Category Archives: “This Old House” on a shoestring

Remodeling a Kid’s bedroom

To read about this project, go to . I will no longer publish new posts on Gina’s Inspirations.  But I will continue to notify you that there is a new post on either of my new “.com” sites for a few more weeks.  If you enjoy the stories about building our burbstead, permaculture, gardening, and frugal living, you can follow me at the Wild Garden Burbstead site.  You can also follow me at for arts and crafts, herbals, recipes and personal reflections. I hope to continue “seeing” you at either, or both, of my new blogging sites!


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Easy Chair

002004I found this old chair at a flea market for five bucks.  Other than the seat and back needing repair and the bolts tightened, it was pretty sturdy.  So I thought I’d “gussie it up” a bit.  After a good cleaning, I removed the seat and used it to cut a new one from some scraps in the woodpile.

007025The back was in a little better shape, so I just drizzled a little gorilla glue in the bad spots, clamped it together and let it dry for a couple of hours while I worked on the seat.

024026I threw a little glue in the loose joints too.  Gravity worked its magic to keep the joints in place while the glue dried.  No clamps needed!


006023Rusty bolts were loosened and cleaned with a spritz of WD-40 and then tightened so the poor little thing wouldn’t be so wobbly.

Rather than painting it, I thought it might look nice in a “shabby chic” style.  So I just roughed up the old white paint with a sander and finished out the tight spots by hand.

chair project009chair project014Sitting on a hard wooden seat didn’t seem very comfortable, so I cut a piece of scrap material a little larger than the newly cut seat, covered the wood with batting, and glued the material to the underside of the wood.  Then I cut off the extra material and glued the seat to the chair.  In just a few hours, we have a sturdy “new” chair that’s nice and comfy too.

chair project019

I can’t wait to see how it looks in my granddaughter’s study!

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The “Green Barn” project

proposed site for greenbarn

proposed site for greenbarn

Space is limited here at the Wild Garden Burbstead, so I need to make good use of every square inch of it.  I can’t afford to waste any sun-drenched, crop-producing ground by placing a building in the wrong spot.  The sun rises in the east and sets in the west and lowers toward the south in winter (generally) on my little corner of the globe.  Because of the sun’s patterns of movement, buildings cast a mostly northern shadow here.  If I build my greenhouse, chicken coop, barn or any other structure on the southern side of the property, much of the remaining ground will be shaded, reducing the amount of growing space I’ll have.  So placement of a greenhouse, a chicken coop, or a barn is pretty much a no-brain-er.  The biggest problem I had was deciding what to build, because I just don’t have room for all those buildings!  I’ve drawn at least two dozen combination ideas for my back yard burbstead before coming up with this one.

greenbarn floorThe plan is to build it in 3 phases.  The first section will be built on the farthest northeastern corner with the greenhouse portion facing south.  As each section is added, the west-facing wall will be altered to encompass the new section with a minimal amount of effort.  I’ve marked off the area for the completed 3-section green-barn so there will be enough walk space left between the farthest possible northwest corner and the existing shed.  Starting small and leaving space for potential additions seemed like the best way to tackle this project.  The first section will contain a passive solar greenhouse for starting seedlings and provide me the opportunity to learn how to grow tropical plants, if I can at all.  It will also have a coop portion that will house the beginnings of my poultry flock, which will consist of a couple of miniature ducks and three or four hens.  This small beginning will allow me to troubleshoot and experiment with my ideas before expanding.

grenbarn sideviewIn section two, the existing greenhouse will become an aquaponics setup with tilapia.  And the new section will, hopefully, be my little tropical garden.  The coop will be enlarged and become more barn-like.  Vermiculture bins will most likely be added in there somewhere to feed fish and fowl.  I’m still debating over whether or not to add rabbits.  I love crocheting and weaving and have thought about Angora rabbits as a natural fiber source.  But there is still more research to be done and I’m not yet in a financial position to reduce my hours at the hospital, so that phase will have to sit on the back burner with section three for a while.  Section 3 is just more barn space if needed for more rabbits and/or miniature goats when I have enough time to properly care for them, and if we are able to acquire one or both of the lots adjacent to ours.

Combining the coop, barn and greenhouse will save on time, energy, money, and lumber as well as space.  It’s designed to use easily accessible and less expensive 8′ lumber and roofing materials without wasted cuts.  Meeting each animal, fish and plants’ diverse needs presents a bit of a challenge, but I have collected some ideas from other gardening experts and enthusiasts as well as coming up with a few ideas of my own.  If you have any suggestions or questions about how the combo will work, please feel free to post a comment.  Brainstorming is the best way to overcome obstacles and inspire new ideas… and I just love sharing!


Filed under "This Old House" on a shoestring, Red Clay Garden

Using Grid Paper

Using grid paper to lay out your property works as well as it does when laying out furniture placement in a room.  You can really save your back when using it to set up furniture in a room.  And you’ll save time and money when setting up your burbstead plan.

measure 1

my office chair


“snip” “snip”

First, let’s look at a room plan.  It’s very simple to do.  All you need is a sheet of grid paper, pencil (markers, pens whatever you like), and a pair of scissors.  If you don’t already have grid paper, you can download my grid example at the end of this post and print it.  Anyway, measure the furniture you want to put in the room and draw the shape on the grid paper.  In this example, I’m using the scale 1 block = 1 square foot.  The chair is 20 x 22 inches, so it’s just shy of 2×2′ square.  Then cut out your shapes.


grid drawing of a 10′ x 12′ foot room

Using the same size grid paper and the same size scale for the blocks, mark off the dimensions of your room.  Be sure to include doors, windows, electrical outlets and any permanent objects such as a support beam or a floor vent you don’t want to cover.  My example shows that the window is 3 feet from the left corner of that wall and 4 feet from the right corner, and the window itself is 3 feet wide.  The dots around the door opening shows the path of movement of the door.  That way you know where not to place a piece of furniture.  Because the “furniture” pieces are not drawn directly on the grid, it will be easier to move them around to see how well they will fit into the room.  Be sure to leave walking space between your furniture pieces.  A good way to figure how much walking space you need is by measuring the width of whoever will be likely to use the room and adding a few inches.  Obviously children will need less walking space than adults and wheelchairs will need more.  So, keep in mind who will be traversing this area.

When drawing your property, also remember to include space for foot traffic.  In the example of our property I needed to make our half acre  fit onto a small piece of paper, so I used a very small grid and each block equals 2 square feet.  I didn’t bother including the road and about 15 feet of wooded area on the north side because I don’t plan on altering it.  We’re hoping to be able to purchase about 1/5 of an acre from our neighbor on the south side of the property.  I’ve scanned this grid to my computer and printed it at least a dozen times for multiple “plan A” and “plan B” design ideas.  It’s a great time saver to not have to draw the house repeatedly.

property grid

messy, but valuable

tool shed

needs painting

Using a grid is also helpful when designing vertical projects.  In this “lean-to” example, I was able make sure the structure would be tall enough to walk under and also get an idea how it would look when finished.  The scale for this drawing is 1 block = 1 sq.ft.

Hopefully we'll be able to add the arbor/gate next summer

Hopefully we’ll be able to add the arbor/gate next summer

You’ll notice my bracings are different on the drawing and photo.  I used the drawn beams for support until the project was finished, then removed them.  We’d never put up a tin roof before, so drawing it out helped me visualize how to space the support rafters using scrap wood we already had.

I hope this information is useful when making your own project plans.  If you have any questions, please feel free to let me know.  I’d be happy to help!

grid 001


Filed under "This Old House" on a shoestring, Red Clay Garden


Don't laugh... the price was right

Don’t laugh… the price was right

The air is chilly, the moon is full, and Halloween is right around the corner.  I’m seriously considering going to our Halloween party as a lumberjack this year.  We’ve spent the past few weeks clearing what I hope is the last of the trees and putting up the first section of fence.  When we first bought our house in the summer of 2009, it was a huge mess.  Well… it’s still pretty messy.  But it is improving little by little.

porch 4

work work work

We added a porch that year as well as contracting some major work on the inside.  I spent most of that summer and fall sorting

We still have the wooded area on the north side of the house, but sunshine to the south

We still have the wooded area on the north side of the house, but sunshine to the south

through the “trash” the carpenters threw in the front yard and pulling nails from the reusable lumber.  We used much of the lumber for remodeling projects after the carpenters finished the work that we couldn’t do ourselves.  Because we both have full time jobs, progress has been slower than we would have liked.  But the savings have been amazing!

2 bare patch surrounded

Many of the trees landed in the bare backyard

3 bank trees cut

This was the bank on the north side of the bare spot

We did have to hire men to cut some of the trees in the back “yard”.  I’m sure there may have once been a yard there because it was flat and fenced in.  But the trees around the edge of that bare patch of dirt had grown so large over the years that their limbs on either side reached all the way across, creating a big shady dome that completely blocked out all the sunlight.  Hardly a blade of grass was growing there.  I didn’t think to take a picture till after most of the trees were cut.  (The green spots you see there are pine twigs)  It was a huge mess to clean up!

You can see how poor the dirt looks

You can see how poor the dirt looked

After just one year of decomposed twigs & leaves, the soil looks much better

After just one year the soil looks much better

We spent that first winter remodeling the inside the house.  When the weather warmed up, we started cutting firewood and chipping the smaller twigs.  We tilled them in along with several loads of leaves, a year’s worth of compost, and cover crops, to improve the soil before trying to grow any vegetables.

6 still too much shade on the south side

Added more leaves & compost the next year, but you can see how shady it is

7 so God sent the pine beetles

The rock wall was completely covered in english ivy, the fence was broken, the trees were enormous!

Trees are so beautiful, I really hated cutting any of them down.  We tried to cut as few as possible, but the cover crops and few vegetables we planted struggled to survive because they were still only getting a minimal amount of light.  We really  didn’t have enough funds to cut any more trees, so I began researching shade loving edible plants and planted the sun lovers in the sunniest part of the garden.  But after getting such pitiful results, I began revising my plan to place the garden in a small sunny spot in the front yard.

the tall weeds are almost dead now

the trees are gone and the tall weeds are almost dead now

There’s a saying that God works in mysterious ways.  I didn’t pray for Him to send more sunshine to my garden, but last fall the trees began falling.  Most of the trees in that last photo are pines.  If you’ve never had a pine beetle infestation, you can’t imagine how mortified I was when we noticed the first dead pines near our house.  That old rock retaining wall runs the entire length of the property between us and our neighbor and we only own a few feet of the ground above the wall.  The wooded lot runs uphill, causing the trees to lean slightly downhill toward our house.  When the first big fella punctured a hole in our roof and shattered several of the rafters, our neighbor knew he would have to get rid of the remaining beetle infested pines before they did any more damage.  But, like us, he’s not a wealthy man and cutting trees is very expensive!  So he had an old friend’s son (who owns a tree service) agree take all the trees for the lumber.  We both would have loved to keep the hardwoods, but the only way the son could afford to do all that work without a charge to his dad’s friend was to clear-cut the whole area.

cracked wall

cracked wall behind Ziggy

The excessive rain this spring prevented him from cleaning up the piles of limbs left behind, but he’s supposed to be back some time this fall/winter to do that.  Thankfully some very tall weeds grew on the cleared lot this summer and kept the bare soil from washing away.  But the deluge did uproot several trees that were left along the edge of the property.  Sadly, the trees

we left the only straight tree

we left the only straight tree near the house even though it is a bit straggly looking

along the wall are all straggly and leaning toward our house, and one large tree at the back end of the property had widened a crack in the wall and threatened to knock the whole thing down.  So, to keep our house safe and the wall intact,  we’ve spent the last several weeks cutting down those trees ourselves.  We’ve also been clearing brush to put up a fence to keep our critters in, as well as working at our paying jobs.  Whew!  We need a vacation!

Unfortunately, the recent spurt in busyness has caused me to take a little vacation from my blog.  I do appreciate your patience with my absence as well as my baby steps in learning how to blog.  Your encouragement has truly helped me feel more comfortable here.  I think you are all pretty awesome and feel so blessed to add you to my circle of love!

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Our Office Space


These cabinets were dismantled piece by piece  so we could reuse the lumber

These cabinets were dismantled piece by piece so we could reuse the lumber

Remember that oddly shaped wall in the laundry room on my floor-plan?  Well, this is what’s on the other side of that wall.  The walls themselves are finished in the stucco pattern I told you about in my earlier post, Artful Mudding.  The cabinets were built on to the wall in the same fashion as the Fresh as a Daisy Laundry Room using re-purposed lumber from our fixer-upper.

I like the shade of blue on the laundry cabinets better

I like the shade of blue on the laundry cabinets better

Got to figure out a way to tone down that shade of blue.  I do like the cohesiveness of the space though.

Got to figure out a way to tone down that shade of blue. I do like the cohesiveness of the space though.

The laundry and downstairs den are not typically places guests congregate, so we were more concerned with function and price than appearance when building these cabinets.  They are perfectly functional, the only significant “price” we paid was in time and labor, and, in our humble opinion, they don’t look half bad.

Ziggy likes to snoop

Ziggy likes to snoop


Should have finished the ceiling before putting in the cabinets

The inside shelves were given a nice clean coat of inexpensive white paint.  I painted the cabinets, desk, and a pair of old filing cabinets the same color so that it would look like a single unit. When painting any surface, you should always let it dry completely before handling it.  With non-porous surfaces like metal, I wait a week before allowing anything hard to come in contact with the newly painted surface.  Slick surfaces still scratch more easily than porous surfaces, but they will resist scratches better if allowed to completely cure before any rough handling.

the ceiling on the left side of this room is only 6 1/2 feet

the ceiling on the left side of this room is only 6 1/2 feet

The color scheme started with a bolt of discount fabric that I just fell in love with.  We had a couple of comfy old chairs that blended well with the curtains, so they ended up in our cozy little den.  Since the sloped ceiling is very low on one side, and there is only one window, we chose the light yellow in the flowers of the curtain pattern for the walls, to brighten up the room.

for a more finished look, remove the handles before painting

for a more finished look, remove the handles before painting

I found an industrial strength spray paint for the metal filing cabinets, that was almost same shade of blue as in the curtain material.  Then I had the fellows at Home Depot mix a small can of enamel paint to match it.  I still had lots of (free, of course) blue latex paint, so we painted the cabinets with that first, to cover all the different colored woods underneath.  The hard enamel paint was used as the final coat to make the surface more durable.

After a little while I’m finding that I’m not particularly fond of that shade of blue in the office portion of the room.  I’m not sure whether it’s because it covers such a large area or because the shade is too bold.  Anyway, it’s a little too “in your face” for me.  I’ve been thinking about dry-brushing a deeper green over it to tone it down a bit when I have a little spare time on my hands.  (spare time…  hahahahaha!)  I do still love the curtain material though.  The library portion of the room is very comfy-cozy and we’ve started spending a lot of time in here.  I hope you find inspiration in my projects to create your own comfy-cozy spaces.  After all, that’s the whole reason for my blog!

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The Outdoor Kennel Room

exercise stairs & exit

Inside view of the doggie door

exit outside

outside view of the doggie door

You’ve already seen the indoor portion of our kennel room (aka the Critter Castle).  Now lets take a look at what’s on the other side of that little doggy door.  These doors are made to insert into a human door, so is not wide enough to put in a wall as I have done here.  I had to fill in the space between the two portions of door with 2×4 scraps and purchase longer screws to be able to reach from the inside panel to the outside panel.

to leftOur house has a ridiculously low roof-line on the south side where a carport was apparently added on prior to our arrival.  The eave stuck out nearly three feet and was a real head-banger for all who dared to walk around that side of the house!  (Seriously, Don suffered a concussion… twice!)  After pouring a concrete patio, We closed in the area under the eave.  This served several purposes.  It created a visual barrier to the head-banging eave, provided much needed storage space for our outdoor living area, and gave the indoor critters an outdoor space to safely enjoy.

Can't wait to repaint that old patio set!

Still have lots of work to do in this area. The brown hole on the left will eventually house a TV, and the patio set will be repainted and placed elsewhere. You can see Candy’s glowing eye inside the kennel, near the white trim of the doggy door.

It’s also nice visually.  I just love lattice!  It has a light, airy, lacy feel to it, which is perfect for an outdoor space in the hot, humid South.  As you might suspect, the materials were mostly re-purposed.  The boards used to outline the storage area doors on the left, came from a neighbor’s re-fencing project.  Can’t beat free lumber!  We did have to purchase the lattice.  But the unfinished type is very inexpensive for the amount of space it covers.

exit outside door

little door closed


little door opened

The little door just behind the rusty patio set is currently used for easy access to the kennel for cleaning.  Once we are able to fence in our yard, it will serve as an access point to the furry foursome’s food, water and sleeping quarters.  Another doggy door will be housed in the new solid door to discourage small wild critters from entering our pet’s safety zone.

cleaning exit

The cleaning exit at the bottom turned out to be a good idea.

to right

The bottom of the kitty shelf didn’t get painted. Oh, well, the critters don’t care and you can’t see it from the outside anyway.

The level Sadie is peeking from is one of five.  The landing space below her is very small.  The level you can see to her right is about 5 feet long and above it is another level that the dogs can’t reach.  That’s Mr. Ziggy’s favorite spot in the whole wide world.  Under Sadie’s level is a concrete area that is about 8 feet long.  It provides a cool surface on hot days and has served as an emergency bathroom on occasion.  At the end of that level I created an opening near the bottom so I could easily hose out the occasional poo-pile.  Wish I’d thought of it during construction.  Now we’ll have to go back and paint that… some day.

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