Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Murphy Bed is (almost) Done!

Among other things, the daylight basement space downstairs includes a guest bedroom that will double as a place for Josh to see chiropractic patients at the house. We are talking about eventually building a second structure at the bottom of the hill as a chiropractic office space, but for now we are starting very low key, working on the space downstairs to make it useable for multiple functions.

A murphy bed was our answer to having a space for guests to stay in that can be tucked away when Josh sees patients, and last week we finished building our murphy bed using this kit with plans we ordered online.

If you have ever looked into pre-made murphy beds, you'll know the nice ones aint cheap. I learned this during my first murphy bed go-around when I eventually opted to hire a carpenter to build a bed for my small condo in Boston. The most stylish murphy beds around come from  Resource Furniture in NYC, but the base models start around $10K, so they were out of the question for us. The more reasonable priced pre-made beds sold elsewhere are generally ugly particle board and laminate contraptions, also not what we were after.

And so, as we usually do, we decided to build the bed ourselves. We found a kit online that included the spring mechanisms and detailed plans for how to build the wood frame. The design for the underside of the bed, which is the "front" when it is folded into the wall, is up to you. We wanted something that looked like a simple cabinet, and when I came across this picture on Pinterest we decided to use it as our inspiration (sans the stuffed dogs on top):

So we set to work picking up wood, cutting large sheets of plywood in the workshop, reading and rereading the plans, and finally putting the thing together.

And with a coat of paint, here's where we're at right now:

Voila! Not too shabby for our maiden DIY murphy bed voyage. Now it's time to bring in some night stands, lamps, a proper fitting bed cover, pillows, a large area rug, two pull handles on the front of the cabinet to make it look more like, well, a cabinet, and finally I'd like to put something above the headboard. I am considering wrapping a large board with batting, upholstering it in a nice fabric that is soft to rest your head on, and mounting that to the wall. But all of that will come. The important thing is that we finally have a space for guests to stay. Last night one of Josh's relatives came through town, and it felt really good to be able to have an actual bed for him to sleep in. Blow up mattresses are, in my opinion, torture devices. Hooray for the guest bedroom!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

On a Roll

After two more days of working on the wall I've now completed the entire left side and started on the portion that runs up the right side. We also filled in the back side of the wall with soil to make a level plot behind it for our garden. The whole thing is really starting to take shape! Once I finish the right side, which should only take a few more days, the following will need to happen:

- Fence the area and add a layer of rabbit wire to keep critters out
- Spread a layer of topsoil
- Build raised beds for the garden
- Plant veggies!

Here are a few pictures from today:

↓ Filling in the back side.

↓ Riley surveys the yard from atop our new retaining wall.

↓ View from the back side of the wall showing the filled in soil. You can see the unfinished portion on the left.

↓ The unfinished side that I will whip into shape in no time!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Rock Wall Update

The rock retaining wall we're building has been a constant point of contention this summer. I love working on it but Josh never (and I mean never ever ever) wants to work on it. Because I can't lift some of the rocks needed to get it done, and was convinced my rock placing/stacking/balancing abilities were inferior to Josh's anyway, I felt defeated with regard to the project and had somewhat resigned myself to the fact that it might sit unfinished for years. It's just not the kind of project novices like us can whip out last minute after procrastinating all summer.

But everything changed Saturday when I discovered that (lo and behold!) I am in fact better at building the wall than Josh. On Saturday evening I found myself outside staring at the half finished wall and mess of rocks strewn all over, and decided to place a few. An hour went by, then another, and I was still going. When I stepped back to look at my work I was shocked. I'd completed more work on the wall in a few hours than the two of us combined had completed during the entire month prior, and what's more my section looked pretty darn good. When Josh finally came out to see what I was doing he took a look at the wall and said, "Oh my god, that looks really good! Wow, that's the best part of the wall..." I continued to work on the wall until it was too dark to see.

The next morning I was up at 5 am and went straight outside to continue gathering and stacking rocks. When I ran out of rocks, I took apart and raided the fire pit for rocks (we needed to disassemble the pit anyway to make room for the pergola) then hauled them back to the wall with the trailer on the back of our ride-on mower. Mid morning Josh came out to see what I was doing, and without being asked he began pulling rocks out of the brook to replenish my pile. This was a major breakthrough. He never does that without serious begging and pleading. We continued working on the wall throughout the morning until it became too hot to stay outside. I picked back up again later in the afternoon, and by the end of yesterday I had made major progress and felt totally empowered. The wall will be completed because I am going to do it!

Now granted the wall does not look "uber professional" per say, but it looks pretty good for a 5'3" 115 lb. klutz who had never given a second thought to rock walls before this project, let alone built one. Major lesson learned -- Do not underestimate yourself, and do not expect others to do what you can do yourself.

And now, some photos.

There are three sticks in the ground in front of the wall. The tallest one on the right is about the spot I started working from on Saturday and over the weekend completed most of what you see on the left portion of the wall. It is not done - I need to stack everything quite a bit higher and finish the taper on the left end. When the wall is done we will fill in and level out the soil behind the wall to make a plot for a small food garden.

A close up

In addition to the rocks you see on the front face of the wall, there are also two to three layers of "backer" rocks behind the face. These rocks don't have to be pretty or flat, they are there to support the front layer and provide stability. This shot from above shows the backers. The backers will eventually be covered in soil so as not to be seen.

I am planning to work on the wall pretty consistently this week and would like to finish the left side within a few weeks. After that I will move around to the right side of the wall and finish the section that runs back perpendicular to the front face on the right. If we can find enough good flat rocks it should really be a breeze. The tough part is finding the good rocks.

In other news, we finished construction of the murphy bed in the daylight basement bedroom yesterday and all it needs now is a coat of paint. Photos coming soon!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Salted Maple Popcorn Recipe

We tapped a few maple trees in the back woods during March, and since then have been using maple syrup in everything. Salad dressings, homemade cookie batter, marinara sauce, coffee, pie crust, meat marinades, veggie stir fry, you get the picture.

Our recent favorite is adding maple syrup to the pot when we make popcorn. Josh has perfected the recipe and it is the best popcorn I've ever tasted. His super easy recipe is below. Enjoy!

Salted Maple Popcorn
Popcorn kernels (enough to cover the bottom of your pot without overlapping kernels)
1-2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt to taste

Turn your burner on to just under the highest setting (we use 7 or 8 on our electric stove). Pour syrup, olive oil, and kernels into a large lidded pot and place on the burner. Keep the lid on, and move the pot back and forth over the burner continually. Once your kernels begin popping turn the burner off but continue moving the pot. Remove your popcorn from the pot immediately once kernels have popped to prevent burning. Drizzle with olive oil and salt to taste.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Luna Moth

This morning we discovered a giant sea foam green colored moth hanging out against the side of the house. It didn't seem at all phased as we gathered around with the dogs to stare at it, so eventually Josh slid his finger next to it, and it had no problem climbing right on. It hung out on his hand for a few minutes while we took pictures, then we gently placed it in a safe spot behind the house. I got the sense it would have hung out on Josh's hand all day if he had let it.

A little Googling revealed that this is a Luna Moth, one of the largest and most beautiful moths in North America. These guys live just 7 days, and their bodies are covered in a soft snowy white fuzz. The wildlife on our little hillside here in Vermont continues to amaze us. Yesterday a family of wild turkeys, including a number of poults (baby turkeys) was wondering through the orchard when we arrived home from errands. I love that :)

Friday, June 21, 2013

A Loom of My Own

I've become increasingly interested in textiles over the past year, so this winter I found myself a weaving teacher and started the process of learning to weave on a loom. All was going well until the end of May when the loom I'd been using returned to a craft school for summer classes. I've been hunting for my own loom ever since, and today I'm happy to announce the purchase of my very own Tools of the Trade 48" floor loom!

The loom is solid wood and large, so getting it home on Wednesday was tricky, but I finally have it set up in a corner downstairs. It came with a warp board and a few other goodies I have yet to set up, but I've included some preliminary pictures here. I'm hoping to spruce my little weaving corner up over the next few months.

My weaving teacher is in New Hampshire for the week, but has agreed to come to our house and help me get started on this loom when she returns. I still might be able to weave the table runners I wanted to make for the wedding if my backordered blue yarn ever arrives!

Note: The green rug on the loom was woven by the seller's mother. It was the one and only piece ever woven on the loom.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Our Week Via Instagram

↓ The second picnic table was assembled under the apple tree. It will live there full time after the wedding.

↓ We discovered tiny wild strawberries growing in the far field while we were doing yard work the other day. They are delicious!

↓ We started painting the lattice below the deck with brushes, but quickly realized this is a job for a sprayer. We'll ask about renting one next time we're at Home Depot.

↓ We added a simple arbor to the garden fence and planted Morning Glory climbing vines at the bottom of the posts. Morning Glory can grow up to 12 feet over the summer, so I am hoping it climbs to the top by the wedding. We also dug out a bed along the front of the fence and planted Moonflower plants, which produce huge white blossoms in the fall. I still want to get roses in there at some point.

↓ A good number of Garter snakes hang out near our barn. They used to startle me, and quite honestly creep me out, but I'm starting to like them and look forward to seeing them when I go to the barn to work. Garters eat bugs, so I appreciate that they are helping keep spiders & flies out of my work space. They used to immediately slink off when I'd come by, but recently they just hang out and don't move much. I guess we're coming to an understanding.

↓ The other day one of them crept around the barn door when I came by, then poked its head back around to look at me again. I quickly snapped this photo with my iPhone. Never thought I'd say it, but I found that snake kind of cute. Garters are truly more harmless and afraid of us than we are of them. I wouldn't go so far as to want a pet snake, but it's been nice to find that I can enjoy their presence around the yard. I mean just look at this guy :)

In other news, I found a loom this week and we are picking it up tomorrow! We've been busy today cleaning out a spot for it downstairs. Pictures to follow!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Before & After: Shoe Cabinet

A lot of what winds up at the dump is, in fact, junk, but sometimes I come across a piece that I know has potential. About a month back I found this guy at the Swap Shop (where you drop off and take things without any money changing hands) and figured I would give rehabbing it a shot.

The old stain was crackling and extremely dirty, and most of the knobs and some of the wheels were missing, but the piece is solid wood so I decided to refinish it. The original plan was to sand and stain the entire piece and not do any painting, so I removed the broken knobs, took out the drawers, and set to work with my electric sander.

Next I slathered the whole thing with pre-stain (a treatment that helps the actual stain go on more evenly) then tested Minwax Golden Oak stain on a small spot on the side. It was instantly cloudy and murky and did not look great. Bummer. The drawer fronts appeared to be a nicer hardwood than the sides, so I tested the stain on the drawers and found that they took the stain well. I decided to prime then paint the body of the piece Navajo White and stain the drawers.

I usually prefer to restore pieces to their original state rather than turning them into something else, but I am not enough of a pro to get a fantastic wood finish every time, so in this case the painting had to do.

We now have a convenient spot to toss keys, gloves, hats, scarves, and other odds and ends. The open cabinet at the bottom can hold a pair of boots and we've been keeping sneakers and sandals inside the bottom drawers as well. I love finding furniture destined for the trash and turning it into something useful again!