The Garden Project.

Sorry for the lack of posting, my husband & I have been chained out in the garden.  HHAHAHAH – no I am serious.

This is what our side garden looked like when we moved in.  It’s a little hard to see, but there are flower beds and a brick path under there.

Our goal?  Make it look pretty.

I know people hate it (and BOY do I), but if you want a beautiful garden, you have to pay the love toll.  And the love toll = WEEDING.  So put on those work clothes and get out the tools, because digging up umpteen years of rooting doesn’t happen in one breezy hour.  And remember, it is crucial to be thorough.  B/c if you aren’t – it’s ALL GONNA GROW BACK.

WORK Kids Work!  They were actually quite helpful.. until they spotted the spiders.

After that I weeded solo, while John repaved the sides to give everything a nice clean edge.

In this pic you can see the weeds are mostly gone.  I’d put in a couple perennials in the fall, which thankfully survived the mild winter.  The path is paved.  So far, so GOOD!

All DONE?  Not quite.  That was just the one side.  I then got to weeding on the other side.  The spiders kept me company.

I got a wicked sunburn that weekend.  Plus two ginormous (and bleeding) bites on my neck and shoulder from I still don’t know what.  Which I watched vigilantly for days thinking they might “do something.”  Thankfully, they healed just fine.

Time to plant!

Given the amount of time & labor we’d invested, I wasn’t keen on doing this again next year.  So we chose a mix of perennials & herbs.  Plant them once and they do the work themselves, over & over again.  We filled in everything with rich organic soil, reconnected the drain spout extension and VOILA!  Good to go!

Lastly, John laid a new path (still to be sunk) from the rear garden round to the side.  (Note to John: Flip #3 before sinking..)

NEXT UP.  Front garden bed & path.

Here’s what it looked like when we started.

A couple lilacs and some lily of the valleys.  The flowers smelled nice, but they were blocking the light and obstructing the view of the house.  So after several more hours of grueling labor, digging up roots that went down seemingly forever, this is what it looked like.

John & I repaved the bed with bricks, put down more rich soil and then planted.

Here’s what it looks like now.

Pretty goal – ACHIEVED!

The best news of all?  After all that grub angst – our grass is growing back!!

Now. Must Rest.

The Birth of a Dining Room

Ask any parent.  Once you have a baby, your life is not your own.  As a mother, I understand this.  And as a homeowner, I understand it all the more.

Five months ago, my husband & I adopted a baby.  His name is The Dole House.  And although 250 years old, he is every bit a clapboard clad toddler w/a perpetually leaky diaper.  He whines, he cries.  He begs to be changed.  And much like our other babies, he has taken everything we’ve had to give and more.  When we first moved in, I felt as if I’d been swallowed whole, and now, five months later, I am still being digested.   Like parenthood, the process of restoring and updating such an old house is time intensive, financially draining, emotionally wrenching and physically demanding.  It has consumed us completely, often to the point of near exhaustion.  But, on occasion, much like parenthood, the moments of gut-busting angst give way to feelings of great accomplishment.  Like now.  As I present our new Dining Room.

August 28th, we adopted The Dole House.  Our (to be) dining room had only partial walls & plywood floors.  We were in equal parts excited and overwhelmed.

Work began in early November.  Down came the old drywall.

Unfortunately, 2 other projects took precedence at this point.  Re-tiling our upstairs bath (so we wouldn’t fall through the floor) and then lining our chimney & installing our wood stove.  Work resumed December 6th, and up went the new drywall.  FINALLY!

Joint compound is applied to cover all the cracks.

Then sand and paint.

My husband had to rebuild all of the casings around the windows.  He took special pains to insulate the walls thoroughly, and after installation, he caulked every gap.

Next we installed a multi-piece chair rail around the perimeter of the room.

We had to rebuild a mantel casing around the fireplace, again using multiple pieces of mill work.

We also at this point installed crown molding.  Which I did NOT document b/c of the agony involved.  Suffice it to say, if you know what coping is, then you KNOW WHAT COPING IS!

Next, we installed a new light fixture.

We painted,

and then painted again.

In between this we ate lots of smiley face sandwiches. B/c encouragement comes in many forms.

Next up, the floor.  In October we’d invested in wide plank flooring from Carlisle.  9 to 17 inches, white pine.  The boards had been stacked and acclimating to the humidity level in the adjacent unfinished room.

Before installation, my husband leveled the plywood floor.  Basically by jacking it up in several spots from the basement below.  In order to know where to nail, we had to mark the beams.  We did this by drilling small holes through the beams as guides, from which we marked chalk lines across the floor.  Then, board by board, we laid our new floor.

We’d purchased reproduction colonial face nails from Carlisle

which I couldn’t help but play with.  NOTE: in addition to great season’s greetings, they also made a superb jingle bell noise when shaken in my pocket.

As well as using the face nails, we also blind nailed the groove side of each board for stability. (Proof I did some work too.)

Finally the floor was IN.

Now onto staining and sealing.  Which we’d decided to do ourselves in order to save $$$.  Here is my husband in his boxers.  You do not get a picture of me in my underwear.

We finished staining and sealing the floor (I kid you not) two days before Christmas.  My family arrived the very next day (Christmas eve) for a 2 week stay.  To say we were stretched beyond our limits would be putting it mildly.  A normal Christmas would see me baking umpteen dozen cookies.  Sending cards.  Wrapping (and buying) elaborate gifts.  This year I baked NOTHING.  Sent zero cards.  And the modest presents I did give were wrapped at the last imaginable minute.  It was a strange holiday. But I am proud to say THAT YES!! We ate Christmas dinner in our NEW DINING ROOM.  All else be damned!

Over holiday break, my husband installed the door casings and then finally the floor base molding.

Which I then had to PAINT (again w/ the painting).  Here is the room today.  January 25, 2010.  D-O-N-E. Thank GOD ALMIGHTY!

This sketch of the house was my Christmas present to my husband.  It was done by an artist we knew in Philly and I actually commissioned it waaay back in August – before we even bought the house.  I found the frame in the attic after we moved in.  The table you see in the photos is a re-purposed work bench we’d previously had in our basement.  I bought the green chairs from an antiques store here in Portland.  And we found the benches on Craigslist.  They’re church pews from a convent in southern Maine that’s being sold.

Isn’t it amazing how pieces just fall into place?

As you can see in this last pic, there are STILL more remaining boards.  That’s b/c have another room to finish.

Up next?  The room across the hall.  Our (soon to be) office.  Stay tuned!