As usual, there are plenty of things to do around here. Yesterday, my husband finished clearing up the mess from a previous storm, tons of branches that have been around for a while. Then, he decided to tackle the old tree that fell during the same time. We had estimates done, but he decided to do it himself, especially during this economy. He tackled the job in a couple of weekends. We will save the money for the trees that are too large and require professional handling. In the meantime, we will stop all projects until next year, because you never know. As for the veggie garden, it is done for the season. I picked the last of the tomatoes yesterday. The garden is starting to prepare for a deep sleep during winter. All the work from now on will be clean ups, mostly, not new projects.
The old tree and brush from a previous storm.
The wood from the large tree is good wood that we gave to someone. It will be picked up sometime this week to be used as heat for the winter. Especially now that a cord of wood has gone up in price, I think in the range of $300, and many people are installing wood stoves because electricity will go up more, most likely, hence it will probably go up more with demand. We are happy that the tree will be used in a good way. Eventually, we will install a small wood stove in the kitchen.
Many critters that used to perch on that fallen tree will certainly miss it, and I will miss looking at them.
Nature recycles itself; maybe we should learn from it.
At the time of this writing, it is nine days until the first day of Autumn. I am already welcoming the season and enjoying many of its sights. Soon I will enjoy its colors. We had our first temperature change in the upper 50s last night, and today there is a crisp in the air. The only thing I am not looking forward is the soon to arrive in waves, clouds of ladybug-look-alike Asian beetles that will cover the area. It is one thing that I truly dislike about living here. The process should take about 1-2 weeks depending on the weather. In the meantime, I will enjoy the weather transition and all the blessings that a new season brings – the ongoing song of excited crows, oranges, reds, yellows, all kinds of crimson … unexpected critters, autumn candy, hearty meals, darker nights, and the magic of another season.
The work around this farmhouse continues; there is something to add to the list always. Not too long ago, we removed bricks that were in the front garden. When we got rid of the kitchen chimney, we reused those bricks. When we were able to work on that garden area again, we took them out and set them aside to be used elsewhere. We used a few of them in the faerie garden and the new garden next to it. The bricks replaced old bent wood that was serving as a border. The old wood was used as border on the trails my husband is slowly developing in the back area. My husband decided to make a chimenea with the rest of the bricks. It will be great for the sitting area during chilly days. It also serves as a cooking option if power goes down for long. The important thing is that these lovely old bricks that date to 1910 at least, if not older, were not wasted.
One of my easy projects was to have Morning Glory grow by the side entrance and wrap itself around the handrail. I love the look of Morning Glory in pictures and paintings of cottages, so I wanted to recreate the look somehow.
It looks like the garden is starting to prepare for a new season, and so am I; soon, everything will go to rest for a while.
Fixing up this old farmhouse has taken energy, time, and a bit of money; however, it has been rewarding. One of the areas in which we worked early on was the porch garden. We had taken recycled bricks from the chimney we took out in the kitchen and reused it in the area. Later on, when we created a small garden around the house using existing plants, potted plants, and white marble chips, we realized that we needed to make the area blend with the rest. The garden around the house is completed now. We moved around and relocated some potted plants. We positioned the concrete bench that was on the porch to the left side of the garden, just to match the right side of the garden. It worked out well. One more project off the long list.
A bit of background for readers new to this blog. The old farmhouse was in very bad shape when we bought it. It had been abandoned for many years and weather/time/renters/squatters had been rough on it. The value was on the land. By just looking at the derelict home we knew that anything we were to do from that point on would be an improvement. That has been a goal, to improve and add value over time.
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.
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.
Everybody needs … places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and cheer and give strength …
When we purchased this derelict farmhouse, there was no garden, only a morass of overgrown bushes, grass, and weeds, some of them inside the siding, covering the house, and even inside it. Little by little, we uncovered the place, and one step at a time, we set out to create a garden. As we uncovered areas, we found a hidden driveway, some existing plants that we kept and revived, and other areas of interest, such as a sitting area delineated by a cemented circle shape. One area at a time, we set out to clean, separate, and plan what we could do using existing or recycled materials, and some new.
Eventually, it started to feel and look like a garden. We added a few new plants and propagated other existing plants. Today, we are at a point where the place feels manageable, and we plan to create new garden areas. Our goal is to create at least one new area every year or add new plants to an existing area. So far, we have created a garden around the perimeter of the house, a veggie garden, a faerie garden where there is a large section covered with moss, a small front garden at the entrance, which is still in the works, two small areas next to the house, a sitting area, and recently, a small garden next to it. We have added four new trees which we obtained for free (a small $10 donation) through the Arbor Foundation, and these are doing very well. We planted five but one did not make it. Originally, they sent 10 dormant trees (these look like brown sticks); we planted five and gave the rest to my sister.
I’ve loved gardens since I can remember. I especially loved my grandmother’s garden, and as a little girl I enjoyed it. Although it was a small garden, at that age, to me it felt as a huge garden, my own world. Sadly, this garden does not exist anymore. It was replaced by hideous cement. My favorite garden style is an English garden, and I would love to recreate that style on this property. My husband favors more symmetrical and delineated gardens, which I dislike, so we compromise a bit. He also dislikes climbers, which I love. I have a list of dreamy plants that I would like to see growing in the garden. Some are already part of it. The list is in no particular planting or planning order; just what I love.
Iris – There was an existing light purple variety growing here, which we uncovered and propagated. I brought a deeper shade of purple from my garden in Jersey.
Gladiolas – My sister gave me some from her garden, and these are doing very well.
Hen and chicks – These have propagated well, and I brought them from my garden in Jersey.
Weeping blue spruce – wish list
Holy tree – We uncovered two existing varieties, one in the new garden area, which we uncovered amongst overgrown bushes, and another one in the wooded area at the back of the house.
Jasmine – wish list
Camelia – wish list
Magnolia – wish list, but it tends to grow very large, so I am not too sure about adding it.
Snapdragon – planted some from seed.
Gardenia – wish list
Clematis – wish list
Wisteria – wish list
Butterfly bush – wish list
Tulips – wish list
Giant Hosta – We added a few hostas and three blue hostas.
Sunflowers – We added them from seed, but did not come back, as the birds ate all the seeds.
Yarrow – Found in property.
Daphodils – wish list
Poppy – wish list. Planted seeds but did not grow.
Black Eye Susan – wish list
Forget me nots – wish list
Hyacinth – wish list
Crocus – wish list
Roses – Planted a small bush that died. Just bought two mini rose bushes that will go in the front porch area when we redo that area.
Ferns – found in property along with wild violet and I potted it.
Clover – Tons of clover grow here. I would rather have Clover than grass.
Lavender – wish list, have proven hard to grow, but I have a small English Lavender plant in a pot, but it has been a challenge to grow elsewhere.
English Ivy – I have three plants growing in pots by the faerie garden and side entrance.
Bleeding heart – wish list
Daisy – wish list
Lillies – Existing near the porch, some of which we propagated in the faerie garden. I planted a Tiger Lilly by the side entrance.
Calla lilies – My sister gave me a few from her garden. We have them in pots for now, and they come up every year; eventually, we will propagate these.
Zinnias and Foxglove – By seed
Forsythia – We have a small existing bush that we revived and trimmed. It tends to flower in December for some reason, and by the time Spring arrives, it is done with its flowers.
Peony – wish list
Dwarf Boxwood – Existing, and we uncovered and revived these two bushes by the porch steps. At one point, I thought these would not make it because these were in very bad shape.
Hydrangea – Existing. We have a lovely Blue Hydrangea that we trimmed and is doing beautifully.
Climbing rose – We uncovered a tiny rose bush, and it has grown beautifully. It was covered by overgrown vegetation, and we almost missed it.
Morning Glory – Just started growing two + plants (by seed) in pots by the side entrance steps. My goal is for them to climb and wrap themselves around the banister and handrail.
There are many cedars, pine, and oak varieties around here, and some lovely trees that I have no idea what they are. I am sure that I can come up with more dreamy plants, but for now, these are the ones that I would love to see growing in the garden. I enjoyed many of these plants in my previous garden and I truly miss them. I would like to add the plants on this list throughout the years, and at least a small water feature. I will share some of these projects on this blog.
To view some of the before and after pictures of the garden you can visit my posts under Restoring a Garden or Fixing an Old Farmhouse. Here are a few pictures.
I wish I could say that living a simpler life is simply easy, but I’ve found that there was (and is) a lot of work involved, dedication as well. For us, it meant to tackle a huge list of things to do as well as learning the other things we needed to learn to do those things efficiently and economically in a limited amount of time. To read more on that you can visit Fixing an Old Farmhouse series of posts. It also meant leaving some things behind, some we didn’t want to leave, and some we did. We also had to deal with the pressures that come with all of that, but most important, we had to work as a team, be on the same page, and define what good work and accomplishment meant for us. We had to realize that each day brought new challenges, and every day was different. The cookie-cut routine was over, and there was no room for costly mistakes. We had to reach a new level of trust as a couple, and trust that “I got your back” was enough. Enough to get the job done and keep on going with the blessing of the Lord.
Hard days behind gave way to plans and possibilities, and a sense of balance, and with it, a feeling of good work and accomplishment, the sweet satisfaction of the challenge. There will always be good days and less than perfect days, and a list of to-dos; however, as long as “got your back” remains our motto, simple living becomes sweet living. Living the simple life entails realizing that each day brings challenges and blessings of its own along with sweet satisfaction.
New challenges are about to test people in this country and worldwide. Our faith, values, and belief systems will be tested in ways we are not accustomed to. As a people, as a nation, we might have to learn to “get each other’s backs” and come together as one.
When we bought the old farmhouse, we decided to coat the roof because it was the original tin roof, and it was not leaking or damaged underneath, but needed protection since it was 100 years old at that time, and by now, 112 years old. Tin was the metal used back then, sturdy and durable, less pliable as well. Modern metal roofs are easier to bend and work with, and they come in a variety of styles, colors, and grades. They are more expensive than regular asphalt shingles, and they last a bit longer. We decided that when it was time to replace the roof, we would select a metal roof because the house was originally built for a metal roof. Shingles weigh about four times more, and being that the house is 112 years old, it makes sense not to add more weight to the top. However, that would mean for us to save the money for a new roof because it is a cash project, as it has been the rest of the house renovation, hence why it has taken longer to do. In the meantime, we decided to paint the porch roof because it was showing signs of deterioration and rust. It has been 6 years since the coating.
This project presented an opportunity to play with a favorite color and see if that color would work when it is time to purchase a new roof. I discarded the color black although it is the one that will make more sense if we decide to change the siding color in the future. Black looks more traditional, elegant, and put together, but it also attracts a lot of heat, and the upstairs ceilings are very low, so that would make the upstairs unbearably hot in the summer and not energy efficient. I also like copper or light brown, much lighter than black, and also neutrals, which would go very well with my favorite blue accents and the white siding. In the end, we decided to paint the porch roof the color that we liked more but were not sure how it would look in the long run or if we would become tired of looking at it. It is a test. After all, you cannot change a pricey roof once it is installed. We chose Glidden Premium French Country Blue for exterior applications and metal. We are happy with the results, and the porch looks a lot cleaner now, until it is time for a new roof. We decided to paint the side entrance awning and the steps as well, for continuity and balance. Here are some pictures of the project.
We estimate the total cost of this project, including the entire roof of the house to be around $400.00. It presents a simple solution to protect the existing roof until it is replaced. After all, it is about simple living and simple solutions. It’s been a long way home.