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.

This Old Farmhouse – My Take on the Journey So Far

About ten years ago, my husband and I bought an abandoned old farmhouse that was dilapidated and almost buried under a morass of overgrown bushes, grass, and trees. It wasn’t until five years ago that we moved into it. It took some money, time, and a lot of work to make it livable, and there are many areas that still need to be addressed, mainly exterior work. It has been hard work, and I mean, real hard work. Because we did not count with a large budget, we had to do most of the work ourselves (about 95%), just the two of us. We continue to work together in some outdoor projects, slowly, as the budget allows.

Will we do it again? Although a simple question that requires a yes or no answer, I find myself unable to answer it in such way simply because it has been quite a journey. A journey full of bittersweet moments – great moments, exhausting moments, unnerving moments, proud moments, and moments of faith as well. We both have learned so much – about ourselves, about working together and our working styles, about new skills, about the house, about appreciation and gratefulness, about our limits and disposition, and much more; but mostly, about trusting the Lord in our everyday lives. This is why a simple yes or no answer does not suffice.

In the practical sense, a bigger budget would have made things easier and faster – hiring people, easier/better materials and tools, and overall contracting out the hard work areas, and only dealing with the fun tasks. Ideally. However, we would have not experienced and learned as much, grown with the project, and appreciate it as much. It was hard work, but also fun. We would have done some things in a different way, but other things in the same way we did. Overall, I think the experience built up character, but also faith. In that sense, it is a step up from where we started. The long and hard working hours improved our physical stamina but also our mind; the overall experience, our souls. We will continue to work together on this old farmhouse and will share some projects here.

So going back to the yes or no question – will we do it again? I will answer the question for myself, but I think my husband feels the same way about it. The hard work was physically taxing but the overall experience was worth it. If you would like to take a look at the progress so far, please check out the “Fixing an Old Farmhouse” series of posts on this blog.

Yes.

Photo by M.A.D.
Photo by M.A.D.

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.

Fixing an Old Farmhouse – Shelving

Previously, on the Fixing and Old Farmhouse series of posts (Fixing an Old Farmhouse – The Kitchen), I mentioned that I had planned to find an old French buffet and place it where the microwave and bread box were located temporarily, on top of a long table my husband made. Because these items are accessed on a daily basis and were to low to reach, I figured that a narrow French buffet or narrow cabinet would serve the purpose, and look beautiful. Later on, I realized that although it would give me more storage that I don’t need, the placement of the cabinet would overwhelm the space, and make the kitchen look too crowded. I am not a fan of traditional cabinets, especially the top parts, so when we fixed up the kitchen, I used shelving on top, and a few cabinets with a butcher block top, along with an antique French buffet that we placed in the coffee and prep area. We like the look of natural wood, especially when it ages and takes on a darker patina. After consulting with my other half, we decided that a shelf would be a better fit for the space, moreover, because we used these items too often.

When looking at wood at our closest hardware center, the prices for wood seemed to be all over the place, that is, for a nice piece of sturdy wood plank. The least expensive were too thin (1/4 inch) or short, and either pine, being the least expensive, followed by poplar, oak … I was ready to settle for poplar when I spotted a bundle of oak risers nearby. They were the perfect length and thickness, but much better, these had the rounded front already, unlike the planks of wood. To add to the perfect finding, it was the right length, no need for cutting anything at all. Price was about two dollars more than the poplar plank that we would have to cut, sand, and prep.

Next, we selected the brackets. This part was easy because right away I spotted two copper tinted brackets that matched the copper motif throughout the kitchen. We love an old world/vintage/rustic style. The installation was a breeze – no need to cut anything, just install at the right height, and it was done. The shelf allowed for placing the two chair stools under it, converting it (if needed in the future) into a floating desk or space for extra sitting. It also allowed for a lighter feel as opposed to using a cabinet. Cost came about under $50, a fraction of what a French buffet or cabinet would have cost. Here are a few pictures, and I hope you enjoy reading about this farmhouse project.

View of the area before.
Copper brackets.
The area now.
Completed project.

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!

Twelve Farmhouse Projects – Dead Tree

Following up on my latest blog post about future farmhouse projects, we have taken one off the list, or should I say, it took itself off the list yesterday. The large dead tree fell, and that left us with one less tree to take down, however, with a large mess to clean up. Because I started the Twelve Farmhouse Projects series of posts, I thought it would be natural to share the update. Here are a few pictures.

A few pieces scattered around as it fell. The crows will not like this; they used to perch on that tree.
Not sure how easy it would be to cut into pieces. There was a dried up poison ivy plant on that tree.
View of the base. The rot is evident.
At least there won’t be any stumps to take out of the ground.

That takes care of one tree, two to go. The most important one is the one near the home. Slowly but surely.

Twelve Future Farmhouse Projects

For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.

Hebrews 3:4

The previous posts on “Fixing an Old Farmhouse” series gave an idea of where we are as far as how much work we have done on this 1910 farmhouse. We started by clearing and cleaning up the outdoor spaces, followed by fixing up the interior of the home, and now we find ourselves going back to focus on the outdoors, as there are many things we have to handle. This post is about those future projects, which will be tackled little by little, as this has been and continues to be a cash-only renovation, hence why it takes longer. Patience is a virtue.

The Roof

The most expensive project will be the installation of a new metal roof. This is a task for roofing professionals, and we wouldn’t take a chance with it. Any slight mistakes would eventually become expensive issues. For now, the roof is coated and will last a few years.

The roof as it was when we saw the place for the first time.
The same 110 year old roof after coating.

Dangerous Trees

Another important project is the removal of an enormous tree that is not looking too healthy, and is in proximity to the house. We have two other dead trees to remove, large but those are far away from the house. This is another project that is a bit expensive and must be done by tree experts.

Large tree next to the side entrance.
As you can see, it is massive. It is covered in moss, which is not a good sign.
The tree has many areas like this one.
This is another tree that is dead and must be removed. It is big.
Unfortunately, the third tree is my beloved monster tree. After a much dreaded discussion, we agreed that it would be best to remove it. Poison Ivy is growing wild inside and around it, and it is very difficult to remove.

The Driveway

Another item on our list of outdoor “must handle” issues is the driveway. Over time, the soil changes. When it rains the driveway becomes very muddy with two large areas that retain water. A couple loads of gravel should take care of the issue. For now, we have been collecting pinecones and pine needles from the property and placing them in the problem area. It works temporarily. In addition, we have to patch the old cement part that was uncovered.

Not a pretty sight now, but worse when it rains.

The Porch

The porch ceiling needs to be repainted eventually. The cement floor needs to be tiled to prevent further deterioration. Right now, it is cement that we fixed, patched, and painted. Ideally, I would like to place slate tile or brick on top.

What it used to be when we bought the place.
For now, we maintain it until we can take care of it properly.

The Well

The well has come a long way from what it used to be. We would like to enclose the well with a small shed-like structure. It will provide more insulation from the cold weather. So far, we fixed and painted it, but it needs that extra step.

It used to look like this.
Now it looks like this, an improvement.

Large Shed/building

Although we have two small storage sheds on the property, one of them an existing original old log building, those are being used to store garden tools, heat pellets, and other outdoor items. We need a larger building where my husband can work on his wood projects. This will be its future site.

It will be located at the far end, and we will probably build it ourselves, depending on wood pricing – ready made kit vs. building it from scratch.

Pumpkin Area

We need to prepare an area at the back (right side) of the property where we can grow larger things such as corn or pumpkins. We tested an area this year, where we grew pumpkins and cantaloupe, and it seems a good area for that purpose. Although we will not enclose it, we will have to clear some stumps and grass before planting.

Future site of the pumpkin area. Those stumps were trees that we cut down, and will be removed.

The Christmas Tree

Last year, we cleared and cleaned up the area at the entrance of the driveway. It was full of overgrown shrubs and weeds. During the process, my husband discovered a medium size pine tree that he liked, and he decided to leave alone. This tree has been growing healthy and free of weeds and is looking very nice. My husband wants to dress it up in white solar lights that can be left on year round. His obsession with this tree puzzles me, but I am going along with it, and he doesn’t know it yet, but I already ordered the lights. This will probably become the first project on our list.

This tree has become my husband’s pet.

The Rain Garden

As much as the Christmas tree is my husband’s obsession, the rain garden is mine. There is an area at the front of the house, near the veggie garden, where there seems to be a dip or slope on the terrain. When it rains, it seems to retain water. This area would be perfect for a rain garden. However, since it is at the center, I would like it to become a focal point. I am envisioning a water feature (solar, of course) a small bench, a few pavers, one or two spot lights, a few larger stones, and of course the plants. Maybe one or two stone critters as well. This is the future site of the rain garden.

In this picture, you can see the puddle of water; that is the spot for the rain garden.

Side Steps Entrance Concrete Area

Although there is grass on this area, when it rains it becomes very muddy. My husband wants to place pavers or pour concrete to minimize the muddy mess.

The area where we will pour cement or place pavers next to the side entrance steps.

The Arbor

This is a project that I am excited about, however, I am not sure if it is practical because sometimes, we bring material through the area where it would be placed. My husband doesn’t like when someone comes down the driveway, bypasses the parking area, and ends up parking very close to the house. He says that if a vehicle were to disengage the parking gear or someone miss applying the brakes on time, they would land in the living room. I can see his point. The arbor would signal the end of the driveway, and would serve as a pretty stop sign. In the past, (not around here) I have seen this happen to two people. Their cars were not in parked gear. My husband, being a mechanic, has seen this scenario many times, hence his insistence. If the arbor idea were to be implemented, wisteria would be a good choice and it would have to include an area for the name of our place – Black Crow Cottage.

The arbor would be located after the last light post signaling the end of the driveway.

The Woods Trails

I am not sure, but I think this will be the last project to be tackled. It is something that my husband wants to do in the future. He wants to create pathways around the wooded area. He wants the pathway to end where the “Christmas tree” is. He already started the three entrances, and placed a few logs from fallen trees. It will take time and effort, and he knows it, but it is something he envisions and would love to do. I like the idea, although not so much the type of work involved.

One of the three entrances that will connect to a main pathway. Here you can see that this one will lead left or right.
A section of the woods.

These are twelve future projects that I will share here when we are able to complete them, one by one, little by little. We have come a long way from where we started, and there is more to do. I hope you enjoyed this post.

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 Stairway

“By wisdom a house is built and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” Proverbs 24:3-4

I think that the stairway of this home deserves its own blog post in the Fixing an Old Farmhouse series. After all, it was my favorite feature inside the home. When we saw the interior of this old farmhouse for the first time, we did not think that we would be able to save the stairway. A few steps were broken, other steps were loose, however, the structure felt very solid. It felt stronger than the brand new stairway we had in our Jersey home. We knew that the steps could be fixed, and the wall it was attached to could remain as long as we patched it and painted it, so we decided to keep it, along with the unusual rounded post at its end.

I had selected a vintage green for the walls that I kept in storage for a little over a year. There must have been something wrong with the paint because when I opened the can it was as hard as a rock. I was disappointed. A little voice inside me whispered, “mix all those leftover paints.” Those were almost-empty cans of paint that we decided to keep from our former house. I opened them, and to my surprise, those were still looking good. The cans were over nine years old – sage green, blue, gray, and white. Because I had nothing to lose, I decided to try it, and I mixed the paints. Something magical happened. I was staring at the original color of the wall, the first layer of color that was ever applied. You can see it here.

We kept a section of the old wall as a reminder of where we had been, and all the work we put into it.

I ended up painting the wall that color. There was enough paint left to do the closet in the living room. Sometimes, a house knows what it wants; listen to it. We replaced some steps, patched the wall a bit, and reinforced what needed to be. We painted the steps Leather Brown, and put moldings where there were none originally. If you look at the wood above the wall, you can see the way it was cut originally. It is a rough cut, as opposed to the factory cut and finish we see today. I love that character. The stairway is one of my favorite features of this house. The handrail is made from a tree that hurricane Sandy knocked over in the back of our home in Jersey. We sanded and glazed it. It serves a purpose and it is a memento as well. Here are some pictures of the process.

Before.

View from the second floor after rough patching some parts.
We had to open up the wall to be able to bring materials upstairs. Here you can also see some of the steps we replaced, the idea of framing the hole on the wall, as well as the odd round pole.
Before opening up the wall. We opened up the stairway wall as well.
View of the steps and the ones we replaced.

After

Steps had been fixed, wall fixed and painted, and moldings applied. When we patched the wall, we left some of its character, sort of a rough finish.
Here you can see some of its rough character a bit better, and the rustic handrail.

I hope you enjoyed this post about fixing these old steps. I am glad we worked with their character and did not take them down. It would have been a mistake.