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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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Summer in the Garden

Garden 2

Garden 3

Garden 4

Garden 1

Garden 5

So far our first growing season in our own home has proven to be a quite a learning experience!

At times it has been very challenging. We’ve lost a blueberry plant to an unknown fate. A mystery bug (I suspect earwigs but haven’t enough proof) has eaten one and a half of our two raspberry plants (not the fruit, the leaves and stems!) All but one each of our watermelon and cucumber plants have mysteriously disappeared. One of our passionfruits’ new growth has been repeatedly gobbled up by something, preventing it from growing. We’ve had hot days then cold days and gale force winds. I can’t even remember the last time it rained…

But! Despite all of that, we’ve also had some wonderful successes in our our little garden. Our raspberry is bouncing back. The tomatoes are out of control. The beans have produced more than I could ever have imagined. The zucchinis are in good health. The elderflower is flourishing. We have at least 6 pumpkins on their way. And most happily for me, one of our two Camellia Sinensis (tea) bushes (that we thought had died) is starting to show some new growth, just as we were about to pull it out and replace it with a big blackberry bush! Over the last couple of weeks we’ve eaten homegrown rainbow chard, strawberries, sugar snap peas, basil, zucchini, perpetual spinach, one cucumber and mountains of beans, and now we’re starting to get tomatoes. Though we started small with just two raised beds, we have managed to grow quite a lot!

Even though it can be frustrating at times, we’re really enjoying having a productive garden. We love being able to eat fruit and veggies that we’ve grown ourselves. Nothing makes me happier than spying Katie at the veggie patch, picking something fresh for our dinner. It’s so nice knowing the things we eat don’t have any chemicals on them and that they are in our bellies within minutes of being picked. A lot of the veggies we grow (including all of our peas) don’t even make it into the kitchen. They are so good we can’t help but eat them straight off the plant!

With the successes and struggles of this season in mind, I’m now starting to make plans for the next growing season. It’s time to expand our veggie patch from the two raised beds and I’ve earmarked half our front lawn for some serious redevelopment. Soon it’ll be time to put things in for winter. I’ve already got some kale seeds that are calling me…

What’s been happening in your garden this season?

Reuben

PS All these pictures are from Katie’s Instagram account. We’ve gotten a bit out of the habit of taking photos over the last few months, but we are both determined to get back behind the camera this year!

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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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Putting Down Roots

Fig Tree

The other day Reubs and I were driving home after a visiting a few op-shops and we were chatting about fruit trees. Our garden is currently a completely tree free zone and though we don’t have a huge amount of space, we do have room for a few trees along one of our fencelines, as long as we keep them well pruned. Because we’d like to make our small space as productive as possible, we’ve decided to plant fruit trees, so ever since we moved in we’ve been trying to decide which fruit trees to put in. During our car chat we finally settled on four trees; a pear, a plum, a peach and a fig. Then, in a strange twist of fate, that afternoon we popped in to visit my mum and she told us she’d just been given a little fig tree but didn’t have anywhere to put it, so asked us if we wanted it. And so we came into possession of our first baby tree!

It still feels funny to think this house is ours, and though it isn’t our forever home, to know we will be here for at least a few years. Since we got together eight and a half years ago, Reuben and I have rented 8 different places (and that’s not including the seperate apartments we were living in when we first met, my mum’s house or this house!) We have never stayed in a house or apartment for more than 18 months. As silly as it sounds, it’s a bit odd to know where we will be a year from now and it’s kind of amazing to think we will be here long enough to actually see trees grow (at least a little bit!) We’ve just never had that kind of certainty before.

When we first settled on our house we felt the need to get everything done immediately. We actually burnt ourselves out a bit working on the house at a crazy pace in an effort to get things the way we wanted them right away, but we realise now there is just no need to rush through this process. It’s going to take a long time to get everything done and we will likely never really “finish” working on our home, but that’s ok! We are in this project for the long haul.

After years of moving from home to home, it feels so nice to be putting down roots. Both literal and figurative.

Katie x

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