Terrific Broth

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

Category: Life Happening (Page 1 of 10)

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 “diamond in the rough”. 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:

IMG_6688

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

IMG_1196

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

IMG_6421

IMG_6296

And this is our bedroom today:

IMG_0690

IMG_2562

IMG_2460

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:

IMG_6661

IMG_6665

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

IMG_2475

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, hereherehere, herehere, here, here, here, here, and here; and how we build the library bookcases here, here, here, and here.

IMG_2490

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

IMG_2537

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:

IMG_6267

IMG_6265

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

IMG_6055

IMG_6825

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

IMG_9810_cr

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

We planted the perennial garden early May:

IMG_3045

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

IMG_3342

IMG_3372

IMG_3030

IMG_3069

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.

IMG_3348

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:

Ranch house - 1

And now:

IMG_9098

IMG_3377

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

IMG_6261

And today:

IMG_3396

IMG_3403

IMG_3393

To add curb appeal , we have replaced the 20-year-old roof and installed new gutterspainted 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.

IMG_9088

IMG_3383

Around the mail box on move-in day:

IMG_6456

New plants under the mailbox:

IMG_2088

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 foundationreplacing sinking patios and rusty window wellssealing all the foundation cracks, and grading around the foundation. We also upgraded the electrical panel, a fire hazard identified by our inspector.

IMG_7261

IMG_9116

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.

IMG_9459

IMG_1616

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 – everything 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.

IMG_9728

IMG_8459

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!

IMG_2853

Anticipation

IMG_2990

It’s been almost a year since we bought our first house, the ranch. If this ownership has taught me anything, is the importance of patience. Every project has a long period of gathering the inspiration, followed by weeks of researching, planning, and preparation. Naturally lack of an acceptance for delay, I am slowly learning to enjoy tolerate the process of creating without getting upset about the unwanted holdup. This is especially important now we got into multi-year gardening and outdoor projects.

Developing A Water-wise Garden

We are in the middle of a big planning phase for the new fence and the second wave of planting, which means there is less to show for on the blog. We are blessed with a big open yard, and intend to keep it that way for the grand appearance and the dogs’ pleasure. However, the summer drought and intense UV light at the mile high are hard to combat. The sunny portions of our lawn require lots of water and still look too thin to be pretty.

Left: shaded turf. Right: turf in sunny spots.

IMG_3133

Our solution to a naturally occurring problem is to go with what the nature wants – Xeriscape, aka water-wise gardens. We have imported native and drought-resistant perennials for the most sunny spot in the yard. With time we hope to replace all the unshaded turf with perennial beds and vegetable gardens.

IMG_3045

We are entering a year of significant drought here in Colorado. To reduce the need for irrigation, we imported yards of mulch. Four inches of wood chips really cut down the need for water. And thanks to our city, all the wood chips are free through our city’s tree recycle program.

IMG_3058

IMG_3027

In addition to the mulch we laid down drip lines for all the garden beds. We chose drip emitters for sparse planting such as perennial flower beds and potato patch, and soaking hoses for densely packed vegetable gardens.

The perennial bed I:

IMG_3054

IMG_3051

IMG_3050

IMG_3047

IMG_3053

The perennial bed II:

IMG_3069

IMG_3041

IMG_3039

Potato patch:

IMG_3035

IMG_3037

And veggie gardens:

IMG_3030

IMG_3026

IMG_3102

Most of the emitters are one gallon per hour type. With the help of mulch, we only need to water about a hour each time and twice a week to keep everything happy and growing.

IMG_3109

IMG_3034

IMG_3111

Adding More Shade with New Trees

IMG_3127

New fruit trees are expected to create more shaded area along the eastern fence in upcoming years, and they are surely getting bigger each day! I am searching for climbing roses as the perfect back drop. This is what I had in mind:

Image via David Austin Roses

In addition, we are cleaning the side fence to make room for future evergreen trees, which will provide much needed year-around privacy and color.

IMG_2976

What we have here now are elm trees, which are practically weeds in Colorado. The new evergreen hedge will not only block neighbor’s broken fence and occasional basketballs coming our way, but also provide an elegance backdrop for a future outdoor sitting area.

IMG_3009

Over the long weekend, we have already removed the middle tree, which significantly opened up the space.

Before tree removal

IMG_2966

After

IMG_3071

Cutting trees are very labor intensive due to how much post processing it involves. It only took half an hour of cutting down one tree, but we spent hours dissecting the branches from the main trunk and cutting the trunk into firewood.

IMG_3129

Another cool byproduct from the tree cutting is wood chips. I ran all the small branches and leafy portion through our wood-chipper, which generated enough mulch for covering the bare spot next to the shed. I am a big fan of the “Chop and Drop” and having this wood chipper allows me to speed up the process and completely eliminate yard waste.

Before shredding

IMG_2998

The same area after

IMG_3157

The Last Indoor Project (for a while)

At this point, all the upcoming garden projects are contingent on the completion of the fence. With graduation coming up and my recent travels, it will be another few weeks before we can tackle the fence together. You bet the anticipation is killing me. At the mean time, I keep my mind occupied with painting the entire main floor living space (living room + office + bedroom) including the ceilings, a step we’ve been waiting to take since wrapping up the office renovation.

IMG_3114

Our walls are textured which we do not love. Slav spent all his free time last week and this week to smooth the wall texture and patch all the nail holes, big and small.

IMG_3007

IMG_3123

The wall on the left is already smoothed and you can see a clear difference from the textured wall on the right. Once Slav finishes smoothing the texture, everything will get a light sanding and a fresh coat of paint. Paint preparation is always the slowest step of renovation, but so essential for the soft and cloud-white effect we are craving for. A Chinese proverb says it all, “sharpening the axes does not hinder chopping the wood.” True for both indoor and garden projects!

What’s in Store for the Ranch House in 2018

Hi, family and friends! I hope your holiday break is treating you well. We are soaking up the peaceful winter nights at home with music, hot pot dinner, and sparkling drinks. Last night, we baked dozens of cookies for our close neighbors, hoping to deliver some holiday joy and catch up with them.

Looking back, 2017 is undoubtedly our best year yet. Leaving our jobs and moving to Colorado was scary, but everything worked out better than we expected. Living in our mountain rental for a few months while searching for a nest made us realize how much we love mountain living. And after buying our first house together, we dived into non-stop renovations and learned a lot about construction and ourselves. We are grateful to celebrate the first holiday season in our ranch house – it feels so good to be exactly where you want to be.

But we think it is safe to say that the best is yet to come. We have so much planned for the ranch house in 2018, and these projects are incredibly fun! What we did in 2017 focused mostly on essential fixes – roof, patio, foundation, drainageelectrical, HVAC, water heater, washer and dryer. We also got our garden shed and garage in working order. In 2018, we plan to shift gear to make the living space truly ours. That means changing floor plans, assigning function to each room, furniture DIY, new paint and adding lighting and new accessories. We hope to optimize our ranch for the exact needs of our two people + two dogs family, and bring our style into it.

Below is a list for our 2018 renovation goals. We will be picking projects from the list to do, depending on weather, material availability, and our mood and priority. It will be fun to see how much we complete off this list 365 days from now!

1. The Insulation

Colorado winter is cold. We only have R-19 insulation in our attic, which is far from the suggested R49 value. We’ve been working on preparing our attic for blow-in insulation, which will happen during the first week of 2018.

While we are beefing up the attic insulation, we will be insulating the shared wall between our unheated garage and the house as well. Our garage has only R13 insulation on the two exterior walls, but nothing on the ceiling or the door. It results in a great deal of heat loss from the house. Because the roof trusses are framed with 2″ x 4″ lumber, there is really no good way of insulating the garage ceiling. So we decided to insulate the shared wall instead. We will be tackling this huge insulation effort in a few days, DIY-style!

2. Slav’s Office

This house offers a big upgrade from our past rentals – Slav has his own office now! However, except removing the carpet and moving in his desk, we have not done anything more to this room. Even worse, this office has been used as a dump ground for books, small electronics, and off-season clothes. As our first interior project of 2018, we will freshen up the office with wall-to-wall library shelves and a new corner desk for Slav. This guy deserves a room to call his own!

3. The Basement Guest Suite

Many of you may know that we are using only half of our house’s square footage right now. It is our intention to live small and simple. However, we do have plan to use the hidden half of our house – as a guest suite! Our basement is exactly the same size as the main floor and almost the same floor plan. We plan to remove the stingy carpet, add a kitchenette, and completely finish it as a two-bedroom apartment with its own entrance. We will use it as a guest suite for our friends and family, maybe short-term rental in between. It gives us a great opportunity to create as well as to experiment with new styles which we hesitate to try in our own living space. It will expose us to new tasks such as plumbing, windows and doors, and kitchen building. We will be applying these skills to main floor remodeling down the road.

4. The Fence

The last thing we’d like to complete in 2018 is to replace the chain link fencing with wood fences. This task has been on our mind since we moved in. However, with many more urgent and essential fixes in the way, replacing fully functional fencing does not rise to the top of our priority list. We’d like to tackle the fence project when next spring comes around, which will dramatically improve our curb appeal and add privacy.

Here you have it, our renovation wishlist for 2018. Every subject on this list will take considerable amount of effort, money and time. We hope to cross three, if not all four of them off our list – starting from insulation! We retrofitted rafter vents into our attic today, which rocks a 4:12 pitch roof and is filled with loose fiberglass insulation. Let me tell you, not my favorite renovation task. But it means that we can finally blow all these cellulose into the attic that has been sitting in our garage!

Page 1 of 10

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén