By the time the last few renovation tasks were completed and we’d unpacked all the boxes and arranged all the furniture, it was time to leave town for the holidays.  It’s only been in the past few weeks that I’ve experienced really living here on the ol’ mini-farm.

As I was going through our 2011 pictures to gather material for the Naughton Family 2011 DVD (my version of a photo album), the before-and-after really sunk in.  As I explained when I announced that we’d bought a mini-farm, it was only because of Chareva’s considerable imagination that we ended up here.  I took a quick look at the place and was ready to bolt.  It doesn’t make a good first impression when the front pastures look like this:

Well, no big deal … someone with a bush hog can take care of that mess.  I wasn’t put off yet.

Then we saw the house.  Every single window looked like this:

Even the garage doors had huge burglar bars over them.  There were security cameras everywhere, with wires hanging loosely from the walls and ceilings.  The doors — even the ones inside the house – had multiple deadbolts on them.  I assumed the owner had a touch of paranoia.  Later, as the owner was moving out, Chareva learned part of the paranoia was because of this:

Yup … the previous owner was the old-fashioned type who kept her savings in a basement safe.  I guess if my entire net worth was all in one place, I’d have it surrounded with burglar bars and security cameras as well.

She never spent any of that net worth on little matters such as cleaning, so the entire house was filthy.  I don’t know if you can tell from this picture, but the stairs and floors all over the house were covered with dust, mold, dirt and dog hair:

As a guy, I don’t put a lot of thought into how a bathroom should decorated, but this sure didn’t make me want to buy the place:

The attic was also infested with wasps, some of whom made occasional sorties into the house.  The roof over the front porch looked like a wasp airport — the O’Hare version, with constant arrivals and takeoffs.

So when Chareva told me we needed to snap this place up before someone else did, I thought she was joking at first.  That’s why she’s the artist and I’m not.  She was seeing what the house and land could be, not what they were.

She ended up serving as the unofficial on-site contractor while I went back to full-time work as an independent programmer.  My only role in the renovating and decorating (besides paying for it) was making occasional suggestions.

Now that Chareva’s vision is a reality, I thought I’d share some before-and-after shots.

The garage (which the previous owner used as an unfinished basement) is now the girls’ playroom.  The garage door is gone, replaced with a wall, door and window.  We still need to find a long, narrow rug for the floor, but the girls enjoy watching TV, playing Wii and creating art projects down there.

I wasn’t crazy about the previous owner’s taste in colors:  aqua blue and white (dirty, unwashed white).  Here’s the entryway before and after:

Here’s the dining room, before and after:

We don’t normally pack so many chairs around the table, but had friends over for dinner yesterday.  More on that later.   Here’s the living room before and after:

The master bedroom before and after:

Even the halls and stairways look better now:

In the house we rented after moving to Tennessee, Chareva’s “office” was one side of a large room she shared with the girls — their playroom.  Not great for focusing on work when they were home.

Now she’s got her own:

She can see down into into the kitchen from there, which makes it convenient if she’s working on a project while something’s cooking on the stove.  I took this picture from her office stairs yesterday as she was preparing a big ol’ pot of her low-carb chili:

The kitchen is the one room in the house we decided to deal with later.  The only change was having the floor re-tiled.  Chareva was making chili yesterday because we invited my friend Jim from work (who had us out to his house for what Alana later dubbed “The greatest Thanksgiving ever!“) and his family out for a visit.

One of the many aspects of living here that I love is seeing how the girls have taken to it.  Before our Saturday visitors arrived, we had the shin-deep grass in the front pasture cut.  The girls decided to gather up some grass for mommy’s compost heap, and (of course) play in the stuff.

Now that’s good, clean (in a manner of speaking) fun.

For my own version of fun on the farm, I decided to turn that pasture (for now, anyway) into a three-hole frisbee golf course.  Jim and I played several rounds together, while Sara and two of his girls did likewise.  (Despite assuring me he had no experience with the game, Jim scored a string of birdies.  I didn’t.)

I read up on Frisbee golf courses online.  I could create a regulation nine-hole course around the property, complete with shots through trees and over the creek, the kind of challenges that make the real courses interesting.  I may do that … but of course eventually I’d be sharing the course with whatever critters Chareva decides to raise.

And perhaps with critters she doesn’t decide to raise.  Last week, she took this picture out our bedroom window one morning around 6:00 a.m.  The lighting is lousy because of the hour, but you get the idea.  Deer were ambling around our front yard:

We’re not exactly farming yet.  Chareva still has to pick her locations for raising chickens and planting various gardens.  We’d like to grow pumpkins and sweet potatoes somewhere on the property, and Sara is determined to raise a few watermelons.  Sheep, a dairy cow, maybe a goat … that’s all up in the air for now.

But I can already tell you I love life on the little farm.

 

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41 Responses to “The Farm Report”
  1. chuck says:

    mmmm, those deer look tastey

  2. Lori says:

    That’s 1950s blue: a color you either love or hate.

    As much as I love period looks, I couldn’t bring myself to paint my 1910 house in the dingy colors of the era. The sage green you chose is similar to the outside of my house.

    I guess all eras have their particular colors. I still remember the avocado-green appliances of the 1970s.

  3. Junebug says:

    I am so jealous. The house looks lovely, cozy,and homey. I’m glad you trusted Chareva’s instincts. Your girls are going to have a fabulous life in their new home.

    I was stunned when she told me this is the place she wants and we needed to snap it up before someone else did, but she seemed so absolutely certain, I figured the universe must be whispering in her ear. Now I know she was right, and I’m glad she could see through the dirt and the mess.

  4. Amy Dungan says:

    It all looks wonderful! So happy for you all! I’ll remind John to bring his frisbees next time we visit. He hasn’t played in years.

    We have a full supply of frisbees — drivers, mid-ranges, putters — so he’s covered if he leaves his at home. I just started, so tell him I’ll need a handicap.

  5. Erica says:

    Tom, thanks for the review. Love seeing the before and after pics. I’m jealous! Another thing I love: how you and Chareva are such a great team. Your new home/farm is beautiful and I can’t wait to hear and see the next developments.

    We definitely have complementary talents and interests. I like to write, she likes to draw. I’m not interested in decorating, but she is and I like her tastes. We fall into a natural division of labor.

  6. Jana says:

    Great job. Fixing up houses is an art and I think you managed that one brilliantly. It looks easy to keep clean now. You are so fortunate to have the land to have a real farm. I’d love to grow my own food, animals, etc, but I live on a bit of land that is mostly house. Congrats!

    Chareva managed it brilliantly. I just live here … and I love it.

  7. Zack says:

    Looks awesome dad. Can’t wait to see it. By the way, that is a gun safe. If you don’t want it, sell it. Probably worth 1k or more depending on brand

    She took it with her. The mover said it weighed a ton.

    So when are you the future missus coming down for a visit?

  8. TonyNZ says:

    Can’t really tell from the photos, but would it have been worth finding a friendly neighbour with a baler and conserving some of that grass to feed a few sheep or cattle? Or was it all rubbish stuff?

    From one resident farmer.

    I was wondering about that myself. Chareva believes the cut grass will decompose into soil. I have no idea, so I took her word for it.

  9. Txomin says:

    Looks great. Congrats.

  10. Sigi says:

    Thanks for showing us around your place, Tom. :-) Great job you’ve done so far. What a wonderful place to raise your kids!

    My only concern was that they wouldn’t have neighbor kids to play with. I don’t worry about that at all now. They have play dates when they want to see their school friends, and meanwhile they love playing outside on all that land.

    Sara and I played 15 holes of frisbee golf yesterday and she kicked my butt. She gets an extra toss per hole to make par, and I developed a bad habit of throwing out of bounds.

  11. John Hunter says:

    It looks great! I love country life. It will help your girls grow up to be strong independent people.

    How about sharing that chili recipe?

    Sorry, I forgot to link back to it:

    http://www.fathead-movie.com/index.php/2011/03/02/charevas-kitchen-chili/

  12. FrankG says:

    Thanks for the update Tom… the place looks fantastic. Thank goodness for visionaries like Chareva.

    The discussion of dated colours reminded me of this BBC TV sketch from the comedy team of Mitchell and Webb — it features a spoof on a reality TV show as a couple is being shown around their prospective home — probably needs a bit of a PG rating though…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWoWHzq21tA

    That’s hilarious. Our bathroom fixtures are now white (of course), except for the tubs, which we’ll have glazed white eventually. I don’t want the current blue color to clash with my children’s pink bodies.

  13. Jeanne says:

    I think there will be ponies, soon.

    Not if I can help it.

  14. Kimji says:

    Wow & Wow! What a transformation in really quite a short time (though maybe it didn’t feel like it). Blessings on you & your family & all the hours, days & years to come, may there always be a full larder and fuller hearts under your roof.

    Thank you.

  15. Mark. says:

    You’ll need a deer fence. If the deer get to your vegetable plants or roses (even the thorniest roses are deer candy) you will start thinking of the deer as food, and perhaps cheer when Bambi loses his mom in the movie. A whole row of thriving heirloom tomatoes eaten to the ground before one fruit is ripe, an unusual rose one waited two years to get… Deer are ruthless.

    We’ve been warned that we’ll need deer fences, and tall ones at that.

  16. marilynb says:

    Love your mini farm. You’ve done wonders with it. I for one would love to have avocado appliances, though. I’m so sick of white, black and stainless steel.

    I guess you could paint them.

  17. Kim says:

    I am so, so, so jealous. The house looks so great, and the land … oh how jealous I am of all that beautiful land with the rolling grassy hills and trees! Perfect for big sprawling vegetable gardens and rows of blueberry bushes and apple trees. What a great place for your girls to grow up!

    I’m already convinced this was the best move we could make for them. It will be good for them to see where food comes from, and they love playing outdoors here.

  18. Looks amazing Tom! The before and after pics are incredible and the kids are obviously enjoying themselves tremendously. Chareva has great taste! That’s why I enjoy escaping up north to do ski patrol. It’s a whole different vibe than the city. Enjoy yourselves, guys!

    Part of the appeal is that we’re out in the sticks, but 10 minutes from downtown Franklin and 30 minutes from downtown Nashville. Nice to have a bit of both worlds.

  19. LisaKinVA says:

    Congratulations! I truly understand how difficult these DIY home tasks can be! But they are so worth while. 2011 was the year we moved out of a 1,000sq.ft. partially-finished basement into the house we built (and are still finishing). Dh did the install of the HVAC, we installed 1,000sq.ft. of tile (including showers/baths), built and installed cabinetry, installed hardwood, painted, etc., etc. We have a small laundry list of finish work still to do, before we have to list the house to sell.

    You see… now that we’ve finally moved into the house we took 10 years to build, we’re being transferred out of the area.

    Oh, man … talk about timing.

  20. Elenor says:

    BRAVO! (Bravae!) How lovely to get a status update and see how very much work y’all have done (esp. Chareva: Good on yer!). Looks wonderful. Congrats! I’m jealous of the future chickens and all, but not of all the work of a farm… (Maybe your girls will end up running a farm stand — selling pastured eggs and so on?)

    They had to give up on the lemonade stand now that we don’t have neighbors, so that may be in their future.

  21. Dianne says:

    What? No horse on the critter list? If not, count yourself lucky. If so, count yourself lucky — no girl that can tell a thousand pound animal what to do can be pushed around by a measly boy!

    The place looks great — congratulations!

    By the way, thanks to your encouragement, bacon is on our diet, and I LOVE cooking in bacon grease. I just wish I hadn’t missed that all these years!

    I was warned by a friend that horses are extremely expensive toys. Not on my wish list.

  22. LXV says:

    A chicken moat is effective at both containing chickens and keeping deer out (too wide to clear with one jump and too narrow to make two jumps). Rosemary is also supposed to be a deer deterrent. Maybe they know it’s the perfect herb for venison and don’t want to give us any ideas…..

    I like the idea of a moat. I’d stand in the center and declare myself king.

  23. Marilyn says:

    I moved into an old farm house once. I have some interior “before” pictures that might make yours look pretty good. . . . LOL

    But, seriously, your place is looking wonderful. And it’s going to be good for endless discoveries. Have you found any rusty antique farm equipment stashed in the corners or behind the shed?

    Just keep the pumpkins and the watermelons a few miles apart. Some of those vining things will cross. I don’t remember which. But I remember Mom had some gourds and pumpkins cross one year and she ended up with some big white smooth hard-as-rock orbs that were good only for the laughter they generated.

    I appreciate the tip. Chareva’s been seeking advice from people who’ve done this before, but we’re mentally prepared for some first-timer failures this year.

  24. cTo says:

    Zomg I love home improvement and before and after shots and seeing how classic older houses and spaces are updated for new uses, so this is like the best post ever. Thanks for sharing! I’m so excited for you guys :D

    Thank you.

  25. Ron says:

    Off topic, but this low-carb infographic deserves some pub:

    http://blog.massivehealth.com/infographics/Carbs_are_killing_you/

    Nice!

  26. LCNana says:

    Thanks for sharing, as always, Tom. But I can’t help feel sad for that poor lonely older lady in her dusty, doggie-haired, dirty, lonely home….be especially good to your girls so they’ll still know you when you’re old and grey!!

    But out of almost every sadness comes good….and look what good this has done for you and your family eh?

    I did for sorry for her, but we learned she’s the type who eventually decides pretty much everyone is out to get her and pushes them away. Something wasn’t quite right with her.

  27. Charlotte says:

    It looks fantastic! Owning a mini farm out in the boonies like that is a dream of mine too. And installing solar panels, rain water filtration, and geo-thermal heating. Maybe one day we’ll get there. Until then I’ll live vicariously through your mini farm if you don’t mind!

    I don’t mind at all. That’s why I post the occasional Farm Report.

  28. Nina says:

    Wasps can get into any home (dirty or not.) We had them in a timber framed house. If there are small gaps they get in. Then they were sliding down the light fittings from the loft.

    Nina

    We had them in the (clean) house we rented, too. The difference when we visited the farm house is that the previous owner made no effort to get rid of them. Chareva asked her if she ever got stung. “Oh, yes, all the time” was the reply. That would motivate me to call an exterminator.

  29. Nina says:

    Off topic – here’s the latest pseudo science from the University of Oxford public health department. Rates of death from heart disease have halved in the UK in the past decade. There then follows loads of conjecture about why this is so…… including reduction in saturated fat blah blah blah.

    http://www.ox.ac.uk/media/news_stories/2012/120126.html

    Nina

    I’d say between the decline in smoking and the improved ability to save people who’ve had a heart attack, that probably explains most of it.

  30. Glenn says:

    You don’t need deer fences. Just a well equiped and motivated bow hunter on a paleo diet that likes to share. I happen to know one and I’m, er, he is in Tn quite often. I can put us, er uh, you two in touch.

    House looks awesome. Congrats on the move. Tn is a good state.

    I’m afraid they’ll go for the garden while I’m at work.

  31. I’m going to add to the “I’m SO jealous” comments. It looks great, and I hope y’all have a great time out there! You are going to be able to give your girls the kind of life every kid should have, lots of space to play in, interactions with the real world, all sorts of great stuff. We want to get out of the burbs as soon as possible, but we’re underwater on our mortgage, so that’s a distant dream.
    I don’t know if you’ve seen these or not, but BackWoodsHome.com and RazorFamilyFarms.com are both interesting sources of information about self-sufficiency and country living. Jackie Clay, one of the main contributors, in particular is a great resource when it comes to gardening and canning and the like. (Back Woods is, however, a very Big-L-Libertarian site, so about half of their stuff is politically-oriented.)

    Non sequitor: Did you ever work on “The New Detectives” TV show? I was watching that the other day and saw Tom Naughton in the credits. Same guy, or startling coincidence?

    There’s a documentary producer named Tom Naughton who has done a lot of work for Discovery and other cable networks. I found that out when I started hearing from old college friends who assumed the credits were mine, since I was a journalism major. Nope. Different guy.

    Our credits are mixed up in IMDB, but they refuse to do anything about it unless one of us changes his name. I’m not concerned enough with their listings to do anything so drastic.

  32. Marilyn says:

    LCNana, my feelings exactly. I still feel sorry for her, even if (or maybe especially because) she felt like everyone was out to get her. Sad.

    But I’m glad the house has now entered a new, happier chapter in its life. :-)

    The house now has happy occupants, and the previous owner has moved to be near her last surviving relative. I hope she’s doing well.

  33. mrfreddy says:

    how about a couple of cows in the back 40? and maybe even some mangalitsa pigs?

    I think a dairy cow may be in our future.

  34. Galina L. says:

    It feels like getting a present when you post about the farm updates. House looks great! Thank you Tom, and all best wishes to your family.
    We don’t have deers, but local squirrel destroy my garden. It is a infestation.

    Thank you. We’ve got a lot of work to do on the land, but it’s all good.

  35. TonyNZ says:

    “Chareva believes the cut grass will decompose into soil.”

    It will. It will also depress the growth a bit short term as the stuff rots away, as it shades the growing plant.

    I guess I need to view it from a lifestyler’s perspective. I’m not sure how big your plot is and how many cattle you are wanting to feed off it. Thing is, it makes a lot more work to go into that level of detail. It is important when your whole profitability rests on utilising the grass you have. I’m not sure if affects your margins too much by being able to feed a third cow or not.

    “Lifestylers” are what we in New Zealand call people with small farms not requiring a profit. Wasting that much grass would be anathema on a large scale farm, whereas on a lifestyle block it would be an unreasonable workload for the benefit you might expect from it.

    I appreciate the info, Tony. We’re not going to be using the farm to make a living; this is strictly for our own food supply. Our (loose) plan is to have some chickens for eggs, maybe a dairy cow, and eventually a small flock of sheep for meat. (We have a friend who wants the wool.)

  36. mrfreddy says:

    my fantasy is to live in a place like yours, but it’s in Nicaragua, or Brazil, and there’s an awesome surf break within walking distance…

  37. Katy says:

    “We’ve been warned that we’ll need deer fences, and tall ones at that.”

    Not so much tall ones as invisible ones (to them). They won’t jump it if they can’t see where they’ll land.

    For a head-banging experience, listen to NPR’s piece on the dangers of cheese. They, of course, interviewed Barnard. What a sad reinforcement of nonsensical advice!

    Can’t we just make the vegetables invisible? Is there a spray or something for that?

  38. Katy says:

    Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak?

    Now you’re talking.

  39. elaine says:

    wow Tom, what a great adventure…farming on your ‘lil homestead. I am so jealous — and will be living vicariously thru you! do keep us posted– i am hoping for a dairy cow and lots of chickens for your farm, best of luck with the trials of the first year;D

    Thank you.

  40. nonegiven says:

    Deer love turnip greens according to DH.
    We once went to a farm that breeds deer for trophy hunt ranches. The tops of the fences were higher than I could reach. Deer go over regular height fences like they aren’t there.

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