May 21, 2012

Slideshow: A Second Wall Comes Down

(Hover over the slideshow and you will see arrows to scroll forward and backwards)

First, I have to say a very big thank you to my cousin.  Cousin, if you are reading: THANK YOU!  We couldn’t have done it without you!

We’ve wanted to take down the wall between the living room and the office since we first looked at the house.  We knew it would be difficult because this used to be the exterior wall of the home and made of concrete block.  Opening up the wall would require a beam. We needed to have professional help; that help happened to be my cousin.  He volunteered his time to help us out, and we couldn’t have done it without him.  As you can see in the slideshow, he did a great deal of the work.  And before we even started taking down the wall he had already been at work in our yard cutting down dead trees!

The indent in the left side of the wall in the picture below used to be a door to a porch.  At some point the porch was enclosed and turned into part of the house.  They turned the old doorway to the porch into a bookcase on the office side and opened up an old window into the current doorway (we found evidence of the window when taking the wall down.)

After pictures coming soon!

Check out the other wall we took down.

May 20, 2012

A Little Trim

The bushes to the side of our carport needed a trim.  I wasn’t planning on trimming them when I did, I just couldn’t look at them any longer.  I used regular garden clippers so it took me longer than necessary.  And I do still have to pick up my mess!

A map of the yard is here for reference.


May 20, 2012

Yard Map

Now that we are working in the yard I thought this map would be good for reference:


April 14, 2012

It Must Be Spring!

I started writing this post yesterday, and it was going to be called “Groundhogs Day!” because I finally saw Leroy.  Leroy is the groundhog that lives under our garage.  I have been waiting for him since early March.  I ran to get my camera to take a picture but he was gone by the time I got back to the window.  As I was on my computer searching for pictures of Leroy from last year I saw two deer walking around our backyard.  Seeing all that within 20 minutes has to mean it is officially spring, right?  I have been waiting for some random winter weather since our actual winter was way too mild, but if these guys are out and about they must know something!

I am kind of obsessed with our groundhog.  Growing up there was a groundhog that lived under my Grandma’s shed (he has been gone now about 3 years), so when I saw we had a groundhog it felt like home!  I really want to get a good picture of him, but he rarely comes close to the house.  If I open the door or a window to take a clearer picture he hears it and runs back under the garage.  Hopefully this year I can get my picture!  Here are some of the not so good pictures of Leroy:

I got a picture of one of the two deer, the other one wasn’t as brave as this one and wouldn’t come further than the trees.  I couldn’t get a good picture of the two of them together.  This is the first time I have seen the deer during the day, and I didn’t know there were two of them around.  We knew one was sleeping in our side yard because we would interrupt him when we took our dog outside at night.

I love seeing wild life in our yard.  I always stop and watch them.  I’m sure I won’t be so happy when they try to eat my garden this year.

April 4, 2012

Compost Facts

So, now that I have made my compost bin, I needed to do some research to know exactly how to use it.  These were some of my questions and the answers I found:

What is compost?

Compost is organic matter that has been decomposed

What is in compost?

Compost is made of four things:

  1. Brown materials (carbon): are needed for energy and produces heat.
  2. Green materials (nitrogen): are a source for compost microbes, helping to speed up the process of decomposition.
  3. Oxygen: for oxidizing the carbon, the decomposition process. (Don’t squish materials that you add to your compost, this will makes less room for the air that is needed.)
  4. Water: in the right amounts to maintain activity without causing anaerobic conditions. (The compost should always be damp, like a wrung out sponge.)
What can be composted?
  • Brown Materials (carbon)
    • cardboard
    • newspaper
    • paper
    • cardboard tubes
    • dryer lint
    • paper egg cartons
    • pine needles and pine cones
  • Green Materials (nitrogen)
    • grass clippings
    • weeds and plants
    • yard clippings
    • leaves
    • vegetable and fruit scraps
    • tea bags and tea leaves
    • coffee grounds
  • Other materials that can be composted:
    • egg shells
    • old herbs and spices
    • stale cereal
    • stale bread
    • cotton
    • wool
When is compost done?

Finished compost will look like soil. You should no longer be able to recognize what you have put into your bin.

How to use compost?

You can use compost in gardens, in containers, and in starting seeds.


Research was done here, here, here, and here.

April 4, 2012

DIY Compost Bin

Total Time Required: 30 minutes
Project Difficulty: easy
Materials: plastic storage bin (mine is 18 gallons)
Tools: drill & drill bit  (size of drill bit is up to you, mine was pretty small)


One of my goals this year is to garden, and one part of that for me was to start composting.  I want to compost for a few reasons.

  • I can use things I have around the house that I would normally throw away to make great fertilizer for my garden, saving me the money I would spend on fertilizer.
  • I won’t feel as guilty when fruits and veggies go bad.  I may not be using them to eat, but they won’t go to waste, and neither will the money I spent on that produce.
  • I can keep everything I put in the compost bin out of the landfill.

I’ve had an empty 18 gallon storage bin waiting to become a compost bin for a while now and I am so happy it is finally done!  I found my inspiration here.  I chose to use a bin and not something larger or more permanent because I didn’t want to spend any money on it this year.  I also thought it would be more manageable for a beginner composter and gardener.  I also needed my compost to be enclosed and not just a pile because we have raccoons/deer/bunnies that come into our yard as well as a groundhog that lives under our garage.  They would love to get into a pile and eat all of our compost.

Here is how I made my bin:

1. I took my bin outside because I knew it would be a little messy.

2. I picked a drill bit and started drilling.  For the drill bit I used the first one I grabbed from our tool box that wouldn’t give animals access to what’s inside the bin (bigger than a nail hole but smaller diameter than a pencil).  It could be any size, though if the holes get too big you may lose compost through them.

3. Some sides of the bin were a little more difficult to drill into than others because of the shape of the bin, so that determined how many holes I drilled and where there were.  I wanted to make sure there were enough holes for air flow and also to allow water in an out.

And that’s it!  After I was done drilling all 6 sides I brought it inside to fill up.  On hand I had some shredded papers and veggies.

I put the veggies in whole so I can see how long composting takes.  It is recommended that you chop everything up so that it decomposes faster.

Now that I have my compost bin ready I did some more research to know exactly what I can put into it and how it works, I posted my research here.

April 3, 2012

No More Ants!

I posted last week about the large ant hill in our backyard.  I have been checking on it everyday and the ants are gone!  They haven’t tried to rebuild in the same spot and I haven’t found them anywhere else in the yard.

You can see the circle where I put the sugar/baking soda mixture, that seemed to burn the grass. The boiling water with cayenne pepper killed the grass (it may have been in combination with the frost we had that night).  It shouldn’t be an issue to get new grass to grow there this early in the year.  I would definitely use these methods again if more ants move into our yard.  I didn’t have to buy anything, I had it all in the house already.  And most importantly I didn’t have to worry about chemicals around our dog.

March 26, 2012

Ants in Our Pants

Well, really in our yard, but I don’t want them to get any closer to our pants!  Last week I noticed ants starting to build a hill in our backyard so I covered it with the lid to our fire pit.  My thought at the time was that it would suffocate the ants and they would die or leave.  Today I picked up the lid and was shocked to see the hill was HUGE!  Yuck, and obviously my idea wasn’t that great.

Here is the ant hill, the lid I had covered it with, and a tennis ball for scale.

After some research (herehere, and here) I started my attack on the ants.  This is what I did:

1. I sprinkled a mixture of equal parts powdered sugar and baking soda around the hill.  The idea is the ants will want to eat the sugar and won’t be able to avoid the baking soda.  Baking soda creates excess carbon dioxide in their systems and kills them.

2. I poured boiling water mixed with cayenne pepper on the hill.  The boiling water will kill some ants and discourage the others.  Ants don’t like hot peppers (all I had on hand was cayenne pepper), so hopefully they get the hint that we don’t want them.  I may have to repeat this step depending on the results.

3. I also read that ants don’t like cold temperatures and it just so happens that we are supposed to get a frost tonight.  I am hoping that with the boiling water and the baking soda poison I will have them scrambling when the cold hits tonight and that will kill off any survivors.

March 17, 2012

Kitchen: Before, In Progress, and Future Plans

The original kitchen:

Our first project for the house was taking down the wall between the kitchen and the living room.  We knew from the moment we first saw the house that it would be a huge improvement to the flow of the house.  You can see in the floorplan how that wall completely cuts the two rooms off from each other.

So within the first 24 hours we owned the house we took hammers to the wall.  We knew it was not a load bearing wall because the rafters run parallel to the wall, therefore not holding any of the second floor’s weight.  (Please excuse the quality of the below images, they are actually screen shots from a video.)

The first sign of light in the living room was so exciting.  (Please excuse the quality of the below image, it is actually a screen shot from a video.)

It was much more difficult to take down the wall than we thought it would be because the walls are made out of cement board and not drywall.  You can see the layers of boards below, as well as a nice drawing we found.

We were so excited when all of the cement board was finally off of both sides of the wall.  It took all day and most of the night.

Taking the wall down obviously made a gap in the ceiling, walls, and floor.  The ceiling and walls will get repaired as soon as we are done cutting into the ceilings for can lights we are installing, I will explain more about them later.  The floor currently is patched with hard wood we found in the attic.  It is not the permanent fix, but it works for now.

The following pictures were taken after we moved in.  The original stove and fridge were outdated so we replaced them.  The stove is new, and the old one went away when this one was delivered. The fridge is a hand me down from my wonderful mother in law.  It is very large so we needed to take out the cabinets that were above the old fridge, as well as the pantry cabinet.  Getting rid of the pantry cabinet has made a little issue over space, but we have plans for that!  I will tell you more in a future post.

We have also taken down the old ceiling fan and swag light fixture.  We are using the lamp in the corner until the can lights are finished being installed.

More pictures to come as projects get done!

Our future plans for the kitchen are:
  • new cabinets
  • add a peninsula with eating area
  • new counter tops
  • move fridge down and have full size cabinet on either side of the stove
  • “build in” fridge
  • add a backsplash
  • new hardwood floors to match living room
  • new window treatments

March 12, 2012

House Facts

Our house was built in 1947.  It was a farm house and now sits on a little over an acre.  Originally it was built as a ranch, but a previous owner converted the attic to the master suite by raising the roof on that side of the house.

This house is definitely a fixer upper, mainly because it was rented out previous to us, and it wasn’t very well taken care of.  The house is approximately 1,500 sq ft, it has three bedrooms and two full baths.  You can see the floorplan here.  The laundry is in the unfinished basement.  We have a detached two car garage.  The garage has an extension off the back of it about the length of three cars.

Next posts will be of each room, before and in progress pictures and descriptions.