“Do you ever have déjà vu, Mrs. Lancaster?” “I don’t think so, but I could check with the kitchen.” -Groundhog Day – 1993
It’s always nice when things fall neatly into place, but quite often it seems that will not be the case because the house throws you a curveball or three and suddenly it’s as if you’re stuck in the Groundhog’s Day of home remodeling.
Since we started on this house 3 1/2 years ago, we’ve learned more than our fair share of lessons the difficult way. Not for lack of trying mind you, more so due to … what we will call a lack of information.
The way most projects go is as follows: make a plan and do any and all appropriate research, materials are purchased, project is started, and then, the “Oh S*** moment” happens where all the hard work and planning you’ve done starts to fall apart at the seams and you’re forced to take a step back and rethink everything.
Let me back up a bit here. We started painting our closet and quickly realized that the areas we had so painstakingly spackled and sanded smooth, stood out starkly against the rest of the rather textured wall.
With the walls already primed, we decided against trying to skim the closet walls, opting instead to complete painting and move on to the next area.
Now, most paint rollers will leave some sort of texture on even a completely smooth surface such as drywall. The thickness of the woven cover a.k.a. the “nap” of a roller will determine how much of a texture will be left on your walls and the type of surface you’re painting on will determine how thick of a nap you need. They can range in thickness from 1/4″ onwards to 1″ and are labeled with their thickness and best uses.
Back on point here, we chose 3/8″ nap rollers which are a fairly common choice for walls and ceilings and only leave a slight texture. The previous owners, however, must have used a much thicker nap roller as the rather obvious texture on our walls makes it look like they used an orange peel instead of a paint roller. And when you add sloppy brushwork (drips and all), with uneven and heavily textured walls, and well, you can start to see our predicament.
Obvious brush strokes
Orange peel wall!
Skimming walls would be the ideal answer but from our experiences thus far in wall skimming, it’s incredibly labor intensive and material intensive. We easily blew through more than one 5-gallon bucket off drywall mud on the two skim jobs we did earlier in the year. And working in a small 5’x5’ish “room”, the mere thought of trying to maneuver a bucket, ladder, paint tray, and all our other supplies in such a small space is cold sweat, panic-inducing kind of stuff nightmares are made of.
So now what? Well, they necessity is the mother of invention and while we didn’t actually invent this method of skimming, I doubt we would have tried this had our hand not been somewhat forced. Now many of the online DIYers prefer what I call the quick and dirty skim method which is just drywall mud, a trowel (or tray) and a putty knife, as opposed to using the roll-on method that we had previously used.
We simply laid on as thin a coat of non-watered down drywall mud as possible. It was just enough to fill in and smooth out the walls. It took a bit of doing to get the right rhythm and thickness down but once we got in the groove, it turned out quite nicely.
Once everything had dried, only a light sanding was in order to get it ready to paint. Will we continue to use this method on future walls? I don’t know. Working in a 5 x 5 space is a lot different than on a 12′ long wall. I guess we’ll just have to see. (Also, my apologies for so many boring pictures of plain walls. Perhaps the next post will feature slightly more dynamic photos.)
It’s been a busy few months for us at Parkside. Life just keeps rolling by (brakes anyone?) and we’ve been hard-pressed to keep up with everything going on. At least now that the holidays in full swing, I have a moment, albeit a very brief one, to stop and play a bit of catch up on all these projects.
Our biggest update to the house in recent weeks has been painting. It’s only taken 3 years to get to this point but it’s finally happening! That’s right – we PAINTED. I’ll let you have a moment to let that news sink in. (Technically we did paint a couple years ago but since that wall had to be skimmed over, I’m going to say it doesn’t really count so shhhh! Also, there’s the fact that the color we had previously used turned out much darker than I had originally thought and I ended up not really loving it.)
First coat of paint!
But back on track now – with the walls of our side (main) entryway painted a lovely soft gray, all that’s left to do in there is hang trim and our closet organizer. It’ll be our first fully completed room project since we started. There aren’t enough words to express how excited I am! Stay tuned for more excitement to come!My husband did a good bit of the painting with help from my stepson who was all gung-ho about it, jumping and practically chest bumping the walls to maximize his limited reach. It was quite entertaining to watch.
Apologies for the absence in posting but as we all know, life just keeps on happening. Darnedest thing, that. So…the short of it is that we’ve done quite a great many projects over the past months and I am at least three months behind in writing this.
Moving on! …or is it forward? Let’s settle for onward!
(See…I just -knew- there had to be a compromise there.)
For those of you that may have forgotten my rough canvas, and I use that word very very very …very literally, here it is once more, what I had to work with:
The to-do list: (does anyone else make like a zillion of these a year? #guilty)
Determine primary material for stall walls / front.
Determine stall size.
Reinforce existing wooden beam structures.
Determine preferential material for proper footing and drainage.
Level out area for new footing.
Man, …why is it to-do lists make it seem so bloody simple? I ALWAYS think it’ll be just that simple. I delude myself every time. #characterflaw And yet, …we press onward!
As you may recall, one gelding that absolutely requires being stalled during the day throughout the Spring and Summer seasons is Gambit. Gambit is also the same gelding that hates being stalled. Hate being an entirely appropriate word in this situation as he once thrashed about in a steel frame stall lined with oak beams until it broke. Case and point, he hates stalls.
SO THEN, how to keep him in one? And that was it, that was the moment when that glorious light bulb goes off in your head, when you know it may all go sideways but hey, it’s something, so you just go with it! That’s what I did.
For example, I’ve noticed that he’s never held any hesitation, discomfort, or issue of any kind with the round pen I use to ride him in whenever he needs a refresher under saddle. With that, I had my starting point. So I left him in the round pen all day / night and fed him there / moved a water trough inside. So far, so good, aside from him whinnying back and forth at our other paint, Finnegan, of which the pair are a touch inseparable. The following day I added Finnegan to the round pen with him. (It’s 60′ in diameter so plenty of room for the two chaps for one day.) The whinnying came to an abrupt halt and the two hung out leisurely for the remainder of the day.
Task one completed. Gambit was willing to respect the lightweight corral panels that comprise our round pen. My best guess is that due to how open they are, that he can still see everything around him, is still outdoors, and not cooped up inside he accepts that the shade is quite lovely.
Next up was figuring out how to fit stalls into our very unique space. Ideally I wanted to create three 12’x12′ stalls which would require an overall 12′ (D) x 36′ (L) space to work with. Instead, what I had was 12′ (D) x 38′ (L). You would be amazed at just what a pain those silly little two feet can be…
Corral panels come in three sizes at our local TSC store. Either 10′, 12′, or 16′ options. Already, my extra 2′ were becoming a nuisance. Better yet, corral panels are not produced as ‘stall fronts’ so in order to have corral ‘gates’ to use as mock stall fronts, I had the option of 4′ or 6′ wide gates. I cannot even begin to tell you how many different strange shapes and configurations we jotted down trying to be the most efficient with materials from both a cost standpoint and a means of making everything fit beneath that shabby little easement but at last we decided on the following:
I’ll be honest, the only stall that is a perfect square is the center stall measuring at 14’x14′. I had to waste a 4′ corral gate on the back row of stalls to accomplish this…but, while not as cosmetically appealing as I’d like I try to remember the bigger picture here: these are temporary stalls while I rebuild the inside of the barn and fix the ventilation issues next spring and I need to be able to reuse all of the materials I’ve purchased so far. So all in all, a 14’x12′ – 14’x14′ – 14’x12′ setup.
Next task on the agenda, repairing the existing wooden beam structures. Ironically enough, as they look pretty darn pitiful in that photo above. Structurally, they were sound, no wood rot, no insect damage, I literally only had to scrub away years of cobwebs, re-hammer in one nail, and knock down a few vacant wasp nests. HUZZAH! Sometimes it really is the little things…like not having to tear down the barn easement and rebuild a new one. Phew!
So where does that leave us? Right, footing. Here in the south we have this very pretty but essentially useless red clay soil. With our stalls being kept just alongside the barn we wanted to ensure we had solid footing to avoid any lameness issues as well as proper drainage for the all too common flash flood type rain we get here. To this end, it was quite easy as we pulled a few notes from one fencing post adventure.
The clay dug out from where our stalls were to go. Waste not, want not. I can’t tell you how many holes I’ve filled across the acreage from this pile.
Smoothing out the 80% sand / 20% fine gravel top layer.
One of our neighbors, who is an exceptionally kind and incredibly generous human being, found out about our predicament and offered his assistance. He drove over, in his Bobcat no less, and promptly began digging out the 12′ x 38′ rectangular space 1′ deep.
Once we’d evened out the freshly dug out pit, we spread out 6″ of large “drainage” gravel to help with heavy rain. This layer was then topped with a mixture of 80% sand and 20% finely broken up gravel which we then packed down tightly and smoothed out.
Once the ground was prepped and ready, we carefully laid out our rubber stall mats across the entirety of the space to help keep the sand from shifting as well as prevent sand from mixing in amongst cedar shavings. It should be noted, never ever…ever underestimate just how painfully awkward it is to carry a 4’x6′ rubber stall mat, let alone how HEAVY they are! We used 18 total, 6 per stall, and it was sheer agony trying to carry those suckers approximately 40′ from where we’d had the pallet stored to where the stalls were being built.
No one who has not laid rubber stall mats before can understand the struggle. The struggle is real folks.
Slow-feed hay bags hung and filled with Bermuda Grass hay.
Rubber water troughs scrubbed and filled.
Cedar shavings laid out in each of the three stalls.
First to test the stalls, Baby Ember. I think she’s loving it!
Finally the moment had come, assembly of the stalls. This truly was the unspoken champion of the material we selected for when I say lightweight, I mean it. We could easily lift and put each panel in place in a matter of minutes by ourselves. The flourishing touches were merely added after which included: slow-feed hay bags for each stall, cedar shavings to coat the mats, black rubber water troughs, and a fly trap hung amongst the rafters between each stall.
It should be noted, they worked like a charm too! I was able to go the remainder of summer without masks on any of the stalled horses.
Finnegan, our resident ‘big n’ tall’ enjoying the shade.
That’s right, GAMBIT is content in the shade and out of the sun. #success
Even Lilah enjoys a stall on a rainy day.
Sundance, our resident senior, appreciates being out of the sun and rain.
In conclusion, do they look beautiful, the way I envisioned the stalls would be when I got ’round to designing them? Sure don’t. Not even a lick. However, they function beautifully for what I needed. Our two sunburn prone paints had healthy unblemished skin in just a week’s time of being stalled during the day, we had no further issues with overheating, and while Gambit and Finnegan in particular tend to get overweight in the summer, their weight was maintained easily while kept stalled during the days.
Practical isn’t always the perfection we hope for or expect to see, but seeing how much more comfortable our boys were…how much happier they were? Worth it.
The super fun part about owning an older home is that you never really quite know what to expect with the wiring. Since the house is 80+ years old, it predates modern wiring and instead has quite a bit of good ol’ knob & tube (UGH!) No lovely color-coded wires and all the other good stuff. Now the previous owner had done some updating and we’ve had electricians out to do work as well trying to get some of it up to code. Still, it’s usually an adventure when we try to update things.
Now the previous owner had done some updating and we’ve had electricians out to do work as well trying to get some of it up to code. We are slowly but surely replacing switches, outlets, and of course the *cough* lighting fixtures.
With most of it being decently straightforward, my handy hubby has done quite a bit of it. As for me, I know less than zilch about electrical work despite being painstakingly explained to me multiple times. Beyond knowing there’s a hot wire and a neutral wire, the rest is Greek to me so I usually just smile, nod and pretend to understand. And since I’m not much help, I stand by encouraging my hubby as he does his thing. Sometimes I even get to hold the flashlight for him which means I do things like:
Now we finally have a decent light fixture in our mircofoyerspacethingy. (It’s really small.)
Would you just look at that. When I tell you it’s a sight for sore eyes… Darlin’, I ain’t kiddin’!
With only an electric push mower at my disposal, it was simply inconceivable to attempt tackling this 3.5 acre parcel of grass/thistle/weeds that was nearing 4′ in height. Had the mulching kit on my mower even been capable of cutting it down…I would’ve likely bogged down the blades every 5-10′.
(I may know this because at one point earlier on in summer, I tried. I will summarize it briefly: It did not go well.)
On a happier note, by mere chance one day, I happened to be home and you guessed it, mowing the lawn…again…when a neighbor popped by to say hello. They had hired a crew with a few impressive looking dozers and tractors to clear out their acreage to the west of us in order to reclaim the trails that run across them.
The only problem was that the job would take them several days and our neighbor felt uncomfortable leaving the rented equipment just randomly out amongst their acreage. So they proposed, seeing me dripping with sweat and my signature push mower in tow, to have their crew mow down our secondary pasture field for us if we’d allow them to park their vehicles near the barn each night.
I attempted to gracefully accept but I have a feeling my expression gave me away for the “YES YES YES YES YES YES” that was going through my head on repeat. The result was 4′ masterfully cut down and a lovely 6″ left in its place. It’s no longer a ‘jungle out there’ and I can actually stake out the location for our T-Posts we’ll be driving into the soil in preparation of hanging our next pasture fence.
Yes, yes, I know. It’s just a picture of a field. But let me remind you, it’s a field now, not a frightening jungle with anacondas, leopards, …and probably your handful of armadillos.
Though today is a might bit dreary outside, as the last lingering remnants of Hurricane Irma pass over our little farm, the past month has been anything but!
When we first happened upon our home, it had been greatly reclaimed by nature with shrubs and vines covering half of the exterior windows…even those near 10′ up from the ground. Now, while we’re still a constant work in progress when it comes to exterior maintenance of the lawn we have made some progress!
(‘Progress!’I always hear that in my head like Bill Nye the Science Guy when he yells out “SCIENCE!”, how about you?)
As you can see above on the right, the mudroom’s singular window is all but blocked by a ginormous shrub that may hold plans for world domination. I’ve zero factual basis to back that aside from the fact I said it and that we’ve hacked it down and rounded the surface to a reasonable 4′ and yet it sprouts up as though possessed.
Matter of fact, all of the shrubs are the exact same and yet some grow ridiculously faster than others. Be gentle in your judgement that not a one is of the same shape nor size but A HA! we can see out of nearly all of the front windows now. #takingthesuccesseswhenandwhereican
Once more, what seems like a mere photo of grass is to me a STUNNING victory of non-enviable sweat equity as I fought down two feet of tangled weeds, thistle, and the occasional bit of Bermuda grass! Take that Home & Garden, my lawn is finally beginning to look like a photo you hocked before going to print but we’re still a runner up Gosh Daniel!
On the other hand, …perhaps that doesn’t seem all that impressive? BUT WHAT IF I told you that it was achieved with only an electric push mower that isn’t even self propelled? See, see! Now you’re likely cringing at the thought. And why you ask? Because that “small” front side yard is 1/2 an acre. That’s right! Two foot tall jungle of a beast, 1/2 an acre in size, mowed into submission with sheer will power and approximately 11 charges of our mower’s batteries. #endurancewinithout
The driveway headed back to the road from our home.
The world’s longest driveway…for walking out your garbage bins…
One thing I both love and hate equally about our property – the near 500′ driveway. The scenic drive in from a long day at work: Priceless. The walk with the varied sounds of nature in the darkness as I walk our waste bins back up from the street: Terrifying.
It should be noted that the 5′ tall grass/weed fiasco bordering our new pasture fence and right side of our drive has been tamed. I’d like to thank the academy, and by that I mean Academy, for selling wonderful workout clothes for all the “hikes” I’ve gotten from this driveway.
Cheers to mastering the lawn…somewhat, heck, I’ll drink to that!
P.S. No shrubs were harmed in the “taming” of this lawn.
I realized it has been a quick minute since our last update on the farm. To be blunt, this whirlwind never slows down long enough for my head to stop spinning. Still, no regrets!
Now then…as you can imagine, going from 1/3 of an acre to 15 acres is a bit of a leap. In our previous garden home, we actually considered our lawn to be quite sizable, yes…I know, looking back, I feel silly for ever complaining about mowing it.
Looking back, it was around a year to two years ago that our hand-me-down mower, a.k.a. the one that was left in the garage when we purchased the house, had finally had enough and simply called it quits. There was no fixing it, no helping it, it was done. D-o-n-e, done.
Not wishing to be the social pariah of our neighborhood, we were a part of an HoA community mind you, the Mr. did some research into finding a replacement and came to adore the idea of a battery powered electric mower. No more awful gasoline stench in our garage, quiet, and just as quick to mow. Did I mention it was surprisingly cheaper? Seemed a no-brainer, so we went for it.
Now for the final year in our garden home, it was a wonderful addition to our lawn care regime. Fast forward to purchasing our farmhouse fixer-upper and that we’ve moved from that 1/3 of an acre to 15 acres. Let me just express how terribly quickly one gets over mowing when you only have a 28″ wide blade and the average battery life is one hour before needing to be recharged.
The Mr. or I used to spend about an hour cutting the front and back yard at our previous home once a week and presto, done! Now it takes about four days, six hours each day, to get about 5 acres done. Does it help that we’ve been reclaiming our acreage from nature, seeing as it sat untended for 5 years? Nope, not really. So there I am, day after day, me and my electric push mower vs. the mighty Amazon jungle. I say that literally, I believe our grass gets to around 3-4′ tall after two weeks of not mowing.
Only six hours of work, no big deal!
Oh right, did I mention this section is 4 acres?
Just call me Sisyphus as my stubbornness won’t let the acreage get the better of me…but I don’t even have the excuse of blaming Zeus, nope, all my own doing.
Now I will admit, while one sweats into a puddle out in the humid southern heat hour after hour, I’ve never been tanner AND my arms are beginning to really look great. On the flip side, I likely terrify local wildlife as they watch me charge at a run pushing that mower over the 3-4′ tall sections of weeds.
It’s a jungle out there.
Now I found that during my hourly breaks, due to the batteries recharging, I needed something to do. It was then that ‘the throne’ came to be. I spend a good deal of time cooling off in the shade with some water, staring with one eye twitching at the bane of my existence, I mean…looking at the lawn mower as the batteries charge inside.
But to be fair, I mean…the lawn does look pretty fantastic despite the fact I’m working with the poor man’s Mary of lawn mowers here. So to all of the folks with those lovely tractors, driving mowers, and zero turns…check out my ECO-FRIENDLY (it hurts inside…) and mad ELECTRIC PUSH MOWER skills (…make it stop)!
That being said, I’ve begun filling a mason jar with spare change. One day, I will have my zero turn. Just you wait acreage, your days are numbered!
Okay ladies and gents, this week’s lesson is on corner beads! While it sounds like a super fun craft activity, corner beads are a staple in home building. Apparently they are used to protect the outside corners of your drywall. Now I grew up in the 80’s where people used plastic exterior corner guards so I didn’t even know that these existed until this year.
Vinyl corner beads seem to be the way to go nowadays so we jumped on board the trend train and a-wayyyy we went!
They’re actually quite easy to install, messy but easy. Whereas metal corner beads need to be nailed or screwed into the wall, vinyl ones can be set with spray adhesive. And the adhesive is nicely colored so you can see where to apply the corner beads after you spray. I think this goes without saying, but just in case, make sure you lay something down on the ground before you spray or do it outside so you don’t get sticky crap all over.
As you can tell, I’m absolutely winning at this spray thing. So proud of how awesomely terrible I am with aiming and spraying it on evenly.
Next on the list is to mud over the corner beads to hide them and then it’ll (hopefully) be time to paint.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to wash my hands again for the umpteenth time. Stupid sticky spray adhesive.
I can’t help but channel my inner Samuel L. Jackson more often than not recently since learning of the two slithering tenants that took up residency in our crawl space (at least it’s not on a plane??) The fact that they’ve given no references, did not allow a proper background check, and that they’re living rent free…well, let’s just say that we have our differences.
Now then, a gentleman with Alabama Wildlife Pro came out to the farm to see if he could sweet talk the snakes out of our crawlspace so that our duct-work installation crew would return. When I say return, I mean that quite literally. At the moment the first snake was spotted one could make out the dust in our driveway as they sped out and hopped back onto the road.
To our frustration, the crawlspace was empty. He spent nearly an hour hunting about for the pair and found only one old snakeskin that had been shed. There was evidence of the snakes coming and going amongst the crawlspace but none to be found. Overly thorough, which this gal appreciates, he checked our returns, around the house, and up amongst the attic. Nothing. Nada. Zip.
He asked us to give him a call should they return but ultimately…after an hour’s search, the man-hunt was called off.
Snakes – 1, The Mr. and I – 0
Giving the go ahead to our duct-work crew, they arranged to come back out the following morning to finish attaching the final pieces of our duct-work. I really thought that I’d exaggerated just how quickly they’d left the day before until Mario showed up the next morning with a brand new machete (Rambo anyone?) ready to ‘bust out the inner ninja’ should the snakes come back. Being of a small build, female, and horribly weirded out by most all reptiles, it felt a tad humorous to accompany him to the crawl space where I waited as he put on his headband flashlight and crawled under there.
The rules were simple – a scream would mean he’d found a snake. If this scream was intended to be a ‘war-cry’ or ‘cry for help’ I wasn’t certain, but I waited patiently at the crawlspace entrance as lookout…for snakes…don’t ask, I couldn’t tell you.
After looking through the entirety of the crawlspace he exited triumphant and declared that it was safe to return to work, which he did, promptly calling in the remainder of the crew.
Two hours in, so far so good. Another hour passed, still going strong.
…a knock at the door…
They’d found a snake. As per the previous day, everyone panicked and fled our crawlspace. I was provided photos they’d taken. A rat snake by all appearances but still…a three foot long snake that might as well have been an anaconda snatched out of the rainforest and dashed away into our crawlspace.
I couldn’t have us going another day without air as the duct-work was only 3/4’s of the way installed so…I did the only thing I could, I put them on snake-watch. It is exactly as it sounds, they sat near the entry to the crawlspace and kept their flashlight aimed on it to track its movements while I called back up the wildlife removal expert to come and evict our unintended tenant.
It seemed that within the hour things would settle down, work would resume, and we’d be back on track…wrong, wrong again.
After close to an hour of trying, the snake remained a free agent, simply retreating back behind a cinderblock in the far corner of the crawlspace anytime the hook was reached out to gather him. At a loss, all that our brave wildlife expert could do was set three traps surrounding the corner so that if it slithered out, it’d trap itself…theoretically. So I guess that’s what you’d call being stuck between a rock and a hard place.
We’ve wondered over the past couple months why we haven’t seen but the one field mouse and no other critters aside from the occasional rabbit or deer near the wooded edge of the property line. Considering the size of our rat snake it seems he’s been making a killing for himself.
With little choice left to us we did what any rational person would, we named it. So here’s to you, Snake Gyllenhaal!
This day just gets more and more bizarre as it goes on.
It comes in threes. Isn’t that the old wives tale? Regardless, our adventure takes yet another turn…this time for the crazy unexpected.
Duct-work installation went off like clock work yesterday morning. I can’t begin to describe just how much torn and crumbling material was torn out from our crawl space but I hear a picture is worth 1,000 words.
To be blunt, I’m amazed that some of this was ever considered ‘up to code’. The vents themselves looked to be nothing more than pieces of plywood …if not just cardboard… that were then covered in a thin coating/sheet that has done little to offer protection, as the pictures illustrate below:
I admit, seeing all of this cover the entirety of my driveway…I couldn’t help but go and peek at what all supplies they had in their truck. To be fair they showed up with a crew of six technicians and three trucks.
And look! Shiny new METAL duct-work to prevent future critters and basic wear n’ tear from becoming an issue…at least for the next decade or so!
Oh right, I did mention the ugly didn’t I? About that… so last night I received a call from the Mr. Work on the duct-work had come to an abrupt halt as they discovered not one but two snakes lounging about in our crawlspace. Suffice it to say, I’m glad to hear I’m not the only person, aside from Indiana Jones, that runs in terror at the sight of a snake.
So this morning I hunted around for someone that could come out and remove the two newest tenants of our home. In doing so I discovered we are an unfortunate loophole in our particular location. …as in, we are within a city yet zoned county for all purposes related to animal control. SO- even though our city has an actual technician that handles snake removal specifically, we are “outside his jurisdiction”.
Next step…I called the county animal control to have someone out to gather up our tenants and another brick wall was found. They service our area BUT they do not cover the removal and relocation of snakes.
This is just getting better and better. Time to roll up the sleeves!
After exhausting the yellow pages, I received a referral from a pest company we’ve used in the past that covers the removal of ‘dangerous’ wildlife -including- da da da daaaaaa…SNAKES!
So now the waiting game begins or rather I summon forth the patience somewhere in me, we have a technician coming out to safely and humanely catch and relocate these two slithery tenants this afternoon.
I cannot wait to see if they’re still under there or if they’ve found their way into our attic.