Adventures In Homeowning
Part 4 : Ripping Up Real Wood

The Outside

We live in a twin, so there's not a whole lot of yard we can claim, but we do have a small space of green in front and in back, and it's all fenced-in, too. The yard wasn't in good shape when we bought it, and yard work isn't my specialty so it hasn't exactly changed much, but on the other hand a lot has happened to it.

Here's the front flower bed, pre-Steph. The old lady living here wasn't doing a whole lot with her gardening. Steph pretty much took everything out of there, bushes, cement dividers and all, except for that one purply bush by the rain gutter. Incidentally, I love the house's red brick exterior, but the faded fugly yellow accent/siding is eventually a goner.

There ya go, all nice and purty and red mulched once Steph was done. It looks even better when there are flowers and stuff blooming. July '07. It's kinda hard to tell, but you also may notice we removed the horse & carriage from the front door, too. (see previous picture).

Side garden, aka Iris Island... though not as exciting as when they're blooming. They look like leeks stuck in the ground, otherwise. But Steph LOVES iris, and that's cool, and they're hanging out with a little bush and a cute birdbath I got Steph for Mother's Day (though it cracked after a month and now leaks).

It sits a bit too low to the ground, but we really like that little Japanese Maple tree (at least that's what we think it is). It's perfect for Tristan and climbing. It's a bitch to mow around, though. We were offered a very large lawnmower for free but since our lawn is the size of a bathmat, I thought that ridiculous; the ensuing argument involving my wife and her mother wasn't so funny. I ended up buying a manual pushmower and cut it by hand, which I must say, I am quite proud of. No noise and no gas and no pollution. But since the yard isn't exactly all regular grass (lots of weeds and different types of grass), it's not easy to cut and takes some time. Some of it goes like butter, some of it is like grissle. It's actually probably gotten worse, but even in this picture you can tell it's patchy. The grass in back isn't as nice. Nellie (miss ya, babe) totally chillin' out on the street. April '06.

It's the backyard that has morphed quite a bit. Here it is, pre-Steph. April '06. That little wooden boardwalk went out to the droopy shed (which is now even droopier) from the porch and also stepped down into the fence gate, and up into the space where the grill is. Check out that charcoal grill (awesome free donation from Steph's mom) and notice the large pile of cinder blocks and cement mix to the left of the shed. There's a little partitioned area to the right that Steph kept for growing things (fruits and veggies) and has had some pretty good success with beans and cantelope and things.

[ current picture of whole back yard ]

There's also this large, covered, porch-like space, which is really an old car port (I think, or maybe not). It's ugly and old and needs replacing, but it's got nice shade and some privacy. It had all this lattice and woodwork and stuff, with a huge wooden planter on the side and those wooden fence-panels up against the stone wall. And the astroturf on the ground. Steph pretty much wanted it to go from day one.

(reverse angle) And she totally transformed this space, and the backyard, in two stages...

This was stage one, where she tore up the entire boardwalk from the porch to the shed and all the lattice and woodwork frames on the porch (except for the planter), and the astroturf, with the help of her brother, while I was at work. I knew she was doing it, but I also would have preferred she wait. But there's no stopping my wife. To her credit, it needed to go and was in bad shape. May '06, I think.

She also piled up ALL of the cinder blocks and pieces of cement and stone and brick and whatever, all in one neat pile. Those "bags" of cement were long-solidified, and are still the bane of my existence. Supposedly someone was going to be repairing the retaining walls in our backyard with these supplies, but it never happened. We ended up Craigslisting the whole pile of cinderblocks and some dude came and hauled them away for us. I think there over 40, total.

Unfortunately we didn't really know what to do with this monstrous pile of crap. Can't exactly put it on the curb for the trash man. I pretty much ignored it for months. Until we got a notice from the township to remove it, or else face possible fines. That's a long story. But we got it cleared (well, I did) after a LOT of back pain and avoiding the fuzz. That was in September of 2006.

Steph uncovered a TON of little rocks under the boardwalk after she ripped it up... along with more and more cinderblocks - IN the ground! She started to pile the rocks in our second trash can... until it was full. And then was surprised when she couldn't move it. Because it was full of rocks. I scooped out a bunch of it into bags until I was able to dump it, but because it was full of rocks AND rainwater, it took a while. Then I took this picture. Not pictured is the large dirt hole underneath the boardwalk and to the left of the shed, where the cinderblocks used to be. It was a big 4 inch drop off from the rest of the yard that we had intended to eventually fill with dirt and then seed with grass.

Many, many, many months later... like July 2007, Stage Two : Steph finally took down the porch planter she's hated for a year and a half. I helped, but not much. There was a LOT of dirt in there, plus more rocks and even more and more chunks of cinder block... which she put in a bunch of plastic grocery bags (not my idea). She also removed all the wooden fence panels and then put in these lovely little evergreens and little flowery plants. It opens up the porch space a bit, too.

The excess dirt, we piled in the hole over by the shed... which ended up turning into this mound. Which eventually turned into the resting place for some of those bagged cinder block chunks. Because you can't fill up a trash can with them (they're heavy as hell), so we've been putting one or two in at a time. And you can't store them down on the ground anywhere NEAR where they pick up the trash, because then you'll just get another notice from the township that you have to put your trash AT THE CURB for pickup. Well, no shit... but it's not exactly trash. And then we did that and they wouldn't take them, anyway! So they're hiding up here by the shed. There were intitially about 30 of these bags, which has been reduced to 10 or so after slowly getting rid of some and the summer heat and rain doing a number on the plastic, rendering some of those bags into flakes of white. Also notice in this picture the pile of little rocks does still exist.

Eventually, we'll try and remove more rocks and get rid of the pile of cinderblock chunks and even out the mound of dirt (which used to be a hole) and put down grass seed and even out the dips in the yard that were left from the removal of the boardwalk and put down more grass seed and replace the superdroopy shed (that I've been trying to prop up a bit, with not much luck). And then the fence back there is also all rusty and the retaining wall is splitting, too. We'll see how much of that we get to before we move the hell outta this place.