In celebration of our first hen laying an egg, I thought I’d share what we did to revive the chicken coop on our acreage.
We are fortunate to have several buildings on our property that once served as shelter for farm animals. Though for many years, they have provided protection for a variety of wild animals passing through. Mice. Woodchucks. Possums. Cats. Toads. Who knows what else. We’ve had our fair share of battles ridding our place of these animals, mice and woodchucks, especially. The more we address needed repairs on the buildings, the more we’re able to protect them and our stuff from critters.
What started as a simple ramp repair on the chicken coop turned into us fully transitioning it from storage to a comfy home for laying hens. The ramp was completely rotted out. We were one more trip into the building from it collapsing under our feet. Wood rot is one of my least favorite things and has haunted me at our acreage. Our buildings are old and impressively sturdy – but none are free from wood rot. As annoying as it is, I have learned a lot about what it is and how to repair it. I’m still working on the “how to prevent it” part…
I tore away all the rotted wood to see what I was working with. I added a fresh 2x4 to rest the new boards on. I also found some bricks to put at the bottom of the ramp to keep the wood up off the ground, preventing it from getting and staying wet – leading to rot. Our home came as is with everything included, so most times I have a lot of supplies I need at my fingertips. In the case of the ramp, I had a leftover 2x4, there were three flawless, thick pieces of barn wood in the coop, and I used some bricks that were given to me from a torn down outdoor fireplace.
I cut the boards to size with my circular saw, screwed the 2x4 piece to the building and then the barn wood planks to the top of the 2x4. I used long screws throughout, two screws in each board securing them to the 2x4. To keep the slabs of wood together, I stapled three thin pieces of wood – looked like old moldings of some sort – horizontally across the three boards. I hoped this would prevent the wood from drifting away from each other and help the hens get up the ramp when it was slick. I left enough room in between the barn wood for a little air to circulate through, again, hoping to prevent rot.
Once the ramp was finished, there wasn’t much more to do to the building because it is in very good shape. I raked any tree debris off the roof, caulked and painted the windows, swept the floor, knocked down some spider webs, and caulked any holes (it has a metal roof and siding). We also ended up adding a turbine vent to the roof so there was a little bit more air circulation.
The next item on the “to do” list was to outfit the building with all of the things hens need to live a content coop life. Nesting boxes, roosts, a feeder, and waterer. I received hand me down waterers from a family member, so just had to pick up a feeder. I chose the largest one because I’m lazy and want to refill it as little as possible! I chose to suspend both the waterer and feeder a few inches from the ground by hanging them from the ceiling using chains and S hooks I had.
In Iowa, it gets pretty cold starting in the Fall. Beginning in October, we put up a heat lamp on a timer for the ladies and hooked up a heated drinker base so their water wouldn’t freeze. This is the base we purchased and really like it.
For the roosts, I placed some random items around to get me started – a ladder, some wooden pallet type things, a step stool, a blanket rack, a tiered plant holder. None of which I think the hens like, so I’m figuring out something new at the moment. One of the roosts they do like is one I put by the window. I used two curtain rod hooks and a broomstick. I placed it just under the window and I find one or more of them on it each morning.
The nesting boxes were something I researched quite a bit, but ended up doing my own thing (hoping it would work). For the most part, I used what I had that was just collecting dust in the coop. I affixed a large piece of plywood to the wall. To that, I connected four wooden crates with the top two wood strips removed from the front of each of them. Those came from Menards. I read that it is bad if hens start roosting in/on the nesting boxes, so I ended up using simple shelf brackets and boards to create 45-degree angle hoods over the boxes. The last thing I added was a little ramp for them to use. Not sure that they do, but it was something I had that fit perfectly, creating the cutest little corner in the coop!
I have had no issues with them roosting in the boxes. I put hay and a ping pong ball in each one and they have been laying in the boxes. The ball is supposed to resemble an egg and help guide them to laying where you want them to.
As a side note, I chose to put hay down to make cleaning out the coop easier. I also wanted it for my garden to help the soil nutrient balance. I read chickens like to scratch at the ground, so sometimes I’ll hide mealworms around in the hay. I think of it as a fun little game for them.
The last thing we did was put a fence up around the coop. I bought 7 foot heavy duty deer fencing and 8 foot t-posts to use. It worked for a bit, until a critter bit a hole through it. We ended up reinforcing just the bottom part of the fence with 2-3 foot tall chicken wire. That did the trick. Landscaping staples and zip ties are two of my favorite garden and décor supplies. We secured the fencing to the ground with the staples and to the stakes with zip ties. Super simple and easy to take down if we need to.
The door connected to the fence so we can get in is crafted out of two tall fence posts that were chilling in the woods on our property and our old storm door. The posts were put into place using cement and we attached the door to the posts using its original hinges and long screws. I knocked the glass out of the door and covered the openings with deer fencing. We attached a couple of slide bolt locks to keep the door closed.
The hens are little rock stars. As of this post, all three are laying like crazy. We can get a dozen eggs over the course of a couple days. They seem happy in their space and we’ve enjoyed watching them. We’re not friendly with each other necessarily, but instead like to observe each other from afar! They’re great eaters. Produce doesn’t go to waste anymore. Anything close to spoiling is tossed into their pen and it disappears quickly – especially pumpkins! It’s turning out to be a very nice partnership overall, allowing us to live a little more sustainably and toss out less waste. It’s also nice to share eggs with our family, friends, and neighbors!
The COVID “quarantine” period has been a dream for me. I have been able to focus time and energy on projects that truly bring me joy. Giving our family cabin a facelift was one of those projects.
For years I have wanted to tackle updating the mobile home style cabin my grandma has on the Mississippi River in Lansing. She had made major improvements to the exterior (siding/roof), plumbing, electric, completely renovated the bathroom, and had new ceilings and light fixtures installed. Huge things checked off the list, all worth it. The thing was, the décor throughout the rest of the cabin wasn’t matching with the updates that were made – distracting from all of the great work that had been done.
Because I didn’t have to work every weekend this summer due to the pandemic, I had time to knock out the work I did over the course of a few consecutive visits up there. I knew that when I did it, I wanted to do it all of the way, all at one time. I didn’t want anything to be partially done – because when I do that – I have a tendency to leave it partially done…I’m also a control freak so I wanted to make sure the way everything was finished was the way I envisioned it!
I ended up doing most of the work on my own, working 12+ hour days. My grandma jumped in to help me with removing wallpaper and final touches. Working on my own knowing I had full days with no interruptions to check things off my list made me very happy! I was focused and fueled by soda, sugar, and Mexican food. Heaven. All work was done on a tight budget. I used as many items I already had or from the cabin as possible, like paint and décor.
I started with the guest bedroom. It had been wallpapered a VERY long time ago and was fully taken up by a set of huge, solid bunk beds. The mood was dark and dingy. The bunk beds were used quite a bit when we were younger, but as everyone got older, the person who drew the short straw got to sleep in that room. The beds needed to go. I was able to sell them on Let Go to a super sweet family who really needed the beds for their growing family. We said goodbye to them and got to work.
Luckily, the wallpaper was done over wood paneling. In this room, removing it was pretty easy for the most part. I removed all paper and glue, filled holes, and caulked some big gaps in the paneling where water had gotten to it (making sure the cause was addressed beforehand – it was). To brighten things up, I taped everything off and painted it a very light grey and navy blue. Here are some before and after photos:
Much more welcoming now. Everyone, myself included, is in love with how it turned out. On a side note – all of the things I did really freshened things up as well because as I was making cosmetic changes, I was deep cleaning along the way.
Next, I moved on to the master bedroom. This room was really just a mish mosh of random things. One of my goals was to give each room a “theme.” Grouping like items together so instead of looking messy/cluttered, the cabin looked clean/curated. It made a HUGE difference. This room became the “fishing room.” I took down wallpaper here as well, patched things up, and painted with a pretty light green.
You’ll see in the photos below that we have fishing poles hung on the wall I painted. There was a rack on one side, not the other, so once the paint dried, I added a second rack so I could hang all of the fishing poles. I was able to use scrap wood I found in the cabin and bought some cup hooks to screw in. I then attached a fishing net to the wall behind the bed and assembled a nightstand to add. Here are some before and afters of this room:
Wow – right?! The vibe is now much more welcoming and it definitely feels more cozy.
The last place I did big changes in was the kitchen. Unfortunately…I’m terrible with before photos and forgot to take some of the kitchen! Please use your imagination to picture an outdated, grimy space with peeling wallpaper that was powder blue and white with a teapot pattern everywhere you looked. Some of the walls were partially painted white over the wallpaper – but it never got finished.
This is the room I’m most proud of because it was the first time I used removable wallpaper. It was definitely the biggest challenge. I was extremely nervous to do it and of course, my grandma wanted to help that day, so I had an audience! But once I had the first piece up, I rejoiced, knew what do to, and was able to get it all done in a day. I applied a weathered wood wallpaper to the backsplash area of the counters and behind the sink. I painted the rest of the walls the same light grey as the extra bedroom.
Cleaning was key in this area. I magic erasered every surface several times! It made an amazing difference. I also rearranged how some of the items were on the counters and bought grey kitchen rugs to bring the grey from the wallpaper into the room a little more. Here is an after photo of the kitchen:
In case you are wondering, I found the wallpaper at Menards. I bought 3 rolls but only needed part of one. It cost around $30.00 – well worth it.
I did a little facelift to the living room. Removed wallpaper, patched holes, rearranged the wall décor, and bought a new cover and throw pillows for the couch. Little things, but the room is now cohesive.
And lastly, I organized the crap out of the dining room. There is a buffet in there that has always been piled with miscellaneous items from years ago. My goal was to at least clear off the top and make room in the cabinets. Mission accomplished! I added a bright tablecloth to the dining table to inject some energy into this area and made the theme “bald eagles and wolves" using décor from throughout the cabin. I also displayed all of the buttons we’ve collected from past “Fish Days” (Lansing's town festival) we’ve been around for. We take a lot of pride in those.
For a quick, cheap update, I'm pleased with how everything turned out! I ultimately did it for my grandma. We are very fortunate that she allows us to enjoy the cabin, so it felt good to show her my gratitude through this work. She was extremely pleased with the results and that makes my heart feel so full. There are a lot of memories in that cabin, many tied to my grandpa. Seeing the cabin change from what it was when he was alive was hard for her, I know, but breathing new life into it has given her a renewed interest in spending time there. I'm so glad I could give her that gift.
Garden season is in full swing on our acreage and so far Mother Nature has been good to us.
Last year was a pretty devastating year for me as a gardener as I battled a number of barriers – the biggest being cucumber beetles destroying literally my entire plot. So in my opinion, I was due a fairly easy year this year. It’s been dry, but sunny and humid, and the garden has seemed to respond pretty well.
Here’s a few photos of what I’m working with this year. These were taken just the other day – late July.
Because I’ve had a good harvest, I’ve been able to continue offering free vegetables at the end of our driveway for passersby. We live on a busy road and our wheelbarrow of goodies is normally gone in a few short hours.
Earlier this summer, we received the nicest note from an anonymous person thanking us for the veggies we provide! It completely caught us off guard, but felt very nice to know people appreciate it.
The letter really fired me up and made me anxious to get fresh produce out for our neighbors ASAP. This also meant I needed to start working on the new “Free Fresh Produce” A-frame sign I had been thinking about making over the winter. The old sign I had was made quickly out of cardboard and pallet wood. It still stands, even after two summers, but I thought it was time for something more durable and permanent.
I tried my best to be resourceful, using as many supplies that we already had as possible. If you’ve read my blog for a while, you may remember when I made a cucumber trellis out of the sides of a baby crib. I also made a light fixture out of the mattress spring from the crib. My goal was to utilize the whole thing, so guess what I made the A-frame sign from? The crib ends!
For this project I used:
The lettering was hand drawn with pencil first, and then I painted in with white exterior paint. Once the paint was fully dry, I put two layers of clear coat spray paint over the entire sign to seal it from the elements.
Lastly, we attached the small chain to each side of the A-frame near the bottom so the sign didn’t splay out and fall to the ground.
Here is the finished product! We were quite proud of it in the end and it really pops, getting peoples’ attention.
What have been some of your favorite DIY projects this summer?
It has been a minute since I have attended a Do It Herself Workshop at Home Depot! I’ve enjoyed the past classes I’ve been to - creating this two-drawer nightstand, vertical herb garden, and vertical succulent garden.
Their latest project, the DIY Pegboard Shelf, caught my eye. These types of shelves are very trendy right now. What I especially like is you can change up the shelves really easily to meet different needs you might have, or if you simply want to restyle it to give a room a different look, you can do it in minutes.
When I arrived, they had everything ready! The plywood, shelves, and dowels were already cut. All we had to do was screw the two plywood pieces together and insert the dowels where we wanted the shelves. I was kind of (really) bummed I didn’t get to use the hole saw to create the holes for the pegs, but I can’t complain. I got a free shelf out of the deal!
Because we didn’t do much…I couldn’t take step by step photos…so here is their instructional video:
I chose to paint my shelf a high gloss grey after getting it home. I wanted it to pop against the wall I was putting it on, which is dark poly stained wood.
After letting it dry completely, Joel helped me screw it onto the wall. I love its versatility and it looks great in our dining room area. I didn’t know I needed something on that wall until I had this in place!
In my last DIY post, I shared how (with the help of my parents) I reupholstered our dining room table benches. This next project I’m sharing was inspired by our dining nook makeover.
I believe I made it very clear that I loved the fabric I found on sale to use on the benches. I’m a paisley princess, can’t get enough of it. And the yellow/grey combo has always appealed to me. To have all of these details come together in a fabric was dreamy. Anyway, I wanted to use the leftover fabric to make throw pillow covers for our mudroom so that when you enter our mudroom and walk up the stairs to our dining nook, the spaces felt tied together.
This time with the help of my grandma, together we made throw pillow covers for two pillows I already had and wasn’t crazy about.
She used a basic envelope pillow cover pattern like this one. I am not a sewer, but she did walk me through the whole process and explained what she was doing. I have full confidence I could make a somewhat nice cover if I had to in the future, but for now I’ll lean on her!
Once I had the pillows ready, I decided I was going to give the mudroom a mini makeover by changing the paint color as well. It was a fine mudroom, but it was missing impact. A good punch in the face when you walked in. In a creative impact sense, not a physical one! It needed a little something extra. My mom helped me pick out the perfect gold color that matched a deep yellow tone in the pillow cover fabric. Butterscotch Ripple. Yummy.
Instead of painting an accent wall or the entire room, I ended up creating a faux wainscoting effect around the mudroom and up the stairs leading to the dining nook.
To create the effect, all I needed was:
I made my wood cuts one wall at a time, just to see how things fit and if it would affect my next run of wood. I measured up from the floor to the height I liked, leveled the strip, made marks with my pencil where the bottom of the wood strip would be, and then used the stud finder to mark where the studs were. I used the nail gun to secure the strips, being sure to check that they were level along the way.
I followed the process above all the way around the room and up the stairs. Up the stairs was a little trickier because I had to cut the ends at angles. I’ve mentioned before that math and I don’t get along – and that includes angles. I actually just marked the angle of the wall on the piece of wood with my pencil by eyeballing it, made the first cut, placed the cut angle against the wall, marked the angle of the other end, and made the second cut. Real professional…but, I got super lucky and it fit perfectly.
After I had everything nailed in, I went through with the wood filler before painting. I filled in each of the nail holes created by the nail gun and wiped off any excess with a damp cloth. From there, I started to paint! I had to put two coats on, but it’s a really small space, so it didn’t take long.
Here is a before of the mudroom when we moved in:
Here is the after following the mini makeover:
In total, this project took me an evening and part of the next morning to complete. For such a quick project, I couldn’t be more pleased with the impact it has when you walk in our back door (which is our main door)! People will be leaving with black eyes from the punch in the face they’ll get now (LOL). What are you working on lately? Tell me in the comments!
Our dining room has always lacked a little something. It’s nice, but it’s “meh.” It’s typically a catch-all room – a dumping ground for when we are coming and going. I haven’t been inspired enough to add a unique style to it. Until…I ran across my dream fabric. That changed the game!
My fantastic friend who has a love for all things old and/or Mid Century Modern (the office of the business he owns is right out of Mad Men) gifted me with a table set when I told him what I wanted for our dining room. It couldn’t have been more perfect. He needed to get rid of it, I wanted it, so it worked out for both of us.
I’m terrible at remembering to take before photos…so here are the benches that I reupholstered and the old fabric next to the new (perfect) fabric:
This is what you’ll need for this type of project:
So as I mentioned, deconstruction comes first. I had to take these benches completely apart to do this project. I used the flathead screwdriver and pliers to pull out the staples, utilizing the hammer as needed to get the screwdriver under the tough staples.
After this point, my parents stepped in. My mom is amazing with anything fabric. I couldn’t have done this without her. She did the measuring, I tried to comprehend. Me + Numbers = Disaster. Using the old fabric as the template, we cut the new fabric to size. After she cut, I reinforced the edges of the fabric by ironing them over, applying fabric tape as needed to the areas of the fabric that would get pulled at the most when someone sat down
After we had the fabric ready, we measured the back and seat of each bench to cut the batting and foam. Using the electric knife, we rounded the edges of the foam all the way around.
Then it was show time! As my mom held everything together securely (bench back/seat, batting/foam, fabric), I came in with the staple gun to secure the fabric to the back/bottom of each piece. That was by far the easiest and fastest part of the project!
After we stopped to admire our work, my dad jumped in to help me reassemble. It was tense, we had to get creative (because I didn’t take very good photos ahead of time…surprise, surprise), but we did it! Also could not have done this without my dad because he has the patients and tools to help get the job done. He helped me put better screws in the outsides of the benches as well so they feel completely solid when you sit down.
Here they are in our dining room, back with the table they came with! I’m. In. Love. The fabric was everything I needed to move forward with creating a specific feel for that space. It also inspired me to revamp our mudroom around the corner, which I’ll share in my next DIY post!
Check out my past DIY project to see the mattress spring frame light fixture I made to go above our dining room table. It goes together great with the new fabric and is just another piece that is helping me achieve a cohesive look in this room.
Looking for an adorable DIY project for Easter? I’ve got just what you’re looking for! While browsing Dollar Tree for a few Easter/Spring décor items to freshen up what I currently have, I ran across inspiration for a project. One item led to another and I had a full vision for the vignette we have placed just as you pull in our driveway.
I knew I wanted to put sticks with plastic eggs hanging from them in the wash bin. But then I found a felt bunny head that I thought would be cute peeking out from the bin as well! Here is my vision brought to life:
I mean, come on. That face! Here is what I used to create the bunny:
If you make any mistakes, that’s what the sander is for. I sanded the edges, smoothing out any unintended mis-cuts and bumps. I then sanded the flat sides of the wood, wiping them down with a cloth afterwards, so I had a good surface for the paint.
I chose to connect the bunny head to the 2x4 before painting. I attached them together with two long screws through the face of the bunny. I did this because there are normally high winds where I put this piece of décor and I didn’t want it to fall apart. If you will be putting this on a porch or indoors, you could easily use wood glue or construction adhesive.
Once attached, I started to paint. I used white outdoor paint as the base and applied spray paint with a brush for the facial features (I work with what I’ve got at home!). I finished it off with a coat of clear poly spray paint to seal it up. I chose to paint both the back and front white because the back is visible from the road. I utilized the facial features on the felt bunny head to paint in the ears, eyes, nose, and mouth. I have to give credit to my husband for that idea!
I might cut the 2x4 down a little bit to lower the head a little more, but I can’t help but smile when I see this sweet bunny peeking out of the wash bin, welcoming me home! Here’s another angle for your viewing pleasure:
I'll just start like this. Poster frames are EXPENSIVE. If you've been following along with my blog, you know that's not my style. I either get it cheap or make it myself!
We have a lot of posters. Being huge music fans, we have quite the collection. We also love vintage posters featuring interesting illustrations. The palmistry guide poster I created this DIY magnetic poster holder for has been in the back of a cabinet, just waiting for its debut. Well folks, today is the day!
To make this project, you'll need the following:
This project is really as short and sweet as you'd imagine. Measure the width of your poster and cut your wood strips to size. You can either size them to the exact width of your poster or leave a little extra wood on the ends. I left about a 1/2 inch on each side of the poster with my strips.
Choose which side of the wood you want to face out and place that side face down. Start attaching the magnets to the back side so they will line up with each other when it's time to hang the poster.
Snap two of the wood strips to the top of the poster and make a hanger with the twine. I tied my twine to the outside edges of the poster on the wood strips, one of the benefits of letting the wood extend out from the poster just a bit. If you cut the wood to fit the exact width of the poster, you could attach two small screw-in eye hooks to the wood strip that will be flush to the wall, tying twine through the hooks.
Snap the other two wood strips to the bottom poster and hang on a wall of your choice! I love the rustic look of this poster holder. It fits in with our current décor nicely and saved us a few bucks. Have fun giving this easy project a try!
After the Christmas and New Year holidays pass, I like to transition our décor to a winter theme. Normally, this simply means keeping everything out except for the Christmas tree, stockings, Santa figurines, and most of the sparkly items. Not too much work!
I realized last year I didn’t have a good winter wreath to hang, so thought ahead and made one this year! Using old clothing in my DIY projects is something I really enjoy and want to do more of, so I chose to get creative with some Goodwill sweaters in colors matching some of the exterior features of our home.
Here’s what you’ll need to make your very own cozy winter wreath:
I started by attaching the greenery to the frame. The greenery I used was a little unconventional. I found five felt placemats at Goodwill that worked great. I poked the greenery through the frame and attached each one to the wire of the frame with a twist tie, reinforcing the tie with some hot glue.
Then I planned out the placement of the ornaments. I only had small and large ornaments to use (I was trying my best to use leftover supplies from the basement), but I’d encourage you to use a medium size ornament as well. I think it would give the wreath more balance, transitioning from large to small a little less drastically!
Once I had a good idea of how many ornaments I would need, I began attaching the sweaters to the ornaments. I did this by simply gathering the sweater around the ornament, placing a twist tie around the top, twisting it tightly, and cutting away what I gathered from the sweater. Not very technical…but it worked really well without needing to measure and I had more than enough material to work with. Once the ornament was cut away from the sweater, I reinforced the twist tie all the way around the top of the ornament with hot glue.
Next was getting the ornaments on the frame. I chose to use safety pins to attach the twist tie end of the ornament to the wreath frame. I made sure to loop the pin through the fabric AND the wires of the frame to make sure they were secure. I attached the large ornaments first and proceeded around the frame with the small ornaments.
To secure the ornaments even more, and make them fall where I wanted them positioned, I went around the frame with jute. At the very top, I chose to loop the jute around the frame tightly to add a little open space. I dabbed the ends of the jute with hot glue so they would hold strong.
Because with this method you can see the bottoms/twist tie ends of some of the ornaments, I cut off a long strip from one of the sweaters and wove it like ribbon through the wreath. It worked perfectly in covering up what I didn’t want others to see! I attached the sweater ribbon with safety pins on the back side of the frame.
I’m a perfectionist that loves good balance, but there is something about the off balance look of this particular wreath that I really enjoy. Like I said earlier, if you have medium sized ornaments to incorporate, I think that would help with balancing this type of wreath out. Or you could use the same size ornament all the way around! Use what you have and get creative.
If you are interested in other projects I’ve done using old clothing, check out my no sew cloth pumpkins!
Since Fall is my favorite season I get extra inspired to do decor related DIY projects. I keep my eye out for the latest trends and like to try my hand at creating my own version.
This year, these caught my attention:
The variations are endless! I knew I had a couple of old metal items in our shed that would be perfect for this project. When I went searching for them, I found an old rusty metal canister and, believe it or not, an old muffler that I couldn’t wait to use!
Quick story about the muffler - it came off my husband’s truck. Nothing gets thrown away around here. Everything has potential to be used as something else. I couldn’t wait to show Joel what I had created with the hunk of metal he had tossed aside!
This upcycling project is quick and easy. Start by using painters’ tape to create your jack-o’-lantern’s face:
For the teeth, I liked the look of the ripped edges of the tape.
Next, I attached some paper towels (you could use newspaper, regular paper, plastic, more tape, etc.) to protect the rest of the surface area from overspray:
I then used some black spray paint I had in the basement. I’d recommend using spray paint for this, but regular exterior paint would probably work as well (assuming you’ll be putting these outside).
Spray away, let the paint dry, and then the fun part, pull off the tape and paper towels!
If you couldn’t tell, the jack-o’-lantern on the right is made from the muffler!
I also tried making a mini version out of a random piece of metal (I think it was a light bulb cover of some sort). The surface had ridges, so the facial features ran a little bit. He has a face only a mother could love, but he’s still a cutie!
Can’t wait to make more of these! If you try it out, send a picture to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tag me on Instagram @countrywrennest.