Back in Black

Written by Lydia Benedict.


Although I would love to skip winter, I use it to catch up on the projects I put on the back-burner each summer. This winter is no different. Once the fruit tree pruning was done (I pruned roughly 20 trees within the first couple weeks of January).

I continued my indoor projects. This winter, my projects ranged from refinishing furniture and light fixtures, to repairing the wood stove.

I like black furniture. My house is full of it. Recently my youngest daughter asked me if black was my favorite color. And this winter I’ve added more black furniture to our house by refinishing a hutch, bedside table, magazine rack, five chairs, and even exterior light fixtures.

Aside from the hutch (which I found at a local antique store), I didn’t purchase any of the “new” furniture. Refinishing furniture is a way of recycling: the refinished chairs, for example, were in my neighbors burn pile. And instead of donating the magazine rack and nightstand to Goodwill, I gave them a facelift making them welcome additions to the house.

Hutch purchased at an antique store

While the antique hutch was in decent shape, it was blue. That just didn’t work with my color schemes. It also had a piece of wood that needed to be replaced. For that I went to our local cabinet makers, Barger's Custom Cabinets, and they cut a piece of maple wood and fastened it in place. I got a new glass pane from a local glass shop and replaced the broken one on the hutch.

Refinished hutch

On a roll, I painted every light fixture on the outside of our barn. First I removed the rust with a wire brush.

Rusted light fixtures

Then I spent hours taping the glass that encloses the light bulbs, going under each of the metal cross bars. Talk about tedious! Finally, I spray painted all nine fixtures—black, of course!

Light fixtures like new!

The chairs my neighbors threw out were in worse shape than I had thought: the chair backs had broken away from the chair frame.

Chairs that my neighbors threw out

With the help of wood glue and C-clamps (which I use for quilting), I put the chairs back together and painted them—you guessed it—black.

Repairing the chairs

The only thing left was to recover the chair bottoms with new padding and fabric and screw the bottoms back to the chairs. However, a winter storm delayed completion.

For the last few days, all I’ve done is deal with Mother Nature. Cold temperatures alone create more work here on the farm. For example, the rabbits water bottles freeze and have to be changed out periodically throughout the day; the frozen ones are brought to the house to thaw until it’s time to swap them back again.

Rabbit hutches

And when 18 inches of snow falls, like it did here this weekend, not only do we need pathways shoveled for us to use, but also for the animals. I shoveled a pathway around the chicken coop so the birds could still walk around a bit. The kids went down to the pond to shovel a similar path for the ducks.

Clara Belle helps shovel paths to the animals

But with all the furniture repairs and refinishing, I was feel pretty handy—not an adjective I’d typically use to describe myself. (Tennyson even asked me why I had started an ice cream business instead of a furniture restoration one.) So next I tackled the job of resealing the wood stove with new gasket cording. I quickly learned that fireplace “glue” is more like a very thick caulking: so thick I simply couldn’t squeeze it out of the tube. I turned to Tennyson and his strong hands. Even he had difficulty. But I wanted this job done! I kept trying—pulling, squeezing, leaning into it until I got the black paste out and sealed the gasket. Now the smoke doesn’t seep out along the stove openings.

Sealing the wood stove with a new gasket

And just in time. With the snow mounting and temperatures dropping, I’ve been burning wood in the stove 24/7. It create bodily comfort, as well as peace of mind. If the power goes out, I can cook on the wood stove. From pancakes and eggs, to soup and chili, I love the taste of food cooked on a wood stove.

Meanwhile, the kids and I gather close to the stove to dry our snow covered mittens, hats, coats, and boots. The snow is blowing and the girls and I settle down to read together from the Little House series: The Long Winter. It reminds us that we have it pretty easy compared to the Ingalls.

The chairs are finished!