2018 Home & Garden Tour Part 1: The OG
I love to create things. Like food. You may have noticed that by now. But I love to create other things as well.
I’ve always loved to write; To craft stories with my words. And to take photos of beautiful things. Things that I create. Things that grow wild. Everyday things that are made beautiful through a camera lens when composed in just such a way under the right lighting.
After all, the combination of my love for creating all of the above was how this blog first came to be!
Yes, I love to create things that make the world just a little more comforting and beautiful and nourishing, for the mind, body and soul. And that includes creating a comfy, cozy, beautiful home.
In fact, when I first started writing this blog, I thought I would write more about creating a sanctuary at home. Because I’m sure I’m not the only homesteader who, uh, spends most of her time at home, amiright??? So, in my opinion, it should be a beautiful space where we feel good and where family and friends are welcome to kick off their shoes and join us at our table.
And also because, for me, that’s part of the appeal of homesteading: That unbeatable down-home comfort you get from a place that’s warm and welcoming while also serving up good, wholesome, nourishing food that’s grown, prepared or preserved right there on the property. There’s something safe and secure about a cozy, warm home that also produces enough to be at least somewhat self-sufficient. It gives me the warm fuzzies. Am I the only one?
But I haven’t written much about that since I started this blog over a year ago. Ya know why? Because I struggled to create this type of space in our old house. And quite honestly, I was a bit ashamed of it!
In theory, it was a charming house that was perfect for us when we first moved from the city 3 years ago. A 100+ year-old farmhouse on an acre of land (plus more shared with the neighbours across the yard). It was the perfect house for us to learn many of the skills and lessons we needed to learn over the past few years, both homesteading-related and otherwise.
But it came with many challenges too.
This Old House
After laying vacant for years, the property had succumbed to many weeds and pests that we always struggled to manage. And the house itself, while full of character and incredibly charming in its own right, was still old. And drafty. And full of decades-old carpets and curtains and wallpaper and furniture that was all due for a good cleaning (or a complete renovation).
To be fair, that’s what we were doing there: renovating. Ryan and I were blessed by friends who own the house by being allowed to live there in exchange for doing work on the place and keeping it from being taken over by rats (which we almost achieved).
And while we both kept the house running, Ryan worked on remodelling the upstairs while we were there. So we were also living in a construction zone. All. The. Time.
There have literally been baseboards sitting on our stairs there for the past, oh, probably 2 years. And drywall and tools on the front porch which we never used. Oh, and we haven’t had a shower there since February (it’s now September) because the beautiful old cast iron tub got pulled out to be refinished and we still haven’t finished the upstairs shower for various reasons. (If you’re wondering, yes, we still found ways to bathe while living there!)
Another thing we really battled with was the lack of storage. Being a 100-year-old house, there was only actually one closet in the whole house when we moved in. Because, ya know, people didn’t have as much crap 100 years ago.
But it turns out that we do have a lot of crap (that we are now trying to purge as we transition to our new house). And we had nowhere to store it. So we improvised and put shelves in the hallway and turned the sunroom into the storage locker/recycling depot/fridge and freezer area, since the old kitchen also wasn’t built to accommodate a fridge since they didn’t exist yet.
And so we faced the ongoing battle of trying to organize, shuffle and live amongst the clutter. And yes, it gave me major anxiety at times.
But despite some of the storage issues and having no space for a fridge, the kitchen was still my very favourite space in the house. After all, it’s where I spent the vast majority of my time. And so it’s the one inside area that I did end up photographing.
I loved the kitschy wallpaper, the cozy breakfast nook, the open cabinetry and even the half burnt-out christmas lights we put up the first Christmas that we lived there and never took down…
But I especially loved the pantry.
Because while 100-year-old houses have no need for refrigerators, they absolutely must have pantry space. We were delighted to find the large, under-the-stairs pantry hidden behind the fridge that was there (before we opened up the pantry and moved the fridge to the sunroom), and realized it hadn’t been opened in roughly 3 decades before we arrived!
We knew this because we found magazines from the 1980’s and the owner confirmed that was most likely the last time it was opened for use.
The pantry was, by far, the thing that was hardest to leave behind.
But the rest, while charming in nature, was cluttered and unfinished and impossible to keep clean, no matter how many hours I put into it each day.
So I never wanted to really open my home to the world. I never wanted to photograph it because just getting it in order to photograph could sometimes take hours. It was just that kind of place.
Why I Finally Decided to Open My Doors
I think it’s important that I share this house with you… “The OG,” as I call it, because it will forever be the original House & Homestead. In fact, you might have even noticed that the logo for my website is this exact house. Maybe I’ll change the logo someday, or maybe I won’t. But this will always be where the journey really began.
It’s also where we first started gardening, and where we’ve had every success and failure as gardeners and homesteaders so far.
This year our garden has definitely been more of a failure than a success with us moving and not having time to dedicate to it in the summer months. The weeds have taken over. The plants are mostly dead or dying. And volunteer squashes, tomato plants and other seedlings have sprouted everywhere. Our little garden has, in essence, re-wilded itself. And like with just about every other space on the property, we just haven’t had the time to invest in keeping up with it all.
So we’ve accepted it for what it is and let nature take its course, still grateful to have cucumbers and beets and onions and herbs and the odd tomato still clinging to the dying, neglected vines.
Over at the greenhouse, we’ve lost our battle with the weeds. While the horsetail isn’t nearly as bad as it has been, the blackberry bushes we cut back last year have wrapped their thorny brambles around the little greenhouse like something out of a Disney princess movie.
The little wooden walkway has gone back to the land and the Queen Anne’s Lace has grown up inside the greenhouse and now bows over the squash plants that I planted too late, alongside the lettuce I’ve let go to seed. Sigh.
Elsewhere on the property, the perennial fruit trees and vines are doing fairly well. But they’re in need of some TLC too. The grape vine is decades old and has grown right up into the tree beside it, so now you need an orchard ladder to harvest the grapes.
And the apple tree; Let me tell you about this big ol’ Gravenstein apple tree…
This baby is roughly as old as the house itself, so somewhere around 100 years. It stood for 100 years without incident! And then, two winters ago while we were living there, we had one of the heaviest snowfalls we’d ever seen in this area, and the weight of the snowpack destroyed the two largest branches of the tree.
So the owners had the gaping hole in the tree that was left behind filled with concrete. This summer it rebounded and gave us apples once again, though not nearly as many as it did the first year we were there. Indeed, it seemed like it was just something else that went into disrepair while we were living there.
And yet there is much to be grateful for everywhere. Even the looming shadow of the old, broken apple tree on the drought-stricken grass at the end of summer is a thing of beauty not to be taken for granted.
The House That Made Us Who We Are
Yes, this house was a challenge. A beautiful challenge that was meant to be. And while I always wanted to create a beautiful space here, I felt like I was just never able to get it to that place. And I never wanted to open my doors up completely and share the clutter and the mess and the weeds with the world because I felt it reflected poorly on me.
But I realize now that it is beautiful in spite, or maybe even because of this. Despite some of the hardships we faced in this house, it inspired me to create more than I ever thought I was actually capable of. It’s where I learned to garden, to can and preserve, to make candles and body products and herbal remedies from things grown right on our property. It’s where I learned how to create a blog where I could share my stories and recipes and love of homesteading with the world through words and photographs. It’s where we created our family, which continues to grow.
And although I’m so, so happy to be in our new place (our first house that we actually own!), there will always be a special place in my heart for this old house; The house where we gardened and cooked and preserved and created; Where we battled weeds and drafty walls and constant clutter and never enough storage space; Where we lived and learned and laughed and loved and lost.
Yes, in spite of all this, or perhaps because of it, this house will forever be the house where it all began. It will always be the original House & Homestead; The place that shaped us into the people -the family- we’ve become. And that makes every pile of clutter and patch of weeds totally worth it in the end.
Click here to read Part 2 of this post: Our ¼-Acre Rancher.
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