Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Our Yard {A Before Story}

This post has been sitting in my draft box for 3 years.  Yes, you read that correctly...3 years.  I think it's just really important to say that out loud.  We've been in our house a little over three years now and besides completely repainting the inside of the house the backyard has been the most drastic improvement.  We are on our third year of a five year plan, so I offer all of this to say...it takes time.  

And since everyone loves a tragic before story, here's ours...

When we bought the house the backyard was a disaster.  And I mean this in the sweetest way possible but the yard was a well loved play space for three kiddos under the age of five.  There were two swing sets and a play barn and a few places where I think pirates must have buried some treasure and forgot to cover the hole back up with grass.  Some of the giant, grassless holes were also a place where water liked to pool and stand.  A fact that definitely freaked our family (and our realtor to a less extent) out. These facts under normal circumstances or rather in a normal yard may not be too bad, but our yard is a typical suburban back yard--shallow and small.  

And then there was the fence...oh, the fence.   It was sagging into our neighbor's yards in no less than three places, there were 8 rotted posts because the builder didn't use fence grade posts, they used something cheaper that wasn't meant to have water and dirt sit against it.  The same goes for the pickets, they were rotting from the bottom where they hadn't already fallen off or the dogs hadn't poked a whole through at the bottom.  

Below are two of the "befores" we snapped the day we moved in.  See how the fence isn't straight?  That's not an optical illusion or bad camera work that's what a fence that your 10 lb dog could knock over onto the sweet little neighbor girls looks like.   

We had the play equipment removed as part of our purchasing contract but you can also see the pirate holes in the bed above and two of them in the yard in the photo below.  Serious fun was had in our yard.  

I'm not sure that you can get a real feel by these two pictures, but we had hedges running along the back side of the house in shallow beds and two medium sized Bradford pears, one in each corner (there is one in a mirror image spot from the one pictured above) to work with and of course the falling down fence.  

If you can remember we moved in when I was 9 months pregnant which meant that I wasn't really up for a family fence replacing party.  But these high north Texas winds, a small bitey dog and dogs and kids on all sides of us meant that the fence needed to be high on the priority list.  So the first, unglamorous order of backyard business was having a new fence put up.

I wish I could say that our first fence purchase was wonderful, but it wasn't...we still have a few issues with it currently and would never recommend our fence contractor (send me an e-mail if you live in the DFW area and want to know who NOT to use!).  But the new fence, none the less was a huge improvement over what came with the house.  We went with the cedar board on board with metal posts for privacy and durablity. And since our house was one of the first in the neighborhood to be built, we have since watched all our neighbors upgrade over the past few years--very fun!

Our first year here we mostly focused on the lawn--filling holes, fertilizing the grass, filling in dead spots, fixing sprinkler heads and observing water flow and sun.  We also spent time throwing out all the trash, debris and abandoned yard items and toys left behind by the previous owners and shaping some of the existing bushes across the back and I did a cheap pot makeover but mostly it was a learning year.  We wanted to watch the sun in it's various positions and learn so that we made wise choices.

In our second year we got rid of this odd little raft of a side deck that was wedged between the house and the fence.  We lovingly called it the "rabbit brothel" because it appeared to be a nice mating and nest building place for animals.  It was also causing some water issues we thought might one day affect the foundation of the house.

Another thing we did in year two, that you will see the full effect of in my next post is put solar screens across the back half of the house. Our first summer despite keeping the thermostat higher than we wanted the AC ran non-stop, our bill was high and we were never comfortable--not cool!  So we installed solar screens to help with energy efficiency in our Texas home.  Side note...the solar screen company claimed that you recover the cost of the screens over 18 months on your energy bill but since we had them done in March before the summer heat--we saw our full investment recovered in 4 months.  Also, our unit is not running nearly as often or as hard and it is waaaay more comfortable.  Anyhow, the unintended side effect of solar screens is that aesthetically it created a nice uniformity across the back of the house.  You can see in the above picture how the widows looked at the beginning.  

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