Well, That Explains the Smell

For the last month or so I’ve been doing that thing you do when an odd smell suddenly appears in one of the rooms of your house. You know what I’m talking about… it involves sniffing things that any rational person would keep a fair distance away from their nose. In the case of my mudroom, this included work boots (smelled like feet), baseboard heaters (no smell), a two-hundred pound chalkboard (smelled  like chalk), and the cat (did not take kindly to being smelled).

While it had a slightly “Hey something might be burning around here” odor, there was no smoke, heat, or identifiable source that made me overly concerned. Plus I had escaping donkeys and a fence to install, so the Random Smell in the Mudroom project took a back seat to other, more pressing things around the farm.

Then, last week, the light bulb in the mudroom fixture finally burnt out.


I bought a new fixture for this room from Restoration Hardware a few months ago, and there’s really nothing that motivates a person to finally install a new light fixture than repeatedly stepping on nails with bare feet in the dark because the old light won’t turn on.

Yes, I totally understand that for some people, that would simply be motivation to sweep the floor and/or change the lightbulb, but let’s be honest about who you’re dealing with here…

So, instead of sweeping the floor, I took down the old light fixture, which actually turned out to be a really good idea because of this…


Yeah. Hope you weren’t just eating lunch.

In a somewhat related story, last week as I was crossing the street– at a designated crosswalk, while the WALK light was flashing– I almost got run over by a nun driving a Buick. As far as I can tell, that’s pretty much as close as you can get to being smited by God unless you’re actually struck by lighting.

And then, this. A plague of insects.

I’m just saying… someone out there might have it in for me.

Or maybe this is a sign that I should clean out any light fixtures more regularly so that the little bug carcases don’t pile up in them enough to touch the light bulb and start a fire.


Now on to the less disgusting portion of this little adventure… installing the new fixture.
UntitledThat’s not how it goes.

I’ve just found that being a one-woman show means you have to get creative about testing the height of light fixtures before you cut the cord, since there’s no one to hold it for you while you stand back to check it out.

If you’ve never installed a light fixture before, it’s pretty easy in theory. (Here’s some info on the tools you need so you don’t shock the shit out of yourself, and here’s an article I wrote for Bobvila.com a few years ago on simple wiring.)

In a 150 year old house, things tend to get more complicated, but this fixture actually went in fairly easily, all considered.

Stripping the wires on that goddamned pink floor?



Doing some advanced yoga positions of the top of a ladder so that I can use my knee to hold the fixture in place while wiring it?


Less easy.


Yeah, normally you connect similarly colored wires, but in this house all the wires are the same color. Yay DIYers.

And right about the time I was all, “Wow, that was the easiest light installation I’ve done in this house,” this happened…

UntitledWell, shit.

So then the light fixture came down again and I had to patch the ceiling. In the meantime, I decided to switch out these beauties…


And since I was switching them out anyway, I decided I should put a programmable timer in for the flood lights. Which meant I had to go to the hardware store. And while I was at the hardware store, I decided I needed to buy one of these…

Because I think it will be the perfect way to heat my shop this winter. Now I just have to figure out how to get the beast out of the back of my truck.

And in my excitement over the new wood stove, I managed to get the wrong electrical switches, which means I only had one brief shining moment of this…


And then the room was plunged into total darkness again until I manage to go back to the hardware store (which will be sometime between now and a trip to the ER for stitches in my foot when I step on that damn nail again.)

Such is the DIY life.


23 Responses

  1. yuck! That happened in my parent’s house growing up. Old house, like yours, and every spring and fall my dad would go around and dump all the light fixture’s…compilings, into the toilet. They do smell horrible if they cook up there!!

  2. I love how your mind works, because it makes me feel better about all the different tangents I go off on when I’m working on projects! 🙂

  3. Your blog gives me hope of an eventual life outside the bounds of my tiny rental apartment and office cubicle…! Like a breath of fresh air, lol – of maybe a good whiff of fresh sawdust instead

  4. Love the light! Have you considered going on an anti-tetanus continuous IV drip? Yes, dragging the IV trolley around would be a pain but now that you have the donkeys contained it may be time to consider it.

  5. Haha! Installing a light fixture led to replacing switches, led to putting in a programmable timer, led to buying a wood stove!?!

    You are so funny!

    Love the new fixture!

  6. We replaced all the light fixtures in our 82 year old house and I can definitely empathize on the wires not being color coded appropriately to modern day standards. We did a lot of connecting, running to flip the breaker, flipping the switch, then cursing when we realized we connected them wrong. Such is life. Sorry about your ladybug problem. That’s definitely gross.

  7. Or maybe it’s a sign that we should not have enclosed light fixtures in our houses with bowls under them where all the bugs can go to die.

  8. Mmm, fried ladybugs. My favorite. Isn’t it nice to kill two birds with one stone, even when you weren’t intending to?

  9. Wow. Total flashback to living in the Midwest. . . light fixtures filled with bugs! Yuck. Love the new light fixture btw! Those old-timey light bulbs are the balls.

  10. Kit, this reminds me of one of many days in our DIY home construction.

    But the one that comes to mind is my husband, firstly losing the battle with roof sheithing and becoming a human sandwich between two 4×8 foot sheets of plywood, that becomes airborne from the roof and lands abruptly on the ground with him in between. May have saved his neck, I might add, but not his pride. Only to be followed up with losing a fight with the peeing neighbors clawing cat and the icing on the painful day was stepping on that rusty nail to be followed up with tetnas shot. It was truly like Nicki says: If you give a mouse a cookie! day. Love your stories!

  11. The worst. Whenever I’m on the hunt for new light fixtures, I immediately ignore anything with a shade that points up. TOO MANY BUGS IN OLD HOUSES. At least it’s not cluster flies.

  12. Thank you so much for a seriously needed laugh, Kit! Glad all is going along as usual and no crises!

  13. Oh my! I know toasted bugs aren’t awesome, but wow! so many ladybugs… you must have a great garden 🙂

  14. Well, I just had a piece of chicken in my mouth when I saw that picture… Let’s just say I’m not all that hungry anymore.

  15. I love your blog. I have bought my first house, 70 years old(the house not me), weatherboard delight. I do love it, but renovating on your own is hard work.

    Like you I bought a wood stove and didn’t know how I was going to unload it. I gently dragged it off the back of the wagon until it was upside down on the ground and then lifted one end onto the sack truck. Its about 230 pounds and HEAVY. I had to rest between manoeuvres and swear a little.

  16. You done a great job by your own-self. actually some time I try to fix any electric problem in my own house. I am enjoy it when I go to fix that.

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