Henny Penny Farmette house in 1953

Henny Penny Farmette house in 1953



I met with the tax assessor last month and he gave me a picture of our small farmette house from 1953. At that time, the house was only six months old. Over the ensuing years, many changes were made, rendering the tiny miner’s shack or bunkhouse (that appears to have been a single room) into a  2-bedroom, 2 bath house of roughly 1,000 square feet. We continue to renovate but limited resources slows everything. Eventually, we’ll have a small finished house in a lovely environment.



When we found the property in 2009, it was in foreclosure and looked like a dump. That’s because it had been used as one. Broken pieces of granite and cabinetry wood had been piled along its aging, rotting fences, too weak and weary to remain upright. Inside, the hardwood floors had been ripped off and everything that could be “harvested” from the house by others had been taken. The only appliance was an old refrigerator sitting a weed-field that served as the back yard.



But we saw land all around. Rising up  to the north in back of our farmette are hills (emerald green in the rainy season) that separate the inland valley where our farmette is located from the great Central Valley of California. Seeming as near as our front yard, the blue-green peaks of Mount Diablo tower over the landscape in the east and southeast (we now see these from our living room couch and front porch). From the northwest in summer, the breezes off the San Francisco Bay where it becomes the Straits of Carquinez blow toward Mount Diablo around 4:00 P.M. every day to cool the area.



Our sweat equity is paying off--our backyard no longer is a weed field

Sweat equity has paid off with a backyard instead of a weed field



After pulling out the  weeds that at one point towered over our heads, we envisioned re-engineering everything. We constructed a new landscape that included fruit, citrus, and nut trees, beds for roses and other flowers, an heirloom herb and vegetable garden, and a designated area for bees and chickens.



We've planted roses everywhere

We planted roses everywhere



Without a huge budget, we believed the renovation of the house would be ongoing (and it has been). This is our fourth winter. When we are not working outside, we are working on the renovation inside. For example, recently we installed window trim in the living room. Today, I’ll caulk, spackle, and sand in preparation for painting later this week.



The art deco stained glass door and trim enhance the entry to the house

We’ve added an Art Deco entry door, molding, and trim




Previously the entry into the house was through a side door and bathroom. The first impression wasn’t good. My husband created a welcoming entrance with exterior moldings around the windows and door. I talked him into a screen door and a porch (as yet unfinished) with a trellis to support purple wisteria.




A flagstone path lined with roses and citrus leads to the new door at the front

A flagstone path lined with roses and citrus trees  leads to the new front door but the porch is yet to be finished



Since unseasonably warm temperatures have been forecast for the week, we have begun work on a flagstone walkway leading to the porch. I love when Carlos gets out string, stakes, and the can of marking spray and begins putting down boundaries for fences, walkways, stone paths, and garden gates. The tax assessor didn’t ask about those markings. But we expect the property value to be listed higher next year because of the renovation we’ve already done.








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