In the beginning…there was a field of weeds

Maybe i should start at the beginning. I should also apologize. I’m not even go to try to make this readable; it’s just going to be a journal with pictures. When it’s all set and done, i might come back and put it together properly.

Robin and i bought a house this spring. For financial (i.e. Socialist) reasons the process felt somewhat rushed, and there wasn’t a whole lot for us to choose from. That being said, we ended up buying the first house that struck our fancy, and it suited our wants pretty much perfectly.

It’s big enough while still feeling cozy. The latter probably being the result of its age. (built 1938 from what the papers say, but an old neighbor swears it was here in the 20’s) It’s filled with proper carpentry, the square edges worn gently by years. This old house is one thing…a lot of work, but we got out of the shitty part. The previous owners only occupied the place for about a year and a half. I estimate that they spent all of it working their asses off and sinking every spare dime into the place. So we got the character with new wiring, plumbing, insulation, windows, kitchen and bathroom. I coulda done all that; i even like doing that stuff. I’m thankfully that i don’t have to do it.

We stayed in town. We’re still close to The Lake. It ain’t the student ghetto (close, but no closer than the public housing so we’re just keepin it real). And the best part is that i got a yard. A huge, sun-filled, blank slate of a yard.

Blank slate as in, “My god has this piece of land been utterly neglected…if not abused…for at least two decades.” And the moral of the story is: be careful what you wish for. Still, i’m up to the challenge. I’ve got 50 x 150 to play with and the house takes up less than 1000 of those square feet. It sits forward on the lot. Between it and the black locust tree in the front we have a smallish, shaded front yard. The back screams “urban homesteading”.

I’ll just be continuing the tradition that lapsed when the brothers who were the previous owners once removed got too old to keep the place up. If i understand the neighborhood stories right (and this seems to be a rather famous house in the hood), the lumber for the house was cut about 10 miles away and milled in the back yard. It ended up holding a workshop for the Old Man who was the resident master carpenter. It also held a chicken coop. And a rabbit hutch. And a gazebo. And a worm farm. And great big wild grape vines that had ascended to at least 20 feet up into the neighbor’s maple. And by the end, piles of junk that were stacked nearly to the top of the privacy fence between our lot and the northern neighbors. The southern neighbor (we’re separated by an empty lot) says that she nearly didn’t buy her house because of the tar paper shack and piles of junk in my back yard.

Piles of junk is also fitting. Rumor has it that when the swamp that used to be here was filled in, a lot of it came from a hospital that was torn down. Considering the brown field that Dow left not far away, i’m good with the assorted building materials of a hospital that must have been already old in the 20’s.

I’d post pictures, but i’m a little short at the moment. Not much to see anyhow. There was a Box Alder in the center of the back yard, all the way to the back and a horribly diseased choke cherry on the north side of the back yard. The defining piece of the front was a spot in the center front where some weedy shrub had been growing and where the locust roots had surfaced and suckered. It amounted to a huge patch of crap, the only attention it getting was to get hacked back to the ground every once and a while (judging by the number of stumps). There were weeds, though the turf in the front is long-term salvageable. And there’s still random shit scattered just below the surface.

I (without a drawn plan of course) broke both yards into phases and prioritized. I also decided to put the most real effort into the front first. One because it could be tackled with greater ease and two because it’s like my ma says, “You want to feel, ‘Ah, i’m home,’ when you pull into the driveway.”

The phases are/were. 1: remove the prickly monstrosity in the middle of the yard and replace it. 2: put in a big shade perennial bed between the porch stairs and the NW corner of the house. 3: install a third island to the northern edge of the front yard. 4: build a stone on stone pathway along the north side of the house (Japanese garden trick for mimicking water feature) with lush shade plantings along either side. And phase 5 would be rehabilitating the lawn. That’s not a huge concern for me and it’s not worth doing until i remove most of it anyhow.

I’ll be chronicling these in a bit, but phase 1 is finished and phase 2 will be done by the end of the week. Phase 4 isn’t even on the docket for this year. Phase 3 is a maybe.

The back will be bigger work, but if the front is done i look forward to puttering back there over the long term. I really only have two goals for the back this year. First, to get at least the majority of the fruit trees and a selection of the small fruits in. Second, to get the raised beds for vegetables in, filled and at least one of them set up with a cold frame.

As it stands, i’m on schedule and under budget. So if all continues to go well, i’ll get more done in the back than i had deadlined for myself.

All this i’ll be posting as individually either as i’m doing it or after the fact.

~ by Lex on July 26, 2010.

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