Category Archives: Yard

Front Doors Finally Painted

This is the not so delightful color that our front doors have been for the past year and a half.

And the outside view.

If you look at the following, you’ll see where I’m headed.

Red front Door


Red front door...


red front door.


Red Front Door


 <3 red front door


I love a red front door!


 It took a long time for me to get brave enough to do this.  For some reason, even though we built the entire house, made all the decisions (including all of the paint colors and doing all of the painting ourselves), I found this choice very difficult- rivaled only by my agony in choosing kitchen cupboards.

Even after I had found the perfect paint and the perfect color, I was still nervous about doing it.

It’s the front of our house, for pete’s sake!

Here’s how it turned out…

I used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Primer Red.  It took 3 coats to get full coverage but it still only took barely over a quart of paint to get both doors, both sides, painted.

See the complete patio makeover here.

We love it!  What color is your front door?

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Summer Patio

Here is the front patio after the door was painted and the flowers planted and the bikes and skateboards and dogs gently removed.

This is what it looked like last summer.

Big changes, no?

We started the front landscaping by building the bank out of rocks and then the paver stone patio on top.  Stairs completed the big work.

Then, all that was left to do was fill the flower pots and the chairs and enjoy it!

One side of the front door.

And the other.

This is in early evening, but usually this is a hot and sunny south-facing spot.

The woods surrounding our house come right up to the bottom of the patio so you are surrounded by a halo of green at this time of day.

I just finished painting our front door with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.  Primer Red.  I love it.  See the before picture above for the original color.

I’ve had the old whiskey barrels for a long time.  My parents used them as water barrels when I was growing up.

My grandma collected cream cans.  She painted them usually and I have one inside my front door with beautiful farm scenes on it.  This one she hadn’t gotten around to yet, and now I use it for flowers.

The whiskey barrels are bottomless, so I just planted flowers in a smaller sized pot and plunked it in there on  a piece of wood.  Burlap fills in the edges.

At the bottom of the steps we planted two weeping carragana.  They are so pretty in the summer and still interesting to look at in the winter too, which is kind of a big deal around here.  I can see hanging little lights on them at Christmas.

The yellow pansies planted underneath looked especially pretty until a couple of days ago.

When somebody decided to have a little snack.

Oh well, one side still looks un-chewed.

I didn’t want the stump by the driveway to feel left out, so it got a little yellow begonia.

The pots aren’t very spectacular looking just yet.  We just planted them last weekend and it actually froze here two nights ago, so our annuals are just getting started (sigh… our season in Alberta is so short).  But, the hanging pots are lovely now.

I’ll give you some updated pictures in July when the pots should have filled out a little more.

And…. one last shot…

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Raised Garden

In an effort to try and get some use out of the very tall and imposing bank in our backyard, we are experimenting with gardening.

The bank faces south, and we thought between that and building a raised bed, we may actually be able to get something to grow.

We made ours 8 x 4 and I divided it into one foot sections using twine and screws.  I planted a lot in here!  Zucchini, peas, beans, lettuce, carrots, dill, and onions.  Hopefully it all grows!  It is a sunny spot, so it should.

Shaun put wood bark and chips all around it and some flat stones that he split when he made me some stairs to get up here.

I hope the deer don’t eat it all.

Our dogs will bark at a squirrel all night long, but deer…. nothing.

Stone Steps

One day after school, I came home to this as a surprise from my husband.

The day before, we had built a raised garden on the top of this hill and he may have had enough of watching me stumble up and down it.

So he split some rocks.  Yes, he can do that.

And built these.

I’m thinking some creeping thyme around them to fill in the spaces so maybe one day they will look like this.

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Aren’t they beautiful?

 But I love mine already, too!

We had a busy weekend here.  I’m painting my doors with ASCP!  Can’t wait to show you!

I also planted all of my pots of flowers- one of my very favorite things to do- and we continued to work on our landscaping mega-project as well as get some smaller projects finished up.   Yesterday, we drove out to the lake to park our trailer for the summer, do a little fishing, and have a barbecue!

It’s the Victoria Day May long weekend here so I have one more day off before school fires up again for the last stretch.

Hope you had a great weekend!


You may have noticed that the blog posts have slowed down a lot this past week.

It is a bit of a crunch time at work for me right now (some of my students are writing a provincial exam tomorrow so last week was all about writing and writing some more, which meant late nights of marking for me), the weather has actually turned decent the past 2 weekends, so, when not marking, I have been outside doing yard work, and the last reason is that I am just stuck on some big projects that are partially completed but that I just can’t seem to find the time or energy to complete (gallery wall in office, mudroom shelving, laundry countertop, recovering chair…).

I’ll get there, though.

I did want to show you what we had been up to outside.

Last summer, we worked very hard and finished the front yard of the house.  We built a rock wall and a paver stone patio and stairs.

But the back yard still looked like this.

As the ground had been disturbed from the house build, it was full of Canada thistle, quack grass, and clover.


And then we moved in and lived here for a while and this happened.

Junkapalooza.  And not in a cool, Junk Gypsy kind of way either.

More of a horrifying, what-kind-of-hoarders-live-here kind of way.

 Apparently, the kind that heats their home with wood.

 And collects antlers and garbage can and barbecues.  That kind of hoarder.

Anyway, back to the yard…

Here is the view of the entire back yard including the back hoarding wood-storage porch and the rest of the space.  Because of the sheer size, it was intimidating getting started.

The slope at the back provided some challenges as well (but great protection from the north wind).  I think this little nook carved into the slope will be our fire pit area.

This raised area is just outside the back mudroom/ hallway door.  We are going to plant this all out in grass and have a couple of flower beds.

But guess what we are doing with that bank…

That’s right.  We are back to building another rock wall.  It just makes sense.  The ground is very rocky here (we do live at a gravel pit) and we don’t see why we would move them away rather than just use them on site.  That bank had to be stabilized with something.

The reason why the picture seems so dark is that we had my dad come up with his loader to even out the ground for us, so the whole length of the yard has a fresh covering of dirt.

We don’t fool around.  It would take a lot of wheelbarrow trips to move that much dirt.

The really good news was that not only did we get the backyard leveled out and a space created out of that back bank for a wood shed…

(this makes my husband very happy and maybe will help to keep the back covered porch clean…maybe)…

…but we also discovered that we actually have soil in the backyard.  We thought before that it was all rock and sand and that we were going to have to buy a million yards of black dirt before we planted grass seed.

Not so.

A lot of nice, rich soil to plant grass in.  Yay!

Once we finish picking out all the rocks!  Boo!

Lots of work left to do, but we have made a lot of progress in the last two weekends!  We also planted some trees and I finally got brave enough to start a job that has been intimidating me for a year and a half now.

I’ll give you a sneak peak.

Please ignore the mess surrounding the door.  We do.

My workload this week is not as crazy as it has been so hopefully I can finish up some projects around here.  Or maybe even relax on that patio.

Yard Planning

This past Friday I had the fun of having a landscape architect / botanist come to our house to give us a consultation on what to do with our backyard.

I think we needed it.

You can see we have a slight problem with weeds, a steep bank, and a lot of space.

And some rocks.

It’s totally a little overwhelming and it is easy to make really expensive mistakes on a project this size, so we decided to spend a little money up front on some good advice.

 These are some of the plants she recommended for us with our yard being a zone 2 or 3.

Ostrich fern

Ostrich Fern





Miss Kim lilac

Miss Kim Lilac


 Bearberry (or kinnikkinnik)

File:Pinus mugo.jpg

Dwarf Mugo Pine

File:Rowan tree 20081002b.jpg

Showy Mountain Ash

File:IMG 1527Dogwood.JPG

Ivory Halo Dogwood

Red Leaf Rose

File:JuniperusCommunisAlpina.jpgCommon Juniper


Snow on Mountain

File:Asarum caudatum 1117.JPG

Wild Ginger

File:Ageratina adenophora (Buds).jpg


File:Cranberry bog.jpg

Dwarf European Cranberry

File:Ardisia crenata HabitusFlowersFruits BotGardBln0906.JPG


File:San Gabriel Mountains coralbells.jpg

I can’t wait for the snow to melt so we can get going.  We won’t be able to do it all this year, in fact it is probably going to take a few years to do it all, but we are going to get some black dirt in, sow some grass seed, and buy a few of these pretty plants!

I love spring.

Tile Inukshuk

We like Inukshuks around here. An Inukshuk is an Inuit scupture made from stacking rocks into the shape of a person.

It means ‘we were here’.

My brother made one for us that sits by our firepit.

We then took the opportunity to incorporate one of these into our home.

When we built our house, we did a lot of the work. A. lot.

Framing, electrical and plumbing, drywalling, painting, and tiling are some of the huge jobs we (and when I say we I mean that I helped and so did my mom, but really it was my husband who did the bulk of it. You know, we.)

We got an excellent deal on our ceramic floor tile at Home Depot. It was a Canada Day special and we got all the tile we needed for our front entry, back entry, mudroom, and laundry room and three bathrooms for $300. I know. Amazing.

The tile is a lovely neutral colour that is going to stay fine forever. But we did want to jazz it up somehow, and we (there’s that we again) did that by using our sample tiles to create an inukshuk in the open space in our back entry.

Shaun spent many hours with his old friend the tile saw.

Many hours tracing out the shapes and painstakingly trimming them to look like actual stones on the floor.

But I think it was worth it, don’t you?

We had originally been considering much darker tile, so the mosaic really shows up against the lighter ceramic tile.

This is in an opening in the back entry that will never be covered by a rug so it is always on display.

We thought it was a nice way to incorporate Shaun’s culture, art, and craftsmanship into our home.

And it is always a conversation starter! What special elements do you have in your home?

Projects 2011

I love this time of year.  Being home with family and slowing down a little bit.  Thinking ahead to the new year with newly restored optimism.  Looking back on a year well-lived.

Here are our top projects for this year, along with their “alternate” titles.  Click on the links for the full story.

Antler Wreath (or “the ugly, the better, and the beautiful”)

Going from these…

to this….

to finally this.  Aaahhhh.

Rock Wall (or “how to move 14 tons of rocks with your bare hands and a wheelbarrow”)

Paver Stone Patio (or “how to get rid of your fingerprints in 3 easy days”)

Patio Stairs (or “how to allow people to actually get into your house”)

Twig Sunburst Mirror (or “my first blog DIY post and I am so excited!!”)

Rustic Red Dresser (or “how to make lemonade out of the lemons your husband brings home from his parents'”)

Sewing Desk (or “more lemons…more lemonade”)

Curio Cabinet (or “how to replace and repaint vintage painted glass”)

Twine Handles (or “I gave up on finding new ones I liked”)

Garage Workbench (or “sometimes the projects have to be for the husband”)

Pantry Door Chalkboard (or “how I confirmed my belief that ASCP is the greatest invention ever”)

Whew!  Not bad for work done since July (which is when I started blogging and documenting my DIY projects).  I’m already working on next year’s projects and can’t wait to see what everyone else will be up to!  Happy New Year!

Willow Trees

I have been in love with the Pottery Barn twig trees ever since I first saw them in the catalogue.



And since we had a pretty new patio and stairs leading up to our still unpainted front door, complete with empty whiskey barrels , I just knew that willow trees, DIY’d by us, would be perfect.

We just happen to have a lot of willow around these parts…

So we set out to build our own trees.  We were going to make them a little rounder than the PB ones as we were going to use willow to create hoops to attach the shorter pieces to.  The round shape would fill in the whiskey barrels nicely, too.

Just set them on blocks of wood and add a little burlap and some lights.

Ahh… the best laid plans of mice and men…

After spending a couple of hours in the bush collecting willow and hauling it back on our son’s sled (which we broke in the process), and thawing the willow in my tub overnight, spending a couple of hours twisting the willow hoops and gluing shorter cut pieces to them…. we had nothing.  As soon as we took the one we had made outside, it totally fell apart.  Apparently, hot glue will not hold willow to willow.  Do not try this!  And since we really could not see tying each willow twig to the hoops (just the gluing took forever and about a thousand twigs), we decided to use the hoops for a door wreath and the rest of the willow to tie in bunches for the barrels.

Here is our front entry now.

The burlap mimics dirt nicely, don’t you think?  Maybe it’s all the dirt.  On it.

The stump was a bit of a disaster as well.  I tried to put it in our wood burning stove, but it was too big.  So I had to run out of the house with it smoldering and throw it on the patio.

I mean, I placed it there for added detail and woodsiness.  Yeah.  That’s it.

The willow bunches I think are the right scale for the entry.  After hanging some puny little flower baskets there this summer, I’ve learned my lesson in scale.

So I guess our DIY disaster turned out ok in the end.  I’m happy with our entry and I think I can even leave it alone until spring arrives.

I’m ready to paint some furniture or sew something now.  I’ve had enough willow for a bit!

Winter Landscaping

We have already had schools canceled due to buses not running.  It’s one of the perks of living here- you get a snow day now and then.  We always let our son stay home even though the schools are still open (and I have to go).  If the buses don’t run, he gets to stay home.  That’s the deal.

We have had a lot of snow!

I can’t stop taking pictures of it.

Especially when the sun is rising and my son is still curled up by the fireplace all snug and my husband is home safely from work.

It sure makes for easy landscaping, doesn’t it?


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