Odds & sods

March felt very full. The garage reno kicked off, spring arrived (with all of its assorted projects and adrenaline), sap was running, syrup was boiling, taxes were prepped, we spent nearly 100 hours outside (94 so far and three days to go), and daily life continued.

We also marked Matt’s birthday. I’ve made him a birthday cake for 23 years in a row, and I’m not ready to give it up. Plus, Ellie loves to bake and a cake is a way for her to connect with her Daddy. By her decree, his cake was exactly the same as hers from her birthday last month.

I am starting March’s round-up with an excerpt from a beautiful book that I read this month. It reminded me to find space in our full days, in my full mind, in our full life:

“I am my silence. I am not the busyness of my thoughts or the daily rhythm of my actions. I am not the stuff that constitutes my world… I take a little time each day to sit in silence so that I can move outward in balance into the great clamour of living.”

Embers by Richard Wagamese

Here are some other links that have given me space, helped me deal with our world and find balance with the clamour of living:

Simple formula for bystander intervention

A better measure of success

I have mudrooms on my mind. Sarah Richardson does too.

Farmhouse Facelift It’s nice to see farms and functional makeovers on HGTV. Plus the hosts were a few years behind me in school.

Rethinking kindergarten readiness

I hope that you are doing well and have had a good month. We are looking ahead to a full Easter weekend (accompanied by three birthdays). There will be some hikes, egg hunts, traditional meals, new menus, candy, memories and fun.

Has March been full for you? How do you find space in your life? Do you make time to sit in silence?

Garage construction has begun

Today is day four of garage construction. I am so excited to have this project underway. And our contractors have made so much progress already.

All of the brick is off the exterior of the pool, the deck inside has been demoed, the pool floor has been drilled for drainage, the new foundation has been excavated (without hitting the geothermal), we passed our first inspection, and footings have been poured. The patio around the outside of the pool and off the living room has been taken out. One tree has been taken down and cut up for firewood (half taken down by the excavator and the other half taken down by Matt’s Dad, who also did all the cutting up). Our pile of other firewood has been moved.

Two tractors (one a toy) in front of a pile of firewood
Child walking on dirt while a tractor digs in the background
Child standing on top of a pile of dirt
Child watching a cement truck pour cement

Next up is building the foundation for the garage extension and the mudroom dividing wall.

I ended up turning over the remaining demo to our contractors. I had really wanted to do a lot of the work myself. Demo is a relatively easy way for me to be involved, which is part of the fun for me. Plus it would save the contractors a bit of time.

But the deck turned out to be a beast. I took the railing off, then spent an hour and a half on the deck itself. I got four boards off and they all split.

Indoor pool mid demolition

I hadn’t taken any of the brick off the outside when the contractor said, “I can start next week.” He also said, “Scaffolding, jack hammers, three guys.” And I said, “You can do it.”

Removing the brick from a house

I am so glad I did. They were so quick. But they were also careful.

I want to use the lumber from the deck for Ellie’s playground expansion. And I want to save the brick for some future exterior work I have planned.

They took everything apart carefully. They stacked the lumber so I could take the nails out, and then moved it to the barn for me. They piled the bricks on skids and then tucked them behind the barn. Being able to reuse so much is so helpful.

Indoor pool mid demoltion
House with brick partially removed

And we’re already at the putting things back together stage. Though it’s going to take a while before it’s all back together. I’ll be sharing more as construction progresses.

Have you started any spring reno projects at your house? Do you have any renovation plans for this year? What jobs do you take on yourself versus hiring out? Have you ever reused lumber or other materials?

A sweet family tradition

On a whim, I decided to tap our trees a few weeks ago. It turned out to be exactly the right time. Just a few days later, the sap started to run.

Making syrup was something Matt liked to do. I didn’t tap trees last spring, but this year I decided I wanted to share the experience with Ellie.

We also need to replenish our stash. Matt started making Ellie a waffle in the morning, and it’s still her breakfast of choice.

Ellie has been in on every part of syrup making so far. Drilling the trees, collecting the sap, eating the sap right from the tree.

As I strain the sap, she inspects the cloth for dirt. Then as it’s boiling in the pot, she calls, “Use the ‘mometer!” (Our first batch of syrup burnt when we were distracted watching Frozen.)

She holds the strainer as I pour the finished syrup into jars and then swipes her finger around the bottom of the pan to lick up the sweet drips left behind.

Syrup making became a fun tradition for Matt and me, and I’m having more fun carrying this on with Ellie.

Do you have any spring traditions in your family? What family traditions are you sharing with your kids?

We’re building a garage

There was one project that I didn’t share in my Home Goals post back in January. Of course, it was the biggest one. A garage!

(I am so excited.)

At the start of the year, we were in the plans and permit application stage, and I didn’t want to share anything until everything was approved and confirmed.

We have received our permits, demo is underway and construction will hopefully begin later this month.

So let’s talk about the garage.

Here is our current floorplan.

Current floorplan

And here is my (not at all to scale) floorplan of what’s going to happen.

The indoor pool will be filled in (yay to no more pool!). The west wall (top wall in this floorplan) will be pushed out 10 feet. A wall will be built to make a mudroom.

From the outside, it will look something like this.

I want to do as much demo myself as possible before our contractor arrives. It will save us a bit of money, and it’s fun to be involved in this project.

I started taking apart the pool in February. The first thing to go? That terrible indoor-outdoor carpeting coating the lower half of the walls.

Matt in the indoor pool

Yes, I will continue to share this photo as much as possible.

For the most part, the room has come apart fairly easily. The awkward thing is working around the pool. I feel very high when I’m up on a ladder with this deep gaping hole behind me. Matt’s Dad helped remove the siding above the windows. I only took down part of the ceiling, as the sections over the pool felt too high. I’m in the middle of taking down the deck off the kitchen. Hopefully I finish that off this week, and then the inside demo is done.

Nine years ago during our home inspection

Outside, I want to strip the brick and pick up patio slabs. The brick will be saved for future projects, and the garage will get new board and batten siding. But we need a bit more snow to melt before outside demo–or construction–can begin.

The garage has always been top on my reno list. Being able to load or unload the car without worrying about the weather. No scraping snow or frost off the car. Taking out the recycling without walking across the driveway to the driveshed. A mudroom with heat so that our boots aren’t freezing. So many good things are coming our way.

As long as I’ve been thinking about this project, now it’s time to make some decisions. I’ll be sharing some of those in upcoming posts and asking for your input.

And I’ll be sharing updates as construction begins.

Matt and I were saving for this project when Ellie was born. Our plan was to build the garage last year, but I decided to wait another year. I’m glad to be finally going ahead and working to realize our vision.

Farm-iversary 9 and a new project

Tomorrow marks 9 years since the farm became ours.

I’ve been trying to think about what I want to write for the anniversary, and I haven’t been sure what to say.

Looking back at previous farm-iversary posts, year 4 feels closest to what I’m feeling right now.

Four years ago, I started to live one of my dreams. It’s been a pretty amazing opportunity. Something I don’t take for granted and that is incredibly meaningful for me.

Obviously, life has changed a lot since I wrote those words. But they’re still true. This place is special. I feel Matt and my Dad here, and I see meaning all around us. I don’t take that for granted at all.

But rather than being sentimental today, what I really want to do is celebrate.

Because we are about to embark on a new project.

It’s big.

It’s something I’ve wanted for a long time.

It’s a… garage.

I’ve been planning this for years–9 to be exact. Our official planning process with a contractor and blueprints and permits started in the fall. Demo is underway (the old indoor pool is finally going away). Construction might start this month, depending on the weather.

Matt in the indoor pool

Nine years ago, during the home inspection.

I have so, so many more details to share. I think year 9 is going to be good. Stay tuned.

Do you celebrate your house’s anniversary? What projects are you tackling this year?

Odds & sods

This has been a month of highs and lows.

Matt’s uncle, a much-loved figure in our lives, died. Uncle Bill made us the Coonley playhouse-inspired stained glass window that hangs in our dining room. Bill loved coming to the farm, and I love the big hugs that he gave me every time I saw him.

Coonley playhouse Frank Lloyd Wright inspired stained glass panel

We’ve had two birthdays so far this month, and the biggest one (for us) comes tomorrow when Ellie turns 3.

Our girl is so proud of how she’s growing (“I’m going to reach the books on the top of the shelf!”) and learning (“I’m going to write!”).

Ellie is a sensitive, thoughtful, enthusiastic little girl. Though we have our terrible-twos/threenager moments, most of our days are filled with fun, and I’m looking forward to some fun (albeit small) celebrations this week.

Here is an Ellie-inspired round-up for this month:

A mile with May

Cinderella just wants to go to the play ball

Christopher Robin grows up

A cute monster movie… that of course made me think of Ellie and Matt

Your real life is with your family

An epic playground in an epic park

How has February been for you? What kid-friendly things are you enjoying these days?

Ellie’s big girl bed

Ellie’s room got an update just before Christmas when we took apart her crib and set up a bed.

Colourful toddler bedroom

I had always envisioned this bed in the space. This was my bed when I was her age. Before that, it was my uncle’s bed when he was a child. It came from my grandmother’s family’s furniture store.

It is solid wood. Clean lines. Great quality. With super cute cubbies built into the headboard.

Anna doll lying in a cubby in a bed headboard

The finish was natural wood, but a little bit orange for my taste and also for her space. I didn’t want to change the other parts of her room. The turquoise paint on the walls, the grey wood toned dresser, the white bookcase. Those were all staying, so I needed the bed to work with those pieces.

I was a bit worried my Mom (the caretaker of the bed) wouldn’t like my plan to paint the bed, but she was all for it. A few coats of my go-to Cloud White by Benjamin Moore (in their Advance finish, which is good on furniture), and it was exactly what I had envisioned. And my Mom was thrilled, both that the bed was being used again and that it looked so fresh with its new white paint.

Ellie’s room is not large, so we could only fit a single bed. We rearranged some of her other furniture to make everything fit. It might be a wee bit tight, but everything fits (including her tractor) and the layout works for us.

Colourful toddler bedroom

And, best of all, the transition from crib to bed went pretty well too.

Who else likes secret cubby-holes? Have you repurposed any family hand-me-downs at your house? What is your crib-bed transition story?

Ralph update

Three months after breaking her leg, Ralph is finally free from her cast.

Cat meowing

When we first went to the vet at the beginning of November and he said it would be 6-8 weeks, I gulped. Keeping a barn cat contained for two months? This wasn’t going to be fun.

Well, it ended up being just over 12 weeks, and our barn cat now lives in the house.

We started off with Ralph in the mudroom. We keep the door from the mudroom to the house closed, so she could be contained and safe, but not in the house. For the first few weeks of her confinement, she was mad. She hated being inside. Then she adjusted and we had a peaceful couple of weeks. But then she got mad again. This time she was mad that she wasn’t in the house.

She would yowl for more than an hour at a time. Finally I couldn’t handle the noise, and I moved her inside. She settled into a corner of the kitchen and has lived happily ever since.

Fortunately, the transition has not been difficult. She stays in the living room or kitchen. She uses her litterbox. She does not scratch or climb on the furniture (aside from a couple of attempts in the early days).

Child sitting on the floor reading a book to a cat sitting on a chair

She’s occasionally more nocturnal than I would like and yowls in the night. And I really don’t like having a litterbox in the house and having to clean it.

But I think this is what’s best for our girl right now.

Her leg is still healing. I can feel a bump where the break has mended. But her leg is skinny and weak after two months with a splint and another month wrapped in a bandage. She needs to walk on it to rebuild the strength in both her muscles and bone.

Cat with a cast on her back leg

The vet checked her over at her last appointment, and the verdict is she’s a lame, blind, deaf, toothless cat. She gets to have whatever comfort she wants right now.

She curls up on Ellie’s playmat if we have a morning sunbeam. And when Ellie and I have lunchtime picnics in the living room, she comes to join us.

Cat begging for food from a young girl

At night when I’ve finished work, I sit in the living room for a few minutes and read. Ralphie invariably gets up and hobbles over to my chair for pets.

While I may not be an indoor cat person, Ralph isn’t a bad cat to have indoors.

I am extremely grateful that she wasn’t hurt too badly and the leg seems to have healed.

Are you a cat person? Any tips for night time yowling? Have you gone through an injury with your pet?

Replacing our drafty patio door

The living room has a big patio door on the south side. It gives us great natural light, which significantly increased when we removed the sunroom from the side of the house. I loved sitting on the couch in the fall, watching the leaves change colour.

But the beauty of fall is followed by the cold of winter, and I knew the patio door was a big source of drafts. I had felt that the sunroom provided some thermal buffer (perhaps wishful thinking). But with it gone, the cold air had a direct path through the door and into the house.

So at the end of the year (fortunately on a mild December day), we had the door replaced.

Of course, like so many things in this house, the door was “special.” It was right between five and six feet–the two standard sizes for patio doors. We went with a five foot door, and the installers built out the jamb and added some extra trim inside and flashing outside to cover the difference so it’s not noticeable.

Ellie plays in front of the patio door every day, and most lunchtimes are a picnic in the sunbeams that now stream through the window.

The feature I’m most excited about is the screen. With the sunroom in the way, we had no incentive to open the old patio door. We would have just smelled stinky old sunroom. Also, the door did not slide well and it didn’t have a screen. Now, we have a screen and a door that opens and closes smoothly. I am looking forward to fresh air as soon as the weather is warm enough to open the windows. For now, I’ll be enjoying my new view.

Anyone else dealing with winter drafts? Or enjoying winter sunbeams?

Odds & sods

How is 2021 going for you so far?

This month feels like it flew by.

Ontario is in lockdown again, but Ellie and I have been sticking pretty close to home anyways. Fortunately we’ve been bubbled with my Mom and Matt’s parents all the way along, so we’re still able to see some people and have help when we need it.

Our January highlights are celebrating my Mom’s birthday (complete with singing Happy Birthday over Zoom), skating with Ellie (she was a bit wobbly and nervous, but thinks hockey will be easier), some new clients and extra projects at work (and late nights as a result) and lots and lots of playing.

Like everyone, we’re doing the juggle. And we’re doing okay. I hope that you are as well.

Here are some other highlights that I came across this month.

It took me three tries to get through this book the first time I read it to Ellie. I still don’t make it sometimes, but I keep trying because it’s such a beautiful story. I see so much of Matt and her in it.

Setting a goal to spend 1,000 hours outside has been so motivating and made me much more conscious of how we spend our time. Also, we’ve had a lot of fun.

Junkyard playgrounds

The woman behind Peter Rabbit

Anyone can be a millionaire

What does it take to blow $10,000 a year?

When you dig yourself into a hole. And someone hauls you out.

I hope you’ve had a better month than that poor excavator. Is anyone else trying to spend more time outside this year? Paying more attention to finances this year? Reading any good books?