Monday, April 30, 2007

Backyard project

Last summer, like the two summer we spent in the house before that, my backyard looked like this:

Notice the overgrown cedar hedges across the back fence line in the first picture. And notice how the neighbour’s tree has swallowed up the fence and is nearly touching my lawn. And in the final picture, notice this little corner by the edge of the house that has been totally and completely consumed by weeds – four of which are six-foot high thistles, and a ‘so-called’ plant that smells like celery, spreads like wildflowers and grow so tall the stalks eventually fall over across the patio stones.

Not very pretty pictures, that’s for sure.

The jungle doesn’t end at what you can see, here’s what you can’t see – the lawn is a mess. Aside from the weeds with root structures that probably go all the way to China, the lawn is not even close to flat. Scattered throughout the grass are potholes, some of which are so deep that when you step in one, you could twist an ankle. Ryan describes the potholes like this: “it looks likes someone has been practicing their short game for the last 10 years.”

The other thing you can’t see is the hedges are so overgrown that they spring out almost five feet from the fence line. But once you step into them, they’re nothing but a fa├žade – the inside branches are dead, so you can’t even trim them back.

For the record, we may have neglected the backyard for our first two and a half summers, but it didn’t fall into such despair because of us. It was in this state when we bought this house – although because we purchased in early May, it hadn’t started to grow for the season, so we didn’t realize the extend of the misery until we moved in at the end of July. The people we bought the house from had lived there for 10 years, and honestly, I think the backyard has been neglected for the last 10+ years.

Well, we’ve been talking and talking about it and now we’re finally ready to do something about it. Austin is up and running at full speed now and we want a safe place for him to play. That had always been our plan, and although the backyard won’t be perfect in the first summer, we’re in the process of deconstructing in order to make some huge improvements.

The process started last fall thanks to my dad, and was then put on hiatus over the winter. A few weeks ago we got at it again, and yesterday, with the help of Ryan’s sister looking after Austin for a good part of the afternoon, we really got to work.

Here’s what it looks like today:

Note the complete lack of hedges across the fence. (And by extension, notice how much more backyard we have!) Notice, as well, how the tree no longer consumes the fence and, in the third picture, how there’s nothing but a single shrub in the corner by the house. Honestly, I didn’t even know it was there until I spent hours and hours last fall de-weeding that area – how it survived being smothered for years, I’ll never know.

These pictures show nothing but a work in progress. Obviously there’s a lot of work left to do.

The roots and weeds need to come up in places, the ground needs to be levelled and sod needs to be laid. As well, the plan is to pull the patio stones up and then put new ones down along the fence (the area of yard that used to be consumed by the neighbour’s tree). The fence needs to built up a bit as well, to create a little more privacy from the back-door neighbours. Later in the summer, or even next year, we may build a few gardens and do some other plantings. That’s all cosmetic changes, which will seem easy once the heavy lifting work is done.

There’ll be more pictures to come, but by the end of June we hope to have a backyard that can be used – a place where we can sit and watch Austin run around (once we buy patio furniture of course), a place where we can have summer parties, and a place that doesn’t look like a jungle anymore.

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