New Stone Patio!

I think one of the most surprising things, at least to me, about owning a home, is the constant reevaluation of how you’re using a space. I know not everyone does this; some people are happy to get their home just the way they want it and keep it that way. I think that’s fine! If you love your space, and it brings you comfort, and it works for your family, and you never want it changed, more power to you. That’s why it’s yours!

However, Pete and I don’t work that way. I can’t count how many changes we’ve made to this house, or even accurately say how many times we’ve moved our bed from room to room. We are constantly trying to make our place work better for us. I’m not sure if it’s obsession with perfection (don’t think so), inability to sit still (more likely, at least for me), or just that we’re both kind of creative types, but we are constantly tinkering with our layout, our furniture, our colors, or in the case of this week, the number of porches attached to the house.

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Look at sweet Sis modeling for me!

This house has a total of four porches for four exterior doors. There’s the big front porch, which we’re ALMOST done renovating, two side porches, and a porch on the back walkway.IMG_2594

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I should correct the above statement, because as of just a couple of days ago, it had four porches. Now it has three. We’ve ripped one off and are replacing it with a stone patio.

We use the side yard a lot. It’s fenced, which gives me an opportunity to control the Boy, the ducks, and the dog, and it’s flat- the only part of our yard that really meets that criteria. Here’s a picture of the yard a couple years ago when I was working on a couple projects, and a picture of the (no longer existent) porch.

This porch was useful to us, but as you can see, it was a little small for our table and chairs. That’s exacerbated now by the fact that the Boy likes to eat dinner outside, so we need space for a third chair. Additionally, it made the small side yard seem smaller because it was a second level up from the ground. And finally, mowing the side yard was difficult for Peter, since he had to work in a confined space around the porch and garden. This is the new plan:

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We bought 1600 lbs. of flagstone and plan to bury them enough to make it easy to slide the mower over the top of the patio. The privet bushes will get moved, and the patio will extend all the way to the side of the house, curving in toward the house as it goes away from the door. Peter has been digging all week, and he picked up some pea gravel this morning, so once it has been graded and the stones laid, we’ll fill it in to look very similar to the back walkway.

There were a couple other advantages to removing a porch. The first is maintenance-related. Our porches, because of the hot, wet Tennessee weather, require painting yearly. I’m the porch painter, so I’ll be glad to have one fewer porch to maintain. Additionally, I am pretty particular about keeping consistency in landscaping materials, and I’m excited the flagstone walkway that goes around the back of the house will now wrap around to the side yard.

This project will probably go a long way this week/weekend, so I’ll update you next week on it! Hopefully we’ll be sitting out on the patio, sipping sangria and plotting our next move very soon!

Just a couple other photos to show how much non-blogged work has happened lately! I moved a ton of hosta plants from my bursting hosta bed down to the little cedar tree at the bottom of our drive. As in, I dug them up, trekked down the yard with 2-3, planted them, walked back up, and brought back more. And then lugged buckets of water down to water them in. It was brutal, but a good reason to skip the gym once last week.

This little garden has our historical marker in it, and I’m excited for the hosta to get acclimated and fill in to create a really pretty little bed!

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I had even more hostas to split, so the other tree at the base of the yard got some, too, but they’re big and droopy and needing to acclimate and then get trimmed back so they can put on some new, strong stems.

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A lot of the goal here is simplifying mowing around the lower-limbed trees. Pete has to get under here with the riding mower, and a hosta bed means he can just do it in one turn without smacking his eyeball on a cedar limb. Never underestimate the impact of nicely-landscaped trees in your yard. If we stay here for many more years, I expect I’ll have little beds like this around most of our trees. It’s pretty and makes for easy yard upkeep. Just a yearly application of mulch to keep the weeds back and you’re good to go!

Alright, I think that’s the run of it. I’m pretty proud of how the property is looking this year! I think we’ve taken it a long way, and I’m excited to see how much more functional and pretty our side yard is with a stone patio.

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Such a pretty, sweet old lady.

All the best, guys!!

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The Best Changes We’ve Made (So Far)

I write this blog partly to chronicle the challenges we face and the changes we make in our historic home, but I also write it to give myself the proverbial pat on the back when I’m feeling stuck in a “no progress” rut. Today is one of those days, so I’m taking a look back at most useful changes we’ve made over the last 5 years (oh, my goodness!) in our 1900 home.

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When we made an offer on this house, it was in newly-renovated shape, and the previous owner had been very specific in some of his choices to preserve or restore much of the house’s historic character. Oh, man, did I respect that, but I was also pretty adamant to Peter that I didn’t want to move into a museum where we couldn’t make changes without offending someone or feeling guilty. I didn’t necessarily like or agree with all of the renovations, but I understood the owner’s intentions and agreed with his general philosophy. Pete didn’t think my concern about the museum thing would be much of a problem, and in the spirit of the house’s first renovations, as we’ve gone along, we’ve made sure that changes we make look like they’ve always been there. We’re particular about style, colors, materials, and the house’s original floorplan; our goal is to make the house a place the original owner, Mr. R. O. Huffaker, would least feel comfortable visiting even if he didn’t really recognize it.

We moved into the R.O. Huffaker House in May, 2012. Here we are, new homeowners.

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The previous owner had done some major renovations on our 112-year-old house, including new electrical, plumbing, windows, and roof, but as we lived in the place, we found some more things we could do to improve the house’s function as a family home. I’ve drawn up a list of a few of my favorite DIY changes we’ve made to the place: the ones that had the greatest impact on how we lived in our space, how the house flowed, and how it will hopefully sell when that time comes.

French tile in the back walkway.

We (and most visitors) enter our house through the back door. When we moved in, the previous owners had made a valiant attempt at turning this into an herb garden, but there were serious drainage issues which made almost every plant rot in place.

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The ground got muddy, the dogs trailed it in, and we worried about water on the floors and in the basement. So, we got to work digging out the dirt by the rock wall, laying in a French tile, and covering it with pea gravel. The garden drained better and it was easier to walk back there after a storm.

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Painting.

This is an obvious one, right? But seriously, some weird paint schemes were happening inside and outside this house. I’m very particular about my color schemes not jarring me as I travel from one room to the next, so it was important to me that we tackle some of the flow issues created by an incoherent paint scheme.

For example, avocado green trim in the kitchen was turned charcoal grey…

…dark army green rooms were painted a nice blue grey…

…the fleshy peach hallway was painted bright white with high contrast doors and furniture…

…and even boring doors were made inviting with a nice paprika color. Painting is the cheapest way to change the feel of a room or an exterior, but it makes a huge impact. I haven’t regretted any of these paint decisions.

Replacing the back door.

The mudroom was a deep, dark cave with no functionality, but fixing that was a bit of a challenge on the materials front.

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Every door in this house is a weird size. When we looked at the back mudroom area and started talking about adding a door that had a window in it, we knew it would be a challenge to find a door that came even close to fitting in the frame. We didn’t want to order custom, and we kind of wanted an old door, anyway, so we went to the local salvage warehouse and got lucky with a door that was the right width and just needed to be lengthened. Pete built a drop zone featuring a bench with a hinged top and Shaker-style pegs, and then we got to work switching the doors.

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The result was lots of light and a functional space to drop bags, shoes, and keys.

Window in the dining room.

Similar to the mudroom, the dining room had no window. We saved up and added one and turned it from this…

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…to this!

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Sealing off the Master Bedroom.

We played musical bedrooms a bit in this house, but once we had finally decided where we wanted our bedroom, we needed to seal it off from the dining room. See that grey built-in cabinet in the photo above? That was the dining-room-side solution of the two doors problem. Peter built it to fill in the doorway between the two rooms, and it functions well as a side board and as storage.

Adding closets to master.

The other side of that wall also needed something to cover the doorway, and we needed closets in what was now the master bedroom. Most rooms can’t be called a bedroom on a real estate listing unless they have a closet, so we worked on adding two closets, one on each side of a convenient place to put a bed (though you could totally turn it around and make the wall installation an entertainment center). Behold, our master bedroom closet situation.

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Just imagine a hidden door behind the shelves, and you’ll have a good picture of how we changed the layout here.

And finally, adding a second-floor bathroom.

Our house didn’t have an indoor bathroom when it was built in 1900. Over the years, previous owners added one in the hallway, and then the renovator who owned the house before us (quite correctly) removed it and built an addition onto the house which includes a giant bathroom.

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We didn’t really think one bathroom would be a problem when we moved in, but as we lived in the place, we realized how much one was needed on the second floor. Additionally, our realtor made it clear that not only would we see a big return on the investment, she’d actually struggle to sell the house without at least another half bath.

We set to work turning one end of our son’s bedroom into a small half bath, and were pretty stoked at the results. This wall…

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…became this wall…

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…on the other side of which exists this.

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It’s a tiny bathroom, but it does the job it’s (ahem) supposed to do.

As I look back on this list, I feel some definite accomplishment. I think our dream, one day, will be to take an old house from sad and forgotten to beautiful all on our own. This house had most of the hard-core renovations done for us, and we just had to come in and make it more functional and beautiful. Even though we’re not finished with this one, I’m already looking forward to our next big project, one that will be completely ours. I can’t wait to decide everything from the start someday (be careful what you wish for, Audrey).

Keep reading; I plan to do some more work on the master bedroom this weekend and I’m also planning a bit of plant care advice soon!

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Easy, Free Newspaper Pots for Transplants

Hello, everybody!

Dropping by to show you how I handle transplanting my vegetables, mostly tomatoes, when the seedlings are outgrowing the tray but the great outdoors isn’t ready for them yet!

Every year, I jump the gun on starting my seeds, and every year, they’re pushing the limit on size well before the frost date. This year, I was even earlier because The Boy was adamant we start seeds one rainy weekend, and I needed something (anything!) to occupy him for half an hour.

I start seeds in the Park Seed BioDome system, keeping the vents closed until the seedlings sprout. This year, I did some damage by not opening the vents early enough, and the plants got set back after being a little overheated one or three times. It actually worked to my advantage, though, because they didn’t get QUITE so big so quickly.

Newspaper Pots for Seedlings

What you’ll need:

  • seedlings
  • a jar or can
  • old newspaper
  • Scotch tape, masking tape, or some other kind of (easily removable) tape
  • potting soil
  • a tray of some sort to hold your seedlings
  • water and/or fertilizer (I like fish emulsion, but only if I’m keeping them outdoors, because it STINKS)

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I asked Pete to film me making one of these. Please excuse basically everything, including the new bangs, which were a mess, my unpainted porch, and like, everything else. And also, my child whaps me with a pool noodle most of the way through.

 

The basic steps: take one full sheet of newspaper, folded into quarters, and roll it around your can or jar. Tape on the side, then fold the bottom onto itself, and tape that, too. Remove jar, fill with soil, and plant seedling. Continue care until ready to plant, then remove tape and the bottom of the pot, which will remove easily because it will deteriorate from water, fertilizer, etc. Plant!

Here are my 20 pots, ready to be planted. Almost all my seedlings will go to new homes as gifts to friends.

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My tomatoes are already planted; I figured if there’s another freeze warning (unlikely, but possible), I’m only planting three plants so I can cover them. Our garden grew a bit this year, as Peter dug up a section next to the duck house for me.

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We mixed in some mushroom compost, and also the duck straw will go directly on as mulch. A nice thing about duck poop versus chicken poop? It’s not nearly so “hot” as chicken manure, so it can be spread directly without composting! Yes, I’ll be thoroughly washing our veggies.

Planting is kind of a family activity lately; here’s The Boy with his Arbor Day tree!

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And the back garden is in one of my favorite phases: the early spring creeping phlox bloom!

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And finally, I got to work on my “playing along with the ORC” plans this weekend and made my throw pillow covers!

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I am loving the bold colors, which is a serious departure from the norm for me. The new sheets are in the bottom right corner, and I also made a pillow cover from that ivory toile print in the bottom left corner. I’m not allowed to put them all on the bed yet, though, because I promised myself I’d hold off until I painted the closets and shelves. A bit of decorating motivation, I guess.

I’ve also acquired one piece of artwork that I think may go in the bedroom, and I’m giving a good hard think on another one. And I’ve done some curtain investigations. And I got the carpet cleaner out this weekend and had a go at the rag rug. Shockingly, that worked.

I’ll leave you with this Instagram picture of Sweet Sis in the back garden.

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Also titled “Boy Lurks with Water Gun.”

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Playing Along with the ORC

Hey everybody!

So I decided instead of doing the spring 2017 One Room Challenge™ for the next six weeks, I would just play along quietly, on the side, to the best of my abilities. Here are my reasons:

  1. It’s the end of the semester and we both work in higher ed, which means Peter and I have about zero time to devote to stuff. In fact, he’s going to be busy much of the weekend for the next three weekends doing stuff at his school, which leaves me in charge of the Little Person, who is kind of a bad painting buddy. I’m going to try to get as much done over the next few weeks as possible, but ultimately, I questioned my ability to pull off any major house change in April/early May, and didn’t want to be the blogger making excuses and showing a half-finished project.
  2. I have a weird privacy thing about this blog. On the one hand, it’s almost zero fun to write a blog if nobody is reading. On the other, I’m not sure I want the thousands of readers a spot in the ORC could potentially bring (more likely hundreds, but who knows). I chickened out, but did start making sure privacy is a part of my thought process– like changing some things on my blog-linked Instagram account.
  3. I had surgery on my ear (long story) last month, and I just didn’t feel like everything I’d want to do to transform our bedroom was in the budget in the next six weeks. Not that it would have been that expensive, but if I start sharing the blog more widely, I want it to be a project I’m proud of, and when I’m balking at the price of fabric for curtains…probably not time to pull off a major change anywhere.

All of that said, I do have plans for the room, and I do want to accomplish them, so I’m thinking I’ll play along a bit and start working on our bedroom now. The ORC is a biennial event, so maybe I’ll do it in October (though I don’t know that there are any rooms in the house that I feel need a major overhaul after the bedroom. Maybe Pete’s workspace/the laundry room? Not sure how he’d feel about me poking around in there, but at the very least, it needs paint and custom (made by me) curtains for its weirdly-sized, old windows.

Anyway, most of the guest bloggers joining the ORC (so not the designers, but the amateurs with a small/medium-sized blog who are having fun and playing along) last week shared their rooms in their “before” state.

Here’s ours:

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This is our master bedroom, complete with closets built by us last winter, the Boy’s bed, and actually, a different rug from the one showed above. Here’s a better view of the closets:

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This room gets great light, has pretty wood floors, nice new closets, and a KILLER milk painted or glazed TURQUOISE BLUE CEILING. It’s seriously the thing that convinced me to buy the house. I mean, it’s gorgeous. I’ll post about it on its own soon.

Things I plan to change:

I get stuck in a blue rut in the room because of the ceiling and the white walls, but that’s going to change. I’ve chosen a new color for the closets and shelves, and I plan to do that painting soon. Also, I need to paint the insides of the closets, a project that just never completely got finished. The new color, by Valspar:

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I haven’t bought new sheets in years, and I’m very picky on print and material. I finally found some I really love and after an ordering snafu, they’re on the way. I actually picked a print instead of just plain white, so I’m looking forward to some fun bedding. New territory for me!

I have to figure out the artwork situation. We don’t have any on the walls, and just a pretty Motawi tile and a wedding photo on the shelves. Can you tell I love birds? It’s my grandfather speaking through me, I think.

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I’ll probably stick with the bird theme in here, since I must of what I decorate with has a “naturalist” slant to it. I’m wanting to add some more exciting colors, so I may go bold.

I have to change the curtain situation. The ones in here are too short and also just single panels (bought when we had no money for curtains and just needed to cover the windows at night). I have dream curtains, but I doubt they’re anywhere close to the budget, even if they went on sale, so I’ll either make them or buy some inexpensive white ones.

I’m making some new spring pillows. I’ve picked a couple different materials, and they’re different from what I’d usually pick.

 

And finally, the room seems cold because of all the white and blue. Peter has built me an AWESOME linen oak chest, and it’ll go at the foot of the bed and warm up the room (I hope). I can’t wait to show it off after he finishes the inside of it. It’s his most detailed build to date and he used ZERO power tools on the whole thing- just hand tools, and mostly restored, antique ones at that. The man is both creative and dedicated to learning; not much cooler than that in a spouse.

Okay. So that’s my plan. Thanks for listening! I’ll post as I go, but I also have a couple more garden-related posts planned. If they’re useful to you guys, let me know! I feel like I’ve started to grow some kind of green thumb (maybe that’s the other grandparent, my sweet Grandma Noel, visiting me) and I love sharing about that. Oh, and the ducks are like, ADULTS now, so I’ll share about that soon, too!

Happy Easter, everybody! See you soon!

 

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How to Buy Discount Plants

Or, as I call them, the “poor, broken babies.”

I visit plant nurseries religiously throughout the summer; I love picking new flowers for my (full to bursting) garden. That said, my budget doesn’t always allow for buying everything I want to take home.

One way I’ve figured out to fill up my garden with pretty flowers is to buy from the discounted racks where they place plants that have either been nipped by frost, finished blooming and therefore look unsellable, or have some other issues (like a fungus or something). In honor of my sweet Grandma Noel, who passed away two years ago this month, I’m telling you my tips for buying the broken “bebes” as she called them.

I should note: I ain’t no horticulturalist. I’m telling you what’s worked for me. I took a garden from this…

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…to this, with the promise of an even better year this year…

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…but it took 5 years, some hard lessons, and a lot of patience (and no small amount of $, even if I did hunt for discounts and take plants from friends and family). So take my recommendations with a grain of salt and contact your local Extension (link here for East Tennessee) office if you need more help!

The first thing you need to know about buying discounted plants is this: big box stores  typically stock things when they are blooming and can be planted. This means that throughout the season, you’ll find things that are appropriate for you to plant at that time of the year and which probably grow well in your region. That said, some knowledge about what grows well in your region and when to plant is super necessary.

For example, I don’t buy bulbs in spring; bulbs bloom in spring and require the aftermath of a bloom to store up energy for the next spring. This is why you should never trim back your daffodil leaves as soon as the blooms are gone. They need to get some sun to store up energy for the next year. So, if you want blooms in the year in which you buy them, buy and plant bulbs in the fall for a springtime bloom.

Additionally, knowing that something does poorly in your area is also good. I’ve tried to grow lavender in East Tennessee, but without careful monitoring and lots of pruning to keep airflow going, they get rotty and die. (It’s also possible that they die in my garden because I have to water stuff around them and they prefer not to have “wet feet”.) I don’t buy them even if they’re discounted. So, go into your discount buying trip knowing what works and what doesn’t.

Armed with that knowledge? Here are my

Tips for Buying
Discounted Plants

1.Plant retailers like to sell things when they’re blooming, and will pull inventory when it has spent its blooms. If you know that something is a rebloomer, or you see lots of buds, it might be a good buy. If, however, you aren’t sure or think it might be a one-time bloomer, lay off. This weekend, I bought some discounted snapdragons. They had finished one round of blooming, but they bloom continuously throughout spring and summer if properly tended, so I went ahead. The discount? They went from $9.98 to $3.00 for 9 plants.

Now, like many annuals, snapdragons bloom from the bottom up, so some deadheading should make them branch out and flower again! I like to plant them in groups to get that bushy look sooner rather than later, and because I’ve learned through 5 years of planting that stuff spaced out by itself just doesn’t look as good as a mass planting does.

2. Know your perennials and annuals. Most of the time, the tag on the plant will tell you whether a plant is a single season plant (annuals) or will come back every year (perennial). It’s important to know this because it dictates what you look for. On an annual, follow the rules above: make sure the plant can be trimmed back and isn’t done blooming for the year. Which brings me to…

3. With a perennial, especially on one with spent blooms, look for healthy growth at the bottom of the plant. 

For example: I love the flowering perennial candytuft. It’s an early, one-time bloomer, and after it blooms, it mounds up into a nice, dark, evergreen groundcover that spills over rocks. Knowing this, I bought one for $3.00 instead of $6.95 this weekend.

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Because this guy is a perennial, I looked for healthy, dark green growth at the bottom of the plant and didn’t worry about the fact that its blooms are spent for this year. This little guy will have all spring, summer, and early fall to put down deep, healthy roots and start spreading. In a couple of years, he’ll look like this.

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Worth the $3.00 and the wait!

4. Know your biennials. Biennial plants bridge the gap between annuals and perennials; they take their first year to put down healthy roots and foliage, lay dormant over the winter, and then bloom in their second year. Typically, they die after that blooming season. Foxglove is one of these. If you see a blooming floxglove plant, it may not make it to your second season. If you want it as an annual, just to enjoy its blooms, then great. If you want it year after year, you’ll be disappointed.

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This groundcover rose was $1 a couple of years ago and in PITIFUL shape…

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…and this is last year.

Now, sometimes biennials reseed, so they can mimic a perennial if you plant it in a spot where you want to see it again. If you want this to happen, though, you’ll have to let the plant dry up and drop its seeds; this is not the course for a gardener who likes everything deadheaded all the time. So word of warning: biennials can be tricky buggers and feel like a great deal, but most of the time, they’re more of an annual situation. And with transplant shock, most don’t necessarily look that great after a transplant and may stop blooming. And, if you’re buying the discounted ones, the risk is even greater. With biennials, better to buy babies with no flowers for full price, or better yet, start your own.

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5. This final tip is important: stop buying perennials in late summer. Perennials need time to set down roots and save up energy for the winter, plus those deep roots get them through the dry period at the end of the season.  If you plant them late, they’ll be just as susceptible to frost and drought as annuals. There is absolutely no point in buying late, end-of-season plants (unless you live in the deep South, in which case, most of these rules are flexible and lots of annuals act like perennials anyway). I stop buying in late July and instead, go internet shopping for bulbs!

So there they are, my tips for filling up your garden with discounted plants. Now, here’s the kicker: just like poor, broken people, poor broken plants need care and patience. Plant your broken babies with special care not to disturb their fragile root systems, water them in, and after a few days of care and watering, you can start tending them. Prune back dead stuff and give them room to spread, and they’ll pay you back with pretty blooms and serious bang for your buck!

And a final word of warning: spent blooms and frost bite are fine. FUNGUS, MOLD, OR ANY OTHER PLANT DISEASE IS NOT FINE and will ruin other plants in your garden if introduced. Make sure you know what happened to the plant. If you need to ask a sales associate, then so be it. Look up the name of the plant online, on your phone, in the store to see if there are photos online of possible diseases for that variety. Don’t bring it home and put it in your pretty space until you’re sure it just needs some amateur care, not a full-on plant doctor.

Okay guys! Happy discount hunting! And if you have friends who are starting gardens or are gardening on a budget, feel free to share this post or pin it on Pinterest using the image below!

Tips Pinterest Image

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Building the Duck House

I think our ducks are going through their awkward teenager times right now.

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They’re starting to lose their down and I even see a few pinfeathers coming in. (Sorry for the picture of duck poop, but you know, that’s part of this whole experience.) We took them out in the grass on Saturday, but it was a bit too cold here yesterday, so they stayed inside all day. Despite The Boy’s pleas, I’ve nixed playing with them inside; they’ve just gotten too stinky and ready to poop on the floor. When it’s warm out, though, they can head out for a very supervised run around the side yard.

I’m really ready for them to be out of the house, but it won’t be warm enough at night, even with a heat lamp, for at least another week. At that point, they’ll move into the shed for another couple of weeks while we (by we, I mean Peter) finish up the duck house.

 

The plan is for the duck house to mount on the side of the existing shed. It will include a nesting box, a ramp for them to get in/out of the box, a buried water trough with a spigot for cleaning and saving duck water for the garden, and a duck run that goes down under the nesting box and along the rock wall.

The Boy and his daddy dug the holes for the posts one evening this week. This child LOVES his shovel and digging holes. He’s obsessed with the duck house, or as he likes to say, “The Big, Giant, Little Duck House!”

 

Pete’s been finalizing the layout (with help from The Boy– all the help he can take, I imagine).

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The nesting box is framed and actually has a floor and maybe walls on two sides, and a couple of cattle panels are up. Those will get chicken wire on the inside, and the whole thing will get a lid for protecting the ducks from anything that can climb the fence or drop out of the sky. Eventually, I’ll paint all of it so it doesn’t look like an eyesore.

I’ve done a little research on landscaping around poultry houses, and I think I can make it both pretty and practical. The key is picking things that ducks can eat without getting sick, which also provide them some predator and sun protection. I plan to plant some black eyed Susan vines to climb up the trellis and give them some shade, some nasturtiums to do similarly, and maybe some sunflowers, as well. It’ll depend on my space and whether the north side of the pen gets enough sun.

I’m so ready to plant and dig it’s not even funny; I’ve been hoarding bulbs that go on sale at Aldi.

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Generally, it’s not my style to buy the cheap bulbs at the grocery store, but they were there. I’m really excited about the peonies, which can be super expensive; they may not do well, but at about $1.69 per package, I figured I’d take the gamble and only be out a couple bucks if they fail.

I also put in my perennial order at Romence Gardens, and expect that to arrive on May 2. It’s become an annual tradition that I order a few hard-to-find things from them. This year I forced myself to only order things I’ve ordered before so I can get some repetition going in the garden and carry certain colors through the whole thing.  I can’t wait to document how all of this looks this summer!

 

 

 

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We Have Ducks!

Everybody welcome the Huffaker House’s newest residents:

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Peter was gone much of last week, and on about Thursday, he texted me saying he wanted chickens. I’ve always been on that train, but I have no idea how to take care of them. He has lots of experience with livestock, and has raised lots of chickens, so I told him that as long as he told me what to do, I was in.

Well, when he got back on Saturday, we went to the feed store to buy our chickens and had a bit of a change of heart– the minimum purchase was 6 (we were thinking more like 4, given our space) and it was an unsexed run. With our luck, we knew we’d end up with 4 roosters crowing at all hours and driving us mad. Plus, there’s a gang of roving neighborhood chickens, and the last thing I wanted was some kind of turf war between the Jets and the Sharks. So we went home empty-winged (well, The Boy got a new red shovel because it was the only way to get him out of the store after we decided not to get chickens at that moment).

…And then we started talking about ducks. Pete’s never raised them, but we did some research, and the process isn’t all that different from chickens. They’re a little more vulnerable to predators, so we’ll have to build a REALLY secure coop, but other than that, we should be able to do it. So we brought them home yesterday, and aside from my house smelling like cedar chips right now, so far so good. They’ll stay inside until April-ish, at which point they’ll move into the coop. Peter’s currently planning one for the side of the existing shed.

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It’ll include a duck run along the stone retaining wall, a mounted nesting box with a ramp for getting down, and a little duck pool with a PVC valve in the bottom for draining and cleaning. And lots of chicken wire; Pete’s had chickens get decapitated by raccoons who pulled their heads through the wire in less secure situations (too graphic? I’m leaving it.).

So, that’s the big news. The Boy likes the ducks, but mostly he just likes passing them back and forth. I think he’ll be more invested as he and his daddy build the coop and then move them out there.

And also, this:

 

That’s right. You’ve heard of reading dogs? Well, we have reading ducks. The Boy “read” 2-3 books to those lucky ducks yesterday. For backstory, The Boy couldn’t say “mama” until a year and a half ago, and he couldn’t say his own name until he was more than 3 years old. If you have kids and any of them have been speech delayed, you know how big of a deal it is for your speech delayed child to pick up a book and start making up a story for his ducks. I think I’m going to encourage him to read to them every day while they’re in the house, and maybe once they’re out of it, too.

Also, no, they don’t have names yet, because we can’t tell them apart yet and Pete wasn’t into painting their toenails so I could figure out which was which. (Wouldn’t have done it, but they’d have looked fab.)

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