Odds & sods

Sun rising over snow covered farm

I am ending February in gratitude. Gratitude for what we have. The world still feels full of turmoil and conflict. There is still illness, but I am grateful for the security and peace that we have at the farm and within our family.

Cigo is settling in and we are feeling comfortable in our new family. Being able to share our love and joy is very special.

We celebrated Valentine’s Day, Family Day and three birthdays, including Ellie’s. We didn’t see as many family members as we would have liked, but we celebrated.

We had snow, rain, wind and days where we could see glimpses of spring.

Life keeps going. We keep doing our best.

Here are some things I enjoyed this month:

A conversation and a prayer. “In a world that is struggling, a world that is swirling, a world that is tumbling, may we not lose hope… May we each trust that our acts of love and our acts of kindness no matter how small help the dawn of a new reality break upon this world.”

Putting a price on how nature protects us

We’re doing 1000 Hours Outside again this year (we made it to 841.5 hours last year)

A thoughtful, sensitive renovation of a historic lakehouse

We are never getting an emu… though this is hilarious (the whole account is hilarious)

A thoughtful perspective on renovation, the life of a house, and how we are just a moment in time

I hope that you are safe and are able to find peace in your day. I am grateful to you for reading and connecting in this way. Take good care.

Adding to our family

One of the functions the mudroom was designed for is being fulfilled. A row of hooks is now holding leashes, collars and old towels.

Last week, Ellie and I added Cigo to our family.

I was not looking for a dog. But something made me click onto the SPCA website. There I saw an easy-going 3 year old boxer lab. That all sounded very familiar, and we had an amazing experience last time.

Without giving myself time to think, I put in an application. A few days later we went to meet him. Ellie liked him and he was good with her–my most important criteria. The next day, we heard from the adoptions coordinator that we were approved and he could come home with us.

Cigo (See-Go) has been a nice addition to our family. We’re all still adjusting, and it’s definitely a juggle. But seeing Ellie with him is incredibly special and having him with me as I write at night is comforting.

His overall disposition is awesome. He’s good with people, children and dogs, and doesn’t bother with our food or Ellie’s toys. He doesn’t have a lot of training, so we’re working on basics like not pulling on the leash, stay and our house rules.

He loves the farm and likes rolling in the snow, checking out the smells when we go snowshoeing and running around the driveway with Ellie.

A week in, he’s starting relax and know what’s expected. And we’re getting to know him and what he needs. It feels good to share the love and joy of our family.

Preparing for the worst

One of my home goals for 2022 is “plan for the worst.”

Matt’s death showed me how important it is to be prepared for your worst case scenario. There are absolutely critical things like a will to protect your family. Or everyday things like making sure someone knows where you bank, how you pay your bills, or even what your important passwords are.

Beyond illness or death, severe weather and natural disasters are other factors that have a tragic impact on people every year. And with climate change, these incidents are happening more frequently.

I want to ensure that I do everything possible to protect Ellie, myself and the farm. My plan is to focus on one “prep” task a month.

Here are some of the things on my list so far:

Insurance

Last month we received our renewal notice for our home insurance, so I called our agent to make sure we have the coverage we need. Our conversation was a lot of “If we have a wildfire/electrical fire/flood/tree fall on the house/ice storm/power outage/tornado am I covered?”

Ice storm 2013

Our insurance policy is very, very challenging to understand–I’ve tried to read it. Our agent was able to answer my questions and explain details of the coverage that gave me peace of mind. I also made sure the new garage and mudroom are included in our policy and that my freelance communications business doesn’t need any special coverage.

In addition to home insurance, life insurance is an important consideration for many families.

Documents

Our important documents are stored in a fireproof safe. They’re protected, but they may not be accessible in a disaster. I am going to make extra copies–both paper and digital–so that we have multiple options in case we ever need them.

Household inventory

A household inventory seems daunting. How do I list absolutely everything in my home? Chris Love Julia shared their experience after a fire at their cabin, and their advice is to take a yearly, personal inventory video. This is doable. I’m going to go one room at a time, open every drawer and every cupboard.

Wedgewood Oberon china

Go bag

Having a bag packed and ready to go in case we ever need to evacuate seemed like something I didn’t need to worry about. We’re not in an area that is prone to floods or fires. But then I thought about the big pines beside our house. What if one of them fell on the house? Could I get what we needed quickly and easily? A few things in a bag in the hall closet seems like a helpful idea.

Will

Matt and I made our wills when Ellie was born. When he died, our lawyer advised that I didn’t need to update my will, as everything was already set up to go to Ellie if I die. However, things feel a little different now that it’s just me–not as hypothetical. Most of what Matt and I decided together for Ellie still stands (her guardians, for example). But I want to make some adjustments to ensure that Ellie is as protected as possible.

Finances

I’ve made some changes to our finances over the last year. As a result I have some old accounts that need to be closed. Leaving them feels like clutter and could be confusing for my executor. I am also going to make a list of what accounts I have and give that to my executor.

Executor

My family is pretty open with each other, so we have talked about estate plans, end of life care and finances. I want to have this conversation again with my sister, who is my executor, to ensure that she knows what’s in place and what my wishes are. I’ll also be providing her with a copy of important documents and other critical information, just in case she ever needs it.

Queen Anne's Lace

These are not fun tasks, but I know they will give me peace of mind. And, if worst comes to worst, hopefully they will help to protect Ellie, our home, the farm and me.

How have you prepared for the worst? Have you gone through a disaster or tragedy? What helped the most?

Odds & sods

Saturday was a beautiful, sunny, cold day. We spent most of it at the pond. We shoveled, skated, slid, sledded, tromped, ran, played Frozen (I am Elsa, always), climbed the beaver tree, tried to light a fire, ate lunch on the ice and immersed ourselves in the magic of the farm.

I started the year motivated, inspired, optimistic and content. But as January went on, I felt more and more that the world is filled with cruelty, conflict, intolerance, tragedy and lack of care.

The farm is always a refuge, and I’m glad to be able to retreat here. But hiding out at the farm is not a solution. We also live in the world, and I want it to be a good, kind, safe and healthy place for Ellie.

I don’t have a solution.

One thing I can do is speak up. Honestly, I’m fearful to speak too loudly. The intolerance I see in the world is not disagreement. It’s cruel, personal attacks. Fear keeps me quiet, within the shelter and safety of the farm.

But, I can share others who are speaking up.

Usually at the end of the month, I share links to things that are funny, inspiring, thought-provoking, motivating, positive. This month, I’m sharing two posts about the protest that happened this weekend in Ottawa.

I say often that I choose a life of love and joy. Part of that is trying to be tolerant, caring, kind, helpful. I am not seeing that in the world right now.

Mudroom to do list

The mudroom was top of the list of 2022 Home Goals that I shared last week. My plan is to focus on storage and decor–function and form.

Progress has already been made.

A grand total of 24 hooks have been installed. Excessive? Perhaps. But I subscribe to the philosophy that you can never have too many hooks.

I moved in the bench and umbrella stand that I made for our old mudroom.

We also added two dressers, which I painted last week.

They give us eight big drawers of storage, so I finally have a place to put my hats and mitts. As well as car keys, sunglasses, reusable bags, pens, notepads, phone charger, masks (who thought we’d need mask storage?) and so much more stuff.

One dresser is by the door–keys, outerwear, sunscreen, bug spray, etc. will live here. One dresser is on the landing by the kitchen. My vision is that it will become a kind of command centre for mail, papers, household stuff, and even some of Ellie’s toys.

Part of my goal with not adding built-ins right away is to discover exactly what kind of storage we need.

The dressers aren’t quite the style I’m looking for in our eventual built-ins and they’re not quite the right size for their spots, but they do the job for now. And the price was right. Matt’s Dad picked them up years ago and they lived first in his shed and then in our barn. After some repairs, a cleaning and a coat of paint, they are a great interim solution.

Here are some of the other things I’m planning to do in the mudroom.

Install dresser hardware

The dressers don’t have a lot of space to screw on drawer pulls. The centre recessed panel is actually glass, so I can’t drill through it. I’m likely going to reuse the old pulls, but I’m going to spray paint them black first.

Refinish mirror

I found a big oval mirror at a thrift store this fall. The rounded shape will be a nice contrast to all the straight lines in the room. I’m going to remove the decorative piece on the top and refinish the wood frame, aiming for a rustic finish that will go with our cedar ceiling.

Install nightlight cover plate

I remembered last week that I had one LED cover plate left from a three-pack I bought a few years ago (I was influenced by Young House Love). The mudroom would be a perfect place for a nightlight, so I dug it out. Bonus, the cover plate also has a USB port, so it will be going at my new phone charging station on the landing dresser.

Build key cupboard

During construction I had our contractors insert a little wood box that I made into the wall beside the door. This box is going to become a hidden key cupboard. A few rows of cup hooks will give us plenty of space to hang keys. For the cupboard door, I’m going to use a picture attached to hinges. Storage. ✓ Art. ✓ Function. ✓ Form. ✓

Hang art

We don’t have a lot of wall space for pictures (and I don’t want to put too many holes in the paneling). I’m planning on hanging one painting. Matt’s Mom and my Mom have both sourced art for me. Matt’s Mom gave us a painting by Matt’s Grandpa. My Mom’s friend gave her two water colours that he painted. They’re all great farm scenes, and I really like how the blue and green tones contrast with the beige paneling. (Note that despite the photo differences below they’re all close to the same size.) Which would you pick?

We are definitely at the fun stage of the mudroom. These are pretty quick, inexpensive, easy projects. All of these little details make the room function the way we need it to and personalize the space for us.

What’s your first project of 2022? How do you handle storage at your entry? How many hooks is enough?

Home Goals 2022

Last year I returned to annual home goals with some pretty big projects (garage, mudroom, treehouse). It was motivating and fun, and I’m looking forward to more this year (though some lower budget projects, as I’m also rebuilding our savings).

Here is what’s on my list for 2022.

Mudroom

The mudroom ended 2021 as pretty much a blank slate. It had a fresh coat of paint, but no decor and storage was pretty makeshift. Built-ins are still the plan for this room (the ones below would be perfect, thanks), but they’re down the road a little ways. For now, I’m looking for some make-it-work-but-less-makeshift storage and some pretty finishing touches for the room. First up, painting some dressers.

Source: Crisp Architects

Garage landscaping

The garage landscaping will likely be our big project of the year. I’d like to pave the driveway and add a patio and some steps for the mudroom and living room (like the beautiful stone steps below). This project will require some professional help. The DIY portion will be spreading some topsoil and grass seed around the garage. Matt’s Dad bought me a load of topsoil for Christmas, so we’re ready to go as soon as the snow melts.

Source: Renaissance Landscape Group

Plan for the worst

Natural disasters and personal tragedies throw people’s lives into chaos every year. I want to protect Ellie and me and the farm, as much as possible. Some of the things on my list for this year include digitizing important documents, making a household inventory, packing a go bag, updating my will, and streamlining our finances. (This book has tips to address all of these and more.) These are not fun tasks, but I know they will give me peace of mind.

History

It’s been very special to connect with the woman whose family first owned this farm, and I’m looking forward to learning more from her. I’d also like to go farther back in the farm’s history and learn more about the Indigenous people who lived in this area and do more to acknowledge their history. This beautiful book that I received for Christmas has been very inspiring.

Pond shore

The pond shore returns for its annual appearance on this list. This year, I’m hoping to continue to clear the shore toward the creek and finally build a little bridge across.

Source: Atlanta Trails

Vegetable garden

Hope springs eternal for the vegetable garden. Ellie has picked some things she’d like to grow this year, and I’m hoping that interest translates into more time in the garden. I feel like I learned a good lesson last year: the garden–even if I achieve a low maintenance level–needs attention. Fingers are crossed that I give it more of that attention this year.

Source: Charles Dowding

Barn

Our beautiful big barn. I love this barn, and I want to preserve it. There are a few cracks in the foundation and a few leaky spots on back roof. I’ve had some people out to look at the foundation, and their assessment has been that the barn is in pretty good shape. Though they’ve also provided me quotes to restore the foundation, and the estimates are expen$$$$$ive in the extreme. One thing I can do is eavestrough. This will be a relatively inexpensive way help to ensure water runs away and protect the structure.

I am excited by what we have planned for this year, and I’m looking forward to sharing more with all of you.

What are you aiming to do at your house this year? Are you focused inside or out? What would your dream playground have? Any tips for low maintenance gardening? Is there such a thing?

Looking back at Home Goals 2021

I returned to annual home goals last year after a four-year break. It felt good to be focused and have some projects to work on through the year. And I feel like I did pretty well at accomplishing my goals.

Here’s a look back at what happened around the farm in 2021.

Garage addition

Our biggest project last year (biggest home project so far) was the garage and mudroom. These spaces have made such a difference for our home and how we use it. There are a few things to work on still (Home Goals 2022 coming soon!), but I am so happy we did this renovation.

Playground expansion

The treehouse playground was a highlight of last year. Both for the actual building and for the fun Ellie has playing on it.

Pond shore

The pond shore is my perennial home goal. Last year, we cleared a little more of the shore, though I didn’t do as much as I hoped and I didn’t build a little bridge across the creek. What is clear, we enjoyed, though. I had bonfires almost every week with my friends over the summer, and Ellie and I make regular visits to the little waterfall.

Vegetable garden

I would classify the garden as a fail last year. I tried mulch, but didn’t build proper raised rows. And I didn’t spend enough time in the garden to maintain it. We did grow a few things, and I feel like I keep learning every year.

The last big junk pile

The last big junk pile is pretty much gone and our new compost area is built. I have a bit more to tidy this spring, but the view out the dining room window is vastly improved.

Bedroom refresh

I thought my new duvet cover might inspire other changes in our bedroom. That didn’t happen. (My Mom did gift me with new pillows for Christmas.) The space is working well enough. Though I still think a closet reorganization would be lovely.

History

I was able to keep in touch with the woman who’s family first owned this farm over the last year. In fact, I have a story of a special tree planting to share soon.

Black and white photo of two children sitting on top of a wood gate

The garage, mudroom and treehouse are the big wins of last year. The garden is the big fail. But overall I am really happy with what we accomplished. I work best when I have specific projects to focus on, and I’m looking forward to setting new goals for 2022.

What was your biggest accomplishment at your house last year? Did you have any fails? Did you set any home goals?

Word of the year: Content

At the start of each new year, I think of a word that I want to guide me for the next year. As I looked back over the last four years, I can see how the words have built on each other and stayed with me.

BalanceSlowResolveFocus

This year, I wasn’t sure what word I wanted to use.

Then I thought of content. (Pronunciation note: Being content. Not creating content.)

I have tremendous joy in my life and celebrate each day. However, sometimes my thoughts are ones of impatience, envy, worry, criticism or doubt.

My brain feels very full. I don’t have room for negativity. I want to be more content.

As I was writing this post, I found that one of the definitions of content is “a state of peaceful happiness.” That is exactly what I’m looking to achieve.

For me, content builds on my quest for a slow, balanced life focused on what’s most important to me. I feel like I know myself and have made the choices that are right for Ellie and me and the farm. But sometimes I second guess myself or wish things were different. Being truly content will take effort. But it will help me to quiet my brain a bit and appreciate each day even more.

What are you feeling as we begin 2022? What are you hoping to accomplish this year?

Merry Christmas

Yesterday, Ellie and I went for a hike at the back of the property. It was a nice way to enjoy the farm on a sunny snowy day. Together in this special place.

Due to the pandemic, Christmas may once again not happen the way we want. Life sometimes does not happen the way we want.

But like a sunny snowy day in a special place with a special person, there is love and there is joy.

Whatever form your Christmas takes, I hope that you find peace, togetherness (in some fashion), health, love and joy.

Thank you for reading over the past year.

I wish you and your family well this holiday season.

How to make a simple Christmas tree skirt from a tablecloth

After we’d set up the tree, after we’d strung the lights and hung all the ornaments, Ellie asked, “Where’s the cape?”

The “cape,” or the tree skirt, was the final touch to hide the stand and, most important, provide a spot to rest all of the presents.

These days, there are lots of options for the base of your Christmas tree. However, I still like our simple skirt. And simple is the best word for this DIY.

I made our tree skirt from a Christmas tablecloth.

Here’s how:

Find a round tablecloth in a pattern you like. Ours is about 6 feet in diameter.

Slit the tablecloth along the radius. (In other words, cut halfway across your table cloth from the edge to the centre. You can find the centre by folding the tablecloth in half and then in quarters. You’ll have a generous slice of pie. The point of the pie is the centre of your tablecloth.)

Cut a 6 inch diameter circle out of the middle of your tablecloth. This will be where the tree trunk goes. Use a plate or another round object as your pattern.

Sew a zigzag stitch around the edge of the trunk cutout and the slit to prevent your fabric from fraying.

Attach velcro along either side of the slit.

Drape your tablecloth around the bottom of the tree. Use the velcro to close the skirt. Put the velcro at the back of the tree so it isn’t visible.

And voila. Your Christmas tree now has a beautiful cape.

Does your Christmas tree have a cape? How do you style the bottom of your tree? Have you ever used a tablecloth for something other than a table? How many presents are under your tree so far?