The Good, The Bad, and The Okayish: Musings on Four Years of Home Ownership

In April, we’ll have been in here for 4 years. It’s crazy how time passes us by. It feels like it was only last week we signed the papers and received our keys.

Saying that we’ve had our share of ups and downs would be an understatement. If you’ve been following our journey thus far you’ll understand why. But looking back on where we’ve been and where we’re going, I’d like to share a few thoughts with you.

In hindsight, we probably shouldn’t have bought this particular house and instead waited for something that would have been less work. But with most of the houses in this area being too far out of our range of affordability, this seemed like a great opportunity. (Asking $250k for a shoebox of a 2-bedroom house with almost no kitchen is unrealistic. Also, when the short person has to duck to get down the stairs into the basement there’s a major problem.) As stated in my first post here, we were so sure no major work was needed in the house, beyond taking down wallpaper and broken tiles, paint, and those ‘homey touches’. Boy, were we wrong.

In fact, we often joke about passing up on one of the houses we toured – a beautiful house with loads of potential but in need of serious repairs. With holes in the walls, the ceiling, and even missing plumbing, it would have required a 203(k) Rehabilitation or Title 1 loan. I’m almost certain neither of those would have provided enough money for all the work required.

img_20180121_123303762317369206.jpgAs I’ve stated before, we really are learning a lot about remodeling. It’s a giant pain in the rear most of the time, but when your budget is limited, you do what you can. This house has forced us both to think outside the box and reach for our inner DIY-er. I never would have imagined in one hundred years that we’d own not only multiple hand held power tools but a miter saw and stand (which still terrifies me to use but someday I will conquer it!)

Yes, there are some days I regret this buy and other days where I’m thankful for it. I think part of that is the ups and downs of home ownership. But as with any major project, there are going to be a lot more ‘hate it’ days then ‘love it’ ones.

I find that the most difficult part of doing the work ourselves is when you hit the lull between inspiration. Those moments when your drive to work is lackluster or lacking altogether. Those are the moments when discouragement sets in. We’ve come so far, and yet it feels like there is still so much to do, simply at the cosmetic level. And being that this isn’t our forever house, sometimes it’s difficult to justify some of these major remodels.

In spite of all the work we’ve done, it feels as if we’ve barely put a dent in it all. Granted, a lot of what we did has been demolition and sometimes things move along slower than we anticipated. The first floor isn’t finished yet and there’s still so much left to be done on the rest of the house to even get it “resale worthy”.

But this is our home, and it may still be a few years before we can permanently remove the (invisible) ‘under construction’ sign from our doorway. All in all, though, I wouldn’t trade this experience away for, well…almost anything.

Moving into this next year of home ownership, we hope to be able to share more of our progess with you (assuming we make progress!) and I will do my best to keep you updated a bit more regularly.

Until the next time…careful where you swing that hammer!
–Love from the residents of Parkside Twin

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Horse Fencing 101: Post Hole Digging Edition

Do you ever find yourself looking over the “how-to’s” of a project only to watch everything that can go wrong, do so, once you’ve already thrown yourself into the heart of it?

Well my friends, that’s what this continuing experience has become…the seemingly “easy” part of the fence construction process that was estimated to take us a few days, give or take, working a few hours a day on digging holes.

Must not laugh, must not laugh, all work and no play make Christy a … no, too far.

Back on point! So! Twenty-three days later (Whose counting?) I have two-thirds of my post holes dug and our horses arriving to the farm in six days (Seriously NOT counting, …honest!). Being that this is the south…and spring…one might assume the weather became an issue. You would be wrong, so very -very- wrong.

The miser- …adventure*** began here…

Not afraid of rolling up our sleeves, we enlisted the help of a friend who works in construction. His knowledge and access to equipment and proper usage have been HUGE time-savers. (Note: We did consider renting equipment at first but then I remembered I will somehow always find a ditch and drive right into it. Enough said.) I wanted 3′ deep post holes dug that were at least 8″ wide so he chose a Bobcat with an auger attachment and brought it over.

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Progress! Eeek!!!
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Meet the auger!

It started out simple enough, Bobcats are so compact and easy to maneuver in the field that he and the Mr. had two sides of the pasture holes dug in a day. I was one happy little farmer. Now the acreage had begun to look as though a gopher with insane accuracy had taken up lodging but I knew it was only temporary. No biggie, right? Wrong again. Just so wrong…

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Holes for days…

The next time our friend was able to come out, we managed a total of five post holes before the Bobcat broke down. Now I’ve come to learn a bit of lingo from the menfolk and it seems there are varying levels of ‘broken down’. There’s “ah hell”, translation – this could be a minute, or the popular “C’mon man!”, translation – prepare to get your hands dirty, and of course “No no no…you best cut back on! …sonuva…!”, translation – just chunk it, it’s dead Fred!

This is when I learned we were in a, ‘…sonuva!’, kind of situation. The auger wasn’t moving…my drill had stopped while submerged three feet into the soil. Reason? A belt had broken. Being late into the afternoon on a weekend there was no hope of getting a replacement and the following day was Easter Sunday. …crap.

Fast forward another week and our friend returned with a few more friends to swap out the belt. Success! We could get back on track at last…only two weeks till horses were coming home after all. The Mr. and our friend got to work and managed another ten holes before fluid started spewing all over the place and soaking into my soil. A hose had broken and the only option was to get another replacement part. I wish I could tell you that he got the part, replaced it, and we were back on track but I would be lying…but hey, at least I didn’t trip in one of these suckers right?

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Over the next week and a half he went out and found a replacement three different times. The first time, he bought the part that was not broken and so was returned. The second time, the store sold him the wrong part. At present we are on round three, where he has taken the defective part with him to make certain the store sends him back with the right one. To say that I’m frustrated is an understatement. He’s been a complete trooper throughout the entire process and the Mr. has helped however he can.

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Will my pasture ever have fence posts to fill these in?!

Now…will my fence be up and ready by Friday so I can pick up my horses from where they’re currently stabled? Heck, will our post holes even be dug by Friday let alone the fence up? Doubtful…but I’m going to be optimistic.

When faced with adversity, it’s really the only hand you have to play!

…to be continued.

 

Horse Fencing 101: Post Edition

Hello again! Whose ready to talk fence posts? I can feel your excitement already…I mean after all, who WOULDN’T get jazzed up over such a sensational topic! Right?

But seriously, after the hassle of deciding which type of fencing material would be best for our needs and the safety of our horses we were left with the realization that fencing materials did not come with the inclusion of fence posts. Naturally, after a few minutes of, “But why though?!”, it made perfect sense yet those few minutes were quite a sad realization.

Never one to turn down a challenge, the research began again. I don’t know if it’s possible but IF it is, I may have actually tired out the Google ‘search’ option. Now we had the option to go with metal T-Posts, Vinyl, or Wood posts to serve as the framework for our new CenFlex fence. Once again, I placed my primary need on strength and durability. as I didn’t want to have to do this again ANYTIME in the near future. Installing fence posts is a MAJOR undertaking and terribly tedious process…but I digress! Metal posts are incompatible with the particular type of Centaur fencing we chose as well as vinyl which brings us to our remaining option – wood -.

Now it IS strong and depending on the species or the treatment used can be exceptionally durable. What isn’t to love? Well… it IS the most expensive option and no one treatment type is created equal.

You have two options:

  1. Natural – Osage Orange, White Oak, Redwood, or Red Oak are the best native species in the U.S. that require no chemical or pressurized treatment. I’ve listed them in order beginning with the most superior to rot, insect, mildew, and mold resistance.

Pro: No treatment necessary, each species natural resistances can offer from 15-40+ years of life before replacing.

Con: Hard to come by, expensive, and you will lose the uniform look of your fence as most are cut ‘roughly’.

2. Chemical – You have your choice of more Eco-Friendly options that are formed from water-based treatments such as CA-Preserve (Copper Azole) or more cost-effective options are that oil-based such as Creosote, CCA (Chromated Copper Arsenate), or Pentachlorophenol.

Pro: Much more cost effective than naturally resistant wood species and with certain treatments can last from 3-15 years.

Con: All chemical treatment types carry a measure of risk via handling, disposal, and how they affect the environment. Certain treatments are not suitable for residential and agricultural use -at all-.

Let me tell you, Osage Orange is near impossible to find. It’s like a wild goose chase in which you need to prepare yourself for endless circles with no answers, anywhere. I sought out white oak next. Lumber yards would not return my messages, forum posts looking for sellers went unanswered…it was a dark time in my research process. Eventually I had to consider that our only feasible option in our time crunch, would be going the chemically treated route. I feel I could write a small novel on the do’s and don’t’s of “treated wood” and its proper usages but I will spare you the essay and apply what was relevant to our situation:

Our farm is set up on well water and is used to not only irrigate the land but is our drinking and bathing water as well. When choosing a treatment for our posts I had to be certain that it would not ‘ooze’ over time (think sap dripping from tree bark) and pool about the base of our post, contaminated the soil and poisoning our horses. While ours are not cribbers or wood chewers, I had to consider the possibility they might try at some point and so the toxicity level, if ingested, came under consideration as well. Lastly, I had to be 100% certain that it would not risk the integrity of our underground fresh water source that we all count on.

That left one feasible option, which I also called and spoke with our county agricultural official on just to be safe, which was CA-Preserve or the Copper Azole treatment.

Please keep in mind, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is constantly running new studies and tests on the efficiency and safety of various treatments. For example, twenty years ago Creosote was a widely accepted form of treatment based primarily around coal tar extracts, now it has been banned in nearly half of the U.S. As of right now, CA-Preserve is considered to be one of the most eco-friendly treatments available.

Once again I find myself saying, ‘You get what you paid for.’ The posts treated with CA-Preserve were over double that of any other treatment available but… not willing to risk our water source or run the potential of poisoning our soil (and consequently the acreage the horses graze on) we trimmed our budget elsewhere and went for this treatment.

Some basic rules to follow when looking to install posts for a horse fence:

  1. Ideal post size/length: 4x4x8.
  2. For proper strength you should have a minimum of 4″ posts though 5″ is preferable and 6″ is recommended for any corners and posts surrounding gates.
  3. Your fence should be at least 5′ tall above ground and 3′ below ground for a total of 8′.
  4. Posts should ideally be no more than 12′ apart. We went with 10′ for our fence. (The closer together, the stronger the fence.)
  5. All end posts and posts surrounding gates should be set in concrete for stability.
  6. If possible, every third post should have 2 feet of packed soil, 6″ of concrete, and 6″ of packed soil on top.
  7. All other posts should be packed down tightly with soil.

I hope this helped some! Now to patiently await our lumber delivery… I can be patient, I hope…

Cheers!

Horse Fencing 101: Choosing the Right Fence

As you all know, the Mr. and I left our cozy suburban lifestyle behind when the chance to own our very own farmhouse became a viable choice for us.

Now then, first things first… we have acres of rolling pasture surrounding our home but only semi cross-fenced sections with barbed wire and wobbly splintered posts. Yeah, …not going to work for my horses.

So… while I could spend the day complaining about the serious hazards of barbed wire fencing and animals, let’s just leave it at I do not like it and do not permit it to be -anywhere- on my property…at all. That being said, it was time to look over our options and devise a plan. Generally speaking you need a minimum of 1 acre per horse if you keep them in a pasture setting, in an ideal world you would have at least 2 acres per horse.

Fun fact: One horse will eat approximately 100lbs of forage per day.

Onto the fun part, we have four horses at present but as I also supplement their diet with hay and grain, in addition to pasture grazing, for the time being we’ve elected to fence off 4 acres total. In a few years when we’ve had a chance to put away some funds towards expanding the pasture, I would like to fence the 4 acres alongside the current pasture to allow for rotating them seasonally to give our grass a break.

When it comes to fencing you will find pros and cons with each different type.

The Primary 4:

  • Wood
  • Vinyl
  • Wire
  • Electric Tape/Wire

The Brief Rundown…

Wood is both sturdy and attractive to look at but unfriendly towards your pocket book. It also requires the most upkeep and is the most labor-intensive to install. Vinyl will give you that picture perfect look all year round with minimum upkeep but is easily broken by excessive strain especially if you have large fence leaners like our boys! Wire is practical on cost, installation, and upkeep but be forewarned, if fencing in horses I would steer VERY VERY clear of this pitfall. The cost in potential, and I really mean eventual, vet bills will quickly exceed the initial savings on materials. Electric tape along smooth wire is a less invasive version of your barbed wire fence but still comes with a variety of potential dangers. It is also easier on the pocket book but there is that age old saying, ‘You get what you paid for.’

Our needs were very clear. I needed strength and durability, something that would last me at least 10-15 years ideally, that was also horse friendly, NON-wire, budget friendly (if possible!), and as we live in the south, something that could withstand constant temperature fluctuations and endless humidity. …oh yeah, and every pest known to mankind. That to…

My research led me to CenFlex 5″, a Centaur Fencing product. CenFlex 5″ is comprised of 3 steel cables all coated in polymer and then suspended evenly within a polymer-coated sheath to give the appearance of a wood panel. The difference? Equal strength to wood fencing, if not better, and then there is its flexibility, as well as wood/rot/mildew/mold/weather resistant. You never need to paint/stain it, horses will not chew it, and pests won’t bother it! And yes, it actually gets better… it is lightweight and only requires tightening on corner posts once a year. Top that with a 30 year limited lifetime warranty and we were sold.

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An example of CenFlex installed. We also chose the ‘Classic Black’ for our farm.

All of my fears of a slat breaking and impaling a horse, splinters breaking off, wire tangling about a leg, horses beginning to crib and/or chew my fence, pests destroying the integrity of a plank, constantly repairing or replacing damaged planks…gone, poof! Just like that.

Now remember I did mention, you get what you paid for. I would place CenFlex beneath wood fencing on cost but only just and I will admit… it is quite a deal more upfront than wire, electric, or vinyl options. After weighing our options, we decided the additional up front cost greatly outweighed the long-term investment of repairs and routine maintenance to a wood fence.

Update: After patiently waiting, our CenFlex arrived today. We won’t talk about the fact my post holes aren’t all dug yet or the fact the treated posts we chose for our fence haven’t been shipped from the lumber yard. For now…I’m just going to revel in the excitement that the fence materials themselves are here.

Home Sweet Home

I’ve always found it humorous, the things that we remember when we look back to the near or distant past. For example, I can still recall with perfect clarity the sense of contentment that overwhelmed me the moment I stepped from my car onto the private drive of our farmhouse. This was the one. This was our future home. Sitting atop a gently graded hillside lay the picturesque setting of the quintessential white southern farmhouse set amongst the softly rolling pastures and charming picket fence.

What wasn’t to love?

Now then, full disclosure…we KNEW up front the home had been vacant for some time, years in fact, and due to its stagnant status it would likely need a great deal of good ol’ fashioned TLC to bring it back to life. We’d no idea how old the home was, its square footage, if anything even worked inside. …but I didn’t care. I should’ve, I know, fixer-uppers are nothing to take on without full consideration for the work and -flexible- budget that will come hand in hand and yet looking back, despite everything, I wouldn’t have done a thing differently.

From the first moment it has been an undertaking of Herculean effort, in which I owe credit to a great many others for their support and assistance. No, it isn’t perfect and absolutely no, it is not updated or working “as intended”, a week in and we’ve still no useable water…still here though. Told ya’, it’s love, but it is ours.

Home sweet home… a little bit more, one day and one glass of wine at a time.

The House

This is our little corner of the world and we call it hell…I mean home. 3 years ago, my now-husband and I bought this quaint little twin and it has been a challenge, to say the least. It’s our first house and we were looking for something we could make our own and not have to put a TON of work into. On the surface, it seemed like a good fit: being located in a decent neighborhood and priced within our budget, we jumped at the chance.  Granted, this wasn’t our dream home and certainly not going to be our forever home but it was a nice starter.

On the surface, it seemed like a good fit: being located in a decent neighborhood and priced within our budget, we jumped at the chance.  Granted, this wasn’t our dream home and certainly not going to be our forever home but it was a nice starter. Having been previously owned by an older woman, the house was in dire need of both TLC and modernization with lots of dark wood paneling, textured wallpaper, and thick carpeting. I think even 1979 would be ashamed of this decor.

It’s too late now. We’re elbow-deep in renovations in a very old house with some rather….unusual improvements, courtesy of the previous owner’s son. Some days I love this house, other days I feel like the husband and I are on Candid Camera or we’re in filming for a sequel to “The Money Pit.” I know one day it will be all worth the sweat and the tears but until then, I think I’ll take a break and have another beer.