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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we sold big green

Friends, last week we officially handed over the keys to Big Green. After owning it for (one week shy of) three years, it became the longest that we had owned any home. So much happened during that time. We moved in when Remy was six months old. We said goodbye to a dog. We said goodbye to a baby. We welcomed a baby. We celebrated birthdays, wedding anniversaries, Christmases, Easters, and more. Geoffrey changed careers. I became a stay-at-home parent. We made friends. We vacationed a little. We learned a lot.

Mostly, I would say that we did renovations. Oh my goodness, how we renovated. It began with a new mailbox. That year, we also put wallpaper in the back porch and made over Remy’s room.

In 2017 we attempted Remy’s room again, revamped the bathroom, renovated the upstairs hallway, did Remy’s room for the third and final time, our front porch, the main floor hallway, the back porch again, and backyard.

In 2018 we started by redoing the dining room, living room, kitchen, then a little of everything when I was pregnant and nesting, and finally our master bedroom. We ended up tackling every room in our home, as well as the exterior. The only area we didn’t get to was the unfinished basement. Hopefully the next owners can renovate it, thus completing the total home makeover.

In 2019, when Wilder was only three months old, we listed Big Green and moved into our current home. In the end we realized that we are not city people. We both grew up on acreages and farms, moved back to an acreage after getting married, and then finally bought our own this year. We belong in the country.

I will forever love Big Green for what it taught us- even though we experienced hardships within its walls. However, it was a good home and such an incredibly fun project. I will especially miss playing with Remy in her cozy little room.

These were the final listing photographs of our beloved home. I hope that it’s as treasured by its new owners as it was by us. Goodbye, Big Green!

Emory

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diy: framed wild garland art

Happy New Year! For those of you who have decided to log on today (or this week), I wanted to share a cute and simple way to get creative with your leftover Christmas decorations!

Supplies:

Faux Christmas wreath OR garland/tinsel
Extra deep photo frame
Scissors
White glue
Glitter
Sheet of paper
Pencil

Steps:

1. Using a pencil, write a few words of your choice on a sheet of paper. As these words will ultimately become the template for the frame, play around with them until they are neat and centred and are able to fit onto the frame’s plate of glass.

2. Place the glass over the paper. Take the white glue and slowly begin to trace what is written on the page. Once the tracing is complete, sprinkle glitter onto the white glue. Ensure that the words are sufficiently covered with glitter.

3. Let that dry for approximately 12 hours, or until the glue is hardened.

4. Take the glass and wipe away the excess glitter. Put it back in the frame. Then fill the extra deep photo frame with either cut up pieces of Christmas wreath, or garland. Whatever you prefer!

5. Finish by adding the backing board, and hanging up on a wall. Or, you can display it on a shelf. Go wild! Either way, you can’t lose.

I hope that everyone had a fantastic Christmas! We should all feel blessed and hopeful going into this new year. Feel free to share your resolutions and plans for 2019 below!

Emory

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