Category Archives: Garden

Gardens and Goats

Almost a month since my last post…I’m sensing a theme of reluctance to finish up some of our spring projects. That, or we’ve just been too busy lately. We had a wedding to go to up in PA a few weekends ago, then a camping adventure at Falls Lake, NC last weekend. But this weekend? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING PLANNED. I’m telling the rest of the world, so we can be held accountable for actually getting some things done at the house!

In the last 3 weeks, we haven’t been 100% unproductive…we did finally finish up our little guest bedroom side tables, which are now happily sitting beside the guest bed that I totally forgot to take pictures of this morning.

Our veggie and flower gardens are all planted (including some new perennial flowers stolen from various family members of Nik’s while we were up in PA). Things are growing like crazy thanks to the intense rains we’ve been getting – and we even have some baby cucumbers and striped zucchini squash growing already!

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For the next month, we have assorted lists of little things to finish up and bathroom finishes to pick out before our bathroom demo. We’ll have Nik’s parents in town the last 2 weekends in May, so we want to wait until they’re gone to begin demo, since 4 adults sharing one tiny guest bathroom will surely make our time together less pleasant!

Hopefully I’ll have some updated photos to show next week – we have at least a few furniture pieces we’ll be finishing up this weekend. It’s nice to do a few furniture projects from time to time, like the good old days before we had tons of house projects to tackle!

After camping last weekend we visited a goat farm in Bahama, NC for their baby goat festival, so I’ll leave you with some cute goat pics for the weekend (I think you can click to get bigger pics).

Spring Update

It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve given an update, and we’ve made lots of progress on a few different projects.

Our garden is planted, for the most part, and includes snow peas, a couple jalapeno peppers, eggplants, 2 roma-variety tomatoes and 1 grape tomato, bush zucchini, spaghetti squash, large sized and  pickling sized cucumbers, various herbs, and leeks. We started everything from seed inside about a month ago (except the snow peas, which were planted outside and are now a perfect row of happy little pea plants), so we’ll see how this goes. Doesn’t look like much now!

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We’ve also gotten a number of perennial flowers happily planted in our new flower bed, and everything is really starting to grow with the recent warmer weather.

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We made some mild progress on our balusters, and got them all primed with the paint sprayer a few weeks ago:

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But then the pollen hit and we decided to hold off on doing the final paint coat. No one wants yellow paint on their stairs! So these are still piled in our living room awaiting that fate.

We are almost done with our little side tables for our guest bedroom – they got stained on top, and got a coat of light gray paint (a runner-up color for our kitchen cabinets, when we were still considering painting them gray, so we already had that paint). Another coat of paint and some sealer and they’ll be all done. Here are some photos of this project from the beginning. They are kinda-matching, kinda-not:

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The paint stripper took of multiple layers of gummy, old paint.

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Tops all sanded

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Getting some stain

We’ve also made some progress with the buffet piece we’re refurbishing for our friends…the wooden surfaces we salvaged are all stained now, and the body is waiting for primer and paint. Nik busted out the router this weekend to practice with, since we’ll be attempting to cut out the middle of the solid doors in the front of the piece to put in some radiator grate or glass so they can put their cable box in there and still get a signal through to their remote. I’ll save pictures of this till the end…so it can be a surprise!

The weather was beautiful yesterday, so I dragged all the cut pieces of crown molding out of the garage, gave them a quick sanding and dust-off, and got the paint sprayer out. I’ve never put semi-gloss paint in the sprayer (which is what we use for our trim paint) so I was a little worried about how tacky it might feel – but it worked like a charm! The finish was really nice, and a bit glossy (not as glossy as when painted on with a brush). We had one minor clog in the gun, but running some water through it seemed to fix the issue.

So that took all of 15 minutes to do, once everything was set up. After about an hour of dry time, we decided to just go ahead and mount the pieces since we already had pressure in the air compressor. We started in the dining room and made it most of the way around the living room. There’s a few pieces left to hang but we finally called it quits at dinnertime.

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Everyone knows crown molding is challenging – and we definitely have some wonky corners/edges. I think the challenge is not finding the right angle, but getting the piece perfectly level and lined up in the saw – especially if its a 12′ wobbly piece hanging out the other side of the saw. If it’s not perfectly level, your angle can be a few degrees off. That combined with our walls/ceilings which aren’t remotely straight has left us with some intimidating gaps. We’re just going to have to make really good friends with the caulk gun for this project!

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Before

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After!

Despite my attempt to make organized lists of things to accomplish for the weekend, Nik always manages to go off and start a completely new project – like ripping apart most of our side deck off the garage, and replacing the floor, stair treads, and railing. Granted, this did have to happen at some point since the boards were completely splintering. He used left over wood pieces from the jungle gym – but we need to get a few more boards to finish the stair treads and railing. Before:

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During and after:

Progress-wise, our goal this month is to get the crown molding finished and patched, get somewhere with the stair railings/balusters, get our friends’ buffet piece and our guest bedroom tables finished up, and wrap up refinishing a dining table in the garage that we’ve had for a while that Nik recently unearthed and started working on. And THEN we can start on our bathroom!

 

Finding Inspiration

The last few weeks have been pretty stagnant at our household. We’ve made some progress cutting crown molding for the entire dining room and about half of the living room, but it hasn’t been nearly warm enough outside to paint with our sprayer and I’m not up to the challenge of painting all that trim by hand. So that project is on hold for a bit.

I did get around to spreading out new garden soil in our flower garden, and added some accent pieces, including a corner ceramic pot, and a garden gnome. My family had a garden gnome growing up and Nik seemed to like the idea of one. We just hadn’t found the perfect one yet. Then I came across this little guy – and he felt like the perfect addition.

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He has been named Sinclair, and in the several days he’s resided in our garden, he’s experienced a variety of weather conditions – including the dusting of snow we got on Sunday morning!

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So back to renovations…this spring has been slow going. Before starting on the master bathroom, plans this spring were to get the crown molding installed downstairs (on hold for warmer weather), build a kitchen island, and finish the stupid stair banister. That last one has been nagging us for months now, and we keep discussing it, running into problems, deciding we don’t know what to do, and then putting it off.

This is the area that we now need to install a railing/balusters, since we opened up this wall:

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Previously, that was a solid wall, and there was a simple railing running down that side of the stairs screwed into the wall.

So what are the problems? I think the biggest is we have railing upstairs on the landing with a light poplar railing and white wooden balusters, and you can see it from downstairs:

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Not my favorite railing/baluster combo, but I think we came to the conclusion we should attempt to match the new railing/balusters to what is upstairs. I like metal balusters, but they’re pricey (as I remember, about $8-10/piece) and then we’d need a lot of them to do the new opening downstairs and replace all the ones upstairs (~26-28 of them).

We then thought the balusters weren’t too atrocious, and I could purchase ones that are a pretty close match for the new opening, but the light wood railing is awful. So I wondered if it could be stained dark to match the floors. We have the railing still sitting in our office that was removed from the other wall, so I got to work sanding a portion to see if we could get a nice dark color:

The general answer was no. Sanding was difficult (curved edges) and the wood was very smooth and dense so it definitely didn’t take up stain well. It would be hard to ever get it to the darkness I like, and it would never have the rich grain/texture of a red oak railing.

So then we thought, can’t we save the balusters upstairs, and just replace the two railings? It’s possible…but we can’t really figure out how the upstairs balusters are attached to the railing and I’m pretty sure we’d ding them up trying to remove the old railing. And then I remembered I don’t really even like the shape of those balusters, but its costly to buy new balusters…you see how these problems escalate? At this rate, there will never be a railing.

But then we were watching Fixer Upper last night, and there was a staircase they did that caught my attention because of how beautiful and simple it was:

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I love the dark oak railing and those balusters – just straight cut pieces of wood! I love the simplicity. No shapes, fancy carving, and most importantly – inexpensive! So now I’m inspired again to see if we can make this happen.

To change the railing, we will have to buy new oak railings and get them home safely. A 12′ plowed railing is about $70, and we’d need probably 2-3 of these. I don’t exactly understand the difference between plowed and un-plowed railing and why the plowing is needed for some balusters, so we still need to go to the store to figure that out. The unplowed ones are cheaper, and there are also 8′ lengths available that would lower the cost if we don’t need a full 12′. We will reuse the newel post that is there, but paint it white. Then we can either buy pieces of wood to cut to a 1.25″ square baluster, or they sell pre-cut plain square balusters for about $5 a pop. I’m not sure what’s special about the premade balusters – some of the descriptions say they have some sort of removable pin, so we also need to figure this out at the store. Even if we buy these, plus the railings, the total price is reasonable, at a little over $300. If we can make our own balusters, I think that price will be a lot lower.

At any rate, I’m feeling newly inspired about this. It won’t be an easy or fast project, but I think we’ll end up with a stairway we really like, vs just trying to make the style that was previously there work with our new floors. I think we need to start by acquiring and cutting the required pieces, and perhaps when I spray paint our crown molding (if spring decides to ever come back), I can spray the balusters too and really get this project going. I didn’t see myself ever being this excited about my stairs!

A New Garden and Molding

We got a bunch done this weekend, including finishing our flower garden edge, buying some crown molding, and even getting it up in the powder room as I had hoped! I’ll show some pictures for a quick update:

For those who don’t remember, our backyard started like this, with an unsightly jungle gym:

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My dad and Nik ripped that down in a single afternoon (although somehow my mom ended up in the rewarding “after” shot…probably because she was helping clear a lot of brush from the yard when this was taken):IMG_2159

Last spring we built a small raised bed garden:

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And now we’ve extended that garden around the deck to create a bordered flower garden:

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This garden greatly diminished the old pile of jungle gym lumber under the deck, but you can see we still have some more to get rid of. Baby steps…

We bought a few bags of dirt to get this area started, but I’m not spending a ton more on new dirt. We’ll probably just put a light topping to make it look nicer, add some mulch, and any flowers we plant we’ll dig out a hole and add better dirt just around the plant.

Now on to crown molding: we bought a contractor’s pack of molding (8 pack of 12′ pieces!), which caused some drama since it had to stick out of Nik’s trunk on the car ride home. We were ill-prepared for this, and I had forgotten bungee cords, so we tied the trunk down with rope, went very slowly, and tried not to annoy too many other drivers on the 2 mile drive home from Lowe’s. It was a success, overall.

To do the bathroom, we needed 2 32″ pieces, and 2 71″ pieces, all cut with inside corners. This is evidently the only “before” shot I took of the bathroom ceiling:

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We messed with the miter saw a bit, and figured out there are two ways to cut the angle properly: one that makes the angle easier to figure out, but is harder to hold the trim, and one that takes some time to think about the angle, but handling the trim during the cut is way easier. But inside angles are figured out, nonetheless. When we were sure the pieces fit decently, I gave them a quick coat of our semi-gloss white trim paint. Then it was time for nailing.

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Getting the pieces in place was trickier than it looked – I forget nothing is perfectly straight/plumb in our lovely house, including the ceiling, which apparently is curved in the bathroom. We had to settle on an arrangement that left some gaps, knowing that caulking and filling would hopefully cover things up. So here’s the semi-finished room:

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Looks nice from afar, but up close here are some of the gap issues I’m referring to that will have to be dealt with:

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Also, the gleaming white trim made it glaringly obvious that we forgot to paint the ceiling in this particular room. It looks downright dirty compared to the new trim (most obvious 2 pictures up)…so we’ll have to buy a small can of ceiling paint and get to that asap.

This week there’s not too much on the to-do list. Friday night is the 6 year anniversary of when I finally agreed to be in a relationship with Nik (this was a lengthy decision for me, starting with Nik asking me out on a date on Valentine’s Day…little did Nik know that this was just the start of all the indecisiveness he’d have to deal with in a future involving me!). So we’re going out to celebrate Friday. Then my parents might come up to visit Saturday and Sunday since October was their last visit. We are hoping to install a front storm door, and maybe get some more crown molding done, but there’s not many other pressing chores so it should be a nice weekend.

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Not too much house work has gone on in the last week, but we have some plans for this weekend. Hopefully the weather stays warm, since we heavily thatched our yard last week, then fertilized and seeded the lawn (right before a nice rainy day!). So much thatch came up out of the yard – you can see unthatched on the left, and thatched on the right:

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We found some interesting creatures this week as well – one was a really large jumping spider who hopped right through our back door and was walking around the kitchen. Nik got him in a cup to relocate outside, and he was watching us quite intently during this process:

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I also worked from home yesterday, and noticed this little creature running along our neighbor’s house when I glanced out the window. I watched him for a bit, then went outside to see if I could catch him since he definitely looked like an escaped pet and not a natural outdoor mouse. The catching was unsuccessful although I was able to get within a couple feet of him before he scurried further, but I left him some triscuits and bedding material to keep him warm – and some of the triscuits definitely got munched. I wonder if we’ll see him around again.

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Last weekend we also planted a lot of our vegetable garden seeds (tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers) and some flowers (zinnias, canterbury bells, vincas, and marigolds). They’re incubating in our sunny guest room window at the moment, but maybe we can move them outside for a few hours over the weekend to get some natural sun.

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We also finally harvested our beet crop, to start getting the garden ready for new plants, and they were disappointing to say the least…although we didn’t pay them much attention since planting seeds; I’m not sure we really ever watered them once during the fall/winter. Maybe next year will be better…but we still sauteed up the little nubs and ate them!

For other yard news, I mentioned we’re working on building a flower bed in our backyard using the left over jungle gym wood. We have the plans laid out, and last weekend we bought all the metal linkers and deck screws that we’ll use to give the wood edges some support. So I’d like to get this all situated this weekend so we can add some dirt and eventually get some flowers relocated to this bed. Here’s some pictures of the progress, and the plans:img_3274

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Next on the list is we obtained some side tables for our guest bedroom that are perfect for the space – and the pair was $30 on craigslist! But they have numerous coats of thick paint on them, so I’m curious to see what wood we’ll find when we strip it off. We’ll probably repaint the body of the side tables, and depending on how the tops look, either paint or stain those. I forgot to snap a picture of them…but once we start working on them, I’ll show some. We also have a large console-type piece of furniture that we are redoing for a friend, so perhaps some stripping of that piece will happen this weekend as well.

I also want to start thinking about the crown molding on our downstairs ceilings – I added up dimensions this week, and figured we need about 130 feet of molding to do the living room, foyer/stair column, dining room, and powder room. A contractor’s pack of molding is $78/96′, so this project will be much less expensive than I had thought…for some reason I had priced this DIY project at $1800 when we first bought the home, and I have no idea where that number came from…even if we eventually do the rooms upstairs, it won’t be nearly that much. Crown molding isn’t easy though (painting, cutting properly, installing up over your head with the nail gun, filling holes, caulking, and touch up paint), so it will feel like $1800 of labor! Maybe we’ll start small with the powder room this weekend, to see what we’re getting ourselves into.

It’s so much fun writing about all the things we’re surely going to accomplish in one weekend – we’ll see by Monday how much we really get done!

Guest Bedroom Makeover

I finally got around to taking some pictures of the guest bedroom we’ve been working on. We love the way it turned out – it looks so bright and inviting now and I think our guests will appreciate it. We just need to recruit some visitors to stay with us!

For the past year this room has been a storage area for extra flooring scraps and random boxes, and in anticipation of painting, the electrical plates were all removed and there were some smears of potential paint colors up on one wall. There was also an old dingy comforter and some mismatched blankets, which looked even more dingy in the awful CFL light from the old ceiling fan.

I never took a great before picture, but here’s a super-before picture, from our first night in the house:

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And here’s the old ceiling fan – which we managed to sell for $20 to a weirdly-eager buyer on craigslist:

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So for this makeover, we painted the walls a light blue-purple color (Cool Mist by Valspar – leftover paint from our office room), gave the floor and door trim and window sill a fresh coat of white, got a new bed spread and pillows, and updated the ceiling fan. I don’t consider clearing out clutter to really be part of a ‘makeover’, but we did that as well and after all our hard work this was probably what made the biggest difference in this room. We also moved a desk in here for sitting at or putting a suitcase on. Here’s the finished room:

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And a closeup of the new fan ($69 at Home Depot). This fan was a smaller width than the old fan (42″ vs 52″) and it fits this tiny room much better:

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We’re still waiting to get our final shipment of blinds to update the window blind, and I’ve been stalking craigslist for a pair of little side tables that need redoing for either side of the bed.

This past weekend we installed 5 other blinds that the store had sizes for in stock and laid out a design for our backyard flower garden and started trenching the ground to put a wood border in. We also put new toilet seats on our upstairs toilets (I don’t ever want to see/smell 18 years of crusted pee from removing an old toilet seat again!). You know what happened the last time we replaced a toilet seat for the downstairs bathroom – the entire room was demo-ed down to the subfloor that very afternoon. We restrained ourselves this time, but I’m itching to start our master bathroom renovation this summer!

2016 Year In Review

2016 has come to a close, so I wanted to look back at the progress we made. This was a busy year, with both of us still adjusting to our new careers and planning our October wedding. But I think we made enormous progress on the house, and reflecting on all that we accomplished will hopefully be motivation to keep up the hard work this year.

In early 2016, we finally wrapped up the trim and painting on the stair column – at this point, we still need to add some base and top trim, but we’re planning to install the crown molding downstairs sometime this spring, so that will be the final step of this job. Apparently I haven’t taken a picture of the column after it was painted, so this is the best one I’ve got:

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The next big project of 2016 was our downstairs powder room. What began with a new toilet seat resulted in a gutted room and complete renovation. We painted, tiled and grouted the floor and backsplash, installed a new vanity with a new faucet, new mirror, new towel/toilet paper holder fixtures, and a new threshold.

We installed all the chair molding trim in the dining room, completed refinishing the china cabinet, and got our dining room furniture all set up to finish this room.

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We built 2 raised bed gardens which did pretty well last year. I just bought seeds for 2017, which I’ll start inside next month. I’ll be planting cucumbers (pickling size and regular), bush string beans, snow peas, eggplant, jalapeno pepper, bush zucchini, roma and grape-sized tomatoes, spaghetti squash, mescalin, leeks, garlic, and various herbs. If anyone wants extra seedlings, let me know!

Our furniture work this year was pretty pitiful, and I hope we have more time to do furniture projects in 2017. The two big pieces we did this year were building a front porch bench, and redoing  a small set of shelves for our master bathroom:

Our biggest renovation of the year was the kitchen. In this room we replaced the flooring with our engineered hardwood, sanded, primed, and painted all of our cabinets and installed one more new cabinet on the far wall, added new cabinet hardware, got granite countertops and a new sink and faucet installed, tiled/grouted/applied sealant to the backsplash, got all new appliances and mounted the microwave over the stove, created open shelving on 2 walls, and painted the walls.

In this room the final projects for this spring are installing cabinet crown molding at the tops of the cabinets, finding and installing new light fixtures, and building our island, which will have matching granite.

We also bought a new HVAC system (gas package with AC and furnace) and just updated our laundry room with a new washer and dryer last month, but these don’t make for fun pictures, just not-so-fun expenses. But they are upgrades nonetheless.

So what’s on the list for 2017? First we want to finish up the final tasks downstairs: cabinet crown molding in the kitchen, ceiling crown molding in the entryway, living room, dining room, and possibly powder room, building a functional kitchen island, getting a stupid banister installed on our stairs (still hasn’t been done!), and adding new light fixtures for the kitchen and dining room. I also want to get my gardens going in March, and finish creating a bordered backyard flower garden out of the extra jungle gym wood. We also are ordering new blinds for almost all the windows on the house that will be the thicker wood-look blinds, so we’ll have to install those when they come in. We also need to have the house washed and gutters cleaned (which we’ll hire out for lack of good ladders) as well as have the lawn aerated before we seed it.

The big project of 2017 will take place in the summer months when Nik doesn’t have a 2 hour commute twice a week for his teaching responsibility at UNC Pembroke: our master bath renovation. For this, we’re planning to tile the floor, refinish and raise up our vanity and add undermount sinks with a nicer (possibly granite) countertop, paint the walls, rip out the old shower, replace the shower pan and tile the walls, add a new glass shower door, and add new faucet hardware for the sinks, shower, and tub. After vaguely tallying up what we’ve spent on this house so far, we’re around the $15K mark, so we’re going to attempt to keep the budget pretty tight for the bathroom – ideally in the $2000 range. Cheers to 2017!