Before reading on, be sure to read part 3.
Natalie and I put down the garden hose in the back yard, according to her drawings and began digging up the grass. My neighbor had a compost bin and graciously agreed to allow us to put the pulled-up grass in the bin.
Digging up grass with shovels is HARD WORK. I was sad to see some of the best parts of my lawn being dug up, but I knew in the end that it would be a really great end-result.
Friends and family members helped along the way until finally after about a week of labor, we had all of the grass pulled up that we needed to. The next steps were putting down the ground cover and hauling in the stone for the 3 patches of walkway areas that we had planned to create.
We found that stone is a magical thing. No matter how big the areas were that we needed to lay down stone, it always seemed to require exactly 10 bags of stone. 10 bags of stone is also a magical thing. 11 bags of stone will make a Saturn economy car’s rear bumper drag on the ground, but with 10, you’re golden.
About two weeks into the project, we had the stone in place, the borders dug and the restraining walls installed.
Having little experience in these kinds of projects, I wasn’t sure whether the next step would be to plant all of the bushes and flowers next or to put down the mulch. I decided to let fate decide. I’d schedule the tree service to come make mulch out of the tree in the front yard and send Natalie out with some money to the nursery to buy her plants at the same time. Whichever worked out first, we’d go with that.
Natalie bought all kinds of plants and flowers, two rose bushes and my personal favorite: a Japanese Maple tree.
Frequently, as Natalie and I would go on walks through our neighborhood, we always stopped and admired the homes that had Japanese Maple trees. They’re just classy lookin’ plants, in my opinion. We bought a beautiful red Japanese Maple and planted it.
Fortunately, we had a close friend who was a grower for local nurseries and flower shops. He knows quite a bit about planting and advised us to build a little stone wall around the base of the tree so that the mulch didn’t touch it. If the mulch touched the tree, it could disease it… a blunder that I was destined to make if I’d not had some sound advice from a professional.
As aforementioned, I scheduled the tree service as well. I called several services in the area and priced them all against one another until I found a reputable service that I felt would charge me a fair price. I scheduled an appointment and had the tree service guys come and cut down the ash tree in the front yard. That was an exciting day!
That tree had caused us nothing but trouble over the few years that we’d had the house. In the spring, it dropped piles of tiny yellow flowers about the size of Grape Nuts that totally covered the lawn and driveway. It was so thick that the front lawn would be be recovering from it throughout the entire summer.
Being a soft-wood tree, during the summer, it dropped hundreds of 3-4″ twigs every week.
Naturally, in the fall, we’d get leaves… but ash tree leaves aren’t the kind you can just rake. Ash tree leaves are shaped like footballs and are about the size of a quarter; small enough to slip through the rungs on a rake, but big enough to get trapped on your shoes when they’re wet as you walk in the house and get spread all over the place. Ash leaves also clog up your drainpipes quicker than most leaves.
Ever blow into a cup with flour or powdered sugar in it? No? Oh. A very similar phenomenon happens when you try to use a blower on ash tree leaves: you end up wearing most of it.
That said, I was sick of the tree and ready to see it come down.
The morning the tree service came was to me like the day Mr. Wilson saw the moving truck in Dennis the Meanace’ driveway. I stood outside, wringing my hands with a devilish smile on my face, anxiously awaiting good riddance to bad rubbish.
The tree service came on a weekday and I made arrangements to go into work late that day to oversee progress of the tree-cutting to make sure they picked the right tree, and to give them specific instructions to mulch it and leave the mulch on my driveway when they were done so we could immediately begin hauling the mulch to the back yard. Once they had their instructions and the cutting on the right tree began, I left for work, anxiously anticipating the big pile of mulch in the driveway so I could finish our project and enjoy our new back yard.
That evening, I raced home from work, ready to jump into my work-clothes and begin hauling wheel-barrows of mulch to the back. What I found on my driveway was not what I had expected.
Apparently, when I said, “mulch the tree and leave it on my driveway,” they heard, “leave the wood in his driveway.”
I had about 2 tons of firewood, cut into 1-2 foot lengths. The only mulch that was there was from the tree stump that they’d ground up.
Immediately, I got them on the phone and explained the situation. The response I got was, “Ohhhhh! We were wondering why you wanted so much firewood! Your house doesn’t even look like it has a fireplace!”
I must say, however, they were quick to remedy the situation. The next evening, we had a full truck-load of mulch where the firewood had been. They brought two trucks to the house, loaded one empty one with firewood and unloaded one full of mulch. Once they knew what we were planning to do with the mulch, they were even kind enough to give us the right kind. Apparently pine mulch is very acidic and will kill off plants if you use it in a garden. They swept out all the pine mulch from their truck and loaded it with… some other kind.
…and so we had our mulch.
This concludes part 4.