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It’s no secret that I’m a homebody. I relish the time I spend with Reuben in our nest, surrounded by our fur babies and the things we hold dear. Though I love going out for adventures and to spend time with friends, I’m always happy to come back to our own little patch of earth.

Our big trip reaffirmed just how much home means to me. Though we had a truly wonderful time and each day was full of amazing exeriences and surprises, I really missed our home. I missed cooking meals in our shabby apricot kitchen. I missed my vintage linens and mismatched crockery. I missed collecting the eggs in the morning. I missed our messy garden. Most of all, I missed our cats, dogs and chickens. Life just feels a bit empty without their furry (and feathery) little faces close by.

A little part of me worried that after exploring some of the world’s most incredible cities, our tiny village would feel suffocatingly small. I was concerned that when we came back, all the messy, imperfect bits of our regular life would seem more apparent and tiresome. But on the contrary, I find myself fonder of the flaws and imperfections than ever before. Spending time away from here reminded me just how much I love this simple life we are building, in all its messy, imperfect glory.

I hope you’re all having a lovely week. Sending cozy, happy thoughts from our home to yours.

Katie x

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Suburban Jungle

Reuben and Veggie Beds

Gardening

Poppy

Garden

Daisy

Planting

We spent a lot of the weekend in the garden, building two more veggie beds, planting a couple of citrus trees, pruning and pottering. Though our garden isn’t producing much now, it feels good to be building something for the future. From little things big things grow.

I must admit, when Reubs and I moved into this house I was a bit worried about going overboard in the garden. Our block is very small and awkwardly shaped and I seriously doubted that we’d ever be able to make it particularly productive. Reubs was keen to make the most of our limited space and cram it full of edibles. He immediately wanted to rip out all the lawn and replace it with a giant veggie patch, and was adamant that we had enough space for a number of fruit trees, but I was reluctant. It seems crazy to me now but I didn’t like the idea of not having any lawn and I was scared that if we planted too much our yard would look messy and unattractive. (What would the neighbours think?!) So we started small with two little veggie beds, a couple of fruit trees and two chickens, and bit by bit we’ve added more and more. We now have four large veggie beds, ten fruit trees, two passionfruit vines, a couple of berry plants, two elderflower bushes (for making cordial) and hopps (for making beer) which we plan to plant next to the car port so it can climb. We are also hoping to turn a whole corner of our yard into a large chicken coop, so we can keep a bigger flock of chooks. Slowly, I’ve come to realise just how much can be done with a small space (we still have room for so much more!) and I now have a completely different kind of vision for our garden. Not a tidy lawn, tidy veggie beds, tidy trees and small tidy chicken coop, but a rambling patch overflowing with homegrown fruit, veggies, flowers and chickens.

I recently bought Backyard Self Sufficiency by Jackie French (which I highly recommend) and today I was having a read when I stumbled across a quote that so perfectly summed up what I’ve been thinking and feeling, that I had to share it with you. Jackie says:

“I have two images of suburban life today.

The first is of a neat house set in a mown lawn with trimmed shrubs and a sandpit; a clean kitchen with yesterday’s takeaway containers in the sink; and the latest DVDs to fill your life after dinner.

The second is of a suburban jungle: a maze of tangled apple trees and grapevines, carpets of strawberries, and kids with mulberry-stained faces who don’t come inside till dark. You trip over a box of apples in the laundry and the kitchen smells of summer tomatoes and of the basil on the windowsill.

The kitchen shelves are full, so are the lives of the inhabitants.

The richness of our lives depends on our surroundings and what we fill them with.”

I know which one I’d prefer. Bring on the jungle.

Katie xx

PS Just in case you are wondering what our “chicken tractor” is doing in our new veg beds – we were using the girls’ scratching skills to get a headstart on digging up the grass.
PPS My cute apron and trowel are from lovely Brenda‘s wonderful new shop.

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A New Deck

When we bought this neglected old house of ours, we made a list of all the things we needed to fix. Somewhere down the list was the item “replace old deck” but despite being older than the pyramids, the pile of weathered wood outside our front door that we called a “deck” somehow managed to hold our weight, so replacing it never made it to the top of the list. That was until Friday morning, when little Clover decided to pull a large piece of the old deck up and eat it (as you can see by the missing piece in the picture). And so this weekend became dedicated to deck replacement! Here is our sad (and dangerous) deck before:

Deck Before

I naively thought the job would be fairly easy. I made a trip to the hardware shop and bought some replacement decking boards, nails and a circular saw, planning just to rip up and replace the old, brittle boards. But once I started pulling the deck up and saw the joists underneath, my heart sank. Below our weathered deck was a tangled mess of rusty nails wriggling their way out of old rotten beams. In one spot there was even evidence of a small fire! Scarily, the joist beneath an uncharacteristically new section of deck was actually half charcoal. So it was back to the hardware shop to buy new joists!

Burnt Joist

Dogs Watching Reuben

Once the new joists were in place, the it all came together rather quickly and by this afternoon the job was complete! We still have to oil the boards for weather protection but we now have a nice safe deck, and one more thing ticked off our never ending to-do list.

Reubs and Dogs on Finished Deck

Reuben and Clover

Daisy and Clover seem pretty chuffed with their new sunbaking spot too!

Reuben

PS. You may have noticed that the bottom panel of our front door is cracked and has been taped up. It turns our my dad was right, that is what happens when you run around inside the house. Another thing for the to-do list – “replace front door”.

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Lessons from our First Year as Home Owners

It’s been a little over a year since we bought our first home. As is always the case, in some ways it seems like we’ve been here forever and in other ways it feels like we’ve only just moved in. We had grand plans for this sad old house when we first moved in and, though we’ve made some progress, there is still so much to do.

Hall Before

Our hall in January 2013.

Hall

Our hall now!

Living Room Before

The fluoro lights in our lounge room in January 2013.

Living Room Lights

The lights in our lounge room now.

Oven Before

Our old, dead oven.

Oven

Our new oven (and the hole we had to bang in the wall to squeeze it in!)

Bedroom Before

Our bedroom in January 2013.

Bedroom After

Our bedroom now.

Though we haven’t achieved as much as we’d have liked, we have learnt many, many lessons in our first year of home ownership. If we could go back in time and give Katie and Reuben a year ago some advice, we would tell ourselves…

There is so much more to do than you ever imagined.

Even when you DIY, doing any kind of work on a house costs money. More money than you think.

Similarly, everything will take much longer to do than you thought it would. Sometimes twice as long. Sometimes five times as long!

Scraping the paint off skirting boards, windows and doorframes, and stripping floors is not fun. Not even a tiny bit fun.

There is no smell in the world more horrible than you will experience if you rip up 50 year old carpets that have been soaked in cat’s pee.

Sometimes you will wish you could just call a real estate agent or landlord and let them take care of things.

Houses seem a lot bigger when you are painting them than they do when you are living in them.

Old things in old houses (like ovens, gas heaters, hot water systems and air conditioners) need replacing. This is very expensive.

There will be times when you look around you and feel utterly overwhelmed. You will wonder why you ever thought buying such a mess of a house was a good idea and you will fantasise about giving in and running away to a nice, comfortable rental…

But! Despite all the difficulties, every single day you will be grateful for your home.

You will feel so glad that you are building your own future, rather than paying off a landlord’s mortgage.

You will be so happy to have the freedom to do whatever you like to your space.

You will feel so much pride and ownership over every little task completed and every small renovating victory.

And though you’ll probably never really “finish” working on your house and at times it will drive you crazy, you will love it more than any place you could ever rent.

Because it is yours.

Katie and Reuben x

PS Sorry for the lack of post last week! We were having internet connection issues.

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A Productive Week

Chicken Coop

Entry Hall

Sunbaking

Paint Stripping

This has been a productive week at the humble house! Reubs has taken a few days off, so we could get some serious work done around the house, and we’ve been trying to make the most of it…

Last Saturday we picked up our freebie chicken coop, so now we are on the hunt for some chickens! It’s only small so we are thinking of getting a couple of Pekins to begin with. On Wednesday we bought some wood edging for our veggie patch and two fruit trees – a plum and a plum crossed with an apricot. We are still looking for two pears and maybe a peach. We also bought three roses to go in the flower bed we plan to build under our bedroom window. Now we just need to borrow my mum’s ute to pick up a load of soil.

We’ve also been busy inside! We originally planned to work on our living room this week but in the end decided to focus on the entryway and hallway instead. They are the first things you see when you enter our house and are currently in such a terrible state. We’ve spent the last few days scraping and sanding back 60 years worth of paint, and hopefully we’ll get some fresh paint on the walls over the weekend. I think getting these areas done is going to make such a difference to our shabby house. We can almost feel the difference already!

Often we feel overwhelmed by all that needs to be done to our old home. Our limited time and money never seems to stretch far enough and we are forever discovering new projects and expenses that need our attention… But every now and then, like this week, I see the flutter of light at the end of the tunnel. I catch a glimpse of what this place might be like in a year (or maybe five years) from now, and I know that it’s going to be worth it. While scraping paint, sanding and plastering cracks isn’t fun, I’m certain that in years to come I will look back on this time as a defining, and very special, chapter of our lives.

What have you been up to this week? I hope all is well in your world!!

Katie x

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