Saturday, May 30, 2015

Home Reno I: The Back Yard

Or how I spent most of my Pentecost break. :)

So, these first 3 pictures are from last fall after we had the fence installed, hence all the leaves on the ground. But it gives a decent view of the yard before the winter.  

 The main thing to notice are the bushes around the patio, especially the big one.

  Now bushes around a patio are fine if you are just a retired couple looking to sip tea surrounded by roses. But thorny flowering bushes surrounding a prime kid play area with 6 young kids is just a no go for me. So, in March, I began, one by one, digging them up and tossing them out.
 At the end of March my parents came for a visit for Teresa's birthday and my dad, James and I put together the playground.
 I still love the playground tree.
 So then we had a fenced in yard with an awesome playground.
 I hated how low some of the branches were on the pine trees. I love the trees but the previous owners had never cut a branch off at all, hence the lovely brown circles beneath the trees. James' dad cut an awesome number off but, after further reflection, I wanted more, so I sawed off some more so even I could walk under them. It is amazing how much growth they both have had since I did.
Another issue became Rosie's digging under the fence. She dug one hole on the back side and convinced the neighbor's dogs to dig from their side and were meeting between the two fences. In other sections she could stick her whole head up to her shoulders under and bark like a lunatic at the neighbors. So I began using the paving stones from around the patio and some 4x4s to fill in underneath the fence. Dig through that, dog! I have, to date, secured 21 sections of fence. There are only 7 left for her to try to escape from and 5 of those lead to another fence. :)
 One of my biggest hurdles was this bush, the big one. Felicity helped me saw the stalks in half to make it more manageable but it was a beast.
 It took me about 5 hours over two days to dig it out of the ground.

I even had to ask James to help me roll it out of its hole it was so heavy. 
 I managed to roll it into the wheelbarrow after James chainsawed off the remaining stalks.
The only bush I left in the yard was this beautiful surprise where the fence meets the garage - a Bleeding Heart bush. 
 With the bushes finally gone, my next step was to gather as many of the little decorative rocks as I could.
 I recruited the kids to help. They filled 6 of those buckets
 And we piled them in the corner as well.
 We moved the 12 square stepping stones that the previous owners had in this strange rectangle that only went 4 feet from the patio and never even came close to back door. This also meant that the area in front of the dryer vent became a slushy mud pit in winter since there was no stone to walk on and yet it was a path, hence mud.

I bought a rose bush for the back corner of the yard. I've always wanted a rose bush and the kids really shouldn't be playing in the corner.

When we installed the fence, the guy who did it said it would be wise to put a tree, bush, log, something behind the gate so that if the wind blew it or anyone swung it open too hard it didn't damage the fence. Well, I love hydrangeas and they can get quite large, so I bought one and planted it in the corner with plenty of room to grow. 

 I also bought 26 16"square paving stones for a nice path from the patio to the pack door.
  I love the way the red brick pattern looks. It adds some wonderful (and much needed) color without clashing.

Then I ordered 1 1/2 yards of topsoil and 25 rolls of sod from a local place. This I did pay to have delivered and that was the best $36 I spent through this whole thing. Because that dirt and grass were HEAVY. 
Cecilia, Felicity, Elizabeth and even Brigid helped me move wheelbarrow full after wheelbarrow full from the driveway in front of the house around to the back and spread it out. 
 A great deal went along the backside of the house to regrade it. It was so necessary it was on the house inspection report. Then I spread out all the extra decorative rocks on top of the grading. I had enough cover 2/3 to 3/4 of the grading.
 There was just enough extra dirt to put a nice bit of grading and fill in the front flower bed. It could still use a little more, but still, not bad! (I know the front flower bed needs a lot of work but one yard at a time.)
 Then I set about laying the sod. It was so awesome to cover those brown patches.
Goodbye, mud pit!
 I also covered a bare patch left after James' dad took out two huge bushes last October so the fence could go in.
 And I even had enough left over to fill in bare patches around the mailbox, next to the drive way and where the small playground had sat on the grass last fall.
 I also went through with extra dirt and leveled out the walkway. It still has a little give, but it will settle.


 I ran out and picked up enough paving stones to mostly match the previous owner's ones to finish a walk to the gate. It isn't perfect evidenced by the 3 inch gap between the walk and the patio but we don't use it much and the point was to be able to use the gate without walking in mud, which this does. (The new ones are dry, the old ones are wet because it had been raining.)
And I picked up enough extra stones to finish covering the graded dirt along the house.

While there will be a few minor things in the future, like if the walk stones need to be leveled again or perhaps another section of fence secured, the backyard has come a long, long way and looks so much better. So as long as the sod takes, I think this yard transformation has turned out really well.

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