Playing hooky

All of my talk about making progress on the office, and what do I do instead? Go play outside. I can't help it. If the weather is good, I can't seem to stay inside, especially when there are so many outside things that need to be done too. Wednesday, I stole some wildflowers from the side of the road (phlox and Virginia waterleaf). My mother has since told me this is illegal (the didn't teach us that in criminal law...), so I won't be doing that again. Still, I now have a few patches of beautiful phlox that I hope will spread. I put the waterleaf next to the back porch, but I think there's too much sun for it there. It's very perky in the morning, but starts to droop at about 2 pm. I'll move it to the front where there's plenty of shade.

I also took it upon myself to prune some of the trees in the woods around our yard. It might seem dumb to prune the woods, but it does look much better. It'll also keep Shayne from being smacked with branches when he mows the lawn.

Yesterday, Shayne and I installed edging pavers around the side and back flower beds. It seemed like a small thing, but it looks a TON better. I'm happy!

Here is the back of the house when we moved in:

After the removal of the mint and the addition of wildflowers:

Now, with fresh mulch, edging, and more flowers:

There's only one small section by the corner of the house that looks as full as I want it, but in a few years everything will fill in, I hope. We have lots of echinacea, coreopsis, black-eyed susans, daisies, and other native wildflowers that spread, so it should be nearly self-sufficient now.

Now about the office...

Idea Files: Tumbled block patio and wall

Last night Shayne and I made a pilgrimage to Menards. I generally hate going to big box stores, but this time it resulted in an epiphany. We were a few edger bricks short (more about that in another entry), so the sole purpose of our visit was to get 5 bricks and leave without buying anything else. We go tthe 5 bricks, but then I wandered off. Into patio heaven.

In the middle of the inside of the store, they had set up functional displays of block and brick patios with various types of walls around them. And they were goregous! A tumbled brick patio with a block wall around the edge would be perfect in the area occupied by my failed veggie garden.

I couldn't find any pictures online that showed exactly what I want, but this one's close:
montanaraven's garden in progressThe brick pavers go on sale every so often for $0.25 each, so the cost for a 11' by 22' patio is very reasonable (under $300). The wall will be about $150-$200, depending on what type of block we decide on. I know what we're buying with next year's tax refund!


Please kick me in the a$$!

A couple of weeks ago we found the perfect door/window headers at the local ReStore. They match our originals perfectly, and they are in great shape. They need to be stripped (doesn't everything??), but for $7 each, who cares? I'm going to save myself the hassle and take them with the next batch of stuff to go to the wonderful wood stripper. I'm planning on taking all the upstairs doors (3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, 1 closet), some baseboards and cap, and the window trim. If I'm lucky, it'll come in under $200, but it's much better than doing it myself at this point. I'm so sick of stripping paint I could scream. Thankfully, this should be the only trip for the upstairs, and then we just have the dining room to go. Holy crap, the end of wood refinishing is in sight!!

Since we got rid of most of the junk clogging the office last week, I'm starting to gear up to finish the wallpaper removal and make the final push to finishing the upstairs. Once I get off my dead ass (okay, so not completely... I've been busy outside working on the yard and garden, since the weather's been nice), the wallpaper should be gone in a matter of hours. There isn't much left, just a sort of ring around the top of the room where I couldn't reach without a ladder or chair. Then we'll expand the original closet door to double its width to make the closet accessible, which might cost $75 in materials. Skimcoating the walls and filling in the hall closet door opening with drywall will be hired out to a friend and cost maybe $200. The only other costs will be new paint and the floor sander rental. Maybe I could rent a cheerleader while i'm at it, since staying motivated seems to be my biggest challenge.


Spring Purging

Some people do spring cleaning; we're having a spring purging. Since we moved in 2.5 years ago, we've managed to unpack about half of our belongings. The rest has been stored in the office and basement. Last week, we "weeded" the office and our closets, resulting in a HUGE Goodwill load. According to the little worksheet they give to help you figure out the value of your donation, we gave about $250 worth of stuff, and I didn't even account for it all.

This week, we tackled the basement.I really should have taken a before picture. about 2/3 of the basement is a finished family room. The other 1/3 houses the furnace, hot water heater, broken water softener, a pantry, my backpacking gear (2 shelving units), tools (1 shelving unit), uniform wardrobe, 2 fake Christmas trees, 3 shelving units of crap, and a couple other rubbermaid container stacks of crap. Obviously that's quite a bit of stuff, but crammed into a roughly 8 by 20' area it was getting really bad.

We managed to get rid of at least half of the "crap", which resulted in the shelving units not even being full. I got rid of lots of decorative stuff that I'd been collecting over the years (it's amazing how much my tastes have changed in 3 years!), some kitchenwares, some old stuffed animals, and a few blankets. Shayne got rid of more than me, and I don't even want to know what it all was. I'm a packrat, but he can put me to shame! I know that organization experts say to get rid of things that you won't display, but some things I just had to keep. Old journals, programs from musicals I played in during high school and college, and a few meaningful gifts just had to stay. That stuff is personal, and reading through it reminds me of where I've been and how I've become who I am. Also, there are two rubbermaid containers full of "decor" items I'll be using as we finish various rooms.

We'll probably be getting rid of the water softener, since we don't use it, and I need to reorganize my backpacking gear and the tool cabinet. Still, we made a BIG improvement, and the utility side of the basement looks much, much better.

Idea Files: Natural Swimming Pools

Don't these look awesome?!

I just came across these today. I would very much like to eventually have a pool and watergarden, and this "new" pool system combines them both into one. They use plants as the filtration instead of chemicals, so there's no chlorine. As long as there's a natural balance, the waster stays clean and clear. Your "pool" can be home to plants, amphibians, ducks, and dragonflies.
According to Mother Earth Magazine, a dedicated team of do-it-yourselfers can create a pool for approximately $2000. When can we start digging??


Foundation woes

Shayne had a contractor friend stop by to talk about possibly expanding the mudroom/laundry room/back porch the length of the house. He confirmed what I had suspected: the back porch has no foundation. It just sits on wooden posts, which have since been enclosed with plywood and stuccoed over. This explains why the porch has sunk away from the house and the floor in there tilts at a crazy angle. The good news is that it would only cost $20,000 to tear it off, pour a new foundation, and build a new mudroom! That was sarcasm, in case you couldn't tell...

Seriously, though, the new foundation for an addition might only be about $3000, and we could just have someone frame it and build a roof. We can handle it from there, which would save us a TON of money.

Regardless, I can see my kitchen remodel being pushed WAY back... The porch is a very awkward space, which just doesn't do what we need it to. I'm actually considering moving the laundry room to the basement temporarily, just to see if it works for us to have it down there. It would free up a ton of room on the porch, and would allow us to have a pantry and make the half bath bigger without adding on. We'd still need to do something about the insulation, though.

Just food for thought, since I really need to obssess about the house more than I already do...


Rain barrel update

After 1.6" of rain yesterday, the rain barrel is up to 45 gallons. And this is still without any kind of downspout leading into it, just what happens to fall out of the gutter into the little hole in the lid.

Eventually we'll empty it and put it together right... :)


It's in the details

I'm not sure if this is normal or not, but I have something of a love-hate relationship with my house. I hate the mess of remodeling and restoration. I hate the dust, the weird things that the POs did, the mismatched and missing woodwork, the paneling, ceiling tiles and wallpaper that were only in style for about 10 minutes. I hate the new replacement windows (though I thank God that they're at least wood!), the clutter, the unpacked boxes in the basement. I hate that it's my fault I haven't gotten farther on the restoration. I hate that I'm sometimes lazty about working on the house, and the things I desperately want to do cost too much money to do them RIGHT NOW. But none of the things I hate are the house's fault, and most of them are a result of people screwing it up and removing original elements.

But I love the plinth blocks and the little scrolly piece that sits above the baseboard and dresses it up.
I love the refinished pine floors that just glow when the sun shines on them. Polyurethane just can't compare to shellac.

I love how the living room has enough windows that it feels more like a porch than a room.

I love that the builders took enough pride in their woork to include matching woodwork in the closets.

I love the doorknobs and backplates.
I love the heat registers.

I love the wavy plaster walls and can't imagine tearing them out to put in drywall.
I love how this house has shown me I can do things other people think aren't worth doing (but then they're amazed with the results). I love how we're learning that bigger isn't better, and that we can simplfy our lives to adapt to our home. I love how this house forces me to slow down, to think about how I can do more with less, and reminds me that what I do will affect the people who come after us. I love that our first house might just be our last.


Rain barrels

While I was driving around at work a few days ago, I noticed a sign in the yard of one house offering plastic barrels for $10. I don't know about you, but considering that most barrels seem to cost at least $40, I think that's a bargain. I had Shayne go pick one up along with some hardware, and over the next few days, we're going to build our first rain barrel.

Because I have no patience, I set up the barrel underneath our somewhat-defunct garage gutter. This gutter was a victim of last year's roof rebuilding project, and it never made it back in service. The gutter itself is mostly fine, but the downspout isn't attached. It's laying on the ground next to the garage and has since been damaged by me stepping on it. Numerous times. So... We have a gutter with a hole in one end. Not idea, but it works. Mostly.

I set the barrel underneath the gutter hole with it's 3" diameter cap open. During the afternoon, we got .46" of rain. It had probably already rained for a half hour before I set up the barrel (2 hrs of rain total), and once I did, it was only doing a mediocre job of cathing the water. Still, we "harvested" about 10-15 gallons of water from our garage roof. The catchment area for that side is about 200 square feet. According to my calculations, we could have gotten at least a full 55 gallons from that rainfall, but for a half-assed setup, I don't think we did too badly.

That barrel is right next to my new veggie garden (more on that later), and I plan to attach a soaker hose to the barrel to provide water to my little seedlings. I'd like another barrel by the porch roof, and that will catch some water from the house roof as well. Being a Foursquare, we don't have gutters on the main roof, but I think we can get plenty of water from our front and back porch roofs to water our flowers and veggies. Every little bit helps!


The little front bedroom

After much discussion and thinking, we have finally found a use and a name for the little front bedroom. It's going to be a nursery!!

(No, Mom, I'm not pregnant)

When Shayne and I first got married, we were dead-set on not having any kids. Ever. None. And then I turned 25. Anyone who discounts the notion of a biological clock is full of crap. One day we went to Target and were looking at movies. And then I saw them: baby socks. Little, litty-bitty, colorful baby socks. I dragged Shayne over to look, and it was all downhill from there. He even told me he was excited about me getting pregnant. What happened to us???

So now the little front bedroom will be a nursery. This has sort of thrown a wrench in the rest of our house projects. What order is best? What needs to be done to make the house livable for a kidlet? First should be to finish the nursery and refinish the floors in there. Second is to finish the office (remove the little wallpaper that's left, repair the walls and ceiling, close off the opening to the hall closet, re-open wall for original closet, and refinish the floors). Third is to move our room into the office, re-do the closet wall and closet interior, paint, and refinish the floors there and in the hall. Thankfully, we can do everything ourselves except for the drywall. I want it to be perfect, so I'll happily pay someone for the few bits we need done.

Now we just need to decide whether the kitchen or bathroom is more important...


The Vintage Stove Chronicles: Before and After-ish

I've been working diligently on my stove for about 2 weeks now. So far I've disassembled most of the stove and thoroughly cleaned the inner body. I've also nearly finished with rust removal. Here are a few before and almost after shots. I still have a lot of work to do, but this is a sneak peek!








You may notice that the area areound the oven dorr is still rusty, as is the very bottom of the frame. I do plan on cleaning those parts as well, but the cleaned parts of the frame needed to be painted ASAP. Since the stove is out in the garage, and it's been somewhat damp the past few days, the frame was rusting again within an hour of being cleaned. I didn't want to spray it with a protectant, since then I would just have to wash it with soap and water before painting, and that would possibly invite more rust. If I ding up the paint a little during the rest of the cleaning, it's no big deal, since I can always touch it up. This way I'll save it from rusting over again.

I have quite a few pieces ready to be sent out to the reporcelain company, and as soon as I remove 5 broken screws from the chrome top, it'll be ready to be rechromed. I still need to clean the oven and broiler, but that's no big deal. This is nowhere near as difficult as I thought it would be. I'll be nervous when it comes time to turn on the gas, but that's when I'm going to have a pro come out and check everything for me.