Thursday, January 21, 2021

Remodeling Our Hut Part 37: Restoring the Front Garden

 This post is a throwback to May 2020.  We were still working on the remodel, but Spring had sprung and I was getting tired of looking at the disaster the front yard had been made into during the construction process. 

Carl and I decided to drop the inside remodel work in late May and turn our attention to the garden and renovating the landscaping. 

 When the new front porch cement was poured in 2019, there was enough cement left in the truck for us to hastily throw together some 2 x 4's and make forms for slabs.  We'd stored the concrete slabs on a pile back by the windmill until we had a use for them and here was the perfect opportunity.

 The ground was very hard due to gravel and clay being dug up during the excavation, so we replaced the less desirable soil with our compost in the areas I wanted to eventually garden in again.  The hard-packed clay was acceptable as a base for the steps, but the rest was all shoveled out by hand.

 May 24, 2020 and Carl has all of the sidewalk slabs in place. We weren't sure where we were going with this garden remodel, but one thing for certain was our ongoing need to downsize the garden as much as possible. 

We decided to bring back some of our big limestone which we had removed last July to make room for the mudroom addition.  In the picture below, the old wrecker was being useful again.  We really do not know what we'd do without the antique, it's definitely paid for itself time and time again. 

We needed to take a break to celebrate Audrey's fourth birthday, though!


Four years old already, where did that time go?  Audrey took time for a birthday cupcake and then decided to come and help Grandpa and Grandma with the landscaping.

 The apparatus on Audrey's head is a duplicate of the one I wear on my head, it's a bug net, and it works phenomenally to keep the tiny biting black flies, or noseeum's from attacking.  Audrey and I may look silly when we're wearing our headgear, but we're safe from the nasties burrowing into our hair and leaving painful welts that itch for days on end.

Day after day Carl hauled up more rocks.

Joel and Audrey came over in the evenings to help us whenever they had the time.

This entire process of moving the large slabs with crowbars is deja vu for all of us here; the Quarry Garden was built the same way.  Simply haul up the rocks with the tractor and wrecker and then place them by hand with the crowbars.
We're all getting older though.  Joel was a teenager when we built the Quarry in 2001 and we were in our 40's.  Now we're in our 60's and Joel is in his 30's.  But Audrey is still in the single digits, so we have her help for decades to come.

Audrey is testing her dad's strength here, "Can you lift me, Dad?"

We reused the limestone that used to be between the house and the garage which had to be dismantled when we moved the garage.  When the tires on the wrecker go flat, we know we are almost at capacity for the lift.

May melted into June and the garden was starting to come into flower.

Peony 'America'

 We had some rain that caused a slowdown in the work, but as soon as it was dry enough, we continued.

 In the meantime, I was getting ready to plant my urns, and Audrey stepped up to lend me a hand.

 You've got to get the soil preparation right before you plant anything.

 More days go by, more rocks.

 I had purchased some lanterns awhile back that were intended to have candles for illumination.  I also had some red glass orbs lying around and they were a perfect fit in the lanterns.  When the sun shines through them, especially at sunset, they are pretty.


As the days went by, we were getting closer to completion.

I planted some new hydrangea shrubs and some pale cream zinnias along with red geraniums in the new bed off the front porch to bring out the colors in the house itself.
'Patriot' hostas were brought back from the Formal Garden to line the new wall.  I'm sure these hostas would appreciate me making up my mind as to where they are planted; they've been moved three times in the last year.
It was my idea to add the curving walkway off the front porch.  It is fun to renovate a garden, much more fun than it is to renovate a house.
Once Carl had all the limestone walls in place, we brought back one of our favorite granite boulders that had originally been in front of the house.  This grayish black granite with the white stripes was given to us by a farm neighbor thirty years ago.  Carl and his dad had been allowed to go through the neighbor's rock pile looking for big boulders and when they were getting ready to leave with the load of stone on the trailer, the farmer said, "I have one more for you." 

 He took this beautiful specimen off of his barn hill and loaded it for them which was incredibly kind of him.  Sadly, he passed away a short time later due to a tragic farm accident.  Whenever I look at the stone, I'm reminded of him.

The long days of June seem so long ago now in January.

Finally, we were done with the front garden and I was back to weeding the rest of the gardens.   The year of neglect to working on the garden was showing badly; the weeds were doing their thing, cropping up and taking over like usual.

We bought some concrete pavers and put them down to extend the walkway out to the driveway.  The circle pattern in the pavers matches the circles in the driveway grates and the round windows in the gables of the house.

By the end of August, the front garden was looking much better.

It is a big change from the way it was a few years ago, that's for sure. 



But if you look close, you can still see the old house is still in there. 

We're still here, too.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Christmas Past 2020

Here we are a few days into the New Year again.  Every year I feel the same way, where did the previous year go?  Yes, even 2020 flew by even with all of the challenges it presented.

In December of 2019, we were still far from finished with the remodel of the hut, so we did not celebrate Christmas at all.  This year, we're still working on the last of the details for the house, and I decided to decorate quite a bit to make up for the year before, even though we had no family or friends gathering due to the pandemic.

I put up three Christmas trees this year, one in each bay window and one upstairs.  Of course, two of the trees were only three feet tall and the other one was a six-footer, so all told, it was the equivalent of one twelve-foot tree.  This was our first year with artificial trees, too.  I kind of like them; they don't have the lovely smell of a real tree, but I did bring in some pine branches from the Back Eight for fragrance.

Above, is the dining room bay window.  Below is the living room.
Another view of the dining room, below.  We were able to bring the stained glass lamps home from storage at Joel's house the first week in December.  I found an antique oak table on Marketplace and it fits very well in the room. 
We didn't have any substantial snow until after Christmas this year.  I guess, like everything else in 2020, it was unpredictable weather.

The remodel is winding down, thank goodness.  I have to chuckle now remembering back in December 2019 that we'd had hope to be back in the house by Christmas.  What dreamers we were.  The last of the woodwork was completed just before Halloween. 

In keeping with the Craftsman style of home that we were trying to mimic, we had the cabinet maker build a set of three room dividers, or colonnades, as they are known, between the front foyer and the dining room and the dining room and the kitchen.  

We needed to supply the stained glass for the cabinet doors.  We decided to do a design to tie in with the railings that Carl finished in October.  He drew up plans and went to work.


There he is posing with the window and his face mask after soldering was complete on Window #1.  Five more to go.


We still need to putty the stained glass and clean the window, but we couldn't resist sticking it in the cabinet for now.

Speaking of the railings, they were completed at the beginning of November.  (Carl's been retired since March 2019, but he has had no time to sit around, poor guy.)  The railings were a monumental challenge for Carl; though the design was simple, so I thought, it was actually difficult to make everything even and there was a lot of cutting, welding, grinding and do-overs before he had them the way he wanted.

There will be more about the actual railing construction to come, but it took months to get them completed, especially when I threw in the idea of adding stained glass rondels to each design.

One of many trial runs to see how we liked them.
Newel posts fresh from the supplier, with Carl's hat hanging from a clamp so no one ran into the pole sticking out.

More trial and error, back to the drawing board, above, and finally, below, the finished product.
The sunlight coming in the windows shines through the rondels and throws interesting patterns on the walls during the morning and afternoon.  As the angle of the sun changes with the seasons, so do the patterns.

We were very happy to have this job behind us.

So, Christmas 2020 is in the history books, and we are looking forward to a much better year to come.  

There's a whole new year ahead.