Unexpected Adventure: The Lake House Edition

The last seven years of my life have been punctuated with unexpected adventures. The farm The donkeys! Almost buying a ton of farmland and then not buying and ton of farmland and being a little devastated about it! Then, being glad I didn’t buy all of that farmland because of this…

My mom and I bought a lake house!


Backstory:  A couple of years ago my mom said she really wanted to retire up by the farm but not, like, at the farm. At the time, she was looking at all of the nearby farm properties and possible land I could build a house for her on, but  at some point last winter when I was working on the upstairs bath she said to me, “It’s taken you 3 years to finish this bathroom, there’s no way you’re going to be ready to build me a house before I retire… in seven years.” Which… fair point, Mom.

So then we started talking about the lake. It’s just a half mile down the road from the farm. Not a huge lake, but big enough to be all-sports. And, also, almost impossible to get a house on.

I was not worried about the impossible part because we had seven years. Surely something would come up in seven years.

Except my mom got this idea in her head, and then immediately sold her condo and moved into an apartment (so she’d have her money “free” in case something came up) and started checking Zillow for potential lake houses every single morning for the last two years. You guys, all I’m going to say is that SHE HAD A SPREADSHEET. You know I’m serious about building some shit when I’ve made a drunk sketch on the back of a junk-mail envelope. You know my mom is serious about some shit when she makes a spreadsheet. Just saying.

A great little house did come up a year ago, but the asking price was higher than we thought was reasonable (and that we could get a loan for) so I thought, we’ll just wait this out and when they realize that is an unreasonable amount of money for a 900sf house we’ll make an offer. And then in sold for cash above the asking amount in 24 hours. (Insert slight mental adjustment on how much money we’d be paying for a small lake house here. Yikes.)

Then, just a couple of weeks ago, I got a series of texts from my mom while I was on the way in to work. For reference, my commute is about an hour, and at the beginning of the drive she “just happened to see a house for sale on Zillow” and by the end of the drive she was 100% ready to buy it. So, with a better understanding of the lake-house market I was like, “okay, let’s buy it.” This was a Thursday and there was an open house on Sunday, and I thought we would be super proactive… maybe go look at it Friday or Saturday and put an offer in. Right? By the time my realtor got back to me at 3PM on Thursday they had 8 showings lined up for Friday, which didn’t even matter because the house was already sold.

My mom was devastated.


Do you see this wonderful woman who treats my chickens like grandchildren, and watches the farm when I want to go on adventures, and is the only reason this house has actual gardens and not just fucking weeds growing everywhere, and all she wants is a lake house within golf-cart distance of the farm?

Not fun to see her disappointed.

Also, my mom and I are a lot alike in how we handle disappointment… namely, we like to buy things. Recently, for me, it’s climbing holds. (See also: all of this) For my mom, apparently it was trees.


I mean, I got this text a week after the second potential lake house fell through, and then realized she had been talking a lot about trees for the past week. So I immediately called her and was like, “you’re not about to do something crazy right now and go spend a down-payment’s worth of money on trees or anything… right?!” and her response was dead silence for 15 seconds, and then…  “I mean, I’m really sad we lost that house.”


Here’s the crazy part. I convinced her not to buy a zillion trees, and instead meet me at the farm after work for dinner. I got home, opened a bottle of wine, started cooking, and–lo’ and behold– there’s a knock on the door.

Before I go on, can I just say how utterly unlikely it is that my mom would be at the farm on a Wednesday evening? I mean, ever. She’s here all the time on the weekends, and occasionally will come up during the week over summer when she’s on break, but she’s always gone before I get home. Except on this particular day.

So there’s a knock on the door. A few months back my mom made friends with one of our neighbors on the lake who often drives his grandkids by the farm on their golf cart, and whom my mom has invited over to visit the donkeys, etc. So I open the door, and there’s our lake neighbor, and he says, “I’m so glad I caught you, I know your mom is looking for a house on the lake and I just so happen to know that one is going up for sale next week.

You guys.

I literally walked back in to the kitchen, shut of the stove, grabbed my mom, and was like, WE ARE GOING TO MEET THIS PERSON RIGHT NOW.

Which we did. They invited us into their cute little house on the lake (with zero advance notice that we’d be coming through their home.) They were gracious, their kids were polite and funny. They told us about how they bought the house next to them from a neighbor and had been fixing it up to move into (since it provided a little more space for their 3 boys), and when they said they were planning to put their house on the market soon, my mom and I were like, “Um. We’ll take it.”

And then went back to the farm and were also like, “holy shit, did we just buy a lake house?? unexpectedly??”

Yes. Yes we did.

I had a slight concern that the house might not appraise for the asking price (but it did!) and/or that the number of things they asked my mom to fax, fax again, fax with extra pages, and re-fax, might give her a permanent twitch in her eye (but it didn’t!)

And two months later, here we are…


Proud owners of a new lake house!

We closed yesterday, but technically we don’t have possession of the house just yet. (The family we bought it from needed a bit more time to finish up their new place next door, which, as a person who hasn’t had a floor in her kitchen for four years… uh, I can totally empathize with.) So I won’t be sharing any more details or interior pics until we’re actually “in” the place.

The lake house will be my mom’s primary residence (which means she’s signing up for that long commute I’m so used to at this point) and it will be a second property for both of us to take care of… BUT, it’s going to be amazing to have her so close by– golf cart distance!– and for both of us to have the farm AND a lake to play on. Plus, we really like the new neighbors. (Not just because they sold us the house, but because they’re awesome.)

There’s so much more to come. But for now, I’ll leave you right where we are…


Anxiously waiting to get in to this place!


Source: Unexpected Adventure: The Lake House Edition

Upstairs Bathroom: Mirror Adventures

Oh, hey, look what we’re talking about again… the second longest running bathroom remodel in the history of houses I’ve owned. (Technically there was a bathroom in my first house that didn’t have trim around the door for four whole years, so I have a little while until I beat that one. But at the rate I’m going this room may not have an actual door for another year or two.)

This bathroom is not done. But hey, guess what? It does have some very pretty mirrors.


Mirrors that can only be picked up at the store (not shipped) from Home Depot Canada.

Turns out there are thousands of styles of mirrors you can get all over the US, but not this one, and for some reason this is the one I had my heart set on. (In fairness, there are a few options like this, but they go for $236 per mirror. The Home Depot Ca has them for $83 Canadian each, which is like $63 USD right now.)

Here’s the good news: I only live about 90 minutes from a Canadian Home Depot. So I did what any normal person who hasn’t had a functioning bathroom upstairs for three years would do…



I legitimately made my mom update her passport so that we could go to Canada together to get these mirrors. (And, since we were going to Canada anyway, do a few other fun things.)

First, when I changed jobs a few months ago I actually started working for a company that you all know is very near and dear to my heart. So near and dear, they actually quoted me on one of their T-shirts that came out earlier this year…


That’s actually wholly unrelated to the work I do at Carhartt, just a fun little side-note. The other fun little side note about my new job is that I get an employee discount, which means on the way to Canada I took my mom to the flagship Carhartt store in Detroit for a shopping spree!


Here’s the only bad thing about working for Carhartt. I get to wear Carhartt clothes to work every day, and it has become very difficult to distinguish which clothes in my closet are for “work” and which are for “farm work”…


Just sayin’.

Anyway, that was the first stop on our Road Trip to Canada. Then we crossed the bridge, made it through customs, headed to the nearest Home Depot, found the mirror, and then I promptly changed my mind about it being the “right mirror”. Even though my mom got her passport renewed just so we could drive over the border to get it.


The problem was that it was hung in an area where it reflected ALL of the ceiling lights in the place, and it basically make the mirror look like an oversized disco ball, which is not the look I was going for in the bathroom.

We did see this other mirror, which would not have been my first choice online, but actually looked really good in the store…


But they didn’t have any in-stock at this location.

Luckily, there was another Home Depot Canada just 30 minutes down the road (and kind of on the way to the Big Surprise I had planned for my mom while we were up there.)

So we get to the second Home Depot, find the mirror (on display in a totally different spot in this store) and realize NOPE, my original choice was actually the better one, and looked far less like a disco-ball in this store.

This is why I like drinking beer and building shit instead of decorating.

We purchased the mirrors, tucked them safely into the back of the car, and then headed off to a surprise location for lunch…


I found reviews for the Oxley Estate Winery online and thought it would be the perfect spot for us to stop (and get a little inspiration, since my vineyard efforts have been, ah, less than successful so far.)

Lunch was amazing…


As was the wine flight…


And then we walked off the wine by touring the vineyards…


And taking a short stroll down the road to see Lake Erie (from the other side.)


And then it was back over the bridge and to the farm. Which brings us to here:


A slight upgrade from this one-mirror situation I had going on for a few months…


And a definite upgrade from where I started six years ago…


This bathroom still needs– first and foremost– a damn door. And then a little trim work, plus there’s one unsolved electrical mystery I still need to work out. But it’s mostly done, and that’s a good thing, because my mom and I have another huge, and awesome project coming up next month. (Which I can’t talk about until it’s a done deal, but here’s a hint. We are VERY EXCITED.)

Source: Upstairs Bathroom: Mirror Adventures

Building a Climbing Wall: Parts 2 & 3

I spent the better part of last year trying to convince myself not to build a climbing wall out in my barn, and then in October, I finally gave into the impulse and started, well, this…


(That is not the appropriate way to climb on a climbing wall, by the way.)

I built the wall in 3ish sections, and you can read more about framing and building the first part of the wall here.

By the time winter came last year, there were two sections of wall to climb on, including a nice little overhung section…


Instead of putting the patio furniture away for the year, I just moved it out to the barn to make a nice little seating section around the wall…


And I snagged one of these patio heaters on sale at Lowe’s, which came in handy when trying to climb in six-degree weather…


I literally climbed in my Carhartt bibs.


(Also, yes, we did have a little Christmas tree out in the barn because why not?)

To be honest, the wall didn’t get a ton of action between January and March, but as soon as the weather swung back in our favor I started planning the next sections of wall.

First, the “easy” section of wall with no overhang. This is my mom, on Mother’s day, helping me drill holes in 3/4″ plywood for t-nuts…


I know, I know, all moms are awesome, but I’m just saying… mine helped me build a climbing wall.

It was far easier to get the plywood up on this section of wall, and the fun thing about building something that you’re supposed to climb on is that no screw is out of reach, even when you run out of rungs on the ladder…


At this point the wall itself was about 90% done, but there was still the big, gaping space between the overhung sections of wall. I mean, we still climbed on it this way…


As evidenced by my friend (and chief route-setter for this wall) Mike…

But I also spent A LOT of time thinking through the logistics of connecting two sections of wall, on different angles, with plywood that also had to be on an angle, and then my brain turned to mush because I didn’t pay enough attention in trigonometry when I was a kid.

You know what I did do a lot as a kid though? Visualize.


I couldn’t do the math on this the way an engineer would, but I did have the somewhat-brilliant idea to use string to visualize all of the angles and pieces. Then I measured the angles of the string with a protractor, and holy shit…



You guys, I didn’t even have to do drunk math to make that work… it was 100% sober. Who am I even?

There’s a bunch of blocking behind those pieces of connecting plywood, which I tested in the most OSHA-approved way ever…


By climbing on it in my workboots. Seems solid.

So there you have it.

From this…


To this…


I still have a few more finishing touches, and may eventually want to texture and paint the wall and put in some legit padding underneath it… but for now I’m just enjoying being able to walk out the barn and do some climbing whenever I want.


Was it a frivolous project? Yes. But also a helluva lot of fun, and seriously, what’s the point of being able to build anything you can dream up if you don’t actually dream up and build crazy shit every once in a while? (Which is 100% foreshadowing for the next post I have about things I’ve built in the barn this year.)


Source: Building a Climbing Wall: Parts 2 & 3

Spring on the Farm: 2018

It only took six years, but I think I’ve finally figured out how to manage spring on the farm without completely losing my shit, and it only requires two things:

  1. Do not get new animals.
  2. Do not get new plants.

(For all of my friends and family who keep sending me pictures of baby goats… TAKE NOTE.)

Truthfully, things are really good on the farm this year. A lot of the work I’ve done in previous years to build new spaces (like the pergola, the bonfire pit, and the veggie garden) is paying off in that I have beautiful spots on the farm to enjoy with just a little maintenance and upkeep (and upgrades of course, but minor ones this year.)


And I’ve established the things like the orchard and vineyard (with tons of help from my mom) that now just need a few years of maintenance and care so they can flourish. Which, if we’re being honest, is still a ton of work (and a pain in the ass) but it’s not let’s-build-200-ft-of-grapevine-trellis-and-plant-30-vines-in-one-spring kind of work.

Here’s what things look like these days…

In The Garden

First, I still have not re-built the greenhouse since it blew over last spring (sigh), but I did spent some time last year putting in a really good foundation for it , so a lot of the heavy lifting is done. Now I just have to resign myself to repairing and re-assembling all of the pieces. (I hate doing re-work, so I’ve been avoiding it, but I’m committing to have it done before fall of this year.)


In an effort to give myself plenty of excuses not to start re-building the greenhouse, I have been adding more raised beds to the garden this year.


Originally I wanted to have border gardens around the inside perimeter of the fence, but after 4 years I’ve finally given up and realized that anything that isn’t in a raised bed will be impossible to maintain around here. People often ask me about the benefit of the raised beds, and all I can say is that in my case they are far easier to keep weed-free and maintain the soil composition of. (It may just be because we’re starting from scratch and have been keeping them up fairly well, but whatever it is, it works.)

I’ve added 5 new half-sized beds to one side of the garden and will add 5 more on the other side, plus a few more full-sized beds in the area I’d been trying to grow “row crops” like corn. For now, though, there are 19 beds (and 5 half beds) planted and growing some awesome things, including these native flowers my mom picked up at a native-plant sale recently…


The other fun thing about the garden area are these two full-sun flower beds that my mom and I created a year ago, at which time they looked like this…


In 15 years of home-ownership (and 3 houses) I’ve never had a full-sun garden where I could plant pretty perennials and watch them come back year-after-year, so these two little garden beds are oddly exciting for me. The peonies and “front” clematis were the first to bloom this year…


Still waiting on the butterfly bush, black-eyed susans, coneflowers (thanks mom!) and the fall blooming clematis that we moved off the pergola and is doing amazing on the garden trellis this year…


In The Orchard

Every spring there’s a moment where no matter how big the trees get, I’m convinced that the grass and weeds will grow tall enough to swallow them whole. This was that moment…


Due to some epically rainy weather (only on the weekends, of course) I was a couple of weeks behind in orchard maintenance this spring.  I finally gave up on doing this during the weekends and promised myself I’d handle three trees a night for a week until all 15 were un-caged, weed-whacked, pruned, fertilized, mulched, sprayed, and re-caged.


I’m just saying, last week was a long week.


But we got there…


For the most part the trees are doing well, although only a few of my apple trees are bearing fruit and none of the peach trees are bearing any (and for the last few years they’ve produced more fruit than any others.)

I’m honestly not sure if this has to do with weather (was there a hard frost after they budded?) or lack of pollination? (I lost my second bee hive in late winter this year so I didn’t have any honeybees in the immediate area this year, but there are so many native pollinators it hasn’t been an issue for the pears or apples.) I’m really not sure, but the good news is that even if I’ll sorely miss my usual peach harvest this summer, the trees look great and they can focus their energies on growing bigger and stronger this year, instead of producing fruit.

I can’t wait to get a few more years of growth on these trees so that I can really start harvesting some fruit. In the meantime, other than the heavy maintenance in spring, they don’t take much work other than another dose of fruit-tree spray in another month or so.

In The Vineyard

The vineyard continues to be difficult to establish and keep under control. (As my mom said last weekend, “We’re just trying to grow a damn grape!”)

Here’s what it looked like a week ago…


Good luck finding a grape in that mess.

The weather, as per usual this spring, was beautiful and perfect all week, and then started raining bright and early Saturday morning. Which means my mom and I opened a bottle of wine bright and early Saturday morning and started working in the rain…


I can only mow so close to the trellises, so there’s a lot of weed-whacking needed just to get things under control. We also un-caged the vines, fertilized them, weeded, mulched, and re-caged. (Those cages are my deer protection.)


The 4 concord vines I have are definitely doing the best, and there are few other that are holding their own, but I tend to lose a lot of the growth every year, and the shoots start over from the ground rather than last-years growth.

I’m not sure if this is weather related, or due to the fact that I’ve been battling Japanese beetles for the last two years, and they’ve managed to strip the leaves off some of the vines before I get them.

Either way, it’s slow going. This year I need to get a better grass/weed management plan in place for the rows, finish the 3rd trellis, and spend all of my free time walking around picking beetles of the vines like a crazy person.

Around The Farm

No new animals means no new fences, or pens, or coops need to be build this spring, but I did make a few much-needed upgrades to the chicken run that Mom and I built last year.


This thing was so handy to have, even after I discovered the chicken-killing culprit that was wreaking havoc on my flock last year (dog down the street was sneaking out to come “play” with the chickens when the owner was napping…) and was able to let the flock free-range again, I still used the coop to acclimate my new chicks to the outdoors…


And to get the new guineas acclimated to the farm. The only problem is that I originally built it to be an extension of the indoor coop (where there is plenty of shade) but when I was using it as it’s own coop to keep the birds separate, I needed more sun and rain coverage. So I did what any reasonable person who owns every tool know to man would do…


Stretched a tarp over it?

Yeah. I’m a disgrace.

In an effort to redeem myself this year, I put an actual roof on the thing.

I was planning to use metal (or plastic) roofing panels from the local lumber yard, but then I saw these Ondura corrugated asphalt panels at Lowe’s and thought… why the hell not. (I don’t love buying building materials I haven’t used before or researched, but this is a low-risk project.)

So, I added some bracing to the roof…


And then spent a lot of time hammering nails into this stuff in the rain.


So, the roofing panels are fairly light and easy to cut (you can cut them with a utility knife vertically, or a circular saw with the blade on backwards horizontally) but the downside is that there’s a lot of hammering that needs to be done to secure them and if you miss the nail you’re going to put a solid dent if not an outright hole through this stuff. I’m pretty accurate with a hammer, but out of 250 nails I did still put two sizable dents in the roof.

I also don’t really care because I’m not really trying to keep every drop of water out of the coop, but I wouldn’t use this roofing on any kind of barn or house that I actually want to keep dry. And pretty.

Still, it did the job for the coop.

I also added some wood around the bottom of the walls to discourage any predators from pushing at the wire mesh (similar to what I did with the actual coop.)


It looks and feels a lot more substantial now. I still have a few clean-up details, but it’s nice to have a usable space if I need to introduce new birds to the flock, or so the chickens have an outdoor space when I’m traveling for work (which is fairly often these days.)

So, overall spring has been pretty manageable on the farm this year, and I’m looking forward to a little rest before starting a big summer project… (I’m looking at you rotted wood siding on the back of the house.)

Source: Spring on the Farm: 2018