Category Archives: Backyard

Standing on the edge

Back-breaking blackberry banishment. I’d say that three times fast, but somehow that might tempt cosmic forces to let it grow back faster, so how about I don’t?

This was the third weekend of pulling all sorts of vegetation where it shouldn’t be growing.  Yesterday, I concluded that we still have a fence in place on half the creek bank – though it isn’t looking very sturdy.  The gatepost is shot for sure.  I’ve made my way down both property lines to close in on the area where the creek bank eroded.  From this point in, I need to tread carefully – the dirt under the tarp is pretty soft and the rooting systems of the blackberry vine shoots are getting progressively thicker.  I’m digging each one out carefully as I reach them, but I’m leaving ankle-sprain size holes in their wake.

Ultimately, I’m going to reach the edge of the “cliff” where there is a 6 foot drop straight into the creek.  Could be in another foot, could be in 3.  Won’t know until I know, though I’m hoping I don’t find out the hard way.

This is what it looks like:

See that pile? Dirt may or may not exist under it.

View from afar


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Me vs The Backyard: Let the Battle Begin!

You could ask me if we’re done with the kitchen.  I won’t answer you though.  I’ll be Irish and ask you a question back – would YOU be inclined to sand drywall and blow dust all over the kitchen and house?  Yeah, us neither.  We’re going to have to bite the bullet one day – I really don’t want to get to the 2 year anniversary on it.

In the meantime, BACKYARD!  Weird winter weather has stopped me from getting outside to do any major weeding before this month.  I’m normally pulling stuff in early February while the ground is still pretty wet, so this is major crunch time to get massive amounts of blackberry brambles pulled up before the clay soil hardens.

When we grudgingly visited the backyard for 2 minutes last year, we laid plastic tarps down to kill whatever grass was left (and discovered we lost several feet of land to creek erosion.  But, I digress.) Naturally, plastic is no match for a blackberry bramble – those puppies went under, over and occasionally through it.  Interestingly, those vines weren’t all that hard to pull up.  It behaved as a single netted unit – pull one, the whole backyard shimmies.  Since it tries to root every few feet, those roots stayed above ground – so wispy, so fragile, so very, very fun to mock as I tore them to bits.

Why mock?  Why not?  This stuff is ALIVE and not in a cute “roses are living things” kind of way.  More like that thing from Tremors.  Or big rotty looking mushrooms.  Really anything that grows – a lot – when you aren’t looking and then BAM!  Chokes you in your sleep.  So yes, mocked, stomped, killed big dead.

The random points of detail for today…let’s see… Oh!  Goatskin gloves.  I was able to grab all but the thickest vines and nary a thorn went through.  Score for me!

The olive tree is a mess – the acacia growing over the fence from the creek keeps pushing it over, so the branches just won’t fill out properly.  We’re cutting it back nearly to the trunk and hoping for the best.

The deck stairs are well past their half-life.  I tried pulling weeds near one of the cement posts and the whole thing started moving.  Left the weed for now. Sigh.

The hedge trimmer handle is busted.  Blade still works.  It is probably better that I have to be more careful – 4 or 5 years ago I went all light-saber crazy with a hedge trimmer and I light-sabered the electrical cord.  I really am luckier than I have any right to be…

So I’ll leave you with some pics.  Nothing terribly interesting and no shots of the erosion yet – I think this project won’t start to get interesting until we can actually stand in the creek and take pics from there.  Well that, and when we bring the genius that is Mark B over and ply him with food and drink until he helps us reconstruct the creek bank.

A little bit of progress

The sad and listing Olive Tree

Not sure where solid land ends anymore...

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The shell of a pantry

I’m BACK!!!!!!!!!  Squirrels, rodents, LIFE, second grade, first communion, softball, and a sprained foot caused by the world’s smallest pebble have all inserted themselves into our kitchen timeline.  But we are getting back on track.

The pantry closet is framed, the floor tile in said closet is mortared in place and waiting for grout, and today we begin cutting lumber to rebuild the soffets.  In the meantime, Himself has torn down half of the back fence to reveal – oh my! – at least 5 feet of creek bank erosion – so this blog will slowly transition from Kitchen Only to All the Rest of the Crap to Fix in Our House.

I’ll be posting more regularly again (with pics), so stay tuned!

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The manic squirrel is not happy

Thank you to the wonderful gardener dude who came to clear out the backyard on Saturday.  He and his assistant spent 6 hours getting us back to a blank slate.  Once we saw how much vegetation ended up in his truck to haul away we realized there is NO WAY we could have done that.  Certainly not in 6 hours.  And certainly not without a significant amount of pain.

We are happy – but with a few reservations.  The blackberry brambles next to the back fence hid a serious issue – we’ve now lost about 3 feet of soil to the creek.  Not good – and a retaining wall will require all sorts of wrangling with the city so we are left to consider how to stop further erosion (and further loss of our yard) without harming creek life.  On a budget.  Another day.

Today I went to Big Orange and bought black plastic tarps which we laid to cover the bare dirt – hopefully baking all remaining weeds and giving us a clean canvas for planning.

Kitchen update: 1.  He made some adjustments to the faucet because it was wiggling around a lot in the hole.  All seems better now.  2.  I’m ready to return to cutting things now that I am more confident that nothing creepy is going to be climbing up my leg.

Critter update: 1.  There was a dead something-or-other under that original black plastic we’d laid last May.  It was quite decayed and not easy to identify.  The neighborhood cat that had been hanging out back there was likely the culprit.   2.  New gopher holes appeared within 24 hours.  Well, naturally, they weren’t new, but we could see them.  3.  A big hunkin squirrel is pretty mad.  He’s been running all over the property wondering where the hell all his stuff is.  I would be sad for him if I were a squirrel.

So much vegetation!

The Trash

Erosion is at the foot of the busted fence in the far end of the yard.

Erosion is at the foot of the back fence - that plank of wood that used to sit on dirt is just hanging there

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We have a rodent work stoppage

Twice in the last few weeks, I found a brazen rodent jumping onto the deck – pitch black of night, but the bright porch light illuminated the scene.  Neither time did I get a good enough look at said rodent to identify specifics.  So we will call him “rodent” and leave it at that.

We have done ZERO in the backyard since May – no weed mowing, nothing.  Tall grasses and weeds + creek proximity mean to me that we’ve got prime rodent real estate in the backyard right now.  We are taking care of it by delegating – a gardener dude is coming tomorrow to whack the whole yard down to nubs except for the few small ornamental trees.  Black plastic will be laid (by us) after the destruction to prohibit new growth and give us time to reflect on the backyard’s future life.

In the meantime, I’ve got some routing to do, some sawing to do, some closet building to do – none of which is being done because I refuse to go on the deck without a weapon.  This is also hampering my interest in using the grill to cook burgers in the evening.

I’m envisioning a pristine backyard with no hidey-holes for critters to scamper and then I’ll feel comfortable down at ground level.  Only then will I return to my kitchen punch list.

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Caddyshack in my backyard?

I was unable to verbalize yesterday what I saw while looking for the paint stripper in the pile of tools on what was the back lawn.

This is a gopher.  NOT a rat.

This is a gopher. NOT a rat.

This pic isn’t mine.  I decided to Google this morning when common sense reclaimed its rightful place and I remembered that I’ve been seeing some mysterious holes in the ground back there.

Well, that, and I don’t *think* rats are light gray nor run in plain view in full daylight.

Should having gophers bother me?  I guess I could Google that too.  Not going to, but I could.  Good thing this kitchen took over my ability to plant a veggie garden this year.


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