Walking down memory lane via the office

Sorting bills

Oooh, you’re in for a special blog post today. The next step in my office makeover was… wait for it… paperwork and filing. You can’t stand the excitement, right?

Paperwork may not be the most photogenic or interesting topic for a blog post. But it’s a fact of life, or at least a fact of my life.

I actually have some great systems to manage paper in my office. I’ve set these up over the last few years and they work pretty well for me. So even though I’m making over the office, I’m not making over absolutely everything.

This mail organizer is my main tool. As soon as the walls were painted, I reinstalled this right away. I only file paperwork a few times a year (all of our bills except for our credit cards are set up for automatic debits), so the piles of mail and bills grow and get messy. The organizer isn’t always tidy, but it avoids the piles.

Mail organizer

Receipts live in a box in a drawer until I reconcile them with my statements.

Receipts

You know we keep a pretty close eye on our finances. This reconciliation is one of the ways I do that.

Once everything is sorted, the papers go into our filing cabinet. The filing cabinet may not be the prettiest piece of furniture, but it’s very functional for us. I’ve seen some cool filing cabinet makeovers with paint, hardware and even fabric, so that may be something to consider for the future.

In the meantime, appreciate the nearly empty mail organizer.

Filing cabinet and mail sorter

The other paperwork I tackled was a huge box full of old schoolwork. As in from kindergarten through to university. Most of it ended up on the burn pile, but I kept a few things like report cards, class photos, my award-winning science project, a couple of memorable stories and this prophetic drawing.

Farm drawing

Even for the things I didn’t keep, it was fun to look back. I could see how my teacher’s comments on my grade 12 English essays made me a better writer–she was a tough marker, but completely right. In the kindergarten folder, I found this mimeographed matching sheet.

First test

On the back in my Mom’s hand-writing, it said “Julia’s first school test.” Awww.

First test

Now that I have returned from memory lane, I’m looking ahead again on what’s left for the office. Here’s where I’m at:

  • Buy and install light fixture
  • Unpack remaining boxes and organize china cabinet
  • Style china cabinet shelves
  • Sort and file paperwork
  • Install gallery wall #1
  • Install gallery wall #2
  • Reupholster seat of wooden chair

We’re down to two weeks to go in this mini One Room Challenge. Remember you can check out the official ORC participants at Calling it Home.

How do you organize mail, bills, receipts and paperwork at your house? Have you gone paperless yet? Has anyone else kept old schoolwork?

Forsythia of ’17

Forsythia blossoms

If you’ve been following the blog for awhile, you’ll know that every year I measure the progress of spring by our forsythia.

Five years ago when we first moved to the farm, we had a huge bunch of blooms at the beginning of April. Every year since then, I’ve snapped a picture on April 2 to gauge how this year compares. This year, I somehow missed that. Oops.

After two years of beautiful blossoms, though, our forsythia floundered. In 2014, 2015 and 2016–the last three years–blossoms have been few and far between.

But this year, they’re back.

Blooming forsythia bushes

It’s a huge improvement over the last few years.

Forsythia through the years

I’m so glad that the forsythia is flourishing again. Even better, there are some extra bushes that I’ve never noticed before at the edge of the front field.

I don’t think I’ve shared this view of the house before. This gives you a sense of where our house sits in relation to the barn and the fields. (To take these pictures I was standing in the front field).

Farm in spring

Forsythia bushes in bloom

I love seeing spring take over the farm.

Building a chicken run in Illinois

Chickens are on my wishlist for the farm. But part of what’s holding me back from getting them is the coop. I know I need to rebuild the coop and part of that is a secure, covered run for our birds. Sarah in Illinois is nearly a year into chicken farming, and she has recently added a run for her hens. She’s sharing that project today, and also looking ahead to a few more.

As I mentioned a few posts back, I was concerned with keeping my chickens free range. I loved that they could roam the yard, pick all kinds of greens and bugs and worms and have such a healthy diet. However, Blitz was becoming quite a concern for me.

I know very well that it is his natural instinct to chase and catch. I also know that the only way for us to overcome this is for me (and the other members of our family) to work with him constantly, to train him and teach him to leave the chickens alone.

It is still possible for us to achieve this and for Blitz and the chickens to live in peace and harmony, but then Steve and started thinking about how we were going to keep the chickens out of the garden this year and we decided it was time to make a chicken run.

We will not get any awards for our design or our building technique but the chickens are safe from Blitz and our garden is safe from the chickens.

20170409_173010

It wasn’t long after we built our run that I read that Kit over at DIY Diva was building a run for her free range chickens. Unfortunately, she lost a few of her flock before she could get them contained. I am thankful that we only had a very close call with one, and all four are doing well now.

We used part of the existing welded wire fencing to make a run about 8 feet wide and the length of the barn. Then we lined the inside of this fence with chicken wire. To support the roof we used old fence poles that we had laying around. We ran the chicken wire over the top and secured all of our seams by twisting wire ties every few feet.

Like I said, we did not use any advanced carpentry skills. If we ever get a hungry raccoon looking for a meal I don’t think that our fence will do anything but slow him down. I still make sure to close their coop door every night, and I look over the fencing often to make sure there are no signs of something trying to make its way inside.

I don’t recommend our approach for anyone with problems with tougher predators. We did not put anything underground like Kit did. Her approach was much more thorough. It is also possible that we will have to reevaluate everything if we get other predators, but for now it is keeping out one goofy pup.

I also mentioned last time that I was going to set my new goals for my next three months. So here we go. By June 30 I hope to have a few more things accomplished:

1. Light box for my mom.

She has asked me a few times to make her one and has even sent me pins about it, but I haven’t started one yet. So that will be a good project for rainy days or evenings.

A light box is basically a shallow box with a clear or opaque lid. Inside is a light and when you put something that you want to trace on top the light shines through and lets you trace much easier.

My mom loves to sew (mostly quilts) and she could really use one. I have pinned one that I am going to base my design on but I need to talk to mom and make sure these dimensions work for what she needs.

2. Grill lighting

We need to figure out some type of lighting for around our grill on our deck. I say “we” because Steve does most, if not all, of the grilling, so I am going to have him help me decide what will work and look the best. Right now, this is purely just an idea in my head and I have done no research.

3. The Garden

For my third project I am not setting a specific project. I am just going to say “garden.” The list of what needs done is so long that I am going to just group it all together and say that any work that gets done in the garden is on my “to-do” list.

We increased the size of our garden this year to 68 feet by 64 feet. With the rain we have gotten lately, we are behind on getting our potatoes in the ground.

So basically, if I am not working on numbers one and two listed above, I need to be in that garden.

I know what you mean about “garden,” Sarah. I actually think it should be “The Garden.” That’s a huge area you have. Between that, the puppy, the chickens and your other projects, you will definitely be keeping yourself busy. Hopefully the run helps to make at least a couple of things easier. It looks like it should do what you need it to. Good luck with your list.

Mini One Room Challenge update #1

Vine flushmount light fixture

There are three weeks left in the official One Room Challenge. And three weeks left in my personal mini-ORC, also known as mission finish the office.

Already the motivation of the ORC is working. I had a very productive weekend, and I’m excited to see the finishing touches for the office coming together.

Here’s the to-do list update:

  • Buy and install light fixture
  • Unpack remaining boxes and organize china cabinet
  • Style china cabinet shelves
  • Sort and file paperwork
  • Install gallery wall #1
  • Install gallery wall #2
  • Reupholster seat of wooden chair

As you can see from the photo above, I have a proper light fixture now. I’ve envisioned this light fixture in the office for a long time. I second guessed myself for a moment when I finally bought it, but now that it’s installed it’s perfect. I love the dark metal and the vines and the crystals.

It’s kind of fun and a bit of a different experience to decorate a room completely for myself.

Something that’s also entirely for me is the gallery wall you see behind the light fixture. I’ll share more about that in a couple of weeks when I post the final the reveal.

Another personal favourite is the Brissac Jewel fabric by P Kaufmann that I used on my bulletin board and slipper chair. It’s making another appearance, this time on a wooden chair that past owners left at the farm.

Upholstering this chair hadn’t been part of the original plan for the office, but I couldn’t let this chair go (I have a thing for chairs). Covering a slip seat is a whole lot easier than upholstering the slipper chair. Pulling all of the staples out of the old upholstery probably took longer than adding the new fabric.

The dark wood and the bright fresh fabric look so nice against the white desk and turquoise walls.

Sewing desk

A major perk of the ORC is it ensures I complete all of the little details of a makeover. Details like paint touch-ups (which were also part of my weekend) and upholstering this chair.

It’s those little details that make a room come together. I’m thankful to finally be at that point with the office. Just a little more to go. We’re getting there.

So are all of the other bloggers that are participating officially in the ORC. Even though I’m not linking up, I encourage you to check out the other makeovers at Calling It Home. There will be new updates every Wednesday and Thursday until May 10.

Have you ever decorated a room just for you?

DIY wood countertops four years later

It’s been four years since we added the island to our kitchen and made our own wood countertop. The post about our DIY wood countertops is by far the most popular post on my blog, so I thought it would be helpful to share how our counter is holding up.

I will preface this by saying we are not gentle on our counters. We don’t always wipe up right away. We drop things, spill things and bang things. The island is our main prep space, so it sees a lot of action.

However, we do use cutting boards for chopping and don’t set hot pans directly on the wood.

DIY wood countertops

After four years of steady use, the counter has held up very well, and I definitely recommend making your own wood countertops if you’re looking for a cheap, functional, durable solution.

The construction

We used the Kreg Jig and wood glue to join our 2x12s together and then filled the joints with wood filler. All of the joints are still tight. We’ve not seen any gaps between the boards and the wood filler has not cracked or chipped.

My big concern when we first made the counter was that it warped. However, it leveled out once we trimmed it to the right length and screwed it to the cabinets. Since then, the counter has stayed pretty flat. One board is still has a slight arc–my cutting board rocks a bit when I’m chopping–but it hasn’t worsened over the years.

Wood is soft, so there are some dents in the surface from where we’ve dropped a heavy can or jar. I’m not sure it’s possible to have a wood counter and not have some dents in it, especially after four years. If you want a pristine counter, wood may not be the choice for you.

The finish

We chose to stain our counter to match the existing cabinets in the kitchen, and then sealed it with Waterlox. Staining opened up one issue that I did not expect. We have a couple of chips along the edge. The stain didn’t sink too deeply into the wood, so the lighter wood shows at these chips. If we had used a clear sealer rather than a tinted stain, the chips probably wouldn’t be as noticeable.

Chips in the edge of a wood countertop

The Waterlox finish seems to protect the wood fairly well. Water or other spills bead up on the surface and doesn’t soak into the wood. Most things rub out fairly easily even if they’ve been left for a little while.

Initially, I was a bit surprised by how shiny Waterlox was. This seems to be a common concern with the Original Finish that I chose. It appears to have dulled a little bit–or I’ve just gotten used to it.

There are a few spots that have dulled a little more than others. I’d characterize it as “etching” or watermarks where stains have set before we wiped them up. As obvious as the mark looks in the picture below, in real life you actually have to look pretty closely to see it. It just doesn’t reflect as much light as the rest of the counter.

Stain etched on a wood countertop

The verdict

The counter looks and works really, really well. I’m a bit amazed that we made our own countertop and it worked–and four years later it’s still working.

For us, the wood counter was a temporary solution–temporary around here being 5 to 10 years. I’m not sure I’d recommend them for a long-term renovation, but I expect we will easily get another few years out of this counter. We know we’ll do a full gut renovation of the kitchen someday. But until then, we needed more prep space. The island and our DIY counter definitely gave us that.

For the work and money we put into this counter and the function it’s added to our kitchen, we are very happy with the choice to use wood and to make it ourselves.

If you have any questions about our counters, I’m happy to answer them in the comments.

Sunset visitors

After just over five years of farm living, the novelty of the wildlife lives on and passes through our property has not worn off.

At sunset on the weekend, we had three deer munching in the back field, and much, much closer we had one very chill deer relaxing in the centre field.

Eventually she stood up and trotted away, white tail waving.

The whitetails were waving again on Monday morning when Baxter and I were out for our pre-dawn walk. The white was all we could see as four deer headed away from us through the dark field.

They keep coming back, though, and have been in the back field each evening so far this week. And it’s still exciting every time.

Makeover motivation from a mini One Room Challenge

It’s that time again. The One Room Challenge is taking over the blogosphere. It started last week and runs until May 10. More than 200 bloggers, 200 rooms and 200 inspiring makeovers.

I’m looking forward to all of the beautiful content arriving in my feedly over the next four weeks.

Once again this year, I’m not participating in the One Room Challenge. I’ve loved participating in the past and especially loved the results of our laundry room and master bedroom. But this time around, I don’t have a room ready for the six week timeline.

However, I do have a room mid-makeover. My office.

I’m thinking I can use the One Room Challenge and all of the activity of my fellow bloggers to motivate me to Finally. Finish. This. Room.

Office mid-makeover

So this is it. I’m setting a deadline, people. May 10. The office will be done.

Here’s my original to-do list, and where we’re at:

  • Scrape ceiling – Finished over the Christmas break–oh so long ago.
  • Paint ceiling, trim and walls – Finished over the Christmas break.
  • Add new shelf to closet – Finished and already filled.
  • Redo china cabinet and desk – Finished and partially filled.
  • Reupholster slipper chair – Finished and it’s oh so pretty.
  • Reupholster ironing board – Finished thanks to a lucky thrifting score.
  • Unpack all of my boxes and decorate – Started.

That last item is where I’ve been a bit stuck. I had so many boxes, which had been packed for at least five years–some of them longer. Also, decorating is kind of a big thing.

I know myself, and I know I’ll do better if I can break it down into smaller pieces.

So here’s the new to-do list of the remaining items:

  • Buy and install light fixture – I somehow forgot that I need a new light for this room since I removed and trashed the boob light that was here originally.
  • Unpack remaining boxes and organize china cabinet
  • Style china cabinet shelves
  • Sort and file paperwork
  • Install gallery wall #1
  • Install gallery wall #2
  • Reupholster seat of wooden chair

Totally doable, right? It’s mini compared to the full room makeovers other people are tackling through the ORC.

As slow as work has been on the office, it has been ongoing, even though I haven’t shared many updates. This weekend I made some progress on a few little shelves that will be part of the gallery walls.

Painting little shelves

I’m going to start sharing regular updates here to help myself stay on track. I’m not going to be sharing my makeover through the official ORC linkups on Calling It Home, though, because mine is so mini. I do encourage you to visit Calling It Home and checking out all of the projects for yourself.

And stay tuned here. Soon enough–with a little motivation from the ORC–I’ll be able to reveal the finished office. Four weeks to go.

Are you following any ORC makeovers? Official ones? Are you doing any makeovers yourself? How do you find motivation to finish off a makeover?

Grey days

Two grey days, exactly three weeks apart.

Snowy field in mid March

I swear as of this week I’m seeing the fields turn green. I can handle grey skies when I feel spring is coming.

Field at the beginning of April

This bird’s eye view is courtesy of a deer stand at the edge of the back field.

Looking down from the deer stand at Baxter on the ground

A great way to see the farm. But too tall for puppy.

Deer stand

As excited as I am for the green, last night we had a few snow flurries. C’mon spring!

What’s the weather like where you are? Are you seeing signs of spring?

Projects, painting and progress in Illinois

Sarah in Illinois is here today with an update on how she’s done on her monthly projects.

If you have been keeping track, it’s been three months since I announced that I was setting a goal of one project a month. So how have I done?

Let’s start with Blitz’s house.

It’s painted, and that was my goal. I really thought that I would have the roof shingled too, but that didn’t get done. For the paint, I used some concrete floor latex epoxy that we had sitting around. It would not have been my first choice if I went to the store and picked it out, but I think it will work very well. And the epoxy will help protect it from the weather.

My second project is by far my favorite and the one I am most proud of. I told you that we had sneakily taken my grandma’s St. Francis statue from her yard.

It was starting to crack and the paint was faded and flaking. When I last posted about it I showed a little progress.

And now:

Yes, that really is the same statue.

I want to maybe touch up his facial features a little, but I can say that I am very happy with the outcome, and I can’t wait to give it back to my grandma.

And since I love a good before and after:

For my final project from my list I was supposed to prime and paint our hallway. I will call it about 75% complete.

It is primed, and I did start painting, but I really thought I had more paint left. If I have more, I sure as heck can’t find it. So I will take what little info I remember about it (it is semigloss and the color is called Toll Booth), and I will go back to where I got it and hope they can mix me up some more. I am frustrated because the color runs throughout our house and if for some reason I can’t find a match I am going to have quite a problem.

So there you have it, not completely done, but I have made some headway. I love having this goal out here in the public because it made me focus on my three projects and not get distracted like I so often do.

To keep motivated I will set my next three months goals in my next post. You can be assured that they will be garden related.

Good job, Sarah. That statue looks amazing. Your grandmother will be so surprised. That’s really special. I’ve done the paint colour match thing before, and it’s worked out fairly well. Just to be safe, I suggest trying to make the “break” at a corner or other dividing point.