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Sunday, October 20, 2013

DIY Week

Despite the weather's lack of cooperation, this has been one looooong week of DIY-ing. It's been a whole family-involved roster of projects.
All the way back to last weekend, the horses got new shoes, and my dad and I fixed the tractor. The bush hog attaches to the back of the tractor via a three-point hitch. One of the three bolts that locks it all in place came loose, fell off, and the bush hog was hanging awkwardly off the back, dragging the ground. It became a point of pride (for me at least) to figure the mess out ourselves and not have to call the John Deere guys out to get it hitched back up for us. If you've never unhooked a bush hog from a tractor and hooked it back up before, let me assure you, it's nothing like hooking a truck up to a horse trailer - it's much, much more complicated and tedious than that. But between the two of us, we unhitched, PTO and all, hitched back up, and then I finished bush hogging the pasture.
Yay. On to the next one.
Every year, the front porch needs repainting. Between the sun, rain, cold, and Riddick's claws scratching across it, the paint wears thin. So two new coats of gray paint went down on the boards. Not all the furniture is back in place yet.

Then, the fish pond needed to be emptied of its plants and cleaned out for the winter.
And then there's been the real project: Tiling the patio. I don't know if I've ever talked about the wretched shape this farm was in when my family bought it, but it was in some serious need of love and beautification. Years of neglect and, before that, years of bad taste, had left the place looking sad and, well, ugly. But the bones were there. And the motto all along has been that, if we want our dream of having a family farm to come true, we'll have to put some major elbow grease into it. We've always had more work ethic than money. So over the last few years, it's been a slow overhaul of the whole place, from fencing in all 18 acres, to making the barn livable for horses, to beautifying the house. When we moved in, the back patio was concrete painted the same color as the natural Georgia red clay. While smart - dirty boot prints wouldn't show - it was unseemly. So my mom painted the concrete in shades of gray for a softer look. It lasted for a while, and was really quite nice, but, like all things, the weather and time started to take its toll. The patio has been a sore spot for about a year now, and ideas were tossed around about how to give it a lasting makeover.
The solution? 13x13 porcelain tiles. The issue? None of us has laid a tile in our life.
This is where all those breakfasts while watching HGTV have come in handy.
My parents and I have laid tile all this week, over 400 of them. We've measured, cut, mudded, set, and grouted it all on our own. I hate to admit it, but I'm a little bit proud. I never would have thought this was something I could do, and here I've been on hands and knees all week, laying tile like a real contractor, and hurting all over for it. I have so much respect for guys who do this for a living! It's a full-body ache the likes of which I haven't felt since being trampled by a horse (and I mean that literally).
Looking at it now, knowing I had a hand in it...that's a good feeling.
Here's the before. It looks hideous, I know, and even worse once the furniture, back steps, and potted ferns were taken away. Eek!
First, a layer of gritty primer went down so the mud would stick to the concrete.
Then, the mud was mixed with water in buckets and slopped onto the concrete. It was smoothed, and grooved, and then the tile went down, with spacers between each one to ensure an even grout line.
At the edges, tiles had to be measured and cut with a wet saw to fit in the leftover gaps.
When the mud had dried (for 24 hours) the grout went down, slopped onto the cracks and smoothed in with a float.
Then excess grout was wiped up with a wet sponge. And left a clean, gray line of grout between each tile.
Sophie seemed to like it.
There's still a little grouting left to go. I'll post an after shot once it's all done and the furniture is back in place. As for this week, I'm looking forward to getting back into writing!

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