Thursday, 25 August 2016

All done

The deck is finally covered in 2 coats of stain and I'm happy to say it looks MUCH better.  Now that it's protected, it should last us for many years and we're quite pleased with the savings vs. buying new deck boards.

Next up on "the list" was to build a shed to house tools and equipment.  We are currently sharing the 2 car garage with my parents which is difficult given the amount of tools, equipment and garden gear we have (together).  

We are building a second garage next Spring but in the meantime, everyone will be able to share the existing garage with the addition of a shed to temporarily house things not needed daily.  We normally would have built a permanent structure but our situation is unique in that we need a shed in the current location for only a year or so then will need to move it to a permanent home (yet to be determined) once we develop gardens and livestock areas, etc. 

This option gave us the most flexibility (which we will need over the coming 2 years as the homestead develops). 

Stay tuned for the next project!

Monday, 22 August 2016

Frugal home repairs and maintenance

The back deck here was in sorry shape.  The stain was peeling off and the boards were rotting and lifting from exposure during long wet winters.  We initially thought we'd have to replace all the deck boards (to the tune of thousands), but discovered that elbow grease is all we needed to spend.  

Once hubby removed a few boards, he discovered that the undersides were in great shape and in fact only a few boards were rotting at the ends. We proceeded to remove all the boards, pull all the rusty nails out of them (untreated nails are NOT the best fastener choice for a deck!), scrub the crusty, dirty debris off, trim the ends and reinstall them.   Sounds easy but poor hubby has been working SO hard on this project with only a little help from me (I've been painting the inside of the house).

The deck joists are sound and solid and now the deck boards are too!  I'll show you pictures of it once it's stained.   In the end, we only needed to buy 2 new deck boards and the stain (which was bought on a 35% off sale) so this was a frugal maintenance/repair project that will pay off for many years to come.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Learning how

The front verandah was a hive of activity last week.   My Dad (who is an experienced fisherman) was prepping for a major, week long annual fishing expedition on the west coast of the island and in the process, taught the kids how to tie and prep gear for the trip.  Our two youngest kids spent a good amount of hours with their Grandpa doing all sorts of very fiddly work (sharpening hooks, removing barbs, checking lines for kinks and nicks (replacing lines affected), adjusting leader lengths and prepping lures, etc.  Those kids learned a lot of practical skills last week and soon will put them to the test on the water. 

One of the very big positives about this move is that we all have more time with family.  Our children have never lived in the same city as any of their Grandparents (let alone on the same property) so having active and interested elders in their lives is a HUGE benefit we are all very thankful for.   I expect there will be some challenges along the way but for now it's working out really well.  

My parents currently live on the property in a self contained coach/RV that's fully hooked up to all services.  They're used to living in their RV (when they travel south for the winter) so it's not a hardship but is a temporary arrangement (here) until their wee home is built.  Construction starts in a few weeks and by late October/early November my folks will be pulling up stops to escape our rainy winters (like usual) and head for sunnier skies down south.   Once they come home in the Spring, their little house will hopefully be ready (or nearly ready) to move into.   

Back to the fishing trip - Mom and Dad have been gone for 3 days and as of last night, the message received was that the salmon run had yet to be found.  All the local guides say it has been the worst fishing in decades so we're not sure that my parents will come home with any fish at all.   With 3 more days, time is running out but they aren't giving up just yet.  I'll keep you posted. 

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Getting set up to work

Beware the un-staged photos...  this is how we LIVE!   

I've been pondering beauty and function (and the balance between them) ever since we moved in. The house we bought is truly beautiful (for which I'm thankful and DO appreciate) but there are some functionality issues that need to be addressed.   If left to my own devices, I'm afraid I lean to the utilitarian side of things so I have a pretty critical eye when it comes to wasted spaces.  Perhaps this comes from having a big family and all the years of needing to make the most of every inch of space in our home?

It takes some time to get a "new" house set up to work in.  I've had some trouble in my kitchen because there are a lot of decorative elements in it that detract from the workability of the space.  Yes, it's a very pretty, spacious kitchen and I'm not ungrateful to have it, but I think we need to tweak a few things to make it function better for us.  We heavily USE our kitchen and my priority is always FUNCTION over AESTHETICS. 

Have a look at the plate rack on the right side (which I've never had).  It's handy but not efficient in that it holds plates in a much larger footprint than a stack would.  I could store 6 TIMES the plates (or other items) in the same space with shelves or a cupboard.    

On the left side, there's a decorative arched valence that serves NO useful purpose other than taking up valuable room (in a prime location) that could be put to use storing baking equipment.  The upper cupboards above the arch are quite high up and are hard to reach (I'm short) so I'm really missing the reachable space above my mixer and grain mill.  This area is where I do all my baking and  I'd like to have some shelving installed so I can make use of that space. 

Notice the high number of glass cupboard doors.  I'm NOT a fan of them when used so liberally, because I like hidden, functional storage of useful kitchen items, not glass shrines for "pretty things". One set of glass doors makes sense to me but more than that is hard to work with.   

In the photo below, you can see more glass cupboard doors above the fridge and microwave/oven which are another example of beauty over function.  I have this area full of oversize, utilitarian pots, pans and larger items like my dehydrator and wok.  It's hard to see in the photo, but it looks very untidy and not very "pretty" to see all my equipment through the seed glass.  I don't STAGE my kitchens, I work in them and need them to serve me as I cook, bake, preserve and ferment.

Warning - I'm fully aware of the fact that I sound like a miserable, ungrateful curmudgeon!  I LIKE the kitchen and find it beautiful.  I'm truly grateful and fortunate to have such a lovely place to work in each day but I want to PUSH the space to its full potential to function better for me.  I want to do this without spending much money and I'm asking for your help.

So far, I thought about putting up fabric or coloured paper behind the glass doors.  That's an easy fix which won't cost any money because I have a stash of both.  The glass shelves (which are somewhat rickety and unstable) inside the 2 upper cupboards flanking the arch on the baking side of the kitchen can be replaced with solid shelving for a small amount of money (and we can do this job ourselves).   

The "arch" could be removed and a decorative shelf or two could be installed to hold baking items.  I'd prefer to have new upper cupboards put in that come further down, but I won't spend the money on it so I think shelves will be a compromise that will help enormously.  We MAY remove the plate rack and install matching shelves (like I proposed for the other side).  I could put ALL our plates (all sizes) on those shelves and this would free up cupboard space in the area (where the rest of the plates are).

Shoot me with your best ideas to frugally adapt this kitchen!  I'm all ears :)

Friday, 5 August 2016

We made it!

Hello everyone!  It's been a while.  We made it to our final destination and our big moving adventure is over (and not a moment too soon).  The trip itself (and the process to get to departure) was gruelling and didn't go as planned, but I don't want to focus on that.  The end result is that we are HERE on the coast and we have no regrets.  All the problems and troubles we had are a distant memory and in their place are feelings of contentment.  I feel like we paid our dues to get here and now is the time for settling in to the happy work of developing a productive homestead for our family and for my parents. 

This property has a beautiful pond with lovely ornamental gardens out back.   The previous owner loved to garden and did a beautiful job developing aesthetically pleasing gardens.  My Mom tells me there's always something in bloom (she's lived on the property for nearly a year now) and I know we'll enjoy looking out at the gardens from my kitchen and sitting room/family room.   

Below is the view from my kitchen sink.  To the left, behind the distant trees is a Christmas tree farm so we have no neighbours on that back side.  To the right (behind the trees) is a fellow acreage neighbour but thick trees and brush completely block any view of their home.  The kitchen sink is a solid anchor in a home and I made sure to get it set up right away.  The stainless sink is deep and practical.   I love it for washing up large pots and it will serve me well for washing huge batches of garden veggies (in future).  The basket full of knitted dishcloths and linen tea towels sits at the ready, my trusty citrus cleaner is brewing on the left, my water glass always handy for a sip during cooking and baking and a sweet coloured glass chicken that was given to me by my niece watches over the washing up.  The orchid given to me for Mother's Day a few years ago is blooming again in celebration of the move and a tiny little nest found on the ground after a windstorm many years ago sits atop an old apple crate.  The egg was found nearby.   It's so sad to see a nest on the ground but I always admire the engineering that goes into them - I see nests as beautiful art and engineering all in one.  

As we look away from the developed back gardens, in contrast to all that lushness, the front is largely undeveloped and sees a great many deer come through.   We have a lot to do do develop gardens in areas where none existed but I'm up for the challenge and am quite excited about the possibility.   The soil is not much to speak of (I hesitate to call it soil because it's nearly solid sand and gravel in places) so there's much to do to build fertility but I know we can do it and I'm excited to document the improvement each year.  What a great challenge and a test of my skills.  Stay tuned!