As a child, I avoided yard work with a passion I reserved only for the chores I hated most deeply. One day, when I was around fourteen years old, my dad decided it was high time I learn how to use a lawn mower and mow the yard. We lived on a very steep hill, and since he probably knew that I inherited zero coordination genes and do NOT live up to my name, he said he’d only “let” me mow the flat part of the yard for safety reasons. The yard was big, half an acre, but the flat area was probably only about 20% of that. So here I was, about to be forced to mow a whole tenth of an acre of flat grass. Some might say I should have sucked it up, did my best, and moved on. But I’m not one to give in that easily.
I think it must be part of the Dad Code of Ethics to expect those nice, straight lines across your lawn. My dad has never been the type to obsess over grass species and when to seed, water, and aerate (like my husband, for example), but he does spend his weekends working in the yard and making it look beautiful. Growing up, my younger brother dutifully did his part, mowing nice, straight lines and not missing a spot. That said, fourteen year old me knew that straight lines were expected, and decided that in order for this mowing experience to be my first and only, I would do the worst job possible. I pushed that mower around in loops and circles, and technically mowed the area I was supposed to… minus a few little tufts I left for good measure. Surprise, surprise, I was never asked to mow the lawn again.
Let’s fast forward to when Jonny and I were house shopping. We looked at what is now our house, with it’s big backyard and long flowerbeds running the length of the house, and I turned to Jonny and said, “You know I’m not going to do yard work, right? I just want to make sure we’re clear and you know what you’re getting yourself into.” In my defense, I also said this to him before he proposed marriage to me, so by all accounts, he did know what he was getting himself into. We bought the house, and though we have a very equal partnership, we both have gravitated towards different house upkeep tasks. Jonny loves yard work, and I love that he does so that I don’t have to. What I’m trying to get at here is that I truly hate just about any yard work. Give me painting, pressure washing, demo, building, just about anything else, but please spare me from having to get anywhere near a worm.
However, when the ORC came around and I convinced Jonny we should revamp our porch and flowerbeds, I made a compromise. I agreed to do landscaping with him. That’s how badly I wanted to do this project. I have been actively avoiding yard work for well over a decade, but my time finally came around. He knows that the upkeep is on him, just like I know that he won’t karate chop the throw pillow on his side of the bed, and he’s on board.
We decided to rip out these awful giant purple bushes that have been in front of our house since the day we bought it, and I have always known they needed to go. During the winter they’re dead and depressing looking, and in the spring they bloom, but even their flowers are ugly. Don’t judge us too much on the state of these bushes–their other flaw is that they grow like CRAZY.
In addition to ripping out the UPBs (ugly purple bushes), we had to rip out everything in the flowerbeds along the side of the house, and around the huge black walnut tree and cedar tree by the road.
During the process of removing all the old landscaping (or lack thereof on the side of the house), we found plenty of broken bricks, small pieces of glass and metal, and a handful of candy wrappers buried in the dirt. I feel like every time we go digging around our house (this time very literally) we find all kinds of odds and ends, some historical, some just trash. That’s the fun of having a 94 year old house, though!
Just having the bushes cut down made the house feel like it could finally breathe. We had to remove ten stumps–Jonny’s chainsaw got a LOT of use.
Doesn’t it look better already? After all ten stumps were removed and on the growing pile of branches in the alley for the city to pick up, it was time to put down a weed barrier. We also added a brick barrier around the left side of the flowerbeds. We’re not sure why there wasn’t a stone one there to match the right side, but when we priced out just that small section (about 15 feet) and saw a price tag of $5,000 to get it to match, we decided that it could wait.
Hank was just a little sad not to be included in all the digging and stick carrying.
We made a trip to Bate’s Nursery in Madison, practicing proper social distancing and mask wearing, of course. The staff was very helpful, knowledgeable, and friendly, despite my asking endless and probably dumb questions. Then off to Lowes for mulch (Hank loved riding in the truck) and we were so close to being done. I decided last minute that I didn’t like the monkey grass along our front path anymore, so Jonny dug it all up and we replanted there as well.
And finally, finally, finally, we finished the landscaping. I still hate yard work, but I’ve learned that I enjoy spreading mulch, and I also enjoy having pretty flower beds. Other than that, though, I’m still not a fan of yard work. There were multiple times during this process when a giant earthworm made its way to the surface and I couldn’t handle it. Jonny knows my phobia of worms/snails/slugs/anything slimy and was kind enough to “chuck” the worms out of the way for me. The things we do for love, right?
I can’t wait until the hydrangeas are blooming. The roses just started blooming this week, and it’s adding so much life to the house! The only issue is that now the flower beds looking so good makes the chipping paint on the walkway and porch look even worse… Bet you can’t guess what our next project is!
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