Clare and Rob went down to the house for a weekend in April, and met Dave and Ellen there. Our main goal for that weekend was to make some assessments of the state of the house, and decide on our plan of attack. From that weekend, we decided to try to finish the upstairs before we move in, then work on the downstairs a little at a time after we had moved in. We picked out some new carpet while we were there, and then decided that we should paint before the carpet arrived. Dave decided to quit his job at the end of April and go down to Spencer for two weeks in May to do some work on the house. Harold had volunteered to help paint, so Rob decided to take him up on his offer, and they scheduled May 2nd-7th for painting in Spencer.
Uncharacteristically, Harold showed up nearly 30 minutes late to the house. We packed up the car full of painting supplies, a small refrigerator, some utility shelves, a microwave, and a few other odds and ends, then set out for Spencer around 10:30. We ate in the car, and the driving was pretty good, though it did rain a little bit. We pulled up to the Spencer house around 4:30 p.m., making the trip in the approximaely six hours, as predicted. As we approached the house, Rob heard the sound of sanding.
Sure enough, Dave was busy sanding down spackle upstairs. First Harold was given a brief tour of the house, then it was decided that we would sand and spackle for another few hours. During this time Rob tried to convince Dave and Harold to yootle over what to have for dinner, but unfortunately Harold was not very cooperative. We ended up going to the grocery store for a few odds and ends. Harold got a microwave meal for dinner, and Dave and Rob had left-over Indian food which Clare had made before she left for Europe. We also got some beer, and enjoyed our dinner and had some nice conversation. Harold was absolutely astounded at what bad shape the house was in. Rob tried to get him to focus on the present, not on the past. We got to bed around 11:00 p.m. Originally, Rob thought that he and Harold could share a bedroom, but once he started snoring, that idea quickly faded. Rob moved his sleeping bag and pad upstairs, which he apparently did not notice until the next morning.
Welcome to our new house blog. Clare and Rob FeDibblety will soon be moving into the house built by Dave and Ellen Dibble, and in which Clare spent her childhood. The house has been rented out for about 10 years now, and needs quite a bit of love and care put back into it. Clare and Rob have taken up the challenge to do so. We hope to document our experiences repairing and improving the house, as well as the many experiments we are bound to try, for example in the garden. At the least, we hope to document our experiences for our own pleasure in the future, and at the best, perhaps some one else may benefit from reading about our experiences.
The beams were lifted onto a pipe clamp and bolted to the posts. It appears in this photo as if I lifted the beam into place with Clare’s help. But after we set them up, Dave was the one to lift the beams. He climbed that rickety wooden ladder with a 2X12 on his shoulder and lifted it into place! This kind of construction was perfect for home builders who were not experienced. The bolt holes were drilled with a hand auger and a long drill bit, one of the more expensive tools purchased for the construction. The bit was 18″ long and cost about $30. It was 1/2″ size and the bolts were about that thick. Each beam was held by 2 bolts.
After the posts were set up and braced together with beams
Clare and Drew are in this photo of the completed first step in building the addition. The posts were squared through use of the storey poles and strings. The far right set of posts is the outside wall that does not bear the floor so is bolted together with a 2X6. This is the wall by the staircase to the second floor. The section on the far left is only a 6 foot span instead of 8. Perhaps that was to save money on materials? It seems like an odd design decision in retrospect but it actually made the third addition easier to attach. The third addition was built after the third child was born and was the final child and last addition to the house. It attached behind the 6 foot wall and along the entire east side of the back and it was built into the hillside so that the back and side walls are concrete block and the front is framed. It extends another 8 feet from the edge of this addition for a 16 foot wide bedroom downstairs with a larger bedroom and bath upstairs.
Construction goes on behind the kids
This photo shows that the season is indeed early spring, probably April. The leaves are just coming out on the trees, except for the earliest types near the cabin. The grass is just greening through the stubble of the last year’s growth. There is not much construction visible but the beams can be seen and the rafters of the second floor are not in yet. There is some barbed wire fence just behind the kids for Fairy’s pasture and it seems as if they are between the fence and the stream which should be just behind the photographer.
The beams are 2 x 12’s so that the living room floor is solid. Ellen used figures from a building engineering book to design the upstairs floor bearing weight to be the same standard as a first floor or 40 lbs per square foot. The old front door was moved to the front of the addition for some years until it was moved to the garage. The door opening in this photo now leads to the front downstairs bedroom, which was first the living room then the parent’s bedroom (Bret was born there), then Clare’s and then Bret’s bedroom. Dave and Ellen bought the stainless steel kitchen appliances that are sitting outside in the background for $200 at a Bloomington auction.
The original structure did not last long. Almost as soon as it was enclosed the family already had two children and the house was not that much bigger than the cabin. (At 19X32 feet, it was just over 600 sq. ft. while the cabin with the loft is about 400.) Dave and Ellen got excited about building an offset two story addition during Christmas vacation at the Dibbles. They often got a new perspective and new ideas during Holiday visits. Grandpa and Grandma Dibble always made the family feel welcome at Christmas time and the inspiration that distance and leisure provided is thanks to them. Here Dave and the kids inspect the deconstruction for the new post and beam connections. The 16X30 addition was designed to have 2 bedrooms and an entry downstairs and a large living room upstairs.
Clare told Ellen that she remembered the waterproofed sheetrock in the bathroom because it was the color of the Araucana eggs. These pretty light green eggs were rare, because there was only one Araucana chicken, and they seemed more valuable. So she knew the waterproof drywall was also more valuable. Here are Grandpa Dibble and Rich working together on the bathroom drywall.The bathroom is insulated to make the electric baseboard heater more effective.
Rob suggested that Ellen post a little house history. So she dug out a box of slides and used the trusty Epson 4870 scanner to get some material. This scanner was purchased for the wedding “Clare and Rob grow up” photo show and Dibble Family slide projects a couple of years ago–this history is another good project for it.
The original house was supposed to be a pottery. The posts were scavanged from the first farm building attempt at the top of the hill. The demolition caused an unfortunate accident for a friend, Bob lost his front teeth when a crosscut saw bounced back. The pottery adventure was over soon afterward and the building became the start of a new home.
The construction method was taken from an article that Grandpa Dibble shared with Dave and Ellen. Most of the house is built like a barn but the concrete slab is well insulated with a treated wood foundation that is surrounded and underlaid by styrofoam and plastic.
The first version of the house was enclosed just in time for Kristen, a niece from California, to visit for a few months. She was the first occupant of the new house.
Here are a few photos that seem to illustrate the innocent and fun times we had while living on that Owen County “homestead”. Back in the days when idealists forsook the suburbs to live independently on the land and learn to do for themselves we found our first issue of The Mother Earth News in 1973 and began to dream of our big move to the country soon afterwards. We thought it was appropriate that we bought the first piece of this homestead in the summer of 1976 and returned to Indiana that year after leaving what might have been a fast track career at Bell Labs. (Fast track to oblivion eventually as it turns out.)
Clare in settub and with wringer washing machine
One of my most prized possessions was the wringer washing machine. I could remember my grandmother using one and these were renowned for energy efficiency and water saving features even in the 80’s. Clare loved bathing outside and this was our ritual when we lived in our little cabin next to the “big house” as it was being built. We gave the wringer machine to another couple when we purchased a new sudsaver for the bathroom of the new house. I let my hand get stuck in the wringer once but there was a safety catch that I hit to release the wringer before there was any lasting damage.
Wheeled objects attract kids
The old barn was falling down but we still needed it to shelter our tools and animals. It was a happy day when we were finally able to pull it down ten years later. Our kids spent a lot of time outdoors and not fully clothed. During this time Dave cut all the grass around the house and garden with this small gas push mower. I remember that it took him about seven hours to do the whole thing and the grass in Indiana grows fast in the spring months. This was a huge chore and we did not get a riding mower for several more years. Someday we thought we would be old and rich enough to have a real tractor.
Good gardens good food
In the background of this photo the view out the back living room window of the cabin shows lumber stacked in preparation for the new addition to the big house. The cookstove is on the right, one foot is visible, the sewing machine cabinet from Grandma Dibble is behind the kids (I’m pretty sure Drew’s outfit is home sewn and maybe Clare’s is too though I don’t remember for sure.) The step up to the living room side of the cabin is fenced off for baby Drew’s safety. Probably so that he won’t climb the loft ladder alone. Drew is chewing on a green bean. This is a good view of the bowling alley floors. This is why Drew tells his friends that he was born in a bowling alley! The little cabin really was pretty comfortable for the family built with lots of recycled materials and fixtures just as the Mother Earth News recommended.
Kids asleep in the loft
Clare was careful that all of her dolls and animals were comfortable before they fell asleep. This window was way too dangerous for children and a long fall if one of them had crawled through it. In another year or so from the time of this photo, Clare will let the window drop thinking Drew would hold it himself and Drew’s head was cut by the breaking glass resulting in a life time scar on his forehead.
Growing kids and vegetables
We were proud of this garden. We turned all the soil by hand. My first reaction when my daughter started to turn this same soil was, “Get a tiller.” But we “double dug” with a turning fork and planted in long beds that could be reached from each side so that we did not step on the tilled soil. Black plastic was laid between the beds. Later we would experiment with raised beds made out of boards cut from our trees. The kids and the veggies all grew at at alarming pace. The tiny white box in the background is the beehive. We would eventually have two hives. We caught a swarm for the second one, a great adventure at the time. Dave’s transition T-shirt refers to a software project that he worked on in 1980.
Fairy the cow was originally named Farrah
What is a homestead without a source of milk and eggs? We changed Fairy’s name because the Faerie Queene was by Edmund Spenser and Spencer, Indiana was our new hometown. The kids named one of her calf’s Sprite after their favorite soda pop. Fairy was a pet cow who would get out of her fenced pasture and stand outside our windows bellowing to be fed or milked. She was gentle and sweet though she could kick over the milk bucket or swat you with her tail when annoyed or uncomfortable.
Fairy and her calf
Fairy would roam at least once each year and be located miles away in a farmer’s cornfield. Luckily we never lost her to bloat or poisoning. We would walk her back through the woods and along the creek bottoms taking the same path home that she escaped by. She finally got “low in her hips” as the vet said. He said there was nothing we could do and she died at Thanksgiving (in 1990 I think) after more than 10 years as our favorite (and only) family cow.
This has to be 1982 when Clare turned 4 and Drew is about 9 months old.
It is confounding to look at old slides out of order and find that just looking at the age of children can be confusing when trying to determine years and dates. The construction was dated about 1983 and here is evidence that in 1982 when Clare got the swingset for her 4th birthday, the house was in it’s first stage and apparently closed in. The new construction must then have begun after Christmas of this year. Also Kristen visited when she was 15 and as she was born in 1967 (summer of love) and turned 40 this year (we love you Kris!) that would be fall of 1982. So 1983 is the year construction on the addition was started. Whew!