acreage renovation: white modern jungle gym

Oh, this jungle gym.

When we moved to the country, there was nothing in our yard except an old, neglected sandbox in the front. We needed something that the children could play on and with. During that first summer, I spoke often of how I wanted a play structure for them. However, because we had just bought a trampoline, I said that we could wait another year until we got one. In the meantime, they could play at the park that was within walking distance.

It was my brother-in-law that told me he often saw free jungle gyms on Kijiji. I asked him if he ever came across one to then send it to me. Over the next few months, he had sent me a few listings. I would message the owners within a few minutes of them posting the ad, but someone always seemed to beat me to it! Finally, one day in early fall, he sent me a listing that I was able to secure. On Geoff’s first day off, they went to the Kijiji-er’s house, dismantled it, brought it home, and set it back up.

Fast-forward to nearly one year later and after putting it off for this long, we decided to fix its problems. The jungle gym was missing structural pieces to make it sturdy. The sandbox was nearly empty. The rope ladder wasn’t getting used and was tripping us every time we went to turn the corner. Most of all, it desperately needed a roof to provide shade on our hot, shadeless property. Above is what it pretty much looked like before.

I happened to stumble an outdoor playset on Instagram one day that was stained white with black accents. I immediately sent Geoff a picture and told him that I was going to try replicating that. The next day I got to work on building a roof.

Admittedly, I had no idea what I was doing! I had never built a roof before, and so I Googled how to do it. Insert eye roll here. I followed the directions from one blog where they basically did what I was trying to do. I used the proper tools (including a saw and rafter square) and it turned out to be not nearly wide enough. Because I was home alone with the children and didn’t want to take them shopping, I was using scrap wood. That meant that I didn’t have enough to fix any mistakes.

Luckily, Geoff came home from work later that day, and was able to fix the roof as best as he could! It ended up being incredibly sturdy, it just didn’t look very professional, thanks to me. Haha.

I bought two cans of white Beauti-Tone acrylic stain which covered the entire structure nicely.

We took down the inconvenient rope ladder and in the process some of the rungs broke and the rope became tangled. We discussed the many ways that we could try to fix it and rehang it somewhere else, but because the kids never even used it, we eventually gave up on the idea.

I ended up painting Wilder’s baby swing white, in order to match the rest of the jungle gym.

Geoff had to secure the slide better to the playset in order to ensure its safety.

I bought a black hammock swing that we could all enjoy and hung it where the rings used to be. Finally, we moved the rings to the end in order to utilize that empty space.

Really, all this makeover cost was two cans of stain, metal roofing, and a new swing. What was once a neglected, hot structure on our property, is now a well-loved, well-played on, shaded spot for all of us.

Emory

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recipe: apple berry breakfast bars

This is a recipe that you can really make your own. I will list what I used for our breakfast bars, but the berries, seeds, and butter are completely your choice! It is also a wholly vegan recipe, unless you choose butter or margarine that has dairy in it. Really, it’s just a delicious and quick alternative to a more traditional breakfast- perfect for those busy mornings when you need to grab something on the go.

Apple Berry Breakfast Bars

Makes 12 squares

Ingredients:

(For the filling:)
2 cups apples, any kind, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup maple syrup or honey
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Squeeze of lemon juice
1 cup berries, any kind (I used Saskatoon berries)

(For the bottom and topping:)
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 1/4 cup large flake oats
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 tbsp seeds, any kind (I used Super Seeds by Blue Menu which included sunflower and pumpkin seeds)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup butter or margarine (I used vegan), more to grease
Pinch of salt

Steps:

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the apples, maple syrup, cinnamon, and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat until apples are soft and ingredients are well-combined, stirring often. Remove from heat and set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium-sized bowl, add the brown sugar, oats, flour, seeds, remaining cinnamon, butter, and salt. Mix until it’s all blended together.

3. Pour half of the crumble into a well-greased, square baking dish. Press down until even and flat. Then add the filling, distributing evenly as well. Spread the berries on top. Finally, top evenly with the remaining crumble mixture. Place in oven and bake for approximately 45 minutes. Let cool, then refrigerate in an airtight container. 

Emory

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acreage renovation: culverts

This is just one of the outdoor projects that we have worked on this summer.

At the front of our property are two culverts. They were overgrown with grass and had a mess of rocks of all sizes underneath.

They were almost impossible to keep nicely landscaped. We couldn’t mow the culverts because of the rocks, and we couldn’t easily expose the rocks because there was just far too much grass and weeds. Because it was one of the first things that visitors and neighbours would see, I felt like they were a negative introduction into an otherwise tidy yard and house. Something needed to change.

While my husband worked on a fire pit project, I decided that these two culverts would be my project. I began by digging up the grass with a shovel in order to expose the gravel underneath.

Once the grass was gone, I had around 6” of gravel to deal with. I removed nearly all of it, bucket by bucket, and spread it in other much-needed area on our property. Removing the grass and gravel alone took two days for each culvert. It was exhausting work.

Eventually, the ground had only a fine layer of gravel left. This I kept for drainage. I laid down plastic sheets in order to prevent unwanted grass and weeds from regrowing on the culverts. After covering a desired area, it was finally time for dirt.

As Geoff was excavating yards and yards of earth from the fire pit area, I asked him if he could leave it on the trailer until I was ready for it. He gladly agreed as he wasn’t sure as to where he would even put such large quantities. He ended up dumping four trailer loads of dirt onto the culverts. Spreading it evenly took another few hours, but I had help from two willing children who found it so fun to stomp on dirt mounds.

I took our wagon and went to my favourite rock pile just behind our property. There I gathered large rocks and small boulders and dragged them home. It took a few trips, but those, in addition to what I removed while digging up the grass, provided more than enough for the aesthetic aspect.

I did end up purchasing two wagon wheels from one of my favourite liquidation stores in Saskatoon. I had always wanted wagon wheels but had never really had an opportunity to use some. Lining the driveway with them provided me my first chance. I just love them!

I thought I had completed the project until a few weeks had passed and I noticed that weeds had started growing everywhere on the dirt. I spent an entire morning trying to weed the culverts but to no avail. I knew that I now needed to cover the dirt mounds with something- either gravel or mulch. I figured that mulch would be the quickest and least expensive of the two, and would still be really nice. Geoff purchased ten bags of mulch for me, and I set about spreading it. It was very easy, and smelled heavenly.

This project was a lot of fun to undertake. If you don’t like the way your culverts look, I highly suggest landscaping them!

Emory

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covid renovation: wood pallet playhouse

It started with Pinterest. Somehow in my search for all things outdoor I came across a pallet wood playhouse. As soon as I saw it, I sent the image to my husband. “We can build this!” I wrote. “And we can do it for free.

Now if you were to type ‘pallet wood playhouse’ into any search engine, you will get hundreds of different designs. Many of them are not pretty per se, because the easiest way to construct a playhouse from pallets is to leave them intact and just throw up walls, a roof, and maybe even a deck. (See below.)

The issue with that is the playhouse is not weather-proof. Everything inside therefore is exposed to the elements. So while dismantling each pallet is painstakingly long and laborious, it will ensure a sturdy, sound, and dry playhouse!

So how did we do it for free? During COVID many businesses were closed. However, we were able to find a few that were still open in the industrial parts of the city. They almost all had pallets stacked behind the buildings. We went inside and asked if we could take them off of their hands. They were more than happy to give them to us! So after a handful of trips into the city with the trailer, we now had all of the wood needed for the playhouse. All for the low cost of $0.

Before we began construction, we searched online for blueprints. We found a website that provided thirty-one free playhouse plans. It took an entire evening but we finally settled on a design that we thought would look best and would be easy to build. You can download those plans here!

Having now possessed the plans and the wood, we got started on dismantling the pallets, taking off one thin board at a time. This will honestly be the most difficult part of building your playhouse. Pallet wood is either thin and somewhat brittle or very thick and hard to remove. Once it is removed, it has the advantage of looking rustic, and costing you nothing, of course.

Be sure to keep the nails from the pallets. I suggest using a crowbar or hammer to pry the boards from its base. Each board will have one or a few nails that you may reuse when attaching them to its new base. This will keep your costs down and save you from having to buy nails or screws for the playhouse!

Once we removed the boards, we started framing. Luckily, we had wood laying around from other projects and so we were able to construct most of the frame that way. We changed the door and windows. We also had to modify it to fit the different lengths of the pallet wood. You can add wood accordingly. If you don’t have extra wood on hand, then be sure to use the wood frame from the pallets. You might have to get creative, but you shouldn’t have to buy any.

After the framing was done, we attached the pallet wood. I asked Geoff to use the nicer pieces since I wasn’t sure if I was going to paint it or not. (Originally I was planning on painting the playhouse white.) This went quicker than dismantling. Each wall was complete within a few hours.

Now for the flooring. I’ve seen playhouses where they are without any type of floor. Because we were placing it directly on grass, we didn’t want to have to move the playhouse every time we needed to cut the lawn. Initially we were going to use some of the pallet wood to make a floor. However, by chance Geoff found half a dozen pallets with particle board. It was the perfect platform to place a playhouse on, having enough space leftover for a small deck. So we went with that.

Finally, the roof is also up to you. I’ve seen plans with any roof, roofs made of particle board, pallet wood, shingles, tarps, and more. This is where we decided to spend some money, but you don’t have to! One of the houses that we remodelled had a white metal roof. Since then, white has always been my colour of choice when it comes to roofing. Because the playhouse itself was more on the rustic side, I wanted the roof to be a feature and to look clean and crisp. White would obviously do the trick! We searched online for a few days, and finally found a local supplier that sold what we were looking for. We only ended up spending about $50 on the metal. It’s one of my favourite parts about the playhouse. (Again, you can use whatever you have to make the roof.)

Finally it was time to put it all together. Geoffrey took out each wall, and screwed it all in place within a matter of minutes.

Now the fun part- furnishing it! Because of COVID, I didn’t want to go shopping for things to fill the playhouse with. Besides, we had a playroom in our basement that was overrun with toys for the kids. I took out the IKEA kitchen set and put it in the playhouse. It fit perfectly.

We added a shelf to the back window (which wasn’t in the original plans) because the kids kept wanting us to order food. Now when they are playing inside, we sit on the exterior deck and they can easily pass us food. It’s so cute. I really recommend this addition!

I also removed two rugs from our house and an over-the-door hanger. I filled the rest with random items from around our house that we really weren’t using. I went with kind of a minimalist-rustic-neutral theme, much like what is seen in our home. Because of that, I feel like it just all came together.

I did end up purchasing a few small items from the dollar store. Yet, if I can reiterate once more, this entire playhouse can be made for free, or for almost no cost. During a time of a pandemic, financial uncertainty, more free time, and nicer weather, it really is the most fitting project!

Emory

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recipe: braided cinnamon swirl loaf

I have to admit that I made this recipe pre-pandemic. I used two different types of flour and sugar, as well as yeast. I am going to hold off making it again until I have enough of those ingredients in my pantry. However, if you have them now, please indulge in this deliciously moist and sweet loaf. You will not regret it!

Braided Cinnamon Swirl Loaf

Ingredients:

For the dough:
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup warm water
1 large egg
oil, to grease pan

For the filling:
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup melted butter

Steps:

1. Combine the flour, sugar, salt, and active dry yeast in a large bowl. Mix well.

2. In a medium bowl, beat the oil, water, and egg. Then pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix with a spatula until well-combined. A soft dough should be formed. Transfer the dough to a floured surface. Knead for 5 minutes, adding more flour if dough is sticky. Grease a medium bowl with oil and place the dough inside, covering with a towel and letting rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the filling.

3. Using the same floured surface, remove the dough from the bowl. Flour a rolling pin and roll out the dough to an 11”x17” rectangle. Spread the filling evenly onto the dough. Starting at the widest end, roll the dough into a long log. Cut the log in half and pinch one of their ends together. Gently braid a few times. Set inside a greased loaf pan, cover, and let rise for 90 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Put the loaf inside and bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and let cool slightly before taking it out of the pan. Store in an airtight container, bag, or bread box at room temperature.

Emory

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  • Welcome, friends! My name is Emory. I am a wife and mother to three (two on earth and one in heaven). This is our life on the Canadian prairies.
    email: helloscarlettblog@outlook.com

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