Love and light.
Everybody needs … places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and cheer and give strength …John Muir
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.
Love and light.
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.
Love and light.
The simple and pure beauty of flowers. A few pictures of what’s in bloom right now.
Love and Light.
The work continues in trying to bring back the garden. When we bought the old farmhouse, it was covered in weeds, grass, and a morass of trees growing intertwined altogether. The driveway was covered in tall grass up to our knees and bushes. The house had been abandoned for many years and in disrepair, hidden by the same overgrown trees and bushes. We knew it would be a ton of work, but we were up for it. One by one, we started to remove bushes, weeds, grass, garbage … and we cleaned up the garden. Next, we tried to save any plant we could and revive others. The next step was to create new garden areas. This is a process that will take longer, and some simple planning. We try to add a new area every year. Adding areas one at a time seems a bit more manageable for us. This year, we added two areas. One was created using recycled plants and materials. It is located at the front entrance to the property, close to the year-round lighted pine tree which we have ended up calling The Hope Tree.
The next area was my husband’s pet project. It is next to the small patio area and the faerie garden. This area has been covered by overgrown mixed bushes and tons of weeds. Last December, he took them all out and decided to do a small garden. Most of the area is in the shade with only a few hours of sun, so we had to select plants that required minimal sun exposure. He made the borders out of recycled pallets, and we still have to find and dig a few stones around the property to place them. This area needed a ground cover, after we took out all the weeds. These plants will grow and expand, so we had to leave enough space in between them. We planted bulbs inside the stone circle. Two garden sculptures and a potted plant were recycled from the garden and won’t be missed in the previous area. We added two new solar lights and red mulch. The small cedar tree in the back was already there and will be trimmed so it does not fully grow. This area resulted in a mix of new and recycled materials. It is a very low-cost improvement to this area.
The veggie garden was spruced up a bit, and we decided to use two recycled large containers cut in half for the new plantings instead of building a new box. Eventually, we will change these to a more permanent material like cinderblocks or metal boxes. We started the veggie garden a couple of years after we fixed the interior of the farmhouse. All the materials used on building and setting up the veggie garden are recycled, except for mulch, but sometimes, we use red pine needles from the property when these are available.
If you would like to read more on the process of fixing this old place, please visit a series of posts under Restoring an Old Farmhouse or Restoring an Old Garden. I hope you enjoyed this post.
Love and light.
I love this time of the year. The beginning of Spring, when bugs are still half asleep, and the garden is awakening. The temperatures are a bit cool enough to enjoy preparing the garden for the rest of the year. That is what we have been working on, setting up the garden. Cleaning up winter’s memories and hoping for a good gardening year. Last year we had a drought, and everything looked sad and dry. I am hoping for plenty of rain.
We cleaned up the veggie garden. Had to discard one of the large boxes; it broke on the sides. A layer of fresh mulch was applied, and containers were moved around to make room for new planting boxes. My husband made veggie markers, and I am hoping to plant much more. Despite the ice and crazy weather, lettuce came back from last year. Two full containers, so I will not have to plant lettuce this year. It survived the frost.
I started two new areas in the garden this year. These are a work in progress right now. One is at the very front of the property, and the other area is next to the faerie garden. This area is covered by lush green moss in the spring, which I love, and the only thing I have been able to plant here are hostas; it is a shady area. We try to add to the garden something new every year. Little by little this garden has been transformed from the original mess of weeds and overgrown bushes to something more delightful. You can see the progress on the Restoring a Farmhouse series of posts.
I am very happy because a small garden center opened in our area, and now we will not have to drive that far to purchase plants or gardening material. After all that hard work, our reward was my delicious version of Fiesta Rice.
I hope you enjoy this post. Love and light.
The past couple of posts under The Simple Life series have been about my experience in learning to live a much simpler life. Today, I want to write about learning and discovery. These posts are not in any particular order; it just relates to what I have experienced and the many changes I have made in my lifestyle, along with my husband.
Moving from the Jersey shore area to live in the country in Southern Virginia certainly feels very different. It is a different lifestyle but also a different culture and ways to approach and do things. People interact different with each other. There are degrees/rules of politeness in comparison to the open and fast friendly approach of the Jersey shore. Things around here move much relaxed, and also formal in certain circumstances. Overall, people are friendly, welcoming, and very polite. It is not uncommon for people to show up at your home to introduce themselves and know who you are, followed by friendly conversation. Learning to read people and customs has become part of our simple living.
In our effort to fix up the old farmhouse, we’ve had to learn many skills, although my husband has always been very handy with tools and fixing things. I have become his sidekick thus having to learn in order to assist. We fixed up 95% of the place ourselves. If you are interested in reading about it, those posts are under Restoring an Old Farmhouse. We have learned about gardening here, and plants respond very different to the weather and soil here than the sandy soil and cooler temperatures of the Jersey Shore. I had a lovely garden which did not require much upkeep, and I think that gardening is a bit more challenging in this area. There are quick temperature changes as well as weather changes. Spring is bouts of hot and cold with gusts of wind. In general, I have to be more weather alert here. Summer is very humid and hot or humid and wet, and it takes a toll on the garden. Frequent watering becomes a chore sometimes. Surprisingly, I find winters here wet and cold.
Learning about some of the wildlife was a necessity that I honestly did not think about until we had move here. Poisonous spiders, snakes, critters … all of that and more. Right now, I am having to deal with a moth caterpillar invasion; they are just everywhere as if they would fall from the sky, and although I found them cute, I don’t do well with cuteness in numbers. This week I learned that the hair in these caterpillars contain histamine which might give people a rash when in contact with the skin. The falling from the sky part is that they actually fall from trees and the wind carries them via their silk thread. Who knew? Down the shore I only had to worry about the occasional wasps and tons of mosquitoes. We had a mosquito man who drove a truck fumigating the area every year.
The first two years felt like I was in learning mode 24/7 – people, customs, places, wildlife, housework … a bit overwhelming at times but exciting too. The most important point about all this is disposition, our attitude for learning and working together at a different pace and environment. There is much to learn and discover yet but knowing where we stand and having survived the first year of change, gives way to balance, and that is always good.
Simple living is about balance but also, the openness and readiness to welcome life’s lessons, and discover simple, good, and lovely things.
Love and light.
When we moved, we took a leap of faith. We knew that we would have tons of work ahead of us, limited resources, and no permanent income, as we had left our jobs behind. Looking back, it was a stressful period; however, there was a degree of excitement, unpredictability and change, but mostly, we operated on faith. I think that part was the one that counted and kept us going until we finished the job. I will not pretend it was easy, totally the opposite, but our faith in the Lord Jesus kept us going day by day, from sun up till’ sun down, and the job was done. We would wake up before sunrise and head back at sundown, every single day. We had to make a dilapidated house a home in a short time with a very tiny budget (You can see our progress in Restoring an Old Farmhouse series of posts).
It is easy to forget challenging times when things flow to our contentment and life seems balanced. Living a simple life draws a great deal from living by faith. Learning to trust that all things work for the best to those who trust in the Lord is part of it.
Romans 8:28 – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Knowing that when the future seems far away, and things are not as perfect as one would want, faith bridges the gap and brings what is needed to accomplish the task at hand, whether one has energy or not, resources or not. Somehow, it all falls in divine order, one step at a time, one miracle at a time. The simple life is full of small miracles day in and day out. Joyful faith keeps all the essential pieces of the puzzle together until one is able to see the whole picture. Living in joy and by faith, even when things are in disarray for a season and not as perfect as we wish, is done by keeping our eyes on a higher power and not solely on the circumstances that surround us.
In my journey, I had to learn many new things, leave many behind, and have the disposition to embrace new ones. When days seemed too long, energy and resources at their end, I took my eyes off these things and learned to trust that it would all work out for the best. It is not easy, but faith and prayer fill in the gap in those moments. Simple days are shaped by faith. As someone whose faith rests in Jesus Christ, I can tell you that I have seen the hand of God working alongside me, even when I thought I was holding on to the last string. Whatever was needed at the time materialized in a perfectly timed and orderly fashion. Today, I view faith as an intricate main part of my simple life. When in doubt, I remember, I pray, and I give thanks. Joyful Faith is another important part in living a simple life. Hope you enjoy this post.
In a previous post – Twelve Future Farmhouse Projects – I mentioned the need to tackle the very old and large tree that is dangerously close to the side entrance of the house. I loved this tree, but it was not looking good (sick), and with the strong winds and storms that sometimes make their way around here, it posed a risk, so we decided to eliminate the danger. I was sad to see most of it gone, and truly felt sorry for it; I guess I had developed an attachment to the tree, “feelings” for it. Due to the cost of cutting down a very large tree, we decided to go for a complete trim of the branches. It looks like at one-point, previous owners might have done the same. The company we hired (Southside Stump Grinding, with the crew of Cut It Rite), did a great job and left everything clean. We will be calling them back for the next tree project. It was nice to experience again good old customer service. They were punctual, fair in pricing, neat, careful, friendly, respectful of property, did what they promised, and had excellent communication throughout the process. Caleb Milam, owner, was on top of everything from the beginning. But going back to the old tree, I have to say that I miss it. One of the crew members said that it was a very old tree. The trunk is very thick, maybe like two and a half of me, and it remains, along with very thick branches, that eventually, we will cut down. For now, we have peace of mind, and that was the goal. I will enjoy what is left of this old giant, and who knows, maybe will cover it in pretty solar lights. It looks like a giant hand coming out of the ground.
Another project crossed off the list. I hope you enjoyed this post.