Garage update

When the wall of the pool was removed to frame up the openings for the new garage doors, I had a few regrets about turning the pool into a garage. I had a great view from the kitchen island out the side of the house, across the lawn all the way to the barn.

Not regrets in terms of, “Stop the project! I don’t need a wall on the side of my house!” But more, “Wow that’s a lot of light and what a nice view.”

Well, the view is no more. The mudroom wall has been filled with insulation, covered in vapour barrier and sheathed with plywood (on the garage side). I don’t even have a view out the mudroom door, as that opening has been covered in plastic (we will, once the door arrives).

But the regrets are easing. We are inching ever close to the mudroom actually being part of the house, which feels like a pretty big win.

Two beams are sitting in the new garage. This week they should be installed in the archway between the kitchen and the mudroom and the patio door will be removed (good riddance).

Framing in the opening means that tile can be laid and paneling can be installed on the ceiling and walls.

Outside, the roof is shingled and new board and batten siding is almost done. I feel like both of these items are a journey in colour.

For the roof, I knew what shingles we used on the rest of the house, so our contractor was able to get an exact match. Exact except that the other shingles are 9 years old and apparently pretty dirty. I had expected the old shingles to be sun faded and lighter. But instead they’re darker. Massive pine trees, dirt from fields, dust from the road, air pollution? Who knows what all is on them? But the new shingles are already starting to blend (or my eye is just getting used to them).

For the siding, I was trying to complement our existing red brick and the new garage doors. And I was referencing tiny sample chips, just a couple of inches wide. I called my contractor’s stain supplier and asked for a sample can, and they offered me a gallon. So I held my garage door sample up to the brochure, picked a light, warm neutral shade and crossed my fingers that it would work.

Right now, I love it. It looks good with the brick and is such a light, clean sight out the kitchen window. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it works with the garage doors (ETA unknown). Please don’t let them clash.

Also, please appreciate the precision of the spacing on the siding so that the light is exactly centred on the board. My contractors’ care and attention to detail consistently impress me. All of the lights across the front of the garage are each centred on their own board. The windows on the end gable wall have the same spacing all the way around so that trim is even. The battens are prenailed like this so that all of the nails line up perfectly.

Doors may end up being our speed bump (literally) on this project. I got word last week that the person doors are another 4 to 6 weeks out–even though they’ve been on order for nearly 2 months. I’ve had no word on the garage doors. So that view out across the lawn is going to be a while yet.

But, tile and panelling are on-site and ready to go. We’re also ready for soffit, fascia and trough, which will nearly finish off the outside.

It feels a bit like we are moving onto the finishing stage. Not necessarily finishing–although that is getting closer, doors notwithstanding. But installing the finishes like siding, paneling and tile feels like a good milestone.

Who else is a cross-your-fingers-paint-picker? When do you feel like you’re nearing the end of a project?

Odds & sods

And just like that it’s the last day of May. This is always one of my favourite times at the farm. The property is so green and everything is beautiful. A little shaggy as we still haven’t gotten into a regular mowing schedule, but I can see the possibilities.

The past month felt full. The garage and treehouse are two fun projects at home. I started a couple more new projects for work. We had Matt’s Dad’s birthday, Mother’s Day and Victoria Day. I also got my first dose of vaccine.

Most days are a juggle, but I am so grateful to be able to be here with Ellie. We work hard and have lots of fun.

Here are some of the things I wanted to share in this month’s round-up.

A mass grave of 215 children was discovered at a residential school in Kamloops. (See those photos above? Some of the children were Ellie’s age.) Treatment of Indigenous peoples is a shameful part of Canada. I hope that the current sentiments lead to some true reconciliation.

Our favourite library book this month

Battle against the gypsy moths continues. So far we’ve scraped egg masses, squished caterpillars by hand and wrapped the tree trunks with sticky tape. Here’s another trap I’m going to try.

Rose quartz and brass cabinet hardware. My Mom’s planning on painting her bathroom pink. How about switching the hardware too, Mom?

An amazing vegan spaghetti sauce (don’t scrimp on the fennel)

How was May for you?

Treehouse playground

One year ago, as I was driving home with parts of Ellie’s new-to-us playset in my car, I spotted a slide at the end of someone’s driveway. It was cracked, but I couldn’t resist so I loaded it into the car.

As soon as Matt’s Dad and I set up Ellie’s playground, I started dreaming about expansion plans.

I quickly realized that a playground was not super complicated to construct, I had better quality lumber stored in the barn than what her playground was constructed of, I didn’t really fit in the playground, and Ellie was going to quickly outgrow the set.

When I saw this treehouse playground, everything clicked in my mind. We had a big pine tree near her current playset that would be perfect. We also had an old deck worth of lumber in the pool. Oh, and we had that extra slide.

Construction on the playground began after a timely text from a cousin. He asked if I needed help with anything, so I replied, “How do you feel about building a treehouse?” A week later, he helped me build the underlying structure of posts, beams and joists.

We made it as big as our lumber allowed. Roughly 10 feet by 12 feet. The platform is 5 feet up from the base of the tree, which was recommended for a 10 foot slide. It feels high enough. The tree is on a little mound, so the edge of the platform is 6 to 7 feet off the ground.

It’s big and tall and open to so many possibilities.

I contacted a local deck company, and they let me (and Matt’s Dad) dive through their dumpster to get boards for the decking. I’ve been slowly working my way through the decking for the last couple of weeks, and yesterday I finally finished it.

We have a collection of tires here at the farm, thanks to previous owners. I picked out 8 that are roughly the same size and have begun bolting them together to make a ladder.

I’m still on the hunt for a firepole (one of Ellie’s favourite activities at any playground).

And obviously we need a railing.

This very sophisticated crayon rendering might help you to visualize the final playground.

So far, we’re having a lot of fun building—and already playing on—the treehouse.

Did you have a treehouse as a kid? Where was your favourite place to play? What’s your favourite activity at a playground?

Plans for planking the mudroom

On Saturday morning, Ellie and I hooked up the trailer and headed to a local lumber yard to buy the ceiling for the mudroom. 140 square feet of the most beautiful cedar came home with us. (Side note: this barn smelled fabulous.)

The inspiration to plank the ceiling came from Matt’s Dad. As we were taking down the ceiling in the pool (which was sheets of cedar designed to look like tongue and groove), he suggested reusing them. (You can get a little glimpse of them in this shot from our home inspection.)

Unfortunately, once the sheets were down and I pulled all the nails, the sheets were a bit too patchy and beat up for the mudroom. (I have saved them in the barn in case I can use them for another project in the future.) But we have new cedar T&G planks to put in their place.

I like that the ceiling will be a reference to the pool and what this space was originally. Natural wood is also a common element in other rooms of our home and it feels farmy to me.

I’m also planning to put vertical planks on the mudroom walls. The walls will be painted, so I’m on the hunt for some MDF V-groove. Pandemic shortages (and price increases) are not my friend right now.

I’ve chosen to go vertical to emphasize the height of the room. I also want to avoid a shiplap look. My reaction to some decorating trends is to actively avoid them, and shiplap is getting that treatment. V-groove feels more casual than beadboard to me, but more polished than shiplap and appropriate for our farm. (Remodelista has an explanation of V-groove versus shiplap versus beadboard and here is V-groove in action in The Grit and Polish’s kitchen.)

Source

The conundrum with the mudroom is the wall height–around 9 and a half feet. I found a few companies that make 4×10 sheets of V-groove, which would be ideal. They’re exactly the size I need and installing sheets would take much less time than planks. But the lead time to order them is 6 to 8 (or even 10) weeks–thanks pandemic.

So I turned my attention to planks. But the planks come in 8 or 16 foot lengths. My vision was for one continuous plank from floor to ceiling. The longer planks would give me that, but I’d be left with more than 6 feet of waste. Some late night sketching and texting with my contractor gave me a solution that allows me to use the 8 foot planks without having to splice them together.

Baseboard at the bottom gives us about 5 1/2 inches (we’ll have to put some backing to lift the planks up from the floor). Then a hook board mid-way up the wall gives us another 7 1/2. The hook board will be wood and feels like a really practical addition as it will be a sturdy surface to affix hooks or support a shelf. Then, any remaining gap at the top will be covered with a small 1×2 or 1×3 board. I think it will look good.

It’s fun to be focusing on the finishing details now, even if it might still be a while before they’re installed.

The framing is done, so the mudroom has been carved out of the garage and we have a new landing off the kitchen. The roof where the old sunroom was has been patched and the garage roof has been extended over the addition. Having the one continuous roof makes such a huge difference to how that side of the house looks. The garage floor has been poured. Electrical is roughed in. This week, tile should arrive and siding install should begin.

It’s exciting to see it coming together.

Do you have panelling anywhere in your house? Are you team beadboard, V-groove or shiplap? Are you pro-wood or paint it out? How do you react to decorating trends? Where would you use panelling?

How to fight gypsy moths

Gypsy moths are an invasive species that is very destructive to trees. Caterpillars “feed gregariously.” If there are enough caterpillars, they may eat all of the leaves off a tree. “Severe defoliation can reduce tree growth and predispose trees to attack from other insects and diseases.” (Source)

We prize our trees here at the farm, and we’ve had some caterpillar damage the last few years. So last week, Ellie and I spent a morning scraping gypsy moth eggs off our trees.

Child standing on a ladder scraping gypsy moth eggs off a tree

I had noticed some pale patches on various trees and after a close look assumed they were egg deposits of some kind. Then, articles in a couple of magazines confirmed they were from gypsy moths. A very detailed article in our community newsletter advised scraping them into a bucket of hot water mixed with bleach. And to do it by May before the caterpillars hatched.

We were already into the first week of May, so Ellie and I got busy right away. We carefully examined our trees and scraped off any masses we found. A few had already hatched, though the caterpillars were still small and hadn’t crawled away yet. I was very glad to remove them before they moved onto the trees.

Gypsy moth egg mass with newly hatched caterpillars
Gypsy moth egg masses on a maple tree

We used a ladder to get as high as we could. We were careful to scrape as many of the eggs off as possible and catch them in the bucket, rather than letting them fall to the ground.

Gypsy moth egg masses and caterpillars in a bucket of water

We found the eggs on many of our maple trees. I’m sure there are a few we missed, and some that were out of reach. I’m hoping that we removed enough to prevent the trees from being severely damaged.

Our community newsletter also recommended wrapping sticky tape around the bottom of the trees to catch the caterpillars, so I’m planning on doing that as well.

The article concluded, “The more people that are aware and actively working to reduce gypsy moth populations, the better overall control we will have over this invasive pest.” I hope that this post encourages you to check your property for signs of gypsy moths.

Do you have any pests on your property? Are gypsy moths a problem in your area?

Quest for weed control in the vegetable garden

Our vegetable garden has been more of a miss than a hit the last few years, but I’m trying to get back in the game this year.

My first step has been prep. Years of neglect mean weeds are well-established throughout the garden. I’m not prepared to tackle the whole garden, but I’m going to try to reclaim a few areas. Rather than dig up all the weeds or till them under, I’m trying to suffocate them with mulch.

I first wrote about deep mulch gardening back in 2016. So this has been on my mind for a while.

I picked one quadrant (the others will not be planted and will be mowed or tarped), and laid down a whole bunch of cardboard.

We’ve had two bales of hay sitting beside the garden for a couple of years. I had intended to use them for mulch, but then gardening didn’t happen for a while. When the excavator was here a few weeks ago for the garage, I had him throw the bales over the fence (they had gotten too squishy for me to pick up with our tractor).

Ellie and I broke up the bales and spread the hay in a deep layer over all of the cardboard.

Between the raspberry rows, I laid more cardboard and then layers of bark that Matt’s Dad picked up when he was cleaning up some dead trees in the fenceline between the fields. They’re like really big woodchips.

It’s going to take a lot of work to get the garden back. If I’m going to have any success, I have to figure out a way to manage at least some of the weeds, and mulch is this year’s experiment. I feel like I’m already behind for this year, but I’m trying to remind myself that gardening is a multi-year undertaking.

The asparagus and rhubarb are up, though fluctuating temperatures seem to have slowed them down over the last couple of weeks (and weeds may be choking them). The grapes are alive, and I really need to figure out how I’m supposed to prune them. The raspberries look happy, including some new canes I took from Matt’s Dad last fall.

I have to dig out the weeds around the raspberries, asparagus, grapes and rhubarb. Then I’m going to try to put down more cardboard and more mulch wherever I can.

In the mulched quadrant, I’m going to plant annuals. What ones, I’m not exactly sure yet. I’m also not sure how I’m going to plant in the mulch. I may try to add soil and/or compost on top of the hay to make a raised row garden, or I may just scrape the hay back, punch through the cardboard and plant in the soil underneath.

There’s still lots to figure out, and we’re a looong way from having a thriving vegetable garden (unless you’re a weed… or a bee wearing pollen pants).

But it does feel good to be back in the dirt. And I’m glad to be trying out some of the techniques I’ve read about and thought about for a long time.

Are you planting a vegetable garden this year? Any tips for dealing with weeds? Or reclaiming a neglected garden?

Odds & sods

When we first moved to the farm, a row of forsythia bushes beside the driveshed were covered in blooms at the beginning of April. Since then, I’ve measured the progress of spring by the forsythia.

The forsythia flowers arrived last week–the most flowers we’ve had in years. Unfortunately, right after they arrived, snow returned. So I’m not sure that forsythia is my best measure of spring this year.

Here are some other things that caught my attention this month.

Have house prices gone crazy where you are too? Farmhouse sells for $1,115,000 over asking

I haven’t been able to listen to music since before Matt died. The other week I found this song. I still cry, but I love it.

Mesmerizing

I went waaaay back in my recipe archives to make this pasta last week, and it was so good. (I omitted the pepper and added tomatoes, artichokes and spinach to up the veggie quotient).

Mudroom inspiration for coloured cabinets and large-scale rough stone tiles.

Sources: Hali MacDonald in House & Home (left), Jeffrey Dungan (right)

We’re finishing off April by picking the mudroom tile and paying taxes (worse than snow in the spring). We have a bunch of outdoor projects underway here, so I’m hoping that warm, sunny days return soon.

How was April for you? What signs of spring have you been seeing? Are you cooking any retro recipes?

Garage update

Garage under construction

Soooo much progress was made on the garage last week. In fact, we have an actual garage now.

There’s more work to be done, of course. But it looks like a garage rather than a pool. In fact, Ellie and I drove the car in over the weekend.

We are 17 days into construction.

The exterior walls are all framed. The walls turned out to be our first hiccup because our contractor wasn’t happy with how the bottom plate of the existing walls was positioned in relation to the pool deck.

It looks like the plate had been set in place and then the concrete of the pool deck had been poured up against the wood. He wanted the plate higher up, so he reverse engineered footings all the way around the garage.

Wall with incorrectly installed bottom plate

He braced the ceiling, so that the roof didn’t fall down. Then cut out the original plate and about 6 inches off the studs. Then he put in a new (floating) bottom plate, squeezed forms in underneath and poured new footings.

Pouring footings under existing wall

This has been our biggest (not so big) surprise so far, so not tragic.

For the side wall on the new addition, he decided to reuse the existing wall (which I’m grateful for since lumber is so expen$ive these days). After a lot of figuring, bracing and some extra help, they hopped the wall (all 20 feet long with the windows still in place) out 10 feet.

Extending the garage
Reusing an existing wall when framing the garage

I love construction, so it’s neat to see the problem-solving, planning and building process up close.

The doors are all framed in as well. Seeing the garage openings made it feel much more real. It was also an opportunity to validate some of my planning. I am really happy with the dimensions and position (there’s a good amount of space to tuck recycling boxes along the side and still get out of the car).

They also mapped out the mudroom for me, so I could check the height of the floor, location of the doors and size of the landing. I really appreciate how conscientious and inclusive they are being.

And finally, FINALLY we have no pool. The excavator returned last Wednesday and gravel trucks started showing up a few minutes later. The excavator dumped bucketfuls of gravel into the pool and our contractor compacted it. It took most of the day, but by 5pm the pool was full.

Gravel pile to fill the pool
Filling an indoor pool with gravel
Filling the pool with gravel

The excavator returned the next day to finish backfilling all of the foundation, lay the driveway and take care of a bunch of other jobs that I had. Low spots were filled in, bumpy spots were leveled, rocks were moved, stumps were extracted. Soooo many things were crossed off my wishlist.

Though it felt like an expensive two days, having the excavator, two machines, our contracting crew and about 15 truckloads (250 tonnes) of gravel.

Backhoe and skid steer working on the garage construction
Truck dumping gravel

Ontario is under a whole bunch of new restrictions due to a huge wave of COVID infections, but residential construction that is already in progress is allowed to continue. So next on the agenda is framing the roof of the extension and the mudroom and pouring the garage floor.

Anyone else in the middle of a construction project (big or small)? Have you had any expensive days recently? Anyone else crossing things off your to-do list that have been on there for a long time?

Picking a mudroom floor

Last week I was talking about the exterior of the garage. Today I’m moving inside to talk about the mudroom. Specifically the floor.

In my original plans, we were going to do a concrete floor. I liked the idea of colouring and stamping it to look like tile. But I liked that it would be one solid surface with no grout to clean.

Our contractor and I both called a bunch of concrete installers, and we couldn’t find anyone to do the mudroom floor. The space is too small, and there would be extra charges for a partial load of concrete. Heating the floor wasn’t going to be as straightforward as I thought.

Change of plans. We’re going with tile, grey grout and a really, really, really good sealer.

Now I have to pick a tile.

My mudroom plan is to plank the walls and ceiling. The walls will be painted a light greige, taupe colour. Fairly neutral. Not white. Hide dirt.

Source: Sarah Richardson

The ceiling will be wood.

Source: Style at Home

So what do we do with the floor?

Let’s start with the two floors above.

The first mudroom by Sarah Richardson appeals to me the most. The floor is light, but close to the colour of dirt. I’d go with a grey grout over the white because… dirt. The tile looks a bit peachy in the picture, but I like the idea of something more brown-toned rather than grey. I’m worried grey tile might clash with the taupe walls. The tiles are a mix of sizes and the rough edges feel rustic.

In the second photo, we see slate, a common choice for mudrooms. For me, it feels a bit dark. Our mudroom will have a window in the door and that is the only natural light that will come into the room.

The other common material choice is brick. It feels a bit trendy these days, though some would say it’s timeless. It’s definitely rustic and durable. For me, I feel like the brick would start to feel too busy. There would be a lot of grout lines and tones of red. I’ve learned that I get tired of strong colours and patterns eventually. And I don’t want to get tired of this floor. Though a non-red brick might be an option.

Source: Brooks & Falotico

Ellie and I went tile shopping a few weeks ago, but nothing jumped out at me. (Unprompted, she chose red brick.)

What would you do? What would you want for a mudroom floor?

Garage exterior plans

Foundations are in for the garage and mudroom. I’m hoping everything will be backfilled this week–and maybe the pool finally filled as well.

I’m trying to do my part of keeping the renovation moving by making decisions about what I want.

After thinking about and planning for this renovation for so long, I thought I knew exactly what I’d choose. But now that it’s real, I’m finding out that sometimes my mental picture isn’t as clear as I thought it was.

I’d appreciate your input on a couple of things.

Garage doors

A carriage door style feels appropriate for a farm. These doors have fake handles and hinges that make them look like old-fashioned swinging doors.

However, the carriage doors I like the most are all overlay doors. In an overlay, the panels or strips are applied by hand. This translates to more expensive. As well, there are sometimes issues with getting the overlays to line up between each section of the garage door.

I can get the carriage door look (hinges and handles) in a pressed door. In this profile, the design is pressed into the steel and there are no applied pieces. However, the profiles that I like the best (the two-panel or Zed above) are not available. I’d go with a simple shaker style panel to get as close as possible.

I’ve spent a lot of time gawking at garage doors, trying to figure out if I dislike the pressed profiles enough to go for an overlay door.

What would you do?

Lighting

Lighting is still a while away, but wiring will happen soon. So I’m thinking about how many lights we need and what they should look like. We could have as many as six lights (if we stretch all the way over to the living room patio door) or we could go with three, or somewhere in between.

They could all be the same, or we could switch up the style.

I’m leaning toward a lantern style light on either side of the garage. This graphic from Farmhouse Facelift shows two options that appeal to me: a traditional lantern and rustic wood design that I haven’t seen before.

Source: Farmhouse Facelift

I’m also considering goose neck barn style lights (though their trendiness makes me want to avoid them). We drive past a house that has used them beside the garage doors, rather than above (which we won’t have room for).

How many lights and what style would you do?