...because home doesn't happen overnight.
09.01.15 / Some Outdoor Stuff

How exciting is that post title? It just grabs your attention and pulls you in, right? Haha.

outdoor 5

I like a good renovation as much as the next house-loving person. But I have to say it’s been nice living in a post-renovation home. We’re able to make it through entire weekends with no dust flying, no rooms off limits, no major disruptions. It feels like we’re finally living in our house. Maybe that doesn’t make sense but, if you’ve ever lived through a major remodel, maybe it does.

When/if we get the itch to DIY, we have several little projects still on the to-do list. This summer we crossed off a few of those things and even tackled some projects that weren’t on the list. We built screens to disguise the trash and recycling bins and the electric meter. (So far, we haven’t received any hate mail from the meter reader.) We also added a refrigerator side panel and organized the garage. I haven’t written about the garage yet, but we parked a vehicle in it for the first time ever! #postrenovationgoals

Today I’m sharing a few more outdoor projects we worked on this summer. They aren’t really post-worthy as stand alone projects so I’m lumping them together in one meaty post.

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We added snow rails to the metal roof. (And by we, I mean Steve.) You may recall that we originally installed clear plastic snow guards on the roof above the exterior man doors and garage door. (You can spy them here and in most of the exterior shots of the house.) They were *supposed to* prevent snow and ice from avalanching off the metal roof in the winter to protect our gutters and any humans on the ground. But after our first heavy snowfall two years ago, the guards over the front door slid right off with the snow. (!) It wasn’t exactly the protection we were hoping for. We think their failure had everything to do with the pitch – or lack thereof – of our roof.

The good news is we found a local company that was able to manufacture snow rails for us. The bad news is it took TWO YEARS to finally get the snow rails in our hands. (For the company’s sake, I’m not naming them publicly. While their product is excellent, we can’t vouch for their customer service.) The snow rails were color-matched to our existing roof and set us back $500. Steve easily tapped off the plastic snow guards with a rubber mallet. Then he cut sections of the snow rail to length and screwed them into the metal roof ribs with stainless steel screws. (The ribs are the raised “lines” on the roof.) The screws are rustproof and boast rubber washers. The major stipulation was that each continuous length of rail had to end on a rib. You can see how each rail ends on a rib in the photos above and below.

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The rail extends around the entire perimeter of the roof – front, sides and back. With help from his dad, Steve knocked out the job in two hours. We actually love the aesthetic of the snow rails and we’re glad to have the rails in place before winter hits. Of course, this means we’ll probably get no snow this year. So be it!

$500 plus two hours of DIY labor isn’t the end of the world but if you’re considering metal for a low-pitched roof in a colder climate, it’s just something to keep in mind. Learn from our mistakes, people. We’re your guinea pigs ;)

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We made an outdoor shelf for the kitchen window. (And by we, I mean I told Steve what I wanted it to look like and he built it.) I’ve always thought the window needed a shelf to better connect it to the deck area.

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The shelf is constructed of cedar boards and off-the-shelf exterior brackets – both from Menards. The brackets are screwed into the brick facade with Red Head wall anchors. FYI – Red Head refers to the type of screw, not the color ;) Steve added a lip of trim with nails and wood glue. I like that the lip provides a little security for loose items.

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The shelf is a great spot for drinks, napkins and dessert plates when we eat outside. We purposely didn’t make it deep enough for dinner plates because it’s not really conducive to acting as a pass-through… which would have been a cool idea but not practical. The kitchen sink is just inside the window but it’s difficult to access the shelf through the window.

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While I’m thinking of it, many of you want to know how the outdoor furniture is holding up. The plastic wicker-like bases are in mint condition. No breakage, no fading, no rust. Covering them in a high quality cover during the winter helps immensely. (See how we store the outdoor furniture here.)

The cushions are a bit more needy. They aren’t meant to be left out all the time. I only place them on the sectional when we’re using it. In the summer, I stash the cushions behind the sectional under the deep eave for added protection from the elements. In the winter, I store them in the attic. The covers are machine washable and I wash them each fall before stashing them away for the winter. They’re in pretty good condition. The zippers still work. There aren’t any tears or holes. There is a spot on one cover where a pile of dead leaves left a stain. The cushions are reversible so I just turn that side down. I line dry the covers after washing but there has been some shrinkage. They still fit the cushions but you can see how the piping doesn’t line up perfectly now. It’s not a deal breaker but, again, something to keep in mind.

Also, those Woolly Pockets are the bomb. I love them.

shade sail hooks 1

We added hardware for future shade sails. Adding shade sails above the deck and dining patio has been on our wish list for a while. A few readers suggested checking out Costco for affordable options. Thank you! We did give them a look but we really feel like our space would benefit most from custom sails. We’ve determined a larger rectangular sail over the deck and a smaller triangular sail over the dining patio is the ideal setup for us. Because of ongoing insurance quandaries resulting from Everett’s accident earlier this year, we don’t feel comfortable shelling out money for the actual sails this year.

shade sail hooks 2

Instead, we purchased and installed the hardware (basically a trio of heavy duty rings) along the eave and have loose plans to put in a trio of posts in the yard this fall. (I marked out the general locations of the rings in the photo above with red X’s.) We’re hoping to add the sails next summer. I’ll keep you posted. Sometimes, this is how bigger projects go. We piecemeal them into smaller projects as time and money allow.

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We put in two garden beds. I wish the picture better portrayed how much joy this project has brought to our lives. I also wish our neighbor’s fence was charcoal or black.

backyard clearing

backyard clearing

backyard clearing

One side of our backyard was overgrown with LARGE random shrubs. We cleared them out earlier this summer with the help of a chainsaw and a rented stump grinder and paid a tree trimming crew to come out, mulch everything and haul it off. That brush pile was three times bigger when it was all said and done. Then we made two basic 4′ x 8′ raised garden beds. We had rich soil + organic compost delivered to fill the beds. Layne had grown a few hot pepper and cucumber plants from seed at school last spring so we plopped those in one of the beds and let nature do its thing.

Clearing out the space for the beds opened up our backyard to a neighbor’s backyard. His name is Bassim. He’s Lebanese and the sweetest person. As soon as he saw we were attempting to grow a garden, he offered up two tomato plants from his garden that weren’t doing so well. He thought they would fare better in our raised beds. Plus, he’s just really nice. The tomato plants took well to the transplant. We had a decent first harvest: first cucumbers, then tomatoes and now hot peppers. I have no idea what we did right but we’re so into this gardening thing now.

garden harvest

The kids LOVE going out and checking the garden everyday. They pull weeds and pick whatever is ripe. They bring in their mini harvests and wash it all by hand. The cucumbers usually don’t make it to the fridge. The kids eat them fresh of the vine. I’ve been making all of my favorite tomato recipes including this one. Bassim lets me clip fresh basil from his garden. It’s so good as a garnish.

Everything you’ve heard about growing your own food is true. It’s opens you up to whole new community. Okay, maybe one neighbor isn’t an entire community but still. When Bassim sees us outside weeding, watering or harvesting, he comes over to say hi and talk garden talk. And seeing the kids’ sense of pride and excitement in growing, picking and eating their own food is priceless. It’s something I want to continue to nurture.

The second bed is growing impressive weeds. Cue the womp, womp sound effect. We didn’t plant anything in it because we wanted to see how the first summer went with one bed. I thought about making it a cutting garden so I could grow flowers to bring inside for decoration, but our family has enjoyed growing food so much that I think we’ll plant more veggies next year. Suggestions?

That pretty much brings you up to speed on outdoor projects around here. Have you crossed off any outdoor projects on your to-do list this summer?

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

47 Comments

01.September.2015

Sugar snap peas! zucchini (but not that much), brussel sprouts…….those would be my picks.

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01.September.2015

Plant garlic this fall in that extra bed and enjoy it next summer. This is what we did and I love our homegrown garlic! Plus you get garlic scapes too!

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01.September.2015

My brother always plants several pumpkin plants in his and at the end of the growing season we all bring our kids over & pick out a pumpkin & have a pumpkin carving party. Fun tradition. Zucchini (just one because they produce so much), yellow squash (also produce a ton), green beans, asparagus (if your climate permits), are all fun things to grow.

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01.September.2015

Lettuce, spinach, and other greens are very easy to grow and they come up quickly. Bell peppers should do well, too!

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01.September.2015

Read the book “Carrots Love Tomatoes”!! It’ll explain how there are “partner plants”. For example, I have tried to plant pumpkins in various years, but they don’t do well unless I plant corn next to them. Apparently, pumpkins love corn too! Grow your own home decor!! Super fun.

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replied on September 3rd, 2015

Oooooh, I will have to track that book down.

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Do you think your neighbor would be open to you painting your side of the fence? Might be worth asking because that color is rather bossy.

As for veggies, what I’ve learned about growing vegetables is that you will eat what you grow, so try something you don’t think you’d like. Sounds weird, but I swear it works. I used to think kale was disgusting, now we eat it almost daily (highly recommend Lacinato) and it’s very easy to grow. The same goes for Swiss chard. And if you’ve not been growing leaf lettuce you need to do it. It gives and gives and gives and it’s so delicious. By far the easiest thing you can grow.

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replied on September 3rd, 2015

Such a great idea to grow something we wouldn’t normally eat!

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01.September.2015

Chris and I often dream about post-renovation life. Your weekends sound absolutely magical now.

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replied on September 3rd, 2015

You’ll get there! Eye on the prize, lady.

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01.September.2015

I have a long “to do” list but no one on hand to do the work! Darn! There are a few small projects for me but looks like rain for tomorrow!

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01.September.2015

My suggestion is QUICK pull those weeds out before they set seed! Carrots, “short and sassy” way more tomatoes, Brandywine and Sungold tomatoes are good, and potatoes. If you have potatoes that start to sprout in the house next Spring (organic potatoes will) you can throw them out there and grow the same variety yourself. Good luck. Giant American yards just call out to produce some food.

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replied on September 3rd, 2015

You will be happy to know the weeds were pulled right after taking pictures for the post ;) Thanks for the veggie recs!

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02.September.2015

Mabrey’s tat is awesome!

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replied on September 3rd, 2015

That girl is always rocking some ink ;)

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02.September.2015

My suggestion would be to plant all kinds of different herbs in the second bed. Just stay away from anything in the mint family! I love going out to my garden when I’m cooking to gather fresh herbs. If you plant things like thyme, sage and chives, You’ll be able to enjoy the bounty for years. Next year just add stuff like basil, parsley, rosemary etc. Love all the updates.

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02.September.2015

All those little outdoor projects add up. We had a little bit of space on the side of our house where we built raised beds. I am amazed how many veggies we can grow and it is so fun. Great progress especially with all the shrubs and trees.

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02.September.2015

Snow rails. Had never heard of them. They look cool on your roof. Impressive list! Love your home and glad you have a nice neighbor for your kiddos.

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02.September.2015

Gardening is hard work but so rewarding! Next year I would try California Bell Peppers, Sweet Red Onions and Big Boy Tomatoes (or any kind really). If you like salads in the summer try some leafy lettuce or leafy spinach-both grow super fast. Oh and home grown carrots, beets and herbs are a great option, too. With tomatoes try to really think about what you’ll use them for. Big Boys are great sliced for sandwiches. Roma and Heinz tomatoes are great for canning (we do salsa, spaghetti sauce and catsup).
My advice would be order some seed catalogs in the winter. They have everything you can think of in them to know your options. I look forward to them every year! Try Burpee’s for starters. You’ve got the gardening bug now-welcome to the club!

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replied on September 3rd, 2015

Burpee’s seed catalog…got it!

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02.September.2015

We had great success with green beans this year – we only planted about 7 plants from seeds and the amount of green beans they produce is amazing. I also echo the comments about the pumpkins. Our kids love to be able to pick their own pumpkins in the fall and we usually get 4-5 nice size ones from one pumpkin vine. The only problem with the pumpkins is that the vines will quickly spread out of your box and all over the yard but it is so fun to grow them!

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02.September.2015

Your patio looks fantastic! I love an outdoor living area. We took a break from working on our patio during the sweltering summer months, but we’ve been working the past couple of weekends in hopes that it will be ready for fall. Thanks for the inspiration!

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02.September.2015

Your back patio looks so comfortable and welcoming. I think the sail shades are a wonderful idea! I can’t stand pergolas.

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02.September.2015

I love the garden beds, and your backyard living space looks so relaxing and beautiful!

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02.September.2015

I spotted the ledge in your last post and figured there’d be info coming about it :). Your patio looks like exactly the kind of place I’d want to hang out.

There’s an El Nino effect going on right now which will give us a mild winter if it continues, so I’m going to go ahead and give your snow rails credit for that; if you build it (snow rails), he (El Nino) will come.

For the garden, here are things you can still plant this year: http://organicgardening.about.com/od/vegetablesherbs/a/Vegetables-To-Plant-In-September.htm

Something fun you might want to try planting next year are nasturtium. Both their flowers and their leaves are edible and have a peppery taste like radishes — they’re a fun way to pretty-up a dish. Someone already mentioned that mint should always be planted in a container, and I’d suggest that for chives, too. They aren’t quite as aggressive as mint, but I think it took my mom a solid decade to really stop them from popping up in a bed that she switched to perennial plantings.

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replied on September 3rd, 2015

Thank you for the link! The nasturtium sound like a great idea.

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02.September.2015

How wide is the shelf outside the kitchen window? Enjoy your blog!

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replied on September 3rd, 2015

The shelf is ~54″ wide and 9″ deep.

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02.September.2015

Our family LOVES The Square Foot Gardening Book…great for small raised beds, gardening with kids, and people new(er) to vegetable gardening. The author suggests a special soil mix but we’ve had great success with regular garden soil.

I can’t wait to be at a place where we are “living” in our house and not working on it! Congrats to you!

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replied on September 3rd, 2015

Ahh, thanks so much for the book rec! I will check it out. We actually have really great soil here so we might skip the special soil, too.

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replied on September 3rd, 2015

We lived in Cleveland for 2 years and the soil was THE BEST. So was the rainy summer weather. I think I watered our garden like twice!

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02.September.2015

Can I ask what color(s) your garage and trim are? Your house is wonderful!

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replied on September 3rd, 2015

You can read more about the garage door here…

http://www.housetweaking.com/2014/04/16/stopgap-garage-door-driveway-plans/

The trim is pure white by Sherwin-Williams.

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02.September.2015

Now is actually the perfect time to plant some lettuce, radishes and peas for the fall. None of those take long to grow and should be ready to eat before frost hits Ohio.

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replied on September 3rd, 2015

Great! Thanks for the tip.

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02.September.2015

We grew weeds in two of our three garden boxes this year! So sad.

In the past, We’ve had great success with bush beans (yellow and green), radishes and various types of lettuce (though not Romaine).

Good luck!

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02.September.2015

We can’t grow many veggies in our poor soil (plus 90% shade), but I’m always thankful for family and friends who share their bounty with us ;) – we always make refrigerator pickles from the cucumbers we get from my in-laws’ garden. Have you tried them? So good and so much better than store bought pickles!

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02.September.2015

If the fence really bothers you ask the neighbors if you can paint your side! We’ve built 2 fences and our neighbors always painted/stained their side. It only seeped through on 2 occasions and they just went heavy on the stain and it came through the knot as a drip. Our neighbors to one side let us stain our side of their fence as well. So just ask :-)

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replied on September 3rd, 2015

Our neighbors are super nice so I just might ask!

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02.September.2015

Wow a cutting flower bed! Fabulous idea!

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03.September.2015

I grew up with a giant garden but we started with 2 raised beds just like yours and last year added a third. We grow tomatoes, green peppers, herbs, green and red leaf lettuce, beans, sugar snap peas, zucchini, and cucumbers. We also add a kids choice which this year is melon and celery. We are hooked on your grandmother’s zucchini pie so my kids beg me to let the zucchini grow giant. Lettuce, beans, and peas are very easy to direct sow. Lettuce likes shade is another thing I’ve learned. Some people trellis the cucumber and put lettuce underneath. My kids love our garden just as much as yours do and I love that they have a closer connection to the food they eat because of it!

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replied on September 3rd, 2015

I think we’ll add zucchini too just for that recipe! Love the idea to trellis the cucumber and grow lettuce underneath. I’m loving all the recommendations. Thank you!

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03.September.2015

I’m with Kelly, just ask the neighbors. And if the fence is on the line of property and not even just a little on their side, you can do with it what you want. But I’d just ask. Who would say no? They don’t even see that side!

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06.September.2015

We have 2 raised garden beds and have done one as edibles and one as flowers in the past few years. The cutting garden/flowers is actually quite fun for my nature loving/gardener girl as well. We grew all sorts of pretty flowers and she could make a bouquet. We have a lavender bush in 2 of the corners to keep it going all year round. The giant sunflowers were the most fun :)

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06.September.2015

My husband and I have quite a few garden beds, we keep adding more! You could try some compact berry shrubs (we have blueberry and raspberry shrubs and strawberry plants along the front of a long narrow bed) and we also had great luck with beets. We got a seed pack that had red, candy cane and yellow beets and they are just delicious roasted with some olive oil. You could try parsnip, potato, and broccoli. What’s really fun is changing things up year to year as your family discovers what they really like and can handle. Next year we’re planning on adding kale and acorn squash (this year our butternut squash plants have absolutely taken over our garden). Google “companion planting” and you’ll get good charts that tell you what things work well together in gardens and which things to avoid planting together. Have fun with it!

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replied on September 8th, 2015

So many people have mentioned planting compatible pairs so I’m definitely going to have to check that out!

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08.September.2015

My daycare kids grew green beans. We rarely got to cook them, because the kids picked them, put them on the table and snacked on them while we played outside. They also grew radishes, carrots, bell peppers, and tomatoes. They loved eating right off the plants.

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