Posts from the ‘country life’ Category

DIY But Not That Easy – Restoring an Old Farmhouse (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly)

Last week we drove to VA to do some work on the old farmhouse.  We try to recycle materials that are still in good usable shape before buying new.  As I mentioned before, the rules are DIY (when possible), cash-only tight budget, recycle materials (when possible), use local help/businesses (when we cannot DIY).  As promised, here is the budget/costs of the work we did.

The total cost for this agenda was $2,125.35 and this was under budget.  It included:

  • Food – $104.47 (This is thanks to my sister and brother-in-law who fed us at night, and let us stay with them during that week).  Guys you rock!
  • Gas – $408.65 – This includes the round trip from Jersey to Virginia, as well as the everyday drive from my sister’s home to the farmhouse which takes about an hour.
  • Materials – $902.23 – This included door, storm door, wood, paint, hardware, special tools to do the job that we did not have at hand, and other miscellaneous needed.
  • Services – $710.00 – This included the complete bug treatment and the termite treatment.  The bug treatment was inside and out, and the termite treatment included the drilling and the trench building around the house.

So far, we have kept ourselves on budget, however, I think that the plumbing situation and possible dry well (according to some neighbors’ stories), will affect our budget; however, no need to worry about that just yet.  The roof estimate is also $1,000 over what we estimated but this is due to extra work that they have to do.  According to some people we talk to, we are getting a good deal.  We are doing this restoration in steps, planning our budget for each stage, and dealing with issues as related to a particular stage, which makes it less overwhelming.  The goal is to restore the home to its old beauty, as close as possible to what it looked like when it was built, over 100 years ago, which only means that fancy and modern materials do not belong in the project, which keeps our budget low.  In addition, reusing, repurposing, and recycling applies.  We are not changing the layout or opening any walls/spaces; it will be done as it was done when the house was built.  The look we are going for is farmhouse early American, a bit rough and old-fashioned.  The goal is to capture the feeling of stepping back in time about 100 years.  One thing I have to say is that it works for us but not for a lot of people; some people may not like it at all, and may think that we are either,

  • insane/crazy
  • hungry/poor
  • tacky or cheap
  • in bad taste
  • city slickers
  • foreseeing a divorce
  • hippies
  • suffer from obsessive behavior

While other people will

  • love it
  • be inspired to do the same or follow their bliss
  • admire us and give us credit for the undertaking of such project
  • benefit from learning how to do things without the need of credit cards and on a low-budget
  • appreciate the simple life
  • understand our taste
  • wish us well

It is not an easy job.  My first (and I hope only) meltdown came unexpected.  Little did I know that after a beautiful country ride, passing by the many creeks that have the most unusual (and cute) names – Pan fry creek, Potter’s creek, Piggs creek – ahead, my first unexpected meltdown was waiting for me, as I sat down, for about an hour, crying inside the air-conditioned truck, mindless of that fact (waste), and feeling entitled to some comforts, while looking at the blister on the palm of my hand and feeling sorry for myself, while my husband looked amused at my out-of-the-sudden-tamtrum, which was caused by the same overgrown grass/bushes that we have to cut on every trip, and the black widow lurking on one of the tractors.  After I had a snack and enjoyed the comforts of the truck, I was ready to tackle the job.

Here are a few pictures of the job we did on this trip and the area.

The beautiful and inspiring roads.

The lovely morning sky.

A foggy morning.

Waking up before the moon goes to sleep.

The farmland of many dreams.

The happy signs we pass by.

One of two rainbows I saw that day.

An adorable visitor – calico mom to be.

Chemtrail formation – I saw many on that day.

Historic Chatham

Downtown and some historic buildings.

The tractor batteries had to be charged, as they died.  The machines had to be blown with a leaf blower to make sure there were no spiders hiding.

The grass is cut, after the meltdown.

Black Widow Eggs?  We found tons of those around.

The bug people arrived to the rescue.  I loved this friendly company and how they helped us right away.  They rock!

We removed the damaged wood in the kitchen floor.

Replaced with new wood but were unable to nail because the plumbing underneath burst, and we will need access to it.

Busted Pipes.

Rotten back door and weak floor/wall.

Condition of rotten floor, subfloor, frame.

Weak wall

Removed door and frame leaving a non-standard opening.

Removed piece of subfloor and floor to fix the weak areas underneath while lifting the room.

New door and screen door installed once everything was fixed.  This blue is the original color of the house as we found out when we saw the first layer of paint on the porch ceiling.  I had picked this color way before we discovered it; I guess the house spoke to me.  We were unable to fix the steps which need to be cemented and painted.  The railing we kept, painted it, and maybe in the future it will be replaced with a fiberglass railing which does not rot, hopefully recycled or made with recycled materials.  We still need to install a door plate, maybe next trip.  We built the awning trying to mimic what it would look during that time, using tin and wood.  Here are more pictures of the back door and awning.  It is not crooked, I assure you, the pictures came out like that.  We used a level all the time.

So the back door went from this to this.

Once we fix the steps, paint them and paint the aluminum siding it will look better, but for now, it is an improvement.

Hope you enjoy this project.

Restoring an Old Farmhouse Update

Last week we drove to Virginia to do some work on the old farmhouse.  I was disconnected for a while and was unable to post on this blog.  I am pleased to say that we accomplished most things in the agenda.  This was the agenda and * means what really happened:

Day 1 (SUNDAY) – Cut all grass and spruce up outside (this takes all day).  Set up a roof estimate.

*THIS WAS DONE ON TIME AND THE ESTIMATE WAS SET UP ON MONDAY FOR A TUESDAY.

Day 2 (MONDAY) – Pull out all nails from the old wooden walls.

*JOB COMPLETED ALTHOUGH WE HAD TO MOVE IT FOR WEDNESDAY, WHICH WAS A RAINY DAY, SO WE COULD WORK ON THE OTHER JOBS DURING SUNNY DAYS.  WE DECIDED TO SET UP A TERMITE AND BUG TREATMENT SINCE WE FOUND A FEW BLACK WIDOWS AROUND AND TONS OF HATCHED EGGS THAT LOOKED LIKE BLACK WIDOW EGGS.  WE DID TUESDAY’S JOB INSTEAD, WHICH WAS TO RIP OFF PART OF THE KITCHEN FLOOR THAT WAS DAMAGED AND REPLACE WITH NEW.  IN THE PROCESS, WE DISCOVERED THAT ALL THE PLUMBING RUNNING UNDER THE HOUSE WAS DAMAGED (BURST – HENCE THE DAMAGE TO THE FLOOR) SO WE HAD TO LAY THE FLOOR BUT COULD NOT NAIL IT DOWN AS THE PLUMBING HAS TO BE FIXED.

Day 3 (TUESDAY) –  Buy the necessary material/wood/doors.  Rip off the existing floor (subfloor) and start replacing with new.  Get to do the kitchen and possibly part of the backroom.

*WE DECIDED THAT IT WOULD BE A WASTE OF TIME TO WORK ON THE BACKROOM FLOOR NOW SINCE THE PLUMBING RUNS THAT WAY AND WE WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO NAIL DOWN THE NEW FLOOR.  WE HAD THE ROOF AND BUG ESTIMATES DONE AND WERE ABLE TO DO THE BUG TREATMENT AND SET UP THE TERMITE TREATMENT FOR FRIDAY MORNING.  SO WE TOOK THE NECESSARY MEASUREMENTS AND GOT THE MATERIALS NEEDED TO WORK ON FIXING THE BACK DOOR.  FOR THIS, IT WAS NECESSARY TO LIFT THAT PART OF THE HOUSE, REINFORCE THE WALLS, BUILD A NEW FRAME AND TAKE OUT THE ROTTEN SUBFLOOR AND FLOOR AS WELL AS THE OLD FRAME AND DOOR.

Day 4 (WEDNESDAY) –  Continue with the previous day job, until finished.  We expect to be done in two days.  Take measurements for the next day project.

*SINCE IT WAS RAINING, WE HAD TO WORK ON PULLING NAILS ALL DAY.

Day 5 (THURSDAY) – Build an awning for the back door to protect it from the elements and moisture.  That day we will buy the materials needed for that project, before heading to the house.  Measure and assess materials needed for next day project.

*WE HAD TO WORK ON LIFTING THAT PART OF THE HOUSE, FIXING THE DAMAGE TO PART OF THE SUBFLOOR, FRAME, AND BEAMS, AND SANDWICH SOME WEAK BEAMS.  WE TOOK OFF THE OLD ROTTEN DOOR AND OLD FRAME AS WELL.  THIS PART TOOK QUITE SOME TIME AND THE WORK EXTENDED TO NEXT DAY.  DURING THE EVENING, WE WENT TO GET A NEW DOOR AND SCREEN DOOR, WHICH WAS A CHALLENGE SINCE THE OPENING WAS NOT A STANDARD OPENING AND EVERYTHING HAD TO BE DONE FROM SCRATCH – BUILD A NEW FRAME AND CUT THE DOOR/SCREEN DOOR AS NEEDED TO MAKE IT FIT.  THIS WAS TRULY EXHAUSTING AND UNNERVING, BUT IT GOT DONE.

Day 6 (FRIDAY) –  We intend to fix the backdoor steps and paint them.

*THE TERMITE TREATMENT WAS COMPLETED.  WE HAD TO KEEP WORKING ON THE DOOR AND SCREEN DOOR.  ONCE INSTALLED, WE PAINTED IT.  WE REALIZED THAT IT WAS FRIDAY AND WE STILL NEEDED TO:

VACUUM THE PLACE

BUILD AN AWNING TO PROTECT THE NEW DOOR AND STORM DOOR.

PAINT THE AWNING

FIX AND PAINT THE STEPS AND RAILING.

SO WE DECIDED THAT WE COULD LEAVE PM ON SATURDAY AND TRY TO GET TO AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE ON SATURDAY AM.

Day 7 (SATURDAY) – Drive back home.

*WE BUILT THE AWNING, PAINTED IT, PAINTED THE RAILING, BUT WERE UNABLE TO FIX THE STEPS AND VACCUM THE INSIDE.  BUT WE WERE ABLE TO SWEEP MOST DEBRIS AND DISPOSE OF THE GARBAGE PROPERLY.  AT FIVE PM, WE WERE DRIVING BACK HOME UNDER A HEAVY RAIN STORM, WHICH EVENTUALLY, WE LEFT BEHIND THANKS TO NOT HAVING MUCH TRAFFIC.

We are happy that we accomplished most tasks and in the process, were able to meet new people, very nice people who came to say hello and welcome us.  We were also able to meet someone who will do the plumbing for us on a future trip.  We met one of the dairy farmers in the area, and a few new neighbors we had not met yet.  We learned more about the possible uranium mining in the area and we found out that it is only five miles from our location.  It is very clear to us that the residents don’t want this mining to happen and they are concerned about it.  We also learned about other hush-hush information on the issue that I cannot disclose on this blog, of course.

After we relaxed a bit from the hard work we did, I asked myself and my husband as well, is this all worth it, since there is a big possibility that the mining may go through?  Should we keep at it or should we consider a for sale sign?  We thought about it and realized that we loved the area, and we liked the people and their manners, as well as the friendly and beautiful environment that surrounds this area.  Chatham is certainly a very special place and we are hoping that it is kept that way.  There is a 50/50 chance that the mining will or will not happen, so we are taking the chance.

In tomorrow’s post, I will share some pictures.  I just noticed that this is my 500 post, and I am glad that it was about this topic 🙂

The Pellet Stove Drama and the Water Heater from Heaven

The debate over the past year has been what to use to heat the farmhouse when we get to that point.  If you have been following the slow restoration, I have been telling you the cost of items, and how we have come across the materials.  We have a very unreal budget of $11,000 to restore this dilapidated farmhouse and we are sticking to it.  Call it a labor of love or insanity, we love and enjoy it.  I am not sure if we will make it, but it is fun to try, and of course we do most of the work.  For heating, we are not doing central air/forced heat which we have now in the Jersey home and it is very expensive (although not in this very mild winter).  It also wastes energy and we are always cold or too hot.  The debate has been between a wood stove and a pellet stove.  The wood stove is the most cost efficient option, however, I have asthma and smoke usually triggers it (in my case – it is different for everyone, for example, pets don’t bother me) so we decided to go with the next option, which is a pellet stove.  Pellet stoves are efficient and can heat an entire home providing nice heat.  You have to select a stove according to the square footage and if you get a reputable brand and burn nice quality pellets, you should be ok for many years.  We did some research on it and we liked what we read.  In addition, it doesn’t have to be hooked to a chimney, it can be vented straight out the wall, unlike a wood stove.  Wood stoves create a bit more pollution compared to the pellet stoves.  However, pellet stoves are not cheap.  A good model for a 1200 sf home can set you back $2,000-$3000+ depending on the brand, features, and the larger the stove the more it will cost.  The cheapest pellet stove costs around $1200 and heats from 900-1200 sf, but it is a cheap model and the reviews are not that great.

We are doing the restoration on a set budget, and we want to keep the farmhouse as original as it was over 100 years ago, so we will not change but replace or restore things.  We will also abide by the 4 R’s – reduce, recycle, reuse, repurpose and we will upcycle as well.  For us, a new pellet stove would range between $2000-$3000+ and that is not going to happen.  We decided to search for a used pellet stove.  The requirements were:

  • great price
  • driving distance for pick up
  • in working condition
  • good brand
  • fair aesthetics

We browsed online and everywhere else for some time, until we saw an ad in Craigslist.  The price was more than fair and it was functional.  It looked good in pictures and it was a great brand (Enviro EF3 FS), plus we only had to drive 57 miles.  I emailed the seller and the next day we went to see it.  We liked what we saw and we took it home – 250 pounds of metal, well filthy metal.  Thanks to my husband the genius, who is so handy and is always thinking about an easy way to transport things, it wasn’t hard at all to manage the 250 pounds between the two of us.  We got it for a 1/6 of the price that we would have paid for a brand new stove.  The guy was moving and didn’t want to take it with him.

Once at home, my husband started the cleanup process, inside and out, and tested a few things.  But even geniuses forget sometimes and he could not resist turning it on without the vent so we got all smoked out and there was black smoke residue all over the room and traveling as far as the kitchen area.  The cleanup was interesting, for the sake of omitting another word.  Here are the before and after pictures.

 

BEFORE

 

AFTER UNDERGOING EDDIE-ATION (a methodic process of inspection, decontamination, cleansing, and restoration).

 

Not bad; it shines again.  By the way, after learning a bit more about this particular model, we found out that the gold tone trimming area is in 24k gold overlay, a beautiful surprise, which only tells us that we got a great used model.  I can’t wait to see it placed at its new home, in a dignified corner.

The next day we went to the local hardware store to check some prices on some materials to plan our budget for the next trip, as we will be doing some work ourselves, and we came across an excellent opportunity – a brand new water heater, better that what we were considering under our budget, for only $100.  We asked the manager what was wrong with it, since it was brand new with all its parts, and he said that the only problem was that it didn’t have the box.  We drove the PT Cruiser, so we weren’t sure if it would fit, but after flipping the seats, there was more than enough room.  We went back home with another big tag item crossed off the list, another blessing.   Total cost for these items was $500 (pellet stove $400 and water heater $100), we saved a big chunk of our restoration budget.

Hope that you enjoyed this post and learned about some ways of saving on a project budget.

 

 

DIY and Regain Control

English: Glass vial containing Marjoram Essent...

Image via Wikipedia

If you have followed this blog for a while, you know that the past year has been our training for when we move out-of-state towards the pursuit of a more rural, green, and self-sustaining lifestyle.  One goal is to produce and learn to make everything that we consume – at least 90% of it.  For the past couple of weeks I have focused on learning how to make my own products the chemical-free way.  By chemical-free I mean without any preservatives, artificial colorants, and all those additives that do nothing for you or make you ill.  Some people might not understand this type of lifestyle, as it requires a lot of commitment and a lot of work, but it is the way that we want to live.  So far I’ve learned how to make our own

  • shampoo
  • conditioner
  • leave-in conditioner
  • hair treatment
  • facial mask
  • facial scrub
  • facial toner
  • soap
  • all types of natural cleaners – wood, floor, glass, multipurpose …
  • air fresheners
  • stain remover
  • sanitizer
  •  first aid
  • mold and mildew treatment
  • laundry detergent
  • fabric softener
  • tinted lip balm
  • face powder
  • deodorant
  • eyeshadow
  • face cleaner
  • mascara
  • face cream and moisturizer
  • mouthwash
  • toothpaste
  • aftershave
  • shaving cream
  • cologne
  • perfume
  • bug repellent for plants
  • mosquito repellent
  • natural hair dye
  •  eye serum
  • sunscreen (mild)
  • how to make my own essential oils and fragrance oils
  • cat treats
  • natural flea treatment
  • to dry herbs and extract oils
  • Learned to cut my own hair in layers, and hubby’s as well.

We will also grow our own food, and that is another process that we will learn.

I think that we are covered in most areas and one thing I learned is that it is not difficult at all; it is easier than I thought, which amazed me.  A lot of it is repetition, and to make it easier you can start by replacing each product as you run out of it, by learning how to make your own.  That way it won’t be as intimidating.  I like to know things fast and right away, it is my personality, and I don’t like to waste time, so I like a direct and straight approach.  There are plenty of books and websites on this topic, if you are interested in making your own products to live chemical free, and in the process save a ton of money.

Another added benefit to this lifestyle is that you regain control of what you consume and put in your body.  In the process, I learned that a lot of the so called natural products contain one or two chemicals that are not good for you, so always read the label if you are trying to go chemical-free and are switching to these products.  My only regret is all the years that I spent putting chemicals in my body and consuming products that are the equivalent to slow poisoning.  A goal down the road is to learn to grow all the plants needed for the extracts and concoctions, taking it a step further, but that will have to wait for now.

Gutting the farmhouse 2

For some reason the first post was too long and it cut half of my post, so I will have to split it in 2.

This is a tiny sample of the many trips to the dumpster.

CRITTERS

Empty shell of a weird bug.

This picture was taken by Tom.  The black widow was under the birdbath.  There are many types of black widows and a female can have more than 200 babies in one egg sack and as many as five sacks per mating.  You do the numbers, that is more than 1,000 babies.  I’d rather not think of that.

Happy birds at the birdbath, unsuspecting of what is lurking …

This picture was taken on one of our early trips when we had to clear all the weed and foliage that was surrounding the place.  To follow the restoration, you can just type farmhouse on the search box of this blog and it will give you the older posts.

Here are a few.

https://inkspeare.wordpress.com/2010/02/18/the-christmas-card-that-became-real/

https://inkspeare.wordpress.com/2010/02/16/closing-on-the-farmhouse/

https://inkspeare.wordpress.com/2010/06/02/memorial-day-at-the-farmhouse/

https://inkspeare.wordpress.com/2010/07/20/restoring-an-old-farmhouse-new-windows/

https://inkspeare.wordpress.com/2010/09/08/restoring-an-old-farmhouse-on-a-budget-2/

https://inkspeare.wordpress.com/2011/03/15/hitching-the-trailer-hitching-the-future/

 

As we continue the restoration until the day we finally move, I will keep posting pictures of the progress being made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gutting the Farmhouse

When I first saw the dilapidated farmhouse, it reminded me of a Christmas postcard that I treasured, of a place I called Home Sweet Home.  It has been a bit more than a year since we bought it and at first, we had to clear our path to it and cut all the grass and weeds that were around it.  Progress has been a bit slow, but time certainly flies.  Now, we are at the point of gutting the interior  and hopefully soon we will be able to install a new roof.

Last week Eddie took a trip there and managed to gut the whole thing, with the help of Tom, my B-I-L.  The work was done in a week, which I think is amazing.  Here are some pictures (as promised) of this stage.  To follow the restoration from the beginning go back to older posts with pictures.  I will continue to update the progress we make, but since it is taking some time the postings about the restoration are kind of sporadic – when we manage to get there.

Before and after pictures of the rooms

KITCHEN

LIVING ROOM

DEN

CEILING DOWNSTAIRS

Some craziness that happened 100 years ago.  Maybe they ran out of wood?  Scary thought.  The old construction is quite different from today’s examples, which I find mesmerizing.

BACK ROOM

The backroom was obviously a porch that was enclosed.  Some awful paneling was in place.

Part of the bathroom extended into this back room – a challenge.

THE UPSTAIRS

This is the upstairs ceiling.  The roof is a tin roof which you can see when the sheetrock was taken out.  We want to replace the roof with the same material, to keep it as close to the original and as charming as possible.

This is in one of the bedrooms.  There are two bedrooms upstairs and since this is a true farmhouse 100-year-old construction, the two bedrooms are contiguous – from one you pass on to the next.  In addition, when you go up the stairs you land in one of the bedrooms – kind of tree house.  This is a feature that I love; however, not practical for today’s living.

Here as you can see,  the sheetrock wall between the two bedrooms was torn down – one open space.

These are the steps that land directly into the upstairs bedrooms.

Birds, wasps and God knows what else made nests up there.

To be continued …

What is a Tamarind? Oh, Sweet Tamarind!

It had to be more than twenty plus years since I ate a tamarind.  Last weekend I was presented with a sweet surprise.  My sister in law brought me a box of sweet tamarinds.  Now, these are hard to come by, so I knew this was a most precious gift.  If you are not familiar with tamarinds this post will help you appreciate them. 

Tamarinds grow on a tree mostly in tropical climates.  I have memories of eating tamarinds as a kid and climbing on tamarind trees, and just hanging out and eating them atop a tree.  When they are not ripen the shell is hard and kind of greenish, once they are ready to eat the shell turns brownish and is easy to crack, similar to the way you would crack an egg shell.  Most tamarinds that are ready will fall to the floor, as the shell dries.  Here are some pictures,to give you an idea.

Box of Tamarinds
Nutritional value – not much, but they are delicious! Mostly carbs, sugar, and fiber.  They are also high in calories as you can see in the box.
I like the fact that they are harvested in a way that is environmentally friendly and the box is recyclable.
Here is what a tamarind looks like
The shape varies and so does the size.
To eat it, just crack it open with your hands.
This is what you will find inside the shell.  Yeah, I know what you are thinking … but I assure you, it does not taste like that.
Close-up of the shell
Each section of the tamarind will contain a large seed.  To eat it, you separate a section and suck on it until you just have the seed.  The pulp is sweet and you must chew on it as well.  The seeds are very hard.
Here’s the whole thing.  The fibers hold the pieces of tamarind together.
Once you eat the whole tamarind you have an empty frame.  For the sake of this post I had to eat one.  Oh, the sacrifices we make for blogging!
Here’s a close shot of the empty frame.
And there you have it; this is how you it a tamarind.  Hope you enjoy this post, I did.