Gallery 10 - My (new) Indiana Home


A Furniture Refinisher's Newsletter book cover

This Old Farm House Tour - 2009

Love old furniture? Then check out Jeanne's new ebook!


a big thank you to the folks at American Blinds Wallpaper and More for the lovely vintage wallpaper backgrounds!



Welcome to our old farm house, located in the southern part of Tippecanoe County close to Stockwell, Indiana! The house is approx. 100 years old, and has gone through several changes through the years. I believe we are about the fourth family who has owned it. We moved in August of 2005 after working on it all summer - mostly painting, removing carpet, refinishing hardwood floors, and re-doing the bathroom. Then, in January after we moved, Benny had open-heart surgery, so that slowed things down for a bit.

This little corner of the county where we live is a special place. It's on a highly visible intersection. My eighty year-old neighbor just down the road grew up here. After him, my sixty year-old neighbor just down the other road grew up here. We see them both almost everyday, if just in passing - and they see the house they grew up in. I don't think you ever truly own an old house - you just pay for the opportunity to live in it for a while before you lovingly pass it on with its ghosts. The story of how this property fell into our hands is amazing - the timing was perfect - especially for the times we're in. For twenty some years, we lived half a mile down the road at the next intersection. One day our friend Bob who had been partnering with us in our flea market shows and antique mall endeavors noticed the ongoing barn sales here. He stopped and shopped. Then he called me. It took me a few days to finally get here. As I walked through the barns, garages, and out-buildings filling up my car with goodies for which the neighbor charged me a whopping total of $8.00, I thought, "Wow - look at all this room - this would be a great place to sell and work on antiques." I went back home where our garage was so full we hadn't parked in it for a year and told Benny. The next spring I noticed a For-Sale-by-Owner sign on the property. The price seemed quite reasonable. So I told Benny he really needed to come down and look at the place - I knew he'd love all these barns and outbuildings. Initially he resisted. But I persisted. I called our neighbor Les and let him know we were interested in at least getting some information about the place. Les came right over with two pages of facts which he handed to us - and then he took us to see the place. Neither one of us had ever seen the inside of the house. Benny had been adamant about not wanting an old house, but he quickly changed his tune when we saw this one. It had been updated and nicely kept through the years. Farming families have a lot of know-how after all.

For twenty-five years, the two big old pine trees next to this old yellow house on the corner have been a landmark to me. I first noticed them when Benny and I started dating and I started coming out to this part of the county. They filled with me a sense that I was coming home. So twenty-five years ago this property started calling out my name. But little did I know we were destined to live here.

Coming up on our property at 700 S and 450 E - and my two tall pine tree landmarks

Anyway, the next entity we had to convince was our credit union. Initially they were reluctant, which was understandable since we had both lost our jobs of twenty-some years. Benny had turned 60 but I don't think he had started his social security yet. (I don't know how we ever made it through those years). We'd been longtime customers with the credit union, however, and had paid off a mortgage and vehicle loans, and built an excellent credit history. Our house on 500 east was fully paid for - although our modest home equity line of credit was almost topped out. At the time, our pension funds were more than enough to cover the entire debt we would incur to buy the 450 east property. But the credit union initially didn't want to count those. Still, we had our other house. Benny, being more of a face-to-face customer than an ATM one, turned on the charm with the credit union staff. The upshot was they gave us the loan - they were so decent to trust us and give us a chance! We went through a realtor to sell our other house. It sold about a month after we put it on the market. We came out owing $38,000 by the time we paid the home equity and the realtor - which was more than we and the bank had anticipated. At that time we switched our new mortgage to a fixed home equity loan which cut our monthly payment in more than half! Now, in four short years, this property is also fully paid for - except for the new roof and blacktopping we did this summer. The irony is that if Benny and I had both been working when this house came available, we never would have taken the time to come look at it. Like the proverbial donkey, we would have continued treading behind that ever elusive carrot that sometimes defines our work life. Now this current period of job loss is giving me the time to actually enjoy living here and to finally finish moving in.


Tour Menu


Welcome to our tour starting point

Back Porch Entrance - You folks come right on in!

Welcome to my primary colors Kitchen!

Proceed to our Living Room Hub

Visit our all-purpose Antique Room

Front Porch Entrance - You folks come right on in (again)!

Climb our stairs to the tree top rooms.

Well, this is the end of the tour for now. We'll save the grounds, gardens, and critters for another day ... Thanks for visiting and you folks come back!



Jeanne's fourth summer reminiscences and beyond (warning - long and rambly)


Unfortunately I lost my job this spring - again - but along with the ensuing job search and hassle of the unemployment line, I suddenly found more time to spend with family and at home. And I didn't mind that at all. Four years down the road, I still feel I haven't completely moved in to our new place! When we moved here in 2005, I was working a stop-gap parts inspection job, always wearing a beeper, and having to be mentally prepared to potentially ship out at all hours of the day and night to all parts of the state, and possibly out of it - with barely more than fifteen minutes notice. It wasn't quite that bad actually - Product Action was a pretty good employer, and as a stop-gap, a factory works better for me than retail and restaurant establishments. Most of the time I worked 2nd shift at SIA just down the road or at Federal Mogul in Frankfort. Anyway, the following May, I finally landed a wonderful job in my field with a not-for-profit agency in town. The only down side was that I only got one week's vacation. For me, when I work, it's all about work - and there's nothing much left for home projects. I don't mean for it to be that way - and I certainly try to keep things presentable and welcoming - driven mostly by holidays, infrequent house guests, and special occasions. But when I'm working on a career there's too much stop and start involved for me to really get into extensive home-making projects - especially since I'm a know-nothing home-making dummy! In 2008 the agency had to cut me back to a thirty hour work week, so I was able get into a few more projects that year. Actually, I never would have left the agency except that this January the cost of their health insurance more than doubled. (I hope you all are doing your part for health care reform.) When that happened, I knew I would either have to work a second job or find a new job with better pay or more reasonable benefits. Then this really great-looking opportunity came along to teach and support the EMR (electronic medical record system) at the new hospital - also just down the road. But alas my new job ended after only 8 weeks.

We sure didn't let this job loss stop us, however. With my having landed a better-paying job, my husband had started building stalls in the pole barn in anticipation of getting a team of draft mules to pull a pair of old wagons he's restored. Having a team of draft horses or mules has been his life long dream. When I lost my job, he went ahead and bought the team anyway, with my encouragement. And he has enjoyed them every single day. Kate and Annie even help earn their keep a little as people love to feed them apples and corn husks, and frequently ask Benny to give hay rides at reunions and gatherings. With my new job at the hospital, we had been planning to finally roof the house - it needed it. So when I lost my income, we went ahead and roofed it anyway. We even repaved half the driveway! We hadn't planned on that one, but an opportunity presented itself - and it was needed. And yesterday we added six chickens to our growing family - five hens and a rooster - three Black Jersey Giants (the Jersey Girls), a light Brahma (Dharma), a Buff Orpington (Buffy), and a Dark Brown Leghorn (Wooster). These little ladies and fellow came to us from a 4-H leader Benny met at the county fair when he entered his antique tractor this summer. Benny built a chicken coop in the pole barn last week in preparation for these latest arrivals - right across from Kate and Annie's stalls.

In short, I guess some things are just meant to be, whether or not you have a job - and you just have to move forward in faith. Between all the above-mentioned items, and my frequenting eBay, Good Will, garage sales, the occasional flea market, and even an estate auction with my neighbor, let it not be said we haven't done our part to keep this economy going! :) Even when it meant pulling from pension funds early to pay off the house so we could get out from under that monthly payment. (It took the state four months to pay me any unemployment compensation - and then I had to chase down the Fedex truck to get the card! But that's another story.). This economic downtown has been a financial Katrina for some of us. And yes, I continue to look for work - but I must admit that turning sixty next year has taken away some of my confidence that I'll be able to find a career track job anytime soon. Time and technology advance has taken its toll. Actually I'd love to take a few classes again to update my skills. This time I'd go to our local community college - which I hear you can attend for free after you turn sixty. :)

In the meantime, the lessons from the last three years have not gone unlearned. Benny had open heart valve replacement surgery in 2006, the first winter after we moved here. Not too long after that his older brother Paul passed away from a brain tumor, and last year his oldest sister Betty passed away from another form of cancer. Now his sister Jenny's husband is battling that dreaded disease.

Life's meant for living, not for waiting. Blessed and fortunate are those who have the health, the time, and some humble means to just enjoy what they have!

Last year I did a lot of planting, so this spring I couldn't wait to see what came up - the Dutchman's Breeches, which alas didn't last long enough to bloom, the Pussy Willow - which didn't bloom, but this summer has set blooms for next year, the little Snow Ball Bush which bloomed profusely, and the Yellow Hollyhocks. I'd gotten all of these from last year's Master Gardener's show at the fairgrounds. The elusive Annabelle Hydrangeas that I snatched up at the Farm Store on a tip from a friend - as well as the one I came across when Bonnie and I visted the Farmer's Market proved to be a relatively late bloomer, but didn't disappoint. The tulip bulbs I had planted around the little windmill, the lilac bush we planted the first summer, the grand rose bush from Ace's, as well as the climbers, the Ditch Lilies and sweet peas from my friend Marilyn's old Victorian, the Butterfly Bushes from Meijer, the wild geraniums, the blue morning glories I bought on ebay, the forsythia I started from the one we planted the first year, and of course the peonies - I looked for all of these. I was not disappointed. And yet it's never enough - after all, do you ever make 3 acres look like it's all in bloom? This summer I didn't plant many new things, but Benny twice hauled a little wagon from Kohler Brothers at Dayton so I could lay down three yards of mulch. And I shoveled and shaped more of the flower beds (ie - the row of peonies out front). I try to work with natural ground cover and wild flowers - all the ones they say you shouldn't allow in - Queen Anne's lace, wild violets, creeping Charlie, etc - but I love them. The way I see it, when you're on a limited budget of both time and money - why not let aggressive and hardy ground covers help you crowd out unwanted weeds? You can always pull back the ground covers - and as I said, I love them, so I don't ever want them completely gone from my yard.

Next (and with a good start on my tan from all the outdoor work) I dove into spring cleaning with a vengeance, knowing I would soon be traveling to the east coast in May when my brother had surgery at Johns Hopkins. Starting with the back of the house, I wiped down the furniture, the wall trim, the ceiling lights, and even the floor with Murphy's oil soap and/or Kramer's Antique Improver - planning to come back to the windows and closets, and carpets in the fall. (I had sort of gotten behind because I'd started that new job in February - the one I lost.) I hung a few shelves I'd found at Good Will in the kitchen. When I returned from back east I started on the front of the house and the upstairs, which somehow keeps falling back into disarray despite my best efforts. Either someone moves in up there, or my husband does some remodeling work up there, or I start some projects up there ... This is the first time I've ever had an upstairs, so it's been a learning process how to best use the space. Now I love living up among the trees.

It's been great to finally get some continuity in home life so that I can dream and build and grow and actually see things through. It's so nice to finally have the time to really live where I live. I find that I notice things I would normally overlook or would never have opportunity to consider. I take the time to do what never gets done - and to finally figure out where things go - even if they go to Good Will. As opposed to keeping stuff around in boxes! I haven undertaken picture hanging projects and small remodeling or refurbishing projects. And I dream, dream, dream. One of my first projects was cleaning and restoring an old, old portrait of Benny's paternal grandmother that had hung in his family's basement for years - and then sat on the floor behind a bureau at our houses for years. It became the focal point for my entrance way and stairway decorating project. I decided to hang all old pictures on the same wall - preferably in old frames if I could swing it. I also framed a lot of pictures and art I'd always wanted to hang. Finishing up that project lead me into the great photo reorganization project as I started thinking about what to do with the study - the last room to remain in almost perpetual disarray. I wanted to organize my mementos and photos for easy access with an eye to future scrapbooking projects. And I want to turn the study, which was the original sitting room in the house, into a formal dining room / library. I have to do it with limited funds but at least I have lots of time.

For my picture hanging and decorating projects, I learned that Good Will was the place to go for old frames and framing supplies, shelves, and even photo albums (as well as little pillows for all those lovely needlepoint and crocheted and quilted pillow covers I seem to have inherited from our families). Sometimes I'd go with a specific purpose or items in mind - sometimes not. I never hung shelves or photos too quickly - I was afraid of having walls full of unused holes ... so it was more a journey of discovery through several rooms before I settled on where something belonged. Things go so much better when you don't have to rush ... Yes, there's still waste, but not as much waste.

As already mentioned, I've enjoyed frequenting garage sales and Good Will this summer. Stores like Kohl's and Walmart and Target have new and pretty things. But for me their selections pale when I browse through all the art and craft of the 20th Century (and earlier) at the second hand places. It's like going through a museum. And the prices really make you want to shop! I'm even old enough for Good Will's senior citizen discount, hee! Yes, I had a lot of fun this summer.

The first year after we moved in (2005-2006), and after Benny recovered from open-heart surgery, we cleared out our booth at the antique mall and had a series of sales to liquidate that inventory. We also had some great reunions and parties in the big pole barns. But now Benny is renting that space to people who want to store cars and boats. We have rented our Summer Kitchen as a room ever since we've lived here. Our friend Mark rented it until he married in 2008. Now our daughter Bonnie occupies it - technically she doesn't rent it, but she does help us out with our phone/satellite/dsl bill. Every little bit counts! And Benny has sold some big items for himself and other people just by displaying them close to the road with a for sale sign. Our curving driveway seems to pull people right in. I guess that's how the house initially sold itself!

So even with a job loss there can be blessings - the opportunity to simply spend time at home - getting to know your home - spending time with your family - taking time to reflect - these also are a journey of self discovery, exploration, and personal growth, and an opportunity to learn and try new things. That's not to say it's a totally idyllic journey. It isn't. The troubles of life extend their reach into every corner - no matter where we try to hide. {: The weather can be uncooperative - this is the prairie where the winds blow chill and the houses in the outlying subdivisions look like they've huddled together for warmth this time of year. This is the year where we've barely seen the light or felt the heat of the sun for days on end it seems. But other years have been sweeter, so I continue to have hope. In short we bring our demons with us wherever we go. And all paths we set upon so optimistically - whether at home or at work - can at times become our prisons and our opportunity costs - especially if we don't resist our habit of becoming creatures of habit. Being flexible to the moment and the opportunities at hand is an art that requires paying attention and keeping things simple, I've discovered - and that is easier said than done. But as I approach my 60th birthday, this free time that has been given to me has been a good exercise in "pre-retirement," for all the reasons mentioned in this article, not the least of which has been to nuture hope by taking opportunity here to reflect upon the good and the bad and the beautiful - both within and without. :)

So now let's tour "This Old House"!