Connecting with like-minded folk in Illinois

Since starting our own journey in country living, I’ve realized that there are lots of people following a similar path, but each of us are doing it in our own way. Gardening, animals, permaculture, homesteading–everybody tackles things slightly differently.

There is a lot of information online or in books to help you learn how to do things and what works for you. However, sometimes it’s really nice to talk to people in person and learn from their experience first hand. Sarah in Illinois has found a group of like-minded family and friends who are doing just that.

Last fall a few family members and friends decided to start a small group with the common interest in gardening and homesteading. We had a very informal “meeting” where a few people shared areas that they had interest and knowledge in.

We discussed that when selecting a seed you may see words like open-pollinated, heirloom, hybrid, organic or non-GMO and what those words mean. We learned that if you plan to save some seeds from the crop that you plant this year, you must select an heirloom variety. A couple people brought extra seed catalogs that they had, and we talked about the suppliers that we have had good luck from in the past.

We talked about composting and that it is important to get a good mix of “green” and “brown” ingredients. We also looked over a list of things that you should never add to a compost pile such as meat, bones, pet waste, fats and dairy.

Another cousin brought up the topic of what you should plant and how much. She suggested making a list of, on average, what your family actually eats in a year. Then you can use this list to decide what you will use and also not overplant so that you don’t waste food.

She also gave us a list of books that she has used that she thought may be of interest (not affiliate links):

We ended the evening with a short demonstration on how to make your own yogurt, and a friend brought some for us to sample.

We joke that we are kind of nerdy, but when it is a topic that you are truly interested in, I don’t think you can get too much information.

Then we created a private Facebook group where we could share tips, pictures, successes and failures.

This week someone took a video tour of their garden, and we were all so excited to see it that several of us made tours of our own gardens. We all live in about a 30 mile radius, but this allowed everyone to view the gardens when they had time and it was very convenient.

It was so interesting to see the different crops, different sizes of gardens, different methods for weed control and really just about every aspect of gardening and small farm animal production. (My cousin has 11 goats!)

My tour ended up being 21 minutes long. I toured the fruit trees, the garden, the grape vines, my chickens, my compost pile and my herb garden. And I also rambled quite a bit.

I am going to put a few short clips on my Instagram so that you can view them.

As much as I have learned from my parents and in-laws on gardening, I feel like I have so much more to learn. But each year I have a better understanding, better results and a deeper love of growing my own.

Do you belong to a formal or informal gardening group? What areas of gardening do you want to learn about? Have you ever made a garden tour video?

If you’re nerdy, Sarah, I’m right there with you. This sounds like a really inspiring group to be part of. Country living is a constant learning experience, in my opinion. It’s great that your family and friends have come together in this was to share their experiences.

Real life in Illinois

Unfortunately, nothing seems to be going well right now for Sarah in Illinois. But philosophically, she says, “That is life!” She is here today with a chicken, fruit tree and garden update.

I’d love to start this post with a tale of how I walk out into my back yard, with my dog at my side. We walk to the chicken coop where we lovingly pet the chickens, gather more eggs than we could eat, then walk over to the garden. We pick multitudes of strawberries, sugar snap peas, rhubarb and gaze at the full garden of healthy, thriving plants that will soon provide healthy vegetables to all of our meals.

Unfortunately, this is real life. And life doesn’t care about your plans.

This post will be full of things that have gone wrong. But I promise, I am keeping a positive outlook.

Chickens

If you follow me on Instagram, you already know what I am going to write here. One of my chickens died. I don’t know what happened.

Last weekend our neighbor texted Steve and said that she had some type of predator that has been getting in her barn, and it killed two of her young kittens. So Steve went to help her, and the plan was to set a live trap and hopefully catch the culprit.

The next evening I went to close up my chickens and I found the Rhode Island Red dead in the corner of the coop. The other three chickens are perfectly fine.

I inspected the coop and run and found no point of entry. There was no blood and no damage to the body of the chicken. So even though I have been on alert with my neighbor having an issue, I really don’t feel a predator killed my chicken. I think it must have had some problem that I was not aware of. But believe me when I say, I am keeping a much closer eye on the coop.

Fruit Trees

I posted a few weeks back that we had planted two cherry trees. I had ordered them through a seed and plant catalog, and they came bare root. If you have seen a small bare root tree, it basically looks like a stick.

I had confidence that with all the rain (more on that below) I would see some sort of life in our two “sticks,” but after about 4 weeks they showed no sign of life, no leaf, no bud. In fact one was very brittle and Steve was easily able to break the top off.

One day we were at our local “buy everything in one stop” store and there was a 4-foot cherry tree with healthy leaves and even a couple cherries hanging from it.

We decided it was time to give up on our “sticks” and purchase trees that were about 4 years further along in the growing process.

While we were there I told Steve that we should go ahead and pick up a peach tree. They looked healthy and peaches are Steve’s favorite fruit. He looked them all over, made sure the leaves looked healthy, made sure the trunk was straight and we made our purchase. When we got home, we dug a hole and when we lifted the tree to set it in, we saw the tag hanging off of it: Apple Tree ‘Pink Lady.’

We got a good laugh out of how both of us could inspect this tree so closely, look at the leaves that were obviously not peach tree leaves and still bring home an apple tree.

The next day we went back up and picked up two peach trees. We checked and double checked the tags this time.

Garden

In my last post, I talked about how much rain we had.

In 6 days we measured 9.7 inches of rain in our rain gauge. Since then I haven’t kept as close record, but I know for certain we have had at least another 3 inches. I looked online and our average rainfall for the month of May is 4 inches. We have had over three times our normal rainfall.

As I write this, the forecast is calling for 80% chance of thunderstorms tonight and 50% chance tomorrow. So the fact that I have ANYTHING growing in the garden is close to a miracle.

I have had to replant potatoes, but thankfully the second crop has broken ground and is much more likely to make it.

We also replanted cucumbers and sugar snap peas, and they also look much better.

Remember last year when I overdid it on the radishes? We we took a much better approach this year, and my crop is a lot more manageable.

However, our tomatoes and green peppers are showing signs of stress from the excess rain. The leaves are starting to yellow. We planted 2 green peppers on little mounds hoping that would help, but I am still not sure about them.

As you can see, our garden is struggling a little bit. But it is still early and I have high hopes that it will come around. Looking closely at my pictures, you can see I have some weeding to do.

As soon as it is possible we still need to plant green beans, squash, cabbage, watermelons and sunflowers. I will plant pumpkins sometime in early July for an October harvest.

That looks so, so soggy, Sarah. You’ve had some tough breaks. I love that you can still laugh about apple-peach trees and look ahead to a successful harvest.

New life for an old patio table

As the temperatures warm up, I love being outside. For us, being outside usually means working outside because the one thing missing at the farm is a good outdoor living or dining area. But Sarah has a great spot at her home in Illinois. She and her husband Steve recently tackled a project that upgraded a key feature of that area–the dining table. Read on to see the results. Spoiler alert, they’re pretty amazing.

One of the favorite spots in our yard is our deck. Several days a week we head there as soon as we get home from work and have a drink and discuss the day and throw the ball for Blitz. It’s also the spot we head to after a full day of sweaty yard work. We have a nice awning to sit under and a patio table and chair set to relax in.

However, the table was starting to show some wear. It is a metal frame and had two inset panels that were supposed to resemble slate or some type of stone. I am sure when it was new it looked very nice, but over the years the compressed material that made up the fake slate absorbed water and warped. It got to the point where we could not set a glass on it without it falling over. So we started talking about how we could replace it.

I wish I had taken a good before picture but here are the fake slabs that we took out of the table.

Our first thought was to put a thin board in the recessed area and then to tile it. I think that would have looked very nice, but our concern was how much weight it would add to the table. It is not a light table to start with, and we move it into our pole barn every winter to try to help it last longer. Plus, the backing for the tile would have to be pretty thick to hold up the tiles, and we didn’t know if there would be enough room for the backing, the thin set and the tile in the recessed area without really altering the table.

One day when we were looking for something in the barn, Steve saw a pile of old tongue and groove barn wood. He grabbed a measuring tape and said that it was even the right thickness for the area in the table. We talked about if we stained it dark and added some polyurethane, it might look kind of nice in the table.

We removed the fake slate and measured the barn wood to fit in the section of the table. Since it was tongue and groove the boards fit nicely together. Steve did have to add an extra piece of metal across underneath since we were now using several different boards instead of one slab.

With a nice coat of stain, we were pretty happy with the results.

Then we started talking about the two-part epoxy that we see on home improvement shows. I did a little research online and made a quick Amazon purchase. Two days later this arrived.

This is where I should tell you, this post is not sponsored. I paid full price for this kit. Famowood does not know that I exist. I chose this brand because of reviews I have read. I have not tried any other brands to compare.

We had to do a little prep to the table to pour the epoxy over it. There were small gaps and cracks and holes that we had to fill in so that the epoxy did not run out. We weren’t worried about anything staying in place permanently. Basically it just had to stay in place until the epoxy dried. So we just used some of the already opened tubes of caulk that we had sitting around and filled all of the gaps underneath. So it’s not pretty, but it won’t be seen.

The reviews that I read stressed to follow the directions exactly. So we did exactly what they said. We added equal amounts of part A and part B and stirred for six minutes, then put it in a new container and stirred for another six minutes.

My biggest concern was trapping bubbles in the epoxy. No matter how careful we were when we stirred, there were lots of bubbles in it. What I read online suggested using a heat gun to draw the bubbles to the surface.

Steve and I worked together at a quick pace because we didn’t know how much time we would have before it started setting up. So I didn’t get any pictures of this stage. I definitely recommend two people working a project of this size, especially if you do it in warmer weather. The day we chose to pour was cool so we had a little more time, but we still worked quickly. We used a squeegee to move the epoxy around and the heat gun to remove the air bubbles.

We had put newspaper down thankfully, because even with the caulk we had several drips. The instructions suggested pouring a thin coat first if you were pouring over wood. The wood was likely to release more bubbles into your epoxy. So we poured a first coat, waited the recommended hours then poured a second coat.

I think the final result speaks for itself.

We could not be happier with our table. I am so proud of the job we did and I can’t wait to come home each day and sit and admire it.

I want to call a few points to your attention.

1. We chose to stop adding epoxy at the point we did, and it did not fill all of the grooves between the boards. We liked this look, but I am sure if you wanted it to be completely smooth, a third coat would have filled everything in.

2. The epoxy kit we chose said NOT for exterior use. We know this. There is an awning over the patio that will shield most sun and rain and like I said, we take the table inside every fall. If you are looking to do a similar project keep this in mind and maybe look for a kit for exterior use if you are concerned with that.

3. Also, read the directions completely and have all of your tools (mixing cups, stir sticks, tape, squeegee, heat gun, etc.) ready when you start. There is a time limit to this product and you don’t want to waste time running around trying to remember where you put the heat gun.

Holy moly. What a transformation, Sarah. I’ve heard so much about epoxy, but I’ve never used it. Your results are really impressive. I like the addition of the barn wood. It’s great you were able to use material that you had already and extend the life of your table. I’m sure you’re enjoying your evenings on the deck even more now.

Wading into the vegetable garden in Illinois

Illinois is soggy for Sarah these days, so her gardening is on hold. But before the flood arrived, she got a great start on planting. She’s sharing some of the progress in her update today.

Julia may be “tiptoeing into the vegetable garden” at her house, but we have to wear muck boots in our garden right now.

Well, no I wouldn’t even attempt to step one foot in our garden. This morning before I wrote this post, our garden looked like this:

And they are predicting constant rain for the next 48 hours for our area with a total of 5 to 8 inches according to our local weather. So all of our gardening has been put on hold.

However, I want to share what we accomplished before the rain began.

We like to get our potatoes in the ground on Good Friday, and we were only a day late. On that Saturday we were able to plant potatoes, carrots, radishes, lettuce and kale. The next day we got a hard rain. We didn’t get much volume of water. It just fell hard.

I am learning every day about gardening and farming, and what I learned is the rain somewhat compacted the top layer of soil in the garden and then it dried. So when I went back to check on what I had planted a few days later there was a “crust” of soil on top of the seeds.

The radishes were able to break though but the more fragile plants like the carrots and lettuce were not able to break through the “crust.” It looks like we will be replanting those crops.

About a week later Steve and I got several more things in the ground.

We planted two holly trees.

Two cherry trees and four grapevines. Steve set three poles for our grape vines that we will eventually string with cable. Of course right now the vines are about 12 inches tall so not much support is require yet.

Three blueberry bushes.

Then we planted cucumber, sugar snap peas and new asparagus crowns in the garden.

I have planted trees before, and my mom has always taught me the importance of watering. In fact, she has told me, “water every day for a week, every week for a month and every month for a year.” So every day after work I made sure to do that.

Of course, I get a little break right now with all of this rain.

When it does dry up, I have a few plants ready to go.

I have some cabbage, bell peppers and tomatoes sitting near my window. I try to start tomatoes from seed every year and as I have mentioned before I really struggle with it. I had bought Black Krim and San Marzano seeds, and I have starts that are about 3 inches tall but they do not look very healthy.

A family friend of ours starts hundreds of tomato and pepper seeds every year and gives us nice healthy plants. I told her of my struggles and she said that she does use grow lights but she also plants by the moon. That is something that I have heard of but never attempted myself. I think I should really rethink that though when I look at her plants.

This year she brought Celebrity, Early Girl, Better Boy, Rutgers, Roma, Orange Slice, Sunny Boy, Jet Star, Brandywine and a cherry tomato.

We divide all of the plants up between my parents and my brother, so I have a small selection to plant at our house. I hope to mark all of the varieties clearly so that I can keep somewhat of a record of which varieties I like best. I love that she not only gives us strong healthy plants but also we get so many to choose from.

My mom also brought me a couple of Mr. Stripey tomato plants for my garden so we are going to have a rainbow of tomatoes to choose from this year.

Of course that is if we ever see dry ground again.

Oh, Sarah. That’s a ton of rain. Good for you for making so much progress, though. You have so many great plants. Hopefully the weather cooperates for you this year and you harvest a ton of great food.

Building a chicken run in Illinois

Chickens are on my wishlist for the farm. But part of what’s holding me back from getting them is the coop. I know I need to rebuild the coop and part of that is a secure, covered run for our birds. Sarah in Illinois is nearly a year into chicken farming, and she has recently added a run for her hens. She’s sharing that project today, and also looking ahead to a few more.

As I mentioned a few posts back, I was concerned with keeping my chickens free range. I loved that they could roam the yard, pick all kinds of greens and bugs and worms and have such a healthy diet. However, Blitz was becoming quite a concern for me.

I know very well that it is his natural instinct to chase and catch. I also know that the only way for us to overcome this is for me (and the other members of our family) to work with him constantly, to train him and teach him to leave the chickens alone.

It is still possible for us to achieve this and for Blitz and the chickens to live in peace and harmony, but then Steve and started thinking about how we were going to keep the chickens out of the garden this year and we decided it was time to make a chicken run.

We will not get any awards for our design or our building technique but the chickens are safe from Blitz and our garden is safe from the chickens.

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It wasn’t long after we built our run that I read that Kit over at DIY Diva was building a run for her free range chickens. Unfortunately, she lost a few of her flock before she could get them contained. I am thankful that we only had a very close call with one, and all four are doing well now.

We used part of the existing welded wire fencing to make a run about 8 feet wide and the length of the barn. Then we lined the inside of this fence with chicken wire. To support the roof we used old fence poles that we had laying around. We ran the chicken wire over the top and secured all of our seams by twisting wire ties every few feet.

Like I said, we did not use any advanced carpentry skills. If we ever get a hungry raccoon looking for a meal I don’t think that our fence will do anything but slow him down. I still make sure to close their coop door every night, and I look over the fencing often to make sure there are no signs of something trying to make its way inside.

I don’t recommend our approach for anyone with problems with tougher predators. We did not put anything underground like Kit did. Her approach was much more thorough. It is also possible that we will have to reevaluate everything if we get other predators, but for now it is keeping out one goofy pup.

I also mentioned last time that I was going to set my new goals for my next three months. So here we go. By June 30 I hope to have a few more things accomplished:

1. Light box for my mom.

She has asked me a few times to make her one and has even sent me pins about it, but I haven’t started one yet. So that will be a good project for rainy days or evenings.

A light box is basically a shallow box with a clear or opaque lid. Inside is a light and when you put something that you want to trace on top the light shines through and lets you trace much easier.

My mom loves to sew (mostly quilts) and she could really use one. I have pinned one that I am going to base my design on but I need to talk to mom and make sure these dimensions work for what she needs.

2. Grill lighting

We need to figure out some type of lighting for around our grill on our deck. I say “we” because Steve does most, if not all, of the grilling, so I am going to have him help me decide what will work and look the best. Right now, this is purely just an idea in my head and I have done no research.

3. The Garden

For my third project I am not setting a specific project. I am just going to say “garden.” The list of what needs done is so long that I am going to just group it all together and say that any work that gets done in the garden is on my “to-do” list.

We increased the size of our garden this year to 68 feet by 64 feet. With the rain we have gotten lately, we are behind on getting our potatoes in the ground.

So basically, if I am not working on numbers one and two listed above, I need to be in that garden.

I know what you mean about “garden,” Sarah. I actually think it should be “The Garden.” That’s a huge area you have. Between that, the puppy, the chickens and your other projects, you will definitely be keeping yourself busy. Hopefully the run helps to make at least a couple of things easier. It looks like it should do what you need it to. Good luck with your list.

Projects, painting and progress in Illinois

Sarah in Illinois is here today with an update on how she’s done on her monthly projects.

If you have been keeping track, it’s been three months since I announced that I was setting a goal of one project a month. So how have I done?

Let’s start with Blitz’s house.

It’s painted, and that was my goal. I really thought that I would have the roof shingled too, but that didn’t get done. For the paint, I used some concrete floor latex epoxy that we had sitting around. It would not have been my first choice if I went to the store and picked it out, but I think it will work very well. And the epoxy will help protect it from the weather.

My second project is by far my favorite and the one I am most proud of. I told you that we had sneakily taken my grandma’s St. Francis statue from her yard.

It was starting to crack and the paint was faded and flaking. When I last posted about it I showed a little progress.

And now:

Yes, that really is the same statue.

I want to maybe touch up his facial features a little, but I can say that I am very happy with the outcome, and I can’t wait to give it back to my grandma.

And since I love a good before and after:

For my final project from my list I was supposed to prime and paint our hallway. I will call it about 75% complete.

It is primed, and I did start painting, but I really thought I had more paint left. If I have more, I sure as heck can’t find it. So I will take what little info I remember about it (it is semigloss and the color is called Toll Booth), and I will go back to where I got it and hope they can mix me up some more. I am frustrated because the color runs throughout our house and if for some reason I can’t find a match I am going to have quite a problem.

So there you have it, not completely done, but I have made some headway. I love having this goal out here in the public because it made me focus on my three projects and not get distracted like I so often do.

To keep motivated I will set my next three months goals in my next post. You can be assured that they will be garden related.

Good job, Sarah. That statue looks amazing. Your grandmother will be so surprised. That’s really special. I’ve done the paint colour match thing before, and it’s worked out fairly well. Just to be safe, I suggest trying to make the “break” at a corner or other dividing point. 

Garden plans in Illinois

Like me, Sarah in Illinois is also planning and dreaming of her garden. She’s making her list and checking it twice–and then checking it a third time thanks to some help from the family. 

Like Julia, I am planning my garden this year. I wrote this post, and then when Julia mentioned taking a week off I thought that I might have a few things to add.

Well, it turns out I have lots to add.

I have received several plant and seed catalogs. I usually buy many of my plants at a local farm store, but I want to place an order for some of the things that are not found around here.

I made a small list and asked Steve if there was anything he wanted to add to it. My list included a few seeds that we always plant, and I added a few new things to try. Namely, blueberries, tomatillos, pepperoncini peppers and Black Krim tomatoes.

Steve couldn’t think of anything he wanted to add, so I set it aside and went out to clean the chicken coop. I came back in and Steve and his daughter had all of my catalogs out and were making a list. And I mean, they were making a LIST. Many items were new varieties of vegetables that we have grown before but there are new plans for the garden and surrounding yard this year.

We will be adding 2 cherry trees, 3 blueberry bushes and 4 grape vines. We also threw in 50 new strawberry plants and 2 holly trees for the yard. This wasn’t completely a shock to me since Steve and I have wanted to add a fruit arbor to our yard for a while. I just did not know that it was going to be this year.

At our house I am the planner, thinker and researcher. Steve is more likely to throw things together and see how it works out. It is a good combination for us. But that means I am frantically researching how, when and where to plant these trees and vines and bushes before they arrive and Steve is likely to just start digging when they show up. Hopefully, I will have a rough sketch of where we will put them soon.

Another way that Steve is helping to prepare for the garden is that he tuned up our tiller. He also fixed a couple things that have never worked for us on it. It is a hand-me-down piece of equipment and it has worked as-is, but it is nice that he has fixed a couple of the features on it. All we are waiting for is for the temperatures to rise a little and the garden to dry up a little.

Last weekend I planted some lettuce inside. I just felt I needed to start something growing around here. And in a short time I should have some lettuce to add to our salads!

My next post I will be updating how I did on my “one project a month” goal. I have made some progress as I mentioned. But I have also had setbacks.

I came home to this mess.

Blitz had knocked the little pot of brown paint (for my Grandma’s statue) off the workbench and all over him and the floor. Thankfully it was paint and not stain like I had originally thought. That would have been a nightmare to clean off of him and the floor.

Are you planning to plant anything new this year? Do you have any advice for growing any of the new items we ordered? Have you had any help from your pet on a project?

Way to go, Sarah. Your plans (and Steve’s) sound great. Perhaps we can share grape tips. I’m also curious to hear how your holly does. I love the idea of holly, but have been pretty much unsuccessful with two different plans at two different houses (including this one where I killed an established bush).

Progress, not perfection

Sarah is making progress on her projects in Illinois. Today, she’s sharing some of that progress, as well as the lesson that it’s okay to strive for progress over perfection.

“Progress, not Perfection.”

I am not sure who said it first. A quick internet search shows many people using this phrase. My cousin is a personal trainer, and she uses it for her clients. It is a great reminder when you are trying to be healthier, but I think it pertains to so much in life.

That is what I am going to use for my personal home goals too. I did not finish any of my first three projects yet, but I did make progress.

If you look back to my earlier post one of my goals is to paint Blitz’s dog house. I still haven’t decided what color I want to paint it but that doesn’t stop me from going ahead and priming it.

Of course I had help. Because when you have a 6 month old puppy, you really can’t do anything without him being under your feet.

Or close enough to what you are painting that he gets white paint on his head and ears.

So there has been progress.

In other news, while I was out in the yard today I noticed new growth at the base of my mums.

You probably remember my massive mums from previous posts. My dad wants a few starts from it, so when the weather warms up quite a bit I will split it up again like I did last year.

When we went over to visit my parents today, my mom showed me her plans and shopping list for her garden for this year. Seeing the starts of the mums and seeing my mom’s plans made me realize, I am already behind on my garden planning this year.

I need to just keep making progress.

Thanks for the reminder, Sarah. It’s great to see the progress that you–and Blitz–are making. I love the paint in his fur. Such a helpful guy. I hope you’re able to continue making progress.

How to encourage egg laying in the winter

Back in December, Sarah in Illinois shared some of the lessons she’s learned since adding laying chickens to her farm. In the post, she mentioned mentioned that their egg production had declined as winter set in. She had a few ideas to encourage more laying, and today she’s back to share what happened.

If you remember my post a couple months ago, I gave an update on the chickens and mentioned that their egg production had declined.

I thought that it was either from lack of daylight or cooler temperatures. I was willing to try to add some artificial daylight, but that I was not going to risk a barn fire by adding heat.

I am happy to report adding some light did the trick.

I went to the local home improvement store and purchased a light socket with metal shade. All you do is add a bulb and plug it in.

I took it a few steps further.

First, I chose an LED bulb. I am serious when I say that a barn fire is one of my worst fears, and I was going to take no chances in using a bulb that would get hot.

An LED did the trick. It produces almost no heat at all. I can rest my hand on the metal shield while it is on and there is no chance of me, or the chickens, getting burned.

As you can imagine with a traditional bulb there is no way I would be able to touch the shield, it would burn me instantly.

The second thing I did was to secure the fixture.

It came with a clamp to attach it where you need light. There is a good chance that it wouldn’t move, but I wanted to make sure it did not fall and rest in the straw in the bottom of the coop. So I ran a screw into the clamp after I had it where I wanted it.

No crazy chicken antics will cause the lamp to fall.

My final step was to add a timer. I have it set to come on every morning from 6 to 7 am and again from 4 to 8 pm.

After I had all of this in place I waited.

After about a week I found 2 eggs in the box.

And then a few days later I started getting 3 eggs a day.

I even had a bonus day yesterday where all 4 chickens laid an egg.

I can say that this project was a complete success, and I have no fear of burning our barn down.

I also have progress to report on my project goals that I listed in my last post.

One of my projects is to make over my Grandma’s Saint Francis statue.

I started by scraping off all loose paint. I did not intend to remove all the paint, only the paint that was loose and came off easily.

For the most part the concrete is in good shape but it has broken off of the base.

I am sure there are products meant for this type of project, but I chose to use what we had sitting around. We had a partial bag of thin-set mortar that we had used to install tile in our house. It sets up extremely hard, so I thought that once it is painted, it may work just fine.

I really don’t know about the longevity for this use, but I decided that it was worth a shot. I mixed some water and made it thick enough that I could apply it with a putty knife.

I knew that I wanted to add a couple layers instead of one thick layer so I purposely left the first layer bumpy instead of smooth so that the second layer will have something to attach to. I waited for it to dry and hoped that it would work.

24 hours after I added the thin-set to the statue, I started thinking that it is not going to work. I think the thin-set is too crumbly and will not hold up long term.

But that’s okay. I tried it, and I will try something else and report back how it goes.

Way to give things a try, Sarah. I’m glad that the chickens’ light worked so well. It’s great that you’re able to get fresh eggs again. I would miss those! Hopefully you’re able to find something that works for your Grandma’s statue too. 

Building a garage in a barn

Have I mentioned how much I want a garage? So far this week we’ve started the days with heavy frost that took forever to scrape off the windshield and freezing rain that coated everything in ice. More rain is forecast this week, which means I will get wet coming and going from my car to the house.

Sarah in Illinois recently built a garage with a bit of help from family. She is here today to share the process and an extra special feature that makes it even more useful.

About a year ago, on a Friday night, Steve and I were laying underneath my SUV in our freezing cold garage. A few days earlier my transmission had went out, and since Steve has some experience as a mechanic and has no fear of tearing things apart and putting them back together, we decided to save some money by removing it and reinstalling a used transmission by ourselves.

Except things weren’t going well.

We were tired, sore, cold and frustrated. I drew the line when I laid my head down in a puddle of transmission fluid. Steve and I looked at each other, and he said, “I will own a car lift.” At the time I agreed but knew that lifts were really expensive, and we really didn’t have a good place to install one.

A couple months went by and a customer ordered a new car lift from the shop where I work. It is not often that we sell one, and I got to talking to him about his old lift. He said that it still worked. It just wasn’t working for him anymore. I grabbed my phone and called Steve and gave him the customer’s phone number. Two days later we owned a used car lift.

Now for the important part. Where the heck were we going to put it?

We have a large pole barn on our property, but it has a dirt and gravel floor. In one corner the previous owner had built a woodshop with a small concrete pad. We decided to extend this pad and basically make a garage inside a small part of the pole barn.

This picture is showing the woodshop inside the pole barn with two walls removed.

For several weeks we spent evenings and weekends tearing out two of the old walls of the woodshop and framing up for a concrete pad. When we had the framing ready Steve, my Dad and brother took a day off work and poured and finished the pad.

I am so thankful that my family is so helpful and knowledgeable with projects like that. They ended up saving us quite a bit of money.

Once the pad was cured, it was time to build the new walls.

We borrowed some scaffolding to help with the new tall walls and to install some insulation board on the ceiling.

Steve and I believe that having good insulation is very important in any building project. What we have chosen to put on the ceiling is not ideal, but we have limited options with a tin roof. We seriously considered spray-on foam insulation, and honestly it’s probably what we should have done. But right now we are settling with what we have.

To install the vertical supports of the lift, Steve and my dad used concrete anchor bolts. They drilled holes using a hammer drill then inserted the sleeve and bolt into the hole. When the bolt was tightened it expanded to hold tight to the concrete.

One of the final steps was to install an overhead door. The pole barn has huge sliding doors on two sides, but this wasn’t handy for the new garage. So once again family came in very useful. My dad is known for not throwing things away in case he needs it someday. Well, it worked out for us. He had all of the parts and pieces for an overhead door.

We had to frame in a smaller opening, and then Steve, my Dad and my stepson took some of the tin off of the sliding door and covered the new smaller opening.

This week Steve has been insulating the walls. We still want to add another overhead door and of course he has to fill it with all of his tools and supplies. But basically we are going to call this project done.

And I have one happy hubby!

Great job, Sarah and family. I love that you did this all yourselves. Your family sounds very helpful and very handy. How great that your Dad had the door already! It looks like a great space for you and Steve. That lift is pretty cool.