Category Archives: building

father’s day

We built a fire pit.

It’s quite large.

For the Daddy:

Top Ten Reasons that You are Loved

by Galen

1) he drives us places
2) he works so hard for us
3) he hugs us lots
4) he plays lots of games with me
5) and reads lots of stories
6) because he helped make me
7) and he loves me a ton
8) and he takes so good care of me
9) he can be funny
10) and he likes planting with me


A little home improvement series for you…

Many changes happening here at the moment.  This is Steve’s current project.  When you live in an area where the warm season is short and very buggy, a screened in porch is a wonderful asset.  It’s one of the things that we really liked about this house when we first looked at it.  It’s a lovely feature, but in bad shape.  All of the paint is peeling.  All, all (!) of the screens have holes.  Many of them are just missing, as cleverly illustrated by our neighbor’s cat.  Some of the frames were somewhat intact.  Some were just completely missing, the pieces of some were gathered off of the lawn below.  All of the pictures here, with the exception of the last one, are from autumn, when we first went out to really assess what needed doing.  This is a big project.  There are around 30 screens that need refinishing, rebuilding or to be built from scratch.  I’m in charge of picking paint colors, subject to his approval and taping things off.  Otherwise this one has been pretty much all on him.


our garden gate

I wanted the entrance way into a storybook garden.  It’s not perfect and it’s not done.  I’ve been struggling with perfectionist tendencies.  I keep putting off posting about things until they are “completely done”.  Only nothing ever seems to get completely done.  For one thing, projects and spaces are always evolving and for another, we’re just too darn busy!  Which means that we have to prioritize.  Which means that we almost always move on to something more important before all of the little details get taken care of.  I admit it.  I’m jealous of those people who can start a project and follow through down to the very last detail.  Sometimes I get down on myself feeling like it’s a lack of discipline or something that keeps us from never really finishing.  But the fact is, that’s not the case at all.  We’re just spread too thin, with too many commitments and responsibilities to work that way.  Like for this project I know that we have yet to install a handle or latch because it was more important that money go elsewhere.  I never finished setting the stones because there are only so many hours in the day, and the fall vegetable garden needed planting, if we were going to be able to harvest in time.  The gardens out front weren’t fixed up and the planters that I’ve dreamed up still remain in dream land because the strawberries needed weeding and side dressing, we had to build a new bed for the cantaloupes and dozens or hundreds of other little things that beat out “cleaning up and adding to the old flower beds” on my to-do list on any given day.  So those moments, here and there, where I grabbed a few weeds, were as far as I got.  But really now, how silly of me to dismiss this beautiful spot, because it’s not quite done yet?  We worked very hard, designing and building this gate and arbor.  And it’s lovely.  It makes me smile every time I enter the garden, even all unfinished as it is.

The details…

The design was our own.  The arbor was finished with Vermont Natural Coatings Polywhey Exterior Finish in ‘Acorn Brown‘.  The gate was finished with the same product in ‘Barn Red‘.


adventures in remodeling (a.k.a. paint and paint again)

This morning Iain and I spent 15 minutes looking for my mixing bowl so I could make breakfast before Elijah pointed out that I brought lunch to the new house in it over the weekend.  These days it doesn’t matter what house I’m in, whatever I need is invariably at the other one.

We’re coming off of a long weekend of work and gearing up for yet another one.  We’re all pretty beat.  It got to the point recently where I was prying a baseboard off the wall, noticed blood staining said wall, figured it was probably mine, but was too tired to tell where it was coming from, or to care.  (I’m perfectly fine, I must have cut my finger on something at some point without noticing)

We’re encountering all the usual remodeling successes and mishaps, in our own original way.  Though some days it seems to lean more towards the latter.

Going two weeks back, I spent the weekend painting all of the trim boards in all of the bedrooms.  As I was on the floor painstakingly touching up the baseboard in the boys room, after we had finally finished with the walls, I started to think.  You see all of the carpeting in the second floor has been torn out, nasty, toxic stuff that it is.  The plan was to put in wood flooring sometime in the foreseeable, but not immediate future.  So two full days into trim painting it finally dawns on me that we’re going to want to rip off the baseboards before we install the floors.  duh.  And goodness knows we’ll probably scratch up our nice, freshly painted walls in the process.  right.  Clearly there will be some deconstruction followed by more painting in my future.  And those floors are coming sooner, rather then later.

I don’t mind painting really.  Though this is my first experience with this kind of marathon painting where we are trying to paint several rooms at once in a short period of time, and I can see where that could start to wear a person down.  But in general I don’t mind it, so long as I am using a paint that doesn’t make me feel ill.  I don’t like painting ceilings.  I’m not built for it.  Steve says things like, “oh, we could bang this ceiling out in half an hour.”  No, you and your long arms could.  I would spend at least that long just moving the ladder around.  And I hate washing brushes.

I don’t mind washing dishes.  I kind of like washing laundry (have you heard that they have these newfangled machines that basically do the work for you?  What’s not to like about that?!?).  I hate washing brushes.  If someone out there has some fabulous, chemical free way of getting paint off of rollers and brushes, I’m all ears.  Because scolding hot water, breaking my nails trying to scrape the bits of paint and wearing the skin off my hands is really not my idea of a good time.  I’m thinking there must be a system or method I’m unaware of.  I used to hate washing dishes too until I discovered a system that works for me and now it doesn’t bother me in the least.

This weekend I painted our bedroom.  I’m horrible at picking paint colors.  I know exactly what I want in my head and have no earthly clue how to make that translate to paint on a wall.  I’m further impaired at the moment by my paint of choice being sold on-line and not actually having samples to fool with.  I ordered a color and thought I would end up mixing it with another color that I already had to get the shade I was looking for.  The paint came and we liked it.  I put it on the wall and we liked it.  It dried and became much darker and I still liked it, but it really wasn’t what I was going for.  And yet I kept painting.  Steve popped in to ask how things where going.  I told him that it was kind of dark, and I wasn’t sure that it was the color I wanted.  He, reasonably enough, asked why I was continuing to paint.  I had no real good answer to that, other then that I truly did like the color and I was having an internal debate about whether or not I could let my original vision for the room go.  My inclination for most of the day being that I could, or at least should.  I was already so far.  There were so many other things to move on to.  And then sometime in the middle of the night, while everyone else was sleeping and there was only maybe a third of the ceiling left, I decided the I didn’t want to let that vision go, so I put my paint and rollers away and the next morning I mixed up a new batch of paint and started all over again.  As penance for my indecisiveness, I now have to paint the ceiling again and wash brushes twice as many times.  All I can say is this better turn out well!

Lest you think that things are all going poorly, we do have one room done, and we all love it.  Two more are quite close.  And I got to order fruit trees today, which makes everything in life seem swell.


the most beautiful sewing table

Step one in the making of a functional studio:

Built for me by my husband, with help from my two eldest sons.  It’s the Narrow Farmhouse Table by Ana White.  They modified the plans slightly by not tapering the legs and shortening the table by two feet to fit in our space.  The legs were painted with Olde Century Colors in ‘Candlelight’.  The top was stained with General Finishes Wood Stain in ‘Georgian Cherry’ and finished with a couple of coats of General Finishes Gel Topcoat.

It’s stunning.  I can’t even tell you how very much I love it.  An entire table, devoted to sewing, just for me?  I feels like an almost unfathomable luxury.  A place where my sewing machine can stay set up all the time?  I’ve never had such a thing.  The ability to just sit down and sew, with no set up, no clearing away of school things or other people’s work, no digging out the machine and cord, looking for an outlet and getting everything in order.  Everything will be in order.  Always!

The warm creamy white and dark red-brown wood are so lovely together.

And it’s finished just in time for holiday crafting too!


for the fair

Quite a bit to share here today!  You should have seen us trying to get all of the labels matched up with the right projects so they could be displayed.  It was quite the scene!  So this is going to be a long one.  Are you ready?

Moving from youngest to oldest…


Galen submitted two potholders and took 3rd prize in “General Yarn Craft” with his big ball of finger knitting.

finger knitting

Do you see him in the background there lounging, and lazily finger knitting?  Love it.

hanging knitting

What constitutes a BIG ball of finger knitting?  In this case 189.5′, as of the last time we measured it.  That’s some of it above on the drying rack airing out after being run through the dewy grass to measure it.  We’ve promised to drape it back and forth across the living-room ceiling at Christmas time.

The potholder loom is enjoying  a renaissance right now.  I originally talked about it here.  With these projects he realized that he can now do it all by himself and it’s not odd for him to make two a day.  He’s getting a head start on his holiday crafting and stockpiling them to give as gifts.  His designs are also growing more creative and interesting.  It’s so much fun to watch him progress.


Elijah took 2nd place with his bird feeder.

bird feeder

He built it out of red oak, finished with beeswax and it’s heavy. Very, very solid indeed.  He adapted some plans found here.

elijah's quilt

His doll quilt, entirely hand-pieced and quilted, took 3rd place.  It was much smaller then the 1st and 2nd place winners, and they were both examples of fancy machine quilting.  Having quilted both ways myself, at some point or another, I have to say, I think more work went into his quilt, even though it was smaller and simpler.

He actually start the center patchwork part when he was around 5, while I was working on the quilt that was to be his, but turned out to be Galen’s.  He hadn’t worked on it in probably 3 years, but I’ve been encouraging everyone to reach down to the very bottom of their work bags and start finishing things up.


He really got into making this and I think it turned out beautifully.  Most of the fabrics are scraps from the larger quilt that I mentioned above.  The backing came from one of Steve’s old work shirts.  It’s waiting to be gifted as a Christmas present to Galen (sshhh!  Don’t tell!)


The tapestry above is actually a project from earlier this year.  Elijah made this for Galen’s birthday, back in February.  I was going to share it when I shared all of his other home-made gifts, but I never did actually get around to that.  (there were some thoroughly lovely things too, so perhaps a very belated post is in order)

The sheep tapestry took 1st prize in the Youth Weaving department.


The pattern came from a Living Craft magazine from sometime last year.  He really took a lot of care with this project, down to hand-felting all of the balls,  carving and polishing the stick and sewing on the beaded details.

framed photos

Both Iain and Elijah entered two photos a piece and each got a ribbon for one.  These are them resting on our mantel right before the fair.  The ducks and the kayak in the darker frames are Elijah’s.  The sky shot and hornet’s nest in the lighter frames are Iain’s.

I thought that I had managed to get a picture of Iain perched high up on a ladder trying to take the hornet’s nest photo, but the batteries in my old camera died before it was fully recorded.  It’s a shame.  He took it very seriously and did a really good job with that one.  It was a lot of fun to watch him work (including stacking up just the right number of blocks to shim and steady my telephoto lens up).

iain at work

Iain’s birdhouse took 3rd place.  The judges praised his workmanship, but pointed out that the opening was too large, making it unsafe for baby birds, since predators could get in.  I’m not sure why that didn’t occur to any of us here.  We’re currently thinking on ways to make it baby safe and in the meantime it’s found a spot atop their dresser.

bird house

He used the instructions from Carpentry for Children by Lester Walker.  It’s built out of poplar and finished with beeswax.

scarf 2

His scarf took second prize in knitting.  It was his idea to make a scarf to go with Màiri’s snowsuit.  At the end of last year I bought her a Hanna Anderson suit on deep, deep clearance to use this year.  Being a Hanna, it’s of course crazy colorful with patterns going every-which-way.  We used that as the inspiration for the pattern here.  I sketched out the motif, based on the one from the suit and he embroidered it onto a square on the scarf, framed with seed stitch.  The heart is actually made of felt, with a pin on the back, so that the scarf can be pinned on.


He covered up all of the work on the back with a sweet cherry print.

This one is going to be a Christmas gift as well.  How nice to have everyone so ahead of the game!


Thanksgivings Past

This Thanksgiving, I found myself thinking a lot about my second ever post; our first Thanksgiving in the Little House. Three years and 604 posts later and we have a different baby at our table this year. While packing over the weekend, I came across the sweater that Iain was wearing in the photo from that post. I pulled it out to try on Galen. It was small on Iain in that picture, that was probably the last time he wore it, and it’s big on Galen now, but a close enough fit that it’s worth keeping out.

So, so much has changed in that time. Too much really.

~photo by Elijah~

Thanksgiving was the first holiday that we shared together in this house and if all goes as planned, it will be the last.

I guess that kind of brings us full circle and I’m not really sure what more to say about that. I don’t think that there will ever be another Thanksgiving that feels so profound as that first one here. I hope and pray that I’ll always appreciate what I have. That I will always be grateful.

As I sit here typing and thinking of all of this, I have a quiet hope, for a quiet and contented life. One where I never forget the joy of wellness, of life and of health, of family and togetherness, but my hope for our future is one of kindly whispered reminders; not the stark, cold reality of nearly loosing everything to really learn it’s worth. A few years of calm and peace. Let us never forget. Let us always know our blessings. Oh, but gently please, gently.


Autumn in the Playroom

These are some snapshots from our play area. It’s not really a room unto itself, but something of a room-sized alcove off of our main living area. It’s completely open to the rest of the main floor, but it also has it’s own defined space and it’s own feel. With all of my blunders in designing this house (and there were many), this room I did right. It works exactly as I envisioned.

It’s a space to be apart, but still near by. It can all spill out into the living area, but at the end of the day there is a specific place to tuck up all the toys, giving the grown-ups room to roam.

I was inspired to bring a bit of fall to the room this week. It was starting to take on a neglected air. I finally reinstated a nature table, albeit a very low key one. What few autumn books I could find are set out in a crate for easy access. I’m considering doing some selective unpacking to reclaim the rest. With pressed leaves in the windows and a row of pumpkins atop the kitchen set, it’s feeling considerably more festive.