Kitchen Progress: Patio Door

We began our kitchen remodel shortly after we moved into our fixer-upper, which was over 1.5 years ago. We finished most of it at that time, but we waited to put in the patio door, simply because other projects were calling our name. I waited patiently and excitedly for the day to arrive when I’d finally have a sliding door in my kitchen.

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Before: Old window and a patchy paint job

I didn’t want to go through another winter with the old, semi-functional window, which was actually just sheets of plexi-glass loosely set in a window frame, with an inch of dead bugs lying in the space between the panes. On winter nights you could hear the window rattling and feel the wind blowing through it. Did it even open? Who knows! I avoided touching it as it was filthy. You could barely see through it. The only time I actually did make contact with that window was when Ryan needed my help taking it out, and I was willing to do anything to see that thing finally removed from my kitchen and my life.

 
We carved out time several weekends ago to put in the patio door. I have been loving it ever since. WP_20170824_15_31_54_ProThe light and breeze that comes in is wonderful and somehow expands the whole kitchen. I can easily watch the kids playing outside in the backyard, and I thoroughly enjoy the view of our farm while standing in the kitchen.

After we removed the old window, Ryan had to remove the siding from the outside and cut out the sheet rock.

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Goodbye, Window

Then he cut the studs that were in the way of the patio door. The wall isn’t load bearing, but we put in a header, just to be on the safe side.
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Afterwards, Ryan cut a hole in the wall, and installed the door.  WP_20170823_19_05_30_ProIt sounds like we knocked this project out in an afternoon.   You can be sure there were bumps in the road, frustrations, and tool issues, as usual. It actually took several days from start to finish. Ryan tacked up an old shower curtain to cover the old window hole for several nights. It kept out the bugs, but I knew it wasn’t going to keep out much else.  Thankfully, we live in a very safe neighborhood, but it was a relief, nonetheless, when the door was in and we finally had something a bit more solid between us and the outside world.

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Ryan still needs to button up the siding on the back of the house, as well as tape, mud and sand the new pieces of sheetrock he installed on the interior. Soon the kitchen will look as if that patio door had always been there, and we’ll be one step closer to a completed kitchen.WP_20170824_15_32_37_Pro

Becca

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Custom Quad Built-In Bunk Beds

Ryan has done it again.  He built beautiful quad bunks for our four boys.  This time, however, he didn’t have any help coming up with the construction plans.  He built these from scratch based on my idea to have two rows of “L” shaped bunks actually built in and secured to the wall studs.  He’s becoming quite the craftsman!  I’m so proud of his accomplishment and I’m crazy about how these quad bunks turned out.WP_20170701_18_14_12_Pro[3]

Having the bunks actually secured to the wall meant we could fit these beds into a space that wouldn’t have been possible with stand-alone bunks.  Not only would they not fit in width and length, but they also would not fit in height.

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The “before” picture.  This was the girls’ room.  Note the slanted ceiling. 
Our farmhouse has the slanted ceilings on the upper level, which makes using the space on those sides of the rooms tricky.  This custom bunk allowed us to make use of this space efficiently by turning this bedroom into the boys’ new bunkroom.

 

It was fun watching these bunks take form…

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The basic design
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Adding the top row
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We made headboards since this side wasn’t against a wall
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Adding the ladder
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Testing the ladder
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Finished!
Once construction was finished, I sanded, conditioned, stained, and clear-coated the bunks.  I’m enjoying having the chance to learn new skills, too!  I chose the Special Walnut stain from Minwax and gave the bunks 2 coats of gloss polyurethane.  I couldn’t be happier with how the finish turned out.

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Not only do we have a one-of-a-kind quad bunk in our home, but this thing is SOLID.  The bunks we have purchased from the store and used for years are so wobbly compared to this thing.  These beds do not move an inch while the kids are entering, exiting, or while I climb on top to make the beds.

The boys will be getting new bedding, including new coordinating quilts that I will sew for each of them.

We are all so happy with the new beds, we decided the boys’ room shouldn’t be the only room to feature custom, hand-built beds!

I can’t wait to show what we have cooked up for the girls’ room! 😉

Hand-Built Farmhouse Table

For years I have wanted a solid wood, rustic farmhouse table that would comfortably seat my entire family plus space for guests.

A quick internet search would confirm an item like that is pretty pricey.

Thus we began a search for plans so Ryan could build a table for me.  Even better than a purchased farmhouse table is a husband-hewn table, made with love for his family to use and enjoy many a dinner gathered ’round.  Somehow it feels even more authentic.

He found a free farmhouse table and matching bench plans from http://www.anawhite.com.  The dimensions seemed perfect for our size family and the design was simple and straightforward.  He purchased his lumber and got to work.

It took him several weekends to complete, but that’s mostly because he never gets a full weekend to devote to any one project.  There are simply too many other demands on his time.

Once the table (along with the matching benches) were complete, I sanded, stained, and applied three coats of clear coat.  We chose to use a stain called Weathered Oak from Minwax.  It makes the wood have a slightly grayish appearance, and we wanted the table to look like it was made from older wood.WP_20170612_09_59_31_Pro[1] I love my new table.  Our dining room still needs many finishing touches, however having this table as the focal point of the room has gone a long way towards making this space feel more put together and welcoming.WP_20170612_10_02_06_Pro[1] We still need to order two chairs for the ends of the table.  They will be farmhouse-style chairs, but I didn’t want to even try to match the stains.  Instead, they will contrast and be either white or black.  With the chairs, our table can seat 10-12 people.WP_20170604_15_45_13_Pro[1] As someone with little kids, I know how quickly the dining furniture can get pretty sticky and coated with food residues.  The farmhouse table would be hard to clean, especially with the grooves between boards.  A dumped bowl of oatmeal, a spilled serving of tomato soup, or the two-year old smearing a pb&j around the table would quickly find those grooves filled with yucky, sticky muck that would be near impossible to scrape out.  To make this table more kid- (and mom) friendly, we cover it with a $4 vinyl table cloth whenever we serve dinner at our table.  The vinyl tablecloth is easy to wipe clean, then it gets folded and put away so we can enjoy the beauty of our table. WP_20170604_15_45_02_Pro[1] Although Ryan doesn’t have very much experience with woodcraft, he did an amazing job putting this piece together for me.  I am so excited to have this beautiful and charming table and I love that he took this project on to bless our family with something we will all use and make memories around for years to come. WP_20170612_09_58_44_Pro[1]

Living/Dining Room Progress

When we purchased our farmhouse, there was a living room separated from another slightly smaller room by a wall.  This other room wasn’t carpeted, so we set up our dining space in this room, although we never planned to keep it arranged this way for long.WP_20170114_14_39_58_Pro[1]
Carrying food and dishes to and from this room from the kitchen is inconvenient and awkward.  The living room, however, connects to the kitchen; it wouldn’t be difficult at all to carry the dishes the short way from the kitchen to this room.  We decided to take down the wall dividing the two rooms.  That way, we can make a dining space to the right of the original living room, right in front of the window, then open up the rest of the space to be a larger living room.
Our first task was to figure out whether this wall was a load-bearing wall.WP_20170114_14_40_38_Pro[1]

Ryan began by removing the sheetrock to get a good look at the wall.  There is no header above the doorway in this wall, which is usually a good sign that the wall is non load-bearing. WP_20170118_15_27_17_Pro[1]

However, we know that many times people make “improvements” to homes without  following proper procedure.  We didn’t want to blindly follow another homeowner’s opinion on the wall.  It’s very difficult to get a good picture of what’s going on with the ceiling joists above this wall just from this slice in the ceiling.  We went back and forth on whether we felt this wall was load-bearing.  Then, Ryan discovered the ceiling was open in the furnace room, which is next to the wall.  Taking a peek in there, we can see one ceiling joist, and it’s running parallel to the wall.  A wall running parallel to the ceiling joists cannot be supporting the weight above it.  That would make this wall a non load-bearing wall.  We are still going to have our neighbor, who works in construction, come and take a look at the situation and give us his professional opinion before we do anything with the wall.  So I’ve been living with exposed wall studs for a couple weeks now. WP_20170208_08_28_57_Pro[1]

Does anyone else agree opening this space will be an improvement?WP_20170208_08_30_03_Pro[1]

I can now visualize how this space will look and feel when the wall is down.  The whole room feels brighter and I love the unobstructed views of the windows on all three sides.  The rooms feel larger than they ever did being divided in two.
While waiting for confirmation on the wall, Ryan pulled up the carpet and began installing the new floor in the future dining space.  WP_20170208_08_28_12_Pro[1]

We chose to continue the wood flooring from the kitchen into this room.WP_20170208_08_28_34_Pro[1]

While we do still have our living room furniture in here, this is just temporary until we get the wall down and new carpeting installed in the future living room. Then I’ll finally be able to set up these rooms the way I would like them to be.

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Future dining space in close proximity to kitchen

I have not felt settled since we moved in here.  Knowing these rooms would eventually be flipped has caused me to not hang up one single family picture or piece of wall décor.  I haven’t even unpacked those boxes since moving in over a year ago!  I have no desire to do “interim” decorating.  I can’t bring myself to do things that I know will be redone shortly thereafter.  I don’t like to just throw pictures on the walls.  I like to carefully consider where each thing should go and arrange them accordingly.  So, my house has remained completely bare since moving in.
Once we get the wall down and the new flooring installed, I can paint the walls, arrange my furniture and finally “move in.”  I will be able to hang up my beautiful family photos and put my personal touch on each wall.  I have been waiting for this moment for over a year.  It’s almost here!

Changes for 2017

One year ago we purchased and moved to our little farm.  I remember feeling very unsure that day of what lie ahead for us, but we both clung to faith that this was where we were being led.  Looking back over the past months, I can attest that only good was in store for us, even amongst the hard work and bumps we’ve experienced along the way.  Our ideas of needs and wants have been challenged, humbled and sifted.  True priorities and simple blessings have emerged.  We changed and grew right along with this farm and we look forward to another exciting year.

Rabbits

Raising rabbits for meat was something we started when we were on a city lot in a neighborhood that restricted all livestock.  We were determined to begin taking control of our own food production so we began a small garden and brought home a pair of rabbits.  When we moved to the farm, we were suddenly able to raise traditional livestock so we no longer had a need for rabbits. wp_20160712_14_07_07_pro

Our bunnies were the cutest thing on the farm and we enjoyed them thoroughly, but when the time came to butcher them, nobody wanted to mess with it.  We had our schedule full with projects and chores involving other animals so we made the decision to sell the rabbits and no longer raise them on our farm.  We were thankful for the extra time this created for us to focus on other livestock.  I still highly recommend raising meat rabbits to someone wanting to gain control over their food on a city lot.

Honeybees

This year we plan to add honeybees to our farm.  This will be a whole new world for us, one we’ll navigate as we go.  We’d like to begin with two hives, which must be ordered this month, and set up sometime in spring.  We would like to raise our bees as naturally as possible.  While we do have some crops within our future bees’ expected flight range, we are also blessed to have an abundance of natural areas.  In the spring we see numerous wild crab apples blooming throughout the countryside and all summer long we enjoy the ever-changing color display of wildflowers scattered around the farm. This is in addition to our own garden and fruit trees.wp_20160504_14_41_51_pro

Our hope is this will give the bees plenty of natural, pesticide-free sources of nectar.  With the health of bee colonies declining and the rise of systemic pesticides (pesticides that are engineered to exist inside seeds and the resulting plant cells), we want to ensure our bees will be safe and the honey we ultimately feed to our family be free of harmful chemicals.

A New Calf

This past summer we brought our Dexter heifer, Pearl, to a farm to spend a couple of months with a proven, purebred Dexter bull.  Getting her loaded into the trailer was one of the most stressful things we have done on our farm so far.  We tried luring her in with hay with no luck. She was very skeptical of that trailer and wouldn’t be led astray by her belly.  We ended up having to muscle her big body in, despite her best resistance.  I thought somebody was going to get a hoof to the face or possibly trampled.  Thankfully, nobody was hurt and she was transported safely to the farm for her “summer vacation.”pearl

She’s back at home now – safe, sound, and assumedly “with calf.”  Come June, we should have a newborn calf on our farm.  If all goes well, it’s sure to be a highlight of our year.

Farmhouse Projects

We have a few farmhouse projects slated for this year, but I’m very excited about one in particular.  We plan to convert our useless, unwelcoming, uninsulated side porch into a well-insulated, functional winter storage pantry.  This will be in lieu of our previous idea of digging a root cellar.  It was so frustrating bringing in the harvest last year and working to preserve our produce only to realize we had nowhere to put it.  The side porch will be gutted and rebuilt with lots of insulation to ensure the temperature stays above freezing, with shelving to hold all my canning equipment and those priceless jars filled with garden goodness. wp_20170105_14_02_57_pro

Underneath the shelves, on the floor, will be built-in bins to contain produce like potatoes, pumpkins, squash and apples. wp_20170105_14_03_25_pro

The winter pantry will be such a great use of the currently dysfunctional and messy space. I plan to put in a frosted glass pantry door that I can open and close to help control the temperature of the pantry, if needed.  There won’t be any windows as the produce keeps best in the dark.  Because this room is located right off the kitchen, it will be much more convenient and accessible, not to mention more affordable, than a new root cellar.  As the shelves and bins empty over the winter, I will have temporary space to house the piles of summer produce as well, keeping my kitchen island clear and retaining its original intended function.

The Poultry Flock

We’ll be making some changes to our poultry flock this year.wp_20170105_14_07_41_pro

We’ll be thinning our flock a bit to reduce our hen population, keeping the most efficient layers.  We’ve also been discussing trading in our heritage breed ducks for the larger, meatier Pekin ducks.

Pekin ducks are ready to butcher at about 8 weeks of age, meaning we won’t keep a year-round duck flock for eggs.  The main reason for this change is because how dirty the ducks make the pond water.  The chickens and turkeys use the pond for their drinking water so we’d like the pond to be clean.  With ducks, it’s very tiring to keep clean what they insist on dirtying.  What’s more, without the ducks, we could purchase a pond filter to clean the water for us, eliminating the task of bucketing it out on a weekly basis.  Pond filters don’t work with ducks because they will clog it up and cause it to break down.  Focusing on the Pekin ducks will allow us to still enjoy ducks on our farm for a couple months (before we send them off to freezer camp!) without having the year-long issue of filthy water and a labor-intensive pond.

We’ve learned a lot during our first year on the farm.  Through trial and error, we’re discovering what we enjoy, what works with our current set-up, how we can increase the functionality of our homestead and what’s simply a drain on our time.  I expect nothing less for year two.

Thank you for reading our updates and following along through our first year on the farm.  We enjoy recording our experiences and feel so blessed by those who’ve taken the time to tell us they are enjoying our story.  Whatever is happening on the farm is made that much more enjoyable for us by being able to share it with you.

Becca

Kitchen Backsplash

Now that winter has arrived, our focus on the farm has shifted back to indoor projects.wp_20161119_12_20_11_pro I’ve been waiting for this change so we could continue our progress on the kitchen remodel. We’ve had our white, marble-looking backsplash tile sitting in a box by our stairs for months and I was more than ready to cross this project off our lengthy to-do list. I chose a white subway tile with some gray running through it.wp_20161203_10_09_00_pro I knew I wanted the backsplash mostly white, but I didn’t want plain white tile with white grout sandwiched between white cabinets. To complement the tile, I chose a light gray grout with the hopes it would help break up the white while functioning to avoid future dirty/stained grout lines that can happen with white grout and the very hard water we have at our farmhouse.

The installation of the backsplash went smoothly. It took us a weekend to get the tile installed. I grouted the stove wall while Ryan began installing the new trim around the kitchen window.

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Stove wall before tiling
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Stove wall “after”

wp_20161212_10_11_29_proWe ended up being a few inches short on the kitchen window trim, which unfortunately pushed the completion of the backsplash back a whole weekend, as we didn’t want to tile around the window until the trim was neatly in place. So last Saturday, Ryan was able to finish the trim, put up the last few tiles, and I finished the grouting. The trim will need to be filled and painted, but for now, I’m enjoying the view of new trim around the kitchen window.  If you look closely at the left of the window in the “before” picture, you can see where the trim had actually been cut out to fit the old upper cabinet next to it.

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Sink wall before tiling

 

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Sink wall after tiling

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Tiling is a messy, tiring job. We were happy to be able to clean up the equipment and last few plops of grout, step back, and take in the improvement. The new backsplash really pulls the kitchen together. It also covered over the remaining evidence of the old countertop we pulled out. Already I’m having a hard time remembering how this kitchen looked when we first moved in! I remember the way it made me feel, however! 🙂  I wasn’t sure how I would ever function in that old, dirty, pieced-together kitchen. But that’s part of the fun, isn’t it? It wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying if the kitchen was pretty and functional upon moving in. Everyone loves a good transformation. 🙂

Becca

Kitchen Remodel: Chimney Wall

A few weeks ago we completed the chimney wall in our kitchen.  With the start of our homeschool year rapidly approaching, we carved out some time over a weekend to make and install farmhouse-style open shelving for the wall above the cabinets and countertop to house all my school books and some materials.wp_20160912_08_13_04_pro  These shelves are identical to the shelves we installed in our book nook, however I did not add the “book ends” on the sides since these shelves are mostly going to be used by me, so I do not need to worry about kids knocking things to the floor.

wp_20160912_08_13_39_proJust before our first day back in school, Ryan got the computers set up on the desk area that we made out of wall cabinets.  The wall cabinets are not as deep as base cabinets, but they still hold plenty of supplies like paint, paper and notebooks that I do not want displayed on the shelves.  We currently have two computers set up, but we will be adding a third computer on the other side of the chimney, so we can have three kids working on computers simultaneously, while the others are working at the island or dining room table.wp_20160912_08_27_44_pro

My idea of simply moving the island stools over to the desk area for computer time works really well, and there is still plenty of space for people to walk even while the computers are in use.  wp_20160912_08_19_12_pro  I am enjoying the extra storage these shelves, as well as the cabinets, are providing for our homeschool.  This wall was completely underutilized when we first moved in.  It had no purpose except to hide the furnace room.

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Before

My goal with this house is to find a use for every space.  No dead space will be allowed in my farmhouse.  We assume we need so much more house, closets and square footage than we really do.

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The plan

With organization and creativity, along with storing unneeded curriculum in the garage, this homeschool area is a very efficient set-up.

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After

What a difference this is compared to how we finished our school year last spring when we first moved in!  We were using plastic, three-drawer carts shoved into a corner which were hard for the kids to dig into and find their books.  Many times books would be thrown into a pile on the ground.  I’m not sure about you, but when I have things organized and in their place, everything just seems to run smoother and my mood is brighter.

 

We are three weeks into our school year, enjoying a bit more routine and structure, and I think it’s going to be a great year.

Becca