Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

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Front Yard Video Tour – A Year Long Transformation of Our Curb Appeal

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Thank you for all your kind support through our front yard overhaul. We could not be happier with the newly mulched flower bed in front of our house. It is such an improvement of our curb appeal, and many neighbors stopped by to tell us how much they love and appreciate what we did. ūüôā

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Adding curb appeal has been a goal of ours from day one. It is not just about changing the appearance, but also to improve the function. The unsightly are often not maintained, which means they do not perform well or even cause issues to the house.

When we moved into our ranch last summer, the front of our house looked like this:

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Immediately we could see three water issues: the flower bed right against the foundation, the sinking patio that directs rain water towards the house, and several rusty window wells failing to protect basement windows.

So, soon after we moved in, the foundation planting bed was removed. Last fall, we replaced old window wells, and graded around the foundation with drainage rocks.

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To address the sinking patio issue, we had to remove the front patio completely. The rusty awning went with it, which might be our biggest curb appeal improvement yet!

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Before winter hits, we also replaced the leaky roof and gutter, painted the soffit and fascia, and restored the front doors (1, 2, 3)

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All these actions not only made the house water-tight, but also improved its appearance from the street. We went into out first winter with the front of the house looking like this:

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And this is what the front entry looks like today. The glass storm door has been the pups’ favorite spot to look out:

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Not too shabby, especially when compared to the Before:

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This summer, we decided to give our front yard a large overhaul, consisting of the removal of >600 sqft turf, planting a privacy hedge, and adding a retaining wall and a dry creek.

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And today, our front yard look like this:

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Instead of this:

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We packed 64 perennials in this 600 sqft space during the last 6 weeks. It is nice to see all of them started taking roots and showing growth. Here is a short video walk-through of the garden area:

The mulched flower beds and evergreens not only improve the curb appeal, but also save irrigation water and are more inviting to native wild life. We want our house to be a safe haven not only for us and our two dogs, but also for native insects, birds, and small mammals that need a home they deserve.

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These arborvitaes were planted at the peak of the summer in 95 degree heat. They definitely struggled a bit during the first a few weeks. But most of them bounced back nicely and have put on an inch or more new growth.

The mock orange we planted last weekend:

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The winter berries were planted a month ago. They did not grow taller, but are definitely getting denser around the base.

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This dwarf pine was also planted in the middle of summer, but has been growing fiercely.

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This sandcherry was the last one planted, just five days ago. It is still recovering but I have high hopes for some delicious berries next Summer.

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Of course we had to have Colorado’s state grass – the Blue Grama grass – in our yard:

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And the Shenandoah switch grasses have already started coloring up for Fall. So pretty.

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These larkspur and bubblemint hyssop were planted last weekend. And guess what Рthey bloomed!

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More hyssop – they bloom red and have a more low-mount form.

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Isn’t this silver brocade sage gorgeous?

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Penstemon, butterfly weed, and sedums. Love the colors!

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So GORG:

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We also planted lots ground covers, including prairie winecups, creeping phlox, and veronica:

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To make the garden more inviting to wild life, we put in a bird feeders and bird bath. We also installed drip irrigation and a new hose reel to make watering easier.

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This area under the mailbox did not get as much attention this year, but the plants we put in have done very well.

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Here we have two rosemary plants, one lavender, a red hot poker, and a rose bush:

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Here is another short video in which I talk you though the additional upgrades in the front yard, including the under-the-mailbox planting:

I hope you enjoy to see our “new” front yard in these videos. They are filmed just yesterday so this is truly what our yard looks like now. We are proud of this little corner garden in the making, and hope you like it too. Please consider to start a pollinator garden, put out a bird feeder, or add a bee house too! I just learned that native pollinators feed up to three-story high, so even¬†you are living in an apartment, they can benefit from your flowers too!

Ranch House Tour – Our Yard

Ladies and gentlemen, it is house tour time!

Since moving in mid-June, we have been working very hard on our ranch. It has been 7 weeks today! I am happy to report that we had just reached a sweet spot yesterday, where all the major eyesores of the house were gotten rid of, and our main living area was cleaned up. That means we can sleep and cook in a clean house like a normal family, instead of just creating more dust and more chaos each day. I am sure that the pups appreciate it! Charlie and Roxie were really not fans of loud noises and sharp tools.

Our timing could not be better – I will be starting a new full-time job tomorrow, and Slav is picking up the pace of his business. For the next month and half, we will focus 95% of the energy on our work – the work actually brings in money rather than burning holes in our pockets! We also cannot wait to experience our neighborhood – shop at our neighborhood farmer’s market, start doing yoga again (for me), subscribe to local newspapers, and have Sunday brunches. You know, like actually live in our home, not just working on it.

But do not get me wrong, the projects are still happening. There has been so much we’ve done and I’ve still not told you yet! To be clear, I am not holding any information back intentionally, it is just that we’ve done so much and so quickly, and this one-person blog could not keep up.

Now the ranch house no longer offends people’s eyes, I think it will be fun to shoot some video tours and show you what it looks like now. This is the “after” to the “destructive” part of our renovations, but a real “before” to any of the “constructive” renovations we will be doing. I will show you our yard and exterior of the house today, our main floor living space tomorrow, and our basement and garage through the rest of the week. I will also share with you our plans for each space. So get cozy, grab a cup of coffee, and read along – it will be a fun week!

Without further ado, this is our back yard:

I made a mistake around 1:15 in this video calling the chain link fence “east side”, it is actually facing west (the front of our house). You can see our site plan (and floor plan) here:

Ranch Site Plan

The back patio has changed since I made the site plan. Here is what the site looks like now:

Ranch Site_2017 Summer

Since move-in, we have

  1. trimmed the dead trees and random bushes and gotten rid of weeds;
  2. power-washed the back fence;
  3. gottten rid of the satellite dish on the roof;
  4. installed a new back storm door with a doggy door on it;
  5. Installed new electrical panel at the back and raised the electrical pole on the roof;
  6. demo-ed the old patio and the metal awning;
  7. replaced an old window well; and
  8. built a new concrete patio and brought in a new grill and patio seating.

Slav also started to refresh the shed we inherited, which was badly rotten and used as a construction trash dump:

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And this is the backyard now:

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Yesterday, after the video was filmed, I spent 12 hours weeding in the backyard and probably got rid of 1/4 of the ground coverage there:

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See all the weeds on along the fence? All gone!

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The northern side of the yard were taken over  by little tree sprouts:

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And it gets really bad near the shed:

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After 12 hours of work:

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It was not cool to see bare dirt, but not all the green plants are good and some of them just had to go.

Roxie does not seem to care about the dirt – this girl just needs her sunbath:

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Besides finishing shed, our plan for the back yard this year is to replace the chain link fence. Here is our foreseeable backyard to-do list:

1. Mowing and weeding the yard to maintain the sod we have;
2. Renovating the garden shed;
3. Replacing the chain link fence;
4. Fixing the wooden fence on northern neighbor’s side so we can take off the chain link fence there;
5. Starting composting;
6. Fixing faucet leaks;
7. Grading along the back of the house;
8. Finding an outdoor sectional and a fire pit for the patio;
9. Landscaping and gardening next spring.

We have also done a lot to the front of the house and front yard. Shortly after we moved in, we trimmed the pine tree so it stopped scraping the roof, weeded the yard, and got rid of a problematic flower bed.  More recently, we improved our curb appeal by cleaning up our porch, taking off the metal awning and demoing the old patio. Just last week, we refreshed our front entrance, which really made a difference of our curb appeal! And here is what the front of the house look like today:

I totally choked on words towards the end of this video, because we really did not have a clear plan for side and front yard. We knew that we would like to bring in evergreen shrubs – arborvitae and red berry holly would be lovely. I would also love to have climbing roses on trellis as well.

After the fence is complete, the side yard next to the garage will be enclosed into the backyard. We will put in a big gate in the front and potentially make a side patio next to the garage for Slav to park his trailer. We also tossed around the idea of a trellis roof for growing grape vines:

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The northern side of the yard slopes down significantly to our neighbor’s driveway. It would be nice to plant a line of arborvitae along our property line to add some height.

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This side of the foundation are exposed due to the yard slope, providing an opportunity to carve out a private entrance to the basement suite or installing egress windows:

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We constantly walk around this tree at the corner and you can already see our footprints on the lawn. It is a natural choice to build a stepping stone path here:

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We love holly trees and the red berries they put out in winter. It would be nice to have them as a low hedge along the sidewalk.

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As far as flower goes, I love the simplicity and elegance of an English garden. One thing Slav and I both want is climbing roses on window trellis and potentially above the garage doors. It will soften the long straight lines of the ranch as well as bringing some colors to the front yard.

The whole landscaping thing is really new to me. Fortunately, Slav’s mom has a magical green thumb and our neighbors all have lovely landscaping and free plants to offer. If you guys have good ideas and suggestions, help me out!

Here you have it, our yard tour and garden to-do list. Come back tomorrow for our main floor living space!

Happy Anniversary, the Ranch + One Year House Tour

This Wednesday, we celebrated the first anniversary of our ranch.

Can you believe it has been a year since we signed the papers and drove the U-haul into the garage? This little ranch checked everything on our list, and was truly a ‚Äúdiamond in the rough‚ÄĚ. Although it required intense updates, we did not mind one bit. It was a blank canvas for two first-time home owners to learn and create.

It felt like that I just gave you the six-month house tour, and here we are, six months later. Unlike the first half-a-year, during which we focused on making our house sturdier, this recent six months were dedicated to make our living space more comfortable. Here is the video after the first six months, and click here to see our house today!

Improving our living space: before and afters

This was the living room two weeks after moving-in:

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And this is the living room today. We added a sofa, window treatment, and some art and plants:

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We also made our bedroom more comfortable and functional. This was the bedroom shortly after we moved in and bought a storage bed:

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And this is our bedroom today:

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We stole a closet from the spare bedroom to create his-and-her closets, and I DIY-ed the headboard and the floating nightstands to make the bedroom super cozy. Charlie loves to sleep here.

Slav uses the spare bedroom as his office. This was what it looked like a month shortly after we moved in and removed the carpet:

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We converted this bedroom into Slav’s office/library during the last a few months:

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The wall separating the office from the living room was opened up, and the original doorway opening to the hallway was closed off. These changes gave us the opportunity for a built-in library wall. You can read about all the office renovation here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here; and how we build the library bookcases here, here, here, and here.

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We love having the office open to the living room. They two make a grand space for evening hangouts with books and music:

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Cleaning up the backyard: before and afters

Our 2018 goals did not include any yard work. But Spring came around and we just had to do some landscaping. The backyard was neglected for decades and overrun by weeds and random bushes:

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The back fence was falling over and the garden shed was rotting away:

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Our work here during the first summer was just getting rid of eyesores Рwe trimmed away dead trees, weeded the yard many, many times, power-washed the fence, and completely rebuilt the garden shed (here, here, here, here, here, and here).

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This Spring, we started to build a more permanent garden with fruit trees, perennial flowers, and vegetable beds and a drip irrigation system.

We planted the perennial garden early May:

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All the plants grew like crazy during the past 6 weeks:

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There are still a long list of to-dos to build a decent garden. I am a newbie at landscaping but have enjoyed very much figuring what looks good where and learning from experience. I will be happy just to get big anchor pieces such as trees and veggie beds into the ground this year, and I can fuss about the ornamental plants later.

Adding curb appeal

Last night, we celebrated the first birthday of #thePolskiRanch curling up in the newly finished outdoor chairs, next to a bonfire, on our beloved back patio.

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Literally looking back at our house from our chair, we certainly noticed the impact of our hard work. For one, we definitely changed the appearance of the ranch. It feels good to not be the ugliest house i the neighborhood anymore.

This was the front of the house when we moved in:

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And now:

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This was the back of the house, on move-in day:

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And today:

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To add curb appeal , we have replaced the 20-year-old roof and installed new gutters, painted the soffit and fascia to match the new gutter, demoed the porch awning, replaced the front screen door, painted the old front door and added trims around it, and planting under the mailbox.

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Around the mail box on move-in day:

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New plants under the mailbox:

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Making it stronger and safer

Replacing the 20-year-old roof and installed new gutters not only improved the look of the house, but also made sure that water drains ways from the house. On the same note, we tackled a series of projects to improve drainage around the foundations, such as removing vegetation against the foundation, replacing sinking patios and rusty window wells, sealing all the foundation cracks, and grading around the foundation. We also upgraded the electrical panel, a fire hazard identified by our inspector.

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Reducing its energy footprint

We also made upgrades to make sure that our house run more efficiently. We brought attic insulation from R19 to R50, installed high-efficiency HVAC and replaced our 50 gallon water tank with a tankless model, and added weather stripping to all the exterior doors. In the utility room, we brought in high-efficiency washer and dryer and sealed all the leaky ducts. We also upgraded all the lights , including garage work lights to LED.

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Creating enjoyable work spaces for future renovation

The ranch will surely see a lot of projects in the future. To better complete our work, we have overhauled our garage and garden shed and made them workhorses for us. I cannot tell you how much I love these two places! I am really proud of our organization in these two places Рeverything has its place and is easy to find, and the places stay clean. Since we finished these two spaces, we have not needed to tweak the organization one bit. The joy walking into them makes days-long and physical projects less of a work and more of a play.

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Crossing off the first year to-dos

In the process of writing this post, I came cross the first ranch to-do list from last summer, shortly after we moved in. It was more of a must-do list, as we were mostly correcting safety and structure related issues. We have since accomplished nearly everything on this must-do list, and a lot more:

1. Replace the roof and gutters; trim the tree branches over the roof.
2. Remove the flower bed; mud-jack/replace front and back patio; grading the soil around the house.
3. Seal the corner foundation cracks; level the corner of the garage pad; install new weather strip around the garage door.  (We also added weather stripping around our exterior doors and storm doors)
4. Inspect/fix all the exposed plumbing; high pressure cleaning/realign/replace the sewer line from our house to the street. (Our sewage line is in decent shape so we will upgrade it to PVC when necessary.)
5. Upgrade electrical panel; adding proper ground wire; adding an outdoor outlet; bring power to the shed.
6. Add central AC and replace the old furnace; upgrade the old water heater with a tankless heater. (We also fixed leaky ducts, brought in new washer/dryer combo, and upgraded our utility room)
7. Radon mitigation. (Adding radon pipe requires drilling the floor of the basement. We are researching the DIY options and will tackle it during basement renovation.)

At the mean time, we also completed some extra work:
8. Renovating and organizing the garage
9. Renovating the shed
10. Powerwash and seal the existing fence
11. Adding insulation into the attic

We even knocked half of our 2018 goals already:

1. Attic insulation
2. Converting the 2nd bedroom to Slav’s Office
3. Replacing the chain link fence
4. Basement Guest Suite

And tackled a few extra:

5. Planting fruit trees
6. Planting bee-friendly perennial gardens 
7. Laying out a vegetable garden

We could not have done so much without you guys cheering along us. Thank you for being here, and thank you for sending good vibes. I hope you enjoy reading about our renovation as much as I enjoy documenting it. With the pups on our side and power tools in our hands, we feel confident and ready to dive in the second year of renovation. Fence and basement, I am looking at you two!

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