undernook update

Last weekend we tackled a project we’ve been talking about for ages. It didn’t take very long and it’s so nice to have it done with!

In the basement, adjacent to the laundry area, is the undernook – the little square-ish room underneath the kitchen nook. Someone had paneled this little area off and installed a door at some point in history, but we don’t really need it to be separate and would in fact prefer it to be open to the laundry area.

new house

The pallets on the floor of the laundry room went away ages ago, but we haven’t done much with the area otherwise. Until last weekend!

Undernook

Ta-da! Now it’s all open and one source of allergens is gone (the wood was damaged at the floor level where it had flooded at some point – nothing like dry rot and other assorted molds/whathaveyou to make me feel gross). As you can see we also have an air system in here which is probably better in a more open area. We now need to clean the walls in here – I’d like to paint them so we have a clean, tidy surface before we put up shelving – as they are pretty gross. Some areas have efflorescence that has been there since before we bought the house, and other areas are water stained or dusty or grimy. Time to do some cleaning! If anyone has done this type of project before, all advice and opinions are welcome!

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it’s grate

Yes, *grate*.

Window well grate

It’s a cover for the window well that is right next to the pathway by the back gate. The pathway was originally much closer to the window well and it was a real danger that someone might step in by accident, so we felt it was important to make sure it was super safe. Our contractor found someone to fabricate this for us and it’s definitely doing the job! Even though the pathway is a little further away, it still seems good to have this safety feature.

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jawin’ about garden beds

We braved the heat this weekend (sort of) and did some garden work each morning before it got too horrible outside. We made it an hour or two each morning, which felt like a real accomplishment considering the temperatures and the complete lack of any breeze whatsoever. We did completely remove grass from two areas, and while that wasn’t as much as I’d hoped to get done, it was fine.

Garage garden bed

One area is on the right side of the garage. There is already this Spirea here and a bunch of daylilies, but I want to extend the garden to fill this space.

Garage garden bed

The second area is connected and runs around the side of the garage. This area was a little easier to work with because we had just seeded it last year after removing the decrepit shed that used to sit up against this side of the garage, so the grass wasn’t as well established. In addition to grass, though, we found some other things!

Jaw bones from the garden #FireflyCottage

Three separate pieces of jaw bone! We are guessing that they’re from an opossum (or more than one?). Maybe it crawled under the shed and died at some point? Maybe it was living under the shed and was killed with poison? Who knows! If anyone can confirm that these bones are from an opossum, I’d love to know for sure.

After digging up the grass, I transplanted some hostas from their temporary home on the other side of the house (gifts from my mom when she was dividing her hostas last year – thanks, Mom!). I plan to let them spread out and form a sort of hosta hedge here, and add some taller perennial flowering plants as well (maybe some milkweed, which we already have on the other side of the garage). I also seeded the blank spaces all around here with a mixture of annual seeds that I picked up last year when Dollar General was clearance-ing out their seeds. Who knows what will grow, but hopefully we’ll have a mix of Candytuft, Moss Rose, and Alyssum. Hopefully next weekend will be less wretched and I can get the grass cleared out of the other side.

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walkways complete!

I’m back from a week away at a conference in Bozeman, and while I was gone the walkway project was completed – at least this portion of the work. As you’ll see, there’s still some things that need to be done (grass! gardens!).

Firefly Cottage

Out front, we have a lovely red stamped concrete pathway that goes all the way from the street to the front door.

Firefly Cottage

It leads right up to the front steps and the patio area up here is now slightly larger than it was with the pavers.

Firefly Cottage

On the side of the house, we went with a regular concrete (less spendy!), had the pathway moved out farther from the house and widened, and added a horseshoe-ish path going on either side of the garage to the existing slabs.

Firefly Cottage

We also had all the downspouts buried (in the yard [dirt] you can see the green pop-ups where they’ll drain when it’s raining) while we were at it.

Firefly Cottage

This horseshoe-ish shape means that when we have folks over, they can park on the slab in front of the garage and have a walkway to get to the house instead of having to traverse the alley (which is dirt) or the grass. The areas between the garage and the horseshoe will be gardens rather than grass.

Firefly Cottage

We also have a much better walkway to the back gate. The gate was moved over along with the walkway, so it’s all farther away from the side of the house – before it was so close you felt like you were going to run into the house with your elbow if you weren’t careful. And the window well back here was a huge hazard! No longer!

Firefly Cottage

That window well is now well back from the pathway, hooray! I’ll also be planting in this area between the walkway and the house. I need to decide what to plant there. I don’t want anything that will climb up the house (remember all the horrible tenacious vines that we cleared off the house? Remnants of the roots are still clinging to the brick!) or be too bushy – but I do want perennials that pretty much take care of themselves once established. Any suggestions?

Firefly Cottage

Great news! Despite being dug up/disturbed over the winter when we had the basement/exterior drainage system installed, and being disturbed again during this project, the roses are thriving! I had expected them to die, but they’re looking amazing. I’m so pleased!

Firefly Cottage

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sofa-ntastic

Our sofa arrived! After so much searching for The One and waiting for it to be made and delivered, we are so happy to have it!

Sofa

I can’t overstate how much better a fit this sofa is than the one we’ve been using. It’s taller and firmer and all around much more comfortable. Our old sofa worked hard for us, and I definitely value its service, but it was time for it to move on. Godspeed, old sofa!

Sofa

I’m so pleased with how it goes in our living room (even though we still have the former owners’ paint on the walls). Huzzah! Next up is finding some not-on-casters side tables. This is something I’d really, really like to find vintage – another excuse to haunt the garage sales this summer!

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a leg to stand on

My sewing table has seen better days. It wasn’t expensive in the first place (due to the use of lots of coupons and discounts) and we’ve moved it many more times than is probably reasonable. But one of the casters has had issues since, I think, the first time we moved it – the casing on the caster snapped (cheap plastic) and though we glued it every time it rebroke, it finally gave up the ghost when we moved into our home last year. I had some random pieces of craft board stuffed under there until recently when I finally decided that it was leaning too far to that side and needed a better solution. We haven’t done very many DIY projects involving wood at this house yet, so we don’t have a lot around in the way of scraps. K found one lone piece down in the Harley Room and used that to construct a foot of sorts.

Caster fix

It also has felt on the bottom so we don’t scratch the wood floors, and a few scraps of a paint stirrer to bring it up to the correct height. It’s not pretty, but it works! My table is now level again and I’m not in fear of things sliding or rolling off the edge.

Eventually, of course, I’d like to find a solution with storage so I don’t have all these bins of yarn shoved under and around the table. I trip on them on an almost daily basis! Ridiculous! Ideally, I’d find a vintage piece that was big enough for my needs (I’d like to keep my cutting mat from this table, which means the surface needs to be about 60″ x 36″) but that seems like a pipe dream. Plus we don’t have any way to transport such a piece of furniture home from a yard or estate sale or wherever I might ostensibly find it, and we would need it to fit up the stairs, which might be a challenge with a heavy old piece. I found this dresser on the IKEA website – if I put two of them back to back (and secured them together), it would work! But sadly the website lists it as not in stock at any of the stores in our vicinity (Michigan and Illinois) – I’ve been checking back periodically over the last few months, but so far no luck. We’ll see what we find – in the meantime, though, I’m delighted to have a sturdy table with a level surface again! Big thanks go to K for putting it together for me.

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operation: walkways is a go

We just embarked on yet another project at Firefly Cottage! As you may recall, we had a paver walkway going from the sidewalk to the front door, and it was not in the best shape. Pavers were coming up in areas and the steps especially were not sturdy despite repeated attempts to shore them up.

The leaves are turning at Firefly Cottage

The paver patio type area at the front was also not great. After we had the trees cut down last year, a billionty ants that had been living in the dead-inside Box Elders migrated and made little hills in between the pavers. I’m loathe to use any kind of chemicals in the yard, so we have sort of just been giving them a lot of side-eye and wishing they’d relocate. Hopefully they will find other spots in the yard to live now that their homes are once again being disrupted.

More rocks removed, soil added

The walkways around the side of the house and between the garage and the back gate were also not awesome – there were several different generations of paving at different levels, and all of it was extremely close to the house and very narrow. You can kind of see how narrow in this photo:

Trees removed (stumps not ground yet)

We decided that having stamped concrete in the front would look nice, while on the side and between the house and the garage, we don’t really care that much and regular plain sidewalk will do. It will all be easy to snowblow, shovel, and sweep, as well as be safe for walking on. While we’re at it, we are having the downspouts replaced with underground ones. There’s really no other way to do it without having either (a) water pour right down next to the foundation or (b) downspouts as a trip hazard over the walkways. A is a massive NO WAY, and we want to get away from B, so a buried system it is. So! Yesterday they started digging up the old pavers and concrete.

Walkway project day one lunch time

Would you believe they found an entire sidewalk buried under a layer of sand underneath the pavers? They did! Apparently it must have been easier in their minds to just install the pavers over top of the old sidewalk – seems odd, but that’s probably par for the course in terms of former homeowners’ DIY projects.

Walkway project day one lunch time

Things looked pretty torn up when I went home for lunch yesterday, but that is the first step!

Walkway project day one lunch time

When I came home, the mason quickly stopped working the Bobcat to reassure me that they would not leave things a mess. I didn’t expect that they would, but it’s nice to know that it’s on his mind. Next we move on to digging the downspout system and laying the framework for the new walkways.

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front steps

We continue to plug away at projects at Firefly Cottage! We’re trying to focus on the ones that we need external help with, which includes repair to some bricks on the exterior of the house. There was some spalling on the upper section of the chimney, as well as some not-well-sealed-anymore spots at the chimney cap. Those are all fixed now, hooray! We also had our mason work on the front steps, which were in need of some patching, some mortar repair, and a big thing of replacing the pad on the front steps.

Roof in progress at Firefly Cottage

I stupidly forgot to take a photo before they got started, but you can kind of see in this photo from last year that the central pad was pitted and cracked and sunken in some areas, so it needed to be replaced.

Front steps repair work

Here’s the front steps with the main pad removed.

Front steps repair work

And here it is with new concrete! It looks so much better, and it a lot safer for walking on. It also contains a lot more structure than it used to – the rebar on the original installation was pretty wimpy and minimal, so it should be more durable over the next 75 years than it was in the past 75.

Front steps repair work

We also had some patching on the steps for bricks that were spalling. The type of bricks we have aren’t easy to find, so replacing them wasn’t really an option. With a little weathering, these will blend right in. I’m really pleased to have this all fixed! Now that the outside of the chimney is fixed, we need to get the insides cleaned and make sure the flues are in good repair (even though we aren’t planning to use the fireplaces for fires due to my allergies, we want to know that they’re safe and operational). This type of project is really not very glamorous, but it makes up for it in peace of mind!

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DIY: magnetic door stop

One of the things about an older home is that not all the doors hang just right. The door to our bedroom, for instance, tends to want to close on its own. We’d rather it stay open most of the time to allow for air circulation and so the dogs don’t get inadvertently trapped in there. We also happened to notice that the rubber stopper-end on the door stop was completely worn away, so it was a perfect time to replace it with a magnetic one.

Installing a new, magnetic door stop

What a…lovely paint job on this old door stop!

Installing a new, magnetic door stop

Luckily it was easy to install the wall piece as it goes into the baseboard rather than the plaster wall. We still have not figured out how to deal with drilling into the plaster. We need a plaster mentor!

Installing a new, magnetic door stop

It’s pretty easy – you attach this base plate to the wall and then the door stop itself screws on.

Installing a new, magnetic door stop

Installing a new, magnetic door stop

The magnetic piece on the door works much the same way.

Installing a new, magnetic door stop

This door piece also has a spring inside, so it has some give when connecting with the door stop.

Installing a new, magnetic door stop

Aesthetically it’s not the most stylish door stop, but it does work quite well. Problem solved in about five minutes!

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tree free

Well, there are still a bunch of trees, but now we have two fewer of them and the space for the neighboring trees to thrive. When we moved in, we noticed that there were three very small maples planted extremely close together on the side of the yard next to the alley (AKA our driveway). Of course I neglected to take any good photos of this area!

new house

Here you can see two of them as seen a little over a year ago (I am not at all sad that we don’t have this much snow right now!) – and you can see that they are very close to each other and that one of them is really, REALLY close to the conifer. All three of the trees were pretty spindly and were growing at odd angles trying to get sunlight. I just don’t know why you’d plant maple trees this close to each other! There’s no possible way for them to reach any kind of maturity without interfering with each other. If the purpose was to block the view of the neighbor’s garage, then an evergreen hedge would be a much better idea (and that is what we will do eventually).

So this weekend we took down the two trees that were having the most trouble thriving.

Two fewer tiny struggling maples

This leaves just the one closest to the garage, which you can sort of see in this photo. It’s really probably too close to both the slab and the alley, but for now we’re going to give it a chance. It was really beautiful on Saturday and this was a lovely chance to get outside and do some work on the yard, which I’m super anxious to get started on. We’re also figuring out a plan for having the front pathway replaced with something more sturdy and long-lasting, and once we get that settled then I can really start on the garden parts of the yard!

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