Farmhouse Projects – The Christmas Tree

In a previous post, I mentioned twelve future projects we wish to be able to do around the farmhouse. The easiest one on that list is what I call The Christmas Tree. It was my husband’s project, and his obsession for a while. The Christmas tree is a young pine tree he was able to save when we took down a morass of weeds and overgrown bushes covering the front and part of the side of the property, near the entrance. He liked the tree, although it was in bad shape. I thought it would not make it because it had been sprayed by the city (or our electric company) with something they use to kill anything that would be a threat to utility cables. Although this tree was not nearby, when they sprayed some trees that were, some of this brew got on it and it burned some of the branches. The other trees dried up and died. Those were not on our property, but next to it. Once we had cleared out the bushes and weeds, my husband kept mowing around the tree, and trimming it. Eventually, he wanted to put white lights on it and make it a focal point. A few weeks ago, I noticed that the tree was looking much healthier, so I ordered solar lights for it without my husband knowing, as a surprise. It still has some brown spots and dead branches, but I think it will become a beautiful tree.

This weekend we were able to work on the tree. We even named it. We named it Christmas. Here are a few pictures of this first project.

First, we trimmed some dead branches and cleaned up the trunk a bit. You can still see some of the burnt branches.
We used some cinnamon color pine needles we collected, and used these as mulch around the base. We placed and secured the lights on top as best as we could and tested them for best sun exposure.
We took care of other chores until it became dark. It turned out to be a gorgeous sunset and evening.
And then we saw it happen; Christmas lighted up. It is a bit difficult to photograph all the lights because these do not light up at the same time. We used 200 white LED solar lights.

On Sunday, we visited it once more, and we love the way it looks. I think it turned out to be a very special tree. I think this tree found its purpose. As it becomes more beautiful with time, it will light up every night, and become a beautiful sight for those who pass by. Because we are not able to see it from home, we will visit it from time to time. I might place a bench nearby. Sometimes, things may look hopeless, but with a little bit of care and patience they turn out lovely.

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.

The Lighted Pathway

Since the pandemic hit worldwide, my mind has not been in the right place to write my current novel. It shall pass. Instead, I have been helping my other half with projects around the home, much of them waiting for the right time. We have finished many projects, and more are due. I have been sharing some of these projects on the blog. We continue to fix this old farmhouse, trying to conjure the vision we had for it. Sometimes, it feels as if the old house is not agreeing with our plans, so we listen, and find common ground. This post will be about alternative ways for outdoor lighting and security light options, while keeping a budget in mind (as we always do).

When we moved here we discovered how dark it can be at night time. Our closest neighbors have security lights through the electric company but we did not want the extra expense on our electric bill. Electricity in this area is more expensive than in Jersey, where we came from, believe it or not. We decided to go with solar lighting, which was affordable, lasting, and came in a variety of designs and prices. We decided to use solar lights around the house, at particular spots, and also along perimeters and driveway. We were not sure how it was going to work, so we started slowly, testing areas, adding lighting, until we reached a point were we were almost satisfied. My husband and I love lights, we are crazy about them, and that is why I say almost satisfied, because I know it will evolve at some point. We have found that solar lighting is very reliable as well as cost efficient, and fits our budget perfectly. Not only does it serve the purpose of illuminating the necessary areas, it also looks beautiful and brings a cozy feeling to the surroundings. If you are not sure about solar lighting, start small, test a few ideas, and keep adding to different areas over time. For us, it works fine. Here are a few pictures of some areas to give you an idea. They range from less to more needed illumination. The pictures were taken at twilight to best tell the placement/area.

The side entrance is usually more dark than the front entrance, so we placed some small solar lights around, and a few spot lights nearby. We also added a solar light on the wall next to the entrance that illuminated the entire area (not shown on this picture).

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Photo by M.A.D.

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Photo by M.A.D.

A before picture of the same area. Nightmarish and challenging. A total run down disaster waiting for us.

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Photo by M.A.D.

A view of the front side solar lights.

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Photo by M.A.D.

View of the same area before – spooky charm.

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Photo by M.A.D.

We decided to place motion lights at the four corners of the veggie garden. Many times, I have seen deer late at night. One night, I saw two large figures near the garden – two bucks fighting, each standing on their back legs.

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Photo by M.A.D.

We had placed motion lights on poles near the faerie garden and parking area, and these proved to work great, so we decided to listen to the house and carry the theme by the entrance and driveway. The poles were painted barn red. The 6×6 poles near the fairy garden are from recycled wood. These are cut at 4 feet each, and down into the ground 1 foot. They are treated wood. For the rest of the poles, we decided to go with 4×6 treated wood. Each 12 feet pole was cut to render 3 four feet poles. We only had to buy two. These were placed in the ground at the same depth. Each pole has a solar light attached. They are always lighted but increase intensity when motion is detected, so if we are walking down the driveway at night, there is plenty of light. In this case, the house spoke. Our original plan was to do old fashioned lantern poles down the driveway, but these fit the character of the house better, as well as our pockets.

Faerie garden poles (6×6)

For the driveway, we decided to go with 6×4 treated wood. The 6-inch side facing front.

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Photo by M.A.D.

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Photo by M.A.D.

View at night with no motion.

 

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Photo by M.A.D.

View with motion. My husband testing the sensors.

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Photo by M.A.D.

My husband made this for me when we first bought the house. A lighted replica of our vision. Later we decided on blue instead of red for the porch. He has to make a blue star for the replica to match the one we placed on the house, and the real house still needs a new roof, which will be blue metal.

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Photo by M.A.D.

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Photo by M.A.D.

I hope this post was inspirational, and gave you ideas for lighting options, or inspire you to create something for your place.