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.

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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 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.

Digital Camera

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.