Tiling the east field

Our farm came with six fields, but in the years that we’ve lived here, only five have been in use. The far east field has been “in rehab.” In fact, it’s also known as the rehab field. (This post shows a bird’s eye view of the property.)

The field is boggy with two marshy areas, one of which is right in the middle. It’s hilly and on some of the slopes the soil has washed away and the ground is very stony.

Green marshy area in the middle of the east field

The farmer who rents our fields told us that several years before we bought the farm, one of the previous owners brought in some dirt and regraded the field, and after that it didn’t drain properly. In the time that we’ve been here, the farmer has augmented the soil with manure and tried various measures to drain the field. Nothing has worked.

In fact, he’s gotten more and more frustrated as his equipment gets stuck in the mud and the field remains unuseable.

This view shows the east field and the big field from the same vantage point a few years ago. You can see that the big field is a lot healthier looking than the east.

East field

Big field

Every year we talk about tiling the field, and this spring our farmer decided to go ahead.

Note I wrote tiling, not tilling.

Tiling involves running weeping tile throughout the field underground to drain the water.

Our farmer hired a drainage contractor for this project. The first step was to survey the fields using GPS to map out the best drainage path.

Surveying the field by ATV to prepare for tiling

Then the big stuff showed up. A backhoe, bulldozer, a drainage plow and biiiiig rolls of weeping tile.

Baxter surveys the backhoe

Baxter standing in front of a spool of weeping tile

The plow was a really cool piece of equipment. It was a large tractor on caterpillar tracks with a spindle to carry the giant spool of tile. The plow cut into the ground and fed the tile into the trench and filled it back in all in one pass.

Drainage plow

Even after living in farm country for seven years, the novelty of farm equipment has not worn off for me. I marvel over the tractors, the combines, the plows and all the rest. So I loved seeing the drainage equipment at work. The maneuverability and power of the tractors was awesome. They went through the water, up hills, through trees–nothing stopped them.

Baxter watching the drainage plow tiling the field

Tiling the field

The crew laid tile all through the east field, a bit into the big field and drained it all through the front field and into the creek that runs across the front of the property.

Weeping tile

Field drainage tile flowing into a creek

There is still work to be done before the field is finally out of rehab. There’s a big section where top soil was scraped off, and it needs to be pushed back. As well, the trenches and ridges from the plow need to be leveled.

Field after tiling before levelling

Ridges in the field after tiling

The ground is still a little squishy in spots, as you can see by my boots (please give me props for not tipping over and dumping the baby into the mud).

Standing in the mud

But the tile is a huge step towards hopefully making the field more useable.

Do you have any muddy spots at your house? Or have you spotted any cool equipment at work? Is part of your property also “in rehab”?

 

Advertisements

Repair, don’t replace, your broken vinyl window

Vinyl windows have a good reputation for being low maintenance and energy efficient. However, they sometimes get a bad rap for longevity–as in they only last so long before they have to be replaced. Wood window aficionados will talk about how their windows can be repaired multiple times and last for decades or even centuries.

When I walked into the dining room one morning a couple of months ago and saw that one of the panes of glass had cracked, I was immediately anxious. All of our windows are vinyl, and the one in the dining room is huge. Replacing it would be expen$$$ive.

Cracked window pane

After a bit of research, I discovered that there was in fact a way to repair the broken pane, and I didn’t have to replace the whole window.

Phew.

This was one of the tasks on my One Room Challenge to-do list, but I didn’t go into any details during my ORC posts. You’ve seen the new dining room, but I wanted to share more on the window.

The dining room window is made up of five panes of thermal glass. The centre is a large fixed pane. At either end we have a double hung window. The upper sash on the right side was the one that cracked.

Dining room window

My online search uncovered multiple window repair companies. I picked four and called them up.

I asked about their process and timelines, gave them the measurements of my window and got a rough quote.

The quotes were all over the map: $450+tax on the high end to $175 all-in on the low end. For reference, our pane was 17 1/2 inches wide by 28 1/2 inches high.

Beyond that, between the different companies everything was pretty much the same. Someone would come to the house to measure the window accurately. They would then order the new pane of glass. It would be a thermal pane, just like the rest of the window. The new window would arrive in 2 to 3 weeks and then a repair person would return to install it. Install would be quick, about an hour.

The company with the cheapest price (The Glass Medic for locals) had a bunch of super positive reviews online, so I decided to go with them.

There was a slight delay as delivery schedules were adjusted for the Easter holiday, but our new glass arrived, along with the our installer, Mark.

Repairing a vinyl window

The old glass was held in place with plastic strips. Mark popped them off and lifted out the broken pane.

Repairing a vinyl window

He cleaned the frame carefully and put little spacers in place to allow room for the glass to expand–so it hopefully doesn’t break again.

Repairing a cracked vinyl window

Repairing a cracked vinyl window

Repairing a cracked vinyl window

He put the new thermal pane in place and reinstalled the strips. Then he wiped off the window,  and the job was done.

Repairing a cracked vinyl window

Repairing a cracked vinyl window

I am super happy with our repaired window. Obviously I’m very relieved we didn’t have to replace the whole thing. I’m also somewhat surprised that I hadn’t heard of these types of repairs before.

Repairing a cracked vinyl window

Broken panes, broken seals, a variety of issues can all be repaired. This obviously saves money, but also saves waste as a whole window is not going in the garbage (an often cited objection to vinyl windows).

What type of windows do you have at your home? Have you ever broken a window? We’re not sure how ours cracked. Mark said it could have been a long-time fault in the glass that finally came out. Have you ever fixed a window? Or replaced one?

Repair, don't replace, your broken vinyl window

Odds & sods

Happy last week of May, everyone. And happy Memorial Day to my American readers.

This is one of my favourite times of year. The farm is so, so green and everything looks nice–wild, but nice. We’re trying to stay on top of mowing and weeding, and for once I feel like I’ve been making progress in the gardens. Between a pregnancy and a baby, we have about two years of neglect to overcome. But fortunately, the baby loooooves being outside and can entertain herself a little bit.

My monthly Odds & Sods post took a break last month thanks to the One Room Challenge, but I’m back this month to share some of the interesting links I’ve come across recently:

Baby sitting in a puddle on the driveway

The baby’s favourite outdoor entertainment involves splashing in puddles, hassling the cat, picking flowers (so cute), practicing walking up and down the barn ramp, visiting the horses across the road and definitely ingesting a (hopefully) healthy amount of dirt.

If like us, you’re spending a lot of time outside and you happen to also live in tick territory, here’s an article I wrote about how to protect your dog (and yourself) from ticks.

This documentary about the Mayo Clinic was so impressive and inspiring. And this documentary about how Bill Murray seeks and creates joy gave me joy.

Matt and I are regular Jeopardy watchers (yes, we’re closet senior citizens), so we’ve been watching James Holtzhuaer since the start. Initially we were excited by him because he reminds us so much of my sister’s husband: appearance, voice, quickness on the buzzer, weird wager amounts. But then we got excited for how James has been playing… and winning ($2 million and counting). I’ve loved reading some of the articles that go behind the scenes on James’ impressive run: The Man Who Solved Jeopardy

I’ve always loved hyper-realistic art, so CJ Hendry’s images blow me away (those ink blots are done with pencil crayon). It was interesting to read about how Instagram helped her popularity, but I was kind of bummed with the focus on “art-world acceptance.” I’m not in this sphere, so I don’t know how important galleries and museums and critics and collectors are. She definitely has a loyal following, commercial success and a lot of acceptance in certain circles. If you’re an artist, feel free to enlighten me.

The story of a Pulitzer prize winning reporter (from my hometown who got started at our local newspaper).

A good reminder of the importance of water conservation.

I cook mainly vegetarian these days, and I’m a fan of the power of cauliflower (Matt not so much). Two recipes we’ve I’ve enjoyed are taco “meat” (dial up the seasoning) and cauliflower bolognese (my MIL thought it was a meat sauce). On the non-cauliflower side, these lasagna stuffed mushrooms were a hit with everyone, including the baby.

My writing elsewhere:

What are you eating these days–hopefully it’s not too much dirt? Any other Jeopardy fans out there? Do you have any artist Instagram accounts to recommend? Or must-watch documentaries?

 

Committing a garden sin

Asparagus is a lesson in patience.

Four years ago, I laid some teeny tiny seeds in the garden and watched them sprout teeny tiny ferns.

Asparagus sprouts

My plan all along was to transplant the asparagus once it got big enough. What exactly was big enough I wasn’t sure, but this spring I thought they were probably ready. (In fact, I would have liked to do this last year, but the whole new baby thing disrupted my gardening time.)

Then I looked online for tips and everything I read said basically, “Never, never, ever, ever transplant asparagus. If you try to transplant asparagus you will be committing a massive garden sin.”

Okie-dokie. Sounds great.

I think the main concern with transplanting is delaying your asparagus harvest even further. Most of the time when people plant crowns, the recommendation is to not pick any asparagus until the second year. With starting from seed, I had read we’d have to wait four years.

We’re in our fourth spring now, so technically we could have harvested. But having grown from seed, they were very tightly spaced in two parallel rows. I wanted them to have more room to grow big and strong, so I decided to dig them all up.

Two rows of asparagus crowns

Along with dire warnings, my online research did garner a few tips. I fortified the soil with a hefty dose of compost and manure, raiding the pile that’s been behind the barn since we moved here.

Emptying the backyard composter

Digging into the manure pile

The advice on actually extracting the plants was less helpful: use a fork to gently tease the roots from the soil.

Um. No. That was not happening.

The asparagus root system is incredible. I was more than a foot away from the plants when I encountered the first thick, ropey root.

I quickly resorted to a sharp shovel. Despite my merciless hacking, I tried to save as much of the roots as possible and kept big chunks of dirt around the crowns. I consoled myself that the plants looked like they had more roots than the crowns people buy, so I was at least as good if not better than nursery stock. Plus my plants were out of the ground for less than a minute.

Asparagus crown root

I dug a deep trench and spaced the plants about a foot apart. I heaped them with soil, manure and compost and gave them a good drink. To cap it all off, I added a layer of mulch.

Watering transplanted asparagus crowns

I ended up with about 12 plants. I probably could have divided the crowns a bit more, but I didn’t want to traumatize them more than I already had. Plus, I filled the whole space I had allocated in the raised bed and was running into the grapes.

Row of asparagus crowns in raised bed

It’s been nearly a month since the transplanting. We’ve had a lot of rain and the asparagus seem to be thriving. We have some nice chunky stalks, but I’m restraining myself from picking anything.

Asparagus growing in the garden

Hopefully the patience will pay off and next year we will have our first harvest.

Have you committed any garden sins? Do you have asparagus in your garden? Or any crops that are testing your patience?

 

Solar panels five years later

It’s been five years since we turned on our solar panels. Each spring, I look at our numbers to compare how we’ve done each year and see how much money we’ve made overall.

Solar panel array

Here are previous year’s updates:

If you want to get caught up on how this all started, my Going Solar series covered all of the details of our install and our array:

And now to the latest update.

If you’ve been following along, you know that the power we generate goes back to the provincial grid, rather than to our own use. We paid to install the panels, but the province pays us for the power they produce.

Last year we made $4,595.18, bringing our total income over the past 5 years to $22,777.75.

Annual solar income over 5 years

As of this year we’ve made 56% of what we invested in installing the panels ($40,727.46). Solar panels are obviously a long term investment for us (our contract with the provincial government pays us $0.396 per kWh and runs for 20 years).

This year’s profit was the third highest since we powered up the solar panels. As always, the weather determines how much power we generate, and it varies every month and every year.

Monthly solar income over 5 years

But like always, what we made far exceeded what we spent on power.

We paid $2,595.02 for electricity last year, meaning we came out $2,000.16 ahead.

Solar programs vary a lot depending on where you live and what your goals are. As well, solar technology has come a long way since we installed our panels 5 years ago. For us, our system has been working really well for us–both environmentally and financially–and we’re really happy we made this decision.

Dining room reveal – One Room Challenge Week 6

I love our dining room. It’s where we start our day and watch the sun come up over the fields. We have a great view across the farm and can watch whatever wildlife is around. At the end of the day, we come together again to share dinner with the dog under the table and the cat on the window sill.

Whether it’s everyday meals or occasions with extended family, this room gives us lots of special moments. And now, the space measures up to what happens in it, and I love it even more.

Welcome to the final week of the One Room Challenge and the reveal of our new dining room.

Bright and fresh dining room

If you’re new here, welcome to our farm. My name is Julia, and I live on a 129-acre farm in Ontario with my husband, Matt, our one year old daughter, Ellie, our rescue dog, Baxter, and #theworldsbestbarncat, Ralph (who loves sitting on the dining room window sill).

We moved here 7 years ago and have been fixing up our 1970s era ranch style house ever since. Our style is a bit traditional, a bit country, with lots of personal elements, thrifting and DIY.

Which brings us to the dining room. You can get caught up on this project with all the dining room ORC posts: the plans (week 1), sanding and patching (week 2), the start of painting (week 3), more painting (week 4), beginning the china cabinet makeover (week 5).

Six weeks ago this room was dark. The brown walls were rough, cracked and scuffed. The thrifted shelving unit that is our china cabinet was all kinds of brown and dated.

Vaulted ceiling in the dining room

Now the walls are smooth and light thanks to a lot of sanding and two coats of Abalone by Benjamin Moore (mixed at 75%). All of the trim also got a fresh coat of paint (Cloud White by Benjamin Moore).

My go-to Cloud White was also the solution for the china cabinet. Painting this was not fun–especially when I decided I needed to do a third coat–but it was absolutely worth it. This cabinet gives us so much storage and now it’s no longer a black (brown) hole in the room.

I feel like all of our special dishes and family heirlooms look so much nicer in the white cabinet than in the wood (and yes, I desperately need to polish my silver).

Vintage shelving unit used as a china cabinet

 

China cabinet

You may notice that the cabinets are lacking hardware. This is my second ORC reveal without hardware. There’s another unfinished part of the china cabinet. I plan to build glass doors for the upper sections, as I don’t believe in dusting. Those will come in the next couple of weeks.

Vintage shelving unit used as a china cabinet

The wall opposite the china cabinet holds Matt’s grandmother’s piano. Ellie and I play on it occasionally already, and I hope one day to teach her to actually play it properly. I love the beautiful heritage from her Great-Grandma, her Daddy’s family and her Mama.

The Coonley Playhouse-style stained glass (inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright) was made for us by Matt’s uncle.

Bright and fresh dining room

The picture was a gift from Matt’s parents. The barns look very much like our two barns–although we’ve never seen that many deer that close to the house.

Deer painting above a piano

There are a few more things I want to do in here, but I’m really happy with where we are after these 6 weeks. Finishing another room is a big accomplishment. More importantly, every time we sit down for another meal together, it feels so nice to be in a bright, beautiful space.

Interested in seeing other beautiful makeovers? Visit the One Room Challenge to check out all of the other participants’ reveals.

One Room Challenge Guest Participant logo

Thanks for following along on the dining room makeover.

Starting over – One Room Challenge Week #5

Last week I said that week 4 of the One Room Challenge is the hard one. For me, this time around it was week 5.

Here are the previous updates on this dining room makeover:
Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4

Nothing tragic happened. I started painting the cabinets as I’d planned. But the whole “started” thing felt hard.

Priming cabinet doors

I felt like I was restarting this makeover. I was removing hardware, shelves, drawers, doors. I was patching holes and sanding. I was priming.

Ugh. Prep is not the fun part of DIY for me. Although Ellie enjoyed having a new fort.

Ellie sitting in the china cabinet

Even once I started painting, I wasn’t having fun yet. It just reminded me that I don’t like painting cabinetry. All of the angles, molding and curves that need to be cut in, all of the different pieces that need to be primed and then painted–twice. Just not my favourite.

So that’s a lot of complaining.

Sorry to be a downer.

Snapping out of it now.

I started painting the china cabinet. Yay!

Painting the china cabinet

This was a maybe on my initial task list, so the fact that I got to this part of the makeover is a good accomplishment.

The dining room, which had brightened up a lot already thanks to the lighter paint on the walls, gets brighter every day as the wall of dark brown cabinetry slowly goes fresh creamy white.

I really feel like the white paint is going to transform these circa-1990s entertainment units into a super functional and beautiful china cabinet.

I have another coat to go, but I think it’s doable before the big reveal next week. Next week! We’re almost at the end of this One Room Challenge.

Before we get to the end, check out the other participants’ progress at One Room Challenge.

One Room Challenge Guest Participant logo

Does anyone else struggle with the prep part of DIY? Have you ever had a project where you feel like you’re starting over? Are you yay or nay on painting cabinetry?

 

Extra motivation for One Room Challenge Week #4

Week 4 is often the stage in the One Room Challenge where things become a little more… challenging.

The initial excitement has worn off. Perhaps you’ve encountered a few hiccups. Maybe your plans have changed or you’re not progressing as quickly as you thought.

For some extra motivation–or an extra challenge–for week 4, I decided to host a Good Friday dinner with my family.

In our dining room.

Which is in the middle of a makeover.

This means the room is filled with cans of paint and assorted tools. There is a skim of dust on pretty much every surface. All of the furniture is pulled away from the walls so that I can paint behind it. There’s not room to extend the table so that everyone has a place to sit.

Primed dining room

My Mom kept saying, “We’re your family. You don’t have to fuss for us.”

Make no mistake, Matt and I tend not to fuss for very much, and we’ve entertained a lot in the middle of numerous renovations. However, I draw a line at having a place to sit for the people that we’ve invited.

So I put on a bit of a push to get the painting done.

Painting the dining room with a roller

I found I could paint half the room–cut and roll–in 2 hours. Also measured as one baby nap. So I figured I’d be done in 4 days. Instead, I did 2 baby naps and 2 night shifts after she’d gone to bed.

And all the painting was done in 2 days, well before people arrived for dinner. In fact, I had time to vacuum and mop the floors, reinstall the cover plates, push the piano and china cabinet out of the way and add the leaves to the table. Woo-hoo.

On Friday night, everyone had a place to sit, and we had a great time with family.

Also nice, my sister arrived with her router, router table and a case of bits. I’m hoping this router is easier to use than my Dad’s and will help me make the doors for the china cabinet.

So the ORC continues. I’m feeling okay about week 4. Two weeks to go. I might be heading into the homestretch.

To see the other participants’ progress (some of whom are definitely not in the homestretch–I’m getting nervous for some people!), visit One Room Challenge. The designer participants share their updates on Wednesday and the guest participants post on Thursday.

One Room Challenge Guest Participant logo

How do you motivate yourself as projects progress? Do you have any stories of entertaining while renovating? How did you celebrate Easter?

 

Breaking out the paint brushes – One Room Challenge Week #3

Primed walls in the dining room

Painting has started in the dining room! Happy dance!

I will qualify this to say the walls are only primed and only the trim has actual paint, but there was a brush, a roller and a can. It is yet another step on my One Room Challenge journey.

If you want to catch up on the previous updates on the dining room makeover, here is week 1 and week 2.

Another important update: the floor licking continues. Why?

Ellie in the dining room

“I detect dust, dog hair and yesterday’s lunch.”

Do not be distracted by the weird–yet very cute–baby. We’re here to talk ORC. Back to the program.

The prime is thin and the drywall patches show through, but already the white(ish) walls make the room feel much brighter. They also highlight the dirtiness of the popcorn ceiling, which I’m trying to ignore.

Ellie in the primed dining room

“Is this wall wet? Am I getting paint on my jammies?”

Over my years of DIYing, I’ve learned that I prefer to paint the trim before the walls. I find it easier to cut the walls up to the trim as opposed to the trim up to the walls, if that makes sense (I’m a freehander, not a taper). While it’s possible that the trim may get spattered or dripped on when I’m painting colour onto the walls, I’ve not had a lot of issues with this, and minimizing the tedium of cutting is worth it for me.

Baby inspecting the primed dining room

“Ummm… Mama, I think you missed some spots.”

The walls will happen this week. I’ve chosen Abalone by Benjamin Moore, mixed at 75%. This is the same colour we used in the adjacent living room, kitchen and hall.

The dining room is kind of its own room thanks to the archway, and I considered using a different colour in here. However, Stacy at Blake Hill House made the point that our house is open concept enough that the dining room and living room feel like they’re one room, so keeping the colour consistent makes sense. Thanks Stacy for the input.

At the start of the One Room Challenge, I said that if I can just paint the walls I’d be satisfied. I’m feeling like this will likely be achievable.

Here’s where I’m at on my original task list:

  • Sand the walls
  • Patch cracks and holes
  • Prime walls
  • Paint trim
  • Paint walls
  • Fix broken window
  • Hang art
  • Build doors for china cabinet
  • Paint china cabinet

Almost halfway there.

To see the other participants’ progress, visit One Room Challenge. The designer participants share their updates on Wednesday and the guest participants will be posting on Thursday.

One Room Challenge Guest Participant logo

Who else has a live-in inspector for their DIYing? What do you paint first, trim or walls? How do you choose paint colours in adjacent rooms?

 

Off to a quick start – One Room Challenge Week #2

Welcome to week 2 of the One Room Challenge.

If you’re new to my blog, welcome. My name is Julia, and I live on a 129-acre farm in Ontario with my husband, Matt, our one year old daughter, Ellie, our rescue dog, Baxter, and #theworldsbestbarncat, Ralph.

Ellie and Ralph in the dining room

We moved here 7 years ago, and since then we’ve been working on our fixer-upper 1970s era ranch style house with lots of DIY, thrifting and occasional professional help. Our style is a bit traditional and full of very personal elements, with country touches to make our house look like it belongs in its farm setting.

The dining room is the last makeover before we start more major renovations like a garage addition, new kitchen or bathroom.

In last week’s post, I shared my plans for this update.

Today I thought I’d give more of an overview of this space.

Pros:

The dining room is a large room. A vaulted ceiling and a big archway to the living room make it feel even larger.

It has a big window that offers an amazing eastern view across the farm. Watching the sunrise over the fields while we have our breakfast is a beautiful way to start the day. (The Frank Lloyd Wright Coonley Playhouse-style stained glass was made for us by Matt’s uncle.)

Coonley playhouse Frank Lloyd Wright inspired stained glass panel

Over the years, we’ve collected vintage and thrifted furniture that are perfect for our traditional style: Matt’s grandmother’s piano, an antique dining table, 8 chairs that turned out to be a pretty good match to the table, and after an incredibly lucky thrifting score 3 circa-1980s bookshelves/TV/entertainment units that stand in for our china cabinet.

Cons:

Like every room in our house, the dining room was rough–literally. The walls felt like sandpaper and the ceiling is popcorn. Add to that stains, scuffs, holes and cracks in the drywall and the trim, and the room was not pretty.

It was also dark. Even with the large window, the dark brown walls make the room feel dim. Another issue arose this winter when one of the panes in the window cracked. It’s on my list to be fixed during this ORC.

All of the furniture, except the piano, needs a makeover. The table and chairs need to be refinished. The chairs need new upholstery. And the china cabinet needs to leave the 80s behind for fresh white paint.

Vaulted ceiling in the dining room

Someday, I plan to cover the popcorn ceiling with planks. But for now, I’m going to be relying on the power of paint and focusing on the walls and hopefully the china cabinet.

And with the motivation of the ORC, I’ve gotten off to a quick start on this project.

The update

I sanded the walls smooth and made so, so much dirty dust. Vacuuming has been the central task of this makeover thanks to the baby crawling around–and occasionally licking the floor (why?).

Sanding rough dirty drywall

And then I got started patching all of those holes and scuffs and cracks. I knew the walls were rough, but I hadn’t noticed how many cracks there were.

Cracks and scratches in drywall

Patching cracks in drywall

Patching drywall

More sanding, more patching, more sanding–and lots of vacuuming to try and keep the baby out of the dust.

My other crew member, Baxter, was not helpful. He loves the morning sunbeam in the dining room and even the threat of 7 years bad luck from laying under the ladder wouldn’t keep him from his favourite napping spot.

Baxter laying under the ladder

My luck seems to be good so far. One week in and the walls are smooth and ready for priming. The floor–and the baby–is relatively clean. Onward with the challenge.

You can check out all of the ORC participants later this week. The designer participants share their updates on Wednesday and the guest participants will be posting on Thursday.

One Room Challenge Guest Participant logo

Is anyone else dealing with rough walls or ceilings? How about battling dust? Who else has a helpful DIY crew?