Saturday, June 1, 2013

What Two Weeks of Work Gets Us

We only just returned to our beach home, the one I will call hereafter, Mermaid House, after spending nearly two weeks at the homestead, tilling and planting, renovating, mowing (so much mowing), and generally working for fifteen or more hours a day to complete projects. Such is life on an old farm, right?

As with most renovation projects, we too, have experienced delays. Parts that aren't available until another week, yet another run to the hardware store, lots and lots of rain, discovering we need a particular tool at get idea. We've just had to keep working, regardless, and there's always something to do, so it's not as if we're waiting around until we can do that one thing. However, this did mean we simply couldn't swing hosting extended family at the homestead over Memorial Day weekend. It turned out to be miserable weather, anyway, and without a second toilet or a completed guest room, we'll have to plan for another date to gather together.

We did, however, get a lot accomplished.

Alex started by mowing everything in sight with the push mower (because the riding mower wasn't working). The next day, he tilled both the large garden and the smaller garden near the house. The large garden was rather overgrown with weeds, and the only thing he planted there was a cover crop of oats and peas. While he did this, I spent our first afternoon there, cleaning the upstairs, as all the windows are now in, but the work left a lot of dust and debris behind.


So much mowing. #homestead

tilling so he can plant a cover crop of oats and peas

the big garden

Once the smaller garden was tilled, Olivia got to work planning out spacing and planting her vegetable garden. Alex and I had decided we wouldn't opt for growing vegetables this summer with all the other work to do, but Olivia insisted we should have one (all organic, of course) and so she's taken on this project with zeal, (despite the dastardly black flies that were out in force; thus the long sleeves and black mesh). She did recruit some help. Adam helped to do the necessary weeding before planting, and Alex helped dig holes. Later, Olivia got her Papa to hook up electric fencing around her garden. Olivia is a very meticulous planner and I'm really looking forward to watching her take on these projects at the farm.


She's a meticulous one, my daughter. She's checking, and rechecking  her vegetable garden plans. #unschooling #farm #teen #homestead #fedco #organic #maine

planning her spacing

planting her garden

getting help from her brother

black fly protection, planting potatoes

potato hills

Meanwhile, I got started on some painting - the stoop and two beds we found on Craigslist for the guest bedroom.


painting the stoop

I'm painting a unmatched (but close) pair of twin beds, destined for the guest room. #diy #homestead #homeimprovement

One down, one to go, and I ran out of paint and the clouds are moving in. @therotund @qalballah Here's a preview. I'm really happy with the color. #nofilter #farmhouse #diy #vintage

As the days passed, we took on more projects. Alex plumbed the tub so that the tile floor could be laid in the downstairs bathroom. We both stayed up late to prime the shiplap before tile, too.


leveling the tub

bathroom is primed ready for tile

tile day

Then it was waiting for tile to set, grout to dry and then sealing the grout and waiting for the sealer to dry. While that was happening, I was purging and cleaning the kitchen. Spending half our time at the farm as we do, I've grown to despise the current kitchen. The sink doesn't plug, it's not deep enough for washing pots, there's very little counter space and essentially no storage. We've needed something much more functional and user-friendly, especially with more cooking and baking in mind. As renovating a kitchen is prohibitively expensive, we decided to build something somewhat industrial and basic, but much, much more functional, that wouldn't break our budget and would provide us with years of use and function. Together, Alex and I designed a high table with a shelf for the back wall in the kitchen. We reused two Ikea birch table tops we were no longer using at Mermaid House, so we saved some money there, too. By the end of our two weeks working at the farm, we only had the back wall done, but we have all the materials, including a new sink and fixtures, for the other wall, and we plan to get to that side, soon. We also didn't take the time to paint in the kitchen, as we know we will be doing more extensive cosmetic work in there over the summer, and all the pieces are easily moved and put back. All of us are much happier with the space, Papa included. Oh, he even liked the curtains I hung in the kitchen.


We're building our semi-temporary kitchen today, which means we're swimming in culch first. #diy #homestead

It may not be pretty or perfect, but it will give us so much needed storage and work space in the homestead kitchen, until we are ready to really tackle a kitchen renovation. #diy

One side of the kitchen is built. Damn, we're good. #diy #homeimprovement #kitchen

Okay, so here's a story for you @soulemama, one I told @hsofia, today. Months ago, my FIL related to me that he had to toss my MIL's pastry cloth because a rat had gotten into it "and had eaten  a whole through the middle of it." Now, what I didn't know,

These are the curtains my father-in-law thought were a major improvement "over those horrid things that were there", he said. #homestead #farmhouse

Early in our first week, the kids and I left Alex at the farm to continue working, and we returned to the Mermaid House for two nights, to check on kitties, and get the kids to their Blunt meeting and choir auditions. I should mention, an essential part of our support team is Alex's sister, Auntie Heather. Heather does all our cat and house sitting for us (the guinea pigs travel with us) and it's so reassuring to know that Mermaid House is in good hands. Thursday, the kids and I returned to the farm, to find Alex and his dad working on The Boat. Friends, The Boat is the farm's white elephant, that eats up half the available garage space. It was meant to be a restoration project, but this has not been realized. The goal of fixing it this time, however, is to get The Boat ready for sale. (It's a Buehler and jet propelled, so if you happen to be in the market for such a boat, let me know!)

Alex had also been cutting trim for the guest bedroom and putting the first coat of paint on the shiplap in the bathroom (oh, and working his paid job.) Together, we finished the painting in the bathroom, cleaned out more of the kitchen and did a seemingly endless list of other things. By this point, it had been raining for a week and we were all feeling a bit dreary, to say the least. By the end of the week, we decided the kids, Papa and homesick guinea pigs should go back to the Mermaid House, catch the Memorial Day parade in town, get the kids to their weekly Blunt meetings and let us work without worrying about meals and people underfoot (Papa). We planned to reunite on Wednesday. By the second Monday, Memorial Day, the sun shone again and it was time to mow. Luckily, Alex figured out what ailed the riding mower and he spent a several hours mowing around the house and at Bradstreet Point (the area on the pond).


Quiet beginning to the day at the homestead. Olivia is reading Barbara Kingsolver's latest, 'Flight Behavior'. Adam catching up on tumblr. #unschooling

Blue skies, smiling at me. #farm #homestead

Alex is still out there mowing. It's a good thing he got the riding mower running.

It looks so pretty after a mowing, and I can see the shape of things, and make plans for the farm. #farm #homestead

Being at the farm in mid-May also gave us the chance to see where all the blooming trees are on the land. With all the rain, too, everything was looking so lush and green, and really quite beautiful. Also of note, most of the siding on the house is complete, minus one section in the back, which will be completed once we replace the door.

 beautiful morning at the farm


just a bit more siding work to go

lilac sunset

burgundy lilac

white lilac

woods road

hay rake

We worked one day, mostly on trim for the guest room, which I stained and Alex cut and applied. He also spent that afternoon plumbing and installing the new toilet, which required a bit of carpentry in order for it to fit flush against the wall.

    staining all the things

window trim for guest room

installing window trim

plumbing the toilet

toilet is in

Needing a break from those projects, we took ourselves outside. Alex mowed some more at Bradstreet Point, we cleared the path to the pond of some downed trees and I went in search of pink lady's-slippers, that I knew would be in bloom. It was good to be out in the evening sun and breathing in the fresh, green fragrance, of the pond and the woods around it,  a scent unlike anything else I know.

We need to come down here tomorrow with the chainsaw and clear the path to the pond. #sheepscotpond #homestead #farm

The lady slippers are in bloom at Bradstreet Point. #sheepscotpond #homestead #farm #wildlifehabitat

So...lovely and strange, yet familiar. Hmm. It's like a yoni-scrotum flower. Also, rare and protected. #sheepscotpond #homestead

Lady slippers, hiding in nooks among the boulders left by glaciers. #maine #sheepscotpond #wildlifehabitat #farm

Those are our sunning rocks, out there, mostly under water. #homestead #farm #sheepscotpond

The pond is really high. I paused in my walk back, to breathe in the balsam-pond-fern scent that was so strong at this curve in the path. I think only Maine smells as sweet as this. #maine #sheepscotpond #homestead

With Wednesday (and the return of our family with it) on our heels, we kept working until we were in tears. Literally. I think I stood up after eating my bowl of 1030pm clam chowder, Tuesday evening, and in my three steps to the sink, burst into tears. For no reason other than exhaustion. Still, we had doors to stain and hang, rooms to re-clean (Uncle Sam, Papa's brother, was due to arrive from Illinois on Thursday), and as much as possible to complete before returning to our other home. So it was with some satisfaction, that we packed up our kids and belongings and walked around the rooms that are so close to being completed, neat and clean and usable, on Wednesday evening. The farmhouse now has a second toilet, if not window trim or curtains - uh, or a sink, or a tiled tub and shower--that's coming), and a door, so the house is much more functional for all, now. The guest bedroom needs one more piece of trim and some minor electrical work done, and that room will be ready to furnish and use. All the beds had fresh linens, the bedrooms had been cleaned top to bottom and were ready for company.


still need shower tile, window trim

tile, walls and toilet, check

new bathroom door

guest room, almost done

door for guest room done

nearly done

I'll never understand the act of hiding things away to "save for special". Everyday is special. I found the cheery pillowcases and quilt in the #farmhouse linen cupboard. Uncle Sam will be here tomorrow. He probably likes butterflies. #homestead

These, too. #farmhouse #vintage #quilts #homestead

We were incredibly tired, emotionally drained and just really glad to be on the road, headed for the Mermaid House. Alex and I missed our kitties, and were feeling a bit homesick for our other spaces and garden, too. And we missed the kids, of course. We left though, feeling that while we may not have completed every single project, we certainly made a considerable dent in our To Do List.

We're returning to the farm tomorrow. But this time, we're going to take our first swim in the pond, have a cookout and relax. We might chainsaw some trees. We'll try to not to build something. We'll try really, really hard.

PS -- Bradstreet Farm now has a Facebook page!

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