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28 February 2015

Stonecrest: The Hollow, The Hill and the Manor

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Manor seems a bit pretentious, don't you think?  That was the name of our house - Stonecrest Manor - when it operated as a Bed and Breakfast and it suited it well for that purpose.  For our raucous family of 6 though, perhaps we will just stick with Stonecrest.  The house is aptly named as it sits on the literal crest of a large hill and was crafted from stones pulled from the creekbed in the hollow. The hollow is nestled in a vertical patch of woods, a creek cutting straight down the spine and creating plenty of planting pockets for itsy bitsy little bulbs and cascading flowers (something RED I am thinking), mounds of moss and copious amounts of ivy.

A portion of the wild wood and hollow
I have given a few little peeks into the home since we purchased it (HERE at Christmas and HERE on Instagram), but today you get the TOUR.  Some of these photos are the real estate photos of the empty home, some are of the home as a bed and breakfast and some are photos I took on a quick first visit.  Together, they begin to tell the story of Stonecrest. (You must forgive the bad photo quality!!)


This is a picture from our first visit, snapped very quickly.  Note the overgrown flower beds and the ivy cascading over the stone walls.  That has been tamed somewhat, but I look forward to planting out those beds this spring.  I am also considering planting something in between those pavers aside from grass and weeds.  Maybe thyme?

THIS is what it looked like five years ago:

A closer look...all the stonework was in good condition, but the plants need a helping hand.  That little cutout in the stone is lit up (though we haven't got the lights working yet....details) and there are actually four of them along the front stone wall.  One is hidden in the photo behind the river of ivy.



A closer look...all the stonework was in good condition, but the plants need a helping hand.  That little cutout in the stone is lit up (though we haven't got the lights working yet....details) and there are actually four of them along the front stone wall.  One is hidden in the photo behind the river of ivy.

The other side...


I was already excited about the myriad of possibilities, but in case there was any doubt, you simply have to turn around and look out 
at the view across the hill, down to the valley where twin lakes (ponds) reside and across the farmland dotted with homes and barns.

Can you see what it could be???


Of course, you couldn't actually WALK down the hill because there were weeds up to your knees and we had no clue what the topography of the land was like and could have easily broken an ankle.  It turns out the hill is actually graded in a logical, terraced manner.  More to come on that once we start talking garden planning and chickens :)  For now, here is another view of the late summer green.



...and here are those hills from above:


Down the hill is the driveway...


...and I am honestly still not ready to talk about the experience moving in during a rainstorm and the language the moving guys were using getting up this hill.  We warned them...they didn't come check it out and WHEW it was bad.  ...but we made it and they made it and the second truck did NOT fall into the lake (though it was touch and go for a moment there) and WHEW.  Still not ready to talk about it.  Let's talk about THIS.


This was the little stone bridge that the driveway crosses and the creek ducks under.
  It is now complete with bridge lights (that WORK!) and a little prune job on the ivy and it looks like this:


We heard the waterfall when we first saw the place, but couldn't see it.  
Those stone benches on either side of the bridge were a happy surprise as well.  
I am itching at the bit to see what other surprises are under the snow...I know there will at least be irises!

A portion of the grounds at Stonecrest five years ago

Moving on...


Can you see the path?  Once it was mown down, there is a nice little walk through the woods that is mostly flat.
I am currently creating moss fairy gardens that will reside in little hideouts along this path.

Let's hop on INSIDE shall we?


This room has already changed quite a bit.  It was first on my list when we moved in and I tried to have patience, but the red carpet really drove me bonkers.  This room used to be the billiards room and there was a pool table under that light over there.  Of course, when we got the house, there was no light fixture at all, so we grabbed up that little pendant for $5 at Lowes as a placeholder and it really grew on me.  That placeholder is going to be permanent, I believe!

Anyway...back to that carpet.  It is nice carpet - thick and plush - and I tried to live with it and work with it, but it just wasn't working.  This is the room I take my product photos in and the carpet was creating a red cast on everything and it was so PINK and one night I simply had enough and up it came!  I had a sneaky suspicion that the floors underneath were going to look a bit like this...


...and guess what?  They WERE!  OH how exciting it is to rip up carpet and find floors you LIKE!
(The room above is the living room and sits directly across the courtyard from the workroom.  
The workroom closet also had this wood flooring, thus my hunch on the wood floors.)

I will be sharing our little workroom makeover later, but it basically got a good white scrubbing and some fun pom poms!

Now speaking of carpet...and speaking of pink...


This is the master bedroom when we first moved in.  Green carpet.  
Reddish pink walls.  ...and friends it WORKED so well as a bed and breakfast... LOOK.


It just isn't working for us, so the cheapest thing to change is of course the PAINT. The walls will get a coat and the bed will probably get a coat and we will see how the carpet recedes when they do. I am going to try to live with the green and embrace it for as long as I can. Think whites, muted gold, blacks and a little muted taupe and the green could start to become a knockout.  We shall see...

For now though...I DO enjoy the combination of colors for the nursery.

This was another guest room for the bed and breakfast, but is currently our little girl's nursery.
 Downstairs is the kitchen which has already been stripped of that border, but needs some more touch-ups on the white painted brick,

Those beams continue into the guest room which houses my VERY favorite fireplace:


 Downstairs, there are a few spaces that will stay basically the same as they have since we moved in last fall:


The study: needs more furnishings, but the fireplace will not be touched.


One of the biggest selling points, but one of the most daunting spaces to tackle is the main courtyard.  This space is the heart of the home, and has skylights that allow plants to grow year round.  The other rooms all branch off of the courtyard creating a space that feels a bit like a town square with little apartments on either side.  Currently, the courtyard is empty, save a host of fabulous plants from Southern Living.  I was also able to add lighting to this space (see the missing fixtures/electrical boxes?) with these cool outdoor lights. It serves us well as an open "playland" of sorts that transformed into our Thanksgiving dining room and will hopefully someday morph into my dream orangery.  (yes, really)  I also dream of ivy draping down from all of those iron balconies...can't you just see it?


That heavy brass chandelier is gone as well and that is another story I am not *quite* ready to speak of yet...

Instead, let me show you where I REALLY dream...



Off this balcony, you can see the beginnings of the hill garden where perhaps billy goats and lambs will roam...


...and the porch and beds that will get some fresh paint, cool fountains and new plants this spring...
...and over there on that little hill will perch a little chicken tower or two...


 There are plans to be planned, mulch to be moved and gravel to be smoothed. The days will be long, but the adventure will be exactly what I crave every spring when the Earth comes alive again.  Are you ready for spring??  Join me as we tackle Stonecrest Hill and Hollow here at the Nest and make sure you follow along on facebook and instagram for behind-the-scenes photos!  If you would like to comment on this post or any other post at the Nest, make sure you hop into the FORUM and chat with me, other readers and some of the best home and garden bloggers on the Web!


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27 February 2015

Find ALL the 5 Minute Photoshoots in One Spot!

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Got 5 minutes?

You CAN get a good photograph (or two!  or three!) of your kids.  Here are all the 5 minute 
photoshoots from the Nest, from infant to baby to kids to the whole family with a self-timer.  Enjoy!

5 Minute Photoshoot for Infants

5 Minute Photoshoot for Babies - 6 WEEKS

5 Minute Photoshoot for Babies - 6 MONTHS

5 Minute Photoshoot for Christmas Cards

5 Minute Photoshoot with Older, Active Children

5 Minute Photoshoot with a Preschooler

How to Photograph Your Family with a Self Timer

How to Survive a Photoshoot with Kids

The 5 Minute Photoshoot in the SNOW

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13 February 2015

Wild strawberries, false strawberries and "real strawberries"

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So this weekend there is supposed to be a massive snowstorm and windstorm and POOR BOSTON.  I am stocking up on water and milk and candles and books, but in the meantime, let's think SPRING, shall we?  In particular, let's think strawberries :)  The common queen of jams, strawberry just screams summer, but I want to focus on strawberries in the spring.

The REAL DEAL in my garden


Have you ever seen plants that look like these in the lawn or crawling around in your flower beds?  Chances are they are not your garden variety strawberry,  You either have real wild strawberries (a species of Fragaria), or False strawberry (Duchesnia indica). They will look very similar. Real Fragaria strawberries have a wonderful flavor, but are very delicate when ripe and squish oh so easily. Duchesnia fruits are dry and flavorless. I would NOT recommend eating the Duchesnia; one website ( http://www.netside.com/~lcoble/bible/plantad.html ) claims that it is highly poisonous, although I can't find another reference on that. I've tasted (but not eaten them) and didn't get sick, I suppose you could do that to see what kind you have. A safer way to tell -- Duchesnia has yellow flowers whereas Fragaria has white.



Commercial strawberries are so big because they are triploid. That is, they have 3 sets of chromosomes, whereas most plants and animals have 2 sets. In the instance of the strawberry, this gets translated into bigger fruit that lasts a lot longer. It does, however, seem to sacrifice flavor. Real wild strawberries have a more intense flavor. Also, because the commercial strawberries are triploid, they are sterile and the seeds can't germinate (notice you've never seen strawberry seeds for sale!) Bananas are like this too. Being triploid, their seeds are sterile and therefore tiny. Natural bananas have seeds the size of peppercorns! This isn't the case for strawberries though.


OK - so if you have REAL wild strawberries, you CAN try to cultivate them, but only to increase their yield. I don't know how much disturbance they will take, though. If it were me, I'd just try to encourage them in place by keeping the area relatively weed-free and watered during drought. Not sure if they would stand transplanting to the garden, but you could try it with a few of them to see if they take off.  How to propagate?  Those little runners (the red stem-like guys in the first photo) will do it for you if you let them.  The "mother" strawberry plant sends out those runners, they attach and root in the ground nearby and before you know it, a baby plant is born.  Move those baby plants where you want them and voila!  Strawberry field!


OK - perhaps not that successful, but certainly a few new plants :)


Now hunker up for those chilling winds and snows and THINK OF STRAWBERRIES!

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