Archive for June, 2010

Getting Into Gardening

The other thing I’ve been busy with all spring is getting into gardening. I joined our local garden club, have been reading books and websites about what can grow in our area, and visit local nurseries to see what they recommend. So far it’s been really fun! I have a lot of work ahead of me though because we have a lot of flower beds.

The original owners of the house were a retired couple who were avid gardeners. According to our 80 year old neighbor they regularly hosted garden tours and many people passing by would stop to admire their beautiful gardens. Then the second owners of the house were well…hippies. They let everything go “natural.” In some cases that allowed wonderful native plants to spread but it also let the nasty invasive plants spread even more. The flower beds along the house disappeared into a jungle of weeds and over a dozen of volunteer trees were allowed to grow within a few feet of the house. But that is more because they were very, very lazy.

Our plan is to find a balance in between the beautiful but high maintenance gardens of the first owners and the wild overgrown “gardens” (if you want to call them that) of the second owners. Luckily, some reminders of the first owner’s gardens remain. There are a number of raised flower beds made with cedar planks that have withstood the test of time along with a lot of great plants that have filled out nicely and managed to survive 10 years of neglect from the second owners (now those are my kind of plants!). Here are some examples:


Lilac Bush, possibly ‘Charles Joy’ – This was the plant we had moved last year. Originally, it was along our driveway but the pine trees eventually choked out the majority of it’s sunlight so it grow out over the driveway. Now it’s in a nice open space with lots of sun.

(New spot)

Forsythia – Though their blooms only last a short time seeing their punch of color in early spring really melts the winter blues away.


Crab Apple Tree

Willow Tree – We’ll never know for sure but we were told the original owners planted this. It seems too big to be only 35 years old but who knows willows do grow fast.

Big Blue Conifers – Blue, evergreen, and low maintenance what more could you want?

Feather Topped Grass

Rock Garden Peony – My garden club loved this mature plant.

Surprise Lilies


Traditional Peonies


Balloon Flowers

Black Eyed Susans



Ostrich Ferns

Contained Lily of the Valley – “Contained” is the key word there. I love these fragrant blooms but they spread like crazy. So thank you original owners for containing them with the driveway!

Grape Hyacinths


Lots & Lots of Daffodils – Between the forsythia and the daffodils I think the original owner’s favorite color was yellow.


As you can see we have a lot of flower beds! What you can’t see is that most of the flower beds are actually weeds. Oh well it’s a start.

Did anyone else inherit great plants when they bought their house?



Yes, We Built A Walk-In Gun Safe

It’s been a very busy spring. Flannel Man (FM) has been hard at work getting up early everyday to work on building the walk-in gun safe with his dad. Since we converted our house from an oil burning furnace to a geothermal heat pump last fall we no longer have a big 225 gallon fuel oil tank taking up space in our basement.

FM had been eying that space up for a walk-in gun safe because he would only have to build two new walls. I know putting in a walk-in gun safe sounds crazy but we really need it. Because both FM and I shoot multiple types of competition both indoor and outdoor we need a lot of rifles. And since they are all custom they don’t fit well in the standard gun safe meant for hunting rifles. Plus, FM has a small collection of old military rifles & pistols. So to fit our collection and allow for future expansion we would need a very large custom gun safe that would cost as much as FM’s truck! Being the cheap savvy DIYers that we are we decided to build one instead.

As fare as resale value goes we aren’t too worried about it. We plan to be here for a very long time and when it comes time for we/our children to sell the house they could always advertise it as a very secure wine cellar…or a walk-in gun safe. I mean it is Wisconsin half of the men I know are jealous we have one!

We started out by buying +80 cinder blocks, rebar, cement mix, grout mix, and mesh ladder (to reinforce the grout joints). FM and Papa Flannel laid the first row of blocks then drilled holes in the basement floor to hold the rebar in the cavities of the block.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5 & 6

Before installing the door FM put a plaster-like bonding agent on the outside of the cinder blocks. The bonding agent seals everything up and is meant to be painted but we’re fine with the white color it came in.

Using some of our tax return from our geothermal system we ordered a vault door from a company out in California. We ordered a standard size and then upgraded a few features (interior release, left swing, digital lock, and improved heat resistance). The door is made of steel and has a poured ceramic in the door to withstand a 2300 degF fire for 1 hour. It has 14 steel bolts and weighs a total of 600 pounds! We needed four guys to move it into place but moving it was surprisingly fast.

We used lag bolts designed for concrete to fasten the door frame to the walls.

Everything was going good but the door seemed a little out of alignment with the frame and was sticking. But Papa Flannel had a great idea to stick some shims in-between the door frame and the door where it was sticking then close the door hard. Apparently it works well on regular doors but on this vault door it got stuck, very stuck…while FM was inside. With all of us pulling on the door and FM pushing weren’t able to get it open for a good 10 minutes! For a while there we all thought FM was a goner. But he’s out safe and sound now.

The wood door in the back right is our garage which makes the truck really easy to load and unload with our heavy equipment!

Next its onto the inside. Building shelves, painting the walls with Drylock, and dehumidifiying the space.

This is the story of two twenty something newlyweds who are learning to adjust to life in their first house, a 1973 fixer-upper.
DIY Savings