new quality rug pads


Note: I was offered free rug pads in exchange for a product review. All words and opinions are my own. I will only except offers from companies I would personally use or products that are relevant to my blog content or current projects. Don't miss the discount offer below!


When Rug Pad Corner contacted me about doing a product review, I wasn't really in need of any rug pads. I was, however, working with a client who was in the process of purchasing a new rug, so I agreed to accept a pad in the size she needed. They were kind enough to also send pads for the smaller rugs I had in my girl's bedrooms.

When the pads arrived, I was immediately impressed with the quality and wished I hadn't offered to give it away to my client! :)  In the end, my client was very concerned about having a no-slip pad, and the new pad they sent is not their best option for that. Easy fix—I simply swapped the new one out for my own 8'x10' pad and passed my old one along instead. Lucky me!

The first pad they sent was their SUPERIOR 100% felt rug pad. It has the following features:

• NON SLIP: No- Best used with rugs that do not tend to slip
• PROTECTION: Resists ALL penetration to your rugs and floor
• COMFORT: Enjoy a full 1/4″ or 3/8″ thickness
• FLOORS: Approved as SAFE for Hardwood, Laminate, Tile, Vinyl, Heated and all
• ORGANIC: CRI Green Label; No adhesives; Does not off-gas or smell
• ORIGIN: Made in The USA with GENUINE American felt
• NOTE: Superior does not contain rubber, so does not prevent slipping. Smaller rugs or runners should use Ultra Premium

It was my fault for not specifying a no-slip rug pad. Without reviewing my options, I had requested their thickest, cushiest option, and it is definitely that. Here you can see how much thicker it is than my old pad:

 

At $105 for an 8 x 10 (free shipping!), this pad came out roughly double what I spent on the nothing-fancy gripper pad I had purchased from Home Depot. So the million dollar question is—would I spend the extra money next time?  Yes, I believe I would. What I love most is that it is American made and uses all natural materials. And if you have family members who are prone to allergies, it would be an even easier choice since it is completely hypoallergenic and free of off-gassing and odors.

And in an 8 x 10 size, my shag rug is definitely heavy enough to keep it in place. With my furniture on it, I haven't experienced any slipping. For smaller rugs, however, you might want to consider this next option.

For the rugs in Sarah's and Eva's rooms they sent their Ultra Premium Pad.  $64 for the 5 x 7 size, free shipping.

•  NON SLIP: Yes-  Prevents ANY rug slipping on ANY hard floor
•  PROTECTION: Resists ALL penetration and stress to rug and floor
•  COMFORT: Enjoy a FULL 1/3″ thick comfort
•  FLOORS: Approved SAFE for Hardwood, Laminate, Tile, Vinyl, Concrete, Heated and all
•  ORGANIC: CRI Green Label; No chemicals; Does not off-gas or smell
•  ORIGIN: Made in The USA with GENUINE American felt and rubber

This pad still features the thick layers of felt, so they provide plenty of cushion. The girls have white laminate floors, so I was happy to see these are considered safe for laminate. No glue and natural rubber means there will be no rub-off or staining on those white floors. And with that rubber backing, those rugs aren't going anywhere! 

So, the verdict? I would absolutely recommend these rug pads to anyone. While it maybe isn't one of the most fun things to spend your money on (it is the behind-the-scenes supporting role to the showy leading role rugs), we can all agree it is pretty important to care for your most expensive investment: your floors. And nobody likes a shifty rug.

The Rug Pad Corner website is very well designed and easy to use, which of course appeals to my designer sensibilities. Click on over and check them out. And if you find yourself needing a rug pad for your own home, as a reader of this blog you get to enjoy 15% off your purchase by using the links in this post and entering the code REVIEW15 at checkout.

Thanks for reading!

landscaping progress

You are simply going to have to forgive my negligence. How over a month slipped by since my last post is beyond me. Those wall calendars I told you about? They are my lifesaver these days. I had to implement a color code—one color per family member—to keep everything straight. Things are looking a little . . . dense.   #overcommitted

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Beyond shuttling kids to their various activities and shoving food in their mouths when we get a spare minute, I am not keeping up on anything very well. But we had a rare opportunity to finally work on some outdoor projects and we had to jump on it. 

As farmers we have usually have plenty of time for indoor projects when the weather turns sour. It is the outdoor projects that are hard to accomplish. When the weather is good, farm work always takes priority. Late last fall, we excavated our yard down to dirt and had great intentions of making serious progress...

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...only to stall out when it started to snow in early October. What a blessing this warm October has been! We finally wrapped up the most important farm work and started back in on this project. First we added in a layer of sand and gravel and leveled it to the grade we needed for proper drainage.

Next, we had to build forms for all of the concrete. This wasn't exactly a simple job due to the, uh, complexity of my design. Sorry, Tom. (If you would like a reminder of what our plan was, you can refer back to this post about the overall design, and this post about the hard-scaping.) Basically, it wasn't just one large concrete pad. It was a grid of smaller pads with space in between for gravel. This required quite a bit more time and materials for forms.

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They then cut and installed wire mesh. This was the morning of our pour. You can see the back of the cement truck backed up and ready to go.

This part of the process moved very quickly as concrete was dumped into each of our forms. The concrete was roughly raked into place and then leveled off until the right amount was left in each form. 

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We moved from one side of the house directly to the other side to fill the rest of the forms. Then the truck left to get another load and we set to work smoothing and finishing. 

This is when we realized we probably took on too much at one time. It was a warm, breezy day and the concrete was drying up on us too fast. It was all we could do to smooth and edge each of the pads. (And this is when they certainly questioned the wisdom of having so many individual pads, rather than one large pad with just 4 sides.

In the end we persevered and with a lot of elbow-grease managed to get what we had poured mostly smooth.

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Good enough had to be good enough, because the concrete truck was back with another load. The driver was awesome enough to help finish the previous pads before we tackled the next piece, a pad in front of a new shop door we installed last year. We had started pouring around 11:00 and worked without stopping for lunch. It look well past dinner time to finish this one, and believe me when I say we were P-O-O-P-E-D.

Now, I need to stop here and set something straight. Because I am behind the camera and not shown actually working in any of these photos, you would naturally assume that my job was strictly direction, documentation and cheerleading. (And well, usually you would be right. My job is mostly taking care of kids and filling bellies.) But on this day, let me reassure you that I worked right along side the guys all day long. (I know you were worried- ha). 

As first-time concrete layers (except my dad who is jack-of-all-trades), it was a stressful and backbreaking day. It was good for me to have concrete under my nails and ground into my knees, along with very sore muscles to show for the day because Tom said that way I would know how hard it was and couldn't complain if it wasn't perfect. 

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And he is right. I am extremely happy with the (albeit imperfect) outcome. It was a hard but rewarding day. And I am so thankful to my husband, brother, and dad for their patience and hard work, and to my mom for watching kids and cooking us a yummy dinner that night.

After the forms were removed, my brother and I worked together to lay sand and pavers in a few strategic places.

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Tom worked behind us to fill in the gaps with gravel.

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The open gravel areas will contain plants eventually. This isn't much for an after photo since it isn't really "done". It probably looks a little sterile at this point, but I know once we add plants next spring, patio furniture, a deck, and eventually a pergola, it will all look a-maz-ing.  

The guys had to break to haul peas to market this week, but deck-building is next up on the agenda, as long as we have decent weather to work in. Our current deck is partly dismantled (and our patio door secured so nobody can take a dive).  We are also going to be building a small deck and stairs at my brother's house first. Plenty to do. Wish us luck (and some nice weather!)

lake time

As farmers sometimes we feel like we get the short end of the stick when it comes to summer recreation. The guys work long days 6 days a week through the summer while it feels like everyone else spends every weekend in the mountains. 

No pity parties though. Life is good. We managed to get our trailer out one time this year (another post). My dad got his boat out on the water exactly twice, both quick afternoon visits. One visit was on Labor Day. We met up at Holter Lake and rode up through the Gates of the Mountains. The drive up was gorgeous. Our state is amazing.

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We spotted some mountain sheep right by the road. I actually had my big camera and telephoto with me for once.

Aren't you feeling sorry for us? Here's more.

Abby didn't care that the weather was a touch cool. She rode the tube for a long ways and smiled from ear to ear the entire time.

More wildlife sightings:

Earlier this summer Abby was invited to spend a few days with her friend at their cabin on Holter. We went up to bring her home and spent one fun night at the cabin ourselves. The lake was so peaceful in the morning.

While we were enjoying the quiet morning before most of the house woke up, Eva looked out the window and spotted this doe. It spotted her back and walked right up to the window.

Deer usually aren't this bold! It was a cool moment.

Aw, it's so good to look back at our summer photos and count our blessings. We hope you have many blessings to count also!

Wall unit update

I've acquired a pretty long list of furniture for this house from Craig's List. It would be hard to pick a favorite (well, maybe my orange chairs) but the wall unit on the back wall of our living room has to be near the top of the list.

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A few interesting things have happened since my original post about this piece, so I thought I would post an update.

I had tagged my post with the manufacturer's name (Kopenhavn), and as a result attracted some attention from other's searching the internet for these wall units, most of them looking for additional parts or sections for their own wall units. 

One reader contacted me looking for extra sky hooks, the metal hooks that attach the units to the wood brackets that are mounted to the wall. I didn't have extras (she was able to have new ones made at machine shop), but during our correspondence she offered to send me scans of an original brochure for the units she had in her possession. Here are a few of the pages:

It's fun to see the configurations offered. And those prices!

Then, more recently, I received this comment on my original post:

Sarah 4 months ago 
Hi,
The designer of your Kopenhavn wall unit and the miniature furniture maker are indeed one and the same person. Noral Olson is my grandfather. :)

And she responded this to our comments in return:

Sarah 3 months ago 
Hi Joellyn and Debra,
Thanks so much for your comments. It does make me proud that he has designed something that will be used and loved well beyond his lifetime. I can't believe that it's only recently that I have come to know and appreciate his talent (he had already retired from the furniture design business before I was born). You should also check out some of his miniature pieces - they are true works of art, featured in collections around the world - not your everyday "dollhouse" furniture :)
I will pass on your kind words. I know he will especially enjoy your story Debra and be so happy to know that what he helped create was used and enjoyed as I'm sure he meant for it to be.
--Sarah

So even though I already loved this piece, I must say it is even more rewarding to know it has a real and tangible history. 

 

Managing a calendar

Hey, Moms. Let's have a discussion about calendar management. Because I haven't quite conquered this struggle. Twice recently I have forgotten one of my kid's commitments because I either didn't look at a calendar in time or didn't write it down properly, and I always feel terrible when I let them down.

For a while I decided digital was the only way to go. Our calendars are shared across all of our devices, and we have our phones (and therefore or calendars) with us at all times. We can even set up reminders. Easy peasy, right?

Wrong. I'm not sure why, but I was always missing dates. 

When we lived in Utah we had a system of white board calendars on the wall. Tom recently begged me to put them back up. So, behold: the calendar wall.

These are just 3 inexpensive white board calendars that we rotate out as each month passes. (The basket below contains library books and markers for the boards). Having 3 months to record dates on and having them all visible at once works great for us. (When a month passes I just clean off the oldest month and move the other two up on the wall.) They aren't the prettiest—but they are on an out-of-the-way spot in the hallway to our garage that we pass on our way out the door every day. 

The best thing about this system is that our kids are more aware of the schedule. They don't let us forgot things. This week Abby started middle school volleyball with daily practice and a busy schedule of games. Next week the girls start school, and Sarah will start soccer. The week after that Eva starts preschool. Our calendar is starting to look really dense

The problem with this system is that it doesn't come with me. So I find myself wondering if I should keep up a digital calendar also. Or snap a photo of my wall calendars every time I update them. I know I have some well-organized friends out there. What do YOU do about this problem?

Trip to Apostle Islands and FUE

This is bound to be a lengthy post, so feel free to just scan through the photos for a glimpse of a cool part of America you've probably never seen—or even considered as a destination! 

As I mentioned in a post last week, our family recently traveled to Bayfield, Wisconsin to attend a training event sponsored by Farmer's Union Enterprises (FUE).

FUE is a division of Farmer's Union that includes five states: Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. What started as a collaboration to start a business to benefit the local farmers eventually grew into several businesses, all in the agricultural industry. You can read more about the businesses they own here. They are also behind a restaurant in the Washington, D.C. area that serves farm-to-table food directly from farms in our 5-state area. How cool is that?

As for how we got involved, this is an excerpt from North Dakota's website about the program.

Farmers Union Enterprises has a program for couples in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wisconsin and Minnesota in which each state selects one "Couple of the Year." The participating couple receives hands-on training on issues important to National Farmers Union such as advocacy leadership, becoming good communicators, NFU involvement and how to coordinate a meeting.

Tom and I weren't members of Farmers Union and weren't very familiar with their policies. However, we had fortune of meeting the previous year's couple at a Couple's Ag Conference we attended last year. We somehow made enough of an impression on them that they recommended us for this program as the 2014-2015 couple from Montana. What an amazing opportunity—so we jumped on it. 

Our first event took us to Wisconsin, which crosses a new state off my list. We were invited to bring our families for this event, and we gathered with both the outgoing and incoming couples from each state. We had a day of training (overlooking the beautiful Lake Superior) and then were able to meet and visit with the presidents of Farmer's Union in each state. 

These are the couples we will be meeting with throughout 2014-2015. They represent a variety of ages and types of farming practices, and we will really enjoy getting to know each of them better!

These are the couples we will be meeting with throughout 2014-2015. They represent a variety of ages and types of farming practices, and we will really enjoy getting to know each of them better!

In this photo we are joined by the outgoing couples, including the awesome couple from Montana (front left) to whom we owe our thanks for recommending us! 

In this photo we are joined by the outgoing couples, including the awesome couple from Montana (front left) to whom we owe our thanks for recommending us! 

Future events will take us to our Montana State Farmer's Union convention in October, the National Convention in Witchita, KS next March, and another family gathering with the new incoming couples in the Black Hills next summer. And the cherry on top—next year we will fly to D.C. and meet with the Committee leaders who influence our farm legislation. We are beyond excited for this educational opportunity.

But back to our trip.

We flew into Minneapolis, rented a car, and drove the 4-1/2 hours north to Bayfield. Bayfield lies right shores of Lake Superior. Our first glimpse of this massive lake was cresting over the hill into Duluth. 

Duluth is an interesting place—full of ships, barges, bridges, and docking yards. It lies on the western-most point of all the Great Lakes, so of course it is a huge thoroughfare for goods moving back and forth to the East coast. 

Duluth is an interesting place—full of ships, barges, bridges, and docking yards. It lies on the western-most point of all the Great Lakes, so of course it is a huge thoroughfare for goods moving back and forth to the East coast. 

We stayed in the charming Bayfield Inn right on the waterfront, and immediately stretched our legs wandering along the shore and taking photos.

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We thought this bench was pretty funny because it makes it look like Abby weighs a ton. Ha ha. 

We thought this bench was pretty funny because it makes it look like Abby weighs a ton. Ha ha. 

And here is Eva with her classic camera pose.

And here is Eva with her classic camera pose.

The gardens around Bayfield were amazing. It's obvious they take pride in their little community.

The gardens around Bayfield were amazing. It's obvious they take pride in their little community.

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We let Eva pick a few flowers. :)

We let Eva pick a few flowers. :)

The girls made a few new friends amongst the other farm families. The Wisconsin Farmer's Union camp counselors provided activities for the kids while the adults were in training, and they had a great time.

The girls made a few new friends amongst the other farm families. The Wisconsin Farmer's Union camp counselors provided activities for the kids while the adults were in training, and they had a great time.

A look back towards the town. There are a lot of beautiful old houses from the days when the fishing industry flourished. Now it is mostly tourism keeping the town afloat.

A look back towards the town. There are a lot of beautiful old houses from the days when the fishing industry flourished. Now it is mostly tourism keeping the town afloat.

The vastness of Lake Superior is amazing. It is the largest of the great lakes and the largest freshwater lake in the world (by surface area). If you dumped all the water of the other 4 great lakes into an empty Lake Superior, you still wouldn't fill it up. A big highlight of our trip was taking a 3-hour boat tour around the Apostle Islands, a chain of sandstone island formations that, with the exception of one populated island, are now all part of a National Park reserve.

The vastness of Lake Superior is amazing. It is the largest of the great lakes and the largest freshwater lake in the world (by surface area). If you dumped all the water of the other 4 great lakes into an empty Lake Superior, you still wouldn't fill it up. A big highlight of our trip was taking a 3-hour boat tour around the Apostle Islands, a chain of sandstone island formations that, with the exception of one populated island, are now all part of a National Park reserve.

Over time the water has weathered deep caves into the sandstone. Apparently you can reach these caves over ice in the winter time and the ice formations within them are amazing. We heard quite a few interesting stories about traveling over ice roads from our boat captain, a native of the area.

Over time the water has weathered deep caves into the sandstone. Apparently you can reach these caves over ice in the winter time and the ice formations within them are amazing. We heard quite a few interesting stories about traveling over ice roads from our boat captain, a native of the area.

There are several lighthouses on the islands. Even though the islands are unpopulated and the lighthouse technology is no longer necessary, they are still trying to maintain them as part of history. This lighthouse was under construction. 

There are several lighthouses on the islands. Even though the islands are unpopulated and the lighthouse technology is no longer necessary, they are still trying to maintain them as part of history. This lighthouse was under construction. 

Some of the caves are large enough to take a small boat into, but we were warned that one must keep an eye out for large ships passing by because the resulting waves could cause some pretty bad bumps to the head if you were caught in a cave.

Some of the caves are large enough to take a small boat into, but we were warned that one must keep an eye out for large ships passing by because the resulting waves could cause some pretty bad bumps to the head if you were caught in a cave.

Eva soaking in our friend's backyard pool, and sporting her signature camera pose again. 

Eva soaking in our friend's backyard pool, and sporting her signature camera pose again. 

We drove through some beautiful Wisconsin farm land on our way back to Minneapolis. I didn't get many photos of our time there, but we had an awesome night with some old friends and enjoyed their new pool. The next morning we met up with more friends and had a quick trip to the Mall of America before we had to head to the airport. 

Harvest was just getting rolling before we left, so we couldn't tarry. We definitely hit the ground running when we landed at home!

harvest photos

After yesterday's "Deep Thoughts" post, I thought I'd leave you with a few lighthearted photos today.

The crew. We snapped this photo with a self-timer, camera propped up on the back of the pickup truck.

The crew. We snapped this photo with a self-timer, camera propped up on the back of the pickup truck.

Now this is a REAL tailgate party.

Now this is a REAL tailgate party.

The new combine is equipped with auto-steer, so you can push a button and it will steer a straight line down the field. Here the swaths in the middle were left at just the right width for the other combine to pick up.

The new combine is equipped with auto-steer, so you can push a button and it will steer a straight line down the field. Here the swaths in the middle were left at just the right width for the other combine to pick up.

Aren't we cool.

Aren't we cool.

Combine fist bump.

Combine fist bump.


Blog updates

Montana Prairie Tales has a new look and few new structural improvements! Please have a look around and let me know if anything is broken or not working for you. I have updated the About Me page and Blogroll. Other additions include a little Instagram teaser on the sidebar, threaded commenting, a "like" button on each post, and a Pinterest button rollover on each photo. I have eliminated the Feng Shui Friday section, but you can still access those posts through the Feng Shui Friday category link in the sidebar at right.  Also gone—His Tales. It was pretty clear Tom wasn't going to be able to keep up his end of the bargain with regular posts. Don't worry, he is still invited to post here when he has the urge and we will still try to update the site with farm-related information. It will just be under the main Blog heading.

I think that covers it. I will be back very soon with a meatier post. Thanks for following!

Happy Birthday, Eva!

Here is a bit of colorful cheer to brighten the front page of my neglected blog...

Can you believe our princess is four?

I can hardly believe it myself, especially since this also marks the 4-year anniversary of our big move to Montana.

 

Four big happy years that we never would have imagined in a million years, but would never give back.


Eva just finished her first year of preschool, and since then has asked every day without fail, "Mom, do I have school today?" She should be good and ready to back in September. 

Here are a few thousand more photos I snapped of her the other day. Sorry, I couldn't narrow them down any further. Mamma's prerogative.

 

Front yard landscaping—the plantings

To refer back to the plan/layout and before photos, click here.

I am no gardener, and I've learned what I do know by trial and error. I do know this much about what I want: it must be low maintenance and survive on infrequent watering. I like native plants and like a variety of colors and textures in the foliage. I seem to like purple flowers, especially alliums. And judging by the collage below, I like both random naturalized planting and structured rows. I'm not sure how I will combine that all into a cohesive look, but I'm going to try. 

Sources, clockwise from top left: 1. Europa Concorci  2. Houzz  3. Houzz  4. Feldman Architecture via Desire to Inspire  5. unknown (This along the shop maybe?)  6. Houzz   7. Houzz (I'll take the pool!)

I have had good luck so far with a few things—grasses, Russian sage, purple salvia, some seedums (although the bunnies like them), and thyme. I plan to transplant some native yucca that grow along the river beds locally. Any other suggestions?

 

Now let's talk about my terraced concrete planting beds and rock garden for a minute. Last summer they were growing in nicely:

But they aren't feeling cohesive enough for me. I think I need to take a lot of it out and start over. I might end up with fewer flowers in the terraced beds and opt for a cleaner look with lots of the same types of plants, like this:


Sources, clockwise from top left: 1. Houzz  2. Houzz  3. Jeffrey Gordon Smith via Desire to Inspire  4. Houzz

That wraps it up for my landscaping plan posts. Now all we have left is to work work work. I will try to keep you updated on our progress! Be patient with us, though. Outdoor projects are hard to accomplish because farm work comes first!

 

Front yard landscaping—the fence and pergola

Hi! I hope you aren't bored with landscaping posts yet, because I'm back this week to share a little more of my yard inspiration. Today it is all about the fence and pergola.

To refer back to the plan/layout and before photos, click here.

I have no trouble imagining a new beautiful fence in our yard. Building it will be the hard part. Fortunately it isn't a huge area. I'd love to have a fancy gate like some of those shown here, but as long as it is easy to operate, I'll take it. I do know that I want horizontal fence slats. Easier to climb, yes, but it will be nice and tall so at least our dogs won't be able to climb it. (I hope.)

Sources: Clockwise from upper left: 1. DWR via Gardenista  2. Houzz  3. Houzz  4. Houzz  5. Houzz  6. Life of an Architect

Beautiful, right? Can you see it in our little courtyard between our house and shop? Instead of this?

Anything would be a drastic improvement.

The other thing I hope to add is not completely necessary for function but absolutely necessary for aesthetics—the pergola. Don't you agree? This isn't just your average pergola, either. It must have a mix of wood and metal and be lovely and modern. Here ya go:

Sources, clockwise from top: 1. Houzz  2. Houzz  3. Houzz

Drool. Now if we can just execute...  Anyone in need of a summer job? :)

Front yard landscaping—the hard-scaping

To refer back to the plan/layout and before photos, click here.

The major drive behind redoing these our two small front yards is to reduce lawn area and watering. These spaces will be much more usable to us as outdoor rooms for lounging and dining. (Don't worry, we have plenty of lawn for the kids elsewhere.) Now if we could just do something about the mosquitoes...

I really like a permeable hard scape for function, but mostly for form. I think this looks great with our midcentury modern style. It allows you to break up a mass of concrete area with texture and plantings, not to mention allowing for proper drainage. 

Here is my patio inspiration:

Clockwise from left: 1. unknown  2. Houzz; I want my pavers to be a bit larger than shown here. 3. Houzz; This is one of my favorites to illustrate the patio edged by plantings. 4. Houzz; This is probably way more beautiful and elaborate than I will be able to achieve, but I love this. I like how they have mixed rock and mulch areas. 5. Houzz  6. Houzz  7. Houzz; This is the best example I have of what I want the concrete to look like in the courtyard area, leading back to the fence. My plants won't be this lush or my fence this fancy, I'm sure.  

I'm anxious to get to this part of the project because our dirt yard is soon going to = a weed yard!

Front yard landscaping—the deck

To refer back to the plan/layout and before photos, click here.

Improving the deck is a pretty major element in improving our curb appeal, not to mention our safety. Our current deck has given many a sliver, and the railing consists of weather-warped and wobbly 2 x 4s that would do nothing to contain a child. We added some hog wire for safety, but it isn't pretty. 

From the beginning I have envisioned a cable railing. Preserving the view is paramount so I don't want anything with heavy stiles. Here is my inspiration:

Sources: Clockwise from top left: 1. Houzz; obviously we would need more cable than this for safety, but the idea is that you can see through it! 2. Houzz  3. eBay  4. n fiore on flikr  5. Czuba Steel Works  6. Houzz

My preference is to have metal posts, but I don't mind a little wood either. Our basement railing turned out great, but I think my dad hopes to DIY this one to save some money. We are probably going to use composite material for the decking, but I'm open to using redwood. What are your thoughts?

 

Front yard landscaping—the plan

Here comes the fun part. 

Bear in mind, I am not a landscape designer. I drew these plans in Illustrator so they are pretty basic. I'll explain.

The first drawing is for the patio part of the yard (to give you a visual):

1. First, we need to add footings for the deck and pergola, then prep the space for pavers. I'd like to do a mix of poured concrete squares (about 5'x5') and smaller concrete pavers with gravel in between. Surrounding this will be planting area. (I'll share inspiration photos later).

2. The deck would keep the same footprint, but it will extend a little further to go underneath the new patio door. Instead of the stairs coming off the end as it did before, they will go straight out onto the patio. On the south of side of the house we will use the existing deck frame, but the entire deck will be resurfaced. My dad wants to use composite decking. I wouldn't be opposed to using redwood, though I know it would be more maintenance. The whole deck will then get a new railing, which it desperately needs anyway!

3. I definitely want a pergola over the top to define the space. We might not get to this right away, but I know it will look sooo amazing. We will need to add the footings for it now.  

4. The concrete terrace beds will stay, but I would like to replant some of them. More on this later.

 

Next is the courtyard area:

1. There is an existing concrete pad next to the garage on the left side that may or may not stay. (It is a handy place to store bikes and things, but it might sort of interfere with the design??) And as I mentioned in the previous post, the fireplace may or may not stay. I then want to do more concrete pads that meander back to the gate. They will also have gravel in between. They would be wide enough to set up a few chairs and use this as patio space also.

2. A new better-looking fence, of course! Our backyard is fenced (mostly chainlink, but still really nice to have for our pets) so we definitely need a gate here. The fence also masks the propane tanks that sit behind it, so I'd like to keep it at least 6' tall.

3. As of now we are planning to leave the big evergreen tree. I'd like to add another smaller (pretty) flowering fruit tree, but we would put it out away from the shop wall and power line. The rest would be small low-water-use plantings and gravel/mulch beds.

Front yard landscaping—what we're starting with

Spring seeding season has begun around here, so it will be a few weeks before we have any time to work on outdoor house projects. Until then, I am trying to get myself excited and motivated for the work involved. I thought I would share my plans with you, and since I have a lot to share, I'm going to spread it out over a series of posts. I welcome your suggestions and feedback!

If you need a refresher on what we are working with, here are some posts about yard projects we've done to date:

Our farm house—on the outside (August 2010);  Yard progress (June 2011);  Paint your front door (October 2011);  Don't try this at home (putting in our rock staircase, October 2011);  Landscaping project update (lower yard finished, November 2011)

Here's what we started with:

So far, we have replaced the front door, roof and gutters. I also painted the exterior sconces. This past fall we were able to keep one of our harvest hired hands (Jake) on for a little longer and he and I worked together to paint almost all of the trim on the house. (What a job!) 

Jake also used a grinder to get all the ugly chipped blue paint off of the concrete steps. So here is my first question for you. Should I leave the front steps as-is (nice and simple) or dress them up by staining and sealing them? What would look more modern?  I definitely have some other work to do to dress things up: a new doormat, new planters, and possibly a bench. Now it more closely resembles the original colors.

The areas we plan to tackle now are the two small front/side yards. We have the yard to the left of the front door (I'll call this the patio) and the yard between the house and shop (I'll call this the courtyard). Previously they were both planted into grass, but because we often have water shortages, they haven't been watered consistently and they had turned into weed/dirt patches. It was a hassle to mow them. 

This is the patio side before:

(From the opposite angle) This is the patio side today:

We plan to leave the existing concrete border/planters, even though they are a bit rough in places. Last fall we removed this side of the deck (the entire deck needs to re-decked, and it desperately needs a new railing.) This side will be rebuilt altogether because we intend to put a patio door in place of the window (that is why that window trim is still blue). The deck will wrap around and extend all the way under the door.

We also excavated all the grass/dirt out. Tom installed PVC drainage pipes to extend the gutter drainage. Next steps will be to build this back up with a gravel base and install hard-scaping (more on that later).

 

Now for the courtyard side: 

This isn't the best photo to show this, but most of the plants here were grossly overgrown. There was a tree that was cut back (again and again) to avoid growing into the power line, a couple of dead junipers, and somewhere back there a rickety fence and a fireplace. (Yes! An outdoor fireplace!)

Today it looks like this:

We excavated this out very odd-shaped yard to prep for hard-scaping also. We removed all of the overgrown bushes and trees. (The evergreen is probably too close to the house and maybe should have been taken out also, but for now we just limbed up the bottom. Now you can see the (partially dismantled) fence and that fireplace!

The fireplace was built by my uncle years ago, but we don't use it for a couple of reasons. The firebox is set too far forward so the smoke doesn't ventilate out the chimney as intended. Instead it just comes out the front into your face. Secondly, it sits pretty close to the house, and obviously that tree is in the way. 

So, here is my second question. Should we keep the fireplace? If we want to actually use it as a fireplace it will probably need to be moved and modified. We might be able to add some sort of hood extension that would help it ventilate properly. We could move it to the other side closer to the shop, but our propane tanks sit behind that fence. Or, we could leave it where it is and plant flowers in it. I do like it, but maybe it doesn't fit with my modern vision? 

Coming up—I'll show you what that vision is.

a few new things

Happy Monday, my friends. It is a glorious and sunny day outside and I should be out enjoying it for a change. Too much computer work to catch up on today. 

Since I'd rather do anything other than book work I will procrastinate and share a few of my winter acquisitions instead. 

Last fall I shared this photo on Instagram. I had been saving for a while to purchase a rug for our living room, and I had narrowed my options down to this shag carpet (that I would have bound into a 9 x 12 rug). I was deliberating on a color and looking for advice. I was leaning toward one of the medium green/grays shown. You see, I didn't want to make a wrong decision since it would cost me approximately $1200 to have it made. Ouch.

Around this time, Sam's Club was offering some shag rugs in their store. You know, Sam's Club! The store everyone turns to first for their decorating needs, right? Ha. I had seen the rugs there and had dismissed them as an option because the colors werent' quite perfect. They were also 8 x 10, when 9 x 12 seemed more ideal for my space. Nevertheless, the price tag ($250) made me take a second look.

I brought a gray rug home with me, but it was too steel-colored. Too cold for this room. I went back and purchased the light cream rug to try instead. And, well, it stayed! 

I was pretty sure the light color would be a bad decision, but since it is out of the way of main traffic areas, it seems like it is going to be okay (excepting any accidental spills come it's way). For less than a quarter of the cost, I decided it was worth the risk. 

The cozy factor of this rug is the best. And it does a great job of anchoring the space and absorbing sound.

The 8 x 10 size seems to work okay. I just put the front legs of all my furniture over the rug. I also kept my cowhide rug in the room and layered it underneath.

I thought I would point out that I just love the function of the u-shape furniture layout in this room. The room is fairly large, but instead of hugging the walls the furniture floats in the middle, focused around the central ottoman. At New Year's time we had company over and all gathered around the ottoman to play games. There is plenty of seating, but a few sat on the cushy new rug as well.

Some of my furniture in this room is getting a little tired. The couch style is dated and no longer my taste, and the finish on the leather is peeling (odd!). The ottoman is showing a lot of wear too. At some point I would love to update... but I am going to be patient and look for the right things. (I couldn't commit and ended up missing out on this Craig's list sectional. I did get bids to reupholster and they were $1600–$2200, not including the cost of about 25 yards of fabric.) At least for now I am happy with how this room has evolved, and especially with how it functions.

Back in the hallway I added another new element—these stainless picture rails from Crate and Barrel

I had a bunch of gallery frames from our house in Utah to display. It was fun to get them out again, but since we moved right before Eva was born, I definitely need to update them all to include her!

The hallway where they are displayed leads to two of the girls' rooms and bathroom. This is a good shot to show you what the doors look like in my house. They are inexpensive hollow core doors that I really want to replace. I keep debating whether or not to paint them and update the hardware—or if it is really worth the work. Maybe we will get around to replacing them first! (The cool light fixture was $6 from the Habitat for Humanity Restore).

And back to the topic of rugs, I encountered this awesome Nate Berkus rug on clearance at Target recently. (Sorry, it's no longer available!) I wanted it to work in my bathroom, but it was the wrong shape. I then tried it in the kitchen—and while it looked awesome, I knew I wouldn't be able to tolerate it. It didn't stay put well enough (even with a rug pad) and this area sees WAY too much traffic and food. It had to go back to the store, but not before I shot a photo of just how perfect it looked.

So there you have it; a few of the smaller tweaks we made to our house this winter. Now with the nicer weather my thoughts are turning to outdoor projects. My next post(s) will tell you all about it!