Terrific Broth

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

Category: Landscaping (Page 2 of 4)

Back Home and 2018 Spring Yard!

After a week of travel and some catching-up at work, I am FINALLY back to the blog. Thank you so much for continuing to read and check back. It is very encouraging for a new blogger like me to see the blog traffic did not drop entirely down to zero. ūüôā

I spent the last week of March in Southern California for work.¬†For the most part, I stayed in Riverside, where Slav and I got our PhDs (in Neuroscience, in case you are wondering). I got to visit the houses we lived in, dine with old friends in our favorite restaurants, and walk around the campus¬†in which we spent 5 years learning, doing research, and teaching. Walking down the memory lane was fun and gave me deep appreciation for how far we’ve come, but I also missed home terribly. Maybe age has something to do with it, but I do not enjoy being away from home for this long.

One thing I never paid attention to when I lived in SoCal, is its¬†mission-style, Spanish Colonial Revival architecture. It turns out that the ceramic tile roof, the white stucco wall, and the arched front porches totally burned into my mind and have been subconsciously influencing my design decisions. Remember the phase II plans¬†for our back patio? That is pretty much what Spanish Revival porches look like. Interestingly, we also lived in North Carolina for equal amount of time (>5 years), but I’ve never developed the same interest in Federal and Georgian-style southern houses.

Spring Cleaning – Pantry Closet

Since coming back, unsurprisingly, I was swamped with work. But we did manage to work on a few small things in and around the house. For example, as part of the spring cleaning and purging effort, we reorganized our pantry closet.


It does not look like a superior product, but it is a lot more functional than the before:


The original closet lacks shelving, so things tend to pile up and hard to find. One night, as I was cooking dinner, Slav added a couple shelves above and below the existing shelves.¬†Adding these shelves could not be simpler: the cleats were already in place, and we have some leftover 5/8″ plywood from making the¬†floating nightstand. Slav ripped down the plywood to size and popped them over the cleats – no nails or screws needed. This upgrade almost doubled the holding power of our pantry, so everything we store here can be organized to one layer and easy to find:


To top shelf holds plastics. We are trying to cut down the plastic use, so I intentionally put them up high and make them hard to reach.

Dog treats and medicine were stored on the second shelf – We have a treat jar for dogs in the kitchen so these are just refills. The medicine is bulk ingredients for mixing¬†Charlie’s joint supplement. If you have an older dog and want to make their joints healthier for longer, I highly recommend to mix your own joint supplements opposed to buy from pet stores. You can find all the pure ingredients online in bulk and in pharmaceutical grade. It is not only cheaper, but also you can control exactly what and how much your pet is taking. This sheet shows what and how much we give to our 10-year-old lab Charlie, you can use it to calculate how much your pets need based on their weight.


The next two shelves hold our dry goods, sauces, and spices. We are eliminating some upper cabinets in our kitchen soon, so this pantry has to work harder to hold our spices. Putting sauces on Lazy Susans makes everything we need visible and easy to reach. For $10 a pop, they are god-sent.


Pasta, grains, and cleaning supplies are located at the bottom. Pretty neat, right?


We also added shelves into our toiletry closet next to our bathroom. Giving everything a dedicated and relatively permanent space not only makes keeping track and finding supplies quicker, but also makes cleaning inside the closets a lot easier. It is our intention to have a low-maintenance and low-consumption style of life, so there is less stress and more time to create. Having well-organized closets with spare room shall help.

Planting Fruit Trees

In addition to cleaning, Spring is also time to plant. We are currently experiencing a massive attack of analysis paralysis due to lack of landscaping experience. Yard work was easy last year, because all we needed to do was to fix obvious problems, such as getting rid of overgrown bushes and dead trees, power-washing the fence, and doing a gut-job on our garden shed (including demo, rebuild, paint, organization, and finishing touches). But this year we need to create, which feels like a much bigger responsibility.

There is no right way for gardening, so we decided to just follow our heart and plant whatever we want, starting with fruit trees.


We planted five trees in total, including a Honey Crisp apple, a nectarine, two different cherries, and a peach. These bare-root fruit trees are only $12 a pop in Costco, making them good subjects to experimenting with.

Slav picked the cherry trees. One of the best memories from his childhood was climbing onto his parents’ cherry tree and eating fresh cherries. Apparently, his childhood cherry tree no longer exists. ūüôĀ So this 36 year-old man decides to recreate this magic happiness in our yard.



We also got a honey crisp apple, a nectarine, and a peach, all of which we love and purchase constantly. They will likely spend the first a couple years growing to full size, and start producing delicious fruits in year 4. We planted them 14 feet apart to allow them to come to full size. By lining them along the back fence, we hope the mature trees also function as a privacy fence and hide the mix-and-match back fence.




This is our first time growing fruit trees, so we followed the instructions to a tee. Fingers crossed!

Other Gardening Plans for 2018

We also plan to add a privacy hedge along our northern fence. This portion has double fencing – our neighbor’s wood fence and our chain link fence, with quite a few trees in between.



The tree root started damaging neighbor’s wooden fence, which prevents us from taking down the chain link fence that we deeply hate. Since these trees do not provide flower or fruit, and appear to be quite invasive, Slav made the decision to cut all of them so he can fix neighbor’s fence, take down our chain link fence, and plant a privacy hedge instead. It will be a fairly big and expensive operation for which we need to coordinate with our neighbors. But if we could pull it off, we will have¬†complete privacy in our backyard in just a few years.

The last thing we want to do this year in our yard is to experiment with vegetable gardening. Colorado receives only 8″~15″ precipitation each year, most of which during winter. So replacing turf with¬†urban farming and Xeriscape is one serious matter to us. Among drought, heavy clay soil, and wind and hail, gardening vegetable will be a very different experience from what we had in North Carolina. This year’s goal is simply experimenting different methods of¬†amending soil and watering, in preparation for bigger garden next year. To set us up for success, I¬†ordered a¬†veggie garden starter kit from¬†Resource Central, which includes starter plant that are drought-resistant and locally raised. I also ordered their¬†honey bee heaven garden kit¬†to bring more pollinator into our yard.

Being warm and nice outside today, I shot a short video of our yard and explained our landscaping goals for you. Among the fencing, privacy hedge planting, and veggie and perennial beds, we will be busy as a bee!


The Shed Revolution Vlog – Adding Bottom Trims and Finishing the Shed

Hey you! Happy hump day! This post is about the finial product of our finished shed and I cannot help but loading this post with videos and pictures. The Shed renovation started shortly after we moved in, in the beginning of July! It feels great to finally wrap it up.

Yesterday I left you with an almost-painted shed (stenciled on three sides) and an almost-organized interior (need to hang some tools):



With the back of our shed primed but not painted:


We almost ran out of brown paint after stenciled the front and the two sides of the shed. So Slav suggested to paint the back with whatever exterior paint we had on hand since the back of the shed is hidden (you cannot see the back side of the shed unless you walk behind it). We happen to have some green paint, With the view from the back of the shed being our green backyard, it actually works better from this angle.

Being on the home stretch, ¬†we were so pumped to get the shed finished. We got up super early on Saturday and got to work TOGETHER. I was very excited to finally work with Slav – we usually work in turns on any given project to take care of different stages of work. ¬†For example, with this shed, Slav did the demo, I power-washed. Slav put up the sidings and trims, I painted. Somehow working together makes this Saturday feel special. ūüôā

Here is the start of our day:

We got the same cedar wood used for other trims, as well as one 8-ft long 2×4 for hanging tools inside the shed – all explained in this video.

The trims needed to be sandwiched in between vertical trims, so I marked all of them to remember where to cut, while Slav went out for new blades for our miter saw:

As a newbie, I marked all the trims without considering the 1/8″ loss due to the use of the miter saw. Oops! Thankfully Slav double checked and I quickly remarked all the pieces.

Since this is our first time using miter saw, we started by cutting the 2×4 to warm up.¬†Slav installed them in between the vertical studs; and I put some nails to hold up the gardening tools. It turned out nicely and really saved some floor space.


See the finished interior (!) in this video:

The small stripe of wood next to the door will be used to hold seed packages:


It was installed on the left side of the door, next to the white shelving unit:


And the black unit neighbors the garden tools:


I broke out my paint roller again and half an hour later, our shed had its bottom trim primed and installed:


I followed with my paint brush and the last bit of brown paint on the bottom trims, and at the last minute, we decided to paint the exposed roof rafters as well. I think it made the shed look more coherent.


This is Shed Sloniowski, in its glory:


We painted the entire back of the shed green:


In person the green looks a lot darker, more like the forest green and very grounded. This side of the shed is always in shade so my camera insisted on over-exposing it.


Here you have it, our new shed! After seeing it half-way done for weeks, it felt sooo good to have a finished product. Now it is complete, we already started thinking about adding compost bins and firewood storage. This corner will soon become the most productive site of our whole yard!


The Shed Revolution Vlog – Painting the Shed and Adding Storage

Happy Labor Day, Everyone! With open arms, I welcomed my first long weekend since working full-time again. Slav has some work to do and it is hot outside (98F during the day), so I decided to completely hibernate in our air-conditioned rooms and take lots of naps. I love doing renovation projects and seeing things improve in my hands, but in a hot day like this, blogging about the work we did from air-conditioned room is waaaay more preferable. ūüôā

Refreshing our garden shed is tedious work Рall the materials are oversized and heavy, lots of surfaces make everything take longer, and Colorado sun does not make outdoor work more pleasant. However, what had stopped us from finishing the shed renovation during the past two weeks was not too much sun, but too little. It has been raining everyday in the afternoon, just enough to make the bottom of the shed a bit damp. We did not want to paint the shed in such condition that the paint seals the moisture inside the siding. So we waited while trying to complete as much as possible indoors.

One thing we did during these two weeks was to figure out paint colors for the shed. Initially Slav wanted a red shed with white trims – a standard farm-ish color combo. So I went to Lowe’s and got a few dozen of red color swatches. We both sank into the terrible “design decision paralysis” and neither of us dared to pick the final color, not to mention that there were still a few dozens of white color choices for the trim…

The major dilemma was that we wanted the shed to look good, but we did not want it to stand out. The shed was sitting at a far corner of our yard, neighboring some trees and the brown back fencing. Painting it bright red will inevitably bring too much attention to it. The current pressure-treated plywood (without paint) actually blends very well with the oil-treated cedar fencing. But we did not want to spend $100 on paint only to cover the entire shed the same brown as the color of the plywood.


Then I had an idea – why not do a brown stencil? We have a birch tree stencil that we used in our NC apartment and loved it. This stencil highlights the tree stems opposed to foliage,which should help the shed to blend in vertical fencing and tree branches.


This is the wall we painted with the birch tree stencil in our NC apartment. We picked a lighter shade than our sofa and it made the room so vibrant. Coming up with this idea was like a light bulb went on. It made us excited about painting the shed for the first time and just gave us such enthusiasm that we did not have before with other colors.

We decided to use a brown-cream color combination with the stencil on the shed, with a brown that is close to the fence color. So Lowe’s I went again. I have been visiting the paint desk in our local Lowe’s on average once a week. The staff there asked me “did you decided on which red” when she saw me. LOL. We both laughed when I told her that I needed brown paint – Ha! I wanted the brown to be more chocolaty, opposed the ones that are too earthy and too red. What I brought home in the end:¬†“universal lumber” brown for the tree stems, and “cream in my coffee” for the background.


This is how they look like overlapping:


I was not 100% sure about the color. So staffs in Lowe’s put a drop of darker brown on top of the cream color when they mixed my paint order, so I can see how the two colors interact when they are on top of each other. It is this kind of detail makes me going back to Lowe’s over and over again.


Since the stencil covers the background and has openings shaped like the tree stems, I needed more “cream in my coffee” than “universal lumber”. The way it works is to paint the entire surface “cream in my coffee” (background) first, then stencil it over using “universal lumber” to get the tree stems. I also wanted to seal the shed really well with two coats of outdoor primer/sealer, so I got half gallons of “universal lumber”, one gallons of “cream in my coffee”, and two gallons of outdoor primer/sealer.


Attacked by vicious dogs while taking the photo – I was pushed down on the ground and my face was violently licked:


As soon as we had three sunny days in row, I got to work with my new paint sprayer. The two coats of primes were up lighting fast! The Wagner 590 has a 50 oz paint can attached to it. For our 8’x 11′ x 9′ shed, I only reloaded once (100 oz total) for a complete coat. So it went relatively fast.


It was an arm exercise though: 50 oz of paint is not light and I had to hold the sprayer up and move slowly and steadily across my path. It was just manageable for me with this amount of surface. For a garage of a few rooms, I would choose an air-pressure feed sprayer.

I used up rest of the primer on the trims. They were laid on some scrap wood in the garage and I just rolled all of them two coats with a roller.



One tricky detail about painting the trims was that they were all cut to custom-fit a specific corner or to cover a specific place on the shed. Slav labeled all of them exactly where they needed to be. I used my beloved label maker to make sure that the information was not lost.


After the primer dried on the shed and the trims, Slav put the trims up. The shed immediately looked more polished.


The afternoon shade of trees on the shed is so pretty and made me confident that the stencil would work well.


Annnnnd Рthis is the shed painted! I rolled the top panels and faces of the trims first, followed by stenciling all around, and finished by brushing the side of the trims and corners at the end.


I am not gonna lie. Working with large size of stencil is a lot of work. It took me three evenings to finish painting – I think it was about 8 hours. We did our last stencil wall painting together and it was a very smooth wall, so it did not take more than a few hours. But this time around, Slav had to work so I flew solo. With no one holding the stencil up, it was hard to tape it down perfectly straight. And once it was taped down, it wanted to slide down as soon as you put pressure on it with a roller. There was so much paint accumulated on the stencil so quickly, which add the weight and made the edge blurry. So I had to pause and clean it every an hour or so. When I finished the front and two sides, I was visibly tired and we were running really low on the brown color. So Slav said, “let us just paint the back a solid color. We have so much exterior paint in green and it will blend in better into our grass looking from the other side”. Boy I was so relieved!


But we absolutely love how the stencil turned out. It adds so much more interest on the shed than any solid color, yet it makes the shed disappearing when it gets dark outside like a camouflage. Slav definitely adores it, which by itself made all the work worthwhile. He wasn’t sure about the colors I picked at the beginning, but once it was done he was like “this looks great, babe!” He carefully put on the doors on after all the paint was dried, stepped back, took a long look at the shed, and nodded with smile on his face. I could not be more proud! ūüôā

As soon as the outside was done and the door was put in place, we started setting up the inside storage. The biggest reason for refreshing this shed, instead of just demoing it, is to have our gardening tools stored here. This shed is a lot closer to our future vegetable beds than the garage, and we want to keep gardening stuff separated from Slav’s car work area for the sake of cleanness.

I’ve showed you the¬†storage plans, with shelves on the left, lawn mower in the middle, and long-handled gardening tools hanging on the wall:


It turned out that wooden shelves would come out very expensive – at least $100 for just the wood alone, and a lot more with brackets, screws, and paint. Slav found a discounted plastic shelving unit in the Habitat for Humanity store for $10 (in white), which is too good of a price to pass. So we decided just to do plastic shelving for the shed. We completed this side of the shed with a similar shelving unit from Lowe’s (in black):


They are both pretty steady and work just fine. For $45 total they are totally worth it compared to >$100 worth materials and hours of building time.

It turned out we did not have any extra lumber in hand, so we nixed the wood storage frame idea in the right corner. Our shovels and racks are waiting patiently for their final placement:


I filmed a short video to show you the inside and what we ended up storing here (the Christmas tree did not make it here). Enjoy!

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