getting the yard ready

Wow, what a weekend! It was the hottest pair of days we’ve had yet and we spent nearly all of it outside. We shovelled (and shovelled and shovelled) for most of the weekend. Because of the rain last weekend we had a LOT to get done.

Jul 12  the start of a river bed

On Saturday we started by moving dirt to accommodate the rocks we saved for the river bed last summer. Then we shovelled the vehicle full of little river rocks which we carried by bucket load along the river until it was full. By the end of the day we were quite happy with the results.

Jul 12 River bed

On Sunday we moved to the front yard and were relieved to find that building vegetable garden boxes was a lot less exhausting than shovelling and hauling rocks on a hot, sunny day.

Jul 13 - a morning making veggie garden boxes

By coffee time we had the bottom box finished and by lunch time it and the one against the road.

Jul 13 - time for lunch!

There was a fair bit of rotten digging to get the last box placed correctly but it sure was nice to have a bit of shade as we finished things off and put our vegetable pots closer to where they belong.

Jul 13 - garden beds finished!

We couldn’t go in before dark so we spent the final hours of the day levelling out the patio area and preparing it for road base. We unloaded the couple of yards of material that was weighing down my vehicle, just in time for the sun to set.

Jul 13 - preparing for the patio as the sun goes down

Phewf! I hope this means the hard stuff is out of the way but something tells me there’s still quite a lot to get done!

with a little help from mom and dad

Wow, there is so much work to do with a new house. Somehow I figured getting inside the house would be the big step. Now I know that’s not quite true!

In the past we’ve taken on the landscaping that was left for us – from a well established tiny back yard where perennials covered the ground and brought pleasant new surprises every few weeks to the weed and fairy ring filled lawn with a few sparse perennials in poorly kept beds. Neither of us much enjoyed maintaining a lawn so this time we’re doing things quite differently.

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On this property our landscaping will focus on providing food for us and the birds, bees and butterflies while using as little water as possible. The wildlife-oriented landscape will double as a pleasant landscape for when we’re relaxing with family and friends outside. Doing away with the lawn should help to reduce my knack for getting mosquito bites and it means no more lawn mowing. That’s something we’re both quite excited about! More wildlife viewing is sure to satisfy us too.

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Since we moved to town a few years ago I’ve become much more knowledgeable about growing food and have been practising in pots and a community garden. I had hoped to have a lot more food growing in our yard by now but everything takes time. It was worth it to spend more time finishing things up on the inside so we can enjoy it now.

Apr 13 garden

We still have quite a bit of work to do but this past weekend was a quite a break through weekend. My folks drove up to visit with the full intention of working hard in the yard. With their help we were able to take care of a lot of the things on the list like levelling out the back patio, shaping the dry creekbed/runoff swale, and creating the foundation for the vegetable garden beds in the front. My dad also cleaned all the moss off of the shed!

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It was heaps of work and we were all tired every evening but it was so great to learn from such experienced landscapers and re-live how it was when I was young. (After we moved into our family home when I was two, my nan and grandpa became regular visitors. They’d work all day in the yard with my folks, taking care of the landscaping or picking all the garden harvests. I clearly remember when grandpa dug the big hole in the back yard, and picking shucked peas out of the bucket when nan and my mom were preparing food for the winter. And just like when it was my grandparents that were visiting, the older generation worked the younger generation under the table!)

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We’re so lucky that both of our sets of parents have been so keen to help us out.

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A home to enjoy living in

Ahhh… things are finally slowing down and we’re having the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of all our efforts over this past year.

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We started unpacking into the new space last month and what a joy it is to carry out the day to day tasks of our lives in this light filled space. Of course we’re not fully unpacked yet, but it’s so nice to have everything we need close at hand. The layout is proving to be perfect for the way we live and entertain.

Nearly every morning the sun shines into our room to wake us and nice views await us through every window. Doing dishes was a chore in our old dingy, windowless kitchen, but here it’s not a chore at all. From my well-lit space I can watch people walking by on the street or visit with guests who are sitting at the bar, in the living room or at the table. There’s enough counter space to work with, there’s more space in the cupboards to put things away and I even have room to keep 3 types of sprouts growing for our salads!

Lounging on the couch one day I was surprised to see just how much beauty was in view through all our windows. We have neighbours who have done beautiful landscaping and beyond that are the mountains and rich blue sky. (One just has to let those power lines and poles fade away.)

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Laundry gets done when it needs to, instead of stacking up for two weeks. It means we need fewer clothes in our closet, which is a really nice treat seeing as we’ve been blowing out knees and bottoms in a lot of our pants lately! (I’m not averse to a little mending, but there does come a point when it’s no longer worth it.)

I’ve also been keen to learn a little more about the birds that live around here and that was definitely a driver for having the covered porch in front. It took a while for us to get it stained so we could use it, but it seems the birds love it here too. I’m learning a lot just from taking notice of them when I’m working inside or puttering in the garden.

We’ve still got a long ways to go on the landscaping, but it is coming. We were surprised to find that the top soil that was removed to make way for the foundation, more than makes up for what we needed to raise the elevation in the back yard. We thought we were going to need to order a load and rent a digger but Kevin has managed to move it all by hand! There were also a LOT of rocks saved on site, and Kevin has worked his magic again, building up the edge of the patio area too.

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We also had a neighbour bring us a nice collection of raspberry canes and I finally picked up a rotating composter. I can’t wait until it’s cooked so I can add our own nutrition to give to the garden!

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Next up are finishing the back yard (building the patio and planting the trees and ground cover), finding a water tank, and getting the garden boxes built out front.

looking a little more finished

I’m beginning to see a trend… long weekends are becoming work weekends. I remember doing that a bit with our first house, but so far we’ve made them all that way in 2014. It’s a good thing too, because our house is now finally starting to look a little more finished.

May 19 - built in book case under the stairs.

We had unseasonably warm weather last week but by the weekend it had faded into perfect weather for getting things done on the inside. After taking a carload of construction waste for recycling, we were able to pick everything up off the floors and get ready to seal them. I cleaned, re-cleaned and triple-cleaned the floors while Kevin did the rounds on all of the unsealed fir trims. Then he oiled the stairs while I sealed the concrete floor in the front of our house. It was so nice to have a three day weekend so that the floors could have an extra day to dry before the tradefolk return.

May 19 - finished LR floor as viewed from the sink.

May 19 - osmo oiled fir treads

The lack of rain this weekend also made it a bit easier to work outdoors and start tweaking our landscaping plan. There are so many things about the front yard that we have to figure out so I spent some time in the back looking at the placement of our trees and the otherwise dry creek that will help manage run off during big rains.

dry creekbed (most of the orange flags). Future bridge is sort of shown by that floor/joist sample and trees are indicated by stakes.

Our architect took into consideration our desire for green and a “woodland forest” kind of feel in the backyard and it’s been so nice to walk out in nature and see just what he called for in the plans. I think naturescaping is probably the best way to describe it, and given the birds, bees and butterflies we see in similarly landscaped areas, it really should be the right kind of thing for our backyard.

A lot of what we like doesn’t look so great in the winter so there are some other hardy grasses and shrubs called for too. That, and we realize we’re going to wanta bit more space devoted to food growing.

May 19 - garlic, tomatoes, herbs and raspberries in the back.

I started this little garden last year before we had access to water and it did quite well, so with my mom’s help it grew a bit this year. I took this photo and then a few hours later we were given raspberry canes from a generous nearby neighbour. I’m so looking forward to home grown food again!

Until next time, happy May!

work, work, work!

It’s hard to believe that our 4-day work weekend was nearly a month ago. We’re due for another one!

Our work schedules have been more demanding lately and as a result we haven’t gotten a whole lot of work done on the house ourselves. We’re also pretty exhausted from this design and construction saga that really does take a lot of energy when you have to decide everything. Thankfully the hired help has been taking care of things like the cabinetry and our interior stairs.

kitchen in progress

Shelves and stairs

Oh, and we were able to find some interior door knobs locally so that we could get rid of the porta-loo. (I strongly detest the knobs where you have to pinch and turn to lock and unlock so we were on the look out for ones with the push buttons in the centre. We had originally found a set we liked in another town but couldn’t get them from a local supplier. Fortunately Rona has just changed some of their inventory and we found these ones that do just the trick.

interior door hardware

I don’t have the photos to back it up (and it’s dark now) but our parents came up and got some great work done on Mother’s Day. My dad moved a whole lot of dirt around in the front to make way for my future garden boxes and my mom helped transplant some newly acquired plants. I may have more than leeks to harvest this summer after all!

Kev’s parents were similarly on a mission and they did a transformation of part of the back yard too!

The trench building team

We keep thinking we’re getting close to being done, but as I relayed to my sister tonight, there’s no relaxing any time soon. It may well be next year before we’re done enough to relax because finishing takes forever!

four day work weekend

Today we celebrate the number 4. The fourth month of the year, the four-day work weekend we’re now in the middle of (bracketed on either side by a four-day work week), the number of days it took to sand the fir floors and the number of coats of finish I put on the kitchen floor today. I haven’t kept track of my laundry loads but we could definitely be up to 44 as I’ve been washing EVERY thing before it has a chance to get settled over here.

Last weekend Kevin and his dad put in a few long days sanding, sanding and re-sanding the floor upstairs. It was a painfully slow process and not easy on the lungs or knees either, but they got it done! Today the second coat of Osmo Polyx-Oil went down and it looks gorgeous! There’s still a bit of smell but it should dissipate quickly. To speed things along we opened the windows to the chilly damp air and made a fire. It’s so nice to spend time in this warm and quiet little house.

April 19 - Osmo oiled fir floor

April 19 - a warm wood fire

Delays are part of the process when it comes to building and sometimes things work out just as they’re meant to. The kitchen cabinets arrived yesterday but since they’re not getting installed for a few days yet I had the chance to put a few coats of Broda Pro-thane down over the concrete in the kitchen and back hallway. We both really like how it brings out more of the lighter and brighter tones in the dyed concrete.

April 19 - kitchen cabinetry

April 19 - dyed concrete floor with pro-thane (left) and without (right)

Over the past two weeks our builders finished trimming out all of the windows and they installed and trimmed the downstairs interior doors and made a start on the baseboards too. Who knew that the concrete would have so many little hills and valleys that the baseboards need to accommodate. (We were planning to tackle the baseboards but now we’ll just do the ones upstairs.) I nearly forgot, but they also surfaced both of our decks in recent weeks. (Now we just need some warmer drier weather so we can finish them.)

There are still two days left of this weekend so once the floor has dried enough I will get back to tiling the tub surround. It looks like we’ll get some help tomorrow too so Kevin and his family may well get a few more things off the list such as sanding the baseboards in preparation for installation, applying varathane to the window sills and door trims, patching holes and cleaning up scuffs in the walls, applying more paint to the walls and starting to pack things up at the old house. With so much to do work is going to seem like a vacation when Tuesday rolls around!

tightening the purse strings

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We’re nearing the home stretch, hurray! That also means we’re winding down on what has been a very expensive year of design and construction. I’m sure it will be worth it in the end, but it’s quite different from our original vision 5 years ago of living mortgage free. Had we picked somewhere else to live, we know we could have done it but we chose this place and are here to stay. Still, I have to admit a little envy when I read about folks who are building their own little homes on wheels. I’ve seen two new ones in our part of town recently too!

I remember it wasn’t all too long ago when we talked about having everything done before moving into the new house. I can assure you now, that’s not how it’s going to be, and that I have a new appreciation for why so many other households live in a never-ending state of construction. It seems that this is simply the way it works unless you have exceedingly deep pockets or a combination of great insight and excellent preparedness before hand.

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You’ll notice that we didn’t cheap out when it came to the big things like the heating, our metal roof or our wooden windows. We knew we’d have to cut corners and put in some sweat equity along the way but where have we opted to take a bit more time and save a bit more money? There are a number of ways:
- I’m tiling the bathroom using the cheap subway tile since our first choice was going to cost nearly $1000 in materials and another $1000 in labour.
- We’re only finishing one shower area for now (saving another $1000-$2000 in the short term)
- We’re so grateful that my dad was both willing and able to make us a lovely vanity for one bathroom and we’re using plywood for it’s counter (at least temporarily) since we have a piece the right size kicking around. I don’t even want to guess how much we’d have to spend to get what we have in a store since most of what you can get in stores is full of off-gassing nasties.
- We’ll be putting up the baseboards (after we move in) and applying varathane to it and the window trims.
- Our site supervisor is filling the cracks in the concrete with StarPatch and I’m sealing the concrete floors. (We could have saved money by sticking with the cure and seal the concrete guys left us back in June but it gave me a headache so instead I used Broda Prothane. The other quotes we got for cleaning things up included really fancy crack fill treatments and an epoxy sealer that I didn’t want and cost a few thousand dollars more.)
- It’s not ideal, but at least for the short term we’re going to have wooden counter tops. We were reluctantly going to go with plywood but then we had a surprise find last weekend which means we’re more likely to have wooden ones from IKEA. It’s hard to know how much of a savings this really means since it’s likely only temporary and it never had a dollar figure in the budget. Oops!
- We’re finishing the wooden floors upstairs. Kevin made good headway with the sanding this past weekend but there’s still more to be done before we get to applying our own oil finish.

Apr 7 - light fixtures and floor sanding

- Instead of finishing with a fully landscaped house we’re removing any real expectations until the summer comes and we’ll likely buy the bigger things when they’re cheaper and easier to transplant in the fall. I’m so itching to get my veggie plots built but my old collection pots is going to be standing in for a while. With all the other work to be done, there’s just no time. Plus, materials that will last cost a bundle too.
- We’re not usually big fans of the big blue box but when it comes to light fixtures, they have the best deal going. We used their cable lights and repurposed their most economical ceiling fixture as a sconce so that we could save more thank $1-2K and spend that money on LED bulbs (which in part came from that store too).

Apr 7 - lights

- Not only are regular doors expensive, but none of closet openings are of a standard height which means they’ll definitely cost more than $300 each. We’ve decided to go with curtains for the foreseeable future and may even leave the laundry area uncovered.
Apr 7 - laundry

- Speaking of laundry, I probably already mentioned that we saved ourselves another grand by going with a more standard size and a model that isn’t the newest on the market. We did look at buying used but couldn’t easily find what we wanted at a price that seemed worth the risk, without a big hassle when it came to delivery.

Needless to say, we’ve been spending more time at the house and less time taking photos or writing about it. Soon we’ll be done!
Apr 6 - a warmly lit little house