garage-1.jpg What a sight! The garage in 1985 or 1986… condition remained pretty much the same till started fixing up in the late 1990’s. The white box truck we brought from Florida to move our furniture – everything we owned fit in this truck!

garage-2.jpg Garage in 2001 We painted it (grey) ourselves and the guys made a new garage door, but it still looked rather shabby and needed some new molding.

garage-3.jpg First tour of the urban homestead in 2002 (located on the right: a bunch of homemade self watering containers on the 30’x30′ concrete patio, homemade solar oven and chicken run) The garage was painted once again (white) – still needing molding! Sheesh, look at all that concrete!

garage-4.jpg And now, spring 2008. We re-painted and re-roofed the garage ourselves back in 2003 (when we self installed 12 solar panels) The “flower-crete” is made from recycled concrete from the backyard 30’x30′ slab we removed by hand (see our concrete removal efforts) Last year we hung new “doors” that allow easy access when we have public events. (Located to the right: earthen oven, clay pot irrigation bed, small greenhouse and animal enclosure)

Looking back at all the old photos as I construct the new photo gallery (containing nearly 2,000 photos!), it’s a humbling and rewarding experience to see how the urban homestead has evolved over time.

In 1984, trading 10 acres in the countryside for this 1/5 acre uncared for lot with a fixer upper house and garage that looked dilapidated – one had to see past all the flaws for potential. And that’s why Farmer D choose this place. Where others saw a “dive,” he saw potential for a garden and play area for us kids who were used to the “wide open spaces.”

Looking back at the photos, I have to admit our friends and family were right – the place was “a dive.” I remember “the looks” people would give us when they would come over to visit – they would see all the work that needed to be done. Before we owned it, the house had been rented for 20 years and neglected. It certainly needed A LOT of TLC. But to us kids, we could care less – we had room to play and plant a garden.

It’s been a slow transformation that’s taken many years – over twenty to be exact. The transformation didn’t happen overnight, nor could we afford to hire help. In fact, we did most of the work ourselves, on the cheap.

Can you believe this is the same exact garage that people advised us to “tear down” or told us that “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” Really? This “old thing” was made of genuine redwood and the wood was still structurally sound.

Not only is that one time declared “tear down” being used for storage of urban homestead goods and supplies (collection of bikes, grain mill, used grease, biodiesel processor etc.) there are 12 solar panels on top. The garage is now used for community workshop, film screenings and gatherings.

Change takes time and one learns you can’t listen and rely on the skeptics who didn’t have the vision to see the potential of “a sow’s ear.”  We learned to labor…. and to wait….

Any readers have a “sow’s ear” stories to share?

:: Field Hand Appreciation :: KS Family $25. Thank you for your continued support.

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  1. Ruthie says:

    I love the befores and afters. I especially love the concrete daisies and the cob ladybug. It’s like my dream yard! 🙂

    PS I got my To-Go Ware tiffin from Peddler’s Wagon on Saturday and absolutely love it! It’s a step in the right direction for a plastic free life. 🙂


  2. kristine says:

    i love the new look of the garage. the doors are beautiful! what kinds of plants are growing above them?

  3. Anais says:


    It’s neat going down a pictorial “memory lane!” Glad you enjoyed the photos.

    The vine growing above “The Doors” (sounds like the rock group… haha) is a grape.


  4. Anais says:

    Greetings Ruthie

    Glad you too enjoyed the photos. I still keep staring at them myself – hard to imagine it’s the same “shabby shack!”

    Thanks for your purchase and plug on your site. Kudos on your path to a plastic free life!

    Press on!

  5. N. & J. says:

    I dream of turning a serious fixerup into a great green home. It’s a point of debate between my fiance and I because he would rather purchase land and put a prefab green home on the property. I just think it would have more character if we fixed something up. It’s also the ultimate recyling because ultimately we all need to learn to make our homes more sustainable.

  6. mary says:

    We bought a 1940 fixer about 11 years ago. Your article and photos today inspire me and remind me that we are making progress even though it is slow. Our garage looks remarkably like your first before picture! We have saved that project for last because of some serious plumbing work that will expect to be needed- in that the garage floods everytime we get heavy rains. We are also total DIYers. We did hire an electrician once, and a tree trimmer to take down a huge diseased tree. Other than that we have done each project ourselves. Now our kids are getting old enough to help out too. The current project is the bathroom [yes only one bathroom for the six of us] – we are building a closet out of some dead space that had originally been a small cupboard with a mirror above. The floor tile was cracked but livable when we moved in – we’ll be redoing that too. Mostly we are able to use materials we have on hand or purchase them salvaged through a place like reStore [habitat for humanity].
    So many times we have daydreamed about living in the country – but we really can’t afford to move right now. So until that day comes [if it comes] we are working to do what we can with what we have.

  7. Evelyn says:

    I do understand the satisfaction of finishing a project after many years of hearing your friends asking you why you do not hire somebody to do it. They look at me like thinking “poor little woman she doesn’t have any money” but I know better. Most of my friends prefer to buy what I call disposable furniture. Most of you know what I am talking about. They look like they bought the showroom and few years later when they finish paying that with interest the go and buy another showroom with accessories and all. I know that just looking better is not an option it has to be the right thing for the space. The spaces talk to you and evolve during time. Don’t you feel like that when suddenly after having millions of idea of what to do, you end-up doing something else that is perfect for the space? I love that my house doesn’t look the same as my friend houses even though I still have many project to finish.

  8. Beany says:

    Your garage looks so gorgeous!

    I sometimes despair that we won’t be able to afford anything less than some dumpy place that will be overpriced anyway…but seeing pictures like this keeps my hopes up that even a dump can turn into something worth admiring.

  9. Anais says:

    Thanks for sharing everyone.

    Nice to know there are others who have experience and are struggling with turning a “sows ear into a silk purse”

    It’s not like those Extreme Makeover shows… it’s an organic, slow transformation that takes time.

    If all the projects were ever done than what would we do eh? 😉


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