The Pedantic in the Pantry

From the first time I laid eyes on the video Richard took of our soon-to-be log cabin-cum-farmhouse, in March of 2016, when he flew out to video-tape every inch for us, I knew that one of the VERY first things I’d be getting rid of was the 1970s kitchen, especially the ‘peninsula’ counter that stuck out into the room, and the ugly pantry closet.


When I was alone here for the June and July of 2016, I immediately sledge-hammered the peninsula out, and at least took the folding door right off the shelf area.  (Those renovations to the kitchen can be seen here, with the before and afters that everyone seems to love: )

I then  painted the inside of the shelves, put up some gingham on the ugly paneling on the back wall, put a low-energy light in there that stays on all the time (adds light to the beginning of the dark hallway and is a good night light at night as we fumble our way down to the bathroom – at least 3 times each!) .  Finally, I stuck as many canisters in there on the newly brightened shelves as I could fit, and hid the cans and store-boughts behind them so it looked semi-attractive to the eye:


But we always planned to do something more permanent, and as the daily baking and cooking has progressed, the shelves got more and more disorganized, and as we have only the one phone (in the spirit of keeping life so-much-more-simple!), this little nook was becoming problematic to the point where I couldn’t stand it any longer! I needed a better place to hide/store the store-bought cans and packages, and I needed big bins to take ALL the bulk baking goods we buy.  So, after not TOO much nagging (for once!) Richard got to work with his perfectionist measuring, designing, discussing, re-measuring, cutting and re-cutting.   Sadly, we have yet to find a good source in this province for reclaiming lumber.  I have a sad inkling that many N.B. farmers and home-owners just burn everything they don’t want.  Thus, though we wanted an old mercantile look, Richard had to start out with fresh new pine boards.  The good thing about this is that no kind of liners would be needed for inside the bins!  Which is just as I like it because neither do I wish any form of plastic for the environment, nor would I want to be messing with tin…

So…. first Richard built me some little shelves in a space that was essentially wasted.  These would hide all the cans and packages in and behind some baskets.


Next came the big bin for baking ingredients that are too small to go in canisters, that I don’t use that often, or things like cracker boxes (btw, in the interests of living simply and more self-sufficiently, I only allow SODA crackers in the house anymore – not the realms of assorted boxes of crackers, and NO cereals! Soda biscuits are still good for days when the bread I make has run out, OR for upset tummies, OR as I’m now doing – making quick pie crusts for things like our many frozen apple slices!)

Here’s the bin.  Richard put it on 4 big casters so it just rolls in and out:


Next we have the kaffuffling with the actual bins. Though I’d given two examples to Richard, there is inevitably this time period in any of his projects where we have to go back and forth, back and forth over advantages/disadvantages of cuts/sizes.  This one was originally cut square, but we finally agreed that while it would hold a bit more that way, it would never tip outwards in the desired (by me) fashion!


So I asked him to round off the sharp corners and we got this:

Then Richard went on to make me four lovely, smoothly sanded, rounded edged (this is the pedantic bit from the title!) fold-out bins.

It was also necessary for him to extend the shelves by some inches, so that the tops of the bins would be covered, and they’d have more room to ‘tip out’ toward me, free of the back of the doorframe:


Now, here’s the thing about Richard and his woodworking.  He is so persistent and particular, that everything actually ends up way TOO perfect (and generally late for deadlines as well!)  I don’t like perfect.  And I hate anything to look like it came out of an Ikea flat-pack.  We BOTH love our old pine hutch (rescued for only $250. at an auction) and as it’s right beside the pantry cupboards, it HAD to match!  The hutch is pretty old and  beaten up. That’s what gives it such lovely character:

So, how do you make new pine wood with rounded edges and perfectly pedantically sanded faces look like its 150 years old?  Well, this isn’t the first time I’VE done this, but Richard had to be convinced.  You use what he calls ‘Medieval Torture Tools’ and you have at it!


So, here’s Richard contemplating if he could ‘allow’ it to be done to his finely sanded drawer fronts and cupboard:


Yes, he decided.  It made quite a neat effect.  And when I explained how the stain would darken in the grooves and really age/distress it, he was sold!  So we started hitting the faces (not yet attached to the drawers) with chains, tapping with the horse hoof rasp, plucking and prodding with other heavy objects. Smitty thought we were right nuts.



We experimented on cut-offs for several effects, like these:

Richard especially liked the effect of the rasp, but I didn’t want to use it too much, or it would have looked contrived (which of course it was!) Here’s what those 2 effects looked like:


Finally, it was important to chisel a bit off the rounded edges, to make them appear well-worn over the years, esp. at the tops of the drawers, where hands might have pulled them:

Here’s what the front faces looked like after we’d beaten on them (and by the way, ole Mr. Perfect Pedantic decided it was rather fun to do this!)

Next,  we had to match the staining to our pine hutch as closely as possible.  Oh, it’s just a pine stain, I hear you say?  But no!  There are 4 different types of stain called ‘Something Pine” now, AND an antique like the hutch changes colours through the decades, darker some places, lighter others and,most difficult to replicate – a sort of soft orange.  I ended up experimenting and testing like mad and finally ended up using layers and a total of 6 different stains (all already in our basement – we do NOT buy things just for the sake of spending more money!) to get the right colour and effect that best matched being beside the old hutch.  In addition, in some ‘strips’ (always with the grain) I’d put on up to 3 coats, and in others, only 1 coat which I’d even wipe off immediately so only a faint trace was left…

Fully stained, now, Richard began attaching the faces to the bins – See how the stain is darker in the grooves and scars?  Love that!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now it was time to experiment with some stencilling – but wait!  Richard burned my stencil set last year after I’d used it on some Rustic Revivals’ project and he thought that since they had paint on them they were ‘finished’… grrrrrrr…. so though he’d replaced them for me, they were too large – I had to use partly-stenciled on the ends of the letters, and then mostly free-hand but to LOOK like they’d been stenciled.  Also, I know from experience it’s better to put a base coat first, which I did in ivory, then painted over in the black.

Now, here’s the thing about old.  It’s ALWAYS faded and distressed – so while these letters were originally in dark black, that would never have looked antique/mercantile-ish.  So…

sanding with a fine grade was necessary to take off some of the newly-painted letters.  Make sure the letters are dry first – you don’t want smearing!

Here’s a number I tried first, and another example of Richard’s favourite – bashing with the horse hoof rasp:


And THEN, some artistic touch-ups on letters that just didn’t quite stand out enough was necessary. There’s a fine line between taking off too much, or not enough.  Now who’s being pedantic?



Richard got some antiqued bronze handles from Kent Lumber (but I don’t recommend them, as they are made in China, and the two he got for the bottom sliding drawer had stripped holes for the screws, so we’re still without on that section!)  I also added a few random numbers to simulate the old crate/mercantile storage effect further…And thus, the brilliant results, if we do say so ourselves:


And here’s what everyone loves – some before and afters, the 1970s kitchen before we bought it, and now. We HATE all those ’70s louvered doors, but they have worked beautifully for making them look like old shutters (painted and distressed, of course) for some of Rustic Revivals’ displays at shows – because of COURSE we don’t throw anything out! And don’t forget those doors down at the end of the hallway have been replaced by our prize ‘barn door’  (you can see that here- )


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And here’s  just the pantry area before and after:



Yes, that IS one of Mom’s hand-woven rugs in front of the hutch (helps cover up the ripped up bit of floor where I had to sledge hammer out that peninsula cupboard/counter that jutted so alarmingly into our hall/kitchen area!) As you see, I still liked the low-energy light in the one cupboard so much, I decided to leave it with some jars and canisters.  And see how our organic raw honey jars catch the light and make a mellow gold? Also a little pine mirror on the back of the wall adds some texture, makes the pantry area seem lighter and roomier as well:


Yes,sir, we love our new/old pantry area and telephone nook area now, and it’s such a pleasure to cook and bake with easy-to-scoop bulk dry goods, and easy-to-find organized cupboards and baskets and shelves….


Anyone want to come over for some oatmeal cookies?  I’m just whipping some up!



… That Time Has Tried

i like old things, sepia.jpg

My grandmother (McKenzie) enjoyed framing and reframing things that touched her, made her nostalgic or happy. Every season or so, on different walls, a new item would pop up.  This was always one of my favourites. From an old tea-towel with calendar below, she cut off the top because she loved the old barn in winter (as do I – it reminds me a lot of the red barn her husband and I built together for my pony when I was 10!) and she loved the verse, which is of course what that whole side of the family thinks about “old things.”

“I like old things that time has tried

And proven strong and good and true

I like old things, they have a depth

Unknown by anything that’s new.”

Simple. Straight-to-the-point and exactly what my china-collecting, antique-refinishing, old-book-reading family has believed for many generations.  And I’m so glad this love of characterful items and buildings has been passed on to me.  However, when something CAN’T be genuinely antique or old, I’m not beyond having a good replica, to make me pretend the charm of the originals is within and about me.  And that’s the case for the lovely additions you’ll see next:

This week we got the 2nd piece-de-resistance of my Blue Belldon kitchen.  Twenty-five years ago, on my first farm, I had an 80-year-old cookstove brought in that I loved, but never got around to hooking it up due to the certification and repairs and insurance.  Plus, it was a monster, which is fine – if you have the room.  The kitchen at Blue Belldon is much smaller and thus needed what I remembered both the Elmira and Heartland companies offered: a small replicated model called “Sweet Heart”.  So, I’ve been keeping my eye open for a used one, and sure enough, just on the eve of a trip to Fredericton (2 hours away) there it was! It’s only about 30 years old and barely used.  And right in Fredericton!  So Richard and I both loved it at first sight, and bless him, he made a special trip down a few days later and brought it home.  It isn’t hooked up yet, but this time, once all the renos. behind it are complete, it DEFINITELY will be.  I enjoy baking my bread every 2nd day – but it will be heaven and TASTE like heaven, doing it on this new/old stove. (The photo to the right, taken 25 years ago, was on the front page of the Ottawa Citizen, just below a photo of Alanis Morissette… but that’s all a very long story indeed. You’ll have to pay extra for the facts behind THAT tale! )

Another “replica”, if you like, is the very trendy ‘barn door’.  In the summer, I found one in the barn that had been left by the original owners.  I needed a door to separate Mom/Joy’s upstairs from our downstairs living quarters, but I needed it to have a window to let light in to the darkest part of our pantry/hallway/mud-room.  So when I found this in the rafters, I was delighted.  Pulled it down myself and repainted the one side to match the kitchen ( “replicating” the chippy-paint so popular with shabby chic lovers at the moment, whereas the other side, in Mom’s entry, is actually REAL chippy paint, and likely LEAD paint – so I’ve left it alone for now. Will likely get it professionally refinished down to the bare wood at some point).  So, having that door installed in the kitchen pantry has made me pleased (a start at getting rid of the god-awful 1970s dark-stained hollow doors! that do NOT fit in to a country property! The upstairs -and the one I removed from there and put on our downstairs master bedroom, are lovely original old doors, but the downstairs was FULL of those 1970s things.)  But what about a door from the hallway into the living room?  There is no space for a door that opens, so we found the perfect solution again: a “barn door kit” at Kent Lumber!  Because Fixer-Upper-type shows have made this recently such a popular and trendy ( trendy? ME?) addition to houses of any type today, we lucked out.  Richard installed it, I stained it, and we think it looks great and is a feature! (Besides being handy to close for privacy for guests on our davenport, to keep heat in from the fireplace when we’re trying to be restful and cozy, and to keep dog and cat OFF the davenport during their sneaky night-time hours!) Click on each photo to make larger:

And lastly, Richard the wood-working wunderkind has finished the one side of the library shelves I wanted in the living room (other side of fireplace will be done similarly “in due course”, I’m told!)  to hold all my antique books and some of the pottery for our dining room (also in the living room) dishes.  Isn’t it marvelous?

The built-in floor-to-ceiling library shelves Richard built for our living/dining room.

Here are some additional lovely shots from this past week. Be sure and see the bottom of the Thanksgiving Thermals post as well, for more from that particular lovely weekend of scenery and fellowship.

And lastly, for this week – now that a lot of the pressure of getting renos. done before fall visitors, and getting the harvest in, Richard’s catching some ‘zzzzzzzzzz’s on the chaise longue.  Remember what I said at the beginning:  “I LIKE old things that time has tried…”


The Dutch Door Diva

Richard is a dichotomy.  Pippi  is both procrastinator, and perfectionist.  When I first met him, we’d planned, because of our mutual love of renovating, decorating and wood-working, to do a series of fixer-uppers and flip them. We did ONE.  And I had to take a year-long break in Scotland to force the final stages out of him at that!  We DO, as you can see on Rural Revivals’ Renos. web-site ( still harbour hopes of designing and re-doing small country spaces as a part-time hobby, but for the most part we are just concentrating on Blue Belldon Farm.  This is because Richard takes 3 times the amount of time needed to do any job/project.  Mind you, when they are done, they are done very, very well…

The same can be said for the Dutch Door. Since looking to rent a property in Burnsall Bridge when I first taught in England in 1997, I have harboured dreams of having a Dutch Door in my kitchen the top of which can be thrown open to the rolling meadows and daisy-butterfly summer morns.  Perhaps it even goes back further, to when I was 13 and my grandfather McKenzie and I built a small, red,  two-stall stable for my pony. He had Dutch doors on it, but with the “X”s  facing IN, to  which I always objected, as that wasn’t what it looked like in any photos I saw of horses looking over their stable doors! They were made out of quite flimsy plywood, too, and as I progressed from pony to horse, they used to get kicked off in the long cold winters when my poor beasties were bored to death.



When I had my own riding stable in the Ottawa Valley, from 1988-1996, I made sure we had the “X”s facing OUT  and that they were a lot stronger to hold the horses in, and the bad weather OUT!  They were lovely:

a-stable-life            Goldcreek Farm’s Overture with me, age 26. Behind, the “Dutch” stable doors.

Then, I moved to England to teach high school. It was in inner city Leeds, and I knew I’d need to live in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales to compensate for that, so I looked at 3 places to rent about an hour’s bus-ride out. One was in the gorgeous Burnsall Bridge, to which I’ve since returned many, many times .  The cottage had a little blue stable door in its kitchen and that was in 1997, and I’ve dreamed of having one ever since!


So now, at Blue Belldon, the  Dutch Door Dream begins.  I imagined, even by Richard’s m.o. and standards, it would take about 10 days. I mean, it’s only a DOOR, for Gosh sakes!  ………It’s been just over 6 weeks.

If you’re interested in the whole process (ie: you or someone you know will make you one), click on each photo to read caption. Otherwise, continue scrolling down!

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This is the finished inside of the Dutch door, which I stained to go with the pine wainscotting, then distressed to make it look older and more worn. NO varnish or shellac! It’s not eco-friendly, and the shiny look certainly doesn’t help anything look ‘old’!
Richard shows off the hardware we purchased online. It’s hammered steel, and while he had trouble figuring out the bolts and latch, it works a treat now!
Finally, after 6 long weeks, the DIVA finally has her Dutch Door! Love it, and the front porch is truly my favourite place to sit on the whole property!
In case you’ve forgotten, this is the glorious view from that front porch!
So easy to just throw open the top half for a breather from canning/preserving/baking/cooking, if I like, or to grab some herbs from the herb garden (see prior posting of the way I recycled some of our kitchen drawers on the front porch for this).
Richard enjoys a well-earned rest on the front porch whilst I beam happily from within. The long wait has been worth it!