Thursday, May 30, 2013


Thanks for your patience. This past week has been full of this:

And this:


The weather of course is not cooperating. I get a small thing done outside and then it rains for a week straight. Last year was a drought, this year a flood. Go figure. Luckily for us, we live on a hill, so it’s not doing a whole lot to us but ruin our weekend plans. We had big plans to get the garden finished over Memorial Day weekend. Did. Not. Happen.


I did get to see my lovely sister get married to an awesome guy. We got to meet the in-laws and break bread at our favorite restaurant in my family’s hometown.


When we returned from the wedding, there was a lot of frustration going on. I am struggling to adapt to Windows 8. It sucks right now. I still don’t know where a lot of things are and my files aren’t transferring as seamlessly as I would like. Good things about my new computer: a fully functioning keyboard, fast processing speed, neat little apps on my Windows screen.

We also worked on some puppy training. Leela is nearly nine months old and is still slightly wild. She knows a lot of tricks, but will only do them for treats. And she still jumps on people when she’s excited. Not a good thing when your puppy is 70+ pounds.


She and the cat, Gizmo, still aren't getting along. Gizmo runs every time they make eye contact and it makes Leela chase. Not a good scenario. Gizmo spends a good chunk of her time on the shelves that Mike built her.


On Memorial Day, we made FOUR trips to Lowe's. I may have been crying less than thrilled when we had to go the fourth time. Good news is: we have everything needed to finish the garden. Bad news is: we didn't get a chance to finish the job because we got super distracted.

We bought one of these:

Getting a dog is a slippery slope. We bought a house so we could get a dog (and chickens) and then the dog comes and we start thinking, “We really need a fenced in backyard and an expensive dog crate and a bigger car to haul her in.” So this car isn't a whole lot bigger than our Prius. But, the difference in height is huge. Leela can now jump in and fit just fine in the back. I no longer have to hit her face with the hatch. Leela hopefully likes this feature. The cargo space when the seats are folded down is improved as well. Overall, we felt like since we travel so much we should have a car that we can fit in more comfortably.

We had two cars before the new purchase: a Toyota Prius and a Honda Insight. I’m pretty sure our neighbors think we’re hippies. My Insight actually got better mileage than the Prius, so we decided to trade in the Prius. The new SUV is a Ford Escape Hybrid. It’s not as fuel efficient as the Prius (think 34 mpg vs. 45) but it’s better than most non-hybrid options and it’s pretty affordable so that’s what we chose.

If you've ever bought a car from a dealer, you’ll know that the process takes FOREVER. So we are still sitting in a messy garden. I’m really hoping for some good weather this next week. Next week is the last week of school and I don’t want to jinx anything, but there shouldn't be any need for subs (except last year when I actually subbed the last day of school) so I should have some time off to finally get that done. Fingers crossed.

Currently, our garden is in this state:


Good news is, the garden beds are all planted and the chickens have moved into their new home so I will be sharing those details with you soon!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Stay Tuned

I have A TON of things I want to write about, but please bear with me as I switch over to a new computer:

My old one has been slowly dying over the last few months. It is completely full at 285 Gigs and the keyboard is only half-working. I can no longer copy and paste and it takes years to upload photos. My battery no longer works and I have to keep it constantly plugged in to use. Time for something new. 

I'm excited to get a computer with a Terabyte of memory! I carefully waited and stalked this computer until it came down to $499 (Amazon loves to change their prices every 10 minutes). Yay! New computer!

So this means I have my work cut out for me transferring all my files over to my new computer and cleaning up my old one, which I am donating to my brother-in-law, who is looking for something he can use in his living room.

Sneak Peek
Please check back on Monday where I will talk about our garden and everything we have planted! We amazingly have almost everything done with our insane garden project. So stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Building a Raised Garden Bed

I’ll be the first to admit that the Notre Ferme Urbaine household was a little over ambitious with our garden plans. Three raised beds, a chicken coop, a fence? That’s a lot more work than we are used to doing. But we had big plans this year and we were not going to give up on that. The garden beds were not too difficult compared to the fence, but took a lot of planning and required a lot of lumber.

Garden Bed 13

Mike thinks I'm crazy about my views on pressure-treated lumber, but everything I read said that you shouldn't trust it to grow your plants around. Heck, Lowe’s has a big warning sign in front of their pressure-treated lumber, so I was adamant about using untreated pine (cedar is a really good option if you are able to find/afford it). One thing about untreated is that it does not last as long (like only a few years) so you have to keep that in mind. I've read that putting linseed oil on the wood will help preserve the beds longer. Because I am an extreme novice in woodworking and life in general, please do your own research if you are using lumber for your garden beds and decide for yourself.

Our beds are two feet high. Most raised beds are a foot high, which is a good height. If you're crazy like me and want to add a lot of work to your project, you can go to two feet. The primary reason I chose two foot high beds was for pest protection. Hopefully keeping it raised this high will keep out some of my crops’ predators. It will also be helpful for keeping our chickens and dog out of the beds. Also I don't have to bend over as much to pull weeds!

Garden Bed 12

Okay, first step: purchase a ton of lumber that requires you to take it home in two trips in your mid size car. The first two beds are a standard 4x8 size and each required four 2”x12”x8’ boards, four 2”x12”x4’ boards, four 4”x4”x2’ posts, and some nails. When we got to Lowe’s there was a pack of 2”x2”x2’ posts all ready to go and we decided that would suffice for the 4”x4” posts. Just to let you know…they do not suffice. Taking this shortcut was stupid and not a shortcut at all. The boards kept popping out of the posts and it took forever.

Garden Bed 6

Because I’m a terrible blogger, I only managed to get a couple of pictures of the construction of the garden beds. Basically, we nailed the posts to the long eight foot long boards. The posts were put in three inches from the top, leaving three inches to be put underground. Then we added the short four foot long boards to the posts.

Garden Bed 7

At this point your beds are half done. Then you can add the rest of the boards to the bottom. It took both of us to turn the bed over, but after that it was easy street. We both took some turns hammering the posts into the ground.

Garden Bed 3

Garden Bed 5

Once we had the beds somewhat put into place, we had to level the ground a bit and fill in any cracks with dirt. Then we hammered the posts in some more.

Garden Bed 10

I lined the beds with garden cloth to get a jump start on weeds. I don't totally trust garden cloth after what we had to go through with clearing out the garden and the fact that weeds are already popping through the garden cloth in the coop, but I put it in anyway.

Garden Bed 12

We had to order four cubic yards of compost/soil mix and also used our to bins of compost to fill our three garden bins. Then we added 20 bags (1.5 cubic feet each) of organic vegetable planting soil.

Garden Bed 13

All done! I have started filling them so I will let you know soon what I put in them. Things are slowly falling into place!

Stuff we still need to work on:
  • Clearing out all the weeds (again) and laying down mulch.
  • Putting up compost bins in the corner.
  • Getting the fence done! Trim, post caps, a gate!, filling in gaps with soil.
If we wait too much longer, summer will be over! Hopefully in-between the two weddings we have coming up we will be able to get some stuff done. Stay tuned!

Monday, May 20, 2013

6.5 Weeks Old and a Chicken Coop

Our little chickies are all grown up! Since the weather was so rough last weekend, we're still keeping them inside, but they will be moving out soon! Probably another week or so. They are doing well and are still a group of six. That’s another reason why they haven't moved out yet. We want to be sure not to ruffle any feathers of our neighbors by letting out six chickens when we’re only allowed four. Funny enough, there isn’t a limit to the amount of birds to keep indoors.


In preparation, we have their coop all ready to go!


We purchased this coop from Wayfair a couple of months ago. I wished we would have waited because prices have dropped significantly! This coop was the biggest one I could find for the price and I still think it’s really tiny, but it fits in our garden really well.

The assembly was super easy and I did it myself. Underneath the coop we laid chicken wire which we pinned down to the ground and the coop with u-shaped garden stakes. We covered that with garden cloth and dirt. After a little research, Mike decided to go with pine shavings for the bedding. We'll see how that goes for the first couple of months and then evaluate. I know some people also use hay or straw, wood chips, mulch or even just dirt.


If you look closely, you can see that the wire is coming up from below the coop. We tried to make this nice and secure. I'm not expecting this to mean that the chicks are completely safe from predators, but hopefully combined with the garden fence, we can keep foxes and raccoons away from our chickens.


The coop is nice because it has three nesting boxes for our girls and is fairly roomy inside the hen house. There is also a pull out tray for easy cleaning. It’s fairly flimsy so I think wheels in Mike’s head are already turning for the design of a future coop (in 4-5 years, hopefully). We were worried that we wouldn't get a home-built coop done in time (plus the cost of materials vs. prefabricated are nearly identical so getting a pre-fab coop was convenient) and with everything else we had planned for the garden, it was a good idea to buy something that we could put together in just an hour. We'll be keeping you updated on how the coop is working out for our girls.

Anyway, back to the chicks. We kind of missed a straight up six week update, so this will cover both six and seven weeks. Their development is kind of slowing down so there isn’t a huge difference between weeks anymore. They continue to grow, but their colorings are starting to stick as are their love for socializing! They become more and more friendly each day. We love watching them run around and get a kick out of hand-feeding them their snacks. It’s becoming fun to hold and pet them, as they aren't squawking and fussing as much. The flock has really become part of the family!




Most of the photos are of Penelope, since she is the most outgoing of all the flock. She runs to me every time I see her. Dorothy and Lucille also get a good amount of visiting time as well. The other three are a little more standoffish, but they won't say no to a treat!




Well, that just about does it for the six and seven week update! Before you know it, they will be living outside and laying eggs. Check back later this week for more updates on the garden and house - we've been really busy over here making everything purdy!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

House Progress: Dining Room and Kitchen

With the addition of the new chairs, our living room and office are coming into shape. That means I should share some of the rest of the house! Our dining room and kitchen could use a little love too.

Dining Room Progress 1

Kitchen in Progress 7

Here’s what they looked like before we moved in:

Dining Room Before

Kitchen Before 2

Kitchen Before 1

Basement Hallway Before

The walls were newly painted when we bought the house, but we just weren't digging the tan and burnt orange. Especially combined with the robin’s egg blue in the living room and the sage green in the living room. So they got a fresh coat of Olympic’s Sweet Illusion. It’s a very light blue.

Dining Room Progress 5

Kitchen in Progress 1

Kitchen in Progress 2

The peninsula had carpet on it.That’s pretty gross. I tore it off the day after we closed and it felt so satisfying. I ended up just painting over the plywood with some Sweet Illusion, which looks okay from afar. The peninsula was put in during the great kitchen remodel of 1988 (some past homeowners were kind to leave a note on the plywood). They must have gotten the carpet the same year since there was nothing underneath the carpet on the peninsula but plywood. That means that our carpet is 25 years old! Eek. No wonder we have so many allergies. While I would love to replace these eyesores, that sounds like several thousand dollars (we would want to replace the carpet in living, office, and dining and the tile in the kitchen with hardwood) and lots of work. Maybe we will replace it someday if we feel we can get a return from it. Since we have a five-ish year plan here, it’s always a toss up on what we should do to improve the house when it comes to major expenses. Will quartz countertops be worth it? Probably not. New flooring to replace the very old carpet? Maybe.

Kitchen in Progress 7

The cabinets are really bright. I don't know if it’s the finish or just me, but I can't stand ’em. The overhang on the peninsula drives me nuts too. It takes up a lot of space and makes me bend down way too low to get into the cabinets underneath. Here’s what I do like about the kitchen: it’s open and bright. And I like that there are stainless steel appliances. After 25 years, the kitchen could use a little updating.


Dining Room Progress 8

Dining Room Progress 12

The dining room makes me smile. It’s one of my favorite rooms in the house. Our chandelier doesn’t really go with anything in our house, so that needs to be fixed. Otherwise, I kind of love the columns and the lead glass doors. We have all our fancy glasses housed in there.

Dining Room Progress 15

We have an obsession with orchids around here. They typically last 3-4 months (Mike is in charge of watering on Fridays), then when all of the flowers are gone we usually give up on them and get a new one. That’s the one live plant you can rely on finding in our house.

DIning Room Progress 26

There’s a still a lot of work to be done in these rooms. Oh, who am I kidding, the whole house needs work! The dining room is definitely one of the closest to being finished. It has been painted, has dining room furniture and it is decorated a little.
So here’s what’s on our to-do list of 2013 for the dining room and kitchen:
  • Paint the chandelier. I’m hoping a can of black spray paint will make this thing usable. If that doesn’t work out, we may bite the bullet and purchase a new light fixture.
  • Add some more artwork to the dining room. I’m thinking a gallery wall around the calendar.
  • Add curtains to the dining room. Probably in the same fabric as the living room curtains.
  • Add beadboard to the island to make it look finished.
  • Paint the kitchen cabinets (white!) and change out (or paint) existing hardware.
  • Recover the countertops (either with a countertop kit or some concrete)
  • Remove countertop trim and attempt tiling a backsplash?
This should be enough to keep us busy for a while! Coming soon: a peek into the rest of our house!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Ikea finds, or why I would be broke if I lived any closer to the Swedish superstore

I was in Chicago this weekend for a bachelorette party. Mike came with me. What an appropriate event to drag your husband to, right? We are Ikea junkies. We need our fix every so often to function, so I figured that if he could chill out in a hotel room for a few hours while I partied it up, we could hit Ikea on our way home from Chicago in the morning. What a good call.

There's nothing better for a hangover than the syrupy goodness that is the Ikea breakfast. For 99 cents you can get eggs, potatoes, give your husband the bacon, and drown that plate in maple flavored syrup. And a cup of free coffee. There might have also been a $1 cinnamon roll shared at the table.

You could spend days in there, but we have it down now that we can browse through the whole showroom, pick out our boxes in the warehouse, and get through the checkout in about two hours. We go to Ikea about twice a year, so there's always something new to check out, like this rattan chair:

Which we couldn't help but purchase. We picked out two of these babies for the living room. We figure it will do for now in the living room and if we find something different, they can move out to the front porch.

We also got one of these desk chairs:

Mike is so happy he has something comfortable to sit in. The gray (they say black) fabric is a necessary splurge. It looks so much more sophisticated and really looks good in our office.

And these adorable tea towels. I purchased an extra set for my sister, who is having her bridal shower this weekend!

We might have purchased some other things too. We have problems on going to Ikea without charging an arm and a leg to our credit card. It’ll be mac n’ cheese and cereal this summer while we are paying it off, ha ha ha. Has anyone else had a shopping spree at Ikea lately? Or has a problem with spending their entire paychecks on home furnishings?

Friday, May 10, 2013


Back in 2009 when Edwarde Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros came onto the scene, I was completely enamored by their folksy charm and immediately learned the lyrics to Home.

It spoke to me, was completely relatable and was at a turning point in my and my husband's (then boyfriend) life. We were broke and living with his gracious parents. The line "Home is wherever I'm with you" was all I had to think about to feel better. I introduced it to Michael and he started singing it all the time. It became our anthem (like many other couples of our time). So it was natural that it was our first dance at our wedding. And I thought it would also be a natural choice for jumping on the song lyric print bandwagon!

I had Staples do an engineer print of a file I made in word. I typed out the lyrics (slightly altered for space and context reasons) and set the background as black and the text as white. I enlarged some of the parts of the song that I found important to my husband and I.

I thought about mounting it on an insulation sheet like I did with Gizmo's photo, but then I remembered I had a frame lying around that was just the right size. It's from Ikea and is something like 19"x27", which I would normally consider odd, but not from my favorite Swedish superstore. They tend to make things in metric sizes so this would probably make sense if I measured in centimeters. 

I hung it in the office, and while I was out putting some holes in the wall, I figured I could do some more. I put these photos of Michael with family and friends near his desk.

And added a ceramic frog that Michael picked up on vacation last July. Yup, we're the type to buy something, throw it somewhere, then forget about it for months (sometimes years). I always find something when I go looking through our nightmare of a storage room. 15 year old printer anyone? How about a fog machine from our first (and last) Halloween party in 2008?

Looking better. Things are slowly coming into place in this room. We're heading out of town this weekend, which includes a trip to Ikea. I'm trying to resist the urge to buy two new chairs for the living room. It's hard to say no to new when nicely used are so hard to come by!