Category Archives: The Renovation Journal

Week in the Life Wrap Up

Well, I did it!  I managed to finish it all, though it only took us a week to live it and me two to record it.  This is kind of a supplemental post.  I wasn’t as good about capturing our living space throughout the week as I would have liked.  So late on Week in the Life Sunday, I went about and took some pictures of what things are like right now.  It’s especially relevant as by this time next year, I imagine that very little will be the same.

We have three bedrooms on the second floor, none of which are being used because we are still working on flooring them.  In the meantime, we’re all sleeping on the first floor.  Which in turn means that our beds and things are displacing the objects that rightfully belong in those spaces.  It’s a bit cluttered.  And there is a lot that we haven’t been able to unpack yet, because we haven’t been able to prepare the space for it.  But really I don’t think it’s bad at all and soon enough we’ll be upstairs as well.  We’ve lived in much, much tighter quarters.  Go way back in the archives and you’ll see what I mean.  It will be nice and funny to be able to look back at these and say fondly, “oh yes, remember those days?”.

This is the view from the dinning room into what we’ve been calling “the bunk room”, current bedroom to all three boys and future homeschooling space/home office.

Galen’s area.  He made his bed himself.  It should also be mentioned that I took these after 7 kids had spent the day playing and running about in here, so it’s all very lived in, with nothing at all being arranged ‘just so’.

And the other side of the room, where Iain and Elijah reside, with a big pile of boxes, containing all their worldly possessions stacked up behind their beds.

Along with our little, make-shift area for homeschooling supplies…

Arranged on the changing table that Steve built when I was pregnant with Little Rosebud. No closets for anyone either, so dress clothes hang off the edges.

The heavily rumpled space above, also off of the dining room, is my future studio and current bedroom to The Man, The Girl and myself.

Which means that all of my crafty stuff is in the living room, along with a great many boxes and lots of plants.


Week in the Life, Thursday

~the Wee Girl was up most of the night complaining that he “tummy hurt” and asking me to rub it.  We’re both very tired this morning.  I had all sorts of plans for the day, especially if the weather was nice, which it seems to be!  But I think that perhaps we had better stay close to home.

~Thursday is bathroom cleaning day.  I was completely convinced it would also be bathroom painting day, but it didn’t work out that way.

~Iain and Elijah are each working on a map of our town now.  I’ll take pictures for us, but I think I’ll opt not to share them here.

~Màiri Rose makes up little songs and sings them to herself and others.  Sometimes she just goes right from one song to the next.  Today I tried to keep track of some of the little snippets of song I heard from her.  None of it’s complete, but this is what I have.

~~~The Songs of Màiri Rose Irene, Age 3~~~

The birds were flying up in the sky, the stars were flying up in the sky. The birds were flying then they came on down and the birds were singing to me.

The people all swam at the ocean and they lived together.  They all lived together in their little house.  And they ate pancakes.

Over the ocean, in my little boat.  The boat was singing to me.

Then they all lived together in their little crooked house.  Then they all swimmed and swimmed and swimmed.


~Did some touch up painting and trim installing in Iain and Elijah’s room.

~They are off to practice again tonight.  In the rain.

~”It was Pop-pop and then it turned into Me-Mom!” ~the Wee Girl, after getting off the phone with my parents.

~While dinner cooked and the dishwasher ran, and the fourth load of laundry for the day was in the wash; after Galen had had his fill of loom building for the day, I managed to sew 4 or 5 seams.  I have two little dresses starting to take shape.



Week in the Life, Wednesday

~Iain and Elijah spotted a pileated woodpecker from bed this morning

~breakfast plans were altered in an attempt to allow Goosey to sleep later.  I ended up serving leftover chicken dippers and acorn squash with maple syrup (the later having been cooked in the crockpot overnight).

He says, “look with my tape measure, I can hang from the ceiling!”

~the neighbor’s cat, a frequent visitor here and much beloved, especially by the small fry, had an unfortunate run in with a porcupine this morning.  We suspect it was the rather portly fellow that sometimes comes out to nibble things, around the edges of our yard at dusk.  Iain and Elijah discovered her in her rather prickly state and I sent them at once to fetch the neighbor.  They helped get her home and stayed for the de-quilling.  And then a bit longer still to visit with the frogs in the pond.  All is well with her now.  She came back to play just after.  And that was our excitement for the day.

~I got a roast and golden beets into the crockpot early on in the day so that I could easily feed dinner to different people at different times again tonight.

~We’re trying to identify this skull we found in the woods, but I keep forgetting to pick up some more books at the library to help us out.

~The weather was very fickle today, one minute being bright and sunny and the next threatening rain.  We hit a clear patch and decided to high-tail it to the woods to try to identify wildflowers, but before I could quite get everything ready to go, the sky opened up and it started raining, snowing and sleeting all at the same time.  All three boys were playing baseball in the yard at the time, waiting for me to finish up a few things.  Galen looked up and said, “I think it might be time to roll out the tarp!” (a reference to how they would go about protecting the field for a major league game)

~We settled for guide books by our own fireside instead.~mid-morning snack: apple and collard smoothie

~Elijah is growing cacti from seed, he has 8 of them so far.  Iain is attempting to grow pitcher plants.  They have been planted in a pot in the refrigerator for the last 5 weeks.  In another week he can take them out, then they might germinate in 1-3 months.

~lunch: catfish with leftover asparagus soup and kale salad

fetching wood

~The older ones are off even earlier today.  It’s choir day and they and rehearsing for their last concert of the year.  My parents a making a special trip up to see this one and everyone is excited.

~Another night of just me and the littles.  There are a lot of nights like this at this time of year, but it’s a short period.  Starting next week there will be baseball games and we’ll all be going out several nights a week!

~We three home bodies headed out to the garden to try to prepare some space for more cold weather veggies.  Until we were forced back in by a heavy hail shower.  Funny how the forecast was for little to no precipitation today!

~Galen has been looking for more challenging “work” lately.  A bit of woodworking together tonight.  We’ve started building a peg loom.

~After dinner II, which took place at a reasonable time for once, the older ones went to their bed’s to read and Steve and I curled up to watch an episode of Mad Men on Netflix.

~I’m really not sure how much longer I’ll be able to resist making myself a circle skirt.

~I’m almost done the second sleeve on Elijah’s birthday sweater!


Week in the Life, Monday


~rain, blessed rain!  Rolling off the roof this morning and more importantly, sinking deep into our gardens.

~The house smells good after a night of broth bubbling on the stove and yams cooking in the crock pot.

~an extra little person showed up in my bed this morning, looking to be cuddled.  Then they plotted together and there was a conspiracy to get me to read.  Which I did, one book each; “Little Baa” and “Mother Goose”, the later turning into a sing along.

Little Rosebud’s favorite illustration

~Galen has taken to slipping my wedding ring off while I cuddle him and putting it on his own finger.  Then he asks me to tell him about it.  I show him the circle as well as the continuous Celtic knot pattern.  We look for a beginning and an end and never find one of course.  I tell him that it’s just like my love for Daddy with no beginning and no end.

~The other two get up early and read to themselves for an hour or two every morning.

~Iain built a fire.

~He  lost two teeth on Saturday and has two more loose.  Galen thinks he has a loose tooth (it would be his first).  He often asks if I can see it wiggle.  I can’t really, but I’m certainly not going to tell him that!  “hmm, I think maybe I might see something…”

~Quiddler with the big boys over a breakfast of yams, sausages, sauerkraut and green tea.

~Chores as usual

Màiri Rose with the nasturtium she’s growing.  She was able to taste a leaf for the first time today.  It’s a climbing variety and growing so fast that Galen is convinced he’ll be able to climb it like Jack and the Bean Stalk.

~Baseball fever is alive and well.  We’ve been doing their team’s warm up exercises in the morning before school work.

~outdoor play

~Making sauerkraut this morning as an activity with the little ones.  Really it’s an all morning affair, one that lead right into making lunch, followed by most of the dinner prep, since I know we’ll be working when Steve gets home tonight.  It takes a whole lot of peeling and chopping to fill that big crock.  We usually get around 2 gallons of kraut once it has all fermented down.  We never really make the same one twice.  Today’s is green cabbage, onion, garlic, turnip, radish and ginger.  I got a new little gadget that you crank to julienne things.  The little ones love making (and tasting) little turnip and radish strands with it.

Iain’s Nature Journal Entry:

Date: 4/23/12     Time: 11:42   Location: home   Weather: cloudy, 48 degrees

*Nothing is coming up in the garden yet.

* It is raining today.

*The woods are turning very green.

*My cherry tree is in bloom.

*Galen and Màiri’s peach trees are starting to bloom.

*There are a lot of birds singing today.

~Elijah’s entry by contrast started with, “My fruit tree is the only fruit tree that does not have any flowers on it.”

~Galen the faithful forager went out and gathered a whole bunch of dandelion greens, even though I said I didn’t have time to prepare them today.

~A game of skippo with Galen while the big boys do their math work.  The Wee Girl likes to play with the discard piles, sorting and arranging them.

~Lunch: kale salad with baby basil, pear chunks and maple-blueberry vinaigrette

~Iain and Elijah finished up the map of our property that they started working on together last week.

~the little ones did some coloring of their own.

~One of the big ones told Rosebud that what they were doing was more important because they were working, while she was just playing.  I scolded him and told him that play is the work of little ones and very important.  At which point she announced, with a rather superior tone, “I’m doing baby work!”

~Steve and I put up just under 150′ of fence around the garden.

~ dinner was asparagus soup with Jerusalem artichokes and fresh thyme from the garden.  It was lovely to come in to after working in the cold and damp.

~Steve is reading Peter Pan to Galen at bedtime.


Renovation Journal 4/18-4/22

4/18- The goal for today is to move this heater:

that we didn’t even want (it was an FHA requirement, and lucky for us, it’s resemblance to a hand drier puts one in mind of a public restroom, which was obviously just what we were going for) to this wall:

since it turns out the first wall is the only one that bunk beds fit on without obscuring access to doors or windows.

I’m ready for pretty progress.  I’m sick of accomplishments that look like this:

I’m also cranky because this is the one and only room that I thought I was completely done painting.  bleh.

4/19- Fixed our broken bed today.  I wish all of our stuff would just stop breaking already so we can spend our time working on the house!

4/20- Went out to start digging up the back garden and ended up taking down the entire fence around it.  Which I had no intention of doing this year, but just spending some time inside made it clear that it was necessary.  It was broken in many, many places with rusty, pointy bits sticking out every which way.  A couple of hours later two deer wandered into the yard.  I’m glad I didn’t get around to putting any seedlings in the ground!

Before from afar:

before, up close:

This one was taken the next morning:

4/21- Did I mention I accidentally took down the arbor too?  I didn’t really mean to.  It just kind of came down of it’s own accord.  We started building a new arbor today.  Put in a few fence posts too.  I’m pretty sure that I found the rock that the entire universe rests on.  Did I mention that we decided to make the garden bigger too?  Right.  We’re doing that too now.  Hence the new fence posts.

In progress:

Steve sanded the boys’ floor.

4/22- While Steve was up putting the finish on Iain and Elijah’s floor, I took advantage of the gray and chilly, but bug free day to put in more fence posts.  I got the last two in just as the rain started.

freshly sanded:

finishing in progress:

I think it’s going to be beautiful!

It took all day, but the floor is officially finished!  Too late for photos though.  Next up will be trim.

This was my quick catch up post because I am going to try to participate in Week in the Life 2012We are so busy and I am so, so tired at the end of each and every day, that I really don’t know if I’ll be able to keep up, but I would like to try.  You can see my posts from last year’s Week in the Life starting here.  By the way, that house from day three?  The one near the pond with the rope swing?  That’s this house!  That’s how long it took us to actually get in here!


Renovation Journal: 4/5 – 4/16

4/5- I don’t exactly know what has happened in the last several days since I stopped keeping track.  I know that many people were sick off and on.  I know there was a lot of fussing with seedlings; transplanting the old and starting new.  I know I got a second and final coat of paint on the bathroom ceiling and painted the hall closet.  I know that I’ve been moving slow.  I know that the new vent in the bathroom has been installed (mostly, only it’s also kind of not).  I know that the new dishwasher is now working and it actually washes dishes, which is completely novel to me and very exciting.

4/6- We finished installing the flooring in Iain and Elijah’s room today! (of course it still needs to be sanded and finished and the baseboards have to be painted and re-installed, but still…)

4/9- Started work in earnest on the floor in Galen and Mairi’s room.

4/10- Started work on the orchard.  Or at least the area that I insist on calling the orchard! In addition to the lilac hedge I planted a couple of weeks ago, there are now two peach tress, two high bush blueberries, and a pie cherry.

4/13- I purposely planned a light teaching day for myself so that I could get some time to work on flooring.  So while the older kids plugged away independently at their map project and the little ones colored and played, I put down boards.  Just over halfway done by end of day!

4/14- I’m thinking about instituting a monthly annoyance day.  A day set aside to fix all of the stupid little things that we never get around to.  This would have been that day.  Things like putting a new screw in so that the dresser drawer closes properly, finally figuring out how to get the vent cover back on the refrigerator, fixing the latch on the basement door so that it actually stays closed and so forth.  Most importantly: finally cutting open the floor and running the hose so that the bathroom vent, that looks all pretty and installed in the bathroom, actually vents outside like it’s supposed to.

4/15- We put a couple more floorboards in, but our heart wasn’t in it.

4/16- None of the walls in the house are truly square.  It’s kind of hilarious.


Around the Garden ~ early spring

the first bloom of the season in our yard

I have window sills full of potential.  And floors and counters and tables.  There are seedlings everywhere.  I got completely ahead of myself with the warm weather veggies and now I have no idea what I’m going to do with this big, thriving plants that can’t actually go in the ground for another two months yet!

I’m all set with starts, but less prepared for actually putting things in the ground.  There is just literally too much ground to cover.  There is so much space that needs cultivating and so much we (I) want to accomplish in this one short season.  There are all the things that we want to do because it’s a new to us space, but also we have made the difficult decision, after 10 years, to not return to our beloved CSA.  As wonderful as our experience there has been, and as dear to us all as that community is, it’s very far away now.  We talked about it and came to the conclusion that what we really need is more time all together as a family, without anywhere that we need to go, then spending one of the only days we have to be all together, running all over creation doing errands (the CSA being close to town means that it only makes sense to do all of the grocery shopping, etc, at the same time).  So instead we’ve decided to use the money that would have gone into our share to try to grow as much as we can at home.

So far this time together in the garden thing is not really working out.  We are so busy, after work and on the weekends, that poor Steve never seems to get any time out there.  Which is sad for us both as we’ve always enjoyed working side by side to create our gardens.  Things will get easier as we cross things off of our house work list and our schedule lets up considerably in June.  For now the garden is my domain.  With lots of little helpers eager to get their own small plots in order.

We are out there in the afternoons, after school work, nearly every day.

Oh, it is good to be surrounded by green growing things and have a garden of my very own to putter about in again!


Renovation Journal, 3/26-4/1

3/26- More work in the garden today, through softly falling snow.  Among other things, I planted 3 hydrangeas and a small lilac hedge.  There are still perennials left, but I’m not going to fuss about them.  All of the plants that I’m really attached to are in the ground.  Let the cold come.  I’ll build a big fire, crack all the windows and paint.

3/27- We’ve started installing the floor.  It’s going to be a slow process.

3/28-I think the painting excitement has officially worn off.  A box of paint came last week and I still haven’t even opened it.  A month ago I would have had the can opened and a splotch of paint up on the wall approximately 10 minutes after it’s arrival.

(and the award for least flattering picture ever goes to…)

3/29- The flooring is going exceptionally well.  Steve and I can accomplish a lot in a short time, working together with few distractions.  On the days when it’s just me, working with small children under foot, things go slower.  But it moves forward, at least a bit, everyday.

3/30- after shorting out the electric in the kitchen twice, the dishwasher broke today.

3/31- Steve and I woke up feeling awful, along with several under-the-weather kids.  Decided to lay low and cancel our plans.  By the end of the day there was a hole in the bathroom ceiling, a trash bag full of broken vent pieces, a hole in the attic floor, a partially uninstalled old dishwasher and a box full of new dishwasher in the hall.  Standing in the kitchen, channel-lock pliers still in hand, I asked Steve if he thinks these kinds of things happen to other people.  He thinks so.  I’m not so sure.

I present to you, the gallery of holes:

Someday soon (it’s best to remember that “soon” is an extremely subjective term!) there will be pictures of pretty things, talk about paint colors, freshly sewn curtains, pictures hanging on the walls.  Right now?  There are holes.  Holes in ceilings, holes in floors, holes in walls.  Above is the bathroom ceiling.  Below is the attic floor, over the bathroom ceiling.

And this one?  Well remember how we decided to have some wiring run now so that we wouldn’t have to tear open walls?  See how well that worked out?

New discovery!  The wiring was not run by a professional and therefore nothing is where you would expect to be.  And more relevant to the photo above, things are where you wouldn’t expect them to be and sometimes get inadvertently drilled into.  Which is what earned up the above holes in the dinning room wall.

4/1- installed the new dishwasher today, including scraping off and cleaning out the dead mouse we found behind the old one.  de-light-ful!  It doesn’t turn on either.  Apparently the appliance currently on the front lawn being rained and snowed on wasn’t the problem so much as the electric in that area of the house.  right.  It was in sad shape anyway and we did want to replace it, just not right now if we could have helped it!


Renovation Journal: Getting Sidetracked

3/23- Today we moved all of the flooring boards again. Twice. Then cut two more holes in the sub floor, one big and one small. The Wee Girl and I planted spinach and my Middlest Boy and I worked for about and hour by star and porch light at clearing more garden space.

We’ve been sidetracked again. This is the way that it always seems to go. Isn’t it amazing how interrelated the things within a house are? Much like in a family I think. If one person is suffering then the others will feel it in some way. An individual person can’t be altered without affecting others and an individual project can’t be undertaken without consideration for other projects. We started to paint, which lead to thoughts about the baseboards and their relation to the flooring, which lead to shifting our focus to flooring, which lead to considering what we should do before the floors go in. Like, for example, installing overhead lighting on the first floor. It’s much easier now just prying up some plywood and dropping them down from above then opening up the walls after the fact. Oh and those holes in the floor? One of them needed to be right under that nicely stacked pile of floor boards, hence the moving. But we are all ready now for the electricians to come next week.

I’ve been sidetracked as well by the weather, it’s kept me from progressing with my bathroom goals. This unseasonably warm weather has all of my perennials thinking it’s time to get growing in earnest. They are all squished together in pots (in some cases there are tubers and roots stacked on top of each other!) that get easily dried out in the sun. They need to be in the ground, but getting them in the ground means creating gardens from sod. And so I go out to dig instead of staying in to paint.


complete with a bit of snow and a sled

On Friday afternoon the kids and I went out and tore up the sod, double-dug an approximately 14′ x 9′ plot and planted 20 shrubs and perennials.

at work


some of us anyway!

and “after”, only it’s not really after because this is just a start!

I have big plans for this area and this is just a little start, but it’s a start! Steve got home very late, just as a call came in from the septic guy that he could make it out Monday morning (yes, we finally did make that call!). Since our weekend was already booked, he went out to do his own share of digging, while I served banana splits on the porch for dinner, twenty minutes after bedtime. Only as it turns out, we weren’t exactly sure where the septic tank was, exactly. I joined in with the digging after coconut ice-cream, closely followed by Boy One and Boy Two. Let’s just say that a good portion of the soil in our back yard is *very well* aerated now. Which made me think that it’s been a long time since I’ve read any Chris Bohjalian (pick up Idyll Banter: Weekly Excursions to a Very Small Town and you’ll understand the connection). I think that’s something I shall have to remedy.

Update: the septic guy arrived Monday morning and announced that he had just pumped that tank a couple of months ago.  Presumably *after* our inspection.  doh!


Renovation Journal

1: to restore to a former better state (as by cleaning, repairing, or rebuilding)
2: to restore to life, vigor, or activity

3/16- I think I may have to tie Steve down to get him to wait the full 1-2 weeks for the boards to acclimate before we start installing the floor. Air quality guy came and gave us a huge long list of suggested improvements. T’was a wee bit over whelming. But on the whole he had good things to say about the space.

Helping to monitor the pressure gauge on the Spore Trap, because that’s just good old-fashioned family fun…

3/17-Decided that the closet in the little kids room could use a second coat of paint. Went to the old house to pack up the last two closets, get the odds and ends out of the basement, clean the entire place from top to bottom, patch all the nails holes, etc, etc, etc. Not to mention the nearly 2 hour round trip. Exhausting. Moving 3 times, with 4 kids, in 2.5 years is *too much*! One more work visit and we should be done with that place forever. Then we’ll just be home, home, home and home is worth it!

3/18- Fixed the leaking washing machine today. Not exactly a remodeling project, but very much a home improvement one. And one that could well save us remodeling in the future. I told Steve that he should take a picture of me all getting into things in the washer with the cover off because it would make me look all hard-core and self sufficient, but evidently he wasn’t in the mood to humor me. In truth it was actually pretty easy. Thank goodness there are youtube videos about almost everything.

3/19- I’m on a mission this week to get one bathroom in decent working order. I’d like a place to put towels, no roller pans in the bathtub, and not to have a box full of toiletries on the back of the toilet that everyone keeps knocking off. So far it’s always gone in the right direction, but you know it’s just a matter of time.

Upstairs bath inspiration board in progress.

3/19- later in the day report- I’m having one of those days.

I present to you, exhibit A:We call this one, “Screen, Out on the Roof, Well out of Reach”

Exhibit B:also known as “Wet Paint Brush on the Only Finished Floor”

 3/19-still later that same day- I’m contemplating the big picture window over the tub. I wish to frame and soften it without obscuring the view. So far all of the options I’ve thought of are either too cutesy or too formal.

Got the first coat of paint on the ceiling.

3/20- We all woke up this morning to a loudly ringing phone. All except for Steve whose super hero powers allow him to wake and leave the house before any other reasonable creature, apart from bats, are stirring. So of course my first coherent thought (that would be the one after “whatha?? vleckdamnada?!?!?”), was that something had happened to him on his way into work. Wide awake and adrenaline pumping now, I bound for the phone. And it’s…an electrician. Right-o. We’re getting some quotes on a bit of electrical work. Steve puts his foot down at DIY wiring. He’ll hook up light fixtures and things, but anything beyond that falls under his, “things that could get us electrocuted or inadvertently burn down the house” clause. Now, I was taught not to call people before 9, 10 if you can manage, to be polite because you never know the kind of hours that others keep. But really there should be some kind of national law against calling strangers before 7 outside of an emergency situation, especially when they have four early rising children who were actually, *for once*, resting peacefully and letting their tired, oh so tired, mama do the same. And would it be alright if they came by this morning to get together that quote, say in just under an hour? The thing about living in the boonies is, contractors do not want to come out to you. It doesn’t matter what you are paying them, they do not want to come. You have to be very accommodating when they are actually willing to show up. So I very quietly take a deep breath and put on my best smiling voice and say, “of course, no problem. We’ll see you then!” Ever-so-Donna Reed-cheerfully before hanging up and running around shouting, “quick everyone get up and get dressed, we’ve got to get this house in order right now!”

Progress for today? We put a hole in the floor. And it’s a good thing because it’s been a while since I had sawdust in my bra. It strange the things I get to call progress these days.