The Biggest Oops

I had a dream last night that a friend thought I’d discontinued the blog because I hadn’t posted in so long.  It shamed me into FINALLY writing a new post.  (I’m so, so bad at this.  Sorry.)

It’s been a wonderfully full summer that has overall just made us so, so happy to live where we live.  It’s really incredible to be able to sit with a beer at the end of the day, watch the sun set over the field, and listen to…nothing.  Silence.  The wind and the birds.  No traffic, no trains, no sirens, no other people (except the occasional yell from the teenagers next door, who are really wonderful and we would never complain about them).  We’ve also been really BUSY – several fun trips, plenty of friends over (if you haven’t been over, your time will come!!), and busy (in a good way) jobs.  So between the busy-ness and the trying to relax from the busy-ness, there hasn’t been a whole lot of down time for writing.  But there HAS been a lot of work done, and a lot of stories.

I’ll start with my “biggest oops” story, in which I lost five years off my life.

Scene: we had just finished re-finishing the hardwood floors, and it was time to paint.  I was busily painting the bedroom walls a beautiful dark-ish blue (Benjamin Moore Buckland Blue, if you’re interested).  The can of paint had been sitting for a while, so it had settled and needed to be stirred.  But stirring takes sooooo long, so I usually shake it first.  Good arm exercise and more bang for your buck.  I had been painting for hours already (I’d already done the ceiling, and painting ceilings is THE WORST), so I was tired and a little cranky and not quite paying attention.  So I have the can between my hands and I’m kind of swaying back and forth, giving it these big exaggerated roll/shakes.

Then I dropped the paint can.

Of course, I dropped in mid-shake, so I actually TOSSED it.  It hit the FRESHLY REFINISHED HARDWOOD and EXPLODED.  I mean EXPLODED.  The lid flew off with what seemed at the time like a giant “BOOM”and paint spewed all over the FRESHLY REFINISHED HARDWOOD and like three feet up the wall.  Blue paint EVERYWHERE.

The next five minutes or so were an absolute frenzy.  I was so flustered I just darted around my house basically at random, chanting weird, soothing, therapist-ish phrases like “It’ll be fine, just go slow, one step at a time” in a super crazed, singsong-y voice.  Long story short and with much hyperventilating, I managed to actually salvage most of the paint by scooping it off the floor and into a tray with my hands (I had blue nails for a week), then doused an entire roll of paper towels with water, creating a makeshift roll of wet wipes.  In what might be the biggest miracle of my whole life, I cleaned that whole gallon of paint off that floor with no lingering evidence except where it splashed onto the nearest electrical outlet (oops).  Thank God for water-based latex paint.  Seriously.  I honestly think I popped out five gray hairs that day from the stress.

The rest of the painting went off without a hitch, thankfully, and both the master bedroom and the living room are FINALLY PAINTED!!  All that’s left is the trim (baseboards and windows) in both rooms and the door and closet doors for the master bed.


The master bedroom is pretty dark most of the day, which makes it kind of hard to take a good picture but does make it delightfully cool when it’s hot out.  I love how the color turned out, and I’m still slowly working on the decorating, which is going really well and which I’ll cover in another post.

Living room painted

The “white on white” living room.  You can go ahead and file “Painting primer-white walls a different shade of white” under “Most mind-numbing ways to spend your time.”  Also, picking out two “different” shades of white for walls and ceiling is A COMPLETE SCAM.  Having spent several hours agonizing over cool whites/warm whites/pink whites/yellow white/gray whites/complementary whites, I’ll spare you the headache and tell you that in the end THEY’RE ALL THE SAME.  But if you REALLY need to know, the walls are Benjamin Moore Simply White and the ceiling is Benjamin Moore White Dove.  (Open those links, I dare you.  They’re the same stinking color.)

Also, the guy at the hardware store thought it was going to be safe to tell me that White Dove was “kind of gray” for ceilings.  I think my eyes got extra big when I told him “I ALREADY PAINTED MY BEDROOM CEILING THAT COLOR AND I LIKE IT.” Wisely, he conceded quickly.

All that being said, I think it turned out really nicely.

In other big news, we got a couple of farm kittens!  Unfortunately I was duped by the “free kittens” listing and they turned out to be a couple of trapped feral kittens separated from their mother too early.  They have slowly adapted to consenting to being in our general vicinity, and although they really don’t want much to do with us, they’re both in love with Buster.  It’s the cutest thing ever.  They’re 100% outside cats and show signs of being good mousers, which is all we really wanted anyway.  Their names are Simon and Garfunkel and I can’t show you a picture because I haven’t yet managed to take a good picture, so I’ll keep working on that.

Finally, our sweet little garden has started giving us produce!  We did our very first harvest this weekend and came out with a giant bowl of green chilis, some snap peas, one cucumber, two zucchinis (with which I instantly made these zucchini choclate chip muffins), and a spaghetti squash.  The tomato plants are loaded with green tomatoes, and as soon as those are ready I can start practicing my tomato canning skills!

Summer harvest 1

Chalking up as failures this year: the broccoli (we planted too late), the snap peas (too hot?), and the kale.  The kale was besieged by little green moth worms, and although we found a good organic pesticide for them (Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt), it requires weekly application and I just can’t keep up.  I use the term “failure” good-naturedly – we were bound to have a few things not work out, and I’m not hung up on it at all.  Although I am a little pissed at the dumb worms.  I love kale.

Chalking up as an EXTREME SUCCESS this year: my little south-facing herb bed!!  We’ve gotten an absolute bounty of everything I planted, particularly the basil, sage, and cilantro.  The cilantro was impossible to keep from going to seed (which is apparently called “bolting”), so I’ve just let it go and I’ll harvest when it’s fully seeded and dried, because that, as you may know, is where coriander comes from.  I cut big handfuls of thyme, oregano, rosemary, and sage and hung them from the beam in the kitchen, which makes me feel VERY homesteady.

Herbs drying

(Forgive the unintentionally dramatic lighting.)

I think I’ll call that good for now.  We’ve made some big progress in the kitchen and main bathroom, but I’m off work this week and should make even more progress on both, so I’ll wait for a big reveal next weekend!  Happy Monday!



Hardwood floors and the great outdoors

​Oh hey friends, long time no blog! Sorry for the extended delay…we were out of town for a week, and then got swamped with work (of both the paid and weekend types). We’ve gotten all kinds of stuff accomplished and I have no idea how I’m going to catch you up on all of it, so, probably just lots of pictures. Here goes nothing.
As I type this, I’ve got a pie in the oven for Father’s Day dinner (apple-rhubarb, our new fave) (recipe still a secret) and we’re waiting for the first coat of varnish on the living room floor to dry. “WHAT’S THAT?” you say, “YOU FINALLY GOT AROUND TO THOSE STUPID FLOORS??” Why yes. Yes we did. Finally. The drywall guys did a truly phenomenal job, and the tape and texture guy gave us a “light orange peel” texture, which, after all my whining about texture, turned out to be perfect. Very subtle. We were in charge of priming the walls and ceiling, which was THE WORST and took the pair of us seven hours for a single coat. (If you ever have to paint bare drywall, get a sprayer or pay your children to do it for you. That stuff soaks up paint like a dang sponge.)So once THAT was done, it was finally time for the floors. We rented a sander and spent the entire weekend (plus Monday night) sanding. Long story short, it was super hard and it’s never going to be perfect. Suffice it to say that the floor has a lot of “character.” But it’s gorgeous red oak, and taking off that 25-year-old varnish was pretty stinking rewarding. 

For reference, here’s the floor when we moved in…

…a closeup of some of the wear and tear…

…and the room after sanding. (You can also see where there is no longer a door that used to be there!)

I’ll wait until we have all three coats of varnish on before the final reveal, but here’s a sneak peek of the new varnish going on…

Boww chicka WOW WOWWWWW it looks amazing.

You may have noticed from the changing scene outside the living room window in the above pictures that we’ve experienced a change in seasons out here, and SUMMER is now in full bloom! Since so much of our indoor living space has been out of commission, we’ve been spending most of our time outdoors. Everything has cleaned up really, really nicely (even the neighbors say so, which is a big confidence boost, thanks guys), and I spent the better part of two weekends planting our little garden! 

If you’re like, that’s the ugliest garden I’ve ever seen…I’m with you, dude. My parents have used black plastic for years, and it cuts down on the weeds like CRAZY, plus the tomatoes and peppers love the extra heat…but yep, it’s ugly. Next year we’re going to do the whole thing in neat little raised beds with paths in between, and a fence around the whole thing. But this will certainly do for now. In our garden we have peppers (bell, sweet banana, and green chile), tomatoes, broccoli, peas, zucchini, cucumbers, and spaghetti squash. In raised beds around the base of the house we have herbs (basil, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, and oregano), greens (kale, spinach, and arugula), and leeks and onions. The herbs are so happy we literally can’t keep up with using them (ever seen a cilantro BUSH?), and everything else is at least happy enough to make it look like we know what we’re doing with this whole gardening thing. We also have rhubarb that’s still growing where my parents planted it, which has led to a bunch of AMAZING pies.

Finally, we have an important new(ish) addition to our little homestead…


They’re not so much babies now, actually. They’re like a month old and they are full-on grown-up ducks. (THEY GROW UP SO FAAAAAAST.) We (the Husband plus several of his friends that I bribed with pie) spent the better part of a week building a duck house and fenced pen, which are seriously amazing. They’re literally the luckiest ducks. Check it out:

They’re still working on their ramp skills. Swimming skills are at level 100 though…

So, there are your cute videos for the day. You’re welcome.

That’s all I’ve got for you today! Can’t wait to show you the floor!! Have a lovely day! 

We don’t need no yack.

We ALMOST did the drywall ourselves. 

By “we,” I mean D and a buddy. By “almost,” I mean that after eight hours of hard labor over the course of two weeknights (that’s dedication) and a whole lot of swearing, they had one ceiling finished and we unanimously agreed to let the professionals do it. (I rewarded them with a pie. They definitely earned it.)

Miraculously, the professionals had an opening, and they arrived around 11:00 on Saturday morning. We expected a team of a half-dozen guys; only two came. While we were momentarily concerned, we should not have been. They knew EXACTLY what they were doing. When D told the foreman, Manuel, that we had a drywall jack (which holds the pieces of drywall up to the ceiling so you don’t have to hold it there yourself) that they could use if they wanted, Manuel – who had the accent of a native Spanish speaker, so read the following with that in mind – scoffed, shook his head, and said, “We don’t need no yack.”

Yacks are for amateurs.

Sure enough, five hours later the entire job was done. They didn’t need our silly jack because it took them approximately thirty seconds to get each panel secured to the ceiling enough to let go of it. I swear they moved at a rate of one screw per second, it was crazy. 

Our living room/bedroom at 11:

And at 4:

BOOM. And that’s why you pay the professionals. PLUS, they left us this phenomenal piece of llama art!! 

(I’m seriously a little obsessed with it.)

Left to be done in the living room/bedroom: tape and texture (also by the professionals, hopefully sometime this week), primer the walls, sand the hardwood floors, wash the ensuing dust off the walls, paint the walls, polyurethane the floors, let sit for a week, move stuff in and finally have a couch again. Hopeful timeline: end of May. We’re getting there.

Back to this weekend. While the drywall was happening, I put a coat of paint on the front bathroom…and immediately regretted it. I’d decided to paint it YELLOW!! (So bright and happy!! What a great idea!!) The color I picked out was a creamy, orange-y yellow, very light and not too in-your-face. The color I ended up with is…very punch-you-in-the-face. I tried to take pictures, but it actually comes out as a much nicer color in pictures than it is in person. So I’ll describe it as like “vibrant lemon meringue” and let you fill it in in your mind. Whatever it is, it’s NOT what I wanted, and I REALLY don’t like it.

It’s not clear what went wrong. D suspects that it wasn’t mixed right – the person who mixed it doesn’t usually work the paint counter and really didn’t seem to know what they were doing. I’m hoping it’s just because it’s only the first coat, and it’s just the bright white primer coming through and making it brighter, and the second coat will make it better. That being said, I haven’t had the guts to go in there and put the second coat on yet because 1) it’s so darn bright in there and 2) what if it isn’t any better?? Currently psyching myself up to do it this morning. Wish me luck.

More productively, we spent the majority of Saturday outside doing yard work. It was gorgeous, and there was plenty to be done! We have a stunning, but overgrown lilac hedge in front that’s easily fifteen feet tall and hasn’t been pruned in a while. So all the leaves are at the top, and the bottom/inside, which never sees the sun, is a mess. It’s extremely hard to take good pictures of, but here’s the beginning view from our kitchen window:

…and the front, from the road:

So I crawled around in there for a while, clipping (and sawing) dead branches, raking leaves, and pruning shoots that have popped up. Meanwhile, D and my tireless father tilled and seeded the parts of the yard where the grass had died, and when I’d had enough of the lilacs, I mowed the places where it hadn’t died. My mom weeded rhubarb plants and planted a row of asparagus. 

All in all, we worked for 12 hours and were EXHAUSTED. I didn’t take a lot of “after” pictures, because honestly the lilacs need a lot more work, and obviously growing grass is kind of an extended process. But believe me when I say it looked a LOT better. 

Sunday it gently rained on our grass all day, D framed in the bedroom closet with the help of a builder friend, and because I’m finally getting the hang of our weird old oven, I did some therapeutic baking to wind down.

(Bacon-cheddar-chive scones, recipe here, and blueberry-rhubarb pie, recipe a family secret!)

That’s all for now! Hopefully you’re having a wonderful week. Make today a good one.

Paint it red

Important update: I discovered the WordPress app. I’m like, excessively proud of myself. Mainly because we don’t have wifi at the house yet and this means I can write posts, like, WHENEVER. Wow technology wow.

It has been a LONG week. I have done so much painting. Well, not SO much, I guess, but it feels like a lot, with the cleaning and the spackling and the priming…it’s a lot. My good friend and coworker, who likes to laugh at me (love you toooo), pointed out yesterday at lunch that I had paint in my hair (oops). At that point I was going on 24 hours strong wearing the same ponytail. (I’m not kidding. I slept in it, put a shower cap over it when I showered, and it still looked good afterwards so I kept on going. The takeaways from this are that short hair is great, and it’s been a long week.) The upside was that I had an on-hand example (in my hair) of what color I’d just finished painting our laundry room; the downside was that I think I grossed her out. 

MOVING ON. The ironic part about the stuff I painted this week – the (new) front door and the laundry room – is that they’re both red. I don’t think I’ve ever painted anything else red in my life, but for whatever reason this week I was just into it. And I’m REALLY happy with how they turned out. 

So without further ado, here is the front door before…

…and the front door after!

WOW RED! I know, it is like, SO red. The color was called “neon red” and I was totally like, “oh it’s not that bright” and then it totally was. But I really like it. It’ll look even better once we paint the trim and patch up the gap between the trim and the siding. (And replace the light fixture. And get an adorable seasonal door decoration. It’s a work in progress.)

Also, MAJOR TIP for anyone who thinks they might want to paint their own door: if you want to paint the trim around the windows like I did, DON’T tape up the windows. It’s counter-intuitive, I know, but what I personally found was that it was much easier to get some paint on the windows and just scrape it off than it was to try to get the tape off without peeling the paint. Because it was full-on NOT POSSIBLE to get the tape off without peeling the paint. I guess the paint liked sticking to the tape more than to the door, so it just made a huge mess even though I tried going along the edge with an exact-o knife first. Seriously. Don’t bother with taping the glass.

Next up: the laundry room! Before…

And after! 

I’ll have some better “after” pictures once we replace the shelves and get our washer and dryer in there. I absolutely LOVE the color (which is less brown than the picture makes it appear, I don’t know if it looks that way on your screens), and it warms up that little room a lot. (It’s Benjamin Moore “Moroccan Spice,” in case anyone is curious.) It also looks really, really good with the exposed copper pipe that you can see in the first picture (an aspect we’re going to play up a little…stay tuned). Between taking down the shelves, washing all the walls, spackling the holes left by the shelves, priming, and painting (including behind all the stupid pipes and fixtures and sink, etc.), it took me the better part of this week to finish the laundry room, but I am SO happy with how it turned out. 

Also, Benjamin Moore paint, man. This was the first time either of us had ever used it – we’ve been using either Valspar or Royal up until now, because that was what our fave hardware store carried and our fave paint guy recommended. We’ve started going to another hardware store because it’s closer to us after the move, and all THEY carry is Benjamin Moore, and I have to say, I am impressed. First of all, it was half the price of Valspar. HALF. Already good. But second of all, in spite of the cheaper price, the paint was notably thicker than anything else we’d used, and the coverage was GREAT. I put on one coat and my husband, not knowing, thought I had finished. I put on a second coat and it was flawless. Every time I walk in there, I just want to run my hands over it, the finish is so delicious. 

And as of Wednesday evening, we are back in the house! The plumber came and fixed us all up. We also FINALLY got in touch with an electrician to come and wire up the living room and master bedroom, so he’s coming today and we will be able to insulate this weekend and drywall next weekend. We’ll be living in that half of the house before you know it! I can’t TELL you what a relief it is to be making progress on it. Buster seems to be ok with it just the way it is though…

He’s a sundog.

That’s all for now, friends! Have a great weekend! 

Moving in, moving out

We moved in!! And then we moved out again.
Long story short: last Sunday, we moved into the farmhouse; today, we moved back into my parents’ house for a few more days. Long story long: at 4:00 last Sunday afternoon we looked at each other and said, “WE’RE DOING IT TODAY,” spent the next hour and a half piling our stuff into random bags as my parents walked around going, “You know you don’t have to leave right now,” but by that point our toothbrushes and clothes were buried somewhere in the backseat of my car and we were like, “Actually now we’re too far into this to quit.” We crash-landed in Fruitdale around 7 and had a romantic first dinner in the new house… 
Classy. Then we immediately turned back around and drove the half hour back to Spearfish, because we realized we didn’t have the right size shower rod OR hooks for the shower curtain, and the actual closest town (Belle Fourche, 10 minutes away) was all closed up for the night (at 7:45) and literally our only option was the Spearfish Walmart. YAY FOR LIVING IN THE BOONIES. (I was like, “I already regret this.” My darling husband, ever the optimist, was like, “It’ll get better.”) (That’s why I married him.)
It did get better. The first couple of days were rough- our only functional bathroom has a shower the size of a standard phone booth, and the associated sink is the utility sink in the laundry room; we couldn’t find the tea kettle to make coffee (we’ve simplified to a pour-over as our go-to daily coffee brewing method); and our clothes hung out in boxes, increasingly strewn all over the room, for most of the week. 

 But we eventually found the kettle; acquired a full-size fridge, washer, and dryer; and got used to the extra half-hour of commute (read: downloaded lots of Ted Talk podcasts). And it really started to feel like home.

We also got SOME things done…mostly unpacking boxes and making it feel a little more like home, but also painting and installing the new front door, taking a bunch of junk to the dump (all credit to my mom and dad), ripping out the sink in the larger bathroom, and making serious progress on finishing its replacement. 

Then came today. My biggest (and SLOWEST) project of the week has been redoing the laundry room. I took down all the shelves, scraped the popcorn off the ceiling (IMPORTANT UPDATE: there is no more popcorn in that house!!!!!!! HOORAY!!!!), and started washing the walls to prep for painting. So this evening, as I’m in the (TEDIOUS) process of washing the walls, D was like, “Here, let me take of those old washer hoses, we need to replace them anyway so I’ll just get them out of your way.” Tries to take off hose. Won’t come off. Gets wrench. And BAM off comes the ENTIRE FAUCET thing. WATER GUSHING EVERYWHERE. (Sorry for the caps. I’m just trying to sufficiently emphasize the SUDDEN CHAOS.) We’re both yelling. He recovers faster and shuts off the main water supply. It stops. 

(No pictures. That would have been a truly sweet action shot, but I was a little preoccupied.)

After we both let out a few choice words about the situation, we do what any self-respecting adult would do in our situation and call my father. I won’t bore you with the details (that I can’t fully explain), but essentially no more water is coming into the house while that faucet thing remains broken. He notifies us that we are welcome to come back and stay at their house. We (dolefully) accept.

So…here we are again! Back where we were almost exactly a week ago. The house is looking MUCH better, I promise…this week we’ll finish the laundry room and hopefully get all the tile, which we have finally picked out. I’ll also take some pictures of the things we have actually accomplished. And VERY hopefully, we’ll move BACK in this week. Once we have water back. Wish us luck.


Hi friends!  Oops, it’s been two weeks since I posted last…sorry about that.  I was going along thinking, “I really want to wait until something is DONE,” and then suddenly I had a dozen things to catch you up on.  So let’s just jump right in, shall we?

First up: we took out and trashed 1.5 tons of drywall (literally), a trailer full of insulation, and 300-ish pounds of mouse poop.  COOL.



…Which left us with a clean, empty space full of promise and potential (and sunlight and hardwood, and fans to get the dust out).


What you see above, in case you don’t recognize it, is the living room (first picture), looking through the wall into the master bedroom (second picture), and the master bedroom (third picture).  In case I forgot to explain this, we decided to take out the wall between the two smaller, interconnected downstairs bedrooms and make one ENORMOUS master bedroom.  Seriously, there is going to be SO MUCH SPACE in there and it is going to be PHENOMENAL.  We’re going to wall off the door you can see in the first picture, so there will only be one entrance.

The Man also went through and put up joist hangers to reinforce the ceiling joists, making the attic space above these rooms usable as an actual room.  No pictures because it’s not exactly a visible change.  But he did a GREAT job.  And while everyone else was doing the strenuous work of hauling drywall, I was upstairs painting, because I’m a wimp I just needed there to be one bedroom that was in a semi-done state and suitable for sleeping in.  (Don’t judge me, they had plenty of hands.)  Funny story though…

As some of you may know, I’m a little bit terrified of colors when it comes to painting rooms.  Don’t ask me why – I grew up with a bright blue kitchen.  I just default to white.  My excuse is that it’s clean and minimalistic.  The result is, well, OVERLY minimalistic.  So going into this painting project, I did my research – I asked the internet what color I should paint the bedroom.  (It’s the upstairs one with pine paneling – see below for “before” picture.)


“What color goes well with pine?” I said.  “Cream,” said the internet.  “CREAM!” said I.  “That’s perfect because it’s totally not white!”  (Don’t laugh yet.)  So we went to the paint section, which I have a love-hate relationship with, and I picked out several samples that looked like maybe they were “cream”…


We got out to the car and I proceeded to have an existential crisis because I suddenly had no idea what “cream” even meant.  Light yellow?  Light brown?  Brownish white??  Yellowish white??  Whitish yellow???

I lined them up on the wall, picked one, and went for it.  The result (drumroll please)…


…I accidentally painted the bedroom white.  Whoops.  But it’s cream-ISH!  And look how nice it looks!!  But also you can laugh now if you want.  You’re right, cream is white.

On a fun note, I also discovered that my 10-year-old self’s super creative door art was still there.  AND that my hand hasn’t grown much in the last 15 years.


In a much less angst-ridden decision, I also painted the smaller of the two bathrooms, in a color we used in our last house and that I already knew I liked.  Without further ado, bathroom before (sorry about the weird angle)…


And bathroom after!


It’s a much nicer color in person.  It’s less blah gray and more blue-green.  The lighting is so weird in that room, it was hard to get a good picture.  Even Mr. L said the bathroom looks “much better” and “less dungeony” now, which is a big compliment because he usually doesn’t care even a little bit what color I paint anything.

And with a bedroom and bathroom cleaned and painted, we can actually move in!!  I AM SO EXCITED!!!  We’ll move our “guest bed” out this weekend, and we can sleep upstairs until our master bedroom is done.  It will be SO nice to have our own space again, and it will also be nice to be THERE to spend evening/morning/weekend hours chipping away at projects without having to factor in the half hour of driving time back to town.

Other things we did this week, kind of small and mostly purchases…

First, we bought a toilet.


If you’ve never been toilet shopping, you would not BELIEVE how many choices there are.  Do you want a round bowl or an elongated bowl?  What’s the flush rating?  How much water does it use?  (Cue me having a toddler-style meltdown in the middle of Lowe’s.  I’m joking.  Sort of.)

Our funny toilet story: all the toilet styles have names, because why not.  As you can kind of see in the picture above, the one on the left is called “The Diplomat.”  “Omg,” I said, upon seeing this.  “We are NEVER buying a toilet called ‘the DIPLOMAT’.”

*5 minutes later*

Me: “Babe I think I actually really like the Diplomat.”  So we bought it.

Next, we bought the coolest sink in the history of sinks.


Seriously, how gorgeous is that??  It’s called a talavera sink, hand-painted, made in a specific region of Mexico.  There was one in the cabin we stayed in on our honeymoon, and I fell in love with them.  (I found this one on eBay.)  It’s going in the larger bathroom, and I am SO EXCITED.

Then, we bought a new front door, a stand for the sink (an old desk, which I’m sanding down and refinishing), several new light fixtures, and various small boring things.

But what I can’t neglect to talk about is the process of taking the popcorn off the ceilings.  I’ve done several more ceilings with our little scraper, and in the process have had to come to terms with the texture on the ceilings (it’s virtually impossible to scrape them completely flat), as well as on the walls.

If you’ve never done house renovations, you might not know that there are two ways to finish walls: textured and flat.  Drywall itself is flat and smooth.  When you put sheets of drywall up and tape them together, you have visible seams between sheets.  You can put plaster (or something, I don’t know) over the seams and smooth it wayyyy out, making the wall completely smooth from  edge to edge.  Alternatively, you can spray on “texture,” VERY effectively hiding the seams, and making your wall uniformly lumpy.  Flat, which is understandably harder to do, is the way to go on either coast, and is the typical finish you see in most of the beautiful, glossy pictures of home decorating magazines/Pinterest.  In South Dakota, textured is essentially your only option.  For reasons unknown to me (we’re stuck in the 90’s? I don’t know, just a guess, love you SoDak), most people in the area prefer texture, meaning most contractors default to it and aren’t particularly familiar with the method of making walls (or ceilings) flat.  Obviously, all our walls are textured.

Having seen flat walls, and having dreamed of having a home that could BE in a magazine or on Pinterest, it really irks me that all the walls AND ceilings in our house are textured.  So I started looking up what it takes to make textured walls flat again.  The options are essentially as follows: 1) Rip out the drywall and start over. 2) Wet the walls down, scrape with all your might, and pray you don’t peel the drywall.  3) Smear plaster over the entire wall and spend the next several hours (and wear out your arms, and drive yourself crazy) smoothing it flat.

Not great options.

“FINE,” I finally said.  “FINE.  I’ll leave it.”  I’ve decided to think of it as character.  As I was spackling over various holes and gouges in the bathroom before I painted, agonizing over making them look perfect, my dad said to me, “You know what?  It’s an old house.  It has flaws.  That’s what gives it character.”

It’s stupid, I know.  This isn’t a big deal.  We’ll paint the walls and put pictures up and distract people with food and no one will notice.  But there will always be a little bit of the 90’s showing…and in the grand scheme of things, it’s really ok.  It just gives it a little South Dakota character.

And you know what else has South Dakota character?  This sunset behind our field.  That’s all for now, friends.




At 5:00 in the morning this past Tuesday, my dad trapped me as I was trying to get from the bathroom back to bed and said, “I think we need to tear out all the drywall in the living room and master bedroom.  Walls and ceiling.”

I stared at him blankly.  “Why?” I asked, with the diplomatic eloquence that comes from being a not-necessarily-morning person who finds herself trapped in a sort-of-major decision-making conversation two full hours before her preferred decision-making time zone.

“Well, it’s a weird thickness,” he said.  Regular drywall comes in 1/2″ and 5/8″ thicknesses, and this stuff is only 3/8″ thick, he said, or something.  I don’t know.  It was 5:00 in the morning.

I continued to stare blankly, because my brain turns on at 7 and there were literally zero thoughts or words forming in response to this strange new proposition.  Also, that line of reasoning did not compute.  “I’ll have to talk to Derek,” I finally mustered, because maybe he has some thoughts and words, I don’t have those, can I go back to bed.

That evening, when everyone was home from work (also when my BRAIN was functioning), Derek came up to me.  He’d talked to my dad, he said, and he really thought it was a good idea to replace all the drywall, because of the insulation.  Wait, said I, what’s this about the insulation?

“Oh, your dad didn’t tell you?  There’s basically no insulation in those walls.  It’s absolutely freezing in the wintertime.”

No, he did NOT tell me that.  That’s COMPLETELY reasonable.  I also LATER found out that if we take the ceiling down in this part of the house, we can reinforce the attic floor joists, which are currently very poorly put together and therefore make the attic suitable only for being an attic, not for my cool other plans.  That’s ALSO a good reason.  Know what’s not a good reason?   “They used the wrong drywall thickness.”

The lesson we learned here is: know your audience.  And the outcome was…WE RIPPED OUT THE DRYWALL.



If you’ve never ripped out drywall, it is a BLAST.  We all had crowbars and just absolutely got after it.



I’ll be honest, it is a little weird to go at your childhood home with a crowbar.  Your mom’s standing right there and you’re like, hey mom, you did a great job painting this wall.  Remember how you had our school photos hanging right here?  I’m just going to rip it all out, cool?  She seemed ok with it, though.

I was waiting to pull something cool out of the walls, since they were so old: newspaper with sexist ads, weird old toy…really whatever.  But we didn’t find anything.  EXCEPT…


The old external siding!  The part of the house we tore apart (living room, two bedrooms that we’re combining to make the master) was an addition to the original part of the house.  The original part (kitchens, bathrooms, upstairs bedrooms) were built around 1908; the addition was built about 50 years later.  So this siding was part of the original 1908 house.  I spy the makings of a cool plank table…!!

Buster, poor baby Buster, was TERRIFIED throughout this whole process.  He’s been really helpful every time we’ve been out at the house (destroying sticks, finding all the old lost dog toys, etc.), but us literally bringing the walls down around him was TOO MUCH.  He anxiously followed us around until I gave him a rug out of the way but still in view, so he could supervise.  He tolerated this for a while, as long as we occasionally went over to reassure him, but eventually, around 8:30, the poor guy was just pooped and ran away to a quieter place to sleep.


Good work today, Bubba.

The other thing I did, before we started ripping walls out, was to scrape off the popcorn ceilings in kitchen #1!  Here’s the “before” shot…


Ewww.  Get rid of that ish.  Now for the “after” shot!


Done!  You can tell there’s still some texture, but it’s really SO much better.  (There’s actually not as much texture left as the picture makes it appear…turns out it’s hard to take detail shots of ceilings.)  It essentially matches the rest of the house now, since scraping off a bunch of popcorn ceilings is exactly the treatment my dad gave the house 25 years ago.  Having never paid much attention to ceilings before, I didn’t really come into this project with much sense of “And I want my ceilings to look like THIS.”  (Without looking up, tell me what the ceilings in your house/apartment look like, I dare you.)  I’ve seen other farmhouse renovations where they take the drywall off and uncover the “true ceiling” which is always like gorgeous wood planks and whatnot.  I’m pretty sure that is not the case in this house, so we’re just going to leave it like this until I find a better (but REALLY EASY) alternative.  At least no one is going to look at them and say, “WOW THAT’S…SOMETHING.”

Also, if you’ve never scraped off popcorn ceilings, it’s fast but it is DIFFICULT.  Wow what a shoulder workout.  I had this weird scraper tool on a long pole that I had to slide along the ceiling…essentially like shoveling really hard-packed snow, but with your arms raised above your head.  I just tried to Google a picture for you guys, but then I got really disgruntled by how smooth all the people in those pictures got THEIR ceilings in comparison to mine, so I’m not showing you that.  Sooo maybe I’m going to go over the ceiling a couple more times.

That’s all for now!  The plan for this upcoming weekend is to clean up the drywall that we left all over the floor, take out the old, junky insulation, and rip down the ceiling.  Next time I’ll show you some paint colors, plus my awesome plans for the bathroom sink!

Day 1: The house that built me

Helloooo everyone and welcome to our shiny new blog!  Forgive the sparse layout right now…it’s a work in progress and I was desperate to get a post up.

I’ve blogged before in a few different places, but a new adventure calls for a new space (and a sassy new title – see below, and the eventual “About” page, for explanation).  If you’re here because you know me and I made you read this, welcome!  If you don’t know me and you’re here because the Internet led you here, also welcome and THANK YOU, GOOGLE.

A little about me, us, and this blog: I’m a twenty-something professional living in the northern Black Hills of South Dakota with my husband and our enormous black lab, Buster (who will feature prominently in most photo sets).  We’ve recently embarked on an exciting new adventure: moving into and renovating the farmhouse I grew up in.  Our new home is Fruitdale, South Dakota: a town that, according to the sign that has been there as long as I can remember, has a population of 76 (hence the blog title); according to Wikipedia, that’s wishful thinking and it’s now 64.  I think Fruitdale would be most accurately referred to as an “unincorporated community” (I don’t know the technicalities of that term) or perhaps a “village” – it doesn’t have its own grocery store, gas station, stoplight, or even zip code (because no post office), but it does get to retain its name.


The house sits on 17 acres , and the main portion (there are a couple of additions) is over 100 years old.  My family moved out 11 years ago, and since then it has seen a string of renters with some periods of being uninhabited.  In spite of the understandable wear and tear, its bones are beautiful and its setting is enviable.  (I think my little brother is jealous that we laid claim to the house before he did.)  My goal is to make it into the lovely, breezy country getaway that it deserves to be.


View from the back, including giant cottonwoods and tire swing

So, DAY ONE!  Today (Sunday, actually, but don’t judge) was the first day we were able to go into the house and take stock.  Now, be forewarned, what I am about to say and the photos I am about to show are an honest evaluation of the current state of the house, right now, as a baseline.  Some of the half-finished projects you see were left that way by my family; at the same time, for my own defense and so you don’t worry about my own welfare as a child, I will say that it was more well-kept in my childhood.  Please know that everything I say is free of judgment toward all parties.

As you can see, the siding and roof are in great shape.  Some new trim, a good grass seeding, and some pretty flower beds will be easy fixes.  I’m also envisioning a pretty pergola over the porch, and a porch swing…tons of potential.  The inside entryway (as modeled by Buster), was difficult to take a picture of, but you can see the painted concrete floor.  What you can’t see is that the walls are two completely different types of wood planks.  Both beautiful, but extremely different.  Unlike the finished, painted, tongue-in-groove walls you can see, the walls you can’t see are made of much wider, rough-hewn planks.



Next, you see the “front” (white) and “back” (blue) kitchens – yes, two kitchens!!  My parents remodeled it this way, back in the late 80’s when they bought it.  The front is lots of storage for dishes, and is where we had (and will have) our dining table.  The back is mainly for cooking, and has lots of counter space for canning, etc.  The stove is old, but gas and BIG.  We’ll replace it eventually, but it’ll serve for a while.  The cabinets are solid wood, and are, for the most part, in excellent shape.  The counter is laminate, which has been peeling for years (I have a scar on my arm to prove it, those corners are SHARP), and which I’m very excited to replace with some butcher block!  The floor is linoleum, which (much to my father’s disgruntlement, because “it’s in great shape!”) we plan to replace with tile, and the ceilings are totally popcorned.  The bright blue you see in the back kitchen (“Morning Glory Blue,” according to my mom) is the color that both kitchens were when I last lived there.  The door from the front kitchen opens onto bathroom #1, and the two doors from the back kitchen lead to: 1) the laundry room and bathroom #2, and 2) an unfinished sunroom addition.  If you were standing where I was when I took the first picture, and you turned around, you’d be looking into the living room.



Bathroom #1…


And laundry room/bathroom #2.  To the left of the hot water heater is where the washer and dryer go; those belonged to the renters, so we will get new ones.  As you can see, this bathroom is ITTY BITTY and hard to take pictures of.


Below is the unfinished sunroom.  Lots of potential.  Also a great space, right now, for refinishing cabinets and whatnot.



Going back to the front kitchen and spinning around, you see the lovely living room!!  This room is probably my favorite, because of the big windows, natural light, hardwood floors, and that nice tile stove pad for a wood stove (again, belonged to the renters; we will be moving our own in).



Off the living room to the right are two VERY small bedrooms, which are connected by a doorway.  Picture 1 is from the doorway you see in the living room photo, picture 2 is looking from that room into the adjoining room, and picture 3 is looking into the adjoining room from the living room (phew, sorry, confusing).  As you can see, still beautiful hardwood floors in here, and LOTS of closet space!!  Note the beautiful sunlight streaming in from the south-facing window!  The plan for these rooms is to bust out the wall separating them (demolition is scheduled for Wednesday, 3/8…coming soon!!) and create one stunningly large master bedroom.



On to the upstairs!  Please note the growth chart on this doorway that indicates I topped out in 2008.  It just occurred to me that we must have come back then to visit, since we only lived here until 2005-ish.



Up here is the attic, one full bedroom, and a…sleeping partition?  I guess that’s probably the best term for it.  The stairs come up into a room that is partially partitioned off by a fun little log wall, which has shelves on the other side.  Behind that wall is the space you see with the red wall – it slopes pretty drastically.  The full bedroom has pine flooring and two pine tongue-in-groove walls.  No pictures of the attic, because it’s unfinished and dusty and has always been terrifying (tbh I didn’t even look in there today), but I’m envisioning a cool kid’s room or Pinterest-esque den.  (The roof/ceiling slopes even more drastically in there, so an adult can only stand up straight in the middle of the room.)



Last but certainly not least, outside.  The best, BEST thing about this old house is the land it sits on.  Please forgive our South Dakota winter for the excessive brown-ness.



Below, you can see the back yard, complete with homemade swing set/tree fort/zipline (not visible), tire swing, and giant old cottonwoods (which are STUNNING in the summer and fall).  There are also grape vines, that tangled clump of vine/bushes behind the fort.  I think they’re more along the lines of jelly grapes than wine grapes, but we’ll have some fun with those!  Behind that is the big, BIG field that currently has alfalfa/hay growing in it.  Somebody else is taking care of that for us.



Looking south from the house (basically, if you turned 90º to the left from the previous photo) is the orchard, garden, and shop.  The garden is that big overgrown patch straight in front of you, with a wood pile in the corner.  A good tilling will clean that right up and unearth the best soil you’ve ever seen.  Prepare for lots of pictures of amazing produce.  In the orchard, to the left of the garden, are apple, pear, cherry, and apricot trees, plus rhubarb bushes and asparagus underneath and between the trees.



Things I didn’t get pictures of: the hedge of lilac bushes twice as tall as me, the honeysuckle bushes that explode fragrant yellow in the spring, the big, east-facing window in the kitchen that spills morning light on the breakfast table, the creek just down the road that Buster already discovered, and the millions of happy memories smiling out at me from every corner.  We are SO EXCITED and can’t wait to share our new adventure with you!