Downhill. That pretty much describes the property when we moved in, cuz it’s all slope. Plenty is going to happen indoors — and soon. But right now, my concentration is on the outdoors. Welcome to How Green is My Brain Week at modremod!
I think I mentioned before how the outside was going to see the biggest change. That’s already underway… but I should catch you up before I show you where we are. Shall I point out a few things in this photo from last October?
(as usual, click to biggify and take in the full glory)
To the right: unfinished wall. To the left: massive pile of stone left by previous owner. We call it the rocky menace. We also call it outta here.
Feel free to compare the above shot to what it looked like here in ’72 when the house was built. (first image after the jump)
As for short run of unfinished wall along the street… it was abandoned when the previous owner ran out of money (I assume, as we bought this house from the bank). Street frontage on that side runs about 95 feet. We priced getting someone to finish that wall. Ka-ching!… and multiple stone people said do not use that crappy stone.
Therefore, c’ya wall.
And then there’s the slope. From the top of our yard, we have a clear view well above the roofline of the houses at the bottom of the slope, just across the street — that’s over two stories’ worth of elevation change. The slope presents a number of problems, the first being how to hold back the dirt. The timbers that formed the retaining wall along the driveway…
have rotted, of course. With every rain and snowstorm, more dirt slides into the driveway.
Like our attempt to redirect the water out into the street by channeling it through the hose? Lovely.
Pretty sure our next door neighbor looks away in horror every time he drives past the spot where his brick wall touches our disaster. Hard to believe it ever looked like this. (after the jump, scroll down to the last two images)
Out back, the timber retaining wall that supports an anemic patio area has also rotted away….
Not sure which is better with a 5-year-old on the premises: the five-foot drop off the edge or the rusty 12″ nails protruding here and there from the wood. Mmmmmm, tetanus.
So now that you have the lay of the land, here’s what we hope to accomplish outside:
- Tame that slope. We can’t make it go away and actually like the potential of the landscape — slope creates challenges, yes, but it also creates interest. We’d like to end up with a spot or two of level (or at least almost-level) area for safe play and entertaining. Terracing will help eliminate the erosion.
- Give it life. I’ve had about 130 trees, shrubs and perennials trapped in pots since the move. There were more than that. Every hard freeze I lose a couple more, it seems. I hear plants screaming in my sleep. It’s time to set the garden free.
- Think carefully about what we plant. More on this in upcoming posts. For now, I’ll leave it at this: minimal grass, no invasive plants allowed, native plants well-represented, plenty of habitat for birds, bees and butterflies, drought-tolerate plants in hard to reach areas, all-season interest, no big-box store plants, and a chemical-free discovery zone that no kid can resist.
- Create an everyday escape. Because our yard has been a hard, rocky, slope-y place, we’ve pretty much left home for outdoor fun for the last two years. We’ve never had kids over to play in the yard, because it hasn’t been safe. We go to friends’ cookouts but just don’t have a place for our own. I envision our yard as a daily destination… where we can finally relax, play and entertain like we used to, get our hands in the dirt and harvest veggies and fruit for as much of the year as we can.
- Give a lot of thought to aesthetics. Because this yard is basically a blank slate, we have the opportunity to create something that complements the style of the house as well as our lifestyle. The end result doesn’t have to be Dwell magazine material, it just has to make sense.