The Beauty of Winter Preparations & Chilly Weather

When you live in a climate that can get as cold as Maine, and you live in the countryside, I’ve found a “winter preparation all year long” mentality sets in. We got pretty lucky this year because the fall weather has lingered an abnormally long time, allowing us a little more time to get things done we normally couldn’t, like the retaining wall. It was only today that the first real chill set in. Even yesterday I was running outside barefoot in 45 degree weather to grab things I needed.

Winter preparations sort of go like this:

Come spring, you get the garden in as soon as you can for three reasons. First, you’re sick of root vegetables and tomatoes from the grocery store that don’t actually taste like a fresh tomato. Second, your crop needs to be ready to harvest and get canned before fall. Third, all this needs to be done before you do your second planting of fall crops that can take a little winter.

Then you start assessing your firewood situation – especially if you are like us and use a woodstove to heat your house 99% of the time. No oil. No electric baseboards. If you need it, you start cutting and splitting in March if possible.  In August you preserve as much harvest as you can, or as everything ripens. Vegetables and fruit wait for no man or woman – you need to be there when they need you.

Then, come Fall, you give the cars a complete overhaul because the last thing you want is to break down in a snowstorm. There are other little items here and there that need to be taken care of but in my mind, as of immediate, these are the biggest.

This year however brought on another one, which I hadn’t even thought of. The foundation to our addition. This is a birds eye view photo before it was complete, but you get the idea. Our current stairs are below the wall level. It hasn’t been an issue as the dogs can jump over it, and we can step over it. Come winter though, this won’t be possible.

So on my way to let the dogs out for a run in the back field, I saw the boys putting boards from the stairs to the foundation wall, I had no idea what they were doing.

Almost immediately Andy asked me to come over from the yard and stand on something. He was installing some temporary granite steps and a plankway to actually have access to the front door in the winter.

On a side note: I don’t know why I call it the front door. Both of our doors are on the sides of our house, and our main door is on the other side.

On another side note: I’ve contemplated calling this house the Old Granite House, or The Granite House, or Granite Farm. Primarily because we dug up so much of it in our yard. It was the foundation for the old farm house which sat on our property. This is why we have temporary granite steps. We’ll be utilizing this granite in other ways (and maybe as steps too) down the line. We have quite a bit of it.

On another other side note: The original farmhouse and barn burnt down in a fire, and this house was built in its place. Our house was built on the old foundation for the house so it’s super weird dimensions – nothing like classic building measurements. This is because back then, you built a house to the size of the material you had. Sometimes I like to sit here and think about how beautiful it must have been. I smile when I think we’re bringing some use back to the property.

Anyway, these are the things my husband thinks of, which I never would have until I had to go out the door in a foot of snow and scale the wall to take the trash out. He doesn’t really tell you it’s happening, he does it. He thinks in his head, and then does it (introvert thinker) – I think by talking, and then I talk about it more and then I do it (extrovert thinker).

While he did this, I took the ladies in the back field for a run. There’s something incredibly invigorating to both the dogs and I about chilly weather. It’s entirely shocking to your system, but once that pasts it wakes you up like never before.

It amazes me when even after all of the beautiful flowers and foliage has died off, how gorgeous winter really is. I find if you just look a little harder, it’s just as breathtaking in it’s own way.

I also smiled when I saw these last few pieces of foliage holding onto their gorgeous bright colors. These were about 1/2 an inch big each.

Then there were the girls. It’s been hunting season so it’s been hard to get them outside for huge runs. It’s been making all of us a little stir crazy. Even with all the orange in the world, the closer it gets to the end of hunting season the more hesitant I am to go for a walk in the woods. Since the season ended yesterday (and hunting isn’t Sundays anyway) we let them out and let them run nuts for a few hours.

Rosie promptly did her favorite thing ever – rolling. Rolling in the grass. Rolling in things she shouldn’t be. Rolling when I tell her to lay down so I can try to get a photo of her. Rolling into my camera while I was laying on my stomach taking a photo. Oh wait, that last one was Winnie. They both like to roll. A lot.

These two dogs crack me up. Winnie instigates Primrose, and then runs like hell from her, and if she doesn’t think she’s being chased she turns around to stare Primrose down. That doesn’t mean Rosie doesn’t pounce unprovoked, she does. These two are absolute best friends, I’ve never seen two dogs like it.

This last photo above cracks me up. It’s a head to head battle royal over the stick and so quintessential to them. They act tough with each other but in reality are the biggest sweethearts. They sleep together, and run to each other if they’ve been apart for more than 5 minutes. They whine if the other one is gone with a human for too long. There is no denying the love they have for each other.

So with winter only a week or two out, the official start at least, we’re pretty well set. With hunting season over we’ll be outside a lot more, including in the mornings for runs in the field (and hopefully a human run or two as well).

I hope you’ve been enjoying the cooler weather yourself, or at least making the best of it if you live in a cool climate too. Here’s to hopefully snowy days starting soon, motivation to do some morning runs or at least just get outside with no more than the dogs, the animals and God, and enjoying our winter bounty for a few more months until next years preparations start.

Keep Warm,

Heather

Kitchen Updates, Stenciling & Two Goons

Who upgrades their kitchen before they renovate it?

*points two thumbs at self* This little lady right here.

Yes, we are updating it before we entirely rip it all down and make a whole new kitchen. Why? Because we like to be difficult. Because it might be another year or so before we renovate and it’s driving me nuts. Because really we’re just mudding, caulking and painting. Because it will help with our equity so hopefully we can drop our PMI.

Without further ado, our kitchen looks almost identical to when we moved in. Here it is, almost right after we moved in over four years ago.

If I could find a more recent photo of the kitchen “before” I would show you. There’s no need though. Besides a few appliance switch outs we still have the same cabinets, same counters, same floors, same ceiling. Same. Same. Same. What has been getting worst have been the walls.

Ok, maybe they haven’t been getting worst. It just seems like it to me. I think they have always been pretty terrible. So the other day, while I was painting the guest room (post to come) Andy got started on the kitchen.

First he had me clear off the counters from appliances. This is the point in the blog post when I turn to Andy and ask him what on earth the steps were he did besides mudding.

Me: “What did you do first?”

Andy: “The first thing I did was put on my overalls…dungarees. *smug grin* Pretty awesome dungarees, huh?”

Me: “Did you sand first?”

Andy: “Nope.”

Me: “So you just mudded?”

Andy: “Yep, just slung it on.”

Me: “What’s the technical term? I know it’s called mudding…”

Andy: ” I mixed up a setting type joint compound called Durabond 45, which is a chemical set (joint compound) versus the other kind, which just dries out.”

After mudding everything up, he let it all set until dry which took about a day. Once that was done he went around and sanded each part smooth. So, as of right now this is what it looks like. You can see on the right hand side, on the skinny part of the wall next to the pass through, where I tested a dark beige/greige color. The color we chose will actually be a little lighter. I’m going between two different but similar colors, which I’ll divulge in a later post.

If you’re curious how this ties into the other large living areas of the house, here’s a better photo. On the left is the kitchen, in the middle is the common room, and on the far right is the living room.  I even took this without picking up – just for you.

What you can’t see in this photo is on the floor in the living room, which I noticed after taking the above photo. Two goons found my rice bag, and oven mit, and dish towel, today.

Besides the obvious guilt on their faces, you may have noticed behind the woodstove is now painted. That’s because I attempted to stencil it freehand.

Now, I could tell you that I attempted to paint the lines freehand and had no idea my hands were that shaky. I could even then show you a photo of said destruction….or you could just take my word for it since I didn’t take a photo. We could pretend I totally intended to always paint it solid, particularly Revere Pewter by Benjamin Moore color matched at Home Depot.

The photo below was taken when:

a.) I obviously hadn’t pulled the tape yet

b.) The makeshift curtain was hanging from the guest room

c.) I hadn’t styled the top mantle above the woodstove

d.) The kitchen was in disarray, hence the microwave on the table.

e.) The pile of clothes next to the bookshelf is a Goodwill pile.  The plastic on the other side and bins are painting items. The basket is full of the dogs sticks & other toys. I have yet to figure out why it’s in this room in the photo, since it stays in the living room.

5.) The pillows are a wreck in living room because Primrose loves to dig on them before she lays down.

So now that we’re done mudding the kitchen, we still have the following to do:

  • Replace the corner door cabinet which fell off. By fell off I mean lost an hinge and I got so annoyed I took it off completely.
  • Caulk around all of the trim
  • Prime all of the trim
  • Do an initial coat of paint over the mudded areas. Joint compound holds paint differently so it’s important to do a pre-coat of either your paint or primer over the mudded areas, making sure to feather the edges so when you do your full coat there are no weird lines.
  • Do a coat of white on the trim
  • Do a coat or two of paint on the walls
  • Deglaze the backsplash behind the stove and above the sink, and paint it

As for now, this already looks better. You can trust me on this one.

Happy Mudding, Stenciling, Painting and more,

Heather

Omnivorous Rex

Andy and I were in the garden tonight and found out we have tyrannosaurus size squash. We missed a few and they got out of hand. Completely out of control. Unruly. Nothing but good compost at this post.

Or so I thought.

Our dogs are omnivores. Yes, all dogs are, but ours make other dogs go, “What are you eating?”

I’m almost positive they would choose to dig up frozen brussel sprouts out from under the first snow, than eat a piece of steak. They gorge themselves on fallen apples. I take that back – Winnie will jump up into the tree to grab the ones right off the branch of she can. They nibble raspberries and blueberries right from the bush. Mr. A and I have to be sneaky to pick blackberries if they are around of they will ambush our bounty.

I did not expect however that our younger little trouble maker, who we adore with every bone in our body, would become enamored with a massive summer squash. We tossed the prehistoric squash on the lawn to place in the compost, and we turned around to find Rosie nibbling it. Then she started carrying it around. Despite how it looks, this is not photoshopped, and that’s not a look of pain. She was in pure bliss.

Even if Mr. A ran and tried to get her to follow, she would not drop the squash.

Then she finally plunked down and refused to look at me with her “what is that giant eye?” look she normally gives me when I shove the camera in her face. Daily. I’m that person. I own it.

Not only is a summer squash good to eat. They are good to attack, like a dinosaur. Well, that’s how I pretend some dinosaur went after their pray. No one told Rosie you don’t need to sneak up on summer squash. It’s too cute for me to inform her otherwise.

Eventually we had to take it away from her. A massive summer squash isn’t good for a puppies belly ( I will refer to her as a puppy for as long as she lives).

Needless to say, she wasn’t happy we took it from her. I tried to get a photo of her clear annoyance at the situation but she refused to face the camera. She literally turned her back or moved whenever I tried. So, I took a picture of the squash.

Rosie – 1.

Squash – 0

Excuse me while I go discuss vegetable stalking techniques with my omnivorous rex.

Rawr,

Heather

 

Happiness Is….

Whenever I forget to live in the moment, which is ohhhhh all the time, I just have to visit the farm with my dogs. First off, a view like this will jar the grocery list making out of your head and straight into the moment.

If that doesn’t work, this should help.

Second, a crisp pear off of the tree will make you stop in your tracks. Nothing from the grocery store will ever taste like one of these farm pears.

Third, and this is my favorite, are the dogs. When the farmer borrows your trailer to haul some wood and him and the husband tow it home, just down the road and empty, hitching a ride is necessary. The only thing that makes riding on a trailer better is when it’s filled with hay and kids giggling in their Halloween costumes every year.

The only thing that makes a trailer ride better for Winnie  is – absolutely nothing.

So if you want to forget the 7,000 things that still need to be done, or where you left your keys, or what you want to make for dinner, or how on earth to get all of this primer off of your arm because you’re terribly messy when you paint…

Just go to a farm and forget the rest, just for a little while.

Happy Happyness,

Heather

Soil. Barefeet. Heaven.

It’s August and it means our garden has gone through it’s growth spurt and is now quietly spending it’s days soaking up the sun and rain, breathing in the cool evening air and soon, becoming part of the earth again. It’s kind of what a lot of us here in Maine do with the good weather. We pop to life, stretch, grow and soak up the warmth. By August we’re settling into the weather, quietly enjoying our time outside, the last breath of summer, and getting ready to hunker down for the long beautiful {and rugged} winters we get.

As I came home a few nights ago I took a deep breath of the warm air, could hear the crickets already starting their song and decided to kick my shoes off and get right in the garden. Moist soil beneath my feet feels like a cup of tea to me. It’s relaxing, it’s comforting and it’s fun to get dirty – let’s face it.

I decided to share with you some of the things we have growing. I will not however share the hornworms that have invaded and all but destroyed our tomatoes. I will not show you them because I couldn’t find one. I couldn’t find one because I got rid of most of them *rambo gear on*.

My herbs are hands down my favorite items in the garden this summer. My rosemary was choked out with weeds (of which we were constantly battling) but the rest flourished.

To be completely honest, I can’t remember what this is but it smells fantastic (unlike my wet dog who is currently laying next to me). I think it might be the savory I grew. If you have any idea what this is – feel free to identify it for me! Not rosemary, not tarragon….? Whatever it is I think I need to tie a bundle to Winnie’s collar. Good grief.

One of my favorite herbs is lemon balm, it’s in the mint family. It’s delicious chopped up and thrown in a can of chick peas and lemon juice  for a quick meal. It’s great steeped in water for tea. It has a ton of uses and I highly recommend it.

Then there’s the overgrown oregano. Pretty fantastic.

It also actually got hot enough to grow some hot peppers. The jalapeno’s came up (a few) but the chili’s still haven’t grown. Ever. You would think I would stop planting them. Nope. Never. One of these summers it will get hot enough, and I will get a single chili and it will be the single great accomplishment of my life summer, even though all I did was plant it. You know what also came up though for the first time though? My Cherry Bomb peppers. They might not be the prettiest but focus – the point is, they grew.

Our ever faithful banana peppers didn’t let us down again. Dear banana peppers. I love you. Thank you.

Then there is our plethora of lettuce. So. Much. Lettuce.

Then there’s the cucumbers that will not cease to grow. I’m not complaining, trust me. I love me some cucumbers.

After squishing the soil around my toes for a while and filling up my basket I looked up to see Winnie munching away on the peas. My first thought was that she’s going to be pretty disappointed this winter when she figures out we didn’t plant brusselsprouts, her favorite frozen winter treat.

Finally, when all was said and done I walked out of the garden with a basket of goodies to use for dinner among other things. The two goons were just *waiting* for me to drop the entire basket so they could go to town.

“You can drop those peas at anytime now.”

“Mom, you think you’re going to give me some of those peas? I’ll even take some lettuce if you have too much.”

Sorry Winn. Sorry Rosie. {Don’t worry, I know you’ll sneak a piece}.

Happy Gardening & Toes In The Soil,

Heather