The creek on our property is seasonal. In the fall through spring it’s a downright torrent at times, but in summer, there are periods when it dries out, as shown above. When it does, there is a ton of flagstone that is exposed. I think the prior owner dumped a couple of tons worth of old patio in there. This summer, I dug up a couple hundred pounds of it to use for a flagstone walkway to the chicken coop. There’s plenty more for future projects too. I’m thinking fire pit next summer.
Laying out stone is maddening at times, but with some patience it all falls into place. Here it is before I dug it all in.
The near-final result. The stone is set in on about 3 inches of gravel. I re-seeded it all for a grass-joint finish. Now my feet won’t be covered in dew every morning when I walk to the coop.
After our first child, our family quickly filled up our small, 1,100 sq. ft, 2-bedroom “starter” home in Wauwatosa, a suburb of Milwaukee. It had served us well, but with another child on the way, it was time to start looking for a new house. A place to raise some kids. We made our wish list out and the priorities landed on a few seemingly simple requirements. 3-4 bedrooms, 2+ acres, chicken- and maybe goat-friendly ordinances, good schools and a reasonable commute to work for us. This was a needle in a haystack of a house we were looking for. There were plenty of large-acerage, chicken-friendly homes out there, but they were in the boonies. A 1-hour commute each way easily.
Then, in August of 2012, we finally found this place:
It’s almost 3 acres in Milwaukee County (a 15-minute commute to downtown on most days) in the Village of River Hills.
- 3-4 bedrooms? Check. The kids’ rooms are a bit small, but so are they.
- 2+ acres? Check. Almost 3!
- Chicken & goat-friendly ordinances? Check. The chicken coop was one of our first projects. (Look for another post on this soon.)
- Good schools? Check. And our daughter loves her school.
- Reasonable commute to work for us? Check. This is one place I expected to have to compromise on.
It’s an interesting place. Both the house and the neighborhood. The seller was the original owner who built the place with her husband in 1968. It’s basically the Brady Bunch house crossbred with a German ski chalet. Dark wood. Open floor plans. Carpeting in the kitchen. Original bathrooms, including a goldenrod toilet. But, as mentioned before, “newly remodeled” was not on our wish list. My project list is long and expanding.
It’s basically the Brady Bunch house crossbred with a German ski chalet.
A quick rundown of major projects/repairs/purchases this first year includes:
- Tuckpointing the fireplace and pouring a new cap
- Building a bridge over the stream (oh yeah, there’s a stream too)
- Building a chicken coop
- Pouring a new patio in the back yard
- Repairing our boiler and hydronic heating system (thanks home warranty!)
- Replacing our water heater, dish washer and washer and dryer (thanks again home warranty!)
- Painting much of the interior
- Replaced entrance doors
- Cut an opening and installed a new door off our dining room
- Cleared about 1/4 acre of buckthorn with about 1/2 acre more to go
- Purchased a riding mover to tame the acreage
- Cut some initial trails though the woods and prairie
Why buy a house that needed that much work? It satisfied our wish list. We also wanted a fixer upper that we could put our stamp on and also build some equity with. River Hills is fancy-schmancy and we literally bought the house in need of most repair in the village I think. (Nice way of saying a total dump.) With a little elbow grease I think we can make out nicely on the place. But in all honesty, we bought it for the land and location. The aerial view above shows the canvas we have to work with. There are plans for bees, and orchard, a giant garden and some permaculture experiments. It’s been a great first year with tons of wildlife including turkey, deer, coyote and birds up the wazoo.
So there you have it. Moving forward on the blog you’ll see lot’s of the projects and experiments we’ll be undertaking at our new place and on our new land.