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A Garden Tour

11 Jun

Care to take a tour of the backyard? We are so lucky, because the previous owner (who owned the home for 27 years) had a serious green thumb!! Like emerald green. Every week there seems to be another wonderful plant blooming around here. It’s kind of incredible and exhilarating and it makes me want to have a green thumb as well – to join the elite green thumb club. The entire backyard is absolutely chock full of peonies, irises, and a bunch of other flowers I don’t know the name of. Can ya tell – no green thumb here. I’m desperately trying to learn enough though to make sure all these plants don’t die.

White Peony Bushes

Backyard

Here is a close up shot of one of the peonies. These flowers are my all time favorite bloom so I can’t even explain how excited I am to have 8 bushes lining the back of our house.

White Peony

White Peony

Right next to the peonies are some lovely purple irises. Offer a nice contrast, I think.

Purple Iris

Purple Iris

And another favorite of ours is this huge rhubarb bush! Can’t wait to make some pies later this summer (when our kitchen is back in commission…) with some chives right next to it. Edible arrangements. Bonus.

Rhubarb Plant

Rhubarb Plant

Since the back was looking so snazzy, we decided to pop some flowers in the planters up front, too. The front foliage is mainly hostas now, so it’s nice to have a little pop of color.

Flowers in Planter Box

Front Planters

My pansies will probably only last a few more weeks here (starting to get warm) but for now, I love their cheerful little faces greeting me at the front door.

Purple Pansies

Pansies

Probably one of the most enjoyable things about living in this house so far has been the pure abundance of beautiful plants around us outside. It helps to have somewhere to escape to when our house is totally covered in reno dust. Urrggh. #OverIt.

Tiiimmmmbbbeeerrr

4 Jun

I like my trees, but I also like my sun. MMMM – sunshine. Back in late winter, we had an epic ice storm that covered all the trees with a thick coat of ice. Most of the trees made it out alright, but we’ve got one the in the back yard that just didn’t fare so well. Exhibit A. Pretty sure the limbs are not supposed to be doing that.

Removing damaged fir tree

Damaged Tree

After watching our neighbor scratch his head with concern a few times, we walked out there to examine the damage ourselves and embarrassingly agreed that something had to happen before their car got boinked. Since it’s on a side of the house that we don’t pass by often, we kind of didn’t even notice this guy was the leaning tower of pisa until we started tending to the garden in late spring and saw this guy in all his glory. Oops. Bad neighbors.

Sawing down a tree

Sawing Down

On an afternoon off from work, Jay took his trusty little saw to this guy and got started on hacking it away. It was pretty tricky to get in there, since the limbs were only a few inches apart from each other. Of course the orange tabby had to manage the process from the window. He never loses out on an opportunity 🙂

The manager

Orange Tabby

Since Jay was home alone forging ahead on the tree – he had to do things pretty incrementally in order to avoid a limb falling in the wrong direction and causing trouble. He started by getting the smaller sized limbs, that he could hold onto with one hand as he went along, and then moved on to some of the bigger ones along the outside.

Removing Tree Limbs

Tree Limb

Here is one of his causalities, laying along the back of the house. It’s possible the tree could have been salvaged, since the limbs seemed pretty healthy as he was cutting each one down. Trouble was, we had no way of knowing how to stop the splitting from happening. It had grown to a point where it was really top heavy, so it just seemed like it was losing it’s fight against gravity, and kept leaning further in to the split. We tried tying some string to it, to keep the limbs from dividing out, but nothing seemed to be working the way we wanted it to.

How to cut a dead tree

Cutting the Tree Down

You can see our string strategy in the picture above. It is tied to the bush on the left hand side of the photo. It was helping, but not enough in our mind to justify the risk that it could fall on a neighbors car, or kid, or dog.

Tree Stump

Tree Stump

Lacking the best tools on the first go around, we landed up with the little stump above. It was progress, but not good enough 😉 After bringing a saw zaw out, we got to this point, but we obviously still need to get down a bit lower to have a stump we can cover with mulch, or something of that nature. Jay says he needs a hatchet. He he. Probably does. Something about my engineer of a husband wielding a hatchet kind of freaks me out – so I’ve been stalling on fulfilling his man wish. Any other thoughts out there? If any experienced tree removers want to chip in – I would love it! I’d prefer not to lose any limbs over here 😉

How to remove tree stump

Tree Stump

One of the advantages of hacking this tree down  has been seeing all the lovely things that appear below it. Look at this beautiful blooming bush! I think it’s azalea’s, no? Gosh, I need to learn my flowers now that I’ve inherited such a lovely garden from the previous owner!

Azalea Bush

Blooming Bush

Screened in or Sunroom?

24 May

When we toured the house for the first time and hopped over on the screened-in porch, we thought, ahhh isn’t this the nicest little room! Come spring, and dust and pollen and rain, the screened in porch has lost some of it’s luster. The first few days we sat out there this spring, we were surprised at how dirty it had become over the winter season. It felt gross to just sit out there. Not as relaxing as first envisioned. As you can see below – this room was gross!

How to keep screened in porch clean

Screened In Porch

The window sills collected a lot of dirt as well, and in general, the room just felt in dire need of a scrub.

How to clean screened in porch

Window Sills

When Jay was home for the day waiting on the appliances he did give the room a complete scrub down and after sudsing up the floors, he just took the hose to the whole joint and sprayed everything down. 🙂 Looking much better, huh?! For the window sills we just used a rag and simple green and the whole room did clean up quite nicely.

How to clean a screened in porch

Cleaning the Porch

But, all the spring grossness got me to thinking that I might want to add some windows out here at some point, and look into the feasibility of converting this space to a sunroom. We’ve had a few contractors swinging through the house the last few days for little kitchen projects and quotes on future attic conversion plans, so while they were around we were sure to ask them about the pros and cons of converting this space to a more permanent room in to house, versus the glorified deck that it is today. Although the space is great as is, I think it could be absolutely epic if it felt more like an extension of the house, and less like a camping bunk room, i.e. the photo below.

Cleaning Screened in Porch

Screened in Porch

Overall, the general consensus from the contractors was – sure – you can convert that purty darn easy! That … was very surprising to me, since the inspector had eluded to the room needing a foundation (it only has lattice right now), which he estimated to be in the $30,000 ball park range. Wha, wha, whhhaattt??? Nope, ain’t happening. Basically, the advice we got was to insulate the be-jesus out of the space, and then add an external heating source and we would be happy as clams in the sea. Since the room has sufficient footings already in place, it can hold the weight associated with a normal, interior room, thus giving us the go ahead to convert it, if desired.

So, naturally, I started hunting for auxiliary heating sources for the room, which is where mission covert screened-in porch hit another bump in the road. After lots of searching and chatting with knowledgeable dudes and dudettes, we were directed toward electric baseboard heating as the best option for the space. One – electric baseboards (in my opinion) are not the prettiest things. It kinda makes the room look unintentional to me, like a throw on that wasn’t quite thought through. And, the biggest cincher for me was that these guys are not efficient, at all. We would easily be looking at an extra $40-$50 per month in the winter just to heat the extra room! That ain’t happening!

Baseboard Heater

Baseboard Heater

So, what I’m kind of leaning toward right now is adding windows, insulation, and legit floors and doors to the space, but using it as a 3-season room, vs. 4-season. I think that weatherizing the space will add to it’s function, and I think that we will enjoy it more sans screens. Since this is a project we can totally bite off by ourselves (framing and installing windows, doors and insulation), the other nice part of this plan is that we can control the costs and timeline more through taking the DIY route. If it seems kind of crazy and haphazard that we are thinking about this room right now – while we are in the middle of our kitchen renovation – it is! But only sorta kinda. The dining room is directly connected to the screened in porch, so as we continued to rip stuff out of the kitchen/dining area, and think about what we wanted the space to look like long term – this room came into the mix as well.

Still ironing out the final details for the room, but right now the game plan is to add some nice french doors off the dining room, and make this room look like a legit, real deal, genuine McCoy part of the house, without breaking the bank, and without adding a heat source. Beauty of this, if we wanted to add a heat source further down the line, we can still do that, but for now we are still able to move forward with the integration into the rest of the home.

And this, this is my O-fficial inspiration pictures. Aint it a beauty? Let the wild rumpus, begin! That is code for – let’s get a renovatin’!

French Doors Dining Room

French Doors

The Green Has Got to Go

15 May

Hunter green and pink. If I had to pick two colors that would sum up the previous owner’s design taste – they would be it. Add some wallpaper and a few faux finishes and we are pretty much good to go. Not to say that hunter green and pink are not nice, but we’ve been phasing them out of our abode. Guess we are just a wee bit more plain jane round here. 😉 I’m a sucker for a nice, crisp, black exterior door and perfectly bright and white interior. What can I say, I’m a tried and true for the traditional.

Sunroom Door

Green Exterior Door

I felt an extra push to paint this door since we had already quasi tackled it by painting the interior, but not the interior door trim, so anytime we opened the door this spring to get a wee bit of air in the space, I would hard core cringe and the unfinished look.

Unpainted Door Trim

Door Trim

If I had my way, and a few extra dollar bills lining my pocket, I would get a french door installed here to open up the dining room, and to get rid of all the ugly gold trim. A la this photo. Fades off into dreams of converting the screened in porch into a sunroom …

French Doors Dining Room

French Doors

But since paint cost $20 for a gallon and doors cost a few benjamins … ya know. Some decisions get made for you. He he. 😉 It was looking pretty rough though. Definitely in need of paint.

Green Exterior

Exterior Door

Here is how it looked after two coats of Benjamin Moore Simply White.

Simply White Trim

Simply White Patio Door

The trim panel is looking a lot better, too.

Door Trim Simply White

Door Trim

Oh, and the door hardware. That has to go, too 🙂 After lots of looking around at the big box and local stores with nothing striking my fancy, I stumbled across this guy when I was buying our appliances at my new favorite website, build.com. Plus, they are actually quite a bit less than the big box option. Yippie skippie. Perhaps in the summer we will snag this guy for the door.

Exterior Door Hardware

Exterior Door Hardware

Spring Cleaning

23 Apr

In addition to the pond overhaul, we also decided that it was high time for some proverbial spring cleaning in the backyard. The wonderful thing about living in an old, established neighborhood downtown is all of the TREES! The not so wonderful thing about living in an old, established neighborhood downtown are all the leaves that subsequently fall off said trees. We busted our behinds to rake each and every weekend in the fall, but totally had a mother load of leaves greeting us after the thaw. This picture really doesn’t do it justice. Trust me, it was a lot of leaves. 😉

Backyard Leaves

Backyard Leaves

We also had some downed timber from an ice storm in early spring. We were waiting for the compost collection to start up again before we put this guy into the collection pile. Jay opted to parse this into smaller pieces in order to fit the thing in the compost bin. I think he just wanted to have an excuse to pull out one of his rarely used man tools.

How to cut tree

Downed Tree

Now that all the debris is cleared and the leaves are swept away, this should make a great spot for summer entertaining. We still need to get rid of all the random stone figurines and broken pots left over from the last owner. Saving that for the next round. 🙂 There is some type of vine on the trellis – excited to see what that turns out to be! Also – does anyone have tree expertise? Is that brown evergreen dead? I’m leaning toward yes… The burning bush in the back of the picture, if you can’t see it. Perhaps it’s a biblical sign? 😉

Brick Paver Patio

Back Patio

Another area laden with leaves was a small area behind some trees adjacent to our screened in porch. After the clean up, this guy went from this,

Side Yard Patio

Side Yard

To this!

Side Patio

Side Yard Sans Leaves

I’m picturing perhaps something more like the photo below for the space long term. Since it’s a bit closer to the kitchen, this might be a better spot for summer dining. Ah, I can just see us now with a glass of wine in hand. We shall see.

Outdoor Patio Trellis

Outdoor Patio | Vision

The fun thing about raking away all the leaves, was that this was really our first opportunity to see the garden and what had been planted here in year’s past. Since the previous owner lived in this home for 27 years, and we were told that she enjoyed gardening, we knew we were in for some treats. Being so early in the season, we were only beginning to see things pop up, but man it did my heart good to see some little pops of spring coming in.

Purple Corcuses

Purple Crocuses

Ain’t No Pond of Mine

18 Apr

Coy ponds. An essential piece of the backyard sanctuary for many, a mosquito mecca and west nile breeder for Mary. Plus, this thing smelled rank. Like seriously, I think it was one of the worst smells I’ve ever had the dis-pleasure of sniffing, and I’ve had some unpleasant scents in my day. So the first day that the weather was feeling a bit more “spring” like (for all us northerners, we know how fleeting those days have been as of late – ugg), we decided (well, I decided) to tackle the pond! Luckily, Jay was a good sport about it and helped with the tackling. Here is the pond in it’s post over haul glory.

How to remove pond

Backyard Pond

It was totally covered in leaves, and since we moved in this fall, we had kind of forgotten about it until we started to rake back there and re-stumbled upon it. It probably smelt so funky since I imagine the leaves were starting to ferment in all that water – along with who knows what else. First thing we did was remove all the extra rocks out back that were seated on the lip of the pond. We’ll have to find a way to repurpose these later on, since they are pretty nice chunks of stone if I do say so myself. Maybe a walkway out back, or something of that nature.

How to remove pond

Removing Stones

We then tried using pure man power to just hoist the thing out. That didn’t work – so we moved on to a tool. Ah, yes, tools. Cavemen used them for a reason – we decided to follow their lead by using it as our hoisting assistant. A pitchfork was our tool of choice 😉 I like Jay’s nonchalant pose in this picture. 🙂 He is ready to own that pond.

How to remove a pond

Some Pitchfork Action

At this point, after we started our hoisting activities, we started to realize that this thing was a bit deeper and a bit more “stuck” in there than we had initially anticipated. After Jay tried shifting the thing around a bit, and I got on the other end, we were finally able to get the lip of it tilted to let some of the water seep out. Holy Mother of pearl. This thing had a rank smell prior, but man were we in for it when we started to let this thing flow. I was gagging. It was gross. It made me hate the pond that much more.

How to remove a pond

Pond Basin

As you can see, the basin was 3 feet deep or so, which made it decently hard to leverage this beast out. On top of the smell, it was even harder. Oye. We’ll clean it off and probably list the pond on craigslist sooner or later. We still have to dig up the electrical that is connected to the garage somewhere – I guess it had water features or something – like a little fountain. Not my thang, that’s for sure. You can see the motor hanging out behind the puddle of muck below. We weren’t quite sure what to do with all the god awful water that was there after we just left it chilling in the backyard. I’m hoping that it will continue to seep into the ground and we can just fill it with dirt, but if that doesn’t work out, w’ell have to move on to scenario B.

How to remove pond

Puddle of Muck

Secret Garden

13 Mar

As I sit here, dreaming of summer, it includes a lush little vegetable garden off the patio with greens for dinner and lots of other fresh goodies. We tried  to be gardeners in the first house, but that plot of land was just not destined for anything much other than mosquitoes  It had constantly wet soil (no draining) and pretty much no sun as well, so needless to say, all the seeds I tried planting there were a pretty big flop! 😉 When we first moved in though, I had NO idea what was required to create a good garden, so I just planted seeds and hoped for the best.

We’ve learned a lot from those first few failed years, and I’m pretty excited about two little locations here at the new house that I think will be really good spots for some veggies (and fruits, too, perhaps!). They are not large, but I think that is actually a very good thing. More manageable that way, and no doubt, I’m still getting my sea legs on this whole gardening thing. I’m thinking something like this along the back of the house would be nice. Perhaps with multiple levels, like this photo.

Gardening

Raised Bed

We have space over by the (neighbor’s) garage, but still on our property line, that get’s a lot of southern exposure. I’m thinking about putting in a row of beds there, but may wait a few months to see what pops up over there first. The lady that lived here before us was here for 27 YEARS and she loved to garden, so I am pretty excited to see what comes up this spring. I do know there is a big row or peonies, which I could not be more excited about!

Raised Garden Beds

Raised Garden Beds

Of course there are also patio plants, which we’ve always had pretty good success with. We will probably put a few tomatoes in pots and see how they do at the new abode as well. Ah …. dreaming of summer. This is a great little site for all types of veggies and fruits you can plant in containers – good to know if you live in a smaller space, etc.

If we had the space, I would absolutely LOVE a greenhouse. This one is pretty substantial in size, but it’s a total looker. Sigh.

Greenhouse

Greenhouse

Needless to say, there is definitely still snow on the ground here in Michigan, so my garden planning will have to take a back seat to some other projects for now. Last year, it was in the mid 60’s and 70’s throughout much of March, so this “normal” year has been a bit rough on us! 😉 Ready for some spring sunshine and yard planning!