Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Landscaping and Outdoor Projects

When we bought our house, it was brand new.  A huge benefit of this is obvious: it's new!  That means no pet stains and odors, no stains on walls or carpets, etc.  However, the downside is that the lot was just the house.  No landscaping at all.  It had a driveway and stairs to the front door.  That's it.  We did luck out that it was already fenced on two sides by the neighbors; though we ended up replacing one side because it was falling down.  So here's what we've done so far.

The back yard was the first priority.  Partially because we really wanted grass, and partially for our dog, Cassie, who was our only dog at the time.  So the first summer/fall we were in the house we had the back yard area leveled, put in an irrigation system and had the area hydro-seeded.  It turned out lovely, but there is still much we want to do in this area (I know, it's hard to imagine me having a to-do list).  We have very sandy soil (I know, imagine that living by a river/lake) so last summer we spent lots of time fertilizing and working to build up good sod base in the yard as our grass tends to be thin.

The shed and back yard at move-in with our temporary green fence

The back yard at move-in(note the old grey fence)

Grass in, it is much thicker now.
Living a block from the lake and having private access we are so lucky to have a fishing boat that we use often.  Our driveway when we moved in, however, had no storage for said boat.  So, it was time to dig out a hill and build a retaining wall.  It is now a wonderful spot for the boat in the summer.  In the winter we now park the truck there as we are lucky to have boat storage at my parent's house a few miles away.  This gives the truck partially covered parking which is a plus in the winter.  We also graded the hill to the back yard so it is easier to drive in the back yard as needed.  The back yard is where the sailboat lives so being able to back it in and out is a necessity.

Future boat/truck parking

Future drive to back yard

Retaining wall done and drive to the back

Gravel in, boat in

From doing these projects, we accumulated a massive amount of river rocks in various sizes.  And yes, we moved them all by hand, what a project!  My husband used to laugh and say we would never find a way to use all the rocks; but we have!

Our rock pile in the front yard, it grew bigger before it got smaller
As you walk up the steps to the front door, there was bare dirt on both sides that was positioned well for flowerbeds and easy to hand water as there was a facet there as well.  So we spent a weekend picking some rocks and defining the flower beds.  We planted tulips in the lower beds and are now looking for solutions for low maintenance summer flowers that we don't have to plant each year.  The upper bed by the front door we don't mind planting so it gets annuals each summer.  I think these flower beds turned out wonderfully!  And the leaf bird bath made by a dear friend of mine is the perfect accent.

Before on the left side of the walk

After on the left side, we added two rock walls, one by the house and one to divide the upper and lower beds.

Before on the right side of the walk

After on the right side, one wall and tulips in.
The fence became a necessity the summer before last when we got a puppy, Aria.  The green plastic construction fencing was more than enough to contain our old dog, Cassie, but for Aria it was much too easy to escape from.  So we replaced one side of the fence and extended it out front to the hill and put in a fence and drive through gate on the other side.  We also stained the shed that is in the back yard.

Stained shed, and fenced in the back left. More fence pics later in post.
Our driveway is up a big hill and began to slough off some after the first and second winter.  So, we knew a retaining wall was needed but due to the extent of the project, and the necessity for engineering plans and oversight we did not complete this project ourselves.  We hired it out and are so pleased to have a secure driveway and now a parking spot on the street below.  We will be planting some no-maintenance plants on the hill to keep weeds down next summer.  We've also begun placing rocks by the mailbox (to the right of where the first picture leaves off) to help keep the weeds down.

The new wall and parking space  

View from the top; much less steep now.
By the mailbox so far

When we moved in, the front hill and front yard area were weed patches, much like the back yard and on the side of the house.  We didn't want to run irrigation to the front of the house as we don't want to mow the area (and it's a pain to dig irrigation lines with all the rocks) so we decided the front yard area will be a patio with a fire pit.  We will plant a tree in the corner. The patio hasn't been created yet, but we are on the way as this area is much more level than when we began.  And the front hill is almost done.  All that river rock was put to good use!  My folks were a huge help with this project and they worked hard to help us get it finished up this fall.  Next spring we will plant some desert grass in the fake "river" that we created and this project is finished.

The front hill at move-in

Mapping out the "river"

Completed front hill.  Plants to come in the spring.

Remember the giant rock pile that was the front yard?  No more, it's also on its way to being level.  Someday this will be patio.  Aria is being a big helper in the picture, as usual.
The side of the house has been a bit of an eyesore and generally avoided.  But this fall we tackled it with the help of my folks and our German exchange student who was visiting for a month.  With the area leveled off, we decided it would make a good dog run so we moved the dog house over and put in a second gate to the back yard so we could contain the dogs there as needed.  It has been a nice improvement to get the dog house off of the deck and free up some space.  This area will get a small retaining wall on the fence side next year and some planting will also happen there.  Eventually it will have some sort of pavers on the ground as well.  A cover for the basement windows is in the plan too.

Side of the house at move-in.  Note the falling apart fence.

The new dog run and fence(with the dogs of course!)  Some updates still to come.

We still have many projects to go outside including edging the lawn, the front patio, planting the driveway hill, laying pavers by the shed for the sailboat, and at some point the shed will need re-built. Every winter it survives we breathe a sigh of relief!  Writing this post has me excited for spring so we can get to work on some of the next projects outside.

On a separate note, electric fan switches are in!  These make life so much easier.  We used to have fans on all day in our house because we would forget about them, or we would turn them off when we left and really they needed to run a bit longer.  No more, these solve all those problems.  I highly recommend them.

Auto fan switches.  Still some leveling of the switch to happen.

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