The Ivy The Stone The Lilac and The Grapes

We’ve been thinking a lot lately about our attack plan with the new house.  Where do we start?  How do we know what needs to be fixed first (the list is looooong)?  What do we want to work on vs what we should work on?  Etcetera etcetera etcetera.  Real riveting stuff, yo.  It brings us back to when we bought our first home and the one thing we constantly regret was the first summer in our old house five-ish years ago.  It was our first home and we were dying to rip apart the interior spaces…and we did.  We spent the most gorgeous summer ever in the history of Maine…inside.  Renovating a bathroom.  We don’t want to have the same regrets here and ironically we’re having another gorgeous summer.  So as much as I am jonesing for interior painting and a full-on kitchen remodel, we’ve vowed that if it’s nice outside, we work outside.  If it’s raining, the interior is fair game.

That said, we have two goals for our exterior this summer.  One, painting the exterior.  It needs it.  BAD!  And two, a slightly more fun exterior project, bringing the front patio back to life.  We’ve made some serious progress this past couple of weeks.  Enter the front patio progress picture:

An Opened Up And Exposed Front Patio

I know it doesn’t look like much, but believe me, we have done some WORK!  As a reminder, here is what we started with:

Living Room Bump Out

Technically, the above photo is a progress picture.  I forgot to take a true before picture including the part where the grapevine growing along the side of the house was actually growing inside the house.  As in between the window and the storm.

Grape Vine Growing Into The Storm Window

A few weekends ago, my parents came for a weekend visit.  I get my go-to DIY spirit from my parents.  They gutted and renovated the house I grew up and then built their dream home in the country themselves.  Needless to say, they didn’t want to go do tourist-ie Vermont things or explore Burlington, they wanted to tackle our overgrown patios and gardens.  And they came prepared!  Armed with loppers, garden gloves, snips, and even their own weed wacker.  The first order of business was trimming back the giant lilac bush that was also growing into the house and taking over the patio.  The beauty of trimming a lilac, if you trim it too far, it grows back.  We’ve had friends pretty much cut down the entire lilac and it eventually grew back.

Overgrown Lilac Bush Taking Over The Patio And House

We chipped away a branch at a time until the patio started to get some sun.  I should mention that there is an old patio under all that mess.  There’s some old slate along with pavers.  It was almost entirely overgrown with underbrush which we later learned was poison ivy…the hard way…which I may have had a crazy reaction to requiring a few doctor’s appointments, an infection, and rounds of meds.  I’ve since learned my lesson and there will be no more garden clearing without proper layers of clothing and boots.

Exposing The Stone Patio

We kept chipping away at the lilac bush and the grapevine, allowing more and more sun to sneak onto the patio.  As the sun dried out the patio, we were able to shovel and sweep the layers of dirt and various underbrush from the surface.

Clearing Brush Off The Old Stone Patio

Before we knew it we were hauling out the patio furniture and sipping iced tea in the sun while basking in the glory of the results of our manual labor.

An Opened Up And Exposed Front Patio

Not only did my folks travel the 9-ish hours from Maine to Vermont to spend the weekend with us, they also gifted us a few pieces of clearance Target patio furniture as a Colby birthday/Angie birthday/anniversary/housewarming gift (random side note…Colby’s birthday, my birthday, and our wedding anniversary all fall within a few weeks of each other…we tend to celebrate them all en masse).  The patio still needs tons of work, paint, and some style/10 pieces of flair but it’s already starting to look soooooo much better.  And usable.

My parents also helped us attack the overgrown garden space that sits across the driveway from the patio.

Old Overgrown Flower Garden

If you look closely down the garden path (which we also discovered is brick underneath all the brush) you’ll notice a Goose butt blazing the trail.

Old Overgrown Flower Garden Path

Goose was the only family member able to walk down the poor, overgrown garden path.  It was nice having my mom in town while we cleared this space.  She’s an uber-gardener.  I’m always in awe of her massive, gorgeous, perfectly coiffed gardens and someday I’d like to pull off the same gardens.  She knows her stuff and has been around the garden block a few times so she was so helpful in identifying what was and wasn’t a weed in this old garden space.  As we went digging and clearing, we found peonies, irises, wild roses, climbing roses, and more.

Peonies Irises And Roses Hidden In The Under Growth

But more on this space later once we attack it a bit further.  It’s still a hot mess, unlike the patio space that is starting to come together.

I’m thinking about my to-do list and I have a few projects that I’m thinking of for the patio:

  • Scrape and paint the siding around the patio space
  • Remove the storm door and paint the snot out of the solid wood front door (I find storm doors ugly, Colby finds them useful as a former door/window salesman, we compromise and as long as I paint/maintain the exterior doors every summer, he lets me remove the storm doors)
  • Create a garden border around the edge of the patio to define the driveway from the patio
  • Add a rain barrel so we can collect water for the gardens and get rid of the awkward PVC drain pipe running along the side of the house
  • Replace the floodlights with a cuter, farmhouse-style exterior light fixture
  • Fluff the space with potted plants, a bird feeder, twinkle lights, etc.

We’ve already started painting so we can’t wait to share more details of how the space is coming along.  Stay tuned.

Pssst….What projects are you guys working on this summer?  Is anyone else painting their house?  Any tips?


  1. I refused to scrape and paint our house this summer! We tore the old wooden siding off, insulated, put plywood on and put up a pretty grey vinyl siding! It only too my hubby and me 2 months worth of weekends to get this done. 🙂 House projects seem to go very slowly for us…I love watching your progress! Happy Summer

    1. Ugh…so we’re only maybe 1/5th of the way in on scraping/painting…and oh so sick of it. I think you had the right idea!!! Thanks for the sweet comment!

  2. How exciting to discover things you didn’t know where there. Glad to hear your enjoying the summer 🙂 this time round.

    Your patio would look so cute with a wood patio cover. Can’t wait to see what you come up with.

    I’m so sorry to hear your suffering with sumac poising – you can try salt/water or vinegar/water in a spray bottle. Like hot water this releases the histamine in you skin giving you a few hours of relief from the itch. But unlike hot water bath it is healing to the skin and helps to dry it out.

    ———- Shocking but true story ———–
    I live on the west coast and have always reacted badly to PO. After moving onto some land and clearing brush we all had to visit the Doc with severe poison oak – yikes it was really bad, I was unrecognizable. So I did my research that winter and found that Indians would eat it for immunity. The next Spring that’s what we did, picked and ate 3 little leaves every time we went out. Averaged about 9 – 12 leaves a day when out working. The leaves are very small when new.

    At this point everyone freaks, you can’t eat that!

    But we did….after years of suffering with PO, and now living on land I was DESPERATE for relief!!!
    After the first year of eating we only had very mild flare ups (in the exact same places as the honorable year before) and they mostly didn’t itch or if they did it was just like a scratch healing up. It was so much better I can’t even put into words how thankful I was. Nope, we had none on hands, fingers, face, tongue, etc.

    That was three years ago and we no longer suffer from any flare ups, but we have to eat it every year. We also pull the stuff up now by hand, no gloves or sleeves – I kid you not! I eat it from Feb to July, which gets bitter and tough in summer but can be tasty like salad greens in spring–> Woah, crazy lady alert!

    This spring before the leaves came on we were out moving animals and my daughter started to get little spots of PO. Being a teenager she pulled up a vine and bit off a piece and chewed it while we worked (nasty taste) then spit it out. I didn’t get any at that time, but she later said that chewing the stem did the trick and she stopped having flare ups until the leaves came on. I know people who are immune, but we are not, and have to eat it yearly. It is everywhere on my property. FYI – west coast is poison oak, east coast is poison ivy, but sumac is sumac.

    The secrete is to chew well, mixing saliva with it and your digestive track will take care of the rest…..

    I started off slowly just one leaf the size of your fingernail, each day for a few days and waited, nothing, so I kept going. The only concern I’ve had all these years since is if I’m eating enough to stay immune.

    Your at year one – to late now to start. But next year at the first signs of new leaves, you could give it a go; it’s sooooo worth it! It’s honorably bad to breath it’s smoke and to touch, but digest it and you’ve got the upper hand.

    It’s now a party gag at my place – we pick and eat it in front of BBQ guest and watch them freak – Bwahahaha!

    1. Oooh…I like the idea of a patio cover! Now that’s all I can think about. That’s such a crazy story, I love it! I would totally be the person freaking out at your BBQ too. But you know, it was awful going through the poison ivy experience, I may just be crazy enough to look into this. Thanks!

  3. Yup Patio Cover is just the thing to define and finish a special out door place. . . .

    One way you could do it would be to buy a couple treated 4×4 posts and blocks to set them in (or on).
    Buy 4-6 2×4 metal hangers to attach your 2×4’s under the eve across your roof line over the door. Set up you posts on the tree-side of your patio, lower than your eves so you have a drop from your roof line for rain run-off, and level the posts.
    Attach a 2×6 from post to post. Then attach your 2×4’s under the roof line and sit them onto your 2×6 beam, have them over-hang the beam by about a foot. You can notch your 2×6 for easy attachment. Last of all buy some lattice panels to put up on top of your 2×4’s and your done! You can even run a vining plant/flower up and over the lattice if you like, or put up some clear roofing material up to keep the patio dry.

    You can also drill your 4×4 posts for electric wire and put up a couple lanterns on top of each post….. or some other interesting light feature (I know you’ll come up with something special:-) for that space.

    Oooh the possibilities!

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