Tag Archives: Garden

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!

 

TGIF

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!

Hallway Painting & More Garden News

This past weekend Nik was away looking dapper at the Kentucky Derby at a bachelor party…

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so I was left on my own at home with a long list of things to do. We just bought a couple gallons of paint (light gray-beige) for the hallway when Ace was having a buy one get one free sale on paint. This is a challenging project we’ve been avoiding because our stairwell has a 2-story tall wall on one side and we weren’t quite sure how to reach all the way up there or cut in right next to the ceiling. I got started on Saturday by cutting in around the doorways upstairs (apparently there are SIX doors which took forever!), and then decided that was enough paint for one day.

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I moved outside to tackle the next job of the weekend, which was finishing lining the wood on our garden with the garden liner fabric, further churning the clay and leveling it out, and adding the soil and composted manure we bought. This seemed to be going well, and I was walking all over the garden, in and out, and I got all the liner stapled in…and then the productivity gods decided I was making too much progress and sent THIS to make an appearance:

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So that was the end of me working on the garden for the weekend. That thing was at least a good 2″. Ugh. I slowed him down with some spray and then he got the shovel which was gory and gross, and my neighbor may have seen me dancing around the yard afterwards trying to get the heebie jeebies out of me.

So on Sunday, I stayed safely inside for the morning and early afternoon and did another coat with the paint brush to cut in all those doorways and then I got a coat of paint rolled on all the walls. I was able to use the extender pole to reach over the second floor banister to get to the 2 story wall, and I then taped a paint brush to the pole and painstakingly cut in where that wall met the ceiling. It took forever…but I think it came out pretty well. Once Nik came home, we were noticing the big wall looks a little patchy, and we have about 3/4 gallon left so we might roll on another coat, which shouldn’t take too long. The old walls were that plain, boring, contractor’s paint, and as I was painting I noticed how dirty they were – scuffs and marks everywhere. It looks so much nicer with a crisp coat of fresh paint.

Once Nik returned, we had some free time Tuesday evening so I encouraged him to go work on the spider infested garden. He was able to finish churning the clay and mixed in the garden soil.IMG_2617

After he had stomped around the garden a sufficient amount and I was convinced there were no lurking monsters, I cautiously approached and helped him mount the deer netting. We used the staple gun to attach it to the base boards and each of the poles.

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I think we’ll buy some long strips of velcro to put on the two front panels at the bottom and going up that middle pole (they’re just tied with twine now), and that way we can access the full length of the garden while hopefully keeping out critters on the bottom. I also picked up a couple more bags of dirt to add since it’s a little low, but it’s almost time to plant!

Within minutes of pretty much completing this backyard garden, I went inside and checked my email. And guess what?? The garden we have wanted to put in our side yard for months since the sun there is much better FINALLY got approved by the HOA. We put this application in way back in February, and it’s gotten denied over and over again and we finally built this backyard garden assuming they’d never agree to let us do the side yard garden, and literally as we were putting the final touches on it, the side garden was approved. The irony kills me…but we’re still very happy because we know all our plants won’t fit in this first garden anyway. But building this second garden will now take up at least another weekend, pushing our kitchen reno back which we still haven’t started…it really never ends!

Laying Tile

I’m happy to report that our floor tile was laid this weekend without any major issues! We got our tile saw ($80 on Amazon) on Thursday and Nik went to work assembling it. It has a little water trough under one side that you fill with water and as the blade turns it dips into that and throws water up on the top, to keep your tile wet and reduce friction.

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We grabbed a small test tile to see how it cuts, and it gave us great results:

So now on to figuring out our layout. We laid out tiles in a straight set and offset pattern, and agreed we liked the offset better for such a small space. We thought it would be easiest to start in the corner, with a half tile, then go from there. It seemed that this would make the cuts around the toilet the easiest.

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But then we started thinking that if we did it this way, there would be a seam in front of the toilet that would not be centered on the toilet. Would this look weird? I have no idea, but we changed our thinking and instead decided to center the tile on the toilet, so the seams on either side of the toilet would be symmetrical. This also meant we’d get 3 different width rows of tile going the long way…but we decided this was acceptable.

So since we started with the toilet, we had to cut our circular areas first. We did this by making parallel cuts into the circular area creating a row of cuts that looked like teeth. Then we just knocked out the teeth and cleaned up that edge with tile nippers. The circle came out perfectly!

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Next, we worked our way from there, around the toilet then the whole back wall, then the middle row, and finally the row along the door. We were just cutting and laying tile, with the 1/8″ spacers we bought, not actually adhering it to the floor.

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We had EXACTLY enough tiles…we should’ve had 1 extra, but I made a mistake cutting one and made it an inch shorter than it was supposed to be. We do have a lot of scrap tile left over, so maybe we’ll use it for a fun project in the future.

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So that was our progress on Saturday. On Sunday, it was time to actually lay the tile with mortar. Again, we used our 1/4″ mortar comb spreader tool, spread the area we were working on, back buttered the tile (meaning a thin layer of mortar spread onto the tile as well, like gritty butter on toast) then basically plopped the tile onto the floor, gave it a light smush, then moved on. After each adjoining tile, we’d add in the spacer, and check for levelness – more so levelness of one tile to the next rather than the actual floor being level, to prevent cracking. There was only one tile in the whole floor that was just higher than all the tiles around it (no idea why) so that one took a little adjusting of adjoining tiles to keep the floor as even as possible. Overall, it went very smoothly and we got the whole floor done in a couple hours:

So the tile is down…what’s next? We’ll remove the spacers and mix up our grout, which is a medium-dark gray color that has grout sealant already in it, saving us that step. We’ll fill all the cracks with that then wipe the tiles down with water and let the grout dry. Next we need to add our baseboards around the rest of the room, and tile our back splash (which seems much less complicated than the floor!) and grout that. Then the toilet and the vanity go back in and this project will be wrapped up.

Other news around the house is that we’re trying to make way with our vegetable garden. There was a little hiccup in this process since we found out our HOA ‘requires’ an official survey to put in an application for any exterior changes. We never got a survey since we have no intentions of building a fence or any structures near our property line, and I’m not eager to pay $300 to get one for this garden application. So, we did our best to download accurate plot plans from the DurhamMaps website and do some measurements to prove the garden will be over 9′ from our property line, so we’re hoping the HOA will grant us permission with this.

But in the meantime, I can show you the plans! We were originally thinking of using landscaping stones to make a raised bed garden, but then we thought proposing a raised  bed garden simply made out of wood would seem less “permanent” to the HOA, and perhaps make them more lenient with our application. So I think we’re going to use 6″ cedar planks to make an 8′ or 9′ by 5′ box, with a U shape and a small gate to get into the garden.

I made some simple sketches for the application using graph paper. I forgot how much fun graph paper is. Seriously, when’s the last time you used graph paper??garden pic 1garden pic 2

It’ll go along the side of our garage which gets decent sun, and there is a slight slope there so it’ll be higher on one side than the other. We’re planning to get garden fill dirt delivered – the whole reason for building it raised bed is because our yard is total clay, so getting some nice soil will be important. Keep your fingers crossed that the HOA lets us continue with this since spring is on it’s way and it’ll be time to plant soon!