Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Because riding fifteen miles on Saturday wasn't enough exercise, I took it into my head to fix up the back yard a bit.

The previous owners (Renee's aunt and uncle) put in a neat little garden area behind the house. It's got a bunch of paving stones placed around flower beds and a smallish plastic pond. Well, we haven't much of anything with it for the last six years, and so the flower beds had become weed beds and there were also weeds —and herbs; oregano, basil, rosemary that were also planted back there that seem to grow like weeds— growing up around the pavers.

In addition, we had a row of shrubs on the south side of the yard, providing some privacy to/from those neighbors, but the shrubs were overgrown and causing the neighbors problems, so a couple of years ago, I, along with my professional landscaper friend Dan, cut them down and began digging up the stumps. Dan had to leave before we were done, but left me with one of his fancy mattocks to finish pulling them. Well, I managed to break his fancy mattock. Snapped the steel handle right off. I'm good that way. So, I put plastic down for the rest of the year and tried to kill and decay it all off. Well, of course, I didn't do a very good job with the plastic and several of the stumps wouldn't stay covered and some even managed to survive. The following spring, we took up the plastic, intending to plant something else there, but the money wasn't ever there, and so it became a very large weed bed itself.

Flash forward to this Saturday. We took the SUVoID down to Home Depot, picked up a non-fancy mattock, some heavyish plastic, and 10 ½-cubic-foot bags of gravel and two bags of sand. Total cost: $85. Most expensive item: 10'x100'x4mil black plastic. Total weight: Fucking heavy. I'd guess each bag of gravel/sand weighed at least fifty pounds and maybe closer to 70. I had to lift each one out of the bin and into the "cart", then I had to lift each one out of the cart and into the car, then I had to lift each one out of the car and into the yard. I'm fucking He-Man.

We'd already talked about what we wanted to do with the flower bed/paving stone area: rearrange the stones so there's one large gap, rather than several smaller ones, and put a Japanese zen garden-like thing in. So, Renee went to work prying up and moving the pavers while I went to work on the remaining shrub stumps. That process probably only took about 45 minutes, during which I managed to create and rip open a large, nasty blister on my left hand, just below the wedding ring. I had to spend the rest of the day without that ring. That's the longest it's been off in fourteen years. Weird. After I got done ripping up stumps, I helped Renee with the remaining pavers. We were fortunate that most of the weeds were actually growing on sediment that had collected on top of the old plastic the pavers were resting on.

We pulled up the old plastic, mattocked the heck out of the flowerbeds, smoothed everything out as best I could with a leaf rake that I immediately broke the handle of, put new plastic down, then the pavers, then the gravel. It actually looks fairly nice, if I do say so myself.

Then, the pond. The pond originally had fish in it. They lasted a year or two under our stewardship. Then came the big West Nile Virus Scare of 200(1?2?), when the neighbors insisted we put a pump/filter in there to keep the mosquitoes from breeding. Being a nice guy, I complied, and cleaned out the pond at that time as well. We've got a nice little fountain on the pump and it looks pretty cool. Well, we'd like to get some more fish in there, so we needed to put down a new substrate and stuff, so we cleaned out the pond again. When it was nearly out of water, it was loose in its hole, so I pulled out the entire plastic tub (thinking this was a shortcut) and poured out the rest of the water and hosed it down. Then I got to dig out the sand which had collapsed into the area the tub used to occupy and re-create the hole for the pond to sit in. To my surprise, the tub went back in fairly easily and we loaded it up with some of the sand, some of the gravel, and a lot of water and got the fountain started again. It, too, looks nice with its fresh, clean water. We'll let it naturalize for a few weeks before we buy some koi.

Then I dug up the rotting railroad ties which lined the old shrub area, put down more of the plastic, and used the railroad ties to hold it down.

Whew. It was almost as exhausting to write about as it was to do it. Hopefully next spring we'll have to money for some new shrubs.

The whole process was roughly equivalent to putting a spit shine on a turd, but it was rewarding nonetheless.

The best part, though, was that I got to drive the SUVoID into the back yard. I had previously thunk that it wouldn't fit between the trees and the A/C, but I was wrong. There's maybe even a foot to spare. But I sure as heck wasn't going to lug all that gravel from the driveway to the back yard by hand. Youch.

Okay. That's the end.

I'm really done now.

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