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

Hallway Book Nook Makeover

 

When eight people share 1,600 square feet of living space, every corner counts.  Our farmhouse is a two-story home, with a kitchen, living room, dining room, and bathroom on the main level, and 4 bedrooms on the upper level.  At the top of the stairs, separating the master bedroom from the other three bedrooms, is a hallway nook.  Wider than just a hallway, but not big enough to really do much with.  Over the past 7 months that we’ve been living here, I’ve had various ideas for how to use this nook because dead space is not an option.  The prevailing idea was to turn this hallway into a book nook.

This would serve two functions.  1) It would keep the ever-present book mess out of bedrooms and off the floor, making the bedrooms easier to tidy, less cluttered and freeing up space for other needed items.  2) It provides a secondary gathering space for the kids as well as a quiet place to read if younger siblings are napping in the bedrooms.  This way, no matter where younger siblings are in their nap and play schedules, the older kids will always have a space reserved for reading to retreat to.

My only regret with this makeover is I didn’t get a proper “before” picture.  I was sure I went around and took pictures of the entire house so I would always remember how it looked when we first moved in.  Well, I took two pictures of the stairway, and none of the hallway nook.  Apparently I thought the future stairway makeover was going to be really interesting.  The stairway picture is a terrible “before” picture of the nook, but it’s all I’ve got.  At least you can (sorta, maybe?) get an idea of where this nook is oriented and that it was just an empty, off white corner in our upstairs hallway.  The master bedroom is around the corner to the right, while the three kids’ bedrooms are to the left.  At the top of the stairs and to the right is our subject nook.WP_20160120_10_18_54_Pro

With the exception of the old, gross floor, which will soon be new carpet, and the old wood trim, which will be replaced with new white trim, here is the kids’ new book nook. WP_20160829_12_31_48_Pro

Ryan designed and constructed these rustic shelves for me.  WP_20160829_12_33_55_Pro.jpgAfter Ryan cut the wood, I sanded and stained the pieces.  These shelves were the perfect opportunity to work some walnut into this space, which we’ve selected to contrast the white trim and cabinetry we’re installing throughout the home.

I repurposed a galvanized tub for a book basket.  I stenciled “books” on it and placed it under the shelves.  This will be used for library books, keeping them separate from the books we own.WP_20160829_12_32_45_Pro.jpg

I decided to continue the soft teal, orange and earthy green colors of my kitchen throughout the shared spaces of our farmhouse.  I just love how fresh, clean and cheerful this combination feels.  I painted Frosted Jade from Behr on the walls and added in stripes on the angled ceiling.  I love stripes.  I have ways to work them in some fashion into pretty much every room of the house. 🙂 WP_20160829_12_34_32_Pro.jpg I threw a trio of bright orange bean bag chairs in the corner.  I chose Farm Fresh from Behr to paint green letters for the wall.  (OK, I may or may not have chosen that paint color based on the name alone.)  The plain green letters didn’t feel fun enough for this kids’ space, so I made a lighter tone of green by adding in some white paint, then splattered it across the letters.  I went back a second time and splattered with plain white paint.WP_20160829_12_35_55_Pro.jpg

This hallway is dependent on the bedroom windows for natural light, so when doors are shut for naptime, it can get dark.  To solve this problem, I attached tap lights with Velcro to the angled ceiling to brighten up the book nook.  These lights give off the perfect amount of light, effectively illuminating the space without having to open up the walls to run wire.WP_20160829_12_38_04_Pro.jpg

All in all, the kids are happy with their book nook.  They use it daily and have been keeping it tidy.  I’m enjoying having yet one more space in my house looking a bit more updated and inviting.  It’s like a little oasis of style, color and organization in this desert of plain, off-white, dysfunctional mess.  Each room completed gives me more hope that this house is not yet a lost cause.

Becca