Painted Floors

IMG_2646When we moved into Grandma and Grandpa Deckert’s house back in March, we knew we would have a bit of work before us to get the home into the kind of place we would want to live.

We began slowly to make it our own, a not so easy process as in every change there was a bit of nostalgia, a piece of Grandma and Grandpa that would go with it.

We hung onto the living room carpet – circa 1966 – a bit too long though and after pulling it out wished we had removed it and the 47 years of dust and debris and decomposed padding that came up with it.

In keeping with Grandma and Grandpa’s spirit of frugality we opted to do something different with our floors that would save us some money and yet allow us to add a bit of our own Bohemian, earthy sensibilities.

And so we painted them.

The Living room sub-floor painted a deep brown.
The pattern in the hall.
Consuelo used a home-made stencil for this pattern.
The living room floor before the Turkish rugs.
Beautiful sub-floors – who would have thought?

The hall turned out fantastic.  Several coats of paint followed by three coats of an oil based sealer.

The living room will probably need to be redone next summer.  We used two coats of brown (should have done three) and decided to forgo the fumes and use a water based sealer (two coats) instead of the more smelly oil based.

The oil based is so much harder and thicker.  It’s bomb proof.

Our living room brown is already beginning to chip in places though – two active kids do little to help that.

It’s character I guess and will be an easy fix next summer.

Artisan Envelopes: The Ledger Series


I have always been a bit of a dumpster diver, finding crazy cool treasures that others have thrown away.

My wife is thankfully thankful for this unique skill of mine and quickly embraces most of what I bring home (except for that rug in Turkey).

The town of Freeman has a self-recycling center where people bring their recyclables to drop off.

This is a regular source of new magazines to read and on occasion, supplies craft supplies for the kids.

A few months ago I glanced into the paper receptacle and saw a two inch stack of interesting looking paper.

Each sheet was a bit longer and wider than an extra long legal pad of paper and there must have been three hundred sheets in the stack.

Upon further inspection, this new treasure turned out to be an old ledger from a land lord in the small town of Scotland, South Dakota – 30 miles from Freeman.

On it were the monthly accountings of rent paid in and bills paid out – from the 1960’s.

Rent was around $60 per apartment!


Last week as we put together an Etsy shop to sell my wife’s artisan envelopes and considered adding more to the collection, this paper came to her mind.

And so as of today, we now have two lines of artisan sewn envelopes and are adding to our cobbled together income stream.

Like The Wildflower Series, The Ledger Series comes with eight envelopes and ten pieces of stationary and you can order them for $10 per set at the Cobbled Together Home Etsy shop.

Here are some more pictures:

The Ledger Series of hand made envelopes.

Perfect for sending a unique letter to an old friend or as a gift for your “type A” personality friends or family members.

Each envelope is unique with it’s own bit of history recorded in numeric fashion across the lines of each ledger page.

Visit the Cobbled Together Home Etsy Shop

Each envelope is completely unique.
What I wouldn’t do for $66.00 rent!
Use the ledger pattern to create your own patterns with colored pencils.



Visit the Cobbled Together Home Etsy Shop

Patio Pallet Table


I completed my first piece of furniture using a recycled pallet and I am pleased with how it turned out.

I learned a few things about pallets and now have a better understanding of how to work with them and have hopes for completing a set of benches for our back patio as well.

I need to find a few more pallets though.

I did pick up 10 small pallets from the Marion landfill this weekend – all of them solid oak and weathered a bit.

I’m excited to figure out what we can do with them and to find out just how difficult they are to work with – oak is very hard wood after all.

Anyway, here are a few pictures of the table I built.





Of Pallets and DIY Projects

Wooden Pallets.

I have of late become interested in using discarded packing pallets – those ubiquitous wooden piles you see behind most every store – to build things.

I’ve seen a fair share of ideas online and have pallets for the taking – as we all do.

Two projects have wandered in for now.

The first will be to turn a very clean, nice pallet that I found on the farm into a coffee table of sorts for our back patio.

Our future table for the back patio.
Our future table for the back patio.

The second stack of pallets is set aside to become the future home of a small rabbit, a pet for the kids.  I had a rabbit when I was young and now they want one too.

I think I have enough wood in the three pallets to build a good sized hutch for the four footed future family pet.

We’ve done some research, looked at what others have built online and have a fairly good idea of what we want to build.

Malachi insists on a living roof so I think we will grow alfalfa up on top, an easy snack for a hungry hare.

I’ll post more pictures as the projects come together.  Right now we are deconstructing the pallets, probably the most difficult job, but not nearly as difficult as some would make out.

All in all it has been a fun project to work on with my son.  And that makes it worth it no matter what the end result looks like.

Next up, a home office.   image credit

August 2012 Second Hand Year Report

In my quest to live without buying anything new this year, I’ve decided to document my purchases as much as possible with end of the month round-ups.  This will be the first.

August has been a full month.  The first week found us at a nice debriefing program for expats returning to the states.  It was a great week and really helpful but it was also I think the only time that I broke down and bought anything new for the entire month.  I can’t remember anything else anyway.

The rest of August has been spent back on the farm, recieving the visitations of great friends and now beginning the resettling process.  We’ve made weekly trips to town for food and to visit the library (free books!!!) but I haven’t needed to buy anything really as of yet.

We did start homeschooling the kids and so my wife bought some supplies to get us off the ground.  We also still need to find a place to live but other than that, all is well.

Anyway.  Here is what August looked like as I try and live a second hand life this year.

New Purchases

  • $90.00 worth of books.  Everyone of them has been worth it so far, but had we waited a bit we could have found or ordered used versions of them all I suppose.  Books may be a weakness of mine.  I recently wrote a review of The Lazarus Life which was one of these books.

Second Hand or Free

  • A cell phone.  My mom had an old trac phone which she kindly reformated with a South Dakota number and gave to us for free.  I’ll be working to use it like it’s 1985!
  • TNIV Noteworthy Bible:  $11.00 plus shipping.  I wanted to get a new Bible to start a new season in life and saw someone else’s Bible that had enough space for writing notes and decided I had to have one.  I got this one used from Amazon.  I assume it was purchased and returned or something like that but I ” I’ll see as it’s still on its way.

That is all that I can think for now.  Again, this is just my purchases – it’s my experiment, not my wife and kids.

Anyway, you can see a full run down of the year to date at the Second Hand Year page above.

[some of the links above are affiliate links]

Thinking About A Home Office

As we begin the journey toward settling down here in South Dakota, I realize that if I am to make my online ventures a reality and if I am be able to carve out the time to write regularly, I am going to need to find a better space to work.

Two years of working from cafes and from the IKEA cafeteria near our kids’ school in Istanbul have taught me to put distraction out of mind, but since I’ll have the space and since two kids and four cousins are a bit more distracting than the regular customers stopping through for a bite to eat or a cup of tea, I’d like to take some time to construct a home office.

As is fitting to this time and place in life, I’ll work to cobble together this structure from second-hand and natural materials that I can find around the surrounding countryside.  My desire is to build a small straw-bale structure that will be an energy-efficient, extremely low cost, creative and environmentally friendly.  Much of this depends on where we settle of course, but we hope to figure that out in the next few weeks.

Strawbale is something I have been reading about for a long time now and so building this will be a great little project to explore this building medium.  It is a fantastic idea and if you’d like to read a bit more about it be sure and visit Building With Strawbales, Straw Bale, or House of Straw.   I’ll also try and document each step of the building process.

What does this mean?

  • Strawbale Insulated Walls
  • Earthen Floor
  • Recycled windows and doors
  • Living roof
  • Low impact foundation
  • Minimal use of concrete
  • Natural plaster finish
  • Recycled wood or trees from the surrounding countryside

A Few Pictures

In all of this, I really have a loose dream of what I want to build.  Hobbit House is the description that I most quickly gravitate toward, but in reality, the materials that I am able or unable to procure will probably impact building decisions more than any other factor.  In the end, I’ll leave it to “We’ll see how it goes,” get started and adjust as I go.

Here are a few pictures I’ve found online, along with the picture at the top of the post, that have inspired me in this pursuit.

Recycled Living in a Second Hand Year

I began to work toward a new goal yesterday.  It’s a loose goal, one I’ll set before me as an aspiration for my life rather than the hard and fast sort of goals that make me feel guilty when I miss the mark and it won’t be anywhere near a central goal in life.

It’ll be aside gig, a sort of experiment.

The Second Hand Year

For the next year, I’ll try to live without buying anything new.  This excludes food of course, and unless we stay at a slew of hotels in the coming months, toiletries as well.  We’ll see.  And it’s my little gig, not my wife or my kids.

I am an impulse buyer.  Not bad, but it’s in me.  I see something I like and want (not need) and I feel the impulse to buy it.  Too often I do.

Buying things isn’t bad of course.  There is much we need to live here in our corner of the globe – where ever that may be.  But I guess I want to live with more discipline, more intentionality in this area.

And there are other things that I want too, things that cost money.  I want to return to Turkey – four tickets cost a lot of money, money that can be saved if I’m not buying loads of other stuff.

I want to develop a business.  Robert Lewis Stevenson famously advised: “Earn a little and spend a little less.”  I’ll be earning a little for a while.  It’s growing but it’s not their yet and so I’ll need to spend a little less.

And so I want to try to buy everything second-hand, to recycle what others have discarded and use it well.  One man’s junk is another man’s treasure and in today’s world, most junk is pretty well treasure all around.

My wife is wearing a pair of $80.00 Chaco sandals that our sister-in-law found at the thrift store for $10.00.  Her last pair of Chacos are into their thirteenth year and still going.  Chacos aren’t junk.

Yesterday, we bought a 2002 Pontiac Montana minivan.  We have our reasons for buying a minivan, reasons we feel good about.  It’s a good van, clean, well taken care of and we were able to pay cash for it.  No debt is right where I want to remain.


Reason 1:  It forces me to live more intentionally, to think through what I really need and grow in patience.  It’s a character thing.

Reason 2:  It allows me to depend on God and others more, to live in community, to share and to be the recipient of  God’s generosity and the sharing of friends.  (Though not the town mooch)

Reason 3: It forces me to spend less money on me so I can spend more money on the important things in life.

Reason 4:  It will allow me to complete some of my dreams – like build a straw bale home office and return to Turkey with my family.

Reason 5: It will dramatically reduce my ecological footprint.  I am a Christian environmentalist I guess.  I think the earth as on of God’s creations should be taken care of and tended, not exploited for our own pleasures.

I suppose there are other reasons.  Maybe it just gives me something to work toward within the framework of my efforts to cobble together an income back in the states.  Maybe I just like to be different.  Regardless, I’ll give it a go, do the best I can, live graciously and honestly with myself and others and have fun with it.

We’ll see how it goes.

I am in no way the first to do this.  I saw a sign recently that said, “What we call organic, our grandparent’s called food.”  It highlights the fact that there is much that has changed in the last 100 years.  Many in the “good ole days” rarely bought anything new.   And Jess over at Nothing New, Nothing Wasted spent an entire year as a family working to buy nothing new.

And with resources like Freecycle, it may be easier than I think.


Mental Energy: Take? Sell? Store? Give Away? Trash?

“Americans used to be ‘citizens.’ Now we are ‘consumers.”
― Vicki Robin

My wife is upstairs now trying to find the right recipe for getting our “stuff” back to America when we return on the 20th of this month.

We have already sent a number of bags back with friends but now are in those last stages of sorting, pitching, packing and generally trying to do the best job to get most of what we need and some of what we want back to South Dakota.  We’ll be leaving a lot behind.

You could look at this problem in one of two ways.  Either:

  1. The airlines have cut the number of bags you can check on international flights to one bag per person – that would be four bags for our family.  You can purchase more bags if you wish.  Or –
  2. We have too much stuff.

Consuelo and I actually like this part of the process of moving.  We like the purging that happens, the returning to our senses and to the essentials.  We have talked a lot about this move and desire to make our return to the U.S. a modest one.

I have a theory that we are in some way slaves to the things we own.  This isn’t always a bad thing, but it is a reality.  If I own something, it in some way owns me.  It requires my time, my care, and my mental and emotional energy.

Again, this isn’t always a bad thing.  Often times the payback is well worth the exchange.  Our buying a car here in Istanbul was one of those that was well worth the time, energy and money to own.  I only wish now I’d bought it sooner.

But the things we own will make demands on us. They will take our time.  Our money.  Our emotional energy and our mental focus.

And other things will need to be sacrificed.

“If you live for having it all, what you have is never enough.”
― Vicki Robin

As we return to the states, we want to be intentional about being slow to acquire more stuff. We’ll need beds of course and a bit of furniture, but really, we NEED far less than we think.

Most of our neighbors here in our apartment eat as a family seated on a blanket spread out on the living room floor.  We call it village style and it is the way Turks have eaten for centuries – like most cultures perhaps.

Consuelo and I were talking last night about all of this and remembered that less than 100 years ago, most Americans had a few pairs of work clothes, one set of “Sunday Best” clothes and little else.  It was enough.


Enough seems to be a word long lost on the west and yet it would seem to be a pretty defining Biblical principle.  I certainly have my weaknesses, those things that I think I need, those purchases I make to meet an emotional need and those products I desire because I think they will make me cool.

But it is not really about the stuff.  It’s about the attitude, about the direction and leanings of the heart.  It is always a heart issue.  I am reminded of a story about John Wesley:

A distraught man frantically rode his horse up to John Wesley, shouting, “Mr. Wesley, Mr. Wesley, something terrible has happened. Your house has burned to the ground!” Weighing the news for a moment, Wesley replied, “No. The Lord’s house burned to the ground. That means one less responsibility for me.”

And so as we return to the states, I want to avoid filling my life with lots of stuff and simultaneously hold less tightly to the stuff I do own.

That way I’ll have more left over to focus on the things that truly matter.