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.

The Simple Life – Welcoming Spring One Day at a Time

We had very nice weather over the weekend, so we decided to clean up the garden and set up a few things for planting season. We are surrounded by trees and no matter how much leaf raking we do during autumn and winter, we always end up with tons of leaves to clean up, especially now, when a few windy days come up during March and April. We’ve had a few days of very strong winds, one of which truly shook me a bit, and there are many down branches as well. We had plenty of chores, which we enjoyed thanks to the good weather. For some reason, here in Virginia, I find myself wishing for the start of spring, and I find winters long and cold. Having lived most of my life in Jersey, I find that odd, but my husband feels the same way. My favorite season used to be Autumn, but now, I am starting to love and crave for Spring. There is plenty to be thankful for during the seasons.

Little birds are starting to show up in numbers. My husband made the pumpkin for the veggie garden out of scrap wood. We hung up a birdhouse that my sister gave me. They had a 5K on their farm (Barn on the Hill), and they gifted birdhouses to participants; she saved one for me. It looks lovely next to the Faerie Garden.

We cleaned up flower beds, removed old stumps, planted some flower seeds, repotted plants that needed more space, and became a bit creative. We started a new planting area near the entrance of the property, an area that we need to develop much more in the future. An old tree trunk is now a planter, and an old magazine rack will become full of hot pink flowers at one point. Our goal is to add at least one thing every year.

White farmhouses get very dirty during the year. My husband and I cleaned up the house twice a year during spring and before Christmas. It takes a bit of work in some areas. Power washing will be something to consider in the future. We are still saving for a new roof (cash only is part of the simple life), and that one needs to be repainted, hopefully over the summer. We took everything out of the porch, and I cleaned the chairs, tables …. while he worked on the siding. Once we finished, we decided to change things a bit (decor wise) from last year.

With most of the garden ready, our next item on the list will be preparing the veggie garden for planting, and some repainting here and there. We are setting things up for an upcoming yard sale as well, and there are some farmhouse projects lined up for the year. With everything that is going on in the world these days, chores are helping me a lot in dealing with the great sadness that it causes. Keeping busy helps my mental sanity. During this time, my novels have been put to the side, and being in the present, doing chores, helps me deal with all this. I hope you enjoyed this post.

The Simple Life – The Process

Photo by M.A.D.

Process – A series of steps, actions, or operations used to bring about a desired result. (American Heritage Dictionary)

For today’s post, I want to write about the process in pursuing the simple life. If you read the above definition of process, for me it was all that, and more, and I can honestly say that the process continues. It continues in the material, the mind, the physical, and the soul. If I go back to some of my posts about the simple life ten years ago, I see part of that process taking place in between words. For me the process was/is long, and I compare it to separating bolts and nuts into groups by size and form. Each person goes through their own bolts and nuts situation when pursuing simplicity in life. Although I am pretty sure that it might have started earlier than that, I can pinpoint the journey about over 10-12 years ago. Like any person with a brain would say, looking back, I could have done things much better, but that is always the case, isn’t it? Whatever brings you into the process, I have found that it is better to embrace the upcoming change with an open mind, in faith and hope, and focus one day at a time, whether that day brings a challenge or rest. Although not easy at first, a grateful attitude, and prayer, helps a lot. Depending on how you came into the process, willing or not, attitude is key, and it might make all the difference. Process will take as long as it has to. I can honestly say that now.

During the process, there will be highs and lows, a natural flow, and supernatural as well. Awareness is important, but many times our radar is a bit cloudy, and that is when prayer and a good honest attitude with ourselves help. I think that we are about to go through many challenges as citizens of this country, and of the world as well. It will be a process, in which we’ll need those two. But going back to my personal experience, I can say that this process started with the need of letting material stuff go, and that was the first tangible step that I took. I started decluttering my physical space, and eventually, decluttering other areas of my life as well – spiritual, financial … You have to start somewhere, right?

During this purge, the material stuff was the easiest to let go off, although not necessarily too easy. We accumulate things through a lifetime, and those things have memories, emotions, and feelings attached to them, so that is not so easy at times. The more we live the more we accumulate. I am still letting go of stuff, believe me. Every step takes you closer, and the more you let go, the freer and more satisfied you feel, to the point that you actually feel that there is nothing you really need, except for the important things in your life like God, people and values, beliefs… the not so tangible stuff. I can honestly say today that I could walk out of this house if I had to, and take nothing with me, and I will be fine, material stuff that is. I can appreciate beautiful things, like them, and enjoy them, but I am not tied to them as I might have been before. In the pursuit of the simple life, you learn to appreciate the good, the bad, and the ugly, although in the beginning you might not even like it or realize it, and even fight against it. The aha! moment comes later on, at least it did for me.

In ridding myself of much material stuff, I had to do it systematically, one step at a time; it was what worked for me back then. The process was a process in itself, if that makes sense. The method I used was to go room by room, and divide items into donating or give, selling, and trash. There wasn’t much in the trash category, but I started by selling stuff in three steps. We would use the money to put towards our upcoming move out of state. That added to the motivation. First, I sold things online. What didn’t sell online ended up on various yard sales, and what did not sell in a yard sale, we sold at a flea market in two occasions. At the end, we gave away the stuff to sellers that did that continuously for a living, and they were appreciative. I also gave stuff to family and donated an entire room full of stuff to a veteran’s organization in three different load trips at the beginning of the process. It took time and effort, and it certainly did not feel good in the beginning. Once we moved out here and were settled in the home after fixing up the place (you can check out that process under the topics farmhouse restoration, the simple life, or restoring an old farmhouse) I realized that there was still much more to let go, and I was able to give and donate much more. This process continues until today. After living here for about 6 years, I find that there is much more that I can do in this area. After all, it is a different space and a different lifestyle, and the time was necessary to understand what works and what doesn’t work in the new setting. It also let me explore new possibilities and understand why some of the stuff is not a good fit anymore. I will write about that in much detail. The next blogpost will be about simplifying your space, and it ties to this one. I hope you enjoyed this post.

The process continues until today.

Farmhouse Project – The Pumpkin Area

We had plenty of rain over the past two days, so in the interim, we were able to tackle one of the projects from the immediate list – opening up an area in the back part of the property for pumpkins or other veggies . Last year, we tested a small patch of grass where we were able to grow a few pumpkins and cantaloupe, not many. We realized we had to move the planting a bit to the front, where there is a bit more sun, so we finally settled on the area. We took advantage of the very wet and soft ground after the rain, and we finished the job quickly. The seeds are planted. Only a few rows, just for a second test to see how it goes. This year we planted a few seeds – pumpkins, cantaloupe, sunflowers, and a bit of corn. Not too much because we are still testing. Here are a few pictures of the project.

Clearing up this section was easier than we thought because of all the previous rain.
While digging out grass, we found all of these interesting objects. Mostly, old electrical parts and tools, bolts … I wish I could have a window to the past and see the story attached to each one.
Of course, these will end up in my collection. Why? Just because.
And here they are; in their rightful place. It has become an obsession that doesn’t require an explanation.

After testing this area, if it works out it will be expanded a bit to be able to plant more, and added to over time. I am sure that we will find more interesting things buried in the soil. I hope you enjoyed this project; I surely did.

Fixing an Old Farmhouse – Future Projects

We had a pretty heavy three-day ice storm, and I am so grateful that we did not lose power, and also grateful that we did not have any trees damaging our home. I also feel for the people that are without heat in this type of cold weather. We are expecting another storm by tomorrow, and that will add to the damage we had, which was nothing compared to other people. The amount of ice was so heavy on the trees that I could hear the tump tump tump every time one fell. Many of our trees lost a considerable amount of heavy branches, including the one near the house, my beloved old cedar tree, which is as old as the farmhouse is, or older. This storm put into perspective the need to remove two more trees that are too close for comfort, although I truly hate to see them go. This of course will be expensive because they are old giants. One of them lost most of its branches, a few of them hitting the porch at the corner but thankfully, only leaving a slight dent on the old roof, which is over 100 years.

With most of its branches gone, at least the weight of this old cedar has shifted away from the farmhouse. (Photo by M.A.D.)
Many of its branches are still hanging ready to fall. For now, we will avoid walking underneath. Another reason why we have decided to add it to the list of trees that unfortunately will have to go. (Photo by M.A.D.)
Another old giant that have been added to the list is this tree, about the same height.
(Photo by M.A.D.)
This smaller branches missed the tin can. Although smaller compared to the other branches, these are still heavy. I saw pieces of broken branches that fell with force buried into the ground about three inches or so. Imagine if that hits one’s head. One of nature’s teachings. (Photo by M.A.D.)
This is one of my favorite trees. Not sure if eventually, it will have to go; I hope not. Time will tell. For now, it is healthy, and it is a very young tree. It was half its size when we bought the farmhouse. (Photo by M.A.D.)
Our friend came around when the ice started to melt on Sunday. (Photo by M.A.D.)
Other little ones came out as well. (Photo by M.A.D.)
It amazes me how these little ones can handle the ice. (Photo by M.A.D.)
It was a beautiful sight. (Photo by M.A.D.)
When the ice started melting, it sounded like waterfalls, like heavy rain, and every time a chunk of ice slid and hit the metal roof, it was like thunder and lightning. (Photo by M.A.D.)
Sometimes, beauty is found in the least expected places. (Photo by M.A.D.)
Even on a frozen flag (Photo by M.A.D.)
Colors become more vibrant. (Photo by M.A.D.)
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap, or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Mathew 6:26 (Photo by M.A.D.)

The list of chores keeps growing around here. For now, the way to tackle these coming up projects will be one at a time, little by little, and all in due time. I will share some of them here. Hope you enjoyed this post.

A Day of Farmhouse Chores

My latest post was about The Christmas Tree Project which we did last Saturday. While we were waiting for the moment it lighted up we had many autumn chores to do, and it translated on time going so fast that we hardly noticed the long wait until sunset. Around here, autumn means tons of cleaning up before winter or the first snow, prepping certain areas, and getting ready for future chores during early spring, so I figured I would share some of those.

Cutting the grass and blowing out leaves usually takes my husband the whole day. Once he is done, he sees another thin layer of fresh leaves that has just fallen. It is the never ending autumn story, but they look gorgeous when the entire grass is covered and one sees the many colors of the leaves on the ground, like a multicolor carpet.

Blowing out leaves and cutting the grass for the last time before winter takes priority. This is the fifth time for leaf blowing.
While Eddie took care of the grass and leaves, I took care of cleaning up the veggie garden, and collecting pine needles. I do this after I pick the last of the veggies and before the first snow.
Leaves are picked up, broken things go in the garbage, pots are emptied, collected and stacked in one area, large containers are cleaned up by removing dead and dried up plants, stakes are collected and placed in one area, and the remainder thin layer of mulch gets a refresher by using the collected pine needles. It prevents the cover underneath from breaking off. Overall, it gets a good cleaning.
After everything is done it looks like this.
After the veggie garden is done, the remainder of the pine needles is used as mulch for some trees. It protects them in the winter, and also looks neat. We are lucky to have cinnamon color pine needles from two pine trees in the property. They do put out a ton of them. Also it saves us money as we don’t have to buy too many bags of mulch. Bagged cinnamon pine needles are expensive, so I am very grateful to have them available here. A box of pine needles that might cover 240 sf will cost about $135 dollars.
While cleaning up the rest of the garden and removing a few weeds, I find expected seasonal gifts, such as the changing of the leaves on this shrub and the beautiful berries it puts out every year. This is one of the trees we uncovered and saved when we first started bringing life back into this garden. It will become an orange-red color. During the spring, it turns back to green and instead of berries it puts out cluster of sprigs with tiny flowers.
While cleaning up the garden, I also found the unseasonably unexpected – new flowers on the forsythia bush and a few buds. Is this a sign of a mild winter ahead? Last year, we had a mild winter and this bush flourished very early.

By the time we had our lunch break, and finally, we were both done with our chores, it had become dark and our reward was awaiting to be enjoyed.

Dracula’s Teeth – What Are The Odds?

The ground around this property seems to change constantly. One day there is a small dip on the ground, and a few weeks later is either larger or it disappears; I don’t know why this is. The only thing I could think of is moles; there seem to be plenty around here. We are always finding things that come up from the ground, especially after heavy rain. The latest is so timely and fun that it made us laugh.

Over the weekend, my husband was blowing out the leaves and cleaning up around the house when he came across something unexpected near the well. Unexpected because this is an area we walk around all the time. He called me so I could see it. He said, “What are the odds?” I laughed so hard that I cried. Here is what came out of the ground, and mind you, soon it will be Halloween. Perfect timing. And of course, it was the perfect opportunity for a picture.

I can tell that these are the vintage type because they look better made and of better quality than the ones you find today at the stores. The type of plastic is also different.
Another view.

We are puzzled because we mow that area all the time and we never saw it. It also lets me know that I am not crazy when I see a slope or dip on the ground that wasn’t there before, because that must have been buried completely at one point and it just surfaced. So what are the odds?

This gave me an idea; to start collecting every little oddity that comes out of the ground and save the items in a box, and share it here from time to time. I have found plastic soldiers, broken china, vintage bottles, odd metal things, marbles, a tiny birdhouse figurine, Tiny colorful beads, and other things. Some of them we placed in the garbage and some ended up in the faerie garden. Other items ended up as part of my décor. Here are a few examples.

Vintage bottle. This is one of over 100 bottles we found.
Pieces of broken china. Love that blue.
Marbles, beads, tiny cup?
My husband found this half-buried where the pumpkin patch will be located. I placed it in the faerie garden.
Mysterious spikes that look like arrows and odd hardware. These came out of the ground in a row and almost damaged the lawn tractor. My husband dug out four of them. He was going to trash them, and I told him I wanted them. He questioned my use of these, but now he likes the way they look together. The other one ended up in the garden. We still don’t know what they are. Maybe some old fencing parts?
Every time I find an old piece of hardware, I display it on top of the mysterious arrows. My husband laughs because I like this stuff.
These I found at different times on my way to the mailbox. They just popped out of the ground one day, and I spotted them.

Some call it junk, some call it treasures, I call it history. Hope you enjoy this post. Happy Autumn!

Fixing an Old Farmhouse – The Bedroom

The experience of fixing this old farmhouse has been everything we thought it would be and much more. We do not regret it. The last room to share on the “Fixing an Old Farmhouse” series of posts is the bedroom. Technically, this house was listed as a three-bedroom house, but currently, we use one of the bedrooms as the living room because we set up the living room as a dining room, and the other room is set as the office. You can view these rooms on my previous posts.

The bedroom was the first room we fixed. Like the rest of the house, it was in very bad shape and required work. The walls had significant damage as well as the ceiling. The floor had some minor issues but we decided to install laminate flooring due to the uneven space between boards, some discoloration, and other minor issues, something quite normal. The room is 15 x 15 feet and it has two floor to ceiling windows due to the low ceiling (seven feet or so). The house does not have any closets, except for the one in the living room, something common for this type of construction. The room had a makeshift shell of a closet that was falling to the side, kind of hanging there with no support. We thought about using vintage his and her armoires but settled on the idea of building a walk-in closet around the chimney space, which worked out great. The chimney was in rough shape and had to be covered anyway so the space was ideal for it. I thought that building the closet would rob the room of space but it worked out well; we don’t miss the space and it was a much needed use of it. Because this was the room at the far end, we knew that it would be the coldest room. The pellet stove does a great job at heating the house, however, we decided that adding an electric fireplace on a corner would be a good idea, just in case we needed extra heat on a cold winter. This arrangement has worked fine.

Here are a few pictures of the before, during, and after process.

Here you can see the condition of the floor as well as the unfinished molding that might have been left like that by a former renter.
There was a mattress on the floor but no frame, ripped-off linoleum, and tons of garbage that we had to clean out before starting any work. We figured out that the reason for no bed frame was that it was impossible to bring anything upstairs due to the narrow stairway and low ceilings. We had to fold the mattresses using heavy load straps to be able to get them down. We could not throw them outside through the windows. It was a challenge.
The opposite side facing the other room (now the office). Here you can see the many layers of wallpaper, paint, and several materials used by former owner/renters.
The closet wall was loose; nothing was holding it secure. You can also see the old chimney.
Building the closet. You can see the other room behind (the office).
The other side of the room, where the bed would be located. There were areas on the floor that were painted brown and other square areas were left in the natural wood. I could not figure out why.
Although the closet connects, we decided having two doors and separate spaces was the best option.
First wasp bite. I was a bit nervous because I didn’t know if I was allergic or not.
Eventually, one gets used to it.

AFTER

The finished side near the entrance that connects the office.
Closet doors have been installed (don’t mind the cabinet that does not belong there). We painted the doors nutmeg.
“Ahh, it feels good to finish one room.”
From the office to the bedroom, at that same spot. Room as it is now.
Here you can see the closet doors painted nutmeg, and a few cats.
After building the closet there was enough room for a queen size bed and two night tables. The use of the space worked out.
Opposite side.
The cat that came with the house. She was living under the house, and now she has no desire for the outdoors.

This concludes the Fixing an Old Farmhouse series, for now. There is still some work that needs to be done, mostly the porch flooring (slate) and the future installation of a new roof (biggest ticket item). There are a few things to build outdoors, and a garden to develop slowly. I will share more on future posts as we complete each project. It has been a labor of love, exhausting at times but rewarding in many ways, fun too. I hope you have enjoyed the before and after of the process, and hope that in some way, these posts have been inspirational to someone.