Halfway through Home Goals 2021

I really like setting goals for the farm every year. With a large property, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done. Or pulled in a million different directions working on a million different projects.

This year has been feeling really good. I love being productive and making progress, and that’s what’s been happening so far.

At the start of the year, I identified seven projects or goals that I wanted to work on. (The original post has six because I wasn’t ready to talk about the garage yet, but it was definitely on my mind when I wrote the list.)

The goals were garage addition, playground expansion, pond shore clean-up, vegetable garden, the last big junk pile, bedroom refresh, and farm history.

Some of these goals are interconnected. The garage addition led to the playground expansion, as we used the wood from the old pool deck for the treehouse. The junk pile started to get organized (and downsized) because I needed a spot to stash the brick that were removed from the pool exterior. Part of organizing the junk pile involved tossing two old bales of hay into the garden for mulch.

With any home project, dominoes can happen really easily and it’s nice to be able to line them up intentionally. Here are some more details on how we’ve been doing with each goal.

Garage addition

The garage and mudroom are turning out so, so well. After thinking about this renovation for so long, I’m really pleased with the result. We are also so close to being done. (I owe you a look at the panelled and tiled mudroom.) We are waiting on doors. Person doors. Garage doors. We need doors. Once doors go in, trim can be finished and we can move in.

Playground expansion

I am almost as excited for Ellie’s treehouse/playground as I am for the garage. It’s big. It’s fun. And it’s something that I’ve done mostly by myself. It’s been a long time since I’ve built like this. I’d like things to be going a little faster, but bit by bit I keep making progress.

Pond shore

The barometer for the pond shore is can I mow it? Well, I’ve been mowing a little bit more shore this year. I clipped back brush and tiny trees. Matt’s Dad cut some more trees that had sprouted out of an old stump. Ellie and I carried everything to the firepit and had an epic blaze. We’re not ready to build our new bridge yet, but we have the beginning of a little path between two pines as I’ve always envisioned and we can access the waterfall more easily.

Vegetable garden

Ellie and I finally unrolled two old bales of hay and spread them over one quadrant of the garden. The hay (along with the cardboard I put underneath it) is doing a good job of keeping the weeds down for us. (Though everywhere else they’re as prolific as ever.) I haven’t managed to build any raised rows, but we have planted some tomatoes and a few other seeds. We were late and the seeds were old, but we have a few things growing in the garden for the first time in several years.

The last big junk pile

We’ve done dump runs, dragged brush to the burn pile, dug things out of the ground, picked glass out of the dirt and finally started mowing a little bit of the area beside the garden. In addition to being the dumping ground for who knows what, this spot is also my compost pile for weeds and other cuttings from the gardens. I’ve dealt with most of the who knows what. What’s left is piles of brush and leaves and weeds. Then the plan is to build a new compost bin that will contain the mess.

Bedroom refresh

The inspiration to refresh our bedroom was the new TRUBBTÅG duvet cover from Ikea. Which appeared to be out of stock for the first half of this year. It’s finally here, and now I’m wondering what else I want to do for this room?

History

Connecting with the woman whose family first owned this farm was a very meaningful experience last year for me. Due to lockdowns, we’ve not seen each other very much, and she’s not been out to the farm yet this year. We have kept in touch and I am looking forward to learning more about this special place.

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

Progress is the theme for our Home Goals so far. Nothing is done yet. I’m not sure we’ll be completely finished any of them by the end of the year. But we’re making progress, and that makes me very happy.

It felt good to set goals at the beginning of the year. It felt like I was coming back into this part of myself that has been pushed to the background since I got pregnant, since Ellie was born, since Matt was sick.

It’s also felt good to work on these goals this year. Every day is a juggle of Ellie, work, farm, life. But the juggle has felt like a balance–of sorts–so far. I feel like I’ve made more progress this year than we have in a long time, and I’m excited to see what we accomplish over the rest of the year.

What have you been up to this year? How to you prioritize projects at your house? Are you feeling in balance? Productive? Motivated?

Treehouse playground

One year ago, as I was driving home with parts of Ellie’s new-to-us playset in my car, I spotted a slide at the end of someone’s driveway. It was cracked, but I couldn’t resist so I loaded it into the car.

As soon as Matt’s Dad and I set up Ellie’s playground, I started dreaming about expansion plans.

I quickly realized that a playground was not super complicated to construct, I had better quality lumber stored in the barn than what her playground was constructed of, I didn’t really fit in the playground, and Ellie was going to quickly outgrow the set.

When I saw this treehouse playground, everything clicked in my mind. We had a big pine tree near her current playset that would be perfect. We also had an old deck worth of lumber in the pool. Oh, and we had that extra slide.

Construction on the playground began after a timely text from a cousin. He asked if I needed help with anything, so I replied, “How do you feel about building a treehouse?” A week later, he helped me build the underlying structure of posts, beams and joists.

We made it as big as our lumber allowed. Roughly 10 feet by 12 feet. The platform is 5 feet up from the base of the tree, which was recommended for a 10 foot slide. It feels high enough. The tree is on a little mound, so the edge of the platform is 6 to 7 feet off the ground.

It’s big and tall and open to so many possibilities.

I contacted a local deck company, and they let me (and Matt’s Dad) dive through their dumpster to get boards for the decking. I’ve been slowly working my way through the decking for the last couple of weeks, and yesterday I finally finished it.

We have a collection of tires here at the farm, thanks to previous owners. I picked out 8 that are roughly the same size and have begun bolting them together to make a ladder.

I’m still on the hunt for a firepole (one of Ellie’s favourite activities at any playground).

And obviously we need a railing.

This very sophisticated crayon rendering might help you to visualize the final playground.

So far, we’re having a lot of fun building—and already playing on—the treehouse.

Did you have a treehouse as a kid? Where was your favourite place to play? What’s your favourite activity at a playground?

Home Goals 2021

It’s been a while since I’ve posted home goals. Looking back, 2017 is the last time I looked a year ahead and thought about what I wanted to change around the house and property. I was surprised it’s been that long.

But I am ready to think about home goals again.

It’s nice to feel this part of me coming back.

Here are some of the projects I’d like to tackle this year.

Playground expansion

The playground that we got for Ellie last year has been awesome. As soon as it arrived, I started thinking about how I could expand it. When I saw this set-up from heart of this home, everything came together in my mind (and in a hastily scribbled sketch).

Pond shore

Having déjà vu yet? Yes, the pond shore makes the list every year. And yes, with a lot of help we cleared the shore last year—or at least part of it. I’d love to clear a little bit more and build a little bridge so that we can cross the creek more easily.

Vegetable garden

Another item that always makes the list. Matt’s Dad and I cleared a lot of the weeds out of the garden last fall, and that gives me hope that I can maybe possibly hopefully manage one quadrant this year. I’d love to try raised rows, deep mulch and no dig. The promises of a low maintenance garden make me feel like the set-up would be worth it.

The last big junk pile

Between the garden and the tree line of the front field is one of our last remaining junky areas. It’s full of brush, skids, bricks, lumber, barrels, a basketball net and who knows what else. It’s in direct view out the dining room window, and I’m tired of looking at it every day. I’d like to finally tidy it up and mow the grass.

Bedroom refresh

I guess I should put at least one house project on my home goals list, eh? I saw before Christmas that Ikea has a new duvet cover in a pattern I’ve coveted for years. As soon as the king size comes back in stock, I’m planning to order it. I’m thinking a bedding refresh might inspire a couple of other changes. Paint? A different dresser? A better closet organizer? I have some ideas.

Source: Ikea

History

Connecting with the woman who’s family first owned this farm was a very meaningful experience of the last year for me. I am looking forward to continuing to stay in touch with her and learning more about this special place.

Black and white picture of a two story farmhouse surrounded by open fields

Even without goals the last few years, we’ve accomplished things around the house: demolishing the sunroom, redoing the dining room, setting up Ellie’s nursery (I have an update to share) and a new play area for her, clearing the pond shore, finally putting the finishing touches on the basement.

I’m proud of what we’ve done. But I’m also happy to be back in a more plannful frame of mind. It helps me focus–there’s that word of the year.

Stick with me. Let’s see what happens.

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?

Our backyard playground & tips for buying a used playset

Backyard playset

As winter waned this year, Ellie and I developed a habit of adding a playground visit to our daily outings. Then the pandemic arrived full force and by the first day of spring all of the playgrounds in our area were closed.

Ellie looked out the window as we drove past and said, “Pwaygound?” When I explained they were closed and we couldn’t use them, she cried.

When I told her that we might get our own playground at the farm, Ellie’s first question was if it would be closed. I was happy to assure her that her playground will never close.

Backyard playset

The idea of adding a playset was easy. It’s something I’ve planned since last year.

We received a lot of generous donations from the Go Fund Me campaign to honour Matt. And I felt like using some of that money for a playset for Ellie was something Matt would have enjoyed a lot.

But finding the playset was not easy.

Matt and I had visited a local builder that makes playgrounds last year. The quote for a small, old display model at the end of the season was $4,000. I was tempted, but Matt set me straight.

This spring, I started my search on kijiji (the Canadian Craig’s List). Playsets came up, but they disappeared within minutes–not hours, minutes. I think with all of the kids out of school, parents were looking for things to keep them busy at home. Competition was fierce.

But I finally managed to be first in line for one. It has everything I was looking for and is perfect for our girl. She loooooves it. It’s always open… except at bedtime. And it’s a lovely gift from her Dad.

Backyard playset

Here are my tips for buying a second-hand playset:

1. Search often. Search everywhere. It took me a few weeks to find our playset. I spread the word with friends and family, hoping that they might know someone who wanted to get rid of a playset or that they could keep an eye on various buy and sell groups they’re part of. My primary market was kijiji. New sets were listed everyday, but they sold within minutes. I learned that I had to check the site a few times and day and be prepared to act fast.

2. Know what you’re looking for. Our girl loved climbing and sliding when we went to the park. She was also getting more comfortable on swings. So I knew our set needed swings, a slide and some kind of climber. The size of the playset didn’t matter to me, but if you have a smaller yard, you may want to know what dimensions your set should be.

The playset didn’t need to be perfect. I was prepared to do a bit of work fixing it if necessary. Playsets have been outside for years. Kids have played on them. They may be weathered and worn. Think about what repairs you’re willing and able to make.

Building a backyard playset

Also, know what price you’re prepared to pay. Most of the playsets I saw were less than $500, though a few went up to $1,000–still big savings over the $4,000 we were quoted last year. Thinking in advance about what’s most important to you means you can quickly evaluate a listing and decide to buy it or not.

3. Arrange transportation. Playsets tend to be large and awkward. They’re not something you can throw in the back of your car easily. But prompt pick-up is important in a competitive market. I knew I’d need help bringing it home, so I had Matt’s Dad with his pick-up truck and trailer on standby. I also had other friends and family for back up if needed. I wanted to be able to act fast once I successfully found a playset.

4. Be prepared to disassemble. A lot of the playsets I saw online said, “You take it apart.” They were fully set up in people’s backyards. I’ve noticed this changed a bit as people became more sensitive about social distancing. Fortunately, the seller disassembled our set and carried out to the curb, where we picked it up. However, there were still a few pieces that we took apart to make transportation easier. Bring some tools to the pick up, so that you can take care of whatever is needed. A toolbox would be the most basic, but if you have to do a full disassembly I’d recommend a drill, wrenches, a socket set, pry bar, saw and sledge hammer.

5. Be prepared to reassemble. Once you get your new-to-you playset home, you’re going to have to put at least some of it together. For us, there was a fair bit of reassembly needed. Matt’s Dad and I spent about 4 hours building the playset. Or, as Ellie says, “Papa fix playground.”

Building a backyard playset

6. Find the manual. Perhaps the seller has kept the manual and passes it along to you. This was not the case for us, but he did supply the brand name for our playset, so I was able to find the manual online and print it off. We could not have put the playset back together properly without it. This is a case where you definitely should follow the directions.

Tips for building a backyard playset

7. Sort the pieces. If you’re like us, you’ll receive a big bag of bolts and screws from the seller. Inside the bag were more than 12 different sizes of bolts and screws, plus all of the nuts and washers. Each is meant to be used in a very specific place, and for strength and safety it’s important they’re installed correctly. Before we started putting anything back together, I sorted all of the hardware into labelled plastic cups . Then, it was a quick grab for the C3 screws, rather than a frustrating search. You can also sort the wood, but I found that was less critical. Note that the pieces of wood will likely be stamped with a part number somewhere (it took me awhile to notice this, and made life much easier once I did).

Building a backyard playset

8. Inspect. Once the playground is set up, check it over carefully. Make sure all of the screws and bolts are tight. Look for any damaged boards. Find any spots where bolts are missing. The upper deck was in one piece when we picked it up. But I discovered that some bolts underneath the platform weren’t installed. Also make sure to anchor the playset into the ground so that it never tips over.

9. Play! The playset has been a great addition to the farm. We spend time there pretty much everyday. We eat lunch on the built-in picnic bench, and swing and slide and climb. I put it right by the garden, and I’ve been able to do a bit of work while Ellie plays.

Backyard playset

Do you have a playset at your house? Are you a swinger or a slider or a climber? Have you added any new features to your property during quarantine?