The Most Beautiful Site In The World

I refuse to believe there is a more beautiful site, meaning jobsite, in the world right now. Yep, I’m willing to throw out the entire geographic area of the world. Why? I finally get to share with you the second floor before and after demolition shots. The same room that had been our bedroom for the last five years. Keep in mind this room is about 22×16. Yep, it’s huge.

This is the side facing the road. The crib was something my Pepere made for me when I was 5 and the two stuffed bears I’ve had since I was a baby. I’m saving them for our future kids (no mom, gram, dad, any other family reading this I am not pregnant).

This is the side facing the hayfield and towards the new addition. Behind the tall wall of unpainted boards is another nook we used for clothes.

As you can see, it’s pretty stellar with the no door / paneling / not a real closet / gross plywood floor. You know what looks even more stellar? When I start ripping boards off the walls. I have never enjoyed demoing something so much in my entire life. First came down the half wall…board by board. There was some pretty interesting structure holding it up including a piece of welded metal holding it together. See that block of long boards on the floor with the dark base on the bottom? That’s the metal. It’s pretty indicative of the guy’s “handy work” who built this addition. Anytime we see it, or something is weird, we refer to him and call it “Lestered”. I.e. “Uh oh, I just found something all Lestered up” or “Son of a Lester!” Sorry to any of Lester’s children who may perchance stumble across this blog. At least he built things to last, there’s no doubt about that.

Once we had all the boards off I managed to pull the entire framing down with my hands. My hands. It definitely took some force, but the fact is that I still ripped it down with nothing more than these two palms and adjoining fingers.

It was at about this point Andy walked upstairs with the maul (also lovingly known as the “wood splittah”) to take out the tall boards above the stairs. Sometimes all you need is brute force.

Then came taking out the platform above the stairs, so we can eventually put in a switchback staircase.

Once Andy got started there was no going back. During this time I was pulling nails from all of the boards and stacking them.

Showcase showdown between Andy and the final boards. He noticed these after some drywall and insulation removal and wasted no time taking them down.

The boards didn’t even stand a chance. Here’s a shot of the bedroom once all the boards were gone, and a little more. Primrose was loving the renovations. I’m not even kidding. Through tons of loud noises, she was with us almost the entire time. Winnie was laying on our bed downstairs pretty much as far away from us as she could get, not scared, but just entirely uninterested.

Since we’re keeping the boards for future use on another project it was important to make sure we stacked them and saved them all. Piece by piece we hauled them out the second floor slider and loaded them onto the Mahindra.

With lumber out of the way it was time to focus on the drywall. Andy took the lead on this and taught me how to properly remove drywall. You know those shows where an entire house is renovated in 30 minutes? I watch them too, but I was always baffled why they would slam their hammer all over the drywall to remove it. As it turns out that’s really not how you’re suppose to do it, but I guess it makes good TV.

Drywall tip time: Don’t smash it into a hundred pieces. Why? You’ll have to pick them all up! And holy cow would it create a lot of dust. Dust that you should really try to contain. When you want to remove drywall, cut/hit with a hammer where you have to in order to get underneath of an edge/side, etc. Try and go where the drywall tape is if you can see it. Then gently and carefully start shimmying and wiggling the drywall. You may not get the entire piece out, but you’ll get a lot larger pieces that will be significantly easier to clean up. When you’re done your pieces should look more like this and less like rubble.

It was getting later in the afternoon, but we weren’t done yet. With night only a few hours away we started pulling the insulation out for the dumpster. This stuff is no joke. The reason they tell you to wear gloves when you handle it is because the fibers are glass hence fiberglass. It itches because of the micro-cuts it can cause on skin and it’s incredibly irritating. Not only should you wear gloves but it would be a good idea to keep a protective mask on as well as eye protection and long sleeves, since the fibers get air born easy. I learned the mask part the hard way, and I ended up coughing a lot. Bad news

Fiberglass Insulation Tip: You’ll likely find this insulation between your studs whether on the wall or in the ceiling. To reduce the fiberglass becoming air born during removal, push the insulation in near the top of the wall. Instead of pulling straight out, slowly roll the insulation towards the wall. This will keep the paper on the outside and the fiberglass tucked inside the roll, greatly reducing the effects.

On Sunday night we stopped while the drywall and insulation were out but the ceiling was still up. The sun was set and it was too dark to keep going so we cleaned up. Earlier this week Andy was right back at it and he took the ceiling down (and smashed my radio in the process – it was rather funny).

In the end, this is the final shot of the second floor interior demolition (the hanging piece of drywall is gone now). I’ve never seen it look more beautiful. So you don’t have to scroll back up, here’s the before and afters again. Excuse me while I wipe a tear from my eye.

We are OFFICIALLY done with interior demolition in the old addition. This means in just a short time walls will be coming down while new walls are framed up.

I wish I could give you step by step instructions on how to do every single step, but since I can’t I promise to try and put in a post here or there with specific instructions and/or tips, like above, in these broader posts. While crafting is my thing and I can definitely give step by step tips, renovations are not.

We have an interesting dynamic here in the house where Andy is a professional, and I am a DIY newbie more or less. My mom made sure we knew how to use tools, which means I at least know basics. Even though over the years I’ve learned quite a bit from watching Andy, with this renovation it’s like I’ve been hit upside the head with the nerf gun of knowledge. I can’t wait to see what else I learn in the next couple months. Whatever it is, I’ll share.

You have my promise.



Psst – Just a quick note: my twitter handle has changed from @homesteadandtea to @lkacupoftea.

Soffit Squirrels

Early Sunday morning the boys were back at it after spending a long day installing the joists, insulation and subfloor for the new addition. With the new floor in place it was time to focus on pulling the siding off the house for some exploratory work. The probability of uncovering something wrong was pretty high. The probability of finding a mouse nest was pretty much guaranteed.

I have to admit, we were all laughing slash gagging when we took the soffit down because what we found was a lot bigger than a mouse nest. Andy definitely took one for the team. Nothing like a little squirrel nest dust in your face in the AM. Ahh that fresh country air never gets old.

I have to give the squirrel props for it’s hard work. That was one heck-of-a nest.

Once the squirrel nest and other debris those sneaky buggers pulled into the soffit was gone, Andy pulled off the siding  to see what kind of structure he was working with. Let’s take a closer look between the top of the window and the plywood. High quality insulation people. High. Quality.

Once the walls were opened up to the studs it was no surprise our insulation was about an inch thick – uncompressed. It was about on-par with what Andy expected to find, but it made it no less funny and ridiculous.

This photo shows the, honest to God, thickness of most of the insulation. Wearing sweatshirts and sweatpants and slippers and hats while we had the wood stove going with dry oak on a freezing winter day all makes so much sense now.

Andy decided to keep opening up the house even further to check out more structural items, while I kept staring with a gaping mouth laughing at the insulation. From Andy’s perspective it wasn’t unexpected. From my perspective I found it funny because even someone as technically unsound as me is well aware how terrible it was.

Right about where Andy is standing in the above photo is where we are putting in a large opening from the livingroom to the kitchen/dining area. We’ll need to restructure this side of the house for both the opening and to properly tie in the second floor of the addition.

The house is still open on that side to about the same degree while they decide how to restructure it, but first we had to get the second floor of the old addition taken care of. I’ll post more about it tomorrow, but for now here’s a sneak peak.

The wood splittah gets it done. Who says you need a power tool when you have brute force?





Easy Septic Safe Homemade Laundry Detergent

I have a thing for soap nuts. What are soap nuts? A glorious fruit. Confusing I know. They are, in a few words – natures detergent. They come from places like Nepal, so I make sure the ones I buy are fair trade. I’ve used them for about a year now for our laundry, sometimes switching out for regular detergent, and sometimes adding an oxygen booster—but I love these things. 4-5 of them in a muslin cotton bag thrown in the laundry and voila, clean pantaloons.

Lately however I’ve been really trying to pare down, even more than I already do, on the additives, chemicals, etc. It means using up what I already have, but interspersing tests of new items I can make at home to see how they hold up. I’m not someone who cares if someone else uses chemicals in their home, I just prefer to limit them in mine. My hope is that by the end of the summer all of the old chemicals will be used up and I’ll be down to cleaning with the following items:

  • Dr. Bronners
  • Soap Nuts
  • Vinegar
  • Baking Soda
  • Washing Soda
  • Borax (rarely)
  • Essential Oils

My first foray into testing soap nuts outside of their regular laundry use in solid form was to make them into a liquid detergent. Soap nuts work best when you use hot water, and we only use cold. So while they work fine, I wanted to see if there was a difference with the liquid. From what I’ve read, unless you are going to be preserving your liquid (yes, you can pressure can and water bath it), it’s best to make it small batches so it doesn’t spoil. I suppose you could also keep it in your fridge which would help to. (Here’s where I buy my soapnuts, but if you don’t want to make your own liquid they sell it too. )

After reading a couple recipes I decided to make a semi-higher concentrated version, since I know what clothes tend to look like around here especially in the summertime. So here’s the recipe I’m testing

  1. Add 15 soap nuts to 4 cups of water, and boil for 30 minutes until you have two cups of liquid. The full concentration recipe is 12-15 soapnuts in 6 cups of water, boiled for 30 minutes to 3 cups. Add extra water if needed to get to the two cups. Use one to three tablespoons per load.

This sounded easy enough.

My tips:

  • Either use a larger pot, or simmer this, don’t boil. You’ll see bubbles form because it’s a detergent. A rip roaring boil will make the water overflow. Don’t ask how I know this.
  • When you’re done, pour into a measuring cup to ensure you have boiled down far enough (or if too far, add more water back).
  • Place a fine mesh strainer over a glass container to separate the liquid from the soap nut pieces. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a mason jar or a bowl, just try not to use plastic. This mixture is hot and it could potentially melt the plastic, which would either make a mess or release chemicals into your soap nuts. Melted plastic = bad
  • Let cool completely before either capping in a mason jar for future use, or pouring into a dispenser. I used an old salad dressing bottle to hold it as I plan on making this in small batches.

So how does it hold up in laundry? I like it a lot, even more than regular soap nuts. I’ve been known to accidentally throw the muslin bag with soap nuts in the dryer which is a no no with soap nuts as they *should* air dry. Now, with that *should* said, I’ve never really had a problem with the dryer ruining mine unless they were already near the end of their useful life. Since I use cold water though, this liquid works way better.

Verdict? Win! I will be definitely making/using this more. One natural cleaner alternative down (and it’s so so easy).

Happy Greener Living,


Pst – This is a septic safe laundry detergent. I have used the other recipe with grated soap in the past, but stopped once I found out it can be dangerous for septic systems. Even though it may melt on high heat, the soap may re-solidify in your pipes and cause major damage down the line, so I’ve erred on the side of caution and stayed away from it.

Psst- This liquid is also very popular for other general cleaning purposes too from counters to windows, when mixed with vinegar and diluted. I have used neither of these before, but there are tons of recipes out there! If I test it, you’ll be sure to know.



All Hands On Deck {Part Four}

Update: Last night at dinner Andy informed me of two huge mistakes I made in this post. One, I called construction adhesive ‘caulking’ and two I referred to our belt sander as a ‘band saw’ (wtf?). I would like you all to know that if I get a construction term wrong, and it seems to make him look incompetent—it’s totally me. Not him. He knows what he’s doing. Poor guy. I really should have him proof these kinds of posts first.

This post has taken me a while to get up. As an old professor used to say, “As is life”. She also wore bright nail polish all the time because if she was ever upset all she had to do was look at her nails and laugh. She also used the word flummoxed a lot. She was one of my favorites….and so is this new deck.

Last weekend, after a week of rain and general drizzly weather, Saturday and Sunday turned out to be beautifully sunny so we were able to continue progress on our little piece of heaven security.

Since Andy had already finished everything up through the decking (seen here, here and here) it was time to start the cedar posts, and mahogany rails. The first step was measuring and notching out the post itself. Update: I thought we had bought the cedar posts, Andy informed me he actually made all of those.

Then Andy did a test fit, before cutting the decking itself just to make sure it would fit correctly. Test fits are absolute key, since you don’t want to cut into decking that was a.) free and b.) expensive to replace.

And then he repeated it, eight more times.

Once the cedar posts were set, he grabbed the mahogany railings and set them out so we could see where we wanted them, if we wanted to rip them narrower, and where we were going to overlap them. Also, some of the pieces had channels on the bottom, and some were flat and Andy and Casey (Tom Cruise has a real name) went back and forth over whether they should all have channels or not.

Andy won (pst – this railing is not centered where we were actually attaching it).

Once we figured out the placement, and all of the angles (and by we, I clearly mean just Andy while I took photos) it was time to start assembling them. Andy started with the one corner that required a clear 45 degree on each end piece. First he marked it all and then cut the angles on our portable saw.

Once everything was cut, he assembled them using a mix of construction adhesive, biscuits as well as a few screws with the Kreg jig.  Andy doesn’t usually use of the Kreg jig as a primary way to secure two items (though there are times it works, as you’ll see later in this post), but in this case it worked great as a secondary way to secure the railings in conjunction with the biscuits.

He also used this method to secure the joint on the other side where two boards met. It’s a good overall technique for most similar purposes.

Tip: If your caulking/adhesive seems clogged up use a screw, either putting it in by hand or with your screw gun, and then reverse it and pull. It works just about every time.

After everything was attached, Andy then hand made wood plugs out of mahogany for each hole so it would look nice. Once they were dry he cut them off (I don’t have a photo of

Side Story: Before the boys secured the rail down they had it sitting on posts and it was too long, so it was across the opening. Guess who walked up the stairs full charge and COMPLETELY missed a giant wide piece of mahogany across the opening? This lady right here. I crashed right into it. Andy just put his hand on his forehead and my brother-in-law laughed at me and made fun of me for a solid five minutes.Then I almost did it. Again. And then one more time just for good measure.

This about did it for the work on Saturday/Sunday, and then the rain came. Again. Last night it finally gave us a break (for a little while) and since Andy took the day off work he got to working on the deck some more. When I got in home all of the posts were cut and he was making the hand rail out of mahogany. The key to the hand rail is that it can’t be as wide as the perimeter railing. It needs to be comfortable and narrow enough to get a grip on if you start to take a digger.

Test fit one.

Success! It was comfortable, narrow enough and looked good. To secure it, Andy used the Kreg Jig  on the bottom side into each post, sans (I think) any other needed adhesive. We joked about face nailing it, but I should point out there are a couple things you shouldn’t do with a deck—secure things with nails, and face nail your wood (unless you really like look of screws everywhere…).

Now, I thought he was done for the day since the rain started sprinkling but then I heard this loud noise and looked outside to find this.

Refinishing the railings with a belt sander? You bet! As good of an idea as this is, please wear a mask. Not your shirt pulled over your face like my husband. Why? Because eventually you will be covered in sawdust and look like this. Oh, and the saw dust is actually shooting in front of his hat, it’s not shooting underneath like it looks below. Trickery of photography.

I love how it looks with that old weird sealant off the top and the fresh wood. Over time the mahogany will darken up again, but at least it will look even.

So much better!

When he was done I asked him to stop for a second so I could take a photo of him to prove how much dust gets everywhere.

As you can note by the photo above, he does not ever stop moving. Blurry Andy it is. I need to keep my shutter speed on a million just to keep up with him.

Well, that’s where this part ends. Hopefully (cross your fingers) the next deck post will be the last. In the mean time, let’s play the “let’s see how many errors we can find in this post” game. The fact is I’ve waited way too long to post this.

So I’m going to, without proof reading it first.

What? I’m a risk taker.

Happy Building (and mask wearing),


No Technology Tuesdays

If you’ve noticed  I’m the opposite of most bloggers in that I blog more on weekends lately, you’re totally right and earn sleuth points. So let me give you a little rundown on the details of what’s going on.

For one, it’s winter so there aren’t a ton of projects right now. I really should get back into doing more cooking posts as I normally do in the winter.  I do have some home posts lined up for you guys, it’s just a matter of finishing and photographing.

Two—and here’s the kicker— we have a new rule in the house of no tv/computer from after work until 8:00pm. What WHHAAT?! Yep, it’s true.  We started it because a.) why not and b.) I was getting frustrated that I felt as if I was constantly saying, “my house is messy”, and I hated it. I will always have a penchant for wanting to spend hours editing photos, researching things, etc. and in turn I decided that I really needed to force myself one hour a night to just clean. It started as me joking we should have “No Technology Tuesdays”. About a minute later we just sort of decided randomly that screw it, we’ll do the whole week and make it no tv/computer until 8pm. We like to go for the gold.

In a nutshell, it’s been incredible. Essentially I just throw on NPR (Maine Public Broadcasting) radio and listen to some of the shows which I love, and then clean. When I finish something instead of hopping on the computer I take a look around and choose something else to clean or do. In one week:

  • My kitchen hasn’t been messy for more than 24 hours, and by messy I mean a few dishes. I just wash them by hand and be done with it.
  • I’ve cooked a lot more dinners.
  • The dogs have been played with more.
  • My bathroom has been wiped down.
  • More laundry has been done.
  • I feel less stressed out because things feel more in order and how they should be.
  • The crochet rug has been significantly improved upon after a couple hours in front of the woodstove crocheting.
  • More DIY projects are getting done.

There have been two nights so far we’ve nixed it. One night Andy got on at 7:30 so he could look something up. Last night I got on almost right after work so I could get our wedding album finished, and edit some photos from a project I have to show you guys (it’s being finished and isn’t worth doing in parts).

The downside is that I don’t blog as much as I want to because it’s sometimes really hard to edit photos and write a post in only two hours a night since I’m in bed by 10:00pm. The upside is everything I listed above. There are nights I haven’t even turned the TV on, or when Andy does I just go upstairs to bed to read. It’s been fantastic.

So if I seem like I’m ignoring you when you write a comment, I’m not! I love writing this blog and it’s super fantastic, just expect to hear a little less from me during the week and a little more on weekends. Hopefully as this goes on I’ll get a rhythm down so I can easily post fun stuff during the week and you won’t even notice.

In the meantime, Primrose wants to know if you’ve taken any initiatives lately to get more done around your house or to simply enjoy yourself? As for her, she’s waiting for the grass to be green again so she can do this. Oh who is she kidding, she does this in the snow.

Much Love,


Oh, and as an FYI: the walnut side tables are done, I’m just waiting to photograph them in daylight on Saturday!