THE SWEET LIFE
The Sweet Life had a setback to it's start after a planned buildout and lease of a gallery and retail shop fell through suddenly and unexpectedly in the early spring of 2013...so it was on to plan "B". After many years of my husband and I talking about creating our own little "sweet life" retreat on our valley farm we decided to put that plan into motion. After a long permit process, we were given the go-ahead to convert a small barn into our summer home and to put a small studio and part-time seasonal gallery on the site. The valley is where we tend our pastured cattle, as well as our vegetable, berry and flower gardens and otherwise create more work for ourselves than absolutely necessary. We love it. We started with my husband's new ag. shed, tore down an old falling down granary and turned it into a rock garden, added a pavilion and new garden shed, put in a new well and septic system, and cleared some land down by the creek for our hammocks (a neccessity). We are currently in the process of converting the barn and dealing with the hurdles and challenges that have popped up along the way regarding the barn renovation and building plans for the gallery...We have titled the year 2013 "Who's stupid idea was this, anyway?"
This is the old granary mid tear-down. In order to save the stone walls, we decided not to burn it down but to dismantle it by hand. I don't know why my husband agrees to these things...
Here I am trying to figure out where to start after the granary is torn down. I was so engrossed I didn't even know my husband took pictures until months later when he got them developed and brought them home. I think he could have taken hundreds of similar pictures over the next several months. Planting a garden here seemed like a good idea "in theory"...I can't even blame the hubby for this one. I'm starting to understand why he sighs when I say things like "So, I had an idea..."
My husband helped me clean this up. As we have a long-standing rule that he can't boss me around on my own projects, we hardly even bickered. Minimal bickering...nice. The field in the background was seeded with native prairie flowers and grasses in the late fall of 2013. I [may have] accidently bossed him around slightly during that project. It takes 3-5 years for a native wildflower prairie to become established so we must practice patience...
Although the original plan was to have a smaller garden just inside the walls of the old grainary foundation, the amount of nails and broken glass persuaded me to expand the garden with beds and walkways in the front. Although I developed a super-human ability to spot tiny bits of glass and nails in the dirt, every time it rained it brought up more. I started having visions of bleeding grandbabies and upset parents... I was lucky we had a sand hill and a whole farm full of dirt, and a skid loader...and sunscreen...and ibuprofen...
If you look closely you can see my tiny little green plants. I planted hundreds of native flowers and grasses this year. The front part of the garden was planted in the spring and the interior and other parts were planted in the fall. Once established, natives have extensive root systems that make them drought tolerant and easy to maintain as well as provide food and shelter for many birds, butterflies and pollinator species. Special thanks to my daughter, Brittany, who came to help me with the fall plantings and told me I was crazy...teapot calling the kettle black, kiddo (it's hereditary).
Spring 2013: This is the view from the interior of the garden towards the future site of the studio/gallery. That white house behind that tree will be torn down in the spring of 2014 to make way for the new building. Other plans include adding a pavilion to the north end of the rock garden and a garden shed for all my stuff that used to reside in the barn...
Summer 2014: The old farmhouse demolished. I had a new experience this year when I got a nail through my foot while pulling out scrap metal to salvage from the rubble. Hubby wanted to pour rubbing alcohol on the wound (seriously, only a guy would think of that) but wife said "no!" ...and a few other things. He settled for bandaging me up and feeling sufficiently sorry for me.
Summer 2013: That is my little dog, Buddy, who came to the farm and sat right next to me every day for months while I was working on laying the walkways, building the beds and tucking the walls. The main area was intended to be planted in grass as I envisioned a giant green playpen for the grandbabies.
Summer 2014: Grandbabies chasing bubbles in the same part of the garden the next summer, blissfully unaware of all the cursing and weeping that had occurred the previous year. Playpen concept realized. The rest of the family sat in the shade of the new pavilion that we had built just adjacent to the main garden.
That little white barn is currently being converted into our permanent summer home. We are very excited to finally be working on this project that we've been talking about for the last eight years! We finally get to retire our camper...
The pavilion is up and the garden has been extended. The barn sided and stone put on. Work on the barn interior came to a standstill when the gallery construction started, so much of this summer was just keeping up with the grounds and digging out the giant thistles and wild parsnip that loves to grow in the prairies.
This is what the barn used to look like. One of the first things we did together on this barn was haul out wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of 20 year old pig manure and empty the loft of really old straw bales. Not my favorite thing but my husband seemed to really get a kick out of me being really sweaty and covered in manure dust...seriously, he smiled all day. He still talks about it as being one of his favorite days...Here's the barn mid-spring 2015. Most of the major stuff is done, but we still have the kitchen to finish and the stairs and railing for the loft. It has been a challenge to fit everything we want in the barn's 650 sq. foot footprint. We had to get very creative regarding storage and we even found a 18" wide dishwasher for our tiny kitchen.
We had this Hackberry wood engineered to act as both the ceiling for the downstairs and the loft floor in order to give us some extra headroom in the loft upstairs due to the extreme slope of the ceiling.
Construction on the gallery started early spring 2015. We faced it toward the creek so that we can sit on the deck and hear the creek run under the bridge. We had salvaged the limestone blocks from the foundation of the old house for landscaping a garden over by the gallery but for most of the year they sat in the yard and had to be mowed around until the fall when we finally had some time to work on the landscaping.
This is my studio now, a great improvement from the dark basement I was in before.
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