Chronicling the cleanup and restoration of our house and property in northern Michigan

Chronicling the cleanup and restoration of our house and property in northern Michigan

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Let's talk about stuff...

Like most folks, Shelly and I are good at collecting stuff.  The more stuff you have, the better...right?  This experience up here, clearing away tons of stuff, has us thinking very differently.

For those that aren't familiar with the backstory, this place we now call Shangri La originally belonged to a close friend of Shelly's dad.  Shelly's dad bought it from his buddy Dale about a dozen years ago, and it was agreed that Dale would continue to live here until the day he died.  That day came about six years ago.  Old Dale was a good man but he was something of a hoarder, and he left quite the pile of stuff when he died.  The house, basement, and two outbuildings were pretty much full.  After his family went through and took most anything of value the house and buildings were still full of stuff.

About two years later we took possession of the house from Shelly's folks, and Shelly and I began tackling the task of clearing and cleaning what would later become our home.  There were just too many ghosts up here for Shelly's dad to take on the job, and we sure can't fault him for that.  We tackled the house right off, and we now also have the two buildings and most of the piles on the property cleared.  We're a large dumpster away from having the remnants of a collapsed shed and all of its contents cleared away, and that'll finally put an end to it.

From this experience we've learned this.  Stuff has no value, no importance whatsoever, if you don't use it or enjoy looking at it.  It's mostly a cut and dry thing when something is kept solely for it's usefulness, but emotions muddy the water when items have sentimental value.  We certainly understand wanting to keep something that has sentimental value, especially an item which may have belonged to a treasured loved one.  That being said, what we believe after all of this is that locking a treasured item away and never enjoying it, or experiencing the memories it should invoke, does that item no justice at all.  We honor a sentimental item by enjoying it, and by relishing in the memories it invokes.

Old Dale has taught us to be highly proficient at sorting through and keeping only the stuff that has value through enjoyment and/or usefulness.  We'd be more thankful for the lesson if we didn't know he was looking down and having a good laugh at our expense.  See, we've been told stories of how he used to joke about Shelly's dad having to clean up this mess after he was gone.  He was one generation off, but we figure he's still having a chuckle or two.  ;)

Until next time!  :)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

It's all good, and then some...

Well, how about that.  It's only been two months since our last update.  That's an improvement...right?  :)

We've been living up here at Shangri La now for a little over a year and a half.  That's not a ton of time, but it's long enough to know whether this move was a good or bad idea.  Remember, this move wasn't about leaving our home in Ohio.  It was about moving here.  Had we had a bad experience in Ohio we could have called this a success right out of the gate...right?  There are things, and most definitely people, we miss in Ohio.  Shelly and I have talked at length, though, and we both agree that the positives for us far outweigh the negatives.  This move has been, and is, a good thing for us.

We're well into spring, and we've been continuing to tackle smaller, but needed, projects.  That is, when we're not dodging raindrops and high winds.  It is most definitely spring in northern Michigan.  Tightening our belts has paid off, and we managed to pay off quite a bit.  We're on much more solid financial footing, and are beginning again to think about tackling some of our larger projects.  Before talking about any of that, let's get caught up on what we've been doing around here.

One of the things we needed to pay down was the purchase and installation of new windows.  Between last fall and this spring we had new windows installed throughout the house and basement.  We had a combination of metal framed casement, wood, and old vinyl, with the latter being very poorly installed.  We now have vinyl insulated throughout the entire house, and the difference has been nothing short of astounding.  You may recall that I had to rip out all of the baseboard heat in the basement for the finishing project.  That leaves the pipes coming into the house from the wood fired boiler as the sole source of heat down there.  With just that for heat the basement remained between 60-65° throughout the winter.  Before the new windows the basement saw winter time temps between 40-45°, so the windows were definitely a good investment.

After the installation of the new windows the wood trim needed attention.  Shelly puttied, sanded and painted the trim in the rooms we've already finished.  The difference is stunning.  I always believed that window trim should be a different color than the walls, and stand out.  Shelly has convinced me otherwise.  She painted the trim the same color as the walls, making the view outside the focal point.  I freely admit it...Shelly was right, and I was wrong.  :)

Shelly also painted the kitchen cupboards...twice.  The first color she chose was too close to the color of the walls, and it looked a bit too washed out.  Window trim blending in with the walls = good thing.  Cupboards, not so much.  The second coat looks fantastic.

First paint job

Second paint job

We have an older picnic table that had seen better days.  The wood planks were really showing their wear, with most of the paint flaking or completely gone.  I took the belt sander to the benches and the table top and wire brushed the metal frame.  I then painted the table top and benches with some Dry Lok from the basement project, and gave the metal frame a good coating of Rustoleum.  I had all of the materials on hand for this job, so this was a nice return on a free project.

Our enclosed back porch is our primary entrance.  The storm door was a simple, old aluminum storm door, and as first impressions go we certainly could do better.  We installed a swanky new door with a retractable screen.  We also changed up the door so that it opens from the opposite direction.  We had replaced a door in Ohio with something similar, but the job then was far simpler.  Since then the manufacturers have stopped making left and right opening doors.  They now make one door and put the responsibility of making it left or right opening on the installer.  It's sad, really.  They're not charging any less for the door, yet they're giving the consumer far less.  Oh, well.  It turned out well, and we're happy with the look and feel of it.  

Before - Old aluminum door and old windows
After - New door and new window.  The steps will be the next
thing to get done.  We've already started on them.  ;)
The yard close to the house, where it meets the driveway, was a bit too undefined for my taste.  I wanted to install some type of border to better separate the yard from the gravel drive, but I also needed it to be flush with the ground so that I wouldn't catch the plow on it in the winter time.  I wound up using 4"x4" treated lumber.  The front end loader on the Kubota made quick work of the needed trench.  I'm pretty darn happy with how it turned out.  Another nice return on a free project.

Separate from the house, we've been working on our fruit trees and our garden.  I posted previously on pruning the fruit trees, and they're coming along nicely.  The tree with the pink blossoms is an ornamental crab apple tree.  I was fearful that after aggressively pruning it this winter that it wouldn't come back.  It not only came's thriving.  

We're working on a garden again for this year.  We learned several things from last year's failed garden.  First and foremost, we SERIOUSLY downsized for this year.  Boy, did we get overzealous last year.  We started this year by laying a dark tarp down for over a month, to try to kill off the grass before tilling.  Our garden last year was about five times the size of what you see here, and last year we tilled the grass and weeds right into the soil.  It seems obvious now, the things we did wrong, but last year we didn't even know what we didn't know.  We're learning.  :)

We recently did make one larger purchase.  We needed to be able to maintain our 1/8 of a mile driveway.  I have been hunting for a good deal on a box blade, to mount to the three point hitch on the tractor.  We got to the point with the driveway that waiting for a good deal was no longer possible.  The ruts and potholes were getting away from us.  We did our research, and bought a 54" Land Pride box blade.  We have absolutely no buyer's remorse.  This is the exact tool that we needed.  With just several passes, the driveway was smooth, and rut and pothole free.  It also brought quite a bit of gravel back to the surface.  We were ready to have a sizable load of gravel brought in.  We'll still need some, but now just for spot fill.  

There are a bunch more pictures of the work we've done.  If you'd like to see them click on our Pictures & Video page, then click on "February 2009 to Present" under Picture Archive.  You'll be taken to our Shangri La photo album on Flickr.  :)

That's pretty much it for this installment.    We have a few other things we're working on, but I'll save those for a later installment.  Until next time!