Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Thank god for family!

Whew! just coming off of a LOong long weekend of home projects! Whenever my parents come to visit, we always have to have activites planned for some reason- by the time they get here we've usually got a full weekend planned! They're so experienced with house stuff too, which also makes it easy to schedule a million little fixer-uppers to do!

We worked on the yard this weekend- we put mulch on the front beds and then we edged-out a border for what we want the backyard "pit of despair" to look like. We have an area to the right of the garage that slopes downward and is covered in complete shade by a huge Norwegin Maple tree. Right now not much is growing there but my hope is to get some shade and drought-tolerant ground cover in there that is native to MI!

We also weeded and clear some additional beds in the back that were looking a bit scary!They were pretty prairie-like, which is cool, expect that area in going to be part of my edible gardens now! Here's a before:

Once we clear the garden, we smothered it, using about 8 sheets of newspaper, and then we put some half-composted leaves on top. I'm going to leave that mixture on there until the spring, and hopefully the garden will be all awesome and weed-free by then! My aunt and uncle own a farm, and they gave me some llama poop to use as compost/manure- I hear it really helps plants grow strong!

My dad also helped us sand down a few things that needed sanding, like our dining room table, and that cool canning cabinet I'm going to be using to hold all the food I put up for the winter!

Painting is coming along well. Here's what we have to finish up still:

  • finish the Basement Bijou Red (Behr) and Radiant Sun (FreshAire)
  • paint the bathrooms (1 upstairs, 1 downstairs) Treasured Jade (FreshAire) and Radiant Sun (FreshAire)
  • paint the hallways Radiant Sun (FreshAire)
  • paint the Mudroom Radiant Sun

I think I'm just going to wait and clear the beds for the Raised-bed gardens in the spring. I don't get the paper so I don't have any newspaper to smother the grass with anyway- so I guess I'll just dig it up in the spring?

Other than that, I have apples left to can sometime this week, and I'm thinking applesauce, applesauce, applesauce!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Urban Homesteading

Ashes sent me a wiki entry on Homesteading-

"Currently the term 'homesteading'[1] applies to anyone who is a limb of the back-to-the-land movement and who chooses to live a sustainable, self-sufficient lifestyle. While land is no longer freely available in most areas of the world, homesteading remains as a way of life. A new movement, called 'urban homesteading', can be viewed as a simple living lifestyle, incorporating small-scale agriculture, sustainable and permaculture gardening, and home food production and storage into suburban or city living."

I think this is roughly my goal. I'd like to produce some of my own food, turn most of my yard into either a) gardening space for growing food or b) native plant areas that mimic (somewhat) what plants might naturally grow here. I also am trying to eat "seasonally" or with seasons in mind. Of course, that's not as easy as it sounds. It doesn't even sound easy! But here's some of the things I've been working on:
  • Trying to choose previously owned, sustainably-made or re-purposed furniture whenever possible. All that we bought new (furniture-wise) for this house was our bed frame and that was made by company that re-plants a tree for each one it uses, and uses parts of Rubber Trees that are going to be disposed of!
  • Shopping at the farmer's market, Ypsilanti Food Co-op, or Whole Foods/Trader Joe's. That's where I get 90% of our groceries
  • Canning and preserving food that is in-season now for the winter, when it will be unavailable
  • Had my own community garden plot this year!
  • I try to support local businesses whenever possible, whether its buying furniture, buying food, buying art, etc.
  • Hope to transform my yard and leave only about 20% grass. The rest will be raised-bed gardens and native plant areas!
  • 90% of the household products I buy (toilet-paper, cleaners, etc) are organic or non-toxic
  • Used No-VOC paint (FreshAire from Home Depot) on most of the new rooms we painted!
In general, I try run everything I buy by this test: Is it either local or environmentally friendly (it's hard to find both!)?

Anyway that was a rant! Just meant to post some pictures of our latest canning adventure: Butternut Squash soup, Apple and Ginger Marmalade, and Apple butter! Yum!

Picture update

Wanted to post finished pictures of the kitchen and dining room, complete with stuff in them :)

Here is Mike, (he's always posing..) in the kitchen!

Here is the fabulous dining room table and chairs, which needs to be sanded down and re-stained... boooo. but it looks nice from far away! We added that bamboo shade to the windows too and I really like it! Also put the plants back on the built-in buffet.

Things are progressing! :)

Office almost finished! Woohoo!

So yesterday we blocked out the whole day and used it to clear out, clean, tape, paint, and then decorate the office! This was a project a long time coming, so we were glad to get it over with! We ended up painting half of the walls Radiant Sun and half of the walls Northern Pear Tree (might look familiar from the dining room...)

I think it turned out great- The green really compliments our futon! We're thinking about taking off the closet door and making that built-in bookshelf nook instead- I think that would be awesome!

Here are pictures!

Mike posing, ready to go :)

Halfway through...

Finished office!!

Desk is a little big, but that's ok..

Friday, September 18, 2009

Dining room done! Planning gardens :)

Finished painting the dining room yesterday!! Took us a few days because we kept falling asleep at like 10pm instead of painting :)

But we got it done! Here's some pics on the left:

I think the color (Northern Pear Tree, FreshAire paint) really highlights the woodwork that we really like! When we put on the first coat, I had paint buyer's remorse, haha, which I always seem to have after the first coat of paint, that "this is pretty gree-eeennn!" feeling. However, I think it looks pretty awesome. What can I say? We have a colorful house now!

Our goal this week was to get the office and the dining room painted. So hopefully we can knock out the office on Saturday or Sunday. I am really tired of taping already. If I never had to see that blue painters tape again.. I would be a happy girl.

Looks like I won't be too happy any time soon haha!

I had a really cool guy come over from the Michigan Native Plant Producers Association name Greg. His business is called the Native Plant Nursery, LLC in Ann Arbor. He came over and gave me some ideas about how to incorperate native plants into our front and back yards, and what native plants might go best where, since I am a gardening virgin.

I am so excited to use some of his ideas. I ordered a book from Amazon called, "Landscaping with Native Plants of Michigan", by Lynn M. Steiner, and that just got to my house a few days ago. That has been a great resource because it has pictures of some of the plants that Greg recommended! I think I'm going to try to get all the beds ready for ...composting or biodegrading or something? I don't know what the word is, but I am trying to replace some of the grass in my lawn with native plant beds, and then I'm going to use Ashley's raised-bed expertise to make one or two more beds for my fruits and veggies. I'd really like to grow a lot of my own produce!

Here's a list of some of the things I'd like to plant in the edible gardens:

Roma tomatoes
Raspberry bushes
Blueberry bushes

Here are some of the plants I'm thinking about for the non-edible gardens:

Flower(ish) beds-
some kind of Phlox
Wild Geranium
Woodland Sunflower
Coral Bells
Beebalm (Wild Bergamot)
Foxglove Beardtongue
Little Bluestem
Indian Grass

Groundcover for the "pit of despair" next to the garage-
Creeping strawberry bush/Wild strawberry maybe
Flowering spurge
Black-eyed Susan
Pennsylvania sedge
Wild Ginger
Virgina creeper

I'm so excited!

All this planning has tired out the kitties- :)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Kitchen and Mudroom remodel

Kitchen and mudroom tile is finished! Here is a before pic:

We ended up being able to use the $20 tile that my mom gave us (the yellowish one thats in the mudroom), and then we just picked what we thought was a complementary beigey tile for the kitchen. Jim (Mike's uncle who did all the work!) thought we were short a box of yellow in the mudroom, which is good because he started to think about how he could sub in a few of the beigey tiles and came up with this pattern- which we loved! So even though we found the missing
box o' tiles, we decided to have this pattern any way,
to help "connect" the two rooms.

We still need to seal the floor... I hope that will be
happening today. When I say that, I mean I hope i have the energy to do that today.

Overall I really love the tile that Jim put in.
He did a great job! Here are some after pics:

If you live in the Southeastern
Michigan region and you are looking for someone to help out with home projects, Jim Jakubowski is a great doer of stuff!

see info-
Next project- Paint the kitchen & mudroom!
We decided to go with a yellowy color called... something Daffodil. Since we are using No/low VOC paint, our color options were a little limited. We really liked most of the FreshAire paint colors from Home Depot, so we decided to go with that line of paint. I might paint the mudroom first, because a) it will allow me to feel like I am accomplishing something and b) then if I do not love love love the yellow, it will not have to go in the kitchen.

I did some work outside today too. Could not figure out how to get the lawnmower going but I DID get the weedwacker going! :) So I did some driveway trimming and wacked some of the weeds
on the front walk. Looks marginally better- how satisfying!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

running on empty

Well we are all moved into our new place! I suprisingly remembered to take a few before and after photos, so I could remember what the house looked like before we improved it/made it worse :)

So far, since August 19th, we have done these improvements:

  • Cleaned the whole house
  • Painted Sara's room
  • Painted our bedroom
  • Painted the living room
  • Cleared and re-planted the front garden beds
  • Cleared out the back garden area
  • Trimmed the front trees
  • Trimmed the apple and maple trees in the back
  • Cleaned out the gutters on the roof, and used the compost for the front gardens
  • Ripped up linoleum in the kitchen and mudroom
  • Tiled the kitchen and mudroom
  • Got TV and internet installed

Next up for the month of September are:

  • Paint the office
  • Paint the dining room
  • Paint the kitchen
  • Paint the mudroom
  • Set up the office
  • Buy a new water heater
  • Set up composter
  • Sand down dining room table and re-finish
  • Set up dining room

That's not too bad.. right???

There are two kitties that can't WAIT to run around in the basement and the kitchen! Every time I open the dining room doors (where the "construction" is happening) the babes try to squeeze through like crazycats!

I'm finding out that homeownership is a full time job.