My name is Lisa and I'm a crafty girl with wanderlust working as an engineer by day. My blog chronicles projects in my home as well as pictures and stories from my travels.




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Entries in Outdoors (7)


Fall Planting

With winter on the horizon I like to have something growing in front to the house for as long as I can so I did a little fall planting a few weeks back.

I picked up a variety of mums, kale, cabbages and pansies and set to work. On my porch steps I put some large purple and burgundy colored mums in a planter and set decorative cabbages in urns in front of them.

In the front bed I planted some beautiful purple celosia in between my boxwood shrubs. I've never tried planting it before in my garden so I'm curious to see how late in the season it will keep blooming. Along the front of the bed I planted some decorative green/white and green/purple cabbages to create a border.

In my hanging baskets I planted burgundy mums and pansies. I like how the different hanging heights of the baskets look together.

In the bed that circles my tree I planted some frilly looking green/purple decorative kale in between my hostas.

I'm happy to have some flowers and greenery in my front yard for as long as I can, especially if we have another really cold winter this year. It makes coming home a bit more cheerful on a bleak day.


The Fence Saga Part 1: Planning

It's been seven years now since I bought my home and this year was the year to finally tackle the fence. I've hated the chain link fence that surrounded my property ever since I moved in, but when you buy a 130+ year old home with a large raccoon nest in the walls and no electrical outlets upstairs you have to set your priorities accordingly.

Just for fun here is a picture of the backyard when I bought the house and it was overwhelmed with an enormous dying tree.

My first big backyard project was a circular back patio followed by removing the tree. Last year with the new pergola and side patio that I'd been planning for years in place as well as a fresh coat of paint on the house and garage the backyard was starting to look like what I'd envisioned.

All of this work was great but it only made the old fence look even worse. I was ready to finally replace the fence this year so in May I began drawing up plans to submit an application for a building permit along with an application to the historic district. Since I live in a historic district, existing structures are grandfathered in, but if you replace something you must get approval from the historic district.

City Code Chapter 104 defines the regulations for fences in Ann Arbor based on three zones, front open space (the first 25' back from the sidewalk based on my zoning district), middle 25 feet (the 25' behind the front open space) and rear yard (remaining area behind the middle space). Since I live in a historic district I had lower limits on the heights allowed in each zone compared to a house outside of one of the historic districts with a 3' at 50% opaque fence allowed in the front, a 6' at 80% opaque fence allowed in the middle and a 6' at 100% opaque fence allowed in the back. Additionally, I had constraints on the style and materials I could use for the fence based on historic appropriateness for the neighborhood.

Operating under these rules I began planning my fence design. The back of my house fell beyond 50' from the sidewalk (meaning it was in the rear yard area) so I thought that would be a natural point to start a 6' privacy fence.

I wanted additional fencing to extend forward from the privacy fence to the front of the house. This fell in the middle space so I could have had a fence that was 6' tall and 80% opaque, but this felt like a little much for the area so I decided on a spindle fence 4' tall and 50% opaque instead. On the north side of my property I simply wanted the spindle fence to edge the property line but on the south side I wanted it to surround my vegetable/herb garden.

Here is an overhead view (I took the map from the county website) of what I was planning for my fence:

On the north side of my property I planned to rip out the chain link fence and replace it with a spindle fence with a privacy fence for the rear. I also planned to eventually put in a gate across the driveway.

On the south side I planned to have the overgrowth removed and replace the chain link fence with a privacy fence.

To block the view from the street I also planned to put up more privacy fence to connect the fence back to the house with an arbor centered on the garden.

I planned to surround the herb and vegetable garden on the side of my house with a spindle fence with a small gate at the front. Please excuse the crazy overgrown garden. I figured I would wait until the new fence went up before cleaning it up and planting for the year.

With my idea worked out I drew up a plan view of my fence and attached it to my application to the building department and historic district along with some example images of my intended fence. I submitted the application at City Hall at the end of May and it was approved at the beginning of June.

Although putting up the fence was something that Frank and I could have done we decided to hire a contractor to put up the fence and so that I could concentrate on working on our downstairs bathroom renovation. I'll leave the story off here for now but I will say that things did not end up going as planned. Stay tuned for the next installment about working with our contractor.


Fresh Coat of Paint for the House (Plus New Gutters!)

When I first got my house back in 2007 one of the first things I did was replace the rot on the house and get some paint on the exterior. The back had never been painted when the wood clapboard had been replaced and I was afraid of further rot if it didn't get painted before the winter came. It was pretty scary! Here's what it looked like when I bought it.

At the time I originally painted the house one of my neighbor's homes was white and one was blue so I thought that yellow would be a nice color so I picked a scheme with Valspar's Oatlands Yellow for the house with Chef White for the trim. For some added a color I painted the accent a teal color with a bright turquoise for the ceiling of the porch. Here are how things looked a few years ago after painting.

Fast forward a few more years and things have been looking a little sad. The paint had faded and some issues with the gutters caused some rot that needed to be fixed. It was time to repaint and give the exterior a little TLC.

First up I needed to figure out my new house colors. In general I loved the color scheme that I had but I wanted some deeper, more vibrant shades of what I already had. I picked up a few test colors from the paint store and tried them out on the garage.

On the left was Benjamin Moore's Concord Ivory and the right was Marblehead Gold. Based on swatches I had been leaning toward the Concord Ivory but once it was on the garage I knew the vibrancy of Marblehead Gold was the winner. In the end to go with the Marblehead Gold on the siding I choose Soft Chamois for the trim and Narragasett Green for an accent. I also decided that to paint the concrete foundation a dark grey color, Cromwell Gray. For the porch ceiling Frank really didn't like the bright turquoise that I had originally painted it since he thought it was a bit feminine so I chose a more subdued dusky color with Aegean Teal.

Time was running out fast to get things finished before the cold weather hit so Frank and I decided to hire a local painter to complete the wood repairs and paint. We chose the painter that we did because he was going to sand by hand and paint with a brush which would be more gentle on our wood siding and be in keeping with the period of our 1800s house. He also painted our neighbor's house and did a beautiful job, plus he gave us a great quote for the job.

First up our painter sanded and primed all the spots with loose paint.

Our painter started by painting the front of the garage so we could make sure that we liked everything before he continued. Here's a shot of the corner so you can see the old and new colors together. Needless to say we loved the difference.

As time went by and more and more paint went up we knew we had made a great decision about not only the colors but also our painter.

After the painting on the house was complete our painter painted the concrete foundation. Below is a picture before and then after the foundation was painted. As a side note this access door was used to bring produce into the basement when the side wing of the house was a local grocery store.

With the painting wrapped up at the beginning of November the gutters needed to be addressed. Not only were they undersized but they had seams, didn't slope properly toward the downspouts and had unneeded bends all of which you can see in the picture below.

Frank got a few quotes for seamless 6" gutters with 4" downspouts before we settled on a contractor. Amazingly they got installed at the end of November in just one day.

In the few weeks since then I haven't had much of a chance to get some pictures of the house during daylight hours (that whole engineer thing takes up a heck of a lot of my time) until now when we have seven inches of snow on the ground. Here is what it looks like today.

I love how the colors turned out and it really gives the house a facelift. My favorite part is how vibrant the new yellow is. In the past the pale yellow really looked bleak in the winter but this yellow is so bright and cheerful in the snow. Nothing exemplifies this more than the way the garage looks in the snow filled back yard.

I think Frank's favorite part is the new porch ceiling color since he absolutely hated the bright turquoise (which I loved!) that I had painted it before.

This project wraps up our outdoor projects for the season, but upcoming I would like to add shutters to the house, a wood fence to replace the chain link one in our backyard plus we really need to stain the pergola. To 2014!


We Have Grass!

We have grass! The backyard has been graded and sod has been laid. Having the grass in really makes a difference in finishing the yard but there is still more left to do. Once the treated wood finishes drying out I'm excited to stain the pergola. Here are a few detail pictures of it. I just love the design on the end of the rafters.

Frank and I are now starting to shop for furniture for the patio. We found this cuddle set at Costco and loved the large comfortable size and shape. Even though the set is enormous (each chair is about the size of a love seat) it looks pretty small on the large patio. The pillows are from Home Depot that I bought on end of clearance.

Because it is fun to look back, here is what the backyard looked like at the start of the summer. There is still more to do, but I am so happy with how things are shaping up.



The Pergola is Up!

The pergola is finally up! The guy that we hired was back logged with work so he wasn't able to come out until last week. I was out of town so Frank snapped this picture for me when he first got the posts up.

Here is what it looks like as of today.

I really love it! A few more things need to be done, like placing the removed bricks back in place and reseeding the lawn where it was regraded for the patio. I also plan on staining the pergola an opaque white, but the treated wood needs some time to dry out before I can do that. I'm so excited to see the backyard coming together. For reference, here is what it looked like less than two month ago.

I can't wait to get this all done!


Stump Removal: Take Two

Earlier this week I wrote about taking down the large white maple in my backyard, but still needing to deal with the remnants of the stump. I have been planning to add another patio to my backyard so when I was speaking with the guy that I had put in my previous elevated patio on the back of my house I asked him if he had any recommendations about getting rid of the stump once and for all. He did, I made an appointment and as of the morning the stump is now happily gone!

Here is the view of my backyard from my upstairs window at 7:55 this morning with the remnants of the stump still making a little hill in the middle of my back yard.

By 8:10 the stump and the surrounding roots which has also reached the surface were on the way to annihilation.

By 8:45 the stump was ground down to about 5" below the surface of the grass so that we can reseed or sod and have a flat lawn. In place of the stump we have a sizeable hill of wood chips and dirt. 

I am so excited and happy to have the stump gone and I can't believe I didn't have it taken care of earlier. My plans for the the backyard are now to fix the lawn in the area where the stump was and add a large patio to the side of the garage with a pergola over it. The garage is 32 feet deep and I think I'm going to make the patio 10 feet wide so it will be quite sizeable and a great place to relax this summer. Below is my poorly drawn rendition of what I am planning.

I'm planning to grow wisteria to climb up the pergola which will add a bit of shade to the backyard now that the maple tree is gone. The patio and pergola will also balance out the space between the side of my garage and my neighbor to the rear's garage. I'm really looking forward to making some more steps to completing the backyard and have a chance to enjoy it this summer.


Back of the House: Then & Now

When I first got my house the front wasn't so bad, but the back was an absolute disaster. After priming the siding the previous owners never actually painted so the wood wasn't protected and was rotting in some places. It looked terrible, like a condemned haunted house.

Right after I bought the house in September 2007, I prioritized having the rotten wood replaced and painting the house before winter came so that there wouldn't be any more deterioration to the siding and trim. I continued my chosen house color scheme of pale yellow with white trim and dark teal accents. Also, that fall the kitchen window (bottom left) and my scrapbook window (top left) were replaced with new, large double casement windows which gave me a lot of light inside while also making things look more uniform from the outside.

That was the extent of what I accomplished in the back of the house before I moved to Japan and I didn't do much else until the summer of 2010 when I had a large half circle patio put on the back of my house. With the patio in the back I also had to have the gutter reconfigured so that the downspout ran down the side of my house instead of the middle of the back. That summer I also built myself some patio furniture but I never got around to painting it or making cushions for it. Last summer I focused on the front of my house and my herb garden so I didn't do much in the back so right now it looks pretty much the same as summer 2010 back there.

Long term, I have some grand plans for the back. I want to add a planter bed around the patio and fill it will boxwood and annuals. That may need to wait for a bit, but this summer I definitely want to paint the concrete foundation around my house a pale grey and then paint my patio furniture white. I also want to finish up making the cushions for my furniture so that I have a comfortable lounging spot back there.

Do you have any plans this summer for the back of your house? Have you recently completed any big projects back there?