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As I’ve dreamed about fixing up the front of our house, I have been taking notes on what the neighbors are doing.  Miss E and I go on walks with her in the carrier on most evenings, and sometimes in the afternoon as well.

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We live in a development built in the 1950’s and for blocks around, there are really only half a dozen floorplans or so (and their mirror images).  Since being built there have been several decades for the various owners to build additions, change the facade, move doors and windows, add porches, etc. etc.  This means that when I go on walks, I have tons of opportunity to take notes on what works and what doesn’t on our exact same house!

For comparison’s sake, here’s a reminder of what our house looks like.

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There are two houses nearby that I particularly like.  They haven’t done anything drastic but the homes are updated and have tidy front yards.

I really like gray houses with crisp white trim, which is part of why this one appeals to me.    It just looks spick and span in person.  The paint looks fresh and new, and the lawn is always taken care of.  That’s more than I can say for a good percentage of the homes around us!  All the windows have been updated and have mullions (hard to see with the reflections), which I also love.IMG_1552 (800x598)

This house has a simple ranch-style porch that fits well with the rest of the house.  It also looks beautiful at night!  They have pretty, low-care landscaping with grasses and mulch and perfect outdoor lighting.  It really makes things look high end for our modest neighborhood.  Isn’t it amazing how great lighting can have that effect?

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So as the Chief works on restoring our windows, I’m dreaming about the end result.

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His project will likely take all month at the rate it’s going so far – the old paint is diamond hard and tough to get off, then everything needs to be primed with oil based primer, let that dry, then re-glaze each pane with window putty, which takes weeks to dry, then paint it all white.  He’s working on it a sash at a time and is currently about 25% done.

Are we the only ones who go around cribbing ideas from the neighbors?  Or is this a common DIY tendency?

I’m delighted to report that the front of our house currently looks like this:

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It’s fall and that means it’s time for the Chief to stop working on car projects and switch to house projects.   I love this time of year!!

The front of the house has been getting me down lately.  The three original wood windows were in dire need of re-glazing because the putty was flaking and disintegrating.

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There were still paint swatches from a year ago next to the door.

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And there were stucco patches across the front.

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We decided to prioritize an exterior update this fall.  This is Phase One (of two) to complete our curb appeal update.

Phase One Tasks

  • Re-glaze windows
  • Re-paint windows
  • Trim out windows with new, thick trim
  • Paint front of house (yay, no more piebald look!)
  • Paint house trim white (currently dark gray)

This will definitely elevate the appearance of our home!  After that we will probably take a break before continuing with Phase Two in the next year.

Phase Two Tasks

  • Tear down ugly metal porch and build nice new one (I wish we could tear it down now but we need something to keep off the winter rains!)
  • Replace the siding and brick on the far right facade of the house
  • Pour concrete walkway
  • Add landscaping

Here’s what the house looked like at its best before we got started.

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And here’s the in progress shot from the top of the post.

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It always gets worse before it gets better!  I’m really excited.  I’ll be back this week to share some more details.

When fall arrives do you tackle big house projects?  What small updates have boosted your curb appeal the most?

At some point in college, for some forgotten reason, I was inspired to write out a page-long description of my ideal marriage and my ideal man. It metamorphosed into a fantasy of me as a gloriously wild and free – yet domestic and tranquil – woman riding her horse bareback across green hills, coming back home at dusk to be enfolded in the strong and manly arms of my curly haired husband who had been home growing vegetables and watching our toddler while I did valiant world changing magical things.

I about died laughing as I typed that out.  First of all, the wonderful reality is so different from the vision, and second of all, dreams are important but that one was mostly rooted in self-centeredness.

It is true that I thought I’d probably marry someone wise and gentle who gardened and read a lot. Instead, my husband is loud, smart, highly active, a natural born mechanic/engineer, who works till he drops then he watches TV. Oh, and he homebrews.

So I’ve been wanting to put in a vegetable garden for a couple years now. This year, we finally got the last of the giant junk & concrete pile out of the backyard to reveal the spot where a vegetable garden had thrived when his parents lived here.

Garden site before

I bought organic, non-GMO seeds this winter in hopes of planting at last, yet I worried that since there was no water source out back, I would not be able to sustain a garden and would have to wait another season.

The Chief’s homebrewing came to my rescue! He turned up one day with hop vine rhizomes to plant so that he could have homegrown hops in his homemade beers, and two days later there was a complete watering system piped up to the vegetable garden site, plus a big trellis to support the vines.  I guess it’s all about motivation.  He put in FOUR spigots which you can see here, so there are lots of options for watering with timers, drip hoses, garden hose, etc.

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Luckily I was able to move really quickly to get this garden in the ground because I already had my garden plan 90% worked out, thanks to poring over this book during the winter:

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I plotted out my planting on graph paper because I am the kind of person who likes doing that.

Then I got a few bags of compost and a box of organic fertilizer and prepared my bed.  Turning over this bed was pretty easy as the old garden had left the soil nice and loose even all these years later.  I AM at the very end of my pregnancy, so I only did a third of it at a time over the course of several days.  Honestly it felt really good to do.  And if jumping on a shovel isn’t helping the baby move down I don’t know what would.

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I raked the soil down, staked out the boundaries with hot pink string (hey, it’s what we had), put in teepees for the beans to climb, laid soaker hose,  and at long last planted my seeds!

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This summer and fall we should be harvesting:

  • 2 kinds of pole beans
  • watermelon
  • muskmelon (like cantaloupe)
  • basil
  • chard
  • radishes
  • carrots
  • 3 kinds of tomatoes
  • cucumbers
  • lettuces
  • jalapeno peppers
  • pumpkins
  • hops, of course!

It has been way, way too long since I worked in the soil.  I haven’t grown veggies since I was a kid but I did extensive gardening with perennials and roses through my teens and early 20’s until I graduated college, moved to California, and had no place to garden anymore.  It’s so good to have this in my life again.  I figure I can just about manage to take care of a newborn and a new garden this spring – sounds like an excellent and full plate to me!

What kind of gardening, if any, have you done?  Is anyone else a fan of homegrown veggies?  Who thinks this was some crazy project for a 9 months pregnant lady to do?  I figure if the pioneer women could do it, so could I :)

You know those old couples who sit out on their front lawn side by side in folding chairs and watch the neighborhood goings-on?  Yeah, that was us.  Except we were watching other people work on our house.  Our driveway, to be precise.

Up till now we’ve had a pitted, disintegrating asphalt driveway that we’ve just lived with.  The Chief works on cars out there and it’s not pleasant to lie on your back for hours on a surface that looks like this:

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It finally made sense to replace the driveway, and I think it might be one of the most joy inducing house projects for the Chief.  Not only was Someone Else doing the work on his property, it was going to make his life a million times more comfortable.  It would let him work under cars comfortably as well as simply and easily roll out a tool cart, an engine lift, a jack, without the hassle and danger the old asphalt presented.  To keep costs down, he did all the prep work of removing the old paving and creating the foundation and forms for the concrete.  This included spraying the dirt down to make it easier for the mini-earthmover to remove it.

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You can see how far down he had to dig – about 6″.  We did not use rebar in this pour because metal is a lot more expensive than cement right now, and it is cheaper to do a 6″ slab of concrete (very thick and sturdy) than to do 3″ of concrete with rebar.

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With the driveway all dug out and prepared, it looked about like this.  The forms have not yet been installed here but it gives you the wide angle picture.

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About 6:30AM on Saturday, a half hour before they were scheduled, the crew and first concrete truck arrived.  The Chief sprang out of bed and went to go over the morning’s plan.  They taped up plastic on our house and the neighbor’s to ward off splatters, then backed the concrete truck to the far end of the driveway.  Here’s the very first cubic foot being poured!

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By 7:15 we were out back in our folding chairs, sipping tea and coffee respectively, and having a wonderful time watching the guys make our driveway look 1000 times better.

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After a while we relocated to the front yard to watch that part of the pour.  Here the crew is leveling out the driveway.

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After leveling, they float it with two different types of floats (flat paddles on long poles) that push the gravel down and make the surface of the concrete smooth.

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Once the concrete has been floated, expansion lines are marked to create some give in hot and cold conditions.

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The weather was blessedly perfect for pouring concrete – not too hot, not too cold, cloudy and damp but no rain fell.  This gave them plenty of time to work the concrete into a perfect finish before it started to harden.  From start to finish the whole job took about four hours.  It took EXACTLY two cement mixers’ worth of concrete.  We were nervous we’d be a measly couple of yard short and have to tap into the third truck we had on call, but with a little bit of smoothing the crew was able to fill the last spot and still have one or two shovelfuls of concrete to spare  Here is the final product.

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That’s a massively improved driveway, don’t you think?

I’m remembering how just over a year ago we replaced the warped wooden garage door and beam with a new steel I-beam and a beautiful automatic garage door.  With this new driveway poured, I think we’re about done with this part of of the house.  Our neighbors have been giving us thumbs up as they drive by, so everyone is a fan and we’re the rock stars of the week on our street.  That feels pretty good!  Next up: maybe we’ll finally take that 5 gallons of exterior paint and and repaint the house at last.  Till then, I never thought I’d be so pleased with a broad expanse of concrete paving.  How do you like our new surface?

It’s getting closer, you guys! We really are going to paint our whole darn house! The arrival of Summer Heat has slowed down our mojo with house projects the last several weeks. We’ve been spending the weekends reading books and napping and not vaccuuming (me) or flipping cars [by which I mean fixing and selling them] in between drinking homebrewed beer (the Chief).  You can tell who is the get-it-done personality style and who is the savor-and-enjoy :)

Here’s the thing.  We bought 5 gallons of Behr exterior paint early this year when they had a really good rebate/sale going on.  At the time I didn’t have the trace of a thought about changing the color of our house, so I mildly looked on as the Chief handed a painted-over house number to the associate so she could match it with her paint spectrometer, and we walked out with a whole lot of matching paint.

When we redid the garage door…

We painted the new I-beam and some stained parts of the house with our new 5 gallons and discovered that that house number must have been a wee bit dirty, because the new paint was a definite shade grayer than the old cream-colored paint.  No biggie.  I actually liked it better that way.  Gray is the new brown, you know!  Oh wow, did I actually just say that…?  Well… IT IS TRUE.

Now, since we haven’t actually gotten around to applying the paint yet, I am thinking that maybe I should take the chance to tweak our color and I want your opinion.

You can see from this photo what the new paint is going to look like, compared to the current color.  Just a tad muddier.  Our house is basically the same color as the two houses on either side of it at the present, which is another reason why a color change might be good, but it’s better than theirs because it has a black-brown roof and a bright red door :-D  That is my genuine, unbiased opinion.

QUESTION:  I’m toying with the idea of going just a bit darker and neutral-ing out some of the yellowy cast.  Should I haul the 5 gallons back to the Depot and get them to tint it?  If so what should I tell them to add?  Black? Brown?  The darkest color off the paint chip that is the color I want the house to end up?  How do you think this experiment would turn out?  Thanks for your input!