This month was unintentionally quiet on the blog. Things are happening. Progress is being made. But it’s small and slow. Not blog-worthy yet.
I’m trying to stay focused outside. The treehouse. The garden. A new compost area. I want to work (and, let’s be honest, play) outside while the weather is still decent.
However, I feel my attention being pulled indoors. I’m feeling very compelled to organize all the things. Go room by room. The shifting seasons make me want to prepare to hibernate.
But all of that has to wait. If I’m going to work inside, the new mudroom has to come first. I varathaned the stair nosings over the weekend. I need to finish patching the walls and trim so that I can put some paint on the walls. Then I can install hooks, hopefully before we need to hang up jackets.
So, there’s progress. Hopefully I will have more to show and share in October.
Looking back at this month, here are some of the things that caught my attention.
This amazing home in Idaho. The riverfront setting. The log construction. The M-A-S-S-I-V-E stone fireplaces. (Plus Jesse Pinkman!)
As I mentioned in last week’s post, our missing door arrived for the mudroom, our contractor finished the trim and a bunch of other little tasks, we passed our final inspection and our contractors have left the building. Now, the garage and mudroom are my project. Which feels fun.
I always intended to be the one to finish off the mudroom, so I’m excited to get out my paint roller and complete this space. Here’s what’s on my list.
Sand ceiling. The cedar planked ceiling is going to be staying natural. I love the tone. The lumber mill said that as long as the boards don’t receive direct sunlight, they should hold their colour and not turn grey. But some of the boards were marked for their length with chalk. So I had to sand 7s off a couple of boards.
Finish stairs. The risers and nosing on the stairs are wood. It’s a beautiful maple, and it needs to be protected from dirt and footprints. I’d like them to have a similar tone to the cedar ceiling–I’d rather not introduce another colour to the mudroom. Though I am also going to test a grey that will blend with the floor tiles. I feel like the wood is so beautiful that it can be a bit of a feature.
Patch & caulk walls. The V-groove planks were not a true tongue and groove, so our contractors had to face nail the planks in a few (a lot of) places. I’m about halfway through patching all of the holes. I also have to caulk all of the corners and a few joints in the trim.
Paint. There is always so much prep to get to this point. The walls, trim and hookboards are all going to be painted the same colour as the rest of our main floor, Abalone from Benjamin Moore at 75%.
Paint the door. I’m going to make the door a pop of colour both in and out. I’ve chosen a grey-turquoise, and I’m excited to see how it looks.
What’s not happening yet. I am not planning on putting any built-in storage in the mudroom yet. I have an idea of what I want, but we’re going to live with the space for a little while and see what works best for us. I’ll be moving in some dressers, hooks, a bench, mirror and some art to decorate the space a bit and make it functional for now.
For the garage, there are a couple of things that I didn’t think about at the start of the project (like how much dirt would be dug up from the addition that then needed to be levelled and seeded). These are more the niggly little details that are a little less fun.
Spread top soil & seed. Ellie and I have spread a lot of grass seed already this year. However, we didn’t go right up to the edge of the garage, as work was still in progress. Now that the scaffolding and ladders have gone away, we have to finish it off.
Make a step. The step from the mudroom to the driveway is a bit high. It will eventually be corrected, but a simple step of some kind would be helpful in the meantime. It would also be easier to shovel snow off a patio slab than the gravel.
Restack firewood. Oh the woodpile. It took me two days to move the firewood out of the way for the addition. Now I need to restack it all.
What’s not happening yet. We will not be paving the driveway this year. I want to let the gravel settle for a while first. I also need to figure out a steps-patio-garden solution for the living room patio door, mudroom door and flowerbed around our well. I’ve placed a pair of benches and table there for now to see if I like a little seating area in this spot. I am going to be setting up a workbench and moving some tools from the driveshed to the garage. I’m enjoying thinking about a functional work space in the garage and what projects I’m going to tackle.
We’ve been using the mudroom and garage every day even though they’re not fully finished yet. We’re parking our car in the garage and going in and out through the mudroom. I’m loving having these two spaces, and I’m excited to finish them off.
How do you decide what you leave to professionals and what you take on yourself in a renovation? What finish would you choose for the mudroom stairs? What part of a home project is hardest for you to finish? What DIYs are fun or less fun for you?
We had our final inspection for the garage and mudroom last week, and everything passed. (Yes, this means our missing door arrived.) Our contractors are done. That feels like a nice way to wrap up the month.
When I look back over August, this seems like a long month. Time is still flying in the weird pandemic time warp that we’re in. But a lot has happened–including a lot of tragedy around the world.
I’m working on being thoughtful in my own choices. Being kind and generous as much as I can. Finding simple joy in family, friends, the farm and Ellie.
Here are some of the things that have made me think or given us joy this month.
Canada is going to have a federal election on Sept. 20. After all of the outcry about residential schools just a couple of months ago, I’m disappointed to hear very little about Indigenous communities in the campaign so far. On the topic of making thoughtful choices, this election is important for me.
The Olympics seems like a long time ago. I didn’t watch a lot, but I’m glad I caught this inspirational story.
I so wish I could say, “We have doors!” in this garage/mudroom update. But all I have to keep it singular. After waiting four months for the doors to arrive, we have to wait a bit more.
Our contractor came with the doors last week. But, the door between the mudroom and garage was wrong. Argh.
It swung the wrong way.
Going all the way back to my initial scribbles, I always had the door swinging into the garage and toward the back wall. Our official blueprints show this configuration. Our contractors and I also discussed the door swings a couple of times.
The door that showed up last week swung into the garage but toward the front. That meant that I’d have to walk around the door every time I wanted to go in or out of the garage.
I’ve been told the right door should arrive this week. However, after a four-month wait for a 6-8 week order, I’m not entirely confident.
On the topic of doors we do have some things to celebrate though.
The garage doors are in (this happened a couple of weeks ago). I’m happy with the simple profile I chose, and best of all, I’m happy with how the colour looks with our board and batten siding. Phew. We are still waiting on the decorative handles and hinges to give them a carriage house look.
The person door that was correct is beautiful. This door leads from the mudroom directly outside. I chose to have a big window in this door, and I’m so glad that I did. The view through the glass and the light coming into the mudroom is better than I hoped.
The other high point of the week is that the contractor finished all of the trim in the mudroom (aside from the casing for the missing door).
I chose to use the same baseboard that we used in the basement. Ultimately, I’d like to change all of the baseboards upstairs to this trim.
Rather than going with the matching profile for the door casing, I decided to use a simple flat stock instead. With the panelled walls, I felt like trim would be too busy for me–even though the basement casing is very simple. I asked for a butt joint with a little overhang on the top piece, which appears a bit rustic to me.
Some more flatstock finished off the top of the walls where they meet the cedar plank ceiling.
The room is looking so much more finished. Just ignore the sheet of plywood over the one doorway.
What reno mix-ups have you experienced? Anyone else enjoy the power of trim? Who else is a fan of windows in doors?
I recently said to my Mom that I feel like I haven’t compromised on the garage and mudroom reno. I did exactly what I wanted, and it’s turned out great.
Not so great for the bank account, but it does feel great to get what I want.
Renovating our first house, I was always thinking about resale. It was our starter house. We weren’t going to be there that long. We didn’t want to spend very much money.
It was a very different experience to move to the farm and think only about ourselves and what we wanted for the long-term. We’re still thrifty, but it’s all for us.
(On the topic of thriftiness, when Chris Loves Julia shared their budgeting philosophy it was an ah-ha for me. Allocating a budget to a project gives you freedom to spend that budget. Splurge in some places. Save in others. For me, this releases me from the “renovate for the least amount of money possible” philosophy.)
When it came to the garage and mudroom, I decided that I didn’t want to have any regrets (and we’d saved the money to make it possible to approach the project like this). We’re only doing this once. It has to last for Ellie and me for a long time. It’s a space we’re going to use every day. I want to like it every day.
So we added on. The pool would have made a comfortable two car garage. Or a generous single car garage with a big mudroom. It wouldn’t do both. But I wanted a two-car garage, and I wanted it to be big. Extra space on the side for recycling bins. Ten foot doors, so I didn’t feel squeezed driving in.
I wanted a big mudroom with details–heated floors, paneled walls and ceiling. A wide opening to the kitchen that matched the one in the living room–meaning a beam to raise the header.
Of course, with any reno, I realized once I thought about it that there have been compromises.
I decided not to go with the expensive overlay garage doors. I still love that style, but our doors are just fine. I chose another tile rather than waiting for my back-ordered first choice.
Certain things that may seem like compromises are just how I do things, and I’m not sure they’d change even if I had a bigger budget.
I don’t like to spend a lot on light fixtures. In fact, when I was shopping I sorted the light fixtures by price from low to high and stopped looking when I hit $200. Fortunately, I had already found fixtures that I really liked (for less than that).
I patched the drywall in the living room and kitchen myself, and I’m handling all the painting myself. I like DIY.
I thrifted a mirror and have some hand-me-down dressers that I’m planning on refinishing for the mudroom. I like reusing and repurposing.
I’m not finishing the mudroom with built-ins and cabinetry yet. Nor am I paving the driveway this year. I always planned to phase this project slightly to give the budget a break–and figure out exactly what I want.
Renovations are about a lot of different things. Better function in your home. Prettier appearance. Budget. Resale. It’s important to think about what matters most to you. That helps to guide the decisions–and compromises–as you go through the project.
What compromises have you made when renovating? How do you budget for home improvements? Have you renovated for resale? Or for yourself?
We’ve talked about tile for the mudroom. We’ve talked about paneling for the walls and ceiling. Do you want to see it in real life?
Here is the new mudroom in its current state.
We are two doors, some trim and paint away from being done with the mudroom and garage. Sooooclose.
(I feel like I’ve been saying that for a while).
But I can see it coming together, and it’s all looking so good.
I went with a mid-grey porcelain tile. You may recall my biggest criteria with the tile was maintenance. I will not be cleaning this floor every day, and the tile need to hide all of the dirt that comes with a farm. We also chose a dark grey grout for the same reason.
The tiles are 12×24 and installed in a brick, running-bond, offset pattern. This is my second choice tile. My first choice had more variation in tones and the veining, but it was back-ordered, and I didn’t want to wait. When I picked up my order, I was pleasantly surprised to find tiles were more varied than I expected, based on the single sample tile I selected from.
The floor in the main area of the mudroom (the lower level) is heated, so yay to warm boots.
The risers and nosings on the stairs are faced with beautiful maple. I didn’t want a metal or rubber or tile edge on the stairs, so our contractor worked with me to come up with a solution and then he had his stair supplier fabricate the pieces. They are absolutely lovely. I will be protecting them with a stain and varathane.
The walls are the V-groove panelling, which I also love. It adds so much character to this room. My contractors did not love the panelling so much. Strapping the walls so that they were perfectly level took a lot of shims and a lot of time. (The new walls that they built were fine. The original wall backing onto the living room was c-r-o-o-k-e-d.)
One surprise with this V-groove is it’s not a true tongue and groove. Each board has a very small overlap, so my contractors ended up having to face nail each piece in a few spots. Lots of tiny holes for me to patch.
The ceiling is a really, really special feature. This is cedar V-groove that I found at a local supplier. I will be leaving this natural, as I love the tone so much.
For the lights, I ended up going with three flush mounts. My original plan was for two barn style pendants in the main mudroom area and a flush mount on the landing, but my Mom convinced me to go with one type of light for the whole room.
I chose the exterior lights first, and then picked the matching flush mounts. They look a bit rustic, a bit industrial, fairly casual, and I’m really happy with them.
I feel like I could change the title of this post to the mudroom is lovely. I truly love everything so much.
Hopefully doors arrive this week. Once they’re in, trim can be installed. Then the contractors will be done, and I’ll paint and we can start to use this lovely room.
Seven years ago, Matt and I decided to put solar panels on the barn. We felt like it would be a good investment (mostly Matt) and a way to do our part for the environment (mostly me). I feel like we’re fulfilling both of these goals.
Every spring (or summer when I forget), I run the numbers for our panels. Here is this year’s solar report.
If you need to get caught up, here are all of the previous updates and other details:
This year the panels generated the second largest amount of power ever. We made $5,036.38. (We’re hooked into the grid, and the province pays us $0.396 per kWh). We haven’t been over $5,000 since 2016-17. I wonder if this is perhaps an ominous sign that there are more sunny days due to global warming. I am happy that we have the solar panels to counteract our carbon footprint just a little.
Every year, we come out ahead in terms of what we spent on electricity versus what we made. This year, the total was $2,485.63 spent. With $5,036.38 earned, we had a $2,550.75 profit.
I always like to see how close we are to finally earning as much as we spent to install the panels ($40,727.46). This year, we’re three-quarters of the way there. $32,164.07 or 79% over the last seven years. I had originally estimated it would take 8.5 years to pay off the panels, and we seem to be on track for that.
Living at the farm, we’re close to nature and I feel strongly our environmental impact. I am grateful for the money the solar panels generate, and I’m grateful that we were able to make this choice for the planet.
Does anyone else track their utility bills and compare each year? How are you “going green” at your house?
Thank you for the support on my last post. I appreciate the acceptance and kindness very much.
We started this month with a cottage get-away and we spent yesterday lakeside in cottage country as well. Those felt like pretty good ways to start and end the month.
In between, we’ve been enjoying Matt’s parents’ pool, picnics and playgrounds. Lots of time outside (we’re thisclose to 500 hours), a second cut of hay, and lots of fun.
We’ve reconnected a bit with our families, which has been nice after not seeing so many people for more than a year. I am finally fully vaccinated, but we’re still being pretty cautious about where we go.
And we moved Ralph outside. Ellie and I were both feeling a bit allergic at times, so it was time for Ralph to remember she’s an outdoor cat. We set her up in the new garage, and she’s adjusted very well.
Here are some of the other things I’ve been doing so far this summer.
The Weight of Ink was enlightening (somewhat over my head) and so compelling. I couldn’t put it down.
DYK tape measures weren’t a thing til the 1950s? And prior to that they cost the equivalent of about $300 in today’s money? I love the projects, information and advice in The Family Handyman magazine. The 70th anniversary issue was a lot of fun.
I finished patching drywall in the living room and kitchen, and I referenced this tutorial this week as I was preparing to paint.
While it seems wonky to be having the Olympics during a pandemic, I am looking forward to watching some of the competition.
As July winds down, I’m working to wrap up some projects (treehouse railing, painting the living room, articles for the fall issue of a magazine I write for). I’m also crossing everything that the doors for the garage and mudroom finally come in this week. And I’m figuring out how we can get away at least a couple more times to soak up as much summer as possible.
What was July like for you? How has summer been for you? Anyone else doing summer school–official or not? What books or magazines are on your summer reading list?
I feel like someone might think, “Grief? Why are you talking about grief? It’s been more than a year. Move on.” Or somebody else might think, “Your husband died. How are you able to function?”
I work very hard every day to be happy. I work at it. I choose it.
I work very hard to give Ellie as much joy as possible and as much connection to her Daddy as possible.
This farm helps.
Matt and I love this farm. Moving here transformed us in a wonderful way. It is incredibly special, and we had a vision for what this farm would be. I told Matt once shortly after we moved here (long before he was diagnosed), “I wouldn’t want to do this on my own.” Well, I’m doing it on my own. I’m working hard to make our vision come true.
So I go ahead and build a garage. The garage that we talked about and planned for and started saving for together. I’m proud that I did this on my own and that our plans for the garage have turned out so well.
But it also hurts.
Matt always wanted to park his car in a garage, and he never got to do that. I built a big two car garage, even though we only have one car. I built a big mudroom with open storage, so that he doesn’t have to open a closet to hang up his coat. The mudroom will have hooks for lots of kids to hang up backpacks and coats. Kids that we don’t get to have. It has a section for Baxter’s leashes and towels, which he doesn’t get to use. My Dad should have been our general contractor, but he doesn’t get to build anymore.
The losses pile up.
I keep busy. I feel most myself when I’m doing things. I also fear that if I stop, I’ll start thinking too much.
So I build a treehouse playground for our girl. I can’t give her her Daddy, but I can give her a fun playground. A place where we find joy.
Grief doesn’t come with rules. I can’t let go of Matt, my Dad, Baxter. I feel them here with me, supporting me through the garage and watching Ellie in her treehouse. I talk to them and keep them part of our life and the farm. I also can’t be crushed by this, not caring for our house, our farm, our girl.
I’m sad. I’m happy. I’m on my own. I’m not alone.
Matt and I had a vision for this farm. I want to make that vision come true for us both. I want it for myself, but I also want it for him. I am committed to him. He doesn’t get to do this. I can do it for both of us.
I really like setting goals for the farm every year. With a large property, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done. Or pulled in a million different directions working on a million different projects.
This year has been feeling really good. I love being productive and making progress, and that’s what’s been happening so far.
At the start of the year, I identified seven projects or goals that I wanted to work on. (The original post has six because I wasn’t ready to talk about the garage yet, but it was definitely on my mind when I wrote the list.)
The goals were garage addition, playground expansion, pond shore clean-up, vegetable garden, the last big junk pile, bedroom refresh, and farm history.
Some of these goals are interconnected. The garage addition led to the playground expansion, as we used the wood from the old pool deck for the treehouse. The junk pile started to get organized (and downsized) because I needed a spot to stash the brick that were removed from the pool exterior. Part of organizing the junk pile involved tossing two old bales of hay into the garden for mulch.
With any home project, dominoes can happen really easily and it’s nice to be able to line them up intentionally. Here are some more details on how we’ve been doing with each goal.
The garage and mudroom are turning out so, so well. After thinking about this renovation for so long, I’m really pleased with the result. We are also so close to being done. (I owe you a look at the panelled and tiled mudroom.) We are waiting on doors. Person doors. Garage doors. We need doors. Once doors go in, trim can be finished and we can move in.
I am almost as excited for Ellie’s treehouse/playground as I am for the garage. It’s big. It’s fun. And it’s something that I’ve done mostly by myself. It’s been a long time since I’ve built like this. I’d like things to be going a little faster, but bit by bit I keep making progress.
The barometer for the pond shore is can I mow it? Well, I’ve been mowing a little bit more shore this year. I clipped back brush and tiny trees. Matt’s Dad cut some more trees that had sprouted out of an old stump. Ellie and I carried everything to the firepit and had an epic blaze. We’re not ready to build our new bridge yet, but we have the beginning of a little path between two pines as I’ve always envisioned and we can access the waterfall more easily.
Ellie and I finally unrolled two old bales of hay and spread them over one quadrant of the garden. The hay (along with the cardboard I put underneath it) is doing a good job of keeping the weeds down for us. (Though everywhere else they’re as prolific as ever.) I haven’t managed to build any raised rows, but we have planted some tomatoes and a few other seeds. We were late and the seeds were old, but we have a few things growing in the garden for the first time in several years.
The last big junk pile
We’ve done dump runs, dragged brush to the burn pile, dug things out of the ground, picked glass out of the dirt and finally started mowing a little bit of the area beside the garden. In addition to being the dumping ground for who knows what, this spot is also my compost pile for weeds and other cuttings from the gardens. I’ve dealt with most of the who knows what. What’s left is piles of brush and leaves and weeds. Then the plan is to build a new compost bin that will contain the mess.
The inspiration to refresh our bedroom was the new TRUBBTÅG duvet cover from Ikea. Which appeared to be out of stock for the first half of this year. It’s finally here, and now I’m wondering what else I want to do for this room?
Connecting with the woman whose family first owned this farm was a very meaningful experience last year for me. Due to lockdowns, we’ve not seen each other very much, and she’s not been out to the farm yet this year. We have kept in touch and I am looking forward to learning more about this special place.
Progress is the theme for our Home Goals so far. Nothing is done yet. I’m not sure we’ll be completely finished any of them by the end of the year. But we’re making progress, and that makes me very happy.
It felt good to set goals at the beginning of the year. It felt like I was coming back into this part of myself that has been pushed to the background since I got pregnant, since Ellie was born, since Matt was sick.
It’s also felt good to work on these goals this year. Every day is a juggle of Ellie, work, farm, life. But the juggle has felt like a balance–of sorts–so far. I feel like I’ve made more progress this year than we have in a long time, and I’m excited to see what we accomplish over the rest of the year.
What have you been up to this year? How to you prioritize projects at your house? Are you feeling in balance? Productive? Motivated?