Home Goals 2017

Alright. It’s officially time to start looking ahead. Time to share my Home Goals 2017.

Unusually, I’ve not been thinking about these for the past few months. Some of them have solidified over the last few weeks–one of them even started just before the end of last year. Some of them came together just as I was writing this post.

I think we’re getting to the stage where more things are done around the house–and the things that are yet to come are biggies. As in so big we’re not ready to tackle them yet (although I really, really, really want a garage).

However, there’s still enough to keep us busy for another year. Here’s what’s on the list.

My office

Turquoise and brass file cabinet from DIY Mommy

Source: DIY Mommy

Ahhh. My office. Finally a room of my own (thank you Virginia Woolf–not an affiliate link). I don’t know as I can convey the monumentalness of this project–except by making up words. Five years ago we moved to the farm. Since that time, moving boxes have been stacked against the wall in my “office.” I want to unpack and truly have a functional office. Finishing off my office will finish off another milestone for the house: the final bedroom.

The transformation is already underway. This is the project that Matt and I started right at the end of December–gotta keep up our holiday tradition of scraping a stippled ceiling.

Clean up the pond shore

Property clean up has been on my list every year. And every year I end up working on whatever spot shows up in front of me. This year I want to be a little more plannful. This year, I am cleaning up the pond shore–how’s that for an emphatic statement.

The pond is my favourite place on our whole 129 acres. And I haven’t been able to easily access the shore the whole time we’ve lived here. I’ve considered enlisting professional help, but I think if I put out a call, I should be able to find a few family members willing to wield chainsaws and weed eaters for a weekend.

Vegetable garden

The vegetable garden was our major project last year, and as a result I feel like we’re in very good shape to start this year’s growing season. However, there are a few things I’d like to add this year, like rhubarb, a second row of berries (maybe raspberries, maybe something else) and maybe some more grapes.

Most important, this year I am going to keep the weeds under control–another emphatic statement. I’m hoping a deep mulch will help me not spend my whole summer weeding.

Flower gardens

Last year our flower gardens were entirely neglected as the vegetable garden consumed all our time. This year I want to give them at least a little bit of attention.

I’ve dumped plants randomly in two beds at the front of the house, and they need a bit of organization. I’d like to add some more shade tolerant flowers to the turnaround.

I’m also planning to remove the flowerbeds at the back of the house (there are only so many hours in a day, and mowing is easier than weeding).

Basement

I’ve said it before. The basement has been hanging around long enough. This is the year we’re going to finish it once and for all–including fun art.

New barn cat

Ralph the barn cat

This one may be more of a farm goal than a home goal.

We have an outstanding barn cat in Ralph. So outstanding that we’d love for her to teach someone the wisdom of her ways. I’m not sure exactly how we’re going to go about finding her an apprentice, but we’re going to figure it out.

So there you have it. Six goals. Two inside, three outside, one alive. Some big, some small, one with a tail. Some easy, some tedious, some furry.

We’ll see how this goes.

Time to get started!

Do you have any goals for this year? What would you like to accomplish at your house? Any tips for introducing a new barn cat? Anyone want to help clear the shore at the pond?

Staying in

Cozy night in the living room in front of the fireplace

Our living room is definitely a work in progress. I’ve shared bits and pieces, like our bookshelves, the sideboard turned sofa table with its display of family photos, the TV stand, the bar cart turned side table and of course our fieldstone fireplace.

Even though there are still things on my to-do list (just don’t look up to the stippled ceiling or giant green ceiling fan, okay?) we love our living room. In fact, this is the room we use the most at the farm.

We are home bodies and prefer to stay in most of the time. Over the holidays, the mattress company Leesa reached out to me and asked me to share the elements that make up my perfect night in. Since this topic is such a fit for me, I wanted to participate.

Most evenings, we come home from work, light a fire and then we have dinner in the living room. Since finishing the fireplace two years ago, this room has become the place we spend our winter evenings.

For me, a wood burning fire is essential to a winter night in. Building this fieldstone fireplace was a dream that I had for years, and it added such country character to our home.

While a brown couch is not the most popular decor choice, it’s a very livable piece of furniture. This is the first piece of furniture we bought when we moved into our first house, and it’s almost 10 years old and still comfortable. We sit, watch TV, eat, sleep and work on this couch–and, yes, doggies are welcome too.

Baxter snuggling on the couch

Obviously, the throws (or as I grew up calling them, afghans) are functional and not just decorative, especially on a cold winter night. Leesa has a blanket to go with their mattresses. It looks super cozy and warm–a great option for staying in, whether you’re snuggling on the couch or dozing in bed.

For me, I’m all about incorporating personal and family pieces in my decor and these knitted afghans are completely that. My Grandma, who taught me how to knit, made the one draped over the back of the couch, and I knit the one with the flowers.

Rounding out my perfect night in are my favourite two-legged guy, a few candles, my favourite fizzy drink, a salty snack and some good TV–we love Ken Burns’ documentaries and are making our way through Baseball (not an affiliate link) right now–it’s so good.

Since moving to the farm, we’d rather be here than anywhere else. Having a living room that’s truly for living is the perfect encouragement for staying in on cozy winter nights.

Are you a home body or do you like to go out on the town? What makes a perfect night in for you? Any other documentary fans out there? Do you have any afghans at your house?

Disclosure: I’m not receiving product or financial compensation from Leesa for this post. This is simply a topic that resonated with me, and I liked the idea of being part of this series with Leesa. Learn more about the Leesa mattress

Breakfast with the birds

Chicadees at the birdfeeder

Most days, my morning starts pretty early. Too early for the sun and too early for the birds.

Which is a shame, because our birdfeeder is perfectly positioned right outside the dining room window, and I love watching the birds as I’m having my breakfast.

Over the holidays, my days started a little later and I was able to share my breakfast with a few feathered folk.

Blue jay at the birdfeeder

Cardinal at the birdfeeder

Woodpecker at the birdfeeder

The woodpecker (above) was the top of the pecking order until the dove (below) came along. Despite their reputation, this guy is not at all peaceful. He wants all the seeds for himself.

Dove at the birdfeeder

I highly recommend this simple style of birdfeeder. The birds seem to really like it, and it’s easy to fill and clean. I posted plans way back when I first made it. You can download them here.

What birds do you see at your house? Do you have a birdfeeder?

Looking back at Home Goals 2016

I have to be honest. I’m on the side that is glad to see the end of 2016. It was not my favourite year.

But there were some bright points. And before I look too far ahead into 2017, I want to take a look back at my Home Goals 2016.

I really enjoy laying these goals out at the start of every year. And I find them very helpful throughout the year to keep me on track.

This year was kind of a mix. We accomplished a lot, and I am really happy with what I can cross off the list. However, some little finishing details continue to hang around, and I couldn’t summon the motivation to finish them.

Here’s my review.

Start to plan for the big reno

I started last year by sharing some of the floorplans that we’ve been playing around with for our long term vision for this house. Through that process, I think we landed on a plan that will work best for us.

We also met with a contractor, got his input on the plans and got some very rough numbers from him about how much things will cost.

We also realized that we can easily break our plans–and our budget–down into several phases. I like knowing that we don’t have to do everything and spend all the money all at once.

The big reno, even just phase one, is likely still a little ways away, but it seems more real now that we have some drawings and numbers.

Guest room

Robin's egg blue country guest room

You know I love crossing a whole room off my list, and the guest room has been one of my favourite projects so far.

A few family members visited us in 2016, and they all liked it too. My one nephew said it was like a bed and breakfast–the kid knows how to make his aunt happy.

This is a project where one niggly finishing detail is still hanging around. I stripped the paint off the old metal bedframe way back in the summer, but I never repainted it. So this will have to go on the list for 2017.

Finish the basement

Built in shelving in a small bathroom

The basement was our very first project when we moved to the farm, but four years later I still had some niggly finishing details hanging around. The biggest detail was Matt’s bathroom, which is alllll done–and so, so pretty.

The basement ended up being the focus of an unexpected reno this year when we had to waterproof the foundation in a few areas. It was tough to redo already redone areas. I’m keeping my fingers crossed we don’t have any water seep in this spring.

While I had planned to focus on just a few small things, after redrywalling the areas that were waterproofed, I also built a new closet in the laundry room. Closets were a theme of the basement. We added a tonne of new shelves to the cold cellar and built shelves in the closet under the stairs. These areas have given us a lot of extra storage. It was great to dig out the Christmas decorations without digging through a pile of boxes first.

So there was some good productivity.

But on the niggly details front, I continue to struggle with art to finish off the basement. I know what I want and I even have frames. I just haven’t taken the time to find the pieces I’m looking for. I did make 16 personalized Scrabble tiles for the pingpong room. Having each of our family member’s initials is a touch that I really like. The rest of the art will come in 2017. I promise!

Furniture

90s bookcases as china cabinet

I didn’t buy a whole lot of new furniture this year, but what I did has been on the list for a loooong time.

Finding a third matching cabinet for the dining room was definitely the thrifting score of the year. I think it will be hard to top that one.

A close second, though, is finding a china cabinet for my office. I’ve been looking for a pretty specific piece for a long time. This hunt was a lesson in persistence and the importance of carrying furniture measurements with you everywhere.

The two other pieces of furniture on my list for 2016–making a new coffee table for the living room and reupholstering a slipper chair for my office–will carry into 2017.

Vegetable garden

Vegetable garden

The garden was a huge project this year. We invested a lot of time in it, and we saw the results.

In fact, everything that I wanted to do on my original Home Goals 2016 list, save for planting rhubarb, we did.

2016 was about a lot of the infrastructure for the garden. We finally hung the gate, put in curbs around the outside edge, built raised beds, built trellises for raspberries, tomatoes and squash, planted some perennials like grapes and asparagus, tried our first cover crop of winter rye, experimented with a deep mulch of straw, and last but absolutely not least ran a waterline out to the garden.

This year’s harvest was again fabulous. I feel like we’re starting to settle into our gardening groove.

And thanks to all of the work that we did in 2016, I feel like 2017 will get off to a much faster start and we can focus on growing, not building, the garden.

Outdoor clean-up

Burned lawn

When I look at the farm, I feel like there’s so much that needs to be tidied up. In adding outdoor clean-up to my list last year, I knew I was going to have to pick a spot.

However, when I reflect on the last year, I realize that we actually ended up doing better than just one single spot. We cleaned up a scrap lumber pile behind the barn and another big one at the edge of our centre field. We picked up rocks, so I’m able to mow along the north side of the house, although I would still like to add some more topsoil and pick up a couple of patio slabs.

And the biggest area is the one pictured above on the south side of the garden, which was cleared for the first time this year–a controlled burn is the way to go–and then mowed by Matt all year.

There’s still a lot more clean-up to go, but I have to remind myself that we have a 129-acre property and we have made good progress.

And that’s a good word to sum up 2016 as a whole. Progress.

I feel good about what we accomplished, and, even better, I continue to enjoy the process of making the farm and the house ours.

What were your accomplishments in 2016?

Favourite posts and projects of 2016

I’m still easing in to 2017 here. Coming up, I’ll be reviewing how I did on Home Goals 2016 and setting new ones for 2017.

Before that happens, I’m taking a look back at some of the other memorable moments and posts from 2016.

The beauty of having a blog is that it helps me track what happens over the course of a year.

2016 was a year of very little rain, hence the poor harvest and the ditch fire. It was a year of new, with our first homemade maple syrup, Monarch butterflies and the birdbath. Some are small events, some are bigger accomplishments. Altogether, they make up the moments that I don’t want to forget from our life on the farm.

Who else is doing some reflecting on the year just past? Did you have a memorable 2016?

New Year plans from Illinois

Sarah in Illinois is back for another year. She’s kicking off 2017 by sharing some of her plans and projects, and how she’s going to make it all happen.

It’s a new year! That means new goals, new projects and a big blank slate.

Last year I said that I was going to choose one word as my goal for the year, and that word was “focus.” That was helpful for a while. I used “focus” to stay on task and get things done.

However, like most resolutions, once the newness wore off I got back to my old habits.

That is what is so great about a new year. It’s a chance to start over.

So I went to oneword.com again to find a word for 2017. It only took a few seconds for a word to catch my eye. My word for this year is “less.”

It can apply to so many areas of my life. I plan to eat less, spend less, worry less and own less clutter.

Hopefully this year I use my one word to make some great changes and improvements.

As for projects around the house, I decided to set a goal of one project a month.

Some months the project may be large and some months may be much smaller, but the idea that at the end of the year I will have 12 completed projects sounds pretty darn great.

So here are my first 3 projects:

1. Steve and I built a dog house for Blitz to have when he is outside. However, it needs painted and needs some type of roofing material, most likely shingles.

2. Months and months ago my mom brought me my grandma’s St. Francis of Assisi statue from her yard. My plan was to patch the cracks and repaint it. So far, I have not done a thing to it, and my grandma doesn’t even know that I have it. I would really like to get it fixed up for her before she looks out in the yard and thinks that someone stole her statue.

3. I really want to finish priming and painting our hallway. I am embarrassed to say how long it has been unfinished, but believe me it is a long long time.

I hope in the next three months I can get these projects done. It will take “focus” and “less” distraction that is for sure.

What are your plans for the new year? Do you make resolutions? What do you do to make sure you stay on task and get things done?

Thanks for sharing your plans, Sarah. I really like your strategy of having a word to guide you throughout the year and a project a month. Good luck with your first three projects. I’m looking forward to seeing the results.

Five years ago

Hello everyone. Happy New Year. I hope that you had a great Christmas.

Today marks five years since we saw the farm for the very first time.

By the start of 2012, we had been looking for our farm for nearly a year and a half. When Matt hopped online on Jan. 1, he saw a new listing. We made an appointment to see it with our realtor the next day. Jan. 2 was a freezing cold day. The farm was abandoned except for Ralph. The house was a mess.

Despite all that, the farm felt like ours, and soon it became ours for real.

It’s hard to believe it’s already been five years. At the same time, I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

Looking over the hayfield towards the barn

Living here has touched me in ways that are hard to describe. When people ask what made us want to buy a farm, I usually say something about peace and quiet, the idealistic idea of what country living is all about. All of that’s true, but it’s something deeper.

I find a lot of people have the dream of moving to the country. I feel very strongly that it’s a wonderful dream, and I’m so grateful that Matt and I have been able to make ours come true. However, I also feel that there’s no way to know if the dream is right for you until you live it. Country living is very hard to describe, and it’s not right for everyone.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned about country living.

1. A large property is a lot of work

This might sound like a negative, and I don’t mean it to. Even though we’re not farmers and don’t make our living off our land, choosing to live on a 129-acre property is a big deal.

Take a suburban home with trees, flowers, gardens, lawn, driveway, shed and multiply it by 129. That’s a lot of time, sweat, muscle and energy. For Matt and me, we’re usually okay with spending our time in this way. In fact, working outside is something I enjoy.

Pushing the wheelbarrow over the forest catwalk

2. Choose your farm wisely

Matt and I (mostly I) were very picky when we were looking for our farm. Despite spending less than an hour here before deciding to buy it, we made a good choice.

The property has pretty much everything that was on our original wishlist. Things like the pond, long driveway, woods, big barn and proximity to our families mean more to me than I realized they would. Things that weren’t on our original list, like having a second small barn with the driveshed, the layout of the property with the fields, meadow, marshes, different clumps of forest have all been huge bonuses.

Rainbow over a green hayfield

In real estate you often hear that you can’t change the property but you can change the house. I firmly believe this and was always looking for a fixer-upper that I could make what I wanted. We ran into a lot of issues with this house and have a lot more that we want to do. But fundamentally it’s a good house and the floorplan gives us lots of options.

3. We are capable of more than we realize

Going back to point #1 and our DIY lifestyle, there are lots of times where I think that I can’t or don’t know how to do something. Most of the time, I can hunker down, figure it out and muscle through.

I think that this is a good lesson for all of my life, whether it applies to the farm or not.

For me, I’m so thankful to be sharing my life with Matt. Most of the time, it’s easier when the two of us are hunkering down, figuring it out and muscling through. This farm is a dream that we share, and I’m not sure that I’d want to do it alone.

Matt and me after sanding drywall

4. Being connected with nature

I admit that my environmentalist side has influenced me with this farm. I am preserving 129 acres. We are generating electricity, using a low impact geothermal system, drawing water from our own well. I like that we are trying to minimize our impact on the environment.

Living so close to nature, I’m very aware of the cycles of the season and how we influence and change those patterns. Watching the crops grow in our fields, following the trails animals make through the forest, monitoring birds and bugs, keeping track of the weather–I feel like I’m more aware of the world around me since moving to the farm.

Pussy willow

5. This is where I’m meant to be

Country living is not for everyone, but it’s definitely for Matt and me.

Walking in the hayfield

The best words I can think of to describe this feeling are comfort, pride and gratitude.

I’m so grateful for the experience of the past five years. When I think about the 50 years–or hopefully longer–that are yet to come, gratitude is what I feel. I’m grateful to look ahead through my life and know that whatever comes, I will have the experience of being here at this farm.

Merry Christmas

Snowy farm

Our fourth Christmas at the farm. It feels like we’ve always been here, but I never take this life for granted. The farm is the greatest gift.

This is my absolute favourite place to be, and this is a special time of year to be here. It’s an extra bonus that we’re going to have a white Christmas this year.

Matt and I have an extended time off this year, so I’m looking forward to two weeks of relaxing, good food, family and friends, and of course some projects.

Thank you all for following along with life here on our 129 acres. It means a lot to know that all of you are out there, interested in what we’re up to and cheering us on.

Merry Christmas to you. I hope that you have a wonderful holiday season with your family.

I’ll be back with more stories to share in 2017.

Happy holidays from Illinois

Sarah in Illinois is here today with her final post for 2016. Thanks for being part of the blog for the past year, Sarah. I’ve enjoyed the peak you’ve shared into your life in Illinois.

The year is winding down and since this is my last post until the new year, I thought I would take a minute to thank Julia for letting me guest post and share a little of my rural living. I have really enjoyed being a part of her blog and I am excited to continue on in 2017.

This past year has felt like there were many detours and setbacks. In fact, most of the year I felt like I was changing plans, adjusting to a new normal or just trying to keep some sense of order to what was going on around here.

“You can’t plan life. Because no matter how perfect your plan is, life has a way to rearrange it.” — Mina Deanna

There were definitely some things that went according to (my) plan, like getting chickens and adding Blitz to our family. But it felt, more often than not, we were paddling against a raging river.

So instead of sitting around being grouchy about failed plans, I am going to focus on good things in my life.

I am thankful that our family is healthy and we have a warm house to live in and food for our bellies.

I am thankful for family gatherings like the one we had today where I got to spend time with my 91 year old grandmother.

I am thankful that my family has an annual tradition of collecting and donating baby clothes to families that need them.

I am thankful for my close group of girlfriends who are there for me, always.

I am thankful for the treats that a neighbor left on our doorstep today that remind me that I live in a wonderful neighborhood.

I am thankful that Steve and I have jobs that allow us to buy the things we need. And even some things that we don’t need.

No, this year did not go as planned, but I am thankful that each day is a new day to try again.

Thank you to everyone that read my posts this year and followed along with me. I’ll be back in January to start a new year with new plans!

Thanks for the reminder to focus on the good, Sarah. Merry Christmas to you, Steve, Blitz, the chickens and all the rest of your family.

That’s a wrap

If you’re looking for Christmas presents, fancy paper and pretty ribbons, you’ve come to the wrong place.

I did do some wrapping this weekend, but it was in the garden (yes, I’m still working in the garden).

I have wrapped our grape vines in burlap. I have no idea if this is the right thing to do or not, but, as I’ve said before, gardening is an experiment.

Wrapping grape vines in burlap

The grapes are brand new and they’re a wee bit exposed on the outer edge of the garden where it meets the field. I felt like a bit of additional protection wouldn’t hurt, and I had some burlap lying around, so a couple of weekends ago, I stapled a length of fabric to the fence.

Wrapping grape vines in burlap

Of course, I ran out and by the time I picked up more burlap, we’d had snow. A lot of snow–at least for us and for this time of year.

Wrapping grape vines in burlap

Since I could no longer open the garden gate–unless I wanted to shovel and I had been shoveling for a couple of hours by the time I had the brainwave to finish the garden–I tossed the burlap, the stapler and the scissors over the fence, and then climbed the fence myself. In case you’re wondering, climbing a fence in bulky snow pants and boots is not the easiest. But the snow makes a soft landing.

I was grateful we have a wood fence, because it was easy to just staple the burlap right to the wood. Where the bottom of the fence was buried in snow, I packed the snow against the fabric to hold it in place.

Wrapping grape vines in burlap

Then I ever so gracefully climbed out of the garden again.

This officially wraps up work on the garden for this year. (And no, I’m not sorry for the pun. That was completely on purpose.)