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.

Fixing an Old Farmhouse – The Office

The second floor of this 1910 farmhouse is typical of this type of construction. Immediately after going up the stairway, one lands on the first bedroom. There are no doors, neither a landing. There are two rooms and one connects to the other. The entire space upstairs measures 30×15 feet resulting in two 15×15 feet rooms. These are supposed to be bedrooms. They lack the privacy found in modern construction. We set up the first bedroom as an office. This was a necessary room. Before buying the house, I asked the realtor if there was internet available in the area, if not, that would be the deal breaker. Although broadband was not available, other types of connections were. This room was the second to be finished. The floor was in good condition, however, some boards were loose. The walls and ceilings were in bad shape – holes, dirty, mismatched materials … The chimney in the center of both rooms had to be covered, and some wood beams had to be reinforced. There were birds nests, wasps nests, garbage, debris, and even vines growing inside. As any other room in this old house, it required much work.

The ceiling in this room is lower than the ceiling downstairs, something that made installation a bit easier for us. I found this room challenging in the sense of the difficulty of bringing material upstairs. In fact, we had to make an opening through the kitchen wall to be able to bring panels, wood, flooring, and long pieces of wood because the stairway was difficult to navigate at its angle, and many things would not go through. The steep incline and the narrow steps presented a challenge as well. By making this opening in the kitchen we were able to go straight up. Later on, when we were done, we closed the wall opening. Another challenge with this room is that I don’t feel it quite ready/finished yet. I call it the messy room. It is were we work/study and it serves as an art/craft room as well. It is a room in progress as far as setting it up. It needs better storage. Due to the low ceilings, it is very hot during the summer. Autumn and Spring are the seasons when this room feels more comfortable as far as temperature.

Before starting work upstairs we had to clean and get rid of a few pieces of very dirty broken furniture that were left, and other scattered items, clothes, garbage and broken pieces … One feature in this room that I liked and we kept was the original banister/handrail that prevented someone to fall through the stairway opening. It was loose, so we reinforced it, replaced the base wood, and painted it. I also like the fact that the windows are floor to ceiling due to the low ceilings in both rooms. The cats love this feature too. They love to look outside, and they don’t have to climb on the window sill. Although the floors were in good shape (if sanded and polished), the openings between some of the wood boards were uneven or a bit wider than we wanted, so we installed new flooring, as we did on the first floor.

Here are a few pictures of the before, during, and after process. Please excuse the dust orbs on the camera lens due to flying dust.

Here you can see the mismatched materials, various layers of wall paper paint, and condition of the walls as well as the floor.
Here you can see the type of construction typical of that time with the boards going across. You can also see the two low windows.
View to the other room. The chimney is in the center of both rooms.
Abandoned bird nest.
During the mess. The entrance to the other room.
The opposite side of the room right where the stairway opening is. You can see the lower level (kitchen) through the opening below.
Here you can see the metal roof. The inside of it is well preserved and amazingly, the upstairs did not have any leaks, only the kitchen part. That is one of the reasons we were able to coat the roof until we can install a new one.

AFTER

The room finished. Here you can see the original farm style banister that we kept as well as the floor to ceiling windows. I love the barn-like shape of the room.
Another view.
Here you can see where the chimney is covered.
Opposite wall. Here you can see the entrance to the other room. Because the ceiling is so low, we had to install the lighting on the walls. And for the same reason, we could not install ceiling fans.
Here you can see the type of lighting we chose.

Room as it is now.

A view of the room now from the same angle.
It is a room in progress.
Another view near the stairway and first window.

Fixing this old farmhouse has not been easy. By sharing these posts, I don’t want to give the wrong impression that it was a breeze to do the work. It was not. My husband and I did all the work and it took a lot of effort, patience, dedication, stamina, hope, courage, and faith. We operated in a cash only small budget, hence why we did mostly everything ourselves, and hired the experts where it counted. There were days when we doubted, we were extremely tired physically, mentally, and spiritually. There were days when we were grouchy and days when we were very happy, days when we felt we could vaporize each other if we could, and days we enjoyed working together and had fun. We had good times, bad times, horrible times, and great times. It was not easy but it was worth it. If you ever decide to take on a similar task take all factors into consideration – finances, health (physical, mental, and spiritual), disposition, and what you can do and cannot do as far as skills. It is not a job for one person; it takes two at the minimum. It does require a lot of physical work, and you might have to forgo your fear or disgust of bugs (big and small), dirt, the gross and disgusting, and any other surprise that might show up. On the other hand, if you are up to it, it is very rewarding and it feels good once you are done. These posts are meant to inspire the reader, as well as give an idea of potential, and encourage you to see things from another perspective, one of hope, vision, and possibility. I hope you enjoy this post.

Fixing an Old Farmhouse – The Dining Room

Technically, this 1910 farmhouse is a three-bedroom house with an eat-in kitchen and bonus room (cat room). We set up the rooms in the way we live. There are two bedrooms upstairs, and the third bedroom is what we set up as the living room, adjacent to the bathroom. The original living room is what we set up as the dining room. One of the upstairs bedrooms is being used as an office, and the other, as our bedroom. These rooms can easily be changed back to their original set up by just moving furniture around. The mudroom could have been used as a dining room, but our cats deserved their own space; we love them that much. The kitchen can easily be converted back into an eat-in kitchen in the event that we would need the living room as a bedroom again, and the living room would move to what is now the dining room. The office could be moved to the mudroom if needed, thus reversing to the original bedroom. This house is very flexible because most rooms are square and measure 15×15 feet, and with the exception of the kitchen, nothing has a permanent fixture that would impede the use of the rooms in a different way. The furniture is moveable and I would not mind disposing of a few pieces if necessary. All rooms mirror each other because of an existing center chimney downstairs and upstairs, not including the kitchen and cat room, that is. This post will be about the dining room, what should have been a living room.

This room was in better shape than the others, meaning there was no water damage and no damage to the wood. The only issues were the condition of the ceiling and walls, and the “never cleaned” chimney that almost started a fire on one of the interior wood beams. We found a bit of charred wood when we took down the walls. It is a miracle that the house had not burnt down. The entire chimney was full of ashes inside. We had to vacuum it up, and because the bricks required extensive work and repair, as well as the inside of it ($$$), we decided to clean what we could and closed it up. Our heating source is a pellet stove, and electric fireplaces that we use as supplemental heat if it gets too cold. In the event of a power outage, the pellet stove can be hooked up to a portable generator. In the future, we would love to install a Generac system and ductless heating/air. Ideally, all that to be powered by solar energy; however, we are not there yet, and things work fine the way they are now. On the low budget end, the smart thing to do would be to install a wood stove, because in a real emergency, there would be no electric service, no gasoline or gas service, and the delivery of things would be disrupted. The more I think of it the more I convince myself that going with a wood stove is the right choice. In the event of a simple power outage, I have candlesticks and candelabras in every room, and there is a candle chandelier in the dining room. In addition, battery-operated candles are an extra option.

As I mentioned before, our style is more reminiscent of an early American rustic farmhouse, and that follows through into the dining room. This room was the third room we fixed. Here are a few pictures of the before and after condition.

BEFORE

The room was being used as the living room; its original set up. The walls were damaged, and we had to open up the stairway area a bit. Under the steps, there is a small storage area that one of my cats uses as a little apartment.
There were two windows in bad shape and broken in this room, and tons of abandoned furniture and debris.
An old cast iron stove was hooked up to a chimney. It was full of ashes and in bad shape.
Sheetrock and many layers of carpet and linoleum were removed. The stairway opened up.
Here you can see the bare wood in the ceiling.
During the mess.

AFTER

The room almost finished. Bella’s apartment under the steps is ready. The stairway is open now.
The other side of the room.
Room as it is now.
View from the stairway.
View from the kitchen.

I hope you enjoyed this room’s before and after photos. Compared to the other three rooms I have shown, this one was less problematic. However, as you can see, it was a ton of work. I hope these series of posts will inspire you to remodel a room in your home, take on a DIY project, or find that dream property that might not be so dreamy at first glance, and give it a little bit of life.

Fixing an Old Farmhouse – The Cat Room

The previous post on “Fixing an old farmhouse” series of posts, was about the kitchen. Adjacent to the kitchen is what I call the cat room. This room serves many purposes now; however, it is the mudroom and where the old refrigerator with the rotten turkey inside was located.

Surprise, surprise!

Originally, it was a side/back porch which the previous owners enclosed and converted into a mudroom. I was told that when the former owner (the second owner) became ill and bedridden, the house required an indoor bathroom (it used to have an outhouse – we have no idea where it is). They decided to enclose the porch and use part of the room to build a bathroom. This is the reason why the cat room is shaped like an L. Now this room serves many purposes – first, a room for my cats, where the cat beds, food, toys, litter, and supplies are kept, side entrance, mudroom where we keep coats, rain boots, work boots, hats, cleaning equipment… We moved the water heater to this location; it used to be in the kitchen. The first part adjacent to the kitchen serves as a pantry. It is a generous size room although shaped like an L. It could have served as a dining room as well, but the cats needed their own space too.

I think this room was the most challenging to work with for many reasons besides its shape. It had water damage due to its proximity to the bathroom. It had a pieced-together subfloor that was in very bad shape and had to be replaced. Someone had attempted to reach the bathroom plumbing through this floor, hence the cut out pieces of subflooring. However, this worked out to our advantage because we had to replace the plumbing. All plumbing had to be replaced. It is where the side door is, and it had suffer considerable water damage on the floor, door, and door frame. This room had a natural inclination because it used to be a porch. On those days, many porches where built like that so when it rained water would not accumulate. We had to do many repairs before starting to work with the walls and ceiling. It was the last room we tackled. Here are some pictures of the process, before and after.

Before – Here you can see the location of the enclosed porch on the side of the house. The door, frame, and steps were damaged.
Water damage to door, frame, and floor – mudroom side entrance.
During the process of fixing the damage.
Another view of the damage that had to be fixed before doing anything else.
Water damage due to proximity to bathroom plumbing – pieced subfloor on section near the kitchen.
There was paneling done by a previous renter.
Here you can see that it was a porch enclosure. You can see the walls.
Another view – the existing ceiling. I do like that vintage blue green color.
What was behind the paneling.

The After.

Once walls/floors/door/windows were fixed and some cat décor placed. The ceiling had large openings in between boards so we had to seal and cover it.
The other side.
Side entrance fixed.
Now, part of this room serves as a pantry.
Accessible cleaning equipment area.
Cat sleeping area. Only one cat uses it. The others prefer the rest of the house. All art is cat related. The smaller framed art is from artist Anne Rymer.
A place for everything and everything in its place. Kitty cat approved.

This was not an easy room to work with, and there are a few things we would like to add such as a wooden cabinet for more food/supplies storage, and repositioning of the cat’s beds. Something to do in the future. For now, it is very functional. I hope you enjoyed this post.

Fixing an Old Farmhouse – The Kitchen

Fixing this 1910 old farmhouse has not been easy. It has required a budget, vision, stamina, time, tons of patience, but most important faith. It would have been easier if its condition would have been better, and by better I mean with less destruction and abandonment inside and out. On previous posts, I have given you a glimpse of what we have done so far on the outside, and an idea of what it looked on the inside. Once we disposed of all the garbage and of the entire interior furnishings and fixtures in extremely bad shape, we knew we had to handle the walls, ceilings, and floors, whether taking them off, replacing, or fixing what needed to be fixed. Same process was applied to everything else that had to be done. We were discovering issues as we worked. After that, we gave the place a good cleaning, inspected the wood beams and the walls for any signs of termites, and amazingly there was no termite damage at all. The house was built from cedar and possibly another insect resistant wood according to the home inspector. We called in an exterminator to inspect and spray the entire interior, and to apply a termite treatment inside and outside, just in case. Once that was done, we could start the work inside the house. It took us 7 months to complete the interior, but fixing the well and hooking up the electricity took longer because we had to wait for an electricity pole (ours disappeared one day), and hire experts for those two jobs. Patience is a virtue. We stayed with my sister and brother in law during that time and traveled over an hour everyday while fixing the house. We will be grateful to them forever for putting up with us and the cats for that long. Again, patience is a virtue. We worked from sun up to sun down and used a generator to power up the tools and anything else that needed to be powered up. Luckily, it did not turn out to be a heavy winter. We packed our lunches everyday.

We started our work on the second floor, and worked our way down. One characteristic of this house that made things “easier” is that all rooms measure 15 x 15 feet, except for the tiny bathroom added much later, and the mudroom, which was a side/back porch that the previous owners enclosed; however it is a nice size. I already mentioned on the previous post that we had a small budget and had to be very creative and resourceful with materials. We worked with a variety of materials, from recycled to new, and also used a resource that is sometimes overlooked – contractor’s surplus. It saved us a lot of money. When deciding on the style and feel we wanted to achieve, we decided that we wanted a warm, rustic, back in time, close to early American/colonial feel, but had to work with the materials we already had at hand, and the decorative items we brought with us when we moved. It is a mix of country charm, rustic, and early American. I understand that this might not appeal to everyone, but it is “our style,” so bear with me while you bare with me.

I decided to start with the kitchen, since it is the heart of the home. Here are some pictures of the before and after.

Before doing any work, this was a very important step. These people were awesome.
The kitchen as you can see was in extremely bad shape. The vintage metal cabinets were rusty inside, and could not be saved. The floor had water damage and most of it had to be replaced.
Right side of the kitchen
One thing I regret is not using the metal sink top for an outdoors garden sink application. I wasn’t thinking about it at that point.
Contractor surplus – brand new molding material at phenomenal savings.
Another example of contractor surplus – cabinets and flooring.
Replacing the damaged wood floor boards – water damage. Notice the old construction style on the walls, boards running side to side, that is the actual wall, the sheetrock and paneling were removed.
Matching the new wood planks to the old original ones was tricky, We could have just sand, polish, and stain the wood, but later on decided to install laminated flooring. It gave an extra layer of insulation. Old farmhouses tend to be cold during the winter, and cool during the summer.
The ceiling. The kitchen chimney was removed, and the bricks were reused in the front garden.
During the mess.

After – The Kitchen as it is today.

When placing things in the kitchen, we thought about the space we had, but also, the way I cook. I knew it would bother me to have a coffee pot in the same area where I would prepare a meal, so the coffee pot was placed in a corner of the kitchen as a separate coffee station, utilizing an antique French buffet, which also offers extra storage. In the morning, my husband prepares his lunch to take to work in that area while I prepare breakfast on the opposite side, and we are out of each other’s way. Atop that area, we placed a very rustic shelf made of heavy drift wood from the Jersey shore where I lived, a pleasant memory, a memento. Every time I look at it, I smile. I knew I dislike top cabinets so we did not installed those; instead, we put on shelving. As far as cabinets go, we found a great deal from a contractor, and we bought three pieces – one for the kitchen sink, and two for the opposite side in between the location of the stove. We decided to install butcher block counters. My husband made the cabinet knobs for me out of wood. I needed a center table to prep meals, and my husband built one for me – a rustic butcher block where I place things I use often and a spice rack. We installed a fan/light because the house does not have central air conditioning, so there are ceiling fans in every room downstairs. Eventually, we might install a ductless system. A metal sheet serves as backsplash behind the stove and it is a place where to attach a recipe using magnets. Cooking books are kept atop a shelf nearby. For now, the microwave and other things rest on a table my husband built out of recycled materials, however, I am on the look for a sideboard that will serve the purpose in that area. We installed laminate flooring throughout. We installed a double sink, which makes life easier. I am the only person on Earth (probably) that loves washing dishes and finds it relaxing, no need for a dishwasher. I love the scent of the dish liquid and the bubbles floating sometimes in the air, when you squeeze it. I love looking through the window, and the moment makes for perfect “thinking time.” My love of old things and copper dictated the décor. Here are some pictures. Hopefully, you will be transported to another time.

I am not a minimalist and I like old things.
Another view.
The coffee station.

We fixed the home for us, to our liking, not focusing on resale value, although we already multiplied its value four times plus, after valuation. We intend to live here for a long time. I hope you enjoyed this post and that it inspires you to take on a challenging project in the future.

Inside a 1910 Farmhouse

I wasn’t sure how to start this post, which is a natural progression from the outside/garden series of posts, continuing with the “fixing an old farmhouse” series but doing it without the blog posts being too long or too overwhelming for the reader. I will do so room by room, starting with this first post about the overall condition of the farmhouse. If you are familiar with my previous posts, you know that the entire property was abandoned for years and covered in weeds and overgrown vegetation, inside and out, and that it had been left to rot. The inside had been pretty much destroyed by the previous guests, whether human or animal. All kinds of critters had welcomed themselves inside and made all kinds of nests, from birds to wasps, snakes, spiders… There was also a large amount of garbage (scary) and many areas of destruction topped by poor attempts to fix something broken at one point. The large water heater had burst at one point and caused water damage on the kitchen floor, being that, more than half of the wood floor boards had to be replaced. There was also an old refrigerator on what is now the mudroom/cat room, and it had a rotten turkey inside, still in the wrapper, waiting for Thanksgiving day, which never came. The sheetrock was damaged all over the house and ceilings, meaning that hardly anything could be saved. Dirt and disarray were everywhere, and there was nothing that could be of use or salvageable – believe me, we tried; we had a limited budget to make the house livable. We could only save four things, and that was after serious consideration – the original steps to the upstairs and the wall and handrail attached to them. The fourth item was the closet walls in what is now the living room. However, there was potential, and we could see it. The before pictures will speak for themselves. I warn you – these pictures are not pretty, some of it will gross you out, and it is not for the faint of heart.

The Before.

The old fridge with the rotten turkey surprise inside.

This is just a small sample of all the garbage we took out. I stopped counting once we hit 34 bags.
Extensive damage could be found all throughout the place.
The kitchen floor had suffered water damage, and everything was in rusty bad shape.
This picture says it all, and it also gives you an idea of the array of materials on the walls – various layers of wallpaper, panel, sheetrock, wood …

This gives you a clear idea of the condition of the place, and the challenge ahead. I will not lie, at one point I asked myself if this was a mistake; however, I always saw potential. This is an introduction to a series of posts on the work on the inside. Having a very small budget to work with, we had to get creative as far as materials and sources for those. We used recycled materials, repurposed many things, and found materials online as well from independent sellers. We also bought contractor left overs, and that saved a ton of money. Craigslist is an excellent source for finding contractor’s surplus. Brand new material at huge discounts. We also bought new materials from the big Home Centers when needed.

There was one area that we left as it was on purpose. We wanted to have a reminder of where we started and where we had been. It reminds us of many things, and also lets us appreciate the final product. I decided to frame it. It is located at the wall by the steps leading upstairs, the one we kept. Here is a picture of it.

A reminder, an inspiration.

It would be wrong to call this a restoration, as nothing has been historically restored, if anything, the soul to this house has been restored. It is our attempt to give life to a place we could call home. I will continue to share more on this endeavor, room by room. I hope you enjoy this post.

Fixing an Old Farmhouse – The Porch and Side Entrance

Following my last garden blog post, and since our future garden projects will require more time, energy, and budgeting, I will share what we have done so far on the outside part of the farmhouse, and will share the indoor work in future posts as well.

This was a 1910 abandoned farmhouse, and all I know about it is what the neighbors and people who have lived here at some point, or have played around when they were kids have told us. No one seems to have old pictures of it, and for what I understood, the house was part of a large farm that was eventually subdivided and sold in plots of land. It seems that it had two owners, the original owners, farmers, and the last owner who bought the remainder of the farm. After the second owner died, it became a rental, and later on sat abandoned for some time. I found interesting that many of the people who came to see it asked, “Where’s the barn?” or “What happened to the barn?” I never saw a barn in the property, but they insist that there was a large old barn to the left of the house, and behind. The barn remains a mystery. The feeling I got throughout many conversations with people who knew the place well is that all of them seem to have loved the house, and it was a main stop, a landmark for them. Last year, one person referred to it as “that was my house,” lamenting that he thought of buying it at one point, but did not. Another woman stopped unannounced one Saturday morning, and told me that she needed to stop by to see “the house” before returning to Maryland. She had been around for a week, and was ready to return home that same day. She told me that she wanted to buy it but everyone had told her that it was in severe disrepair and would be too expensive to fix. She regretted her decision, as she told me. I told her it was true. The house was in very poor shape, inside and out, a true nightmare from years of neglect by uncaring renters and many years of abandonment. For us the expense would be much less, because we did much of the work ourselves, and only contracted out what we could not do or what needed expert attention. One of those items was the window repair, and so far the most expensive item. The windows were broken and boarded up. We could not replace the windows ourselves because each window had to be custom made. Each window has different dimensions and standard windows could not be used. The upstairs windows are large and they go from floor to ceiling. The ceilings are low. It is one of the features I like most. Ideally, I would have loved to replace the broken windows with wooden ones, but due to budget concerns we had to go with custom made energy efficient vinyl windows, although we selected good quality.

It became obvious that this house had been loved by many, and still is, and that the previous owner was a very kind and welcoming woman who loved her garden. I think that is wonderful. To this day, one big ticket item remains on the list, and that is a new metal roof. The old one was in less bad shape that it looked, so we were able to coat it, and replace missing screws. It has been working fine, although it is not visually attractive, and since it is the original tin roof and over 110 years old, it must be replaced. When it is replaced, it will be done with a metal roof, which weighs three or four times less than a shingle roof/asphalt roof or other type of roof. Being it an old building with an original stone foundation, we don’t want to add the extra weight to it.

As far as siding, we decided to keep the original aluminum/metal siding because it was in good shape. I have had experience with installing new vinyl siding on my previous home, and it did not hold its appearance/shape too well. Therefore, vinyl is not my favorite choice, and other materials are costly. The actual aluminum siding will have to be repainted throughout the years, but that is fine. Underneath, there is wood, and on top, the aluminum siding. Its white color had faded, and it was very dirty, with many areas covered in vines. We cleaned it up, removed the vines and shrubs, and gave it a coat of fresh white paint; it showed like new. We concluded that there was no need to replace it. Here is the old farmhouse with the rusted roof and old/broken windows and doors.

Here is the house after a good cleaning, repainted siding and coated roof, as well as new windows, and other outside repairs.

 

The side door was one area that required much attention. The lack of an overhang structure resulted in water/moisture damage. The door was rotted, as well as the wood surrounding it, and the floor boards. We had to remove and replace all of it. In addition, the concrete steps needed to be fixed and painted.  We poured new concrete and painted it. Here are a few before and after pictures.

Before, during the process.

 

After. All the rotted wood was replaced. We built an overhang to protect the door from the rain and also installed a screen/glass door for extra protection.

IMG_5050

Photo by M.A.D.

 

Another area that was in very bad shape was the porch. The concrete floor was broken, and so were the door, windows, porch columns, and ceiling. We poured new concrete and painted it, cleaned the siding of vines and glass debris, installed new windows (contracted), and installed a new door and screen door. We replaced the wood on the porch columns, and some rotted wood on the ceiling as well. The broken wooden wheelchair railing/ramp was removed, and the steps were fixed and painted. Everything was given a fresh coat of paint. Eventually, the concrete floor will be covered with brick or slate tile for extra protection and durability.

Before and during the process pictures.

 

After, the porch as it is today.

 

This concludes the outdoor of the farmhouse so far. There are a few outdoor projects that will be done in the future, and those include garden projects, new roof, and the removal of large trees. The large trees job will have to be contracted. All the outdoor work has been done my husband and me, except for the windows, which required special attention. It has required a lot of devotion, hard work, dedication, and patience, but it has also been fun and rewarding. I hope you enjoy this post, and that it will inspire you to see the potential beyond what is deemed useless or beyond repair. I hope that it inspires you to take on some do it yourself projects, as well.

Recycled Garden Projects

On this post, I will share two very easy garden or backyard projects. These were made using recycled materials. We love hummingbirds and we decided to have a better place for them to come into the garden. My husband built this hummingbird post, and I painted/decorated it. We placed it in the faerie garden where it is mostly shaded during the day. Sometimes, the sun can make the sugared water too warm. We used leftover wood, the leftover paint we had from the previous light posts project, and other materials we had available. I thought it would take some time for the hummingbirds to find the spot, but they did right away.

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Photo by M.A.D.

The next project is something that sprung out of necessity when we first moved to the house, and we have been adding to it as the need arises. We needed an area where we could work while standing, and also where I could clean the rugs and let them dry. Eventually, it became an all purpose area. It has a worksurface/table, a rod to hang items, a hook to hang the hose, and this year we added motion solar lights, which help illuminate the area located at the back of the house. We used recycled wood from pallets and leftover wood. Recently, we gave it a fresh coat of paint. We are surprised at how much we use this area. It will probably evolve as the need arises.

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Photo by M.A.D.

I hope you enjoyed this post, and that it inspires you to create something around your place.

 

The Long Lost Garden

I love flowers and all kinds of plants. Maybe because I have strong memories of my grandmother’s garden when I was a kid. The garden was not large, but it seemed huge to a 4 year old. I felt at ease in it, lost in time in it. Eventually, the garden was eliminated and concrete took its place. The magic was gone.

My favorite style of garden is the English garden. It is wild and free, and at the same time contained by itself. I always thought that an English garden had soul. I dislike manicured gardens that are too planned, symmetrical, and rigid. Where’s the life in that? When we purchased this old house, it had been abandoned for 3-4 years, neglected by previous renters, and the owners where out of state, the heirs to a woman who loved her garden. People who grew up in the neighborhood and knew her, tell me about her love for flowers and plants, and how she used to walk through her garden, admiring it. I am told she was a very tall woman, and neighbors were used to seeing her walk regal amongst her plants. Unfortunately, she fell on an icy day, and never quite recovered. Her beloved home became a rental, and no one took care of her garden the way she did. Eventually, the house fell in disrepair and ended up a dilapidated farmhouse waiting to be demolished, either by time or by people. That is, until we found it and resurrected its soul. This post is about its garden, and about uncovering and working with existing areas in an effort to use the not so obvious/the hard to see potential, and saving money in the process.

The house and premises were covered in overgrown vegetation, and the preexisting garden, if any at that point, was gone. There were a few plantings in bad shape. Unable to move right away, we took short trips to start clearing up the overgrown vegetation, and once under control, hired someone to cut the grass regularly so it wouldn’t grow too wild again. The house sat for another five years until we moved, for a total of eight years. As we cleared the morass of bushes and trees, we got an idea of what could be salvaged and what had to be removed. It was a long process that continues until today, mostly because we are doing it ourselves. Three very large trees remain, two dead trees and one very large near the house. It is diseased and requires professional handling as well as the other two. That will be next on the agenda.

Few plants remained of the original garden. An overgrown hydrangea in bad shape, a tiny rose bush buried in weeds, two dwarf boxwoods that we thought were gone for good but made it. A Rose of Sharon bush that we were able to save, a large bush of ornamental grass, and existing pine trees. We were able to free a forsythia that was growing wild under the siding and spread out high over the porch. Remnants of irises and other small plants were found thriving under bushes and all kinds of weeds. We transplanted those to other areas, hoping for the best. They took to their new area beautifully, almost as if grateful for being freed. Little by little we found bits and pieces of what once was a woman’s beloved garden.

When I think about it, it was a lot of work, hard work. Our neighbors cannot believe the transformation. One neighbor told us that he thought the house was eventually going to be torn down or fall on its foundation. Many people have come to see the house, a house they lived in at one point, played in, or visited. They all approve of the respectful changes, and they all agree that the woman who loved her garden so much would approve of it as well. I am glad they feel that way. It means that we are accomplishing what we set out to do. On this post, I will share some before and after pictures.

Entrance to the house then, and entrance today.

 

One of our latest projects was to add marble chips around the house to prevent weeds from growing. This area was covered in weeds and bushes. All the plantings were existing or transplanted from another area when found. The rose bush has grown healthy and has required a trellis.

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Photo by M.A.D.

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Photo by M.A.D.

Here you can see the forsythia that we cut to shape and trimmed. It seems happy now. All the potted plants have been added or transplanted.

These are the same areas before. On first arrival and after clearing some of the vegetation.

 

The foundation to the house is an original rock foundation, which has been supported with cinder blocks over time. We cleared out the weeds, painted, fixed the crawl space doors, and placed marble chips and potted plants around it. We also added solar lights, and rocks that we collected around the property.

This is a before picture, when we cleared out some of the weeds and grass.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

This is the same area now. Here you can see the trimmed Hydrangea bush and existing irises. The pine tree in this picture was found as a tiny (2 inches) planting that I thought looked interesting enough, and I potted it. It turned out to be this beautiful pine (cedar) tree. Eventually, we will cover the exposed cinder blocks with cement and repaint the area. On this picture you can see the original stone foundation. One thing we made sure to do before buying the place was to hire an inspector to make sure the foundation and structure were in good shape. Those were fine.

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Photo by M.A.D.

The marble chips were placed all around the house. Here you can see two existing bushes that we were able to save, after trimming them, and also one of the dwarf boxwood trees behind the bird bath. This boxwood was almost dead and it has come back slowly. The lily is also an existing plant. We added all the large stones found around the property. The Hostas and Hen and chicks plants are new, and added to the area. These were brought from my garden in Jersey. All the statues are recycled from my previous home in Jersey, and so is the bird bath.

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Photo by M.A.D.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

Here you can see the other dwarf boxwood and other recycled plants.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

Here are some pictures of the same areas before. The dwarf boxwood looks brown and dying.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

A before view of the same steps where you can see the boxwood better.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

This is the side entrance area. There were no plantings, only weeds. This area was challenging to work with.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

Same area as it is today. New plantings have been added to the area, as well as recycled. All pots in the garden are recycled.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

We worked with some existing areas by keeping some of the plantings, and adding stones and new or transplanted plants. Here is one of those areas before.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

Same area as it is today. The only existing planting was the bush in the center, The rest was transplanted from other areas of the property. This area blooms throughout the year. In early spring the irises bloom first, followed by the lambs ear, and later in the summer other plantings bloom. A solar light and a couple of statues and rocks dogged around the property were added.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

This area is directly under the giant cedar tree. It is one of the oldest trees around the house, and possibly older than the house, as I am told. We cleared/cleaned the area and added existing plantings around the tree. Red mulch was added as well.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

 

The giant cedar before. Today, it looks healthier.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

Other existing areas that we were able to save. Before, after clearing the area a bit and cutting the grass.

Same area as it is today.

 

I have mentioned the faerie garden on a separate blog post, and it is one area in which we added much to it while working with existing elements. The area before and after.

 

There are a few new areas, and that includes the veggie garden which was not there, and what I call the circle of flowers. Pictures of this area before. Today, the circle of flowers is where the overgrown bushes are, and the veggie garden a few feet right behind.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

The veggie garden

 

I created the circle of flowers because I wanted an area full of color, where I could pick some flowers to bring inside. It started with clearing out a circle where old stumps remained, and placing some stones we collected around the property. We planted some seeds, and many of them continue to grow and bloom today. Next to it, we created another circle (still needs the stones around) where we planted sunflowers. They have not bloom yet, but soon they will. As of today, they are a lot taller.

 

This concludes the outdoor changes so far,  although there are many other plans. We created areas around the home, and separate, individual new areas. Instead of tearing everything down, we worked with existing areas that had potential, by first uncovering them, salvaging some plants, and adding to these areas.

Little me in my grandmother’s garden. Hope you enjoyed this post.

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Photo by M.A.D.

The Recycled Veggie Garden

As soon as I spotted this old farmhouse, I had a vision for it. It took my other half a bit more time to see it, but from the beginning he saw the potential it had. Immediately, (as it usually is for me) tons of future images began circling my head, and those would evolve into plans. One of those plans was to have a vegetable garden. For that to happen, we had to clear out a lot of years of grown vegetation, trees, bushes, and later on decide what type of garden we wanted. That took some time and a ton of hard work, but between my husband and I, we managed to get to a point were we could plant and grow something. This garden has not disappoint me. We decided not to plant on the ground because it was easier to control growing in raise beds, and I had an issue with the many (I mean many) critters that walk/crawl around. Also we have many deer coming through so we decided to create a fenced garden. The goal was to spend as little as we could, and most materials used (except for mulch, a few solar lights, soil, and paint), are recycled/repurposed/reused. That being pots, wood, garden accessories, and décor. As of this writing, I have already harvested lettuce twice, and a few peas, the rest is still growing, but soon it will produce. This year we planted two varieties of tomatoes, peppers, three varieties of lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, potatoes, and peas. This will provide plenty for us, and to give away as well. We set up a spot in the back of the house to plant squash and pumpkins, but I am not sure how that will grow. It is not fenced and deer prance around. Eventually we will add another raise bed to this garden, as there is enough space for another one and more pots, and I think for a small portable green house as well, one that could fit into a corner. We placed a recycled shelf to use as a potting station and storage underneath. It works fine. The construction was made using recycled wood and pallets. Here are a few before and after pictures.

This is the area as it was, abandoned for many years, overgrown with all kinds of trees and bushes intertwined.

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Photo by M.A.D.

This is during clean up. The larger trees and bushes remained at that point. Before removing a tree or bush, we thought hard about it. If it was salvageable we left it, but most of them were inside a morass of weeds and three or four varieties growing together at once. So it was difficult to separate them. We were able to save a few.

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Photo by M.A.D.

This is today. View of the area where the vegetable garden is.

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Photo by M.A.D.

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Photo by M.A.D.

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Photo by M.A.D.

Deer wishing for a veggie bite. She is next to a tree that we were able to save.

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Photo by M.A.D.

At night, I enjoy seeing the garden come alive as well. I placed solar lights in a few areas.

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Photo by M.A.D.

I painted this in 2012. It is the farmhouse as I saw it, abandoned, but I saw beauty in it.

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Photo by M.A.D.

This garden will continue to evolve with us, according to what is needed. It is in the beginning stages, but it has room to place more containers where we will grow other varieties of vegetables. There is enough space to add to it if we need to. I hope I have inspired you to create a simple garden if you have been thinking of building one. It does take work, but not a lot of money if you recycle materials. You don’t need a lot of space, and if you live in an urban area, a small area in your porch/apartment can accommodate pots or hanging baskets. You can plant something anywhere. It has been a fun and interesting project so far. For me, it is a place to grow food but also a place where I can find relaxation, a peaceful retreat, hence all the bunnies … I hope you enjoyed this post.