Reset, Repurpose, Revival

With every new year, most people like to make resolutions, set goals, and plan out their upcoming year. Some like to choose a word that will represent their goals for the year or encompass who they want to become. The new year is a jumping off point to get back in the rhythm of healthy habits. In the instance of 2021, I have heard a lot of folks using the word reset. Not necessarily a reset as in starting over again, but after 2020 and all the pivoting, resetting on the fears and anxieties from the past year and choosing to be positive and and move forward. As we move into the new year with a reset on our perspective, proceeding with positivity and pursuit of dreams, we are eager to continue escaping the grind, exploring the artisan, and establishing our traditions. One of our big projects for this upcoming spring is tied to a project that we completed back in the spring of 2019 before anyone would have imagined a global pandemic.

Prior to us living here and calling this property our own, my parents purchased this land from my father’s dad. They built the house, and over time built outbuildings to accompany the various hobbies and practices on the farm. A tack shed and barn for the horses, a coop for the chickens, and a garden shed to store tools and equipment. Overtime it became its own little 1990’s colonial village. Building these sheds was a hobby of my father’s, and he must have done a decent job considering the wood sided structures held up for almost three decades. While some of these outbuildings we have selected to keep, the garden shed was one unfortunately that we decided needed to go. To be honest we couldn’t keep critters from taking up residence under the shed, inside the shed, and within the shed; from groundhogs to skunks burrowing under the building, to snakes and mice inside the shed, to carpenter bees within the walls of the shed. You could literally hear the sound of the carpenter bees gnawing away at the structure. So in the words of Chip Gains, it was demo day!

Now for our restoration fans out there, don’t think we didn’t think about restoring this shed or even repurposing the building; especially since my dad had built this building. Unfortunately though, the garden shed is not the part of the story that will tie back to the “repurposing” in the title of this post. As we started the demo and taking down siding, I even started to consider if we should keep the frame of the building and turn it into a greenhouse. But I kid you not, the stench of skunk that loomed kept us on track with removing the structure completely and pressing reset on this small part of our farmette. Even with the entire structure gone, the soil below reeked of skunk and rodent feces. So much so, that we shoveled the soil away like some kind of contamination site.

With the shed down, we could begin our project. This project would set the foundation for our future larger project, literally. We would be setting a brick patio in a double basket weave pattern. And this patio would be the future location of a greenhouse, but one step at a time. First, I want to talk about a pile of bricks.

The front of our home had a brick walkway that lead from the driveway and garage out to the front porch. The brick path ended in front of the house in a circular pattern with a cross in the center made of slightly darker colored bricks. Once again, it was a project my dad had completed when he lived here. Over the years, this too became a pretty big maintenance issue. The weeds had seemed to master the art of growing between the bricks, thriving to the point that we decided it was time to replace this with a concrete walkway. This was in 2016. When the contractor came to pour the concrete walkway, we were able to save the bricks that my dad had set decades ago.

Little did I know, three years later I would reset these bricks to repurpose them for revival of an area on our farmette that we had big plans for.

Reset – set again or differently.

The plan was to create a brick patio where the old garden shed was located to eventually construct a greenhouse on. We choose to keep the location of the garden shed for the brick patio as there was electric that ran to the shed previously. We loved the idea of resetting the bricks that we had kept from the sidewalk project. The nuance of reusing these bricks felt right, and of course with reusing these bricks, we also knew we would want to try to incorporate the cross symbol as well.

The construction of the brick patio area would include building a wood frame, back filling some soil in lower within and around the frame, laying down gardening fabric, leveling and compacting a layer of crush and run, and then leveling and compacting a layer of paver sand.

Repurpose – adapt for use in another purpose.

This created a solid foundation for me to reset the bricks as we repurposed them for this future greenhouse floor.

I decided I would use a double weave basket pattern in placing the bricks, and then make sure to arrange a cross symbol in the center by setting aside darker colored bricks for this later use. There was something gratifying about laying the bricks after preparing the foundation.

To reset the bricks with the intention of repurposing them was a true revival.

Revival – an improvement in the condition or strength of something.

We are excited to take on the next steps of constructing our greenhouse this spring. With every step we continue to explore, discover, learn and grow.

Thanksgiving Table Settings

If we’re cooking a 22-pound turkey someone better be setting the table! Seriously though, a lot of planning and energy goes into food preparation, so its nice to also enjoy the shared meal together by creating tablescapes to make the Thanksgiving festivities that much more inviting. No matter how small your space, how big your guest list, or how “affordable” your seating and tableware that you will be using is, dressing up the table settings can always add that extra touch of holiday spirit and tradition that is welcomed and enjoyed by guests. Our house is under 2,000sf and requires us to set up tables and chairs in our living room in addition to those in our dining room so we can accommodate the approximately 15 family members we host each year. These may be fold out table and chairs, but we don’t let it stop us from setting places for our guests.

In 2016, we walked the grounds of our farmette and took clippings from fall foliage that we thought would make great additions to the tablescape. We also printed coloring sheets to include at one of the tables for the kids which was an entertaining addition for the younger guests.

In 2017 we replaced the collected foliage with some fabric leaves and a flower bouquet. While the white tableware we use from year to year is nothing fancy, we did decide to start pulling out the crystal wine glasses for the main table settings. There can be nice sentiment behind the use of certain items as well. Such as the crystal wine glasses being Ashley’s grandmother’s to go along with the table, buffet and china cabinet being my great grandmother’s.

Cloth napkins with a ribbon tie is not really practical, but we have included it every year and it definitely adds a nice touch. In 2018, we also included some “jewel” variety corn from my brother’s garden, which had such an amazing harvest color to it. This was also a nice touch similar to the foliage we included in 2016.

This past year, in 2019, it was fun to throw in some new table cloths and runners to add a new flavor to the table settings. Whether small touches or going all out, making sure to bring your tablescape game to turkey day is a fun way to create traditions your children will want to carry on when some day they host their own Thanksgiving Day dinners.

Pumpkin Spice the then, Peppermint Mocha the now!

Thanksgiving is a week away, which is the last stand for fall festivities and the autumnal spirit displayed in our decorations, activities, and of course our coffee. While artificial Christmas trees are on display in box stores prior to Halloween, my goal is to hold on to that “pumpkin spice is so nice” mantra until the day after Thanksgiving. Once the turkey coma has passed, its full-fledged Christmas tree hunting, mistletoe blasting, Chevy Chase’s Clark Griswold light hanging, and peppermint mocha drinking action until the big guy in the red suit visits and all the good little girls and boys wake up to the beautifully wrapped presents nestled perfectly under the evergreen branches on Christmas morning. (Wow, writing that last sentence makes me ready for Christmas). When I look around though, I can tell I’m alone on this front, and when I say “last stand” above I really should be using a line such as “resistance is futile”. Starbucks red cups are out in full force, and who isn’t ready for the Christmas coffee blends after almost three months of pumpkin spice everything. Does anyone even want pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving anymore, or did we need to have a slice of this back during those first 80 degree days of September? I ask that you take one last moment to reflect back on the favorite flavors of fall enjoyed most readily through our favorite caffeinated beverage as you read this while siting next to your already decorated artificial tree and pondering the perfect design of the gingerbread house you’ll be constructing this weekend.

A few years back we enjoyed taking a desk area that was located between our laundry room and kitchen that could be utilized as a home office substitute, and renovated to be our coffee bar area. Even with COVID-19 and working from home for stints during this past year, I don’t think we regret having this space in our house dedicated to coffee. A coffee pot tucked in the corner of the kitchen just wasn’t enough for us. With this coffee bar area has also come the fun of keeping it stocked with various coffee blends. Part of decorating for fall and celebrating the Autumnal season is picking out a variety of pumpkin spice and fall flavored coffees. While Ashley drinks coffee with creamer, I drink it black, and I love having flavored coffees on hand that complement the season other then just switching between brands, bean origin, and roasts.

Here’s the tip for anyone making it this far into the post, and who doesn’t want to break the bank, make a trip to your local T.J. Maxx or HomeGoods style store in your area. Most likely you’ll find the section that includes coffee and coffee accessories and you’ll discover that there is quite the line up of flavored coffees matching and changing with the rest of the seasonal decoration throughout the store. Our favorites this year included apple cider donuts, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin spice. Don’t get me wrong, while we stock up at our budget-friendly stores (we wont digress to discussions on David Ramsey solutions), if we come across other delicious brands we enjoy we will pick up a bag here or there.

As we have taken this step back memory lane over the last couple months of pumpkin spice coffee consumption I leave you with these questions to ponder (and share feedback with us): How early did you start to seek our pumpkin spice coffee; August, September? Whats your favorite or go-to fall inspired coffee beverage of choice or brand? If your a pumpkin spice hater, do you give in to winter inspired coffee flavors like peppermint mocha?

Cheers to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and any holiday that inspires us to enjoy life to its fullest through spending time with friends and family and creating wonderful traditions that lead to lasting memories.

p.s. this was written while sipping on a full 30oz RTIC tumbler of pumpkin spice coffee. Did I need 30oz? No. Did I enjoy 30oz? Yes! . . . now off to grab a peppermint mocha coffee from Starbucks!

Welcome to Spectrum Farms

Built in 1983, introduced to it in 1986, and reestablishing it as our own since 2015; welcome to our quintessential farmette. Yes, quintessential, as by no means is this our primary source of income. But that’s okay, this house and these acres are our home and where we get to escape, explore, and establish as we go back to our roots. We are Chris and Ashley, and follow us as we pursue our dream to make the most of our mid-Atlantic farmette to create traditions and make the most of enjoying life.

While 2020 has presented a lot of challenges for everyone, we did not want to let that hold us back from pursuing our goal of launching our Spectrum Farms DE blog website. The daily grind of the world demands more and more of us, and we offer through this blog is an escape. Escape to country living and southern style as we begin to virtually guide you around our farmette through sharing our experiences here.

“Escape the Grind”

We welcome you to explore and discover as we share our experiences in going back to our roots whether around the grounds, in the kitchen, or with home and garden projects. Explore, discover, learn, and grow!

“Explore the Artisan”

We encourage you to take what styles and ideas you like from what we share, make it your own, and enjoy life to its fullest! Let us be your guide as you establish your own legacy of lifestyle and tradition.

“Establish your Tradition”

We hope you decide to follow us as we pursue our dream to make the most of our mid-Atlantic farmette to create traditions and make the most of enjoying life. – Chris & Ashley