Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Super Cheap Yard Renovation: Part I

After I re-painted Bill's bedroom, I took a week's holiday in Algonquin Park, and whilst swinging in the hammock decided that my next renovation project would be my son's back yard. Son-in-law Christopher was immediatly enthusiastic. David was less so, partly because he was doing a full-time pastoral education course over the summer, and he was exhausted.

Anyhow, here's why I chose that particular project:

And from the other direction:

To wit: it was a haven for junk. Yes, that's last year's Christmas tree.

And it's small, not much more than twice the area of the bedroom featured in the last post.

First thing to do was clean the place up a bit:

Already it's looking better, but clearing out the weeds and junk reavealed a heretofore unexpected problem. My son had said the yard had a "few dips." I wasn't expecting how bad it really was:

If you look at the fence in the back corner, you'll see it's about six inches above the ground, whereas nearer the gate, it barely clears the ground. And there was a trough next to the house wall, here partially filled in with a sand & gravel mixture:

Not very pretty, even when cleaned up. This back yard is going to take a LOT of fill, and a lot of work.

My summer quote to live by has been: Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. (Arthur Ashe)

I can hardly start anywhere else than where I am. I cleared out the mess, leaving me with a bare, uneven yard. What did I have?

Well, I have a relatively strong body, a Toyota Yaris which, according to cinema ads of a few years back can transport a Viking Army, and absolutely no money. But I do have the internet, and the internet has Kijiji, and I still find it hard to believe what I was able to find on Kijiji:

The rocks in the previous pictures were also part of my booty haul, and the bins and buckets are filled with the sand & gravel mixture that filled in the holes by the wall. The buckets have been filled (and emptied) twice so far. And I brought it all home, one load at a time, in my Yaris. I love that car!

First order of business: Dig a hole four patio stones wide and about six inches deep in front of the gate, which wasn't able to open fully because of the uneven terrain. It's here that David became more enthusiastic and put his strong arms to good use--he did almost all of the digging. Spread an inch or two of gravelly sand and level, then lay down the eleven patio stones we'd scavenged via Kijiji. Here's the result:

Next, prune one of the branches off the tree, and remove a scrub tree that was growing up against the fence post:

Removing the branch changed parts of the yard from deep shade to part shade, which will increase the number of options I have when it comes time to plant.

Yesterday, I took the brush pile above to the dump in my poor little Yaris, which by now needs major clean-up. I'll be doing that as soon as I know I've finished transporting sand, gravel and dirty patio stones! Total cost so far has been 3 dollars for a saw to cut off the branch (I used Canadian Tire money from my credit card), about sixteen dollars for the hedge trimmers, and about twenty or so dollars worth of gas.

Anyhow, today it's raining, so I'm taking the day off!

Monday, August 5, 2013

From Clean To Eternity!

So I've managed to clean up my act, thanks to FLYLady and some hard work on my part. My house goes from clean to semi-clean, but I vow that never again will it descend to this state, or this one. I LIKE living in a clean house.

For the past year and a half, I've been keeping up with my cleaning, some days better than others. But on any given day, I'm rarely more than fifteen minutes away from a house tidy enough to welcome guests, and I've enjoyed using the kitchen almost every day! Eating out is now a choice I occasionally make, not a necessary action I'm often forced to take.

Cleaning up my physical environment has helped me lose some weight as well as finally get my budget on track. For the first time in over half my life, I'm reducing my debt instead of adding to it!

A year of slow improvement has left me itching to take on a new challenge, though. And some chance viewings of home improvement television shows (I don't have cable or watch TV, so these viewings happened while visiting my Mom) have left me with a desire to actually decorate my house.

Yes, I live in a co-op, which technically means it's shared ownership. The reality of our particular co-operative housing complex, though is that we're more like renters, with the co-op as the landlord. As members of the co-op, we make decisions jointly about what we can and cannot do with our units, but those rules tend to be very similar to those that owners of rental housing impose on their renters.

For example, the co-op supplies paint, but only in pastel colours, and only so much every year or five. At least we're not stuck with beige, as you can see from the pictures that Ally took of my office. But no dark colours.

That doesn't actually mean we can't paint with darker colours, or alter our units in any other way. In fact, we can do pretty much anything except wreck them. For some renovations, we're supposed to get permission, which means they'll probably want a licensed contractor to do them, but in practice, folks who do renovations rarely ask for permission if those renovations are done inside the unit.

And when we move out, the walls have to be clean and painted in a pastel colour or primed, and other renovations have to be removed or approved by the move-out committee, I guess.

So I actually can make some changes to my unit, if I decide to do so and if I have the money. And I decided that since I've lived here for more than sixteen years, and I can't imagine myself moving any time soon (and if I knew that I'd have the money to pay for my housing charge for the rest of my life, I probably would not choose to move EVER, unless I need an accessible unit, of which there are four in the co-op...) Anyhow, I digress. I decided that now that the house is cleaner than it was and is getting cleaner every day, I'm going to start fixing it up.

Except I didn't start with my house.

My ex went to England for two weeks at the beginning of July, so I decided to start with his bedroom.

Below the text you'll see the "after" picture. I didn't take a "before" picture. I really wish I'd thought of it when I started, because when Bill came home his first comment was, "Why'd you paint my bedroom?" That before picture would have captured that "why" perfectly.

So, gentle reader, envision the same room, the same furniture, in the same places as they are pictured below, but with clutter, and dust, and grime, and garbage. Picture the nice comforter and the sheets on the bed (a present from me for Christmas, and specifically requested!) still in their original packaging, stuffed in the closet along with a whole lot of pictures from the last forty years, a filing cabinet full of maps he never looks at, geneological research he's already digitized, notes from conferences that he's forgotten he ever attended, more pictures in frames, framse without pictures, and magazines he hasn't looked at since 2007. What isn't in the closet are clothes of any type. They're not in the dresser, either. In the dresser we find more notes, books, film cameras that we haven't used in a decade, a complete set of Japanese Anime comic books, and other assorted greeblies.

The clean clothes (those few that he didn't take with him on his trip) are dumped in a bushel basket, along with bits and pieces of costumes. (He's the drama coach and play director at the middle school where he teaches.)

The walls and doors are filthy, and everything has a thick layer of dust and cat hair. The walls have also never been painted since he moved in. There were holes in the wall at the head of the bed which had been patched but never primed or painted. Since the colour of the wall actually didn't change much, the patches were quite noticable. The baseboards and windowsill had once been white, but...

And covering the window was a blanket, a brown and yellow and orange blanket, stapled to the wall. Um, yeah.

So I cleared everything out of the room. I vaccuumed and dusted and washed. I primed. I painted. Then I put it back together, stuffing most of the junk that was cluttering up the room into my son's closet until such time as Bill could sort through it. I'm somewhat of a zealot, I admit, but I will not throw out other people's junk, because they need to make their own choices.

I also deliberately chose a paint colour that was close to the one that was already in the room. I really wonder some times about those shows where a room, especially a bedroom, is re-done to someone else's taste. I know that unless the other person knew me really well, I probably wouldn't feel comfortable in a room they desinged for me.

Now, of course I do know Bill well, really well. One thing I know about him is he doesn't like changed. Dirty to clean, with the bed made and clothes in the closet is quite possibly as much change as he could take well at once. And the colour is actually quite nice, when applied to the entire wall and kept clean. The only change I made was to paint the trim dark brown, in keeping with the furniture in the room and with what I know to be Bill's own taste.

So this is how it all ended up:

Some clutter has crept back on to the dresser, understandable since he does a fair amount of his work in bed. And the wandering dust ball creator (you might recognize him from earlier photos--for the sake of my respiratory health he moved to Bill's a couple of years ago) has access to the room, so regular vaccuuming will be a must. But a day or two after he came home, his one complaint was, "I don't have enough hangars." And in the photo, the bed is made, and I didn't make it.

I'd count that as a job well done, wouldn't you.