Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Museum updates: Twin plants, &tc.

Somebody asked the other day when the museum would open again, when actually it never closes --- although the "season," when we're open longer hours, ended Sept. 30. Now, Judy is there from 1-4 p.m. Tuesdays; Marilyn, from 9 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Wednesdays; and I'm generally there a couple of morning hours daily --- depending. Plus, we'll gladly open for visitors at other times providing you contact us to make arrangements: (641) 774-4464 or


This was the year when neither master gardener Kay nor I could stand to see the big Stephens House front-porch planters wither, freeze and die --- so thanks to Rex's strong back they moved inside and upstairs and seem to be flourishing. The redoubtable Sarah P., artist with paint and plants as well as persuasive Presbyterian preacher, created these for us in the spring, incorporating ginger, which has flourished. Now Kay is experimenting to see if the plants will make it through the winter, then move outside again.

We were going to let the south porch planters, filled with lesser stuff, go. But one thing led to another and they're now over-wintering in the big south dining room windows downstairs.

Kay, Robin, Meg, Sarah and others have done a magnificent job with the outdoor plantings this year, and now we're talking rain garden for the seriously intimidating drop from patio to blacksmith shop level of our back-40 ski slope.


As anyone who deals with old buildings knows, maintenance is a big deal --- unless you want the darned things to fall down around your ears. So there's been a lot of that this year and more is planned.

At the Stephens House, for example, the built-in eavestroughs that serve the lower-level roofs of the front porch had to be dealt with during the summer and a reproduction of a critically deteriorated and surprisingly large basement window was custom-built and installed.

Now, we're preparing to insulate the walk-up attic, which has only a dusting between some floor joists and, apparently, none whatsoever under the floor. That will be blown-in fiberglass, a project financed in large part by a South Central Community Foundation grant and Alliant Energy rebates. It's needed because the house is heated and cooled year-around to a consistent level, and that's costly in a big old drafty building.

The big barrier to insulation previously was the fact the attic had been used for storage since the building was acquired in 1965 --- and was full of an amazing assortment of stuff. All of that was moved with considerable effort during the summer to basement storage and as the months go by we hope to finally sort thorugh it and incorporate as much as possible into exhibits.

Although the attic no longer will be usable once insulated --- that may be a good thing. Plus, the insulating process is reversible, something that needs to be considered when dealing with a National Register-listed building.


Elsewhere, we have a state grant that will help us replace the wood-shingle roof on our 1880s school house. Puckerbrush arrived on campus during the late 1960s, just after consolidation, with the roof that's still in place --- but the end of its useful life is very near. Everything involved in this project has been approved at state level. Now if the very-busy contractor who had the successful bid (installing a wood-shingle roof the right way is specialized work) would just answer his telephone!


Finally, we're getting estimates now for replacement of the doubled doors that serve as the museum's main entrance --- to the Lewis Building. These have served since the 1970s and actually were moved from the original wing of the building when the newer wing that contains the commons area and offices plus a gallery was added. Although the old doors still are sturdy, they are not insulated, have warped slightly (daylight always is visible somewhere around them no matter what we do) and they are extraordinarily difficult to lock and unlock. Hopefully, they will have been replaced before snow flies.

No comments: