Brick by Brick

The work around this farmhouse continues; there is something to add to the list always. Not too long ago, we removed bricks that were in the front garden. When we got rid of the kitchen chimney, we reused those bricks. When we were able to work on that garden area again, we took them out and set them aside to be used elsewhere. We used a few of them in the faerie garden and the new garden next to it. The bricks replaced old bent wood that was serving as a border. The old wood was used as border on the trails my husband is slowly developing in the back area. My husband decided to make a chimenea with the rest of the bricks. It will be great for the sitting area during chilly days. It also serves as a cooking option if power goes down for long. The important thing is that these lovely old bricks that date to 1910 at least, if not older, were not wasted.

Chimenea, and brick border in the background garden.

One of my easy projects was to have Morning Glory grow by the side entrance and wrap itself around the handrail. I love the look of Morning Glory in pictures and paintings of cottages, so I wanted to recreate the look somehow.

I planted the seeds in pots. Hopefully, the plant will keep blooming and extending. In the evening the flowers look like candy when closed.
It was a heavy-fog morning today, and these were all over the ground. It looks web-lace-tissue like. I don’t know what they are, certainly not spider webs. These disappear once the sun comes out and heats the surface.
A bunch of these tiny yellow birds were around a few weeks ago. I have seen all-yellow tiny ones before but not these with the black markings.

It looks like the garden is starting to prepare for a new season, and so am I; soon, everything will go to rest for a while.

Restoring an Old Farmhouse – Porch Garden

Fixing up this old farmhouse has taken energy, time, and a bit of money; however, it has been rewarding. One of the areas in which we worked early on was the porch garden. We had taken recycled bricks from the chimney we took out in the kitchen and reused it in the area. Later on, when we created a small garden around the house using existing plants, potted plants, and white marble chips, we realized that we needed to make the area blend with the rest. The garden around the house is completed now. We moved around and relocated some potted plants. We positioned the concrete bench that was on the porch to the left side of the garden, just to match the right side of the garden. It worked out well. One more project off the long list.

A bit of background for readers new to this blog. The old farmhouse was in very bad shape when we bought it. It had been abandoned for many years and weather/time/renters/squatters had been rough on it. The value was on the land. By just looking at the derelict home we knew that anything we were to do from that point on would be an improvement. That has been a goal, to improve and add value over time.

BEFORE

A very scary view of the porch when we bought the farmhouse. There was no garden area, and everything had to be fixed up, everything. With much love and patience, my husband and I have been doing all the work. I have been writing about the quest on this blog. To read on the progress so far, you can visit my blog posts under Restoring a farmhouse or Restoring a garden.

AFTER

The brick area before.

We reused some of the bricks on the latest garden area we created that is located next to the faerie garden. We will be reusing the chimney bricks on another project.

I hope you enjoy the post.

Love and light.

Restoring an Old Farmhouse – Haint Blue Porch

Continuing with the long list of things to do around here, it was time to repaint the porch (original to the 1910 farmhouse) and the floor, so that’s what we did. We were lucky to find a gallon of paint for $9.99 at the Home Depot on the “mishaps or Oops shelf” and it was exactly the color we needed, a haint blue or a sky blue. It is a custom in the South to paint the porch ceiling a light shade of blue. It is called haint blue and there are many variations of this blue. Long ago people used to paint their homes a haint blue to ward off evil spirits and that’s how the blue color got its name. According to legend, evil spirits could not cross water and the light color blue mimicked a water surface, thus discouraging evil spirits from visiting the home. Later on, people painted the porch a haint blue shade because it discouraged bugs from landing on the porch; it gives the illusion of open space or sky. Although these seemed two very good reasons for choosing this color, especially, reason number two during the summer, I just love the color. It seems light and airy, refreshing, and gives the impression of light during the evening. I just love it. Many homes in town display some variation of this blue on the porch ceiling.

Many years ago, we had painted the ceiling a dark blue. We wanted to keep the original ceiling, so we just scraped and painted it. We like the look of the small boards. We caulked some areas before repainting. Here’s the before.

Before

AFTER

The brick area will be our next project. We will be matching it to the rest of the garden by replacing it with white marble chips and changing the layout a bit. The bricks were recycled when we took out the small chimney in the kitchen. We will recycle and use the bricks on another area of the garden. The to-do list is getting a bit smaller.

Hope you enjoy this post.

Love and light.

Garden of Dreams

Everybody needs … places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and cheer and give strength …

John Muir

When we purchased this derelict farmhouse, there was no garden, only a morass of overgrown bushes, grass, and weeds, some of them inside the siding, covering the house, and even inside it. Little by little, we uncovered the place, and one step at a time, we set out to create a garden. As we uncovered areas, we found a hidden driveway, some existing plants that we kept and revived, and other areas of interest, such as a sitting area delineated by a cemented circle shape. One area at a time, we set out to clean, separate, and plan what we could do using existing or recycled materials, and some new.

Eventually, it started to feel and look like a garden. We added a few new plants and propagated other existing plants. Today, we are at a point where the place feels manageable, and we plan to create new garden areas. Our goal is to create at least one new area every year or add new plants to an existing area. So far, we have created a garden around the perimeter of the house, a veggie garden, a faerie garden where there is a large section covered with moss, a small front garden at the entrance, which is still in the works, two small areas next to the house, a sitting area, and recently, a small garden next to it. We have added four new trees which we obtained for free (a small $10 donation) through the Arbor Foundation, and these are doing very well. We planted five but one did not make it. Originally, they sent 10 dormant trees (these look like brown sticks); we planted five and gave the rest to my sister.

I’ve loved gardens since I can remember. I especially loved my grandmother’s garden, and as a little girl I enjoyed it. Although it was a small garden, at that age, to me it felt as a huge garden, my own world. Sadly, this garden does not exist anymore. It was replaced by hideous cement. My favorite garden style is an English garden, and I would love to recreate that style on this property. My husband favors more symmetrical and delineated gardens, which I dislike, so we compromise a bit. He also dislikes climbers, which I love. I have a list of dreamy plants that I would like to see growing in the garden. Some are already part of it. The list is in no particular planting or planning order; just what I love.

  • Iris – There was an existing light purple variety growing here, which we uncovered and propagated. I brought a deeper shade of purple from my garden in Jersey.
  • Gladiolas – My sister gave me some from her garden, and these are doing very well.
  • Hen and chicks – These have propagated well, and I brought them from my garden in Jersey.
  • Weeping blue spruce – wish list
  • Holy tree – We uncovered two existing varieties, one in the new garden area, which we uncovered amongst overgrown bushes, and another one in the wooded area at the back of the house.
  • Jasmine – wish list
  • Camelia – wish list
  • Magnolia – wish list, but it tends to grow very large, so I am not too sure about adding it.
  • Snapdragon – planted some from seed.
  • Gardenia – wish list
  • Clematis – wish list
  • Wisteria – wish list
  • Butterfly bush – wish list
  • Tulips – wish list
  • Giant Hosta – We added a few hostas and three blue hostas.
  • Sunflowers – We added them from seed, but did not come back, as the birds ate all the seeds.
  • Yarrow – Found in property.
  • Daphodils – wish list
  • Poppy – wish list. Planted seeds but did not grow.
  • Black Eye Susan – wish list
  • Forget me nots – wish list
  • Hyacinth – wish list
  • Crocus – wish list
  • Roses – Planted a small bush that died. Just bought two mini rose bushes that will go in the front porch area when we redo that area.
  • Ferns – found in property along with wild violet and I potted it.
  • Clover – Tons of clover grow here. I would rather have Clover than grass.
  • Lavender – wish list, have proven hard to grow, but I have a small English Lavender plant in a pot, but it has been a challenge to grow elsewhere.
  • English Ivy – I have three plants growing in pots by the faerie garden and side entrance.
  • Bleeding heart – wish list
  • Daisy – wish list
  • Lillies – Existing near the porch, some of which we propagated in the faerie garden. I planted a Tiger Lilly by the side entrance.
  • Calla lilies – My sister gave me a few from her garden. We have them in pots for now, and they come up every year; eventually, we will propagate these.
  • Zinnias and Foxglove – By seed
  • Forsythia – We have a small existing bush that we revived and trimmed. It tends to flower in December for some reason, and by the time Spring arrives, it is done with its flowers.
  • Peony – wish list
  • Dwarf Boxwood – Existing, and we uncovered and revived these two bushes by the porch steps. At one point, I thought these would not make it because these were in very bad shape.
  • Hydrangea – Existing. We have a lovely Blue Hydrangea that we trimmed and is doing beautifully.
  • Climbing rose – We uncovered a tiny rose bush, and it has grown beautifully. It was covered by overgrown vegetation, and we almost missed it.
  • Morning Glory – Just started growing two + plants (by seed) in pots by the side entrance steps. My goal is for them to climb and wrap themselves around the banister and handrail.

There are many cedars, pine, and oak varieties around here, and some lovely trees that I have no idea what they are. I am sure that I can come up with more dreamy plants, but for now, these are the ones that I would love to see growing in the garden. I enjoyed many of these plants in my previous garden and I truly miss them. I would like to add the plants on this list throughout the years, and at least a small water feature. I will share some of these projects on this blog.

To view some of the before and after pictures of the garden you can visit my posts under Restoring a Garden or Fixing an Old Farmhouse. Here are a few pictures.

Existing lovely very fragrant plant that I have no idea what it is.
The lovely blue hydrangea, our inspiration for the paint color.
Iris
Tiger lily
Calla lily
Pink Calla lily, Hosta, and Boxwood.
Once upon a time, there was a derelict farmhouse without a garden … to be continued.

Farmhouse Project – Porch Roof

When we bought the old farmhouse, we decided to coat the roof because it was the original tin roof, and it was not leaking or damaged underneath, but needed protection since it was 100 years old at that time, and by now, 112 years old. Tin was the metal used back then, sturdy and durable, less pliable as well. Modern metal roofs are easier to bend and work with, and they come in a variety of styles, colors, and grades. They are more expensive than regular asphalt shingles, and they last a bit longer. We decided that when it was time to replace the roof, we would select a metal roof because the house was originally built for a metal roof. Shingles weigh about four times more, and being that the house is 112 years old, it makes sense not to add more weight to the top. However, that would mean for us to save the money for a new roof because it is a cash project, as it has been the rest of the house renovation, hence why it has taken longer to do. In the meantime, we decided to paint the porch roof because it was showing signs of deterioration and rust. It has been 6 years since the coating.

This project presented an opportunity to play with a favorite color and see if that color would work when it is time to purchase a new roof. I discarded the color black although it is the one that will make more sense if we decide to change the siding color in the future. Black looks more traditional, elegant, and put together, but it also attracts a lot of heat, and the upstairs ceilings are very low, so that would make the upstairs unbearably hot in the summer and not energy efficient. I also like copper or light brown, much lighter than black, and also neutrals, which would go very well with my favorite blue accents and the white siding. In the end, we decided to paint the porch roof the color that we liked more but were not sure how it would look in the long run or if we would become tired of looking at it. It is a test. After all, you cannot change a pricey roof once it is installed. We chose Glidden Premium French Country Blue for exterior applications and metal. We are happy with the results, and the porch looks a lot cleaner now, until it is time for a new roof. We decided to paint the side entrance awning and the steps as well, for continuity and balance. Here are some pictures of the project.

The new paint will also protect the coating that was applied six years ago. Notice the old way of installing tin.
Closer look of the color – Glidden Premium French Country Blue
We painted the side entrance steps and awning. Originally, the house did not have an awning, and the door entrance was completely rotted. My husband built the awning and now water does not cause any damage. Here’s a picture of the rotten door.
This was the side entrance before. Damage was extensive.
The old porch ceiling will be painted the same color. The bag filled with water and a few shiny pennies is something that is done in the South to get rid of flies and other flying insects. Restaurants do it to detract flies from coming inside. Someone told me about it, and I did not believe it at first but decided to give it a try. For some reason that I cannot explain, it works. I placed another bag at the opposite side, and one by the kitchen entrance. Flies and other critters are gone, but wasps do not seem to care.
Side view of the job done. This is a test, and later on we will decide if we will paint the rest of the roof, depending on how that particular paint performs.

We estimate the total cost of this project, including the entire roof of the house to be around $400.00. It presents a simple solution to protect the existing roof until it is replaced. After all, it is about simple living and simple solutions. It’s been a long way home.

Love and light.

Restoring an Old Farmhouse Garden – New Areas

The work continues in trying to bring back the garden. When we bought the old farmhouse, it was covered in weeds, grass, and a morass of trees growing intertwined altogether. The driveway was covered in tall grass up to our knees and bushes. The house had been abandoned for many years and in disrepair, hidden by the same overgrown trees and bushes. We knew it would be a ton of work, but we were up for it. One by one, we started to remove bushes, weeds, grass, garbage … and we cleaned up the garden. Next, we tried to save any plant we could and revive others. The next step was to create new garden areas. This is a process that will take longer, and some simple planning. We try to add a new area every year. Adding areas one at a time seems a bit more manageable for us. This year, we added two areas. One was created using recycled plants and materials. It is located at the front entrance to the property, close to the year-round lighted pine tree which we have ended up calling The Hope Tree.

I started this area a few weeks ago and completed it yesterday. I had to wait until some of the plants were ready to be divided in order to be planted. So far, they took well in the ground, and hopefully, will grow and become fuller. This area is a mix of shade and sun and should be easy to manage. Red mulch is my favorite.

The next area was my husband’s pet project. It is next to the small patio area and the faerie garden. This area has been covered by overgrown mixed bushes and tons of weeds. Last December, he took them all out and decided to do a small garden. Most of the area is in the shade with only a few hours of sun, so we had to select plants that required minimal sun exposure. He made the borders out of recycled pallets, and we still have to find and dig a few stones around the property to place them. This area needed a ground cover, after we took out all the weeds. These plants will grow and expand, so we had to leave enough space in between them. We planted bulbs inside the stone circle. Two garden sculptures and a potted plant were recycled from the garden and won’t be missed in the previous area. We added two new solar lights and red mulch. The small cedar tree in the back was already there and will be trimmed so it does not fully grow. This area resulted in a mix of new and recycled materials. It is a very low-cost improvement to this area.

The veggie garden was spruced up a bit, and we decided to use two recycled large containers cut in half for the new plantings instead of building a new box. Eventually, we will change these to a more permanent material like cinderblocks or metal boxes. We started the veggie garden a couple of years after we fixed the interior of the farmhouse. All the materials used on building and setting up the veggie garden are recycled, except for mulch, but sometimes, we use red pine needles from the property when these are available.

The veggie garden has been evolving over time.
And after all that work, it is always good to eat something hearty.

If you would like to read more on the process of fixing this old place, please visit a series of posts under Restoring an Old Farmhouse or Restoring an Old Garden. I hope you enjoyed this post.

Love and light.

Garden Bliss

I love this time of the year. The beginning of Spring, when bugs are still half asleep, and the garden is awakening. The temperatures are a bit cool enough to enjoy preparing the garden for the rest of the year. That is what we have been working on, setting up the garden. Cleaning up winter’s memories and hoping for a good gardening year. Last year we had a drought, and everything looked sad and dry. I am hoping for plenty of rain.

We cleaned up around the garden and added a new flag. Heavy winds and ice destroyed the other one. The first blooms are here.

We cleaned up the veggie garden. Had to discard one of the large boxes; it broke on the sides. A layer of fresh mulch was applied, and containers were moved around to make room for new planting boxes. My husband made veggie markers, and I am hoping to plant much more. Despite the ice and crazy weather, lettuce came back from last year. Two full containers, so I will not have to plant lettuce this year. It survived the frost.

I started two new areas in the garden this year. These are a work in progress right now. One is at the very front of the property, and the other area is next to the faerie garden. This area is covered by lush green moss in the spring, which I love, and the only thing I have been able to plant here are hostas; it is a shady area. We try to add to the garden something new every year. Little by little this garden has been transformed from the original mess of weeds and overgrown bushes to something more delightful. You can see the progress on the Restoring a Farmhouse series of posts.

The garden as it was. This was the entrance to the property.
What we started with when we purchased the old farmhouse. First time working on the garden. What a lovely mess!

I am very happy because a small garden center opened in our area, and now we will not have to drive that far to purchase plants or gardening material. After all that hard work, our reward was my delicious version of Fiesta Rice.

I hope you enjoy this post. Love and light.

Farmhouse Project – The Large Tree

In a previous post – Twelve Future Farmhouse Projects – I mentioned the need to tackle the very old and large tree that is dangerously close to the side entrance of the house. I loved this tree, but it was not looking good (sick), and with the strong winds and storms that sometimes make their way around here, it posed a risk, so we decided to eliminate the danger. I was sad to see most of it gone, and truly felt sorry for it; I guess I had developed an attachment to the tree, “feelings” for it. Due to the cost of cutting down a very large tree, we decided to go for a complete trim of the branches. It looks like at one-point, previous owners might have done the same. The company we hired (Southside Stump Grinding, with the crew of Cut It Rite), did a great job and left everything clean. We will be calling them back for the next tree project. It was nice to experience again good old customer service. They were punctual, fair in pricing, neat, careful, friendly, respectful of property, did what they promised, and had excellent communication throughout the process. Caleb Milam, owner, was on top of everything from the beginning. But going back to the old tree, I have to say that I miss it. One of the crew members said that it was a very old tree. The trunk is very thick, maybe like two and a half of me, and it remains, along with very thick branches, that eventually, we will cut down. For now, we have peace of mind, and that was the goal. I will enjoy what is left of this old giant, and who knows, maybe will cover it in pretty solar lights. It looks like a giant hand coming out of the ground.

The tree before. These branches did not look so thin once they were on the ground. The crew arrived at around 9 am. and worked straight through until around past 2 pm. It was a lot of work, especially because they had to be mindful of the house, the well, and the electricity cables on two sides.
You can actually peel off the bark, and there is moss growing in many areas.
Many branches starting to rot and break in some areas. Here you can see where the previous cuts were done on this tree.
This area at the bottom of the trunk (left) was what let me know it was now the time to do something. I have been watching that part of the tree separate more and more until it broke off. I guess it is part of a root.
And now it doesn’t pose any risk. I can see ivy fairy lights adorning it.

Another project crossed off the list. I hope you enjoyed this post.

A Few Culprits

There have been a few rainy days, two good soakers, and cool weather seems to be settling down. It seems that the veggie garden is done, not a good year; most plants died or did not produce. While collecting the last of the veggies, I spotted a few caterpillars that have made the garden their home. We cut the stems and relocated them to another part of the property, not wanting to harm them.

The end of the tomato plants. The caterpillars had a good breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
We counted four large ones. I have no idea what the white egg-like things in their backs are.
A closer look at one almost cute caterpillar.
The last of the cucumbers and carrots.
Believe it or not, some of these are supposed to be full size tomatoes that did not grow to their full potential, and a few grape ones.
And turning the page, I move on to welcoming Autumn, in its dance of light and shade, one of my favorite things.

And as one season ends another starts, and for me, the end of a dry spell. The other day, while sitting, I had an urge to write, almost as an urgent call, so I grabbed pen and paper and was able to write an entire chapter; it has been quite a long time, but the dry spell is broken.

Farmhouse Project – The Hydrant

This project came about unexpected and out of necessity. Unbeknownst to us, the yard hydrant had been leaking underground, and it wasn’t until we noticed a permanent wet ground that we realized something was not right. This project had to be done in several attempts, and this is why. The hydrant is an old Woodford hydrant, one of the best in the market, that will last long, over 50 years, and this one seems like it has been pumping water for a long time. I wouldn’t be surprised if it dates back over 50 years. First, we had to learn how to do the job. YouTube was a huge help. Then, my husband had to dig to find out if the problem was the hydrant or below it, the water line. Once he figured out it was the hydrant, we were able to proceed. This project was very interesting to learn. Here are pictures of the project. The first thing he had to do was shut the water off.

FIRST ATTEMPT

The hydrant was constantly leaking water through the weeping hole/valve. It is supposed to let water out after the hydrant is shut off to prevent freezing during winter.
After realizing that the culprit was an old plunger, my husband proceeded with the job. The plunger is what prevents the constant leak, and allows the release of water through the weeping hole as needed.

It was very had to get anything loose due to the many years of rust, and paint. Oil had to be used to loosen parts, and even heat. My job was to assist with tools and to hold the pipe well so it would not crack.

The plunger would not come out. It was stuck. We had to pour water through the pipe to see if it would loosen. It finally did.
This is the condition of the plunger, worn and cracked. The pipe is very rusty, but still strong, so we took care when handling it.

We bought an Universal Kit, but after dismantling everything it did not fit the old model.

The Universal Kit brings the parts for a Red or a Blue hydrant. Ours is red. Cost was $21 and change.

After realizing that the Universal Kit was not a fit, my husband had to put everything back together, and try to adjust the top of the hydrant so the leak would at least stop when not in use. A proper kit was not found in the area stores, so we had to order one online. In order to do that we had to figure out what kind of hydrant (model type) it was. It is done by looking at the number stamped at the bottom of the hydrant.

106 D hydrant model requires a Y34 kit. We ordered genuine Woodford repair parts this time. It took four days to arrive. In time for the weekend.

SECOND ATTEMPT

The right kit for a Woodford 106D model. Cost was about $18, cheaper than the Universal kit.

This time parts were a bit easier to take out; however, installing the new plunger was not. Heat and a lot of force was required to loosen up the rusty part.

New plunger installed.
New Rod Stem installed.
Replacing the Packing was not easy. It was dried up inside, worn, and came out in pieces.
Here you can see the old Packing next to the new one (top), and the old support washer next to the new shiny one (bottom).
The new Packing Nut installed; the old one next to it.
All the old parts that were replaced.

Next, my husband put everything back together. It was a process as well; this time in reverse order. He turned on the water back, tested the hydrant after adjusting the top, and once everything looked alright, it was time to cover everything back the way it should be.

The stone helps so soil and dirt don’t go into the weeping hole.
Stones add extra support and drainage.
Soil is replaced, plus another layer of stones on top. Project completed.

This process saved money, about $400.00, maybe more. It would have been simpler if we had ordered the genuine parts from the start, and forego the Universal kit. Old farmhouses come with tons of surprises. I hope you enjoyed this project.