March 5, 2014

Then and Now: What's on the Outside Counts, too!

We've all heard the saying, "It's what's on the inside that counts." Well,  not when it comes to renovating. Inside, outside, up above, underneath, in between-- all of it matters.

Today, I'm going to show you a sampling of where we started and where we've come in our first year of working in the great outdoors.

This is the front of the barn last March vs. this March. A lot of shrubs have been taken out thanks to Walter and his Sawzall. Also, it revealed some rotting and roof damage that will eventually need repairing. You can also see to the right of the barn, the section of land has been cleared of the growth and mowed down.

 This is where the sidewalks ends. Why? We aren't really sure. It must have led to somewhere at some point, but, for now,  there isn't much use for it. You can see in the right picture that Walter has started digging up the sidewalk. We're going to keep part of it, but haven't quite figure out where to go from there. Thus, it's a project on hold. If you look past the sidewalk up to the top of the drive way, you can  the back of our gate blocking the entrance.
This is what it looks like now from entering the property. Plus, Walter has installed an automatic gate opening system so we no longer have to get out and open it manually.

 This was a project that Walter did with the help of his dad. The old unusable door was replaced with a new frame and new (actually reused) door. You can also see the piles of trim and boards we've stacked up since gutting the rock house. (That isn't even half.)

This set of pics is to let you see that the tree (that for some reason always looked like it belonged in a Middle Eastern desert to me, I have no idea why) is now gone. Stump and all-- he dug it up via the tractor and filled it back in.

 Trash was a major issue since the beginning, and while we've picked up so much, we still find dumps on various "hidden" places of the properties. This is probably the worst of all of our problems because the trash never seems to end. In the pictures below, you can see a little (not an exaggeration) of the trash that had been dumped around the property. The picture on the left shows the ditch line after Amanda and Melody had picked up about half of it last March. The picture on the right is taken from the opposite direction, but allows you to see that it is cleaned up now.

When clearing out more brush on President's day, we discovered a dump to the right of the ditch line. It had been buried and over the years grown over, but we realized our battle against the litter was nowhere near over.

Speaking of clearing brush, here are a few spots we've cleared out over the past year. (Fortunately, no dumps discovered, but lots of litter.

Also, lots of ditches have been dug to help with proper drainage and water flow along the property. Here is an example.
With so much to do, it's often hard to stay focused on just one project. A lot of times we have several going at once or find one to work on in the time we have. While I expect the house to be finished (although maintenance will be required), I can't say the same for the land. I think it will always be a work in progress. 

If you are interested in reading more of our adventures in transforming our land here are a few posts you might enjoy:
Cleaning up.
We've got mail!
Putting up the gate.

March 4, 2014

A Year in Photos

March 7th marks our first "Farmiversary"! (Thanks for the term, Dad.) To celebrate, this week will be a countdown looking back at our first year on the farm. For some of the stories behind the pictures, read some of our very first posts starting here.

These photos highlight the year of work and play in our new home. Enjoy!

The first photo ever taken (took it with my phone). After signing the papers and getting the keys, we headed over to capture the moment proving to the world we had truly bought the farm.

  The Work

A collage of clean up and power tools captures the many projects we've tackled since the journey began last March.



Deer. Apples. LOTS of grass. Summer was vibrant with colors and was the season that made me realize the beauty that surrounded us needed to be captured.


Brief, yet beautiful. Hay bails, more apples, and bonfires.


Artic temps. Snowball fights. Coffee.

Looking back on the year, there is one photo that I simply must put. It was a running joke when the blog first started to put this "Murby" in as many posts as we could, but eventually, the Murby became forgotten. Which makes it even better to end the year with the photo that might have been the first photo ever posted to the blog, via my sis-in-law. 

A Furby that looks as if it could be a recurring character on the Walking Dead almost became our blog mascot. 

The Tractor Tiff

Old homes are full of charm and character (not to mention full of work to bring that charm and character out). While I'm focused on the interiors of our two houses, Walter's focus has been on the outside. With good reason-- we have water issues.

Both houses lack gutters and proper drainage for water, so where does that water go? If you answered, "In the basement," you're correct. It's a very common problem for old homes, and we knew going into the purchase this was something we'd have to take on.

Thanks to the tractor, Walter went to work digging his long anticipated drainage ditches Saturday.
Walter dug a ditch around the front of the house. He also dug out and laid one running from the basement door underground (where you see all the bare dirt).
Now, if you had talked to me about a year ago, I would have never have said the words "tractor" or "thankful" in the same sentence. Why? Because I was anti-tractor. This tractor was the start of a series of epic battles which will hereby be referred to as Operation Enduring Renovation.

You see, after purchasing our home, there have been a series of debates:
 The Dining Room Rebuttal of June.
The Kitchen Controversy of June... through September.
The "We're Nowhere Near Wiring and Plumbing" Perturbation of November.

But the Tractor Tiff of April, that was our first. While it doesn't hold the record for the longest, it is certainly most memorable.

Not for the first time, an argument had broken out over breakfast at number four, Privet Drive Roundtree Lane.

 In fact, Walter and I disagreed so strongly that we began to campaign against each other among our family and friends. No matter where we were or who we were with the tractor topic would come up and each of us would practice our rehearsed speech to win over the crowd. (I'm pretty sure, when I wasn't looking, Walter was handing out candy or making promises he didn't intend to keep because a lot of people were going over to his side.) When I saw him having a one-on-one conversation, I would  I knew exactly what was happening and made sure to interrupt.

I admit his points were valid. Sure, we needed to do landscaping. Sure, we might farm in the future. Sure, let's shovel out more money than we paid for both vehicles and our combined college tuition.  I guess we'd need a tractor for that too.

Yet, Walter, being the researcher and relentless debater that he is, laid out a series of logical and irrefutable arguments such as, "I need it to dig ditches," "I need to dig ditches around our house, and "I've got to put in a drain [insert various places across our land here] and that requires digging."

Alright, so it wasn't a series of arguments, it was more of a bombardment of one immediate need. That was his strategy-- to wear me down. He knew if he said the same thing enough but worded it differently I would wear down.

And that wasn't his only trick. He kept taking me to tractor stores, forcing me to watch him drive around on one tractor, two tractors, red tractors, blue tractors. Then, he'd smile at me as if he had never been happier than in that moment. Next to me, a burly tractor expert would sigh while commenting on how Walter was a "natural." Team Tractor for the win.

It wasn't that I wanted to crush Walter's dreams. I was scared. Debt scares me. We had just taken out a loan for a lot of money to purchase a home, and the thought of taking out even more made me feel the closest I ever have to having a nervous breakdown.

So, I was determined to fight for my cause because fear is a great motivator. I was strong at first. When he'd mention the tractor, I would laugh like he was joking. When he'd show me pictures of tractors online, I would look then shrug showing disinterest.

But then, he began to win others over. First it was the salesmen (of course). Then, it was our friends. Even my own family.

I started to crack. In my desperate last attempts, I would feign illnesses such as "Yeah, I admit their useful, but the price makes me want to throw up."

I met my Waterloo when Walter rephrased his "I need it to dig ditches" argument into "If you don't want water in the basement and you want to get in the house sooner than five years from now, I need this."
As you can see, my terms were never met. We still have both vehicles. And a tractor.
He was right. We did need the tractor. I was going down, but I had to let him know my conditions, "Ok," I agreed, "but if we buy this, we're selling a vehicle and you have to drive the tractor to work!"

It was a last-ditch effort.
I had to get in one final dig.
Ok, I'm going to stop there.

The Tractor Tiff was over. Our bank account was the casualty. However, the tractor has proven to be a valuable asset to our farm. It's helped us clear out dry wall rubble. It's cut our acres of grass several times and bush-hogged our unmanageable weeds. It's smoothed out gravels on our driveway. And, of course, it has dug ditches.

Upcoming project: Landscaping the cottage. Walter plans to widen the driveway to the end of the wall, lay in the drain pipe, then, fill in dirt to the top of the wall. This is a mock wall by the way and in no way represents his ability to lay block.
After digging the ditch, Walter put up a mock wall which after digging is finished will become permanent.

This week marks our ONE YEAR anniversary of being HOMEOWNERS! So, check for updates and celebrate with us!