If you like farmhouse style, you’ll understand my joy of this simple bathroom redo. This tiny pic (left) is the only ‘before’ I have. Note the sharply angular faucet and glass counter. This modern, chrome, black, glass, angular esthetic was absolutely nothing like me and it evoked the strangest feeling. . . like I was in someone else’s house.

Loved the sink though. The only thing I wanted to keep. But how I hated the floor tiles on the tub surround, extending 16″ beyond the tub and halfway past the toilet, blocking the addition of shelves or art above. The counter was clear glass on a black and chrome vanity with space below showing pipes and offering zero storage. Cold. Black. Metallic. Glass. Did I mention cold?

Here’s the new white vanity I bought at Lowes for $150, waiting for the install. With a jigsaw I cut out the back to accommodate the plumbing. Behind, note the previous mirror/shelf on its side. SO not me. Happy to donate to the Habitat For Humanity ReStore!

From IKEA I picked up a cash-and-carry butcher block counter, 25″x 7′ for less than $200. Now to learn more about how to use my circular saw. I learned to tighten the bolt that holds the blade in place. I learned that butcher block is very dense, and one must not ‘push’ the saw while cutting. A couple of my first cuts left burn marks on the edges! I learned that the correct way is to let the saw ‘do the work’. We’re here to hold and guide, but not push. From that great IKEA butcher block purchase I got a counter, 3 thick shelves, and a long rack for towel hooks. Plus a nice remnant cutting board!

Much needed storage shelves can finally go up! The studs above the toilet have an 18″ spacing so for the best shelf install, I lined up the left brackets into the studs, and the right brackets into drywall anchors. This step is when I learned that butcher block is not only challenging to cut, but is also very difficult to drill through. I needed to pre-drill every hole with a larger bit than usual, using the exact same size as the screws. Let me repeat: butcher block is very dense and solid! It’s not really easy to work with, but in my opinion, it’s worth every extra step needed. I love it!

Keeping costs down, I did a lot of the work myself. The biggest cost ($1500) was the labor for the removal and re-tiling of the tub surround with the tiles I’d purchased on sale at Lowes. Shower fixtures on sale at Home Depot (plumber was $800 for shower & vanity sink install). The mirror was purchased first, months before the reno even began. It was at Home Depot marked down to $60 and I loved it. I knew I could some day have the farmhouse-style bathroom I really wanted. Now I do!

As soon as this small yet wonderfully effective renovation was completed, I finally felt like I was at home. At last. This is indeed my very own home. Where I can relax, soak in a bath, and just be myself.

Here are points I like to consider when heading out to camp. First of all, it helps to live close enough to decent campgrounds to visit regularly. Getting to know the drive and the area you’ll be camping in builds your confidence with each trip.

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Art by Lisa D. Hickey

RESERVE or GO OUT EARLY

It is not worth anyone’s time to pack the cooler, tents and everything needed into the vehicle, then drive an hour or two or whatever it takes, only to arrive at a sold out campground. It’s worth reserving a spot ahead of time. Some campgrounds are only first come first served so I always arrange time off for driving out mid-week. My week-long camping vacation is Wednesday to Tuesday, and not weekend to weekend. If I had to work, I’d drive out Wednesday evening, set up a tent on the campsite I wanted, and pay for the days until I can return (yes this can be frustrating to those who wing it but it’s the only way to get a site for a Friday arrival in a non-reserve campground, unless you do what I do and head out mid-week). One simply must head out on Wednesday. Thursday is pushing it. I’d never head out on a Friday. There’s enough campers around that for the past couple of years whenever and wherever I go camping, the place is sold out by Friday morning, if not Thursday.

SITE HAS PLENTY OF TREES

Trees are everything camping is about for me and I’m so lucky to live not far from heavily forested areas. I love the look of trees, the sound the wind makes in their branches, the shade they offer, the designs in their trunks. I especially enjoy how they help me create shelter with tarps. Camping is about creating shelter. That’s what we’re doing after all, right? We’re building a ‘home away from home’. And even though the metal fire ring and gravel area are ‘fixed’ there are often several tree trunks to select from for securing tarps for shelter and privacy.

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I love this old hammock!

HAS A GOOD PAIR OF TREES

My ideal campsite will have a well-placed pair of strong trees for my camp hammock. And by ‘well placed’ I mean, among other things, upwind of the fire. A hammock secured between two trees for a midday rest, reading, watching the sky, listening to birds, feeling the breeze, just dozing… it’s like heaven in a campground. The most refreshing short sleeps of my life have taken place in my camp hammock.

KNOW THE SIZE OF YOUR SET-UP

Campsites are all different shapes, sizes, and orientation to the wind and the sun. Working around the fixed firepit and picnic table, it helps with choosing a great site to know sizes of everything you’ll be adding. For me it’s a 17’ SUV (with bike rack), 8×8’ tent, 5×3’ privacy tent, 12×12’ shade shelter, various tarps, the chopping area, woodpile, a couple of folding chairs and a hammock (or two). You can use a cheat sheet with measurements and a tape measure but soon you won’t need that. Every camper who sets up his or her own tents and tarps learns to assess a site. One has to be able to stand in an empty space and visualize the ‘set up’. If it doesn’t feel right, move on and keep looking. Being able to pick and choose from empty campsites until I find the right one is why I head out camping mid-week.

PLACEMENT OF THE ESSENTIALS

BEAR-BINS: How far away are the daily-use bear bins? After the last meal of the day, wrap everything up into a tight garbage bag and take it over. This is part of my daily bike rides, my evening campground trip over to the “bear-bins”, or bear-proof heavy duty metal garbage bins. When it’s getting dark it can feel a bit scary but I have bear spray in my holster, and I know how to use it! Also, I listen carefully and keep alert.

PLAYGROUND: People generally choose nearby if they have kids, or farther for more quiet. Obviously. However, even though my kids are grown and I prefer hearing birds and breezes over boisterous children, I’ll choose to camp near the playground over the bear bins, which are usually at the opposite end of the campground. Some of my camping trips located near playgrounds had hardly any noise, and I’ve been far from the playground and had an RV full of school aged kids park beside me. It’s all good.

A small Mule deer buck

A small Mule deer buck greets me just outside the bathroom.

BATHROOMS: The vault toilets/bathroom building (without plumbing, these well-built concrete structures have very strong hinged doors) is a tricky item to consider at your campground. I often aim for being three to eight sites away. You don’t want to be too far away, but at the same time the closer you are, the more annoying the sounds (I’ve never had an issue with odor). Sure there’s the increase in foot traffic, but worse is the slamming door. The heavy doors are spring-loaded and most people just dash out, letting them slam. I don’t like that sound myself when I’ve had to camp close to the bathroom building, so I’m one who catches the door as it closes. It only takes a second and I walk away from the building quietly, without the door slamming.

WATER: Again, weigh the pros and cons of having to travel farther but having less foot traffic, or the opposite. Water weighs so much that I try to incorporate my bike if possible, or will use my vehicle as a last resort, but mostly I bring enough water from home to last several days. Note, for extra precaution the pump water from campgrounds should be boiled before using.

PHONE: Yes, some of the campgrounds I enjoy are so deep into the mountains that there is no cell service. At these places I trek to the old-school payphone at least once a day to let someone know “Hi! All’s well.” Plus how much longer I’m staying. As a solo camper I prefer sites with service for the safety it helps provide. But at times, when my desire to go camping is stronger than the sites available, I’ll drive farther out and camp anyways. It requires more trust, and confidence. Yet it’s always good to know the site manager has a Satellite phone for emergencies.

campsite-manager

Learn the manager’s site.

MANAGER: Personally, I prefer to be close to the manager’s site. First of all firewood is always available for purchase from their site, in addition to the trucks that come around a couple of times a day. I’ve also found that unruly off-leash dogs and late-night partying tends to not occur in campsites close to where they are. I prefer to be within emergency whistle or air horn hearing distance to them. Usually it’s an older couple living in their gorgeous RV for the summer season, plus the day staff who drive the firewood trucks, are who manage campgrounds. I like to learn their names early in the season. These hard working folks deserve a greeting from appreciative campers like me.

Every time I go camping it’s in the perfect site! But some locations have been better than others. These tips help me in my quest for the most comfy, cozy site. I hope they can help you too. Keep clean campsites, never feed the animals, and let’s all be safe. Enjoy!

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[Copyright © 2017 Gina~Inga, Front Yard to Backcountry]

heartfelt3-marion-rose

Art by Marion Rose

These vintage Valentines sure take me back. How I loved it when my mom came home from the store with that February purchase: a thin box filled with a vast variety of silly cards. Images of a billy goat, a choo-choo train, a steaming kettle… which one would I give to whom?

The first few favorites were easy to pull out and name for my closest classmates. Plus one for teacher. One for my mom and one for my dad. Then I’d resort to simply copying names from the class list to the remaining cards, occasionally worrying an odd kid I avoided might get the wrong idea when getting a card from me saying I’d ‘choo-choo-chose you’!

Ah, childhood. The things I worried about then. How I miss those simple things now. So here is today’s nostalgic trip down memory lane, brought to you by this snowy, housebound camper! Cheers

 

vintage-valentines

Art by Dean Crouser

Art by Dean Crouser

Winter around my part of the prairies is bitterly cold. Lately the daily high has only reached around -25C/-13F.
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Therefore, to look out my frosty kitchen window and see birds busily grooming, drinking water from our de-iced bird bath, and pecking at seeds is quite astonishing. How they manage such cold is impressive. I feel like the least we can do is offer them some food and water!
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The old lilac outside my kitchen window shelters a handmade bird feeding house (made by my eldest son when he was 12, with his dad). Up in the branches hang an old seed ball (too messy…) and a suet feeder (love these!). The daily entertainment and satisfaction my family gets from viewing the variety of local birds that come to feed and drink here is worth every penny.


ground-flicker-and-jayOffering a few peanuts is all it takes to get Blue Jays and Northern Flickers to visit my yard. Buying nuts in bulk helps keep costs down. After we get the huge bags home, we cut them open and pour into airtight (and rodent-proof) plastic bins and store them in the garage. I transfer a manageable supply to a couple of ‘upcycled’ yogurt containers to keep outdoors near the feeder.
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water-de-icerThe de-icer was bought at a local wild bird store but I’ve seen them at Amazon and elsewhere. A Google search should bring up local sources for you. They range from $50-$100 but if you enjoy watching wildlife, it’s worth it. The water is more popular than the food! Finding an unfrozen source of drinking water is challenging for birds in this winter weather.