DIY Playhouse 

DIY Playhouse 

It all started with a wooden kitchen set being listed for free on the local classifieds. I expressed to my neighbor how I wanted to build a playhouse for the kids and she mentioned that as part of the process of preparing her house to sell she would be getting rid of the structure in her backyard. 

That was enough of a catalyst for me to begin putting together a plan and before long we had built a pretty awesome little minihouse that the kids now enjoy for sleepovers and mud-pie-making. 

Here’s what we started with:

This is us moving it up the road from our neighbors house on pvc pipes. Proud small-town moment:

All positioned in the backyard: 

I had to temporarily brace the upper half while I removed the supports and constructed a back wall. I extended the bottom floor out to add a ‘kitchen addition’:

You can see the opening to the top floor where I removed the existing staircase. I wanted to incorporate a small spiral staircase to create more space inside and I took cues from a tiny-home photo found on Pinterest (not my photo):

My rendition in-progress:

Bear in mind this entire project was constructed using salvaged materials; the staircase was once a large cabinet that was tossed from a local school.

Daughter testing out the stairs:

Some walls going up:

Fitting in the cupboards and appliances:

A friend gave me safety glass which I installed as a kitchen window:

Some paint and wallpaper:

I ended up utilizing some dead space between one of the stair-risers as I had a random wooden drawer that fit perfectly into the space so it was an easy upgrade! I Just screwed a new face onto the drawer so it tucked snugly into place:

I had originally sealed the floor with poly but decided to also paint it to make it look more finished. I also added a small ‘kitchen table’ (coffee table) and built a tiny bench with additional storage:

The upstairs before wasn’t a very welcoming place:

I boarded up all the walls to make it less spider-friendly and used up a sheet of scrap greenhouse material to let a bit of light in:

Next was construction of the deck. I repurposed the original staircase and got slides and wood from an old playset:

It just so happened that an old door front from a built-in tear-down fit perfectly on the playhouse so that went up too:

Added a front porch and a little faux-portico:

Built a small entry to the top floor and painted the exterior:

I used chalkboard paint for the faux-windows so the kids can draw on them. 

Here’s the end result! 

All in all I managed to do most of the work for free. The only things I paid for were the treated deck framing wood and the screws!

The kids get lots of use out of it making mudpies and hosting sleepovers. 

Thanks for looking!! Xx

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Apothecary

Apothecary

I’ve been storing my random dried herbs and tinctures etc in various paper bags around the house because I didn’t have a proper place for them all. 

When I saw these boxes at the local Dollarama for 3 bucks each I had a light bulb moment! 

But it took 6 months of annoying the employees by phone and in person about their stock before I had enough of them to start the project (which incidentally gave me just enough time to receive chinese-order card cabinet pulls)

Theres a really awesome tutorial (and project) at debisdesigndiary.com on how to achieve a chippy weathered boat paint finish so I took some hints from her hilarious how-to and made up some chunky paint to ‘paint’ my boxes. I used playing cards to spread the paint. It took a few boxes to get the hang of the effect but I love how letting the paint thicken creates this awesome old finish effect where the paint edges are thick and defined like they were chipped off. You just can’t achieve that effect with normal quality paint. She says to use acrylic but I only had latex acrylic on hand and it did the job well-enough.
My strategy involved globbing the paint randomly on the surface and then dragging the face of the card across at just the right pressure to ALMOST but NOT COMPLETELY spread the paint.

Originally I really wanted a mashup of all kinds of layers of chippy color showing through but in the end I decided to go with a really muted green. I was SO tempted to Paint it White lol!

Another layer of even lighter green and then some scraping and sanding, followed by gluing all the boxes together and finally adding the hardware and:

Done!

It’s just resting on a shelf for now because I literally JUST finished it and havent decided where to put it yet. 

Looks old right? 

The cost of the boxes was about 40 bucks and the hardware totalled around 20 so it did end up being a costly project when you factor in time spent on it. 

But I am so excited to be able to actually properly keep my dried citrus peels, mints, echinacea heads, rose hips, oils, salves, waxes and butters, tinctures and whatever other garden treasures need saving!! All I need now is labels 🤗

 Happy New Year ♡ -Destiny

Weekend Project: Garden Paths

Weekend Project: Garden Paths

Another chapter in our neverending backyard projects saga wrapped up this year with the installation of a firepit area and garden paths. 

We have really crummy grass because I can’t be bothered to invest time and money into maintaining something that provides so little benefit; I need more time to tend to my tomato plants and echinacea flowers! So replacing some turf with gravel seemed like a great way to reduce the workload and improve the esthetic of the yard. There’s still (always) so much more to do but I will show you how we made our paths and pit and talk about what we hope to achieve by the end of next summer!

When we first moved here this is what our yard looked like:

Its been a busy few summers with the construction of our upcycled greenhousegarden plotchicken coop, and pond. Our yard is slowly transforming into a beautiful and diverse space for growing food, observing nature, and playing and entertaining with friends and family.

Before we began the path project, our yard looked something like this:

At the time that photo was taken, we had already settled on a plan of action and begun the work of removing the old culvert firepit and digging the new one.

I used garden hoses to guesstimate where I wanted the paths to be and I started digging away the sod over the course of a few weekday afternoons while hubby was at work.

We found some cement stacking stones on a local classified for a really great deal an bought them before we even knew exactly what we would use them for but I’m glad we did because they turned out to be a great border for the firepit circle.

 I began piling layers onto the areas that would become new lasagna beds (or ‘sheet-mulched’ beds). New Gardener Blues shares a great post about how to properly sheet-mulch a lasagna bed here.

In the meantime, hubby was hard at work with the rest. After laying down heavy-duty landscape fabric in all newly dug areas we ordered a load of 4 tonnes of 1/4″ crushed gravel, and rented a bobcat and a tamper. 

Here’s the hubs levelling and tamping the gravel in the firepit circle:

1/4″ crushed gravel compacts very nicely and provides a fairly hard surface area for walking on. It’s low-maintenence and cheap. We used an old tractor rim for the new pit and buried it halfway into the gravel.

With the leftover concrete blocks we made a small patio under the apple tree and a step-down on the slope from the gate. I’ve been slowly propagating creeping thyme and trying to encourage it to grow in and around the stones to soften the space and suppress some weeds

The family took a daytrip to a local beach where we found some sandstone and other flatrocks and I used those to create a small retaining wall below the grapevine as well as some step-up access to my water collection system (another future project)

Before:

We had to cut the grapevine right back to the base so we can re-train it and get it to produce fruit for us again. By the end of next summer it’ll again look like a neater version of this:

The beginning of planting and naturalizing the space:

Things are slowly coming along and of course all I can do is dream about the beautiful and delicious and medicinal plants I’ll be able to grow next year. We have already planted some blueberry and ornamental bushes and cutting flowers and spring bulbs. Next spring I’ll make space for some vining plants like pumkins and melons. We left the option open to invest in some quality flatstone for the paths if it’s ever within our future budget. Since packed crushed gravel makes a great sublevel to stone pathways we’ve already done the hard work! If not flatstones, maybe we will add a layer of pea gravel so I can resume barefoot gardening (my favorite!) -without puncturing my footsies on the crushed gravel. 

Only 7 more months until spring!

Garden Diversification: Installing a Pond

Garden Diversification: Installing a Pond

This spring we had the WORST mosquito problem. It was so bad that our municipality adopted a garlic spray plan to reduce them. 

We decided to take it a step further by installing our own backyard pond. 

Mosquitos lay their eggs in water; fish eat them. We thought a pond would be a clever way to attract and eliminate the mosquitos. 

So, we got to work! Well mostly I got to work because my husband doesnt normally jump into my shenanigans until they’ve proven themselves worthy. Usually some time near the end of the project which is usually the point at which the gruntwork is finished. (To his credit, he’s very supportive of my endless DIY endeavors)

First thing I did was find a liner at my local garden supply store. Then I began to dig a shallow hole roughly the size I wanted the pond to be. 

The whole thing was willy-nilly. I had plants growing in the area that I should have transplanted prior to starting the project, but I’m not so much a planner as I am a do-er. 

After I dug out the basic shape, I dug a smaller, deeper hole within the bigger hole. This is somewhat critical to good pond design because you’ll never be able to stack rocks perfectly vertical along the pond walls. Giving a bit of an angle to the walls allows the rocks to rest along the pond floor and up the edges without risking them falling into the pond bottom.

Once the hole is all dug out, you want to lay down a tarp or old rug as a sort-of ‘buffer’ from any sharp stones to prevent puncturing the liner. And THEN place the liner and begin filling the pond.

Some people will say to add the rocks first and then the water. I did it the other way around.

This made the pond water very dirty. So I ran the pump with the output draining into the garden while the garden hose kept the pond full with a continuous flow of fresh water until the pond became somewhat clear.

In the photo above, you can see to the far left that theres a very shallow area of the pond. I did this so that I could plant a water-tolerant creeping-jenny that would help to ‘drink up’ the excess nitrogen created by the fish in the pond. 

I also built up a stone waterfall area. I created a staircase out of flat stones. On top of the ‘steps’, I placed a scrap piece of liner. I tucked stones on either side of the path for the water to follow. Then on top of the liner I placed flat stones for the water to run over and hid the edges with more stones to make it look natural. I used a sealant designed for ponds to fill in spaces and gaps between the stones so that instead of flowing beneath the flatrock, the water would be forced to casacde over the top. 

I wish I’d have taken photos of the whole waterfall process but alas, I forgot; luckily everything I did is available as tutorials around the internet.

After testing out the waterfall to make sure everything was in working order, I continued naturalizing the pond using various sizes and shapes of stones and gravel

I started adding plants around the edge of the pond. My dearest husbeast brought home a cool ‘basket’ of water plants that just so happened to fit perfectly on one of the shelves I had made on the ponds’edge that you can see on the right of the photo below. The creeping-jenny on the left. Some hostas and creeping thyme.

After the cleanup and addition of goldfish I went to the garden store to find ‘beneficial’ bacteria to add to the pond because I had read that balancing the pond helps to reduce maintenence needs. I also picked up some straw bales wrapped in netting. When straw decomposes, it creates hydrogen peroxide which is a natural algae suppressor that is safe to use around fish and plants. I hid it inside the waterfall so that the running water would deliver a constant supply of peroxide to the pond as the straw decomposed. 

At first I thought my pond was a total failure because it quickly became tremendously murky and all of the submerged rocks developed a thick green layer of algae. Do not panic! Apparently all ponds have a ‘first bloom’ where algae quickly dominates the new pond and then subsides. My pond was crystal clear after the first month or so. 

You do need to ensure you have all the critical components for a self-sustaining pond. Check the list:

-aeration and circulation either by a fountain or waterfall

-fish to eat the bugs that may land or lay eggs in the water

-living plants to digest the nitrogen created by fish excrement

The pond project was a total success! The mosquito problem is hugely reduced and since installing the pond we enjoy a greater variety of birds and butterfly visitors in the garden than ever before. 

And the local residents approve, too

If they come, you will build it

If they come, you will build it

Before I begin to tell my tale of chicken-keeping, let me share with you a story about my first encounter with the idea. 

It was a spring day and I was out playing in a garden in my front yard when I saw a little white hen go running past me. I did a double-take because at that point I’d never heard of chickens being kept within town limits and I couldnt fathom one wandering into my yard like a wanderlust from some far-off farmstead. Naturally, I started chasing her

She was quick and tricky and seemed to be mocking me with her dodgey footwork and quirky clucks. Eventually, I out-witted her and found myself holding what would become the manifestation of my love of chickens

I had her in my yard while I placed an ad and asked some neighbors if they knew wherefrom she may have come. In the meantime she took shelter under my grapevine clucking and chattering probably about what an annoying fangirl I was.

It turned out she had been broken out of a neighbors yard by their chihuahua and sooner than I would have liked she was gone back home to her urban condo down the road.  

I did a little homework on bylaws and the logistics of chicken-keeping and by Easter time we got our first chicks. 14 adorable little peepers. We had Salmon Faverolles, Silver Dorkings, and Olive-Eggers. But we didnt have a coop because being true to my own form I got my chickens in a row before I put my eggs into one basket. Or whatever. 

Of course after about a week of caring for them in a tupperware bin I realized the urgency of the need to build a coop so, instead of lollying around some more on the classifieds for a fitting accomodation, I got to work in the garage. 
I started out by building the door first. Because I like to do things backwards, apparently. 

Then I built the front wall of the coop to fit the door. I made four little boxes for my little mamas to do their nesting and laying. 

I was really working on a whim and if I could do it again I’d have created more insulation surrounding the laying boxes. But forth I went and before long I had built a second wall. The studs are all funny because where the beer cans are placed I had originally planned to construct a solar thermal vent much like this. I soon rationalized that when the temperature drops to some 40° below zero celcius a popcan wall wouldn’t suffice to keep the coop warm. So the idea was scrapped later. 

One thing I did want to do was utilize the biology of the raw earth to help process the chicken poops and kitchen scraps inside the coop. So I finished the four walls and prepared a plot.

I had a stash of bricks that I salvaged from the demolition of an old hospital and I used those to create a foundation for the walls and to prevent predatory animals from being able to infiltrate the coop from below.
I started standing the walls in place.

Who knew I’d ever need to remember Pythagoras Theory? I quickly had to relearn it in order to determine which cuts to make to achieve the appropriate roof pitch. I built the roof on the ground and got help lifting it onto the coop.

If you have read my post about the growing of my garden  you’ll remember that I scored an entire discarded fence for free; and I had a lot of fenceboards, so I used them to side the coop.

I insulated and closed the walls from the inside and threw up a roof made of plywood blanketed in asphalt paper. I used shingles from a neighbors’ shed reno. 

I put a little door-ramp on the side for the cuties and let them in to check out the progress

They seemed pretty content! Better than a blue bin at least I’m sure. Here’s a picture of young Russel the rooster demonstrating his regalness for the camera.

The coop is tucked behind the vegetable garden behind a salvaged door where the chickens are free to roam during the garden season.

Here is my husband happily observing them while enjoying a bowl of popcorn. We are those people.

In the springtime before planting starts the door remains open and they help to prepare the garden beds with some light digging and often accompany me for morning chatter over a cup of joe.

Sometimes they hop up to the window to see what I’m cookin’.

They make great babysitters too while Im doing chores in the yard.

Their favorite time of the year is harvest season and they earn their keep for the winter by helping me clean up the garden beds.

And then back into the coop they go for the winter, only venturing out on days when the sun offers them enough warmth to risk it! The nice thing about the raw earth floor is that it gives them something to scratch at in the winter.

This is Gertrude. She my homegirl. 

She’s the first to welcome me when I visit the coop and is the cuddliest of the flock. She’ll literally come wiggle up under your arm and cluck sweet nothings to you for as long as you let her. 

If you’ve never considered keeping chickens in your backard I think you should! They’re very loving and interesting creatures that offer friendship, eggs, compost, and garden support. And the kids really love them too!