Jeep and in true Atom fashion, he requested to keep the old ones. Now I know why. Then magically about a dozen more tires show up in the back lot and the tire garden was born. Its definitely not a pretty garden but it is super functional. (And super huge thanks to said neighbors for adding the rock which totally helps with curb appeal!)

In the tires we have growing cantaloupe, potatoes, red and green lettuce, cucumber, zucchini, brussels sprouts, broccoli, parsley, basil, and I’m sure there are a few more that I can’t think of off the top of my head.

Potatoes
Lettuce
Spinach
Cucumber
Broccoli

(Thanks to our bunny Linda for the free garden fertilizer!)

Next to the building there was a large dead tree that the city removed late last year which opened up a perfect sunny spot along the west side of the building. A truckload of top soil and a rototiller later, our tomato seedlings were planted and have completely taken off.

Toward the front of the building we have a bunch of volunteer cilantro that keeps coming back each year since we initially planted it the year we moved here. It’s funny that we aren’t even watering it and it keeps coming back. We tried to grow cilantro for years in San Diego and it would never grow and now we can’t get rid of it here in Indiana. Good thing we all LOVE cilantro in our family!

Volunteer cilantro

Our peach & plum trees have totally taken off and are filling out nicely. Atom planted them last year and it looks like we will be getting fruit this year! There are so many little baby peaches and plums!

1 of 2 peach trees
Baby fuzzy peach!
Plum trees
Baby plum

Two years ago we planted little tiny raspberry (Atom’s fav) starts along the fence between us & our neighbors home. Last summer we added some blackberry starts as well. This spring they have absolutely exploded and we are going to have more raspberries & blackberries than we will be able to eat! We’re talking about a solid 50 feet of berry bushes all currently in full bloom.

Blackberry
Raspberries
We love our bee friends!

Last week we purchased 29 baby boxwood bushes and planted them along the front of the main parking lot. We can’t wait until they grow and fill in!

We are a family that LOVES produce and growing our own is so rewarding and it is going to be a delicious summer!

Four Years!

Whoa.

Four years ago today we arrived to begin the adventure of a lifetime. I don’t think I will ever forget the emotions I felt as we pulled into the parking lot of our massive home at 1:30am. The excitement, the “holy crap this is really happening”, the delirium and exhaustion from driving for the past 36 hours nonstop. And then there was the whole pipes exploding in the boiler room an hour later (if you missed that post, you can read about it here) which was our welcome present and a glimpse into what renovating a nearly 100 year old 20,000 sq ft building would be like.

Now here we are, four years later and are having the absolute time of our lives. Things aren’t always easy but we have really settled into a groove of renovating and life here in Indiana in general. If you asked me what life would be like in four years on day one I would have told you something polar opposite to where we are now. And we are totally okay with that! We have shifted away form grinding nonstop renovating to get to that finish line with a completely restored building to taking our time and enjoying the ride.

We are still working on the future Airbnb suite up on the third floor and we *finally* made it over the hump and are really making progress now. This has hands down been our most difficult & time intensive project yet. Who would have thought a bathroom would take us so long?! We have pulled and replaced well over a mile of wiring so far in the building which is wild to think about. Atom built the open doorless shower frame this past week and we will start laying the marble tile hopefully next week! I’ll write a separate post with more photos of the bathroom progress as I just realized the last blog post I wrote about the bathroom was July of last year!

Spring has officially sprung here and the colors from the earth waking up from its winter slumber makes me ridiculously happy. Our tulips are all up and have been in full bloom for the past two weeks! This is the third year we have had tulips and the first year for the orange ones that we planted last fall. The orange ones really give a nice pop of color out front.

Our peach and plum trees are blooming and even if we don’t get fruit yet this year (we planted them last year) it’s really pretty to see the blossoms.

Atom & I were at Costco last week and I spotted potted cedar trees. I have wanted these darn trees for the past 3 years and every year I see them and come back another day to get them, they were gone. I told Atom NOT THIS YEAR! We laid down the back seats in my rubicon and crammed those suckers in. We both had our ears tickled by branches the entire way home but it was so worth it! We potted & placed them exactly where I had envisioned them for three years & we couldn’t be happier with the look! It really brings everything together. (We will keep them trimmed so they don’t block the lights above them.)

Now that it is *sort of* warming up and it is no longer well below zero at night, I’ve been getting out and taking more photographs of the moon. Back on March 28th was the Worm/Paschal full moon and we got up on the dome of the roof to take photos. It was a spectacular night and this was the final shot I got.

Our little town has been so good to us. So, so good to us. The friendships and connections we have all made here have been amazing and we couldn’t ask for a better life for our family here in Indiana. We are also so thankful to all of our followers both here and our various social media sites. Without all of your love and support I think this would have been a much different experience fo us and we are so grateful for each and every one of you!

Four years down, a lifetime to go!

Cheers!

Spring of Deception

Spring of Deception is a new Midwest term that I recently learned. I have heard the phrase “if you don’t like the weather just wait 15 minutes” so many times since we moved here almost 4 years ago and its so true. This list of all of the Midwest “seasons” was on the local news and I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw it.

Now for a little winter recap-

This has definitely been the biggest winter we’ve experienced so far as Indiana residents. Nothing like the blizzard of ‘78 but we had a couple decent snow and ice storms. The temperatures were also very cold (for us at least) below 20 degrees F for several weeks straight which led to the waterfall in the stairwell I talked about in my last blog post. We rang in the new year with an ice storm that was one of the most incredible things we’ve ever seen! Atom and I very carefully walked around late at night so I could take photos of the ice and I could be a total weather nerd.

The lake where my parents live froze in a big way and I walked out on it for a photo op. Don’t worry- the ice was 9” thick! I was so nervous and got back on land directly after this photo.

The first big snow storm of the season gave us 9 inches which was the most Atom and I had seen out of one storm since being here.

Our awesome neighbor let Atom borrow his snow blower and it took him an entire day to get the main parking lot cleared! We are planning to purchase a small snow plow attachment for my Jeep before next winter which will make clearing the parking lots a breeze.

We went on some really fun family snow hikes on the local trails. Besides it being a pretty gnarly leg workout on the trails, we had a wonderful time! We really still do absolutely love winter and find it so magical!

Last month we had near blizzard like conditions overnight one night which prompted road closures and our kids were out of school for almost a full week due to it. We ended up getting 12 inches of snow that night.

Snow started falling late afternoon and by that evening we already had several inches and it was coming down at a rate of over an inch per hour. Of course Atom and I went on a night time walk in it! There was a travel advisory so no cars were out on the road. We walked the middle of the street to explore! There was so much snow everywhere that Atom made a snow angel in the street in front of our building!

By about 10pm the snow was already up to the bottom of the windows at the street level.

The next morning we woke up to a winter wonderland! Being an essential healthcare worker made for a very VERY slow commute to the hospital that morning. I’m very thankful for my 4×4 Rubicon as none of the roads were plowed at the time I left that morning (for good reason!)

Jerry the snowman also made a comeback at the end of January which was so much fun. Unfortunately our kids made him a bit too big so he was too heavy to be lifted so he didn’t go on any adventures this year. If you are newer to our blog, here’s a link to the post about Jerry’s hilarious adventures last year- (Click here)

Things have really warmed up in a BIG way over the past week and we have seen highs in the mid 60s all week! Such a difference from the frigid temps over the past two months. We do love the cold temps, but our windows have been open all week during the day! There is just something so wonderful about fresh air.

Atom and our kids planted a ton of starts for the garden(s) that we will have this year.

Pretty much the day the snow totally melted, a ton of tulip, hyacinth and other bulbs broke through the surface and are even bigger now! We planted soooooo many bulbs last fall so we are going to have an epic flower garden this year as well. I can’t wait.

Spring was never a season I gave much thought to prior to moving to the Midwest. Probably because there never really is a real “spring season” in San Diego. Here the flowers and trees bloom in a big way, and there is just something so neat and soul satisfying watching the earth literally wake from its winter slumber and come alive with the most incredible colors and smells!

That is, until it snows again next week since we are currently in the Spring of deception part…..

It’s Raining…… Inside

What a week we’ve had here at the mansion! Monday morning we woke up to the sound of water pouring in from the ceiling up on the 4th floor and down the main stairwell. It sounded like someone was literally taking a shower on the stairs. The main roof drain had failed and water was flooding in around it. We shoved a large Rubbermaid type tub between the wall & top of the stair railing to catch the water and I was bailing out water from that into a 5 gallon bucket and running it down 4 flights of stairs out the front door and dumping it into the snow outside. Then it was back up the stairs and do it all over again.

Meanwhile, Atom went up on the roof and discovered basically a swimming pool up there on the flat part in the front on top of ice and snow (we got a foot of snow a week ago and it has stuck around due to temperatures well below freezing). We hoisted a 100 ft garden hose up to the roof and created a siphon to drain the water off the side.

The main drain pipe (which is 4” PVC) comes inside the building from the roof, then wraps around the inside 4th floor ceiling, through a wall into a closet and then punches out the side of the building and down to the parking lot level. We discovered that this pipe had completely frozen solid all the way up & to the roof which created this significant back up of water. We are very lucky that it only leaked into the building in that one spot where it just couldn’t handle the amount!! After the water had been siphoned off the roof and Atom shoveled & launched the snow off the roof we wrapped the inside pipe with all of our heating pads to help thaw what we could.

While we were running around like chickens with our heads cut off we heard a loud SMASH and I ran outside to find that a chunk of the drain pipe had broken off and bounced when it hit the ground in the parking lot right next to the building and shattered one of the large basement windows.

I’m thankful it didn’t hit anyone or any vehicles! The window/glass can be replaced relatively easily. Later Monday afternoon, Atom and our son ran that same garden hose from one of the water heaters on the 3rd floor up though the roof access on the 4th floor and he ran hot water over the exposed pipe that comes out the side of the building. After about 5 minutes they heard loud *thunk* noises as a few large 4” chunks of ice broke free and the pipe was flowing again, draining the remaining water off the roof that our siphon couldn’t get. It’s a good thing the window was already broken when these hit the ground in the parking lot!

It is now Saturday and my legs are still sore! My Apple Watch logged that I climbed 48 flights of stairs Monday morning. I haven’t climbed that much at once since I did my last American Lung Association’s Fight For Air Climb in 2016 when I raced up 32 stories (657 steps) and Monday blew past that number of flights climbed!

Yesterday afternoon Atom was inside the building and heard what he said sounded like an explosion out in the parking lot. He went out to investigate & found the rest of the ice from the no longer functioning drain pipe had shot out the bottom & across the parking lot.

Things dried up super quick inside and we caught it before a ton of damage was done. We will have quite the project ahead of us come late spring/summer to try & reroute the roof drainage back into the original large pipe that runs down inside the building and out to the street level so we will avoid having PVC which isn’t built to last and never should have been used in the first place years ago long before we moved in.

I think this DEFINITELY tops our pipes bursting in the boiler room our first night in indiana!

Just another bump in our renovation journey and if anyone on earth can fix it- it’s Atom!

Light Bulbs

Y’all know how much I love all of the original features to the building. From the gorgeous crown molding, to the super tall ceilings to the light fixtures. Almost every light fixture in the building is original. There is no way we could ever part with them. We are slowly replacing the old cloth-wrapped wiring within them with newer, safer stuff.

Here’s a step by step pictorial of how Atom did it. It’s convenient having someone with 15 years of electrical work under his belt as a husband 😉.

The lightbulbs that you see are temporary LED ones until we can get some more period-specific yet still energy efficient Edison type ones.

Last year our towns park & rec were selling some old lightbulbs that are now collectors items. They were the original bulbs in the Wolf and Dessauar Christmas wreath from 1937 that is on display every year. The 3,148 bulbs had to be removed after they became a fire hazard. Our town had a fundraiser to pay for all new LED bulbs to bring the wreath back to life. I thought I missed out last year on the sale and was super bummed. They announced this past week that they still had some left so I made an appointment to purchase a few. I love the history behind the bulbs & I’m so happy to have them on display in our historic home. The colors of the bulbs you see are all original & in fantastic shape for being 83 years old!

Playing Catch-up

I wanted to start this post with an apology.

I haven’t been able to keep up with this blog as often as I would like and I’m going to definitely try to do better. It’s quick & easy to put a photo up on Facebook & Instagram but this blog takes a bit more time. Time that I promise I will be better at devoting to! Life has been moving at ludicrous speed for us lately and to be honest, I’m tired.

Covid-19 has absolutely exploded here in the Midwest in the past month & working in the hospital has been extremely stressful. I love my job, my career and hospital so much which helps to have the support and amazing coworkers. In the beginning of the pandemic we were lucky to not have too many cases here in northern indiana but now we can barely keep up. The hospitals & ICUs are full and I spend my days at work (I’m a Respiratory Therapist) doing everything I can to keep my patients breathing and alive.

I’m going to make a few catch up posts over the next week of what we’ve been up to since I last made a post at the end of September.

Thanks for being such awesome & understanding followers/friends. We appreciate you all so much!

Stay safe!

Parking Lot Facelift!

Our main parking lot got a facelift yesterday! It’s funny how things just work out sometimes. Atom did a little bit of the sealcoating next to the building last week and had to wait until this week to get back to the store to get more to finish the small strip he was working on.

We knew we would have to wait until the spring to do the entire parking lot as right now we have been sinking all of our funds into the Airbnb suite. With winter coming and some larger cracks in the lot we were nervous about waiting until spring but we knew we’d have to.

Saturday afternoon our doorbell rang and a man said he was driving by and saw the asphalt buckets and asked if we were doing the work ourselves. Atom said yes we’re very slowly doing the work ourselves. He happens to own a asphalt sealcoating business and offered us a killer deal to do the work for us. He warranties all of his work and they came out yesterday and did the job. The parking lot looks AMAZING!

Here’s a before photo (it was raining on Monday afternoon when I took this photo).

And this is what it looks like now! (While still drying)

The company who did the work is Dyno Sealcoating and they’re located here in town. They are professional and a wonderful duo! We couldn’t be happier and it is such a relief to not have to worry about any further cracking over the winter months. We plan to have the back parking lot done in the spring.

The Mystery Organ

We’ve had many people ask over the years about the organ in the building. We actually have two organs, the big old one and there is a smaller electric plug in one without any pipes. Oh and our oldest son has an electric one in his bedroom. Doesn’t every pre teen boy ask for an organ for Christmas or is it just ours? Haha! It is pretty awesome to walk into the living room and have it sound like church coming from his bedroom!

This post will be a bunch of photos of the main organ that is of interest to so many and while we don’t know much about it, I’ll do my best to explain what we do know.

The bad part about the whole organ is that it is not functioning. The power had been cut to it who knows how long ago & it’s somewhere in the walls. Atom tested the electrical and everything to it has no power.

The organ is situated at the back on the mezzanine up on the third floor former grand meeting room.

Here’s what it looks like up close.

There are no identifying markers on the organ itself which is a bummer. There is this little plastic piece that had fallen off the front of it. What we found peculiar is that this piece had been turned around and nailed into place and painted over the same color as the rest of it. I did a quick google search and found a newspaper mention of him in 1919. If the organ was rebuilt by Louis in the early 1900s it makes us wonder just how old the organ really is!

This cute little light on the wall next to the organ makes me smile.

Behind this wall is the room full of the pipes. It’s a pretty camped space but it’s huge and there are so many pipes in there!

It is really hard to get good photos of the pipe room because there are so many but here are a bunch that I was able to take.

The blower is really neat (and really big!) and sits in a room next to the pipe room. There is also no power going to the blower itself, when though there is power to the lights. Go figure. Here are a bunch of photos of the blower and the motor that used to power this beast. Check out the dates!

The way things look now I’m actually relieved because I’m sure the electrical would need to be completely replaced to make it safe by todays standards to turn on.

Someday we will get it working!

Oh! And here’s a photo of the other organ (that’s electric) in another room on the third floor.

Go make some music today friends!

“It’s not a house, it’s an adventure!”

“It’s not a house, it’s an adventure!”

This was a comment that someone made on a post I made in a group all about old homes that really made me stop and think.

Its no secret that we have a pretty large following on social media, which still feels strange and surreal and we are so thankful. From our own pages and the articles that have been written about our project and shares of things we have posted about and the list goes on. I read every single comment on our posts because we truly value all of the positive responses we have gotten and it pushes us to keep going even when things feel absolutely overwhelming (like the current future airbnb suite bathroom which is proving to test us both physically and financially.)

Our house is definitely an adventure! Even when things are frustrating and not going as fast as we would like we choose joy because we are so lucky and thankful to be living this life! We didn’t choose the building, the building chose us. I truly believe that.

Part of our ongoing adventure was moving a MASSIVE old wardrobe that was left behind from the 4th floor downstairs to the second floor. The first time I laid eyes on this sucker I knew I wanted it moved but wasn’t quite sure how to get it down the stairwell. This is the place we planned for it to go in the second floor foyer.

It took 3 years of pondering and we finally came up with a plan after we got it stuck between the 3rd & 4th floors because it was too big to make the turn down stairs. It was painfully obvious that it was built in place a very long time ago. We had 4 of our guy friends over (I totally bribed them with tacos) and they, along with Atom & our oldest son were able to slowly maneuver it down the stairs. It had to be lifted up & over the banister at each turn and there was a lot of yelling PIVOT as they got it down. We have some heavy duty patching to do on the trim around the double doors into the second floor but all in all they got it down in one piece. To say it fits like a glove is an understatement!

The wardrobe measures 8’x7’x2’ and we can fit all five of us inside it and more. It’s a bit deceiving in this photo but it fits exactly between the doors without any overlap. Now that it’s in place we more than likely won’t keep it there forever because I’m not sure I love it in this spot. But considering it took 3 years & 6 guys to get it there, it will stay for awhile until I figure out where to move it next.

Atom had some fun with a quick photoshop edit as we have said so many times over the past week that we’re going to Narnia through the wardrobe!

I wanted to leave y’all with one of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen about a week ago. We had just finished dinner when I noticed how red the sky looked from the kitchen window. Which is basically code for “LETS GET ON THE ROOF NOW!” I grabbed my camera and this is what we saw. It literally took my breath away at its beauty. San Diego has some pretty amazing sunsets but I think the Midwest has them beat!

3rd floor bathroom (small) progress update!

This darn bathroom remodel upstairs for the Airbnb suite has thrown us for quite a loop! I suppose we should be totally used to it by now though!

If you haven’t seen any before photos of the upstairs bathroom here are a few:

Here’s one with the steel stall removed:

Our original idea was to break into the sewer pipe where the giant urinal was to change the fittings to a toilet fitting. You’ll have to excuse my total lack of knowing the official names for these things- that’s definitely Atom’s territory and not mine! When Atom broke through the concrete floor down to it he discovered it was a galvanized sewer pipe and it was much smaller than he anticipated.

Yikes.

So that plan wasn’t going to work.

We were going to patch the concrete after removing the urinal and level it out with a new thin concrete layer. However when he broke into it he discovered there were two separate layers of concrete with a filling of rubble thrown in between the layers.

The top concrete layer is approx 4” thick and the lower one is also several inches thick with steel reinforcement mesh. So in total the floor is about 14-16” deep. Yikes. Here is a photo with most of the first layer of concrete removed.

The next hurdle was figuring out which old water pipe went where so they could be updated as nothing in the building is mapped out anywhere at all. That took an entire afternoon to figure out and involved many three way calls with our boys while turning off & on different water valves. Talk about a headache!

This bathroom floor is directly above the second floor foyer and we will be unable to pour a complete new concrete floor due to the weight since it is not a small bathroom. We will have to build new joists to fill the space and add a subfloor and then decide if we want to tile etc.

So what does all of this mean?

This floor/pipe issue has set us back quite a bit on our timeline because this is back breaking work getting all of the layers of concrete removed. It is going to take more time (and money!) than we anticipated to get this sucker done. We ask for patience as we are going as fast as we can. Things are looking more promising for a winter/spring official opening of the Airbnb suite. From the world coming to a standstill for a few months and us not going to the hardware store to get supplies during that time and now this added huge flooring project we are quite a bit behind our loosely based reno schedule.

We’ll get there though! It’s all part of the adventure. Story of our lives!