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?

A new door for an old barn

The driveshed (aka our small barn) got a spruce up last week. A new garage door.

The existing garage door had always been a bit of a beast. Heavy. Didn’t slide very well. It pretty much always took my full body weight to close it, and even then I couldn’t always get it latched. (I feel like the driveshed looks particularly sad in this picture.)

Broken garage door on the small barn

Perhaps because I used so much force as I pulled it down, the bottom of the door started to fall apart this year. As in the whole lower panel started to come off. Then the roller went crooked and I could barely move the door.

Being me, I thought, “I can fix this.”

I bashed at the roller until I finally broke it off the door.

Garage door with a broken roller

As I looked at the splitting, rotted, old wood, I said, “I’m going to spend days Mickey Mousing around with this and still have an old door.”

Ellie said, “Mickey Mouse? Where mouse?”

It took me a couple of weeks more to accept that I needed to order a new door, but I got there eventually.

Pushing the lawn mower and wheelbarrow around all of the detritus in the driveshed, through all of Ellie’s toys, past the garbage and recycling bins and bumping out the person-size door was not fun.

But no more. The new door was installed last week.

Installing a new garage door on the small barn

Installing a new garage door on the small barn

It slides up and down and latches, exactly as a garage door is supposed to. Even on an old barn that’s saggy and terribly out of square. (But a bit less sad looking now, I think.)

New garage door on the small barn

Family, legacies, memories and more barn repairs

Last week you saw some of the repairs that we did this fall on the barn’s foundation. Today, I’m sharing some other work that we ended up doing on the siding.

Patching wood siding on a barn

Patching wood siding on a barn

Patching wood siding on a barn

Patching wood siding on a barn

It took four cousins, two very tall ladders, a pile of lumber, hundreds of nails (and we still ran out), and a few other assorted other tools and supplies.

We replaced missing boards, renailed loose boards and closed a trap door that had swung open a couple of years ago. It might seem odd that Matt and I left the door open for a couple of years. However, it was at the peak of the gable, and the climb was a bit daunting. One of my cousins brought a climbing harness and ropes, so he went up.

Climbing inside the barn

Working together felt so good. Not just because of how generous and kind and caring our family is. And not because it was a chance to balance Mama-me with DIY-me. What was best about the few hours we worked together that morning was how strongly I felt my Dad.

Patching wood siding on a barn

Patching wood siding on a barn

Patching wood siding on a barn

All of my cousins worked with my Dad at various points. We know how to do so many things because he taught us. We also know how to work together because we all learned from the same person.

There was such a great rhythm between all of us as we talked things through, divided up the tasks and did the work. We trusted each other to make the right cuts, choose the right materials and hold the ladder steady no matter what–even when it was fully extended and nearly vertical.

Patching wood siding on a barn

Patching wood siding on a barn

“You happy?” was always my Dad’s line when he and I were working together. That meant, “Is your end good? Can I nail/screw/glue/attach mine now?”

A short while into the work, my cousin at the top of the ladder called to the guy at the bottom, “You happy?”

Hearing that, I was definitely happy.

Barn repairs – Starting at the bottom

Barn

When we were looking for our farm, I think our real estate agent started to think we were buying a barn rather than a house. I love the beams and the stones and the history, and we fell in love with pretty much every barn we saw.

Fortunately, our barn is in pretty good shape. In fact, previous owners had done quite a bit of work on it–more of an investment than we would ever make.

But we had one issue come up–or down. Some time in the spring, a section of the barn foundation caved in.

Collapsed barn foundation

The stone foundation is double layered, and the outer layer under one of the windows fell down.

The inner layer stayed in place, but as I looked at the wall and thought about fixing it, I came up with a new plan. Take down the inner layer, remove the window and make a door.

The cave-in happened in the corner where I want to put our coop, so having a door would make accessing the birds a whole lot easier.

But first we had to access the barn. We’ve not done a good job of yard maintenance around the barn, and we had all kinds of trees and brush. Matt’s Dad brought his chainsaw and spent a day clearing the mess.

Clearing vegetation from around the barn

Then our mason was able to remove the stones and pour a new threshold for us.

Matt, Ellie and I all put our handprints in the cement (then Ralph and Baxter trampled all over them to add a few prints of their own. I retrowelled the cement and we smushed our hands in again). I love so much that our prints will be here, part of this farm and this beautiful old barn.

Handprints in cement

My brother and sister-in-law came for a visit, so I took advantage of the extra help and my brother and I removed the window and framed up the opening.

Building a door in a barn foundation

Then the mason returned and rebuilt the wall up to the new jamb. This is the same mason that built our fireplace, so he’s very skilled in working with stone and enjoyed the puzzle of fitting everything together. (These pictures give you an idea of the width of these fabulous walls. The jamb is a 2×10, and it’s just about half the wall.)

Repairing a stone barn foundation

Repairing a stone barn foundation

We haven’t figured out the door itself yet. The opening is blocked with plywood, which will likely stay up for the winter. Next year, we’ll build a door. I haven’t quite made up my mind whether it will be sliding or swinging. The opening is very large, so whatever door we have will be heavy.

I often feel that we are stewards of this property, and I feel the same about the barn. It existed long before we arrived at this farm. And hopefully, with a bit of care from us, it will exist long after.

Early mornings in Illinois

I would not call myself a morning person, but there is something magical about those early moments in the day. Time to be alone and enjoy the quiet of the farm. Time to be productive and tackle a little bit of work. Sarah in Illinois–also not a morning person–has come to appreciate her morning routine. She is here today, sharing a bit about how she starts her day.

Having chickens requires me to get up a little earlier every morning to tend to them. This isn’t the easiest for someone who readily admits she is not a “morning person.” However, I do enjoy the fact that everything is a little more peaceful just as the sun rises. It also allows me to spend a little one on one time with Blitz. We like to play ball and visit with Ruff the barn cat.

These two have comically become good friends.

I think because it is early morning, and they both are still a little groggy from sleep.

When I leave the barn I usually pat Ruff on the head and her head is always soaked in Blitz’s slobbers.

I have begun to really enjoy this quiet time in the morning. It helps remind me to slow down and look around.

Are you a morning person? What do you enjoy about the start of the day? Do you have a pair of unlikely buddies around your house?

Aww. It’s great to meet your Ruff, Sarah. I wonder how she and Ralph would get along. Baxter and Ralph’s relationship is definitely not as buddy-buddy as Blitz and Ruff’s. I would say Ralph tolerates Baxter. She definitely does not allow him to slobber on her. It’s great that Ruff and Blitz have become such good friends.

First snow and first fire

Snow dusting the split rail fence by the barn

Thursday night the flurries started, and Friday morning we woke up to our first dusting of snow this season.

The puppy was entirely over-excited until his feet got too cold (temperatures also fell incredibly far overnight) and then he was excited run back to the warm house.

Baxter surveying the fields after the first snowfall

Tire tracks across the field after the first snowfall

Baxter surveying the fields after the first snowfall

Snow on the barn roof

After all of the cold and snow, I was very happy to also have our first fire of the season this weekend. (Yes, that means our chimney is clean. One more task crossed off our fall to-do list. How to post to come).

Logs burning in the fireplace

I’m writing this in front of our second fire of the season, enjoying a quiet, cozy wind down to our weekend.

I hope that you all had a good weekend as well. What was the highlight for you? Any weather changes where you are?

A heck of a hive

Giant wasp nest on the ground

Snow melts. Grass dies. And all of a sudden things appear.

Things like a giant wasp nest.

Giant wasp nest on the ground

I’ve never seen a nest this large. Let alone one built on the ground.

Never mind knee high to a grasshopper. This is knee high to a grown (albeit not super tall) woman.

Giant wasp nest on the ground

Have you ever seen a nest this large? Is spring uncovering anything at your house?

That time my husband dropped a 2×4 on my head

Or, as Matt tells the story, the time I followed too closely behind him while he was carrying–and dropping–lumber.

Head wound

Saturday afternoon was fall cleanup day here on the farm.

Remember this pile of lumber that I cleaned up back in the spring? I was so proud. I am woman, hear me roar.

Lumber pile at the edge of the field

Field after clearing the lumber pile

However, I really only did half the job. I brought it over to the barn, but not actually into the barn. I dumped it beside the silo.

Lumber piled outside the barn

Putting it into the barn was one of the tasks on my (mental) fall to-do list. After mucking all of the old straw and manure out of the stalls last fall, we have lots of extra space, and I knew one of the empty stalls would be perfect to corral all of this lumber.

I recruited Matt to help me, and we moved 6x6s, 4x4s, 2x8s, barnboard siding and assorted other lumber–including a few pesky 2x4s–into the barn. There is so much lumber, yet it takes up barely a quarter of a stall. Horses are big animals, people.

Lumber piled in a horse stall

Along the way we picked up the leftover fence posts that have sat by the garden all year, some other lumber, some metal posts–five piles in all.

Trailer loaded with old fence posts

I’m so happy that the property is looking just a wee bit tidier. Next year when we mow these new areas, it will look even better. I’m not sure Matt is quite as enthused yet. Especially since he’s our main mower.

Lumber pile cleaned up beside the silo

My husband knows me so well. When we came into the house at the end of the day, he asked me, “How much of that did you have planned, woman? I thought we were just moving the one pile by the silo when I agreed to this. I want to re-examine the contract. I think I might sue.”

I admitted that I had planned for three out of the five piles–the other two were just a bonus. I also reminded him of the original contract, which says, “for better or for worse.”

How did you spend your weekend?

Summer progress in Illinois

Sarah is back today with more news from Illinois. Like me, she has a long summer to-do list, and she’s made some good progress recently.

Things have been pretty busy around here.

This past weekend Steve and I spent over 4 hours trying to get the garden back in shape. Weeds had really gotten ahead of us.

It’s crazy how a good rain and warm sunny weather for a couple days can turn weeds from “manageable” to “out of control,” because that is exactly what happened. But we do now have a handle on things, and I need to work on it every day, even for just a few minutes, so that we stay on top of things.

Freshly weeded vegetable garden

The rain and sun has been great for the kale though. I have added it to my salads, and I have made some kale chips. But truthfully I really needed to find a way to use more of it and quickly.

I was listening to Young House Love’s podcast, and John mentioned that he blends his kale with just a little bit of water and freezes it in ice cube trays. Then he uses a cube or two to drop in his smoothies. Wow! That was such a simple idea and I had never thought of that or read that idea anywhere. So I cut a bunch of kale, rinsed it and did exactly what John suggested.

Blended kale ice cubes

I used a lot of my kale. It only took a few minutes and now I can add it easily to my breakfast.

I will have more to harvest. This is AFTER I made my kale cubes.

Kale in the garden

The other thing that we worked on over the weekend was the chicken coop.

Building a chicken coop inside a barn

We had just been using wood that we had laying around, but we got to a point where we had to make a run to the home improvement store and get more supplies.

We are basically making a small room inside one of our barns. The exterior wall and the roof will be insulated.

I am still kind of designing and redesigning things as we go, but I have a pretty good plan in mind. I am hoping we will be ready for chickens by the end of this upcoming weekend.

This summer seems to be flying by so quickly. We have gotten so much done, but I feel like I have so much more that I really want to get finished.

I don’t want another month to go by without checking so much more off of my to-do list!

Oh, I know what you mean, Sarah. Summer is the time to get things done. I’m glad I’m not the only one with an ambitious to-do list. You’re doing a really great job, though! I can’t wait to see the rest of the coop–and its occupants.

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