April 2015



After the holidays have passed each year I like to tackle a few projects best done in the dead of winter. This year I started in my kitchen with the cupboards. One by one, just a few shelves each day, I emptied them. As I took items out I washed them, then sorted them into groups of things to be kept (those things I use regularly), things to be stored on upper shelves (those things I use rarely), and things to be given away to family, friends or charity (those things I have never used).


I washed the inside and outside of my cupboards with a solution of dish detergent and a few drops of peppermint oil. This mixture cleans and leaves a soft scent of peppermint which repels both insects and mice.Within a week I had the kitchen and pantry finished. I suppose it might make sense for some to do it all in one day, but I find that I enjoy it more when I break these jobs up into smaller sections and just do one of them in a day.


I then did the same with my desk drawers in my office area. There I used empty stationery and gift card boxes to sort all those things that somehow end up in the “junk drawers”.  Paper clips, pens, pencils, paper, markers, rubber bands, safety pins, stamps, etc. are now sorted neatly in boxes in my desk drawer, which happens to be quite large, (the size of my desk top, 4 feet wide by 3 feet deep). Again I set aside what I have never used and I washed the inside and outside with the peppermint solution.


I repeated this process in our two bathrooms and in my bedroom. In my dressers I lined the drawers with fresh newspaper after washing with the peppermint solution. The newsprint aids in the repelling of insects as well.

I put a new coat of paint on the walls and woodwork in one of our bathrooms. We live in a rather large, very old (built in 1848) farmhouse. I like to paint at least one room every winter. Next year I think I may do the sewing/weaving room. Owning one’s home is a never ending story of maintenance, inside and out. I choose to enjoy the process.


In 1972, when we bought our farm, every one of the buildings was in some state of disrepair. The barn, the house, the detached garage, the sheep shed and the hog shed all needed new roof coverings and paint. The underground water line to the barn was broken. The overhead wiring from the main source pole to each of the buildings was tattered and worn. The driveway from the main road needed a new layer of gravel. Fences around each of the pastures had broken fence posts and missing wire.


We were young newlyweds at the time. Each of the repairs was costly and time consuming. Over the forty-some years between then and now we have slowly tackled these repairs as time and money has permitted. The underground water lines have all been replaced with new pipes. The overhead wiring has been replaced with new heavy-duty wiring. All but one of our buildings has a new roof, new siding and new windows.

The house has new steel siding and all new windows and doors.


The fencing around every pasture has been replaced and maintained. Each project has had to wait until we had enough money on hand to complete it. Jim and I agreed many years ago that we would not borrow money for anything other than the purchase of our farm. We also agreed that we would pay for the home farm before we spent any money on anything unnecessary.


Fast forward to today. Do you see that decrepit building in the picture below? It is a two-car garage, built in the 1950’s. It stands alone as the one building on our farm that has fallen into complete disrepair. There are holes in the roof. Every window in it is broken. The doors no longer close. The siding is rotting from the ground up.


This building is going to come down.


2015 is the year that building is finally going to come down. (Patience is a virtue.) We are going to replace it with the barn that once stood on Jim’s father’s farm, just across the road from where we live. 

When his parents died the farmstead was sold. The new owners did not want to keep the barn. We were able to buy the barn frame and floors. (The siding was sold to another buyer.) It has been stored in organized, labeled piles of old, loved lumber in our home barn for over three years.

Ma & Pa Zahn's barn


The inside barn frame


The plan is to have a section of the barn function as a heated tool and repair shop for Jim. He has an extensive collection of antique tractors and he has dreamed for years of restoring them. Now that he is semi-retired Jim hopes to find time to do just that.


I say that Jim is semi-retired because he now works part-time for our son, Jonas, at Northwoods Casket Company (www.northwoodscasket.com) in Beaver Dam, WI. Jim is their all-around handyman. He works in maintenance of the building and grounds, he finishes the wooden products, he makes deliveries, builds work surfaces and comes up with answers to all sorts of daily needs.


Along with unique wooden caskets and urns, the company builds beautiful steampunk lamps, http://www.northwoodscasket.com/home-furnishings/ toolboxes and furniture. They are a retail outlet for all-natural real milk paint, natural oil wood finishes and waxes. They are located at 109 North Lincoln. Jonas says “If you are in the neighborhood, stop in and ask for tour!”


My hand-woven washcloths are wonderful in the bath (and in the kitchen!). These cloths never develop annoying odors the way commercially made cloths do. Made entirely of natural cotton and linen, my cloths dry quickly so they do not harbor odor-causing bacteria. They are made of 100% cotton or 25% linen/75% cotton and are available in 16 different colors. Try one! You will love it! http://www.thesoaplady.com/bath-accessories?tid%5B%5D=34


Gardening season is upon us. Remember to scrape your fingernails along a bar of my soap before you play in the dirt. Cleaning up is a breeze! No more dirty fingernails!



To subscribe to my online newsletter, please email 

thesoaplady@thesoaplady.com and put “Newsletter” in the subject line.