Tag Archives: home

Be Your Own Pit Boss

July 17, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Growing up on a farm in northern Minnesota, barbecue enthusiast Gary Dunteman learned many skills. “When you’re a farm kid, you’ve got to be your own mechanic, you’ve got to be your own carpenter—you’ve got to learn how to do everything.” 

At 13, his dad taught him how to weld to fix machinery. Now his welding comes in handy as he tries out various techniques to create the perfect smoker.

Dunteman once built a 120-gallon smoker with a customized rotisserie rack out of an old air compressor tank from a service station. “People look at it and ask, ‘What is that?’” he says. “I can do 16 racks of ribs at one time.” 

He competes in statewide barbecue competitions on the team Hawgenz Heroz, and he gets a lot of looks when traveling to contests in his decommissioned ambulance. “I call her Rosalie,” he says. The ambulance used to serve the village of Rosalie, Nebraska. “Everybody should have an ambulance. An ambulance has a lot of storage room.” 

Dunteman, who works in packaging sales, first became interested in meat smoking when his former warehouse manager built a barrel smoker. “He brought it into work one day and made some ribs on it. I thought that was the most awesome thing that ever happened.” So Dunteman taught himself how to make his own smoker by watching “ugly drum smoker” videos on YouTube. 

Dunteman says his specialty air compressor smoker would be difficult for most grilling enthusiasts to make (due to the types of tools necessary). But he says that anyone can build their own barrel smoker. Dunteman built his in an afternoon and it cost him around $100 in materials. 

Steps: First, treat your barrel by “starting a big old fire” in it with wood and charcoal to season it. “You want to get it smoked up before you actually start cooking the meat in it.” He then took pieces from an old 21-inch Weber Grill. He repurposed the racks and used the bottom of the grill to make the lid. If you don’t have an old grill, you can purchase a smoker cover and a replacement cooking grate for the racks separately. 

To make the coal basket, he attached four carriage bolts to the bottom of the rack and then attached a 6-inch piece of expanded steel around it to make a basket. “I wrapped it around it and wired it to the rack.” He removed the handle from the side of the grill and put it on top of the smoker lid. He then drilled holes in the bottom of the barrel and attached caster wheels. 

He also put in a suspended water pan (a disposable aluminum dish) between the coal basket and the rack of meat. “The water simmers and keeps it moist and steams the meat as it’s getting smoked, so it doesn’t dry out the meat.” He recommends buying a smoker cover to protect from the rain. Dunteman says if taken care of, a barrel smoker will last a very long time, giving the user many years of savory memories.

Materials Needed 

  • 55-gallon refurbished steel barrel ($29.99 from Jones Barrel Co.) 
  • 4 caster wheels
  • Replacement cooking grate or a secondhand grate sourced from a 21-inch Weber Grill
  • Expanded sheet steel (12-by-24 inches)
  • 4 carriage bolts
  • Smoker cover
  • Disposable aluminum dish for water pan

Aside from the 55-gallon barrel, all of these parts can be purchased at local hardware stores.

This article was printed in the July/August 2018 edition of Home.

A Model for 
Remodeling

June 20, 2018 by
Photography by Chris Ruhaak

Talk about adapting.

Since last August, the Minderman home (located west of 204th Street where Elkhorn meets horse country) has been in the throes of an overhaul. The scope of the project—from top to bottom, stem to stern—could send HGTV’s popular remodeling hosts gasping for breath.  

Dr. David Minderman, a neonatologist at Methodist Women’s Hospital, his wife Maria, and their three children have spent the past year listening to a chorus of hammers, saws, and drills. They’ve stepped gingerly around torn-up floors and torn-down walls, reconfigured their living space three times, and have gotten to know managers at several nearby restaurants on a first-name basis. 

Upgrades to the 25-year-old, two-story stone home began innocently enough. 

“We knew when we bought the house five years ago that we would redo the kitchen,” Maria says. “It didn’t have enough natural light and the appliances were outdated. The powder rooms and master bath, which are also on the first floor, needed work.”

Before

One necessity led to another. Adding eight feet to he kitchen required doing the same to the basement. In addition, the natural stone fireplace in the living room malfunctioned and leaked.  The main staircase, which curved at the bottom, called for a redesign to facilitate walking to the new patio door. 

The Mindermans’ contractor, Greg Frazell of G. Lee Homes, understood the couple’s vision and mapped it all out, with one suggestion.

“Greg said it would be best to get the entire first floor and the partial basement remodel done all at once instead of in stages,” says Maria, who grew up on a farm in Honey Creek, Iowa. “So we brought everything we needed upstairs to the second floor. That’s where we lived for over seven months.”

 The five family members, including Olivia (15), Tristan (13), and Brooks (11), made do with one tub, a small plastic shower in a 5-by-8 foot bathroom, and a family room that doubled as David and Maria’s bedroom. 

Meals became Maria’s great adventure. 

A bar in a section of the basement not under construction became the family kitchen. Maria didn’t have a stove, but she added a toaster oven, an electric skillet, and an air fryer to the bar’s small refrigerator and even smaller sink. Mealtime may have been cramped, but it worked. 

Then Maria got that familiar glint in her eye.

“What would it cost to paint the bar area and put in a new sink and a granite top?” she wondered. 

It cost the family home-cooked meals. 

With the makeshift kitchen suddenly out of commission and no sink to wash dishes, the Mindermans dined out during the last month-and-a-half of the first-floor renovation. Hy-Vee’s Chinese buffet, Jimmy Johns, Chipotle (“the kids love anything with rice and chicken”), Mama’s Pizza, and lettuce wraps at Greenbelly filled the void. 

Construction crews came to the rescue of David and Maria’s waistlines in mid-March. They unveiled the main floor, just in time to enter the home in the Remodel Omaha Tour, sponsored by the Metro Omaha Builders Association. The public came away impressed.

Sunlight pours through new windows into the kitchen, which now shares an open floor plan with the adjoining sitting room. The kitchen addition, with its separate entrance off the driveway, contains a huge pantry, laundry room, and desk.

Walls and cabinets match in pale gray, accented with white trim. The panel-ready refrigerator mimics the cabinets, its wooden doors painted to match and adorned with the same hardware. 

The industrial stove’s Carrara marble backsplash, with an arabesque pattern cut from antique mirror, adds an intricate and delicate touch.

 The kitchen sink now rests inside a 10-foot-long center island, allowing the family to look into the sitting room and talk to each other or guests while cleaning up.  

A dark-stained beam fashioned out of barn wood runs along the ceiling above the island. A single light pendant with smoked glass, weathered iron, and a huge throwback Edison bulb hangs over the island—just two of many eye-catching touches Maria discovered while working closely with Angie Hall, design consultant with G. Lee Homes.

“We have very similar tastes,” says Hall, who also serves as project coordinator. “Maria didn’t want anything trendy that would date the house in a short time. The look is classic and comfortable with touches of rustic.”

Normalcy lasted only until the end of the home tour. By early April, the entire second floor was shut down for a complete overhaul.

This time, the family set up three beds in the newly refurbished basement and dragged bedding, all the kids’ clothes, and the necessary electronics downstairs. 

Did any family revolutions break out?

“My husband is a really easy-going person and the kids did really well,” Maria says. “But there were a few skirmishes about ‘mom and her stupid idea to remodel,’ after we had to stop sleepovers with their friends.”

True to her nurse’s training, Maria remains cool, calm, and loving, but holds fast to the plan. 

“I keep telling them to remember our motto: ‘No crying until August 2018.’” 

And if construction goes beyond that date?

Maria thinks for a minute before answering with typical wry humor, “Then, we’ll talk about it.”


Visit omahasbuilder.com for more information about the home’s contractor, G. Lee Homes.

This article was printed in the July/August 2018 edition of Home. 

Entryway

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

July is always a busy time of year—full of activities, family reunions, picnics, baseball games, etc. And don’t forget barbecues! 

This issue, I’m passing the DIY baton to another do-it-yourself guru. Gary Dunteman is a competitive barbecue champ who really knows how to smoke the competition. He shares advice on making a  homemade barrel smoker.

With the current food-themed edition of OmahaHome, I’d also like to share a favorite family recipe—Catalina Chicken—named after the dressing. This dish is simple, healthy, and looks as delicious as it tastes.

Ingredients: 

• 4-6 large skinless, boneless chicken breasts (thawed if frozen)

• 1 large can of “whole berry” cranberry sauce
(I use Ocean Spray)

• 1 large bottle of Catalina salad dressing

• 1 packet of dry Lipton Onion Soup Mix

• White rice (serving size enough for each person)

Directions:

  1. In a large 8-by-13-inch pan, mix the whole berry cranberry mixture, 3/4 of the large bottle of Catalina dressing, and the whole packet of Lipton soup mix (this will make a thick sauce).
  2. Place all of the chicken down in the mixture, making sure you cover all the pieces.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes.
  4. Place one chicken breast with extra sauce over bed of white rice.

Tip: A Greek salad with an Italian vinaigrette makes a great side for this dish!

Here’s to a safe and wonderful holiday, and don’t forget the men and women of the U.S. armed forces who have ensured the gift of freedom that we enjoy every day.

Also, on a very special personal note, I had the honor of seeing my second grandchild, Stella Rose, come into the world this May. Big brother River, not yet 1 year old, was right there for her debut. These two are so adorable, I could just eat them up. 

Cheers! 


Sandy Matson is the contributing editor for Omaha Home.

A Cathedral for Cooking

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Most first-time attendees at Crème de la Crème instructional cooking events enter chef Paula Dreesen’s home as if they are crossing the threshold of a church. Perhaps overly aware of their guest status, they edge in on padded feet and speak in hushed whispers, the kind usually reserved for the gentle echoes of a house of worship.

“They may enter as strangers,” the gregarious Dreesen says with a broad smile, “but they leave as friends. That’s what good food and good conversation does. It draws people together.” 

But the night I became a parishioner at Crème de la Crème was different. And loud.

It was Dreesen’s 150th event, and all the other cooks-in-waiting were repeat guests, longtime disciples with as many as five previous evenings under the belts of their aprons. The only icebreaking required this time around involved that which was needed for a decidedly less than pious procession of mojitos which ushered in the evening.

Teaching, now so seemingly natural for the outgoing Dreesen, was an evolutionary process paralleling the arc of her life in food.

“My mom started me in the kitchen when I was a little girl,” the chef says, “and I worked in and around the restaurant industry for 35 years. Cooking has always meant so much more to me; so much more than just food.” 

After years of being asked by friends for help or advice in the kitchen, she began informal instructional sessions in her previous home, then launched her Crème de la Crème business plan three years ago in the sprawling 1,000-square-foot kitchen of a new home that was designed specifically for such group culinary gatherings.

“People always ask me why I never opened a restaurant of my own,” the chef says, “but I don’t think I have that in me, the seven-day commitment and endless hours that go into making a restaurant work. What I do have is a husband [Dr. Adrian Dreesen], five kids, and a dog. Crème de la Crème is the perfect fit…the perfect way to find and express my creativity and share it with others in a fun, social environment.”

Several globetrotting themes are available for Crème de la Crème soirees and, taking the farm-to-table philosophy to its logical extreme, Dreesen rotates her menus based on the availability of bounty from her expansive backyard vegetable gardens and fruit orchards perched high on a hill overlooking the Elkhorn River in West Omaha.

Crowd favorites include such Mexican menus as “Casa de Crème” and “A Tale of Two Tacos.” Italian is also popular with her “Pizza Party” and “Cozy Italian” evenings. 

And, in tribute to Dreesen’s culinary idol, Julia Child, there’s even a more highbrow “French Crème Countryside” menu for pilgrims in search of new frontiers.

Dreesen also offers the “Crème Conquest,” a hit with corporate clients that use the experience as a team-building exercise. Groups are split into teams and given a set of selected ingredients, but no recipe. The challenge is to guess the secret recipe from which the ingredients are derived. Even if the food sleuths fail to solve the underlying mystery, they get to battle it out, Iron Chef-style, in devising and preparing a delicious meal to be shared by their co-workers.

But it was the “Grillin’ Cuban Style” menu on tap for the night I attended, where anxious students took turns in preparing pineapple mojitos, mojo-grilled chicken with black beans and crispy sweet plantains, all followed by a decadent tres leches cake.

Although I was present as a journalistic observer—and my culinary prowess is pretty much limited to melting Velveeta—I was also invited to participate.

My assigned task, perhaps mercifully, was to blend the tres leches ingredients into a velvety symphony of num-num-numiness ready for the oven. Based on the baking, cooling, and refrigeration time called for in the recipe, I had accurately surmised that Dreesen had prepared a cake, the one we would later be eating, a day in advance, but I was still resolved to approach my job as if I were engaged in the sacramental rite of turning flour and eggs into manna from heaven. My apron, not to mention my nascent reputation as a capable hand in the kitchen, emerged unscathed. High fives all around.

Dreesen is often asked to take her show into other people’s homes, but now it’s her turn to speak in hushed, reverent tones.

“It’s doing it here that makes it meaningful for me,” she explains. “Cooking right here. Cooking with family helping me. Not just in any kitchen but in my kitchen. It just wouldn’t be the same anywhere else.”


Visit cremedelacremeomaha.com for more information.

This article was printed in the July/August 2018 edition of Home. 

The Scent of a Neighborhood

June 13, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann and Provided

Since 1989, the corner of 108th and Harrison streets has featured an aroma that permeates the air and reminds every passerby that Rotella’s Italian Bakery makes their magic there. 

The bakery originally began in 1850 in Calabria, Italy, with Dominico Rotella selling loaves baked from a small wood-fired oven. His son, Alessandro, immigrated to America in 1909 and eventually settled in Omaha. In 1921, after a strike left him unemployed, he negotiated to buy a small bakery for $25 a month from a local businessman.

Nowadays, the bakery spans four large buildings that occupy most of the block.
It’s no wonder this busy bakery emits the scent of fresh-baked bread to everyone in the vicinity, including the cars driving by.

Paul Schoomaker lives in one of the surrounding neighborhoods and has not yet grown nose-blind to Rotella’s scent. “We’ve lived in the Applewood neighborhood for over 25 years and have greatly enjoyed the wonderful aromas from Rotella’s Bakery over the many years. When there is a soft breeze from the south-southwest early in the morning, the rich smell of fresh-baked bread wafts through the air,” he says. “On many occasions when I would walk the neighborhood in the early morning, the smell of fresh bread was a major motivational factor to be outside. There are few smells like that which create such a comforting feeling.”

Fellow Applewood Heights resident Amy Youngclaus agrees. “Being near Rotella’s is an added perk to our already homey neighborhood. Walking out of the house to the warm scent of bread swirling in the air is like getting a hug from a doting grandma. I feel as though the whiffs of bakery scent add a warm and cozy vibe to our locale.”

Residents of Cimmaron Woods West have similar sentiments about the Rotella’s aroma in the air. “The best smell is when the air is quiet and they are baking garlic or onion bread,” says resident Tom Perkins. “The aroma gets really intense sometimes and is great to smell when you walk outside. The other time I notice it is in the mornings when it just smells like baking bread my grandma used to make.”

Another resident of Cimmaron Woods West, Tom Demory, says the scent from Rotella’s often compels his wife and children to make a trip to the retail store. When asked if the strength of the scent on a particular day has any effect on their desire to go buy bread, he replies, “Without question.” And while he is generally aware of the scent, he says, “I haven’t given it a lot of thought, but I’ve never considered it a negative thing. It’s a pleasant odor.”  

For some residents living near the bakery, the scent of Rotella’s means so much more than merely the baking of bread. Oak Brook Apartments resident Sara Locke explains: “When my longtime partner was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder that resulted in a gluten-free lifestyle, I didn’t think twice about swearing off bread myself. For years, I forwent my favorite foods—pastas, pizza, and my strange addiction to buttered toast. The day I left and moved into my new place, I spent the first long sleepless night sitting on my deck, torturing myself over the decision I had made. As the night gave way to the still-dark early morning hours, the smell was so subtle at first. Just a thought really, like a weird flashback that hasn’t yet taken hold. Then the unmistakable aroma grabbed me and reminded me of seven years’ worth of mornings without toast at breakfast. I sat there until the sun was up and walked over to the store for a loaf of bread. That was when I learned that they have gluten-free offerings, but it’s too late now. I may have ended a long relationship, but I’ve returned to my first love… and I still spend my mornings on that deck, but now I do it with toast and coffee in hand.”

Louis Rotella III isn’t surprised by everyone’s reaction to the Rotella’s scent—he still gets excited when he smells cinnamon raisin bread baking. “Sometimes I get hit with a smell that brings back my childhood,” he says. Occasionally he’ll encounter people who remember the 24th Street bakery Rotella’s occupied from 1965 until they moved to the current location in 1989. “They’ll say, ‘We miss the smell!’” he says, adding that they also miss the bread, but the smell is what’s most often brought up. 

Often, people will stop in at the retail shop to load up on bread to take to their out-of-state relatives. While Rotella’s is indeed a national brand, it can be difficult to find in a store outside of Nebraska and the immediate surrounding states. “Sometimes we’ll get people visiting who were instructed by their families to stop at the retail store and ‘load up’ to bring bread home,” Rotella says. 

Rotella’s Italian Bakery isn’t just a place that pumps out pleasant smells for the surrounding neighborhoods—it’s an Omaha mainstay, active in the local community. “We try hard to maintain the family values that brought us to where we are today,” Rotella says. “We recognize and appreciate the community that supports our business.” In that sense, the pleasant scents blanketing the neighborhoods can be seen as a far-reaching thank-you from Rotella’s to the community.  


Visit rotellasbakery.com for more information about the local Omaha bakery. Residential neighborhoods adjacent to the bakery complex include Applewood Heights, Cimarron Woods, and Brookhaven. 

This article was printed in the July/August 2018 edition of Home. 

Cooped Up in the City

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Raising chickens in the city has become more common in recent years due to the popularity of urban farming. 

Brett Kreifels, educator for the Nebraska Extension in Cass County (formerly of the Douglas-Sarpy County Extension), has been around poultry his whole life. He runs 4-H youth development for the county and has extensive education in livestock. His grandfather owned a hatchery in Springfield when he was a child. 

Kreifels says there is a trend in favor of urban farming and raising poultry in cities like Omaha because it’s fun and it teaches sustainability. Eggs are an added benefit. For some, it is comforting to know where their meat comes from.

To get started, he says it is important to know local regulations, noting that Omaha and Lincoln have different rules, and Omaha residents must follow both city and Douglas County rules. Much of Sarpy County does not allow chickens, with the exception of those raised by youth in 4-H programs.

Beka Doolittle raises chickens in a part of Elkhorn that is not annexed by the city but falls within Douglas County. She has a permit from the county, but also advises urban farmers to be aware of homeowners association covenants. She raises egg-laying chickens exclusively. Doolittle selected types that lay a variety of colored eggs—they look beautiful in cartons. If one of her birds were to stop laying, she would keep it as a pet. She says raising chickens teaches good life skills, and she enjoys passing them on to her 8-year-old daughter. She says caring for chickens is therapeutic, noting that their strange behavior always makes her laugh. 

Janine Brooks keeps chickens within Omaha city limits. She has many Seramas (a small breed of bantam chickens originally from Malaysia), and enjoys their eggs. It takes five of their eggs to equal one average chicken egg. Brooks says she got into chickens with her 31-year-old daughter, who is autistic. She says her daughter loves the chickens and also raises turkeys. Rearing poultry and watching them grow has been therapeutic for the family and keeps her daughter occupied. Brooks says chickens and turkeys are incredible pets, inexpensive to feed and maintain, and they are clean animals.   

Kreifels says there are no health concerns with raising poultry so long as you keep a clean coop. Otherwise there are risks of salmonella and E. coli. He recommends washing your eggs and your hands after handling chickens. He has been sick from his own birds on one occasion. He attributes it to lax hand-washing practices. “Don’t kiss your chickens,” he says, partly joking.

To get started in Omaha, Kreifels recommends first contacting the Douglas County Health Department. Let them know you are interested in raising chickens. They will want to know your lot size, whether or not you have a fenced-in yard, and what the coops look like. They will send someone out to inspect the facility. If they approve, they will tell you how many chickens you can have and issue you a permit.

It’s that simple. Raise chickens. Eat fresh eggs. Know where your meat comes from. Learn to nurture yourself by nurturing and respecting your food source.


Visit extension.unl.edu to learn more about the Nebraska Extension’s work with local agriculture and livestock.

This article was printed in the July/August 2018 edition of Home. 

Residential Nirvana

May 21, 2018 by
Photography by Tom Kessler

Dull. Dark. Overbearing. Heavy. These are not nice adjectives to describe a new home, but this is exactly how our clients felt about the new residence they had purchased.

Before

When the homeowners first stepped into our showroom at Interiors Joan & Associates, they explained their dissatisfaction wasn’t about the house itself; they just needed to realize the potential they knew existed within the home. That’s when they connected with Karie Boggs (Allied Member ASID), a professional interior designer with the firm.

After learning more about her clients, how they wished to live in the home, and how they envisioned it to look, Boggs and the homeowners embarked on a major transformation that completely changed both the aesthetics and the functionality of the home—and they never looked back.

What makes this project unique is that the entire transformation was completed with minimal construction. Cosmetic changes included fresh paint, lighting, and a total overhaul of the furnishings. The father of one of the homeowners is in the construction industry in Dubai; his ability to see potential in the home’s bones proved to be a valuable resource throughout the renovation process, and helped his daughter to see the home for what it could be.

We embarked on a renovation project to create an environment that would match the homeowners’ personality and lifestyle. They required space for entertaining, but also wanted the home to be warm and inviting when smaller groups of family are there. Boggs’ design solution was to transform the dark, dreary, and gray home into a light, fresh, and colorful space that would reflect the clients’ culture and taste.

After

Rooms that were once filled with out-of-scale traditional furnishings, muddy gray walls with white chair rail, and mismatched flooring now boast a brighter linen wall color, elements of architectural significance, and furnishings with bursts of color and interest. The great room features a natural stone wall with floating metal shelves and integrated lighting. This built-in design detail provides the space with texture, and all at once creates dimension in the room. Glitzy elements added sparkle to the space: a furrowed metal table lamp, nailhead detailing on the upholstery, and a cocktail table base fashioned out of chrome, while a color palette of raspberry, gold, and copper repeats itself in the cut velvet fabrics and the large-scale artwork.

Custom draperies create a backdrop for the bright, punchy fuchsia fabric used on the upholstered chairs in the dining room. A sparkling chandelier and abstract artwork complete the new, sophisticated space. A sectional sofa with a streamlined frame and nubby textural upholstery anchor the hearth room.

Colorful pillows in a trio of patterns breathe splashes of raspberry, citron, turquoise, and seal gray into the design. While the actual architecture of the media and fireplace wall were not changed, Boggs had the walls painted and a textural treatment applied inside the niches to create a clean yet interesting space for display. Exotic accessories of glass, metal, petrified wood, and silk florals enhance the visual appeal of the media wall.

Colorful artwork and upholstered dining chairs perfectly appoint the more intimate dinette space. Here, bright yellow, pink, cerulean, and a deep espresso wood finish on the furniture frames replace the once-dark and drab corner of the home. Perhaps one of the most interesting transformations took place in one of the upstairs spaces. What was once a mismatched bonus space for toys was thoughtfully redesigned to serve as a Hindu prayer room for the homeowners and family. Great care was taken to respectfully fulfill every requisite that our clients had regarding the size, finish, look, measurements, accouterments, and requirements of this spiritual space.

Another fantastic transformation was to conceal an inconvenient laundry chute (positioned in the hallway directly atop the steps on the second level of the home). The chute was randomly situated beside a bank of practically useless skinny shelves. Boggs’ clever design morphed the unsightly chute into a part of an artistic installation by disguising the door with a contemporary metal cover that conceals its functional purpose with a more aesthetically pleasing trio of art pieces. The skinny shelves were replaced with floating shelves with LED accent lighting, creating a perfect space for home accessory display.

By incorporating a variety of design elements—crystal chandeliers, mixed metals, antiqued mirrors, lots of finishes, and sumptuous fabrics—the home realized a fresh, colorful, and interesting new personality. The homeowners’ personal tastes, cultural influences, and religious requirements found a residential showcase that is uniquely their own.


Visit interiorsbyjoan.com for more information.

This article was printed in the May/June 2018 edition of OmahaHome.

Starting Seeds

April 15, 2018 by

Growing produce is a great way to save money on groceries and promote healthy eating. Buying greenhouse-started plants is one option, but starting your own seedlings allows you to grow atypical plants at a fraction of the cost.

Springtime planting takes a little bit of foresight, so plan ahead. Seeds should be started six to eight weeks prior to planting in the ground. With Nebraska’s climate, seedlings will not survive in the winter cold and should be started indoors or with protection.

Dr. David Hibler, the owner of the Benson Plant Rescue, recommends starting your seeds in January or February. Hibler says that this will help you get your plants in the ground before the generally accepted frost-safe date of around May 4, noting that the date has been less consistent in recent years.

To start seedlings indoors, Hibler says you need three things: a light source, moisture, and a growing medium such as soil. He says kits are available, with the “72 slot” being a popular option. The 72 slot is a small greenhouse-like tray with subdivided slots for growing medium and seeds.

For the growing medium, expanding medium pellets are an easy option. Hibler recommends a lightweight organic seed-starting mix. Soil can be mixed with peat moss or vermiculite to lighten it. Hibler also recommends reusing seed trays and soils.

For lighting, Hibler recommends full-spectrum fluorescent lights. “Daylight” bulbs, he says, are often a fraction of the price of “grow lights” but contain the necessary spectrum. A brood light with a full-spectrum, compact fluorescent bulb also works well. He says LEDs are also available.

Hibler says that when the soil reaches around 64 degrees Fahrenheit and there is no risk of frost, seedlings can be planted. Perennials, he notes, can tolerate a little bit of frost.

John Porter, agriculture program coordinator with the University of Nebraska Agriculture School, lends a few supplementary suggestions. Porter says seeds need around 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit to germinate. Once they come up and have leaves on them, they need to be a bit cooler—60-65 degrees Fahrenheit—so they don’t get long and leggy. He notes that most seeds don’t need light to get started. He says they can be started on top of the refrigerator for warmth.

Porter also recommends sterile soil and sterilized containers. “There are some diseases that will kill the seedlings when they are very young,” he says. Porter also recommends using recycled containers for seedlings. They will need drain holes. He recommends cleaning them with a detergent and sterilizing with a 10 percent bleach solution.

Once the seeds germinate and have leaves, they should go into the potting soil. “Seeds have the nutrients to get [seedlings] into the first set of leaves; they don’t need nutrients until then,” Porter says.

As for lighting, Porter says commercial greenhouses use LEDs, but fluorescent bulbs also work. He notes that if full-spectrum bulbs are not available, a mix of warm and cool fluorescent bulbs contain enough of the light spectrum required for most seedlings. Porter recommends putting the lights as close to the seedlings as possible without causing damage to the plants.

Growing seedlings indoors is not an exact science to yield good results. If you need supplies, the Benson Plant Rescue has them for sale, or Hibler can steer you to the right place to find them. If you want to learn the science of starting seeds, Porter offers a course with the Douglas-Sarpy County Extension Office. Everything else about starting your own seeds and planting your garden is DIY. That is half the charm.

The Benson Plant Rescue is on Facebook at @bensonplantrescue and can be reached by e-mail at bensonplantrescue@cox.net. Details on plant propagation classes with the Douglas-Sarpy County Extension Office are available at extension.unl.edu/statewide/douglas-sarpy or by e-mail at john.porter@unl.edu.

This article was printed in the March/April 2018 edition of OmahaHome.

Entryway

February 23, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Spring has officially sprung, and I am itching to spruce things up around my house—inside and out.

In other words, spring cleaning. Washing the windows is typically the first item on the list, but this is not as fun as changing my throw pillows or creating floral arrangements to add something more colorful and lighter to coordinate with the new season. Combining succulents with bold colors and metallics is a hot trend (and I’m planning to experiment with them at my own home). I also take the opportunity to weed through my closet and transition to my spring/summer wardrobe.

Normally I create a spring DIY project, but after my yearlong room makeover we decided to change things a bit and feature some new creative talent out there in our city. This issue spotlights a painting project by a professional artist whose love of Moroccan style helped turn an ordinary bookshelf into a portal of sorts.

Omaha architect Steve Ginn spent five years designing a picturesque woodland masterpiece situated on 20 acres in Tennessee. If you love nature and being surrounded by it in almost every sense, you will love this tranquil home.

Does mixing old and new styles ever get old? The Nabitys would say no, as that is exactly their style—rustic elegance. It turns out you don’t have to live at Cape Cod to get the look and feel of being there, minus the ocean.  Hopefully some of these homes or projects will inspire warm weather decorating ideas of your own.

I enjoy that spring is also the beginning of yard sale season. It’s a great way to pick up some great bargains for new weekend projects on a budget.

If you have something you just have to share with the rest of us DIYers, email me at sandy@omahapublications.com. I love to hear from fellow decorators and creatives. 

This article was printed in the March/April 2018 edition of OmahaHome.

Sandy Matson is the contributing editor for Omaha Home.

Wood Works

February 16, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It all began with a Hail Mary pass to get Graham Nabity enrolled at Elkhorn High School in time for football season.

In 2010, David and Kim Nabity hastily moved from their 5,000-square-foot Pacific Hollow home to a 2,700-square-foot, 1965 Elkhorn home just in time for Graham to suit up that fall. With three of the seven Nabity children still under the roof at the time, David says they “sardined” themselves into the new, smaller home.

“The whole point was moving in with enough time for [Graham] to start at Elkhorn, so we always knew at some point we’d do something different with the house, but it took us six years to finally get to the place where we had the design we wanted and were ready to do it,” says David, an Omaha native who grew up in the Benson area.

At the tail end of 2017, after 15 months away for a massive remodeling project, David and Kim finally moved back into their gorgeous, fully redone (now 3,800-square-foot) Elkhorn home that makes heavy use of gorgeous reclaimed barnwood. Why so long? Well, that whole “fully redone” part ended up being much more involved than initially expected.

The first order of business was clearing the ample lot from its excess of uninviting flora.

“The woods were so thick when we moved in you couldn’t even walk through them—it was just dead trees, thickets, poison oak vines, thorn bushes…It took me two years to clean the grounds so we had a meadow,” David says. “By about year four, I’d cleared out all the trees so we could see the beautiful river valley view we have now.” 

From August 2016 through December 2017, the Nabitys moved in with their son, Justin, planning to simply skin the outside and inside of the home, “leave the sticks and the roof, and add on the garage and extension.” But simple was not in the cards for the Nabitys.

The framers reviewed the plans and the house, indicated the plan was not possible, and recommended tearing down the south side of the house. The Nabitys agreed to that, only to discover that the house also lacked headers over the doors and windows, and the frame was not bolted to the foundation. Ultimately, they took the house all the way down to the foundation and built back up from there—thus the unintended 15-month diversion to dwelling in Justin’s unfinished basement.

In January 2017, the Nabitys parted ways with the original general contractor and David took over the project, with no prior construction or homebuilding experience.

“Since I’d never built a house before or been a general contractor, I was flying blind,” he says. “I had to really trust and rely on my subcontractors because I was in uncharted territory.”

But what David lacked in experience, he made up for in vision and vigor.

“Our vision for the house was rustic meets elegance; for the home to feel warm and friendly,” David says. “It’s kind of a Cape Cod look meets mountain home. Over the years, Kim and I visited places like Beaver Creek, Colorado, and Whistler in Canada, and we love the mountain home look of housing in those areas. Since we’re on a hill overlooking the river valley, we wanted to bring that mountain home feel to the house and felt like the barnwood would do the job. We couldn’t be more thrilled with [the result]. It’s exactly what I envisioned it would become.”       

In the meantime, Graham had indeed played football for Elkhorn, and then UNL, before graduating college and partnering in Nebraska Barnwood with David’s friend Tom Day, who had a massive supply of reclaimed barnwood.

“They build barnwood tables, desks, other pieces of furniture, and I bought all my barnwood from their company,” David says. “I picked up the wood, brought it home, power-washed and sanded every board, and stained, painted, or put a clear poly on every board that’s in the house. [Kim] and I worked side by side on that.”

The result is lovely, with a variety of barnwood featured throughout the home, from David’s Western/cowboy-themed office with a horse-worn, notched barn beam and striking multicolored boards in a repeating 8-inch, 4-inch, 6-inch pattern, to the airy, open floor plan living/dining/kitchen area, to the French mountain resort-esque family room with natural stone fireplace, to the stunning master suite, and beyond.

Every inch of the home is appointed with thoughtful care for details like doorknobs, hinges, and other hardware to add subtle elegance, as well as strategic use of knotty alder for certain doors and trim areas to mimic the rustic barnwood charisma. Corresponding colors and themes are found throughout the house.

“Every room’s a little different, and I use the barnwood differently in every room, but I tried to tie all the metals and wood together,” David says. “A lot of thought went into each space as far as how we [executed] to get the look we wanted.”

Ultimately, David says the end result was worth the wait, and though much of the remodel could’ve been achieved with any wood, he and Kim love the way their use of reclaimed barnwood lends character and warms up the home.

“God provides a seed, you plant it in the ground, and it grows into a tree. Then that tree provides fruit or shade until it comes time for the tree to die or be harvested. Then you cut the tree down and can shape the wood into so many different things. But once you stain it and put it at its rightful place, it just lives forever,” he says. “It’s a really phenomenal natural thing, when you think about it. If you take that concept to an old barn, the wood is old, tired, worn, used…yet it still maintains that character, and when you bring it back to life by power-washing, sanding, and staining it, something really special happens. It goes way beyond just being a piece of shiplap; there’s much more to it. It’s an amazing thing.”

Visit nebraskabarnwood.com for more information about Nebraska Barnwood and the reclaimed wood used in the Nabitys’ Elkhorn home.

This article was printed in the March/April 2018 edition of OmahaHome.