I know that there are things on our To Do List that should have priority, but sometimes, we cannot help it and an idea just hits one of us and we both run with it. This little garden project was born in my head while sitting on the porch as my husband was talking about things he would like to do around the future rain garden. He liked the proposed change and we went with it. One of the front bushes was looking sad despite many attempts to make it become more full. It wasn’t working. It was one of the original bushes we uncovered and tried to make healthier. Here is a picture of it.
After trimming it very low to the ground to force it to fill up a bit, it did not do that, so we decided this year to remove it and move one of the stone benches on the porch to that area. Here is the result. We like it better that way. We thought it would be a difficult task to removed it, but to our surprise, it was very loose and came out easily. Maybe this was the reason for it to look a bit unhealthy.
Once you start you just keep moving, so my husband decided that he wanted to try something – moving the porch hanging solar light to one of the entrances that he is cleaning up to continue a few short trails. I had thought about moving the solar light somewhere else but was not sure where, so that worked out.
From there it was natural to move to something else, so I decided to make a little habitat for garden critters at the Faerie garden. I repurposed an old table stand and used it as a small trellis for an ivy, and under it I placed one of the chimney halves I had found before. As the ivy grows and becomes fuller it will turn into a cozy retreat for critters.
As the garden wakes up, we keep helping it look better every year. This section is looking better after tending it with hope, working with the existing area, and adding a few things.
All seeds have been planted on the veggie garden area, and they are coming up. The seeds for the flower circle are planted as well, and hopefully, we will be able to clear an area in the back for planting cantaloupe, corn, and pumpkins, and sunflowers. That part requires a bit more work. As the garden grows and changes we also grow and change with it.
About ten years ago, my husband and I bought an abandoned old farmhouse that was dilapidated and almost buried under a morass of overgrown bushes, grass, and trees. It wasn’t until five years ago that we moved into it. It took some money, time, and a lot of work to make it livable, and there are many areas that still need to be addressed, mainly exterior work. It has been hard work, and I mean, real hard work. Because we did not count with a large budget, we had to do most of the work ourselves (about 95%), just the two of us. We continue to work together in some outdoor projects, slowly, as the budget allows.
Will we do it again? Although a simple question that requires a yes or no answer, I find myself unable to answer it in such way simply because it has been quite a journey. A journey full of bittersweet moments – great moments, exhausting moments, unnerving moments, proud moments, and moments of faith as well. We both have learned so much – about ourselves, about working together and our working styles, about new skills, about the house, about appreciation and gratefulness, about our limits and disposition, and much more; but mostly, about trusting the Lord in our everyday lives. This is why a simple yes or no answer does not suffice.
In the practical sense, a bigger budget would have made things easier and faster – hiring people, easier/better materials and tools, and overall contracting out the hard work areas, and only dealing with the fun tasks. Ideally. However, we would have not experienced and learned as much, grown with the project, and appreciate it as much. It was hard work, but also fun. We would have done some things in a different way, but other things in the same way we did. Overall, I think the experience built up character, but also faith. In that sense, it is a step up from where we started. The long and hard working hours improved our physical stamina but also our mind; the overall experience, our souls. We will continue to work together on this old farmhouse and will share some projects here.
So going back to the yes or no question – will we do it again? I will answer the question for myself, but I think my husband feels the same way about it. The hard work was physically taxing but the overall experience was worth it. If you would like to take a look at the progress so far, please check out the “Fixing an Old Farmhouse” series of posts on this blog.
My latest post was about The Christmas Tree Project which we did last Saturday. While we were waiting for the moment it lighted up we had many autumn chores to do, and it translated on time going so fast that we hardly noticed the long wait until sunset. Around here, autumn means tons of cleaning up before winter or the first snow, prepping certain areas, and getting ready for future chores during early spring, so I figured I would share some of those.
Cutting the grass and blowing out leaves usually takes my husband the whole day. Once he is done, he sees another thin layer of fresh leaves that has just fallen. It is the never ending autumn story, but they look gorgeous when the entire grass is covered and one sees the many colors of the leaves on the ground, like a multicolor carpet.
By the time we had our lunch break, and finally, we were both done with our chores, it had become dark and our reward was awaiting to be enjoyed.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 experience of fixing this old farmhouse has been everything we thought it would be and much more. We do not regret it. The last room to share on the “Fixing an Old Farmhouse” series of posts is the bedroom. Technically, this house was listed as a three-bedroom house, but currently, we use one of the bedrooms as the living room because we set up the living room as a dining room, and the other room is set as the office. You can view these rooms on my previous posts.
The bedroom was the first room we fixed. Like the rest of the house, it was in very bad shape and required work. The walls had significant damage as well as the ceiling. The floor had some minor issues but we decided to install laminate flooring due to the uneven space between boards, some discoloration, and other minor issues, something quite normal. The room is 15 x 15 feet and it has two floor to ceiling windows due to the low ceiling (seven feet or so). The house does not have any closets, except for the one in the living room, something common for this type of construction. The room had a makeshift shell of a closet that was falling to the side, kind of hanging there with no support. We thought about using vintage his and her armoires but settled on the idea of building a walk-in closet around the chimney space, which worked out great. The chimney was in rough shape and had to be covered anyway so the space was ideal for it. I thought that building the closet would rob the room of space but it worked out well; we don’t miss the space and it was a much needed use of it. Because this was the room at the far end, we knew that it would be the coldest room. The pellet stove does a great job at heating the house, however, we decided that adding an electric fireplace on a corner would be a good idea, just in case we needed extra heat on a cold winter. This arrangement has worked fine.
Here are a few pictures of the before, during, and after process.
This concludes the Fixing an Old Farmhouse series, for now. There is still some work that needs to be done, mostly the porch flooring (slate) and the future installation of a new roof (biggest ticket item). There are a few things to build outdoors, and a garden to develop slowly. I will share more on future posts as we complete each project. It has been a labor of love, exhausting at times but rewarding in many ways, fun too. I hope you have enjoyed the before and after of the process, and hope that in some way, these posts have been inspirational to someone.
The second floor of this 1910 farmhouse is typical of this type of construction. Immediately after going up the stairway, one lands on the first bedroom. There are no doors, neither a landing. There are two rooms and one connects to the other. The entire space upstairs measures 30×15 feet resulting in two 15×15 feet rooms. These are supposed to be bedrooms. They lack the privacy found in modern construction. We set up the first bedroom as an office. This was a necessary room. Before buying the house, I asked the realtor if there was internet available in the area, if not, that would be the deal breaker. Although broadband was not available, other types of connections were. This room was the second to be finished. The floor was in good condition, however, some boards were loose. The walls and ceilings were in bad shape – holes, dirty, mismatched materials … The chimney in the center of both rooms had to be covered, and some wood beams had to be reinforced. There were birds nests, wasps nests, garbage, debris, and even vines growing inside. As any other room in this old house, it required much work.
The ceiling in this room is lower than the ceiling downstairs, something that made installation a bit easier for us. I found this room challenging in the sense of the difficulty of bringing material upstairs. In fact, we had to make an opening through the kitchen wall to be able to bring panels, wood, flooring, and long pieces of wood because the stairway was difficult to navigate at its angle, and many things would not go through. The steep incline and the narrow steps presented a challenge as well. By making this opening in the kitchen we were able to go straight up. Later on, when we were done, we closed the wall opening. Another challenge with this room is that I don’t feel it quite ready/finished yet. I call it the messy room. It is were we work/study and it serves as an art/craft room as well. It is a room in progress as far as setting it up. It needs better storage. Due to the low ceilings, it is very hot during the summer. Autumn and Spring are the seasons when this room feels more comfortable as far as temperature.
Before starting work upstairs we had to clean and get rid of a few pieces of very dirty broken furniture that were left, and other scattered items, clothes, garbage and broken pieces … One feature in this room that I liked and we kept was the original banister/handrail that prevented someone to fall through the stairway opening. It was loose, so we reinforced it, replaced the base wood, and painted it. I also like the fact that the windows are floor to ceiling due to the low ceilings in both rooms. The cats love this feature too. They love to look outside, and they don’t have to climb on the window sill. Although the floors were in good shape (if sanded and polished), the openings between some of the wood boards were uneven or a bit wider than we wanted, so we installed new flooring, as we did on the first floor.
Here are a few pictures of the before, during, and after process. Please excuse the dust orbs on the camera lens due to flying dust.
Room as it is now.
Fixing this old farmhouse has not been easy. By sharing these posts, I don’t want to give the wrong impression that it was a breeze to do the work. It was not. My husband and I did all the work and it took a lot of effort, patience, dedication, stamina, hope, courage, and faith. We operated in a cash only small budget, hence why we did mostly everything ourselves, and hired the experts where it counted. There were days when we doubted, we were extremely tired physically, mentally, and spiritually. There were days when we were grouchy and days when we were very happy, days when we felt we could vaporize each other if we could, and days we enjoyed working together and had fun. We had good times, bad times, horrible times, and great times. It was not easy but it was worth it. If you ever decide to take on a similar task take all factors into consideration – finances, health (physical, mental, and spiritual), disposition, and what you can do and cannot do as far as skills. It is not a job for one person; it takes two at the minimum. It does require a lot of physical work, and you might have to forgo your fear or disgust of bugs (big and small), dirt, the gross and disgusting, and any other surprise that might show up. On the other hand, if you are up to it, it is very rewarding and it feels good once you are done. These posts are meant to inspire the reader, as well as give an idea of potential, and encourage you to see things from another perspective, one of hope, vision, and possibility. I hope you enjoy this post.
“By wisdom a house is built and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” Proverbs 24:3-4
I think that the stairway of this home deserves its own blog post in the Fixing an Old Farmhouse series. After all, it was my favorite feature inside the home. When we saw the interior of this old farmhouse for the first time, we did not think that we would be able to save the stairway. A few steps were broken, other steps were loose, however, the structure felt very solid. It felt stronger than the brand new stairway we had in our Jersey home. We knew that the steps could be fixed, and the wall it was attached to could remain as long as we patched it and painted it, so we decided to keep it, along with the unusual rounded post at its end.
I had selected a vintage green for the walls that I kept in storage for a little over a year. There must have been something wrong with the paint because when I opened the can it was as hard as a rock. I was disappointed. A little voice inside me whispered, “mix all those leftover paints.” Those were almost-empty cans of paint that we decided to keep from our former house. I opened them, and to my surprise, those were still looking good. The cans were over nine years old – sage green, blue, gray, and white. Because I had nothing to lose, I decided to try it, and I mixed the paints. Something magical happened. I was staring at the original color of the wall, the first layer of color that was ever applied. You can see it here.
I ended up painting the wall that color. There was enough paint left to do the closet in the living room. Sometimes, a house knows what it wants; listen to it. We replaced some steps, patched the wall a bit, and reinforced what needed to be. We painted the steps Leather Brown, and put moldings where there were none originally. If you look at the wood above the wall, you can see the way it was cut originally. It is a rough cut, as opposed to the factory cut and finish we see today. I love that character. The stairway is one of my favorite features of this house. The handrail is made from a tree that hurricane Sandy knocked over in the back of our home in Jersey. We sanded and glazed it. It serves a purpose and it is a memento as well. Here are some pictures of the process.
I hope you enjoyed this post about fixing these old steps. I am glad we worked with their character and did not take them down. It would have been a mistake.
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.
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.
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.
Technically, this 1910 farmhouse is a three-bedroom house with an eat-in kitchen and bonus room (cat room). We set up the rooms in the way we live. There are two bedrooms upstairs, and the third bedroom is what we set up as the living room, adjacent to the bathroom. The original living room is what we set up as the dining room. One of the upstairs bedrooms is being used as an office, and the other, as our bedroom. These rooms can easily be changed back to their original set up by just moving furniture around. The mudroom could have been used as a dining room, but our cats deserved their own space; we love them that much. The kitchen can easily be converted back into an eat-in kitchen in the event that we would need the living room as a bedroom again, and the living room would move to what is now the dining room. The office could be moved to the mudroom if needed, thus reversing to the original bedroom. This house is very flexible because most rooms are square and measure 15×15 feet, and with the exception of the kitchen, nothing has a permanent fixture that would impede the use of the rooms in a different way. The furniture is moveable and I would not mind disposing of a few pieces if necessary. All rooms mirror each other because of an existing center chimney downstairs and upstairs, not including the kitchen and cat room, that is. This post will be about the dining room, what should have been a living room.
This room was in better shape than the others, meaning there was no water damage and no damage to the wood. The only issues were the condition of the ceiling and walls, and the “never cleaned” chimney that almost started a fire on one of the interior wood beams. We found a bit of charred wood when we took down the walls. It is a miracle that the house had not burnt down. The entire chimney was full of ashes inside. We had to vacuum it up, and because the bricks required extensive work and repair, as well as the inside of it ($$$), we decided to clean what we could and closed it up. Our heating source is a pellet stove, and electric fireplaces that we use as supplemental heat if it gets too cold. In the event of a power outage, the pellet stove can be hooked up to a portable generator. In the future, we would love to install a Generac system and ductless heating/air. Ideally, all that to be powered by solar energy; however, we are not there yet, and things work fine the way they are now. On the low budget end, the smart thing to do would be to install a wood stove, because in a real emergency, there would be no electric service, no gasoline or gas service, and the delivery of things would be disrupted. The more I think of it the more I convince myself that going with a wood stove is the right choice. In the event of a simple power outage, I have candlesticks and candelabras in every room, and there is a candle chandelier in the dining room. In addition, battery-operated candles are an extra option.
As I mentioned before, our style is more reminiscent of an early American rustic farmhouse, and that follows through into the dining room. This room was the third room we fixed. Here are a few pictures of the before and after condition.
I hope you enjoyed this room’s before and after photos. Compared to the other three rooms I have shown, this one was less problematic. However, as you can see, it was a ton of work. I hope these series of posts will inspire you to remodel a room in your home, take on a DIY project, or find that dream property that might not be so dreamy at first glance, and give it a little bit of life.