Deer in the dining room

Hello. It’s been a little while. Thanks for your patience during my blogging holiday. We’ve had a lovely summer, and having this time all together is something I will always treasure.

Our days have been filled with all kinds of fun, including a few little projects. One of the projects was a final decorative touch in the dining room. Hanging two sets of antlers in the corner.

Two sets of antlers hanging in the dining room

This was always part of my original plan during the One Room Challenge this spring, but in the finishing stages it was cut.

The delay was mostly due to one set of antlers not being mounted. It took me some time to figure out how I wanted to mount them and how to do it.

The first set of antlers came from Matt’s Grandpa. We’ve had them for awhile, but haven’t had a good place to put them. They’re mounted and varnished and quite old.

Two sets of antlers hanging in the dining room

I decided to try to make our new antlers match the old ones as much as possible. I traced the mounting plaque, but made it a bit taller, as the skull plate on the new antlers was a bit larger. I know the skull plates are typically trimmed and covered, but I actually like seeing the bone. I’ve written about my (potentially strange) attraction to skulls before. If antlers are considered attractive, why can’t the bone be as well?

Covered skull on mounted antlers

Mounted antlers unvarnished and uncovered skull

I also decided to keep the antlers natural rather than varnishing them. I like the light tone of the antlers and wanted to highlight their natural beauty.

The next step was to try to match the colour of the plaque. I didn’t want to buy new stain for such a small project, so I tried blending a few different stains. I got close, but not exact. Part of that is likely due to a difference in the woods. The grain of the new plaque is much more pronounced than in the old one.

I was nervous about attaching the antlers to the plaque, but it worked out much better than I expected. Online tutorials prescribe bolting the antlers to the plaque. I simply drilled pilot holes in the skull and then screwed through the back of the plaque into the bone using regular screws. The skull seems secure, so I hope that it will hold.

The final touch was adding a picture hanger to the back of the plaque.

Back of mounted antlers

I put both antlers in the corner next to our deer painting. When I first photographed the dining room for the reveal post, this corner looked very empty. Over the last few months, I’ve gotten used to its emptiness–part of my draw to a bit more minimalism. However, since the antlers are a bit hidden in the corner, the room doesn’t feel too busy.

Two sets of antlers hanging in the dining room

I like that the antlers are finally on display. I feel like displaying them honours the animals. While my preference is always to see deer alive walking around outside, these deer in some ways live on as I appreciate their antlers every day.

Are you a fan of antlers in decor? Do you have any antlers at your house?

 

Summer holidays

I love summer. I love heat, sun and time together.

We’re getting all of that right now.

So I’m going to take some time to savour it.

Ellie, Ralph and Baxter

So far, we’ve been spending lots of time with family, had a bit of a getaway up north, done some special outings for just our little family and are enjoying this season together.

We have more of the same planned for the next little while, so I’m going to take a little break from the blog for the next few weeks.

I hope that you’re enjoying your summer and are getting time to do all of the things you love with all of the people you love.

Odds & sods

We’re at the last week of June.

We always think about my Dad. Between Father’s Day and the anniversary of his death our thoughts have been a little heavier at times this month. We see lots of signs that he’s still with us and we feel his love all the time.

Life is hard. But life is also very, very, very good.

We had a lot of fun this month. Ellie finished her second class of swimming lessons—she passed 😉 —so she’s all set for pool and lake time this summer. We celebrated Matt and his Dad with Father’s Day and remembered my Dad too.

Here are some of the other things we’ve been up to and inspired by this month:

Ellie with a miniature donkey

One of our family outings in June was to The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada. We’d never been there, even though it’s fairly near the farm. It was so much fun and their programs are super impressive. There are 86 rescued donkeys and more at local foster farms—which is giving me ideas. I highly recommend a visit if you’re in the area.

The garden on the turnaround has always been a challenge. The big maple tree keeps it in perpetual shade and also sucks up all the moisture from the ground. Plus the garden is big, so I feel like plants disappear. I went to a presentation at a local nursery about shade gardening to get some tips and came out with a list of plants and solutions to try. I’d like to try turtlehead because it’s a big plant and a late bloomer, although I’m worried our soil is too dry. Do you have any plants or tips that have worked for you?

On the topic of gardens, Cathy and Garrett over at The Grit and Polish did a massive makeover in their vegetable garden. They made a great family hangout space.

Looking for some food to serve at your next family hangout? Call it a bruschetta bar, charcuterie platter or tapas, this is what I love to eat.

“There are all these phenomena in human life that are really resistant to language… It’s that personalization of experience and the urge to share experience. We all desperately want other people to hear us and hear our stories and know what our feelings feel like, and they can’t.” Beautiful reflections on the power and limitations of language by John Greene of The Anthropocene Reviewed podcast on 99% Invisible.

Another quote that’s inspiring me: “talent comes everywhere, but having something to say and a way to say it so that people listen to it, that’s a whole other bag. And unless you get out and you try to do it, you’ll never know.”(From A Star Is Born)

My writing elsewhere:

We’ll be rounding out the month with lots of family time this week, and our first overnight trip with Ellie. Matt’s parents are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, so there’s a special dinner and family photoshoot in the plans.

What was your highlight from June? How are you wrapping up the month? What’s been inspiring you recently?

 

Tiptoeing towards (a bit more) minimalism

A project in one part of the house brings chaos to others. By the end of the dining room makeover, the kitchen floor was in a state I prefer not to think about. The guest room still hasn’t entirely recovered from being the dumping ground for all of the things I removed from the dining room.

But while there was chaos in most places, the dining room itself–once it was finished–was calmer than ever. And it wasn’t just the fresh light paint.

White china cabinet in the dining room

In preparation for painting the china cabinet, I emptied everything out of it. In the process, I designated many dishes for donation. Shot glasses and bar stuff that we don’t need. Wedding gifts that we’ve never used. Extra serving pieces. Wrap it up, pack it up, take it out.

When I reloaded the china cabinet, there was so much breathing room. All of our dishes fit easily, and on the upper shelves where we have some of our more special items on display, we could actually see them. They weren’t lost in a mass of clutter.

China cabinet

I also took down the stained glass window and the display of family photos from behind the couch to protect them from paint spatters.

When the room was finished I was reluctant to put these things back. If you’ve been following along for any amount of time, you know I’m super sentimental and love all of the family and personal touches we have around our home. So I was really surprised I didn’t want to have the stained glass Matt’s uncle made for us, or my hand-picked favourite family photos back on display.

Those things are super precious to me. But without them, the dining room felt calmer–a feeling that I liked.

Vintage shelving unit used as a china cabinet

There’s a push for minimalism–or at least paring down–by a lot of bloggers these days. While I will likely never be a Marie Kondo devotee, I am feeling a pull to simplify. I love my stuff, but maybe I don’t need quite all of it. Maybe some of it is more precious than others.

When the dining room makeover began, I had felt pressure about what to do with the top of the piano. What should I put there? How should I style it? During the challenge, I realized I didn’t have to do anything. The top could just be empty. There’s the metronome (functional) and the art Matt’s parents gifted to us on the wall above, and that’s it.

Deer painting above a piano

Inspired by the feeling I felt in the dining room, I’m now looking at the rest of the house. The bookcases in the living room, my closet, the kitchen–what do I actually need and love?

How about you? Anyone else making a move towards minimalism? How do you balance sentimental collections while making your home feel calm and uncluttered?

 

 

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”?

 

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.