The backyard blues

We’ve been singing the backyard blues ever since we moved into this house, and I figured it was probably time for an update. (I’ve been avoiding it because I’d rather pretend the backyard doesn’t exist!) We knew it was going to need a lot of help, but I think we severely underestimated the scope of the project. It was a jungle. This is what it looked like when we moved in. Why did we buy this house? I don’t know. We’re crazy.

Back Yard from Left Side

Even so, as I look back at previous backyard disasters issues we’ve resolved, I feel a small surge of hope that if we could fix those things, we can put this yard back together better than it was before…it will just take a ton of manual labor, eons of time (that I’m not sure we’ll ever find), and a pretty penny…or thousands. Time to start collecting.

So far, we’ve removed a bunch of trees between our neighbor’s chain link fence and our wooden fence (they were knocking our fence over!), resinstalled our wooden fence including a section of new planks, taken the planks off the deck with the help of some friends, realized the support of the deck had termite damage and so took that apart, too, removed tons of weeds and junk (metal stakes, pieces of wood, remnants of what looked like a bon fire, random pots and plants, loose lattice, etc.), cleaned up random areas of mulch, and most recently fixed our air conditioner pond problem

That’s what the area around our air conditioning unit used to look like every time it rained. Well, actually that picture is after it drained a bit…if it was raining hard the unit was in a couple inches of water. Once we realized the railroad ties were attracting termites, we got rid of them and replaced them with cinder blocks for the time being.


This is the main reason for our entire back yard redo. Whenever it rains, water drains straight toward the house and this whole bottom level looks like a pond. Like this… (Sorry for the bad iPhone picture.)

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Because all the water flows toward the house, we’ve had to re-grade under the deck (hence why it came apart) so that this bottom level slopes away from the house. We still need to install more drains, regrade the other levels of the yard, and move the retaining wall back a couple feet. No small task, as you can imagine.

Since we’ve seen no damage to the house from the water, though, our immediate concern was just the ac unit. We replaced the nearly 30 year old unit when we moved in, and these babies aren’t cheap!! With the help of our friend (who also happens to own the HVAC company that did the install), we filled in that hole and were able to make it the same level as the bottom tier of our yard. I believe they had to unhook some stuff to move it…but he also serviced it and only charged us for the service call.


It’s still not pretty, but at least now when it rains, it is out of harm’s way and above the water line. Yay, progress. We’ve also “gained some ground” with all of this boxwood lining our chain link fence. Literally. We were losing quite a bit of our yard to these overgrown monster bushes.

They’re actually growing in our neighbor’s yard, but they never prune them and branches were sticking out at least 4 feet through our fence when we first moved in. We’ve pruned them back a little bit each year, but this time we decided to spare no branches and we cut all the way back to the fence!


We left some of the small boxwood plants that were growing on our side of the fence and moved some other random plants (they’re everywhere!) close to the fence. We want to cultivate the ones in our own yard so that we have more control over their growth. Andrew got some long handled pruners to cut back the taller growth so that the baby boxwoods on our side will get enough sun.


We still like the idea of having a hedge of boxwoods here to help camouflage the chain link fence and give us a little privacy from our neighbors, but we wanted to reclaim a foot or two of our yard and grow the boxwoods more purposefully they way we want them.

Here’s the huge pile of everything we cut down. You can’t really tell, but it was taller than us…


The city took their sweet time coming to pick it up, so all our grass there died. They also claimed they’d already come (and yet our pile was still there?) so they took both of our free mass pick-ups. Thanks for nothing, city! But now it’s July and we don’t water, so our grass is dead anyway. Don’t you just love summer?

Anyway, here are a few more angles of before and “current” pictures of our backyard, just to show you that even though our backyard is still ugly and unusable, we have been working our little tails off!! Before from the right side of the house…(I told you it was a jungle!)

 Back Yard from Right Side

Some progress.

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And it’s current state.


Boxwood is pruned, fence is back up (and trees behind it are gone), grass is beginning to fill in a little, weeds and random plants are at a minimum (seriously, I’ve found so many weird plants in our yard!) Little by little, we’ll get there.

Here was the deck when we moved in. Love the red color…NOT!


It will be going back up, minus the lattice, plus a few more square feet (hopefully) and enhanced with some kind of built-in bench (also hopefully). Here it is a few months ago.


And unfortunately now it looks worse.


But sometimes it has to get worse before it gets better, right? That’s what we keep telling ourselves, anyway. From this angle it doesn’t look so bad, though. Grass is a good thing!! (Notice all the pieces of the deck stacked against the house on the left. We’re hoping we can re-use most of them.)


We know it’s still far from pretty, but having spent so many weekends out there sweating and crying tears of blood (ok, so not…), it’s nice to see that we have done something useful. Our next exterior project is house painting!

Repeat after me. It will be an oasis. It will be relaxing. It will be beautiful. It will be worth all the hard work and money! Ugh, who am I kidding. I’m going to go out to my backyard and scream now.


2 Responses to The backyard blues

  1. Tracy July 15, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

    Don’t worry, you’ll get there! That’s what I keep telling myself about our backyard. We are far from what I would call an oasis or even relaxing, but you’ve made a lot of progress!! Stay positive and stay focused!! 🙂

    • Simple House Expressions July 15, 2013 at 10:49 pm #

      Thanks for the encouragement, Tracy! We definitely need it! I’m so impressed by all the furniture on your site!