Six-month performance review

I like setting goals. It helps me stay focused and actually accomplish some things. When it comes to projects around the house, my annual home goals are what I use to stay on track. I’ve learned over time that it’s helpful to check in during the year to see what progress we’ve made.

We’re halfway through the year, so it’s a good time to see how we’re doing on Home Goals 2015.

In keeping with my goal to be a little more flexible this year, I haven’t been super ambitious when it comes to projects and schedules. I have to say that as a result this year has been a bit more enjoyable, project-wise.

I also feel like we’ve been decently productive though. Here’s how we’ve done so far this year.

Master bedroom

With a little extra motivation thanks to the One Room Challenge, the master bedroom is done. I love it.

Navy blue and white master bedroom

Basement art

I haven’t tackled this light-weight project yet, beyond buying a few frames and formulating some plans. This seems like a good indoor project once the weather changes.

Furniture

I haven’t made a lot of progress in this area either. I did buy a ladder/step-stool/chair that reminded me of my grandmother–and a lot of you of yours. Furniture shopping and building is another good fall project.

Step chair

Vegetable garden

The vegetable garden has been front and centre for the past few months, and I’m thrilled with all of the progress we’ve made. It’s been on my wishlist since we moved to the farm, and it’s totally happening. The garden has been a tonne of work, but things are growing and we couldn’t be happier.

Squash plants

Beyond the vegetable garden, I feel like we’re a bit ahead when it comes to outside tasks for the first time since moving to the farm. Part of it is because I’m choosing to not worry about the rock piles and old flowerbeds that I want to get rid of. A bigger part of it is that we’re three years in, so the gardens that we’ve worked on since moving to the farm are actually starting to look like gardens.

So two out of four. We’re midway through the year, and we’re midway through my Home Goals 2015. Appropriate.

How are you doing on projects this year? Do you set annual goals? What do you want to accomplish in the second half of 2015?

Guess what

I used to do guess what posts every so often. Always on Fridays. And I always revealed the answer on Monday.

It’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these posts. In fact, it’s been more than a year. I’m doing one today, but it’s a bit different.

You see, I don’t know what this is.

Rusted spike

We uncovered it in the garden.

Rusted spike

It’s metal (obviously heavily rusted). It has a hole in the rounded end.

Rusted spike

Anyone know what this might have been used for?

Garden update

Unlike Mary, Mary, I am not feeling at all contrary. I am feeling quite excited. Our garden is growing!

Matt and our rototiller Fairfield were hard at work again this past weekend, and they got the whole garden tilled (or at least the half that we’re using this year) for the second time. I weeded where Fairfield couldn’t reach and went over everything with the cultivator to pick out the last of the roots.

We still need some more chainlink for the fence, we still need a gate, and we still need to pull out the weeds along the rest of the edge (and of course there’s the whole other half of the ring to clear), but it’s already looking like a garden.

Vegetable garden

And we’re going to have a harvest.

The tomatoes are big enough that Matt had to put the cages around them. Blossoms are forming and even a couple of very small tomatoes.

Tomato plants with wire cages

Squashes are our main crop. First is the zucchini.

Zucchini

Then there’s the butternut, acorn and pie pumpkins.

Squash plants

In the middle of the garden is the beginning of the first of two rows of raspberries. I got them from my parent’s garden last weekend, and they all seem to have rooted.

Raspberry canes

What’s not doing so well are the bush beans. I don’t know what’s happening, but they don’t seem to be very happy.

Bean sprouts

Also not so happy are the peppers. I think maybe they’re not getting enough sun because they’re up close to the fence, and they were a bit shadowed by weeds.

However, one in particular has been grievously abused by two weekends in a row. First Fairfield uprooted him, and then I got a little too close with the cultivator and pulled him out again. Hopefully he recovers.

Wilted pepper plant

The crop that seems to be thriving the most are the rutabagas. I think every single teeny tiny seed sprouted. I still have no idea what one does with rutabagas. I’m going to need to figure it out, though. Look at how many there are!

Rutabagas

Since taking these photos, we’ve also planted potatoes and lettuce. So much goodness!

There are no silver bells or cockle shells, but I’m not sure I’d want them. I’m more into edibles this year. Vegetable garden 2015 is happening!

Any advice on the beans or the peppers? How about some ideas for the rutabagas? Anything else we should consider planting this year?

Dealing with my hang ups

Hang up #1: Plumbing makes me nervous.

Hang up #2: The hose by the driveshed lies on the ground and is super awkward to use. It drives me crazy.

Hang up #3: Less emotional. More physical. As in galvanized. As in the solution for hang ups #1 and #2.

Galvanized hose hanger

Allow me to back up for a moment.

When we had our whole water system fixed during our first summer on the farm, my Dad had our contractor trench across the driveway and add an exterior hose at the corner of the driveshed. Since then the hose has been laying on the ground–a very inconvenient configuration.

Every time we mowed the grass, we had to move it. Turning the hose on and off and coiling it up were a pain.

Hose coiled on the ground

It was on my to-do list last May to fix this situation, but I didn’t get it done. I was distracted by other projects, and honestly I was a little nervous about tackling even this simple plumbing job on my own.

Now that we have the vegetable garden, we’re using this hose all the time. My frustration finally motivated me to pull up my big girl pants and deal with my hang ups (all three of them).

The first step was shortening the waterline. I turned off the water, pulled out the hack saw and sliced the pipe. I yanked the tap out of the original waterline and jammed it back onto the shortened pipe (hint: some boiling water softened the black pipe enough to slide the tap into place). I tightened the clamps to hold it in place.

A 2×4 mounted on the side of the driveshed holds the tap far enough off the wall so that I can turn it easily, and some metal brackets hold the waterline to the 2×4.

Hose attached to the side of the barn

Then comes hang up #3. The galvanized hose hanger holds our three hoses. Yes, three. We need every single inch of hose to reach the vegetable garden.

Hose hanging on the side of the driveshed

I’ll admit that lugging three hoses out to the garden is still not super convenient. However, having the tap attached to the wall and the hose hanging on the wall are an improvement.

Some day, I’d like to split the waterline and add another tap out at the garden. Despite confronting my hang ups, that’s more plumbing (and trenching) than I want to tackle on my own at this point.

However, this simple update boosted my confidence about tackling a simple plumbing job on my own.

What hang ups do you have at your house? How do you handle plumbing? How do you handle irrigation?

How I became a DIYer

Both of my parents get the credit for teaching me how to do a tonne of things and giving me the confidence to tackle things on my own. From a young age, they involved my siblings and me in whatever projects they were working on around the house.

Painting my first bedroom

When it comes to the renovation and home improvement side of my DIY personality, my biggest influence is my Dad.

My Dad grew up working alongside his father, learning the construction business first hand. They built houses, dug out basements, renovated homes.

Working with my Dad and Grandpa

My Dad, me and my grandfather

Eventually, my father decided to make construction his career, and he went to college and earned a construction technology diploma.

My Dad with his parents on graduation day

My Dad with his parents

He worked for a number of companies over the years and ultimately served as site superintendent on a number of subdivision developments, including Canada’s first metric subdivision.

Our first home was in one of the neighbourhoods he built. And the second was a custom build that my parents still live in today.

Riding the forklift with my Dad

My Dad with my younger sister and me on the forklift at our new house

In the late 1980s, my Dad was laid off. Construction jobs were scarce at that time, but with four young kids at home, he didn’t have any option. He had to work. So he started his own company. He would load up our Oldsmobile, hook the trailer on the back, and off he’d go.

At first, it was just small jobs—pour a walkway, patch a wall, put up a fence. Eventually, they became bigger—renovate a kitchen, redo a bathroom, install a deck, put on an addition, build a whole house. As he had with my grandfather, my sisters and brother and I often worked with him. I think I was probably 10 the first time I went to work with him.

Working with my Dad

My Dad, my brother, my youngest sister and me

A few years later, working construction was my full time summer job. We often got some weird looks when we first showed up at the job sites—a contractor with a young girl assistant, sometimes two—but they always changed to looks of admiration when they saw how hard we worked and how good of a job we did.

My Dad prides himself on doing a job right, and he taught us all the same. I remember how for weeks every night he studied the building code and how happy he was when he wrote the exam and became licensed. The building code still holds a place of prominence at his desk, and his license numbers were typed proudly at the top of every estimate that he wrote.

Since we became homeowners, my Dad has been invaluable to Matt and me, advising us, working with us, teaching us. We wouldn’t be able to do everything we’ve done at the farm without him.

Drilling post holes with an auger

Matt working with my Dad

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Thank you for everything you do for us.

“Wait-no-more” organizing challenge

This is the post you were supposed to get on Friday. So much for “wait-no-more.”

My office is the least set-up room in our house. As such it’s a constant challenge to stay organized. I’ve shared my shame before more than a year ago, and, apparently, I’m going to do so again.

This time it’s mostly just a build up of paper. I have a hard time staying on top of my paper always. Despite a rainy Sunday two weeks ago, I just couldn’t motivate myself to tackle it.

Piles of paper on top of the filing cabinet

Then, Jen at IHeart Organizing posted a “Wait-no-more” organizing challenge. She’s tackling four trouble areas in her home. I may not do four, but I was going to get my butt in gear and do at least this one.

Jen shared a cute printable to help get the organizing started, so the first step was filling that out. She asked what’s working and what’s not working. It was really good to consider that before I just dove into cleaning up the paper.

IHeart Organizing printable

The wood plate that my Dad made for us works very well on the hall table for mail. Unfortunately, mail and papers also find their way to the kitchen island, which doesn’t work so well. I still love the little nook in my office. The bulletin board, calendar and dresser drawers all work to help keep us organized. I love the drop zone for my keys, sunglasses, wallet. Unfortunately, I’ve dropped a few too many things in the drop zone–the curse of a flat surface.

Paper storage options

On the other side of my office, the wire caddies on the wall could work to store paper until I’m ready to file it. Unfortunately, I forget which bin is which and end up stuffing everything in together. Some labels would help me stay organized. The filing cabinet may be ugly, but it also works. We are a paper household, so we need a place to stash it all. What doesn’t work so well is the top of the filing cabinet–another flat surface that is just a magnet for piles of paper.

Paper storage options

The plan for the week was to sort, reconcile, file and label.

Matt was out with friends on Friday night, so I finally got started. (Do I know how to have fun or what?) Another rainy day on Sunday allowed me to finish the job.

I only do the filing and reconciling every few months (I’ve tried monthly, and I just don’t stick with it). I’ve learned that I need various systems to control the paperwork between reconciliations. (My problem this time around was that everything got a little out of control).

The first part of my system is a receipts bin. This is just a cereal box covered in wrapping paper (a tip I picked up from IHeart Organizing) and tucked into a drawer in my office. Receipts come out of my wallet and into the bin. (Other bins hold gift cards, takeout menus and coupons).

Receipts

The statements and other mail go into the wall caddy. I don’t think I’ve shared this project before. The organizer was one of those white wire things. It had been left behind by past owners, and I’d tossed it in a closet. When I was first organizing my office a year ago, I realized it might work to sort the mail. Remember the first tip of storage and organizing–use the vertical space.

I hit the organizer with some ORB spray paint and screwed it to the wall. It looked good and could have worked well, but for some reason it was hard for me to remember what papers went in what bin. The labels that I added last weekend make it much more functional. I just chopped up a paint stick, drilled a hole in the end, wrote my categories on them with a marker and then tied them with twine to the bins.

Mail organizer

Then it was time to get sorting. There were lots of piles of statements and receipts spread out across the office floor at various points on the weekend.

Reconciling credit card bills

I made a few new files and tucked everything into the filing cabinet. And here’s the before and after to show how far the office–or at least this corner–has come.

Paper work before and after

There’s obviously still some more organization to go (pictures tucked on the floor around the cabinet) and some decorating that’s needed (very, very boring blank wall above the cabinet). There’s also still my nemesis–a big flat surface with the top of the filing cabinet. Even worse, it’s now completely clear and just waiting for clutter.

I need to come up with something to decorate or use the top of the cabinet so that it doesn’t become another drop zone. Any suggestions?

I’m sure paper will gang up on me again, but I feel better for having it under control at this moment.

Thanks Jen for organizing the “wait-no-more” challenge.

How do you tackle paper organizing at your house? Or are you paperless? Does anyone else reconcile like I do? I always feel a little neurotic matching up every receipt. What’s your biggest organizing challenge?

Back up power for an electric sump pump

Since the first rainfall two weeks ago, we’ve now had rain steadily for nearly two weeks. Often, it’s not gentle rain. Deluges and thunder storms have been the name of the game.

Our sump pump kicks in often, especially with a heavy rain.

Sump pump pit

The big worry is that thunder storms bring both rain and power outages. Without power, our sump pump doesn’t run. We’ve not lost power yet, but it’s Matt’s biggest worry.

Does anyone know if there’s a battery back up system you can add to a sump pump?

There are benefits to having a generator, and we may go that route someday. For now, I’d love to hear if anyone knows about sump pump solutions.

Wonky wiring and a pair of pendant lights

At some point today, an electrical inspector will knock on my door. (Hopefully. It’s one of those “sometime between 8 and 5 things”). It’s been awhile since our electrician was here, but I’ve been putting off the inspection because my day job was requiring me to be in the office. I finally got a break at work and am working at home today, so the inspection can happen. I also finally got my fingers in gear to tell you about this update.

Matt and I had upgraded from the boob light in the kitchen to a school-house pendant some time ago. The fixture wasn’t in the right spot, though. It was off centre with the island and a single pendant didn’t look quite right.

Single school-house pendant over the kitchen island

I had ordered a second pendant back when we installed the first one (February 2014), but I didn’t want to tackle adding it on my own.

When we had the electrician here to move the light switch in the master bedroom, I had him relocate the existing kitchen light and add the second.

The wiring in this house is wonky. When the electrician took down the first pendant, I remembered exactly how wonky. There was no box to house the wiring. Instead, the fixture was attached to a couple of plates that were screwed to the drywall, and the wires–which wasn’t the right type either–just stuck out from a hole in the ceiling.

How not to wire a light

Obviously, it wasn’t right, but Matt and I had installed our new light anyways, knowing that we’d hire a professional to fix it soon. Well, soon turned out to be more than a year, but better late than never, right?

I was surprised when the electrician hypothesized that there was another light somewhere else in the ceiling. A close look at the drywall showed us a patch that I had never noticed. When he climbed up into the attic, he discovered the light (disconnected, thank goodness). This one had a junction box. It also still had the socket lamp holder attached to it. The light had just been turned so it pointed into the attic and not through the ceiling. What were they thinking???

Light fixture in the attic

The electrician drilled two new holes, inserted two new boxes and ran the new wires–and did all of it properly.

Wiring pendant lights over the island

I was happy to have a professional electrician fixing all of the mistakes. I was also happy that he was the one crawling around in the attic, not me. I like my DIY, but I’ve learned where to draw the line. Things that are beyond my skills or just plain unpleasant (and this hit both of them) are a clear time to call in professional help.

If you’re in the Guelph, Hamilton or tri-city area, I highly recommend Agentis Electric.

Electrician going into the attic

I did patch the hole in the ceiling on my own though (but I haven’t painted it yet). And here’s the finished product: pair of pendants, properly positioned–and properly wired–over the island.

School house pendant lights over the kitchen island

How do you decide when to bring in professional help? What’s the wiring like at your house? Do you have any light fixtures lying around just waiting to be installed? How do you handle lighting in your kitchen?