When we bought our house, I knew there were a lot of things we’d have to deal with that were never a consideration while we lived in an apartment, from the obvious fixing whatever breaks to paying separately for everything short of the air we breathe, but the one thing I underestimated was the time and effort involved in maintaining a yard.
Way back in High School, I’d done the basics, like mowing the lawn and raking and even helped with building a deck and a small pond, but those were more chores than responsibilities, so my emotional investment in them was minimal. (I did take a bit of pride in the pond, at least until my turtle ran away!) While we lucked out with a house that was in move-in condition and only had to paint the kids’ rooms, buy new furniture and unpack our things to get the interior squared away, the yard was in need of some TLC.
I’ve learned from our neighbors that the property had been sort of a jungle for years before the guy we bought it from bought it last summer and fixed it all up — with 8-foot hedges enclosing the back and all sorts of animals residing in them — so relatively speaking, it was overhauled as much as the house itself, but unlike the house, it didn’t have any real character at all. Plus, there were some concerns with the landscaping with certain areas pooling water up against the foundation of the house.
When it comes to being a handyman, I’m a solid worker — point me in a specific direction and tell me exactly what to do — but I had no idea where to start in the yard or what it would take to do some of the things we thought we wanted to do with it, so the first two weeks were just about getting the grass under control, a job made tougher by my refusing to buy a gas mower and opting for a reel mower instead. The yard is small enough to get by with the reel mower as long as I mow every week, but the first time out in the backyard, with at least three weeks since its last cut, it took almost two hours to cut it down to size and another couple of hours to rake it all — 3.5 of those Home Depot yard bags worth of raking, to be exact. Great exercise and mentally relaxing, but brutal in 90-degree heat.
My mother and aunt came up to visit about a week and a half after we moved in and immediately got to work weeding and helped me think through the best way to approach the different projects we had in mind. We initially wanted to install a privacy fence around the back, but after pricing it out — between $2500 and $4800 — and meeting our neighbors, we decided it was both too expensive and a little obnoxious. Instead, we decided to concentrate on the landscaping and laying down a small patio for the grill.
We got the patio done in three days, with a day and half of digging out the 6×7 area and another day to lay down the sand and paver stones. The landscaping took another few days as my mother showed me how to carve a more fluid border and lay down and spread mulch; plus, she bought and planted a number of new flowers and shifted around a couple of the trees and plants that were already in place. She also dug a trench from the house across the yard for some plastic tubing that is supposed to keep water from pooling against the house which seems to have worked out nicely in the storm that passed through last week.
While it takes longer to take care of it all than if we had mulched it (or, god forbid, paved it) over completely — about 30 minutes each night when it doesn’t rain, and an hour or two on the weekends — the end result is visually much more appealing than what we had originally, as you can see in my backyard pictures, and because it looks so nice, I actually look forward to taking the time to do it as it’s a nice relaxing way to unwind after a day of losing my mind at work. I still can’t believe we got as much done out there as we did in such a short time, but it was nice to have it done before our housewarming/10th anniversary BBQ last weekend which was a lot of fun.
There’s still some mulching left to do — the front hasn’t been done at all and the back needs another inch or so laid down — and we’ll probably have to replace some of the plants that don’t survive the summer, particularly the hostas that was transplanted around the yard, but on a perfect day like today, there’s nothing nicer than relaxing in the backyard with a cold beer and admiring one’s own little slice of heaven.