Me and My Yard – part 4

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.

Me and My Yard – part 3

When we first bought the house, both the front and the back yard were pretty bland; like a blank canvas.

Within the first year of owning the house, Natalie decided to take advantage of the blank canvas and spruce up the landscaping.

We first attended to the front yard: we dug up the ground in front of the house, put down the black ground-covering, shaped the terrain with a garden-hose, put in the border, planted a few bushes and flowers and mulched everything into place.

Having had very little experience in landscaping, we were both very proud of what we’d done. I even went so far as to go out and purchase some yard lights, bury the cable stake the lights and set it up on a timer.

We were sooo excited. Every evening when we’d come back, we’d see the house from afar, all lit up in the front garden. It was very inviting and made the house look beautiful.

A couple of years later, Natalie was drawing on some graph paper. I walked over and looked over her shoulder to see several organic looking shapes that she was sketching out with what looked like several bushes within the organic shapes. She was planning.

Now, when we first got married, I would flip out everytime she began doing that because I’d get all concerned about how much these little projects were going to end up costing. Over time, I came to understand that it was ok for my wife to dream and that when she was drawing out things on paper, it didn’t necessarily mean that she was really ready to do something about it.

As I looked at her drawing, I really began liking what I was seeing. She’d carved out a quarter of the back yard into a garden-spa, complete with stone walkways and a special little place for me to put my grill.

Over the next couple of days, her drawings became more and more sophisticated and she began adding color to them. She was dreaming big.

One Saturday, as she was in the kitchen sketching, I came downstairs dressed in grubbies and said, “honey, go get on some work-clothes. Let’s go to the store and pick up some yard equipment and materials and start building that backyard you’ve been planning.”

If you’ve never seen a woman’s eyes sparkle, tell her that her dreams are about to come true.

My plan was to spend some of the money that we’d been saving up to have a tree service come cut down the awful ash tree in our front yard and turn it into mulch for our backyard project. That would be like killing two birds with one stone. I’d be getting rid of a tree that was tearing up my front yard and dropping seeds/leaves all over the place while getting the mulch we needed for the back yard.

Natalie and I went to the store and purchased several rolls of ground cover, several rolls of border, picked the stone we would purchase, picked the plants that we’d put in when the project was into its final stages and planned out a schedule as to when each portion of the project would be completed so that we could schedule the tree service to come mulch the tree in the front yard.

We were off to a great start!

This concludes part 3.

Context is everything

My nephew, Matthew, has recently been enamoured with a computer game called Lego Rock Raiders. It’s one of those “build an empire and send people out to do your bidding” types of resource-management games.

At first, he just liked it because it’s Lego, but then he started playing it and has gotten really good over time.

This past Saturday, he was playing it and I was sitting on his bed, watching him, amazed at his proficiency. As he played, I told him how much it reminded me of game that was popular when I was in college: Warcraft.

My sophmore year, the guys in the dorms were all playing Warcraft. I didn’t really see what the attraction was at first, but one Saturday morning, I sat down at my computer and decided to try it out and see what all the fuss was about.

I downloaded a shareware trial copy of the game and installed it. Fifteen hours later, having had no food, no interaction with people, still in my pajamas, now with sores on my butt from sitting on a hard-wood chair all day, I decided that if I was going to graduate, I needed to uninstall this game and never play it again.

I told Matthew about my experience with it, mindful that it was nearing the afternoon and he was still in his pajamas.

The girls were busy that morning doing their Bible study together and we had planned to go to the mall afterward, so I needed him to shut down and get himself ready for the day.

As he was shutting down, he accidentally clicked on one of the little lego people who was busy at work at whatever menial task Matthew had assigned him. The little character squeaked, which reminded me of a feature in Warcraft: when you clicked on the idle soldiers, the programmers of the game thought it would be funny to make the soldiers respond to meaningless clicks, so they would say things like, *click* “Yes, master?” *click* “What do you want?” *click* “Why are you touching me?” *click* “Stop touching me!”

The more you clicked the soldiers, the more irate they became; a funny little feature.

Matthew thought it was funny too and giggled about it for quite a while… so much so that it was inhibiting him from getting ready to go to the mall, so I prodded him along and got him back on task.

An hour or so later, we were walking around in the mall. His mom had gone off to look at childrens’ shoes and Matthew was still giggling about the game feature… only now, to my horror, he was quoting the lines in a low, muted voice as he walked around with me in a public place:

“Stop touching me!”

“Why are you touching me?”

“Stop touching me!”

Awkward. Thanks, Warcraft. His mom and I put a stop to his quoting the lines and explained that people wouldn’t understand what he was quoting.

I’ve heard that violent video games can have adverse affects on people and families… but who knew humorous features could potentially get you in so much trouble?

Long stretch…

It has been a loooong stretch since the last time I posted.

Since the last time I posted, my sister got divorced and she and Matthew have moved in with us. You might think that would make for a pretty difficult time, but truthfully, Ruth and I get along fabulously and she and Natalie are terrific friends. There seems to be enough room for everyone, so we don’t tend to get too stir-crazy.

We have Matthew through a good portion of the week and every-other weekend, so it works out well. He is a constant joy and blessing in our home.

I’ve started playing drums at our church, at which Natalie and I recently became members. I even bought a little electric trap set so I could practice with headphones in the apartment or hook up to our surround-sound. They sound pretty good, have enough equipment to lay down some pretty good rhythms and are compact enough to quickly and easily store when not in use.

I haven’t had a lot of time to play them until recently, however. My schedule has been pretty booked for the past three months with freelance work.

I also purchased some online hosting space and have been hosting the websites for my clients as an additional little side-practice. That seems to be going pretty well… makes it easy to set up and host my own blog. 😉

Originally, I named the blog “Ramblings of a Lazy Guy” so that if I ever got away from blogging for a while, people would naturally think, “well, he’s lazy” and cut me some slack. I thought it was a stroke of genius… the problem is, the reason I haven’t been blogging is actually the exact opposite: I’ve been too blasted busy!

For those of you who have stayed with me through the long stretch, thank you. I’ll be resuming my blogging and you can look forward to some more adventures shortly about me and my yard.

For those just joining us… it’s gonna be a wild ride!