Heck of a Mess!

Taking advantage of a few good “warm” days, my husband and I have been slowly working on the mess that the last ice storm made around the property. We have been cutting trees and piling up broken branches and debris in the back so we can dispose of it later on. Once piled up, we realized that it is too big of a job and it will take a long time for us to manage all of it, so we have decided to either rent a brush/garden dumpster or hire someone who does this type of work. An estimation of the cost will be our next step. In the meantime, we were able to clear out most of it, that is, into a huge pile.

Most debris has been cleared out. The old cedar looks thinned out.
Large mounds of debris are spread all over the backyard.
And the side of the property as well.

Some of the down trees were large enough that we were able to use the main trunk for delineating some areas in the garden, and slowly continuing with my husband’s pet project – the enchanting trails. So far, it looks like this.

Part of the garden. The logs also prevent a large amount of leaves to roll over. We like a more natural garden look; rigid manicured gardens are not our style.
Part of the slow-developing trails.
We stopped around here. Ran out of logs, and we have to find a pathway as well.

As I mentioned before, my husband wants the trail to end where the lighted tree is located, and to have four entrances that will connect to one another along the way. I mentioned the possibility to spray paint the logs with fluorescent paint so it would look magical at night. I am not sure if he will go for it.

There has been plenty of chores around here, such as a broken well pipe and pump, which we fixed last weekend. Took an entire day, and several trips to three different stores in order to find the only pipe available in the area – we were blessed and lucky. Found it out of town at the Home Depot, but it was the only one left.

We worked together and fixed the issue. Setting up the 40/60 psi took a while, but we got it. You learn something everyday around here.

There have been beautiful sights as well. New birds that I have not seen before arrived the other day. At first glance, I thought they were woodpeckers but they only stayed around the ground and pecked the ground constantly. These had a long beak and gorgeous colors and feather patterns – yellow, pink, aqua blue, a darker blue, gray, black, red, beige, and a rosy beige gray in some areas. One of them had yellow bordering the wings, the others did not.

Gorgeous bird.
These birds moved constantly and pecked the ground, so they were very difficult to photograph.
Here you can see a bit of the blue on the sides, near the neck area. Was unable to take a picture of the one with the yellow bordering the wings.
There have been sublime red skies in the mornings.
Lazy morning moon as well.
Unexpected doorways to heaven.

I have been craving for Spring, and just about had enough of winter, so I decided to welcome it myself and decorate the porch for it.

Welcome Spring!
The first signs of Spring.

There are tons of farmhouse chores awaiting, and hopefully, I will be able to share a few here. I hope you enjoyed this post.

A Garden at Rest

The garden is ready to go to sleep, and it seems that the planting/harvest season went so fast this year. I am very happy with what the garden offered, and this year was better than last year. There were a few green tomatoes left in the vine, and the rest is done. I picked what was left on Saturday. It has been a bit cold, a bit early. Last year we lost tons of green tomatoes due to an early frost. Until next year.

Grape tomatoes were a plenty this year.
Yellow tomatoes did very well too this year.
I grew these potatoes in pots; it worked.
This year I learned that potato pants are gorgeous when they flower and more beautiful when they produce this green fruit (poisonous) that looks like a green grape tomato. The seeds inside can be planted ahead of time to grow the plant, but it takes much longer for a potato plant to produce from seed than if planted from the tuber/eye. Who knew?
The last two pumpkins.
The first two pumpkins.
The largest pumpkin we picked sits in the back. I think is the nicest one. We only got two cantaloupe, which we picked a few days early but turn out delicious. First timers.
The birds were lucky this year. They enjoyed the sunflowers, and I collected tons of seeds for them. I saved a bag for planting next year.
A round patch of a different type of grass seems prominent this year. I like it.
These colorful beauties are still in bloom and the butterflies are loving them. These get many winged visitors.
Finally, a better picture of a cardinal. These were hard to photograph. They don’t stay put for long.
A happy visitor who sometimes makes his rounds around the garden. I think he belongs to a neighbor, as I always see him coming from the direction to her house.
A little bird makes friends with a scarecrow. I was lucky to take this photo.

As the garden gets ready to rest, I will be ready for cleanup and ready up for next year plantings. We have enjoyed many blessings from it, and I could not ask for more. Happy Harvest!

Fixing an Old Farmhouse – The Living Room

Continuing with the series of blog posts on Fixing an Old Farmhouse, this post will be about the living room. Originally, the previous owner had set up this room as her bedroom, and built a bathroom adjacent to it when she became ill. The farmhouse was listed as a three bedroom house, including this room as a bedroom downstairs. I have no idea as to what the first owner of the house used this room for, or if it was considered a bedroom back then. We set the room up as the living room. This room was in fairly good shape compared to the rest of the house, and by that I mean there was no damage to the wood floor, but some of the walls were in bad shape as well as the ceiling. The closet walls were in good shape and we were able to save this part. We patched some areas, painted it, installed flooring, and set it up as a storage area and coat closet. Everything else we had to change.

For this room we used various materials – new, old, recycled, and contractor surplus, which is brand new material at a great discount purchased from a contractor/builder. Because this house has a center chimney, this room also had the other side of the chimney, and it was clogged up as well, so we had to cleaned it up, and seal it. Ideally, I would have liked to leave the brick exposed but it had a fair amount of damage. We ended up covering it, and we did this upstairs as well. I think this was the biggest challenge in this room. This room is square, measuring 15 x 15 feet (as most rooms in this house) which made things easier. Here are a few before and after pictures of the process.

Before/during.

Here you can see the damage to walls and ceiling. The closet walls were not that bad but we had to fix its ceiling. An old and dirty carpet plus layers of linoleum covered the floor. We removed it all and installed laminate flooring.
This is the other side of the room – dirty couch, boarded up window, and damage all around.
This is the opposite side.
The floor boards were in pretty good shape, however the spacing between each plank varied and would have been an invitation for critters to come inside, so we decided to install laminate flooring. Ideally, I would have preferred the original wood floors but I would not have been at peace with the possibility of bugs coming inside.
What was behind the sheetrock walls. Notice the old construction, horizontal boards. Most of the house is done in cedar wood, which is great, and the wood/beams are thicker than what is used in today’s construction. The wood is very hard and tough, and it was very difficult to screw in nails or hammer them. Cutting it was a challenge as well, and the aroma of cedar was still strong after more than 100 years. I regret not saving a piece of that wood that was so aromatic.
Ceilings. Once the sheetrock and everything else was removed, we had to vacuum and sweep the entire place before starting to work – floors, walls, ceilings.
We eliminated the door.
Wallpaper had been placed over painted sheetrock, and paint over the many layers of wallpaper, more recently by the last renter. I was told that when the house was not being rented anymore and fell in disrepair, squatters might have stayed in it very shortly . Neighbors would call the police, as well as the out of state heir, and the house ended up being boarded up – all windows and doors, after these were broken into. There was window glass everywhere.

After.

The rooms after they have been finished and furnished. We like a mix of old and new (when old is not possible), and our taste is more traditional/early American, and a bit eclectic. I understand that this might not appeal to everybody, but it is our taste, so bear with me.

The room almost finished.
The coat closet side.
Room as it is now.
The coat closet part.
Where the old door was removed. It connects with the dining room, and the main entrance.
Opposite side of the room.

This concludes the first floor of the farmhouse and what we have done so far. Upcoming blog posts will be about the second floor. I hope that you have enjoyed this renovation so far, and that it inspires you to see potential in areas where it might be difficult to visualize at first.

Fixing an Old Farmhouse – The Bathroom

My previous blog post was about the cat room, a room that had been a porch, and at one point enclosed to make room for a much needed bathroom a previous owner of the house required after becoming ill, hence why I decided to continue with this room next. I was told by a neighbor that at one point the farmhouse used to have an outhouse. There are no buildings in the property that would point to it, so we don’t know the location. Although there was enough room after enclosing the porch to build a bigger bathroom, the previous owner did not. The bathroom was small, and when we fixed it we decided to keep the same blue print for the sake of plumbing (which had to be replaced) and the future use of the mudroom/cat room. We concluded that the existing positioning of fixtures made the best use of the space. A larger mudroom was more important to us than a larger bathroom. Maybe the previous owner thoughts followed the same path, who knows?

If we thought that the cat room was the most challenging room to work with, the bathroom was the grossest room. It had fall into disrepair, was very dirty, had water damage, no water due to a non-working well and broken pipes, and overall, suffered from the condition of the house being abandoned for a while. It could surely make you gag at a glance. The room had to be completely stripped of everything – fixtures, flooring, walls … It was a big mess. There was nothing that could be of use or recycled. This is the reality of fixing an old house that has been neglected and abandoned through the years. These pictures may turn your stomach, fair warning.

Before.

Location of the bathroom is where the brown door is.
Yes, it is what you think it is. At least it was left empty.
A myriad use of materials throughout this tiny space? Paneling, wood, sheetrock, wallpaper … why?
The water damage is obvious here.
Another example of the many materials that were used in this small space by previous tenants throughout the years.

During and After.

We decided to install a fiberglass shower instead of a bathtub.
We kept the location of the door but had to change the door and framing. Eventually, we painted the door a nutmeg color.
The location of the new fixtures remain the same.
The location of the toilet remains the same, new toilet and fixtures were installed.
Instead of installing a shower door we decided a shower curtain would be easier to maintain and replace seasonally and as needed.

We kept the style of the bathroom simple and functional. Anything can be replaced easily in the future if necessary. I hope you enjoyed viewing and reading about this project. I hope it inspires you to take on a project with vision.

Garden Offerings

Now that I have shared how the garden has come along, it occurred to me to write about its blessings. Although, I took on a small garden project as a kid, for a short time (kid’s curiosity), and later on in life rekindled that love when I planted my first small flower garden when I lived in Jersey, it is now that I feel I have the time and place to be more creative and enjoy a garden.

Although we have had a very hot and humid summer here in Virginia, I am pleased with how the veggie garden has produced so far. The flower garden did very well during the spring, and by now, it is declining, although there are a few flowers due to bloom now. Despite watering almost everyday, the heat has taken a toll on the plants. The sweet peas, which were doing so well, dried up during the last week. I was lucky enough to harvest some peas on three occasions. The peppers are still growing and thriving; no signs of a pepper yet. I have to say that when planting from seeds, it takes a long time to harvest something, especially peppers. Next year, I might try a small portable greenhouse to start seeds earlier. I tried to do that indoors, but one of my cats had a party with the tiny plants. Tomatoes are doing well, however, compared to last year, I am dealing with tomato rot (I think that is what it is called). It is when tomatoes turn dark underneath, just before they are ready to be picked. I have had to discard some. I read that it is not recommended to eat them because the tomato skin has broken and it might contain bacteria. I don’t think that the seeds will do well for next year. I will start fresh. Cucumbers are doing very well this year, with a couple of them turning yellow before they grow more. Last year, cucumbers didn’t do as well. Lettuce is doing great this year, and I have collected so much, that I gave some away to my neighbor. All four varieties are doing great. Soon, I will be sharing tomatoes and cucumbers because it seems that those are going to produce much this year. The grape tomatoes are doing well too. Compared to last year, carrots are slow. I planted the rainbow baby carrots and also the regular ones. One plant I introduced this year is potato. I picked a few, a plant nearby the carrots. I read that potatoes and carrots should not be planted nearby (who knew?). Bugs are absent this year; last year caterpillars where an issue, and ate most of the lettuce. I was using several organic pesticides, and they did not perform well. This year I have not seen many bugs, and I used Sevin only once, so maybe that has to do with it.

Keeping a garden journal has helped me keep track of things/issues I would have forgotten already. I also use it to plan future areas in the garden. When I started gardening, I was not sure if I wanted to keep one but I tried it anyway.  I have found it very useful, especially when correcting mistakes from the previous year. This year’s entry might read – Please, do not plant potatoes next to carrots; no, don’t do it!

If the hot weather continues, I am not sure how well the harvest will go this year. Here are some pictures of some veggies I have collected so far. Hopefully, there will be more,  despite the heat. Also, pictures of the flower garden offerings.

I noticed that fresh vegetables do not last as long in the refrigerator as supermarket ones; they become soft sooner, especially lettuce. I was keeping lettuce in a glass bowl in the crisper section of the fridge, but decided to keep the plastic trays that are used for fruit when you buy it at the supermarket, and what a difference does it make. It seems that these plastic trays help keep the veggies crisp longer. Save those, and use them if you can; it works better than glass.

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Photo by M.A.D.

I pick the tomatoes as soon as they start getting soft to the touch. They continue the process inside. Stink bugs like tomatoes.

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Photo by M.A.D.

A mix of veggies as they look before cleaning them.

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Photo by M.A.D.

Various types of lettuce. Journal entry from last year – Caterpillars hate fancy lettuce. They prefer the regular variety.

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Photo by M.A.D.

A few blessings from the flower garden. The perfect hand of God.

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Photo by M.A.D.

These are mini sunflowers. They grow maybe about two or three feet tall, and bloom lovely.

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Photo by M.A.D.

Nature’s lace.

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Photo by M.A.D.

Tons of color.

 

The tiny rose bush that could.

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Photo by M.A.D.

Two different color irises.

 

The unexpected. Plants found around the property while clearing out weeds and bushes. We transplanted them.

 

The magical. Mushrooms galore and a little bit of luck.

 

The most beautiful blue.

 

The new and sublime.

 

The lost and found.

 

The forgotten. As it was then.

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Photo by M.A.D.

I hope you enjoy this post.