Archive

Tag Archives: yard work

My wife seems to have a thing for chainsaws. She’s never run one, but I used one regularly in my youth. I grew up with a wood stove to heat the house, and a chainsaw was a normal thing for me. But I’ve never seen the need to have one since. Yet, it somehow became a hot topic once we began our search for a house.

The new house has a large yard with lots of trees, which is one reason we purchased it. Our basic requirements were simple: an old house with a big yard and trees. We love trees and shade and squirrels. The house is a hundred years old, and several of the trees may be that old or more.

Shortly after moving in, I noticed that the large locust tree next to the house was beginning to show its age and would need to be removed within the next five years. I was hoping to get a little time before I really needed to address it. However, over the summer, we had a few severe storms that knocked off several large limbs. Luckily there was no damage to the house, though it was a close call. The tree is nearly four feet wide at the base and probably 60 feet tall. For most of a hundred years, it has provided the house with shade, and I hate to see it go. But now, most of the top limbs are missing or damaged and dying.

The Old Locust

Which has brought the topic of a chainsaw back to the fore. Yes, we have trees now, but I had no intention of trimming them myself. Even though we have a fireplace, I had every intention of buying pre-cut wood for it. We live in St Louis, in the city; I saw no need for a chainsaw.

Shortly after moving in, my stepson brought me a $2 chainsaw he’d purchased at a garage sale. He is not mechanically inclined but figured I could get it running. He was right. I am very familiar with chainsaws and their repair. For $10, I was able to get the little junker running, just in time to cut up a couple limbs that fell next to the house. It took all of fifteen minutes to cut and clean up.

Then a couple of weeks ago, we got hit by another doozy of a storm. It threw down one of the trees in the empty yard behind us. The falling tree tore out several of my honeysuckle bushes and damaged some other trees. The most significant limb was probably 20 inches thick. That is a good-sized tree.

I pulled out my repaired and newly sharpened chainsaw and set out to get the job done. However, three cuts into the project, the saw stopped. I never got running again. I wore myself out pull-starting the POS. As you can imagine, I was pissed by this time.

Behind me I could  hear my wife quietly saying: “Just go buy a chainsaw… Just go buy a chainsaw…”

As you can probably guess: I bought a Damn Chainsaw!

Rather than getting the $140 Craftsman model (I don’t trust Craftsman anymore), I stepped it up to the $300 Husqvarna model. I am partial to the Husqvarna due to past experience and expect this to be my LAST chainsaw. I fought this purchase for long enough that I only wanted to do it once. It’s a nice saw, and I won’t be using it much. Therefore, there is no reason it shouldn’t last the life of its owner.

So, now I have a chainsaw. I expect the neighbors to soon come knocking.

“I hear you’ve got a chainsaw…”

Having a chainsaw is a lot like having a pickup truck; all your friends without one will want to borrow it. (I also don’t have a pickup… yet.)

I have discovered that my new home has a bamboo infestation. I’m not sure that is the correct term, but I’m going to go with it. The previous owners seemed to have used the bamboo as a way to screen the backyard from the neighbors.

At first I didn’t know what it was. There was just a line of bushes that screened off a bit of the backyard. It wasn’t until we began cleaning the yard that it really became clear what we were dealing with. It’s only bamboo, right? Pull it up and plant some grass… done.

At least that’s what I convinced myself of. The reality turned out to be something much darker.

Now that spring is in the air and everything is green and alive, the bamboo has spread and now controls about 20% of my half-acre. I have been mowing every weekend since we moved in and am becoming frustrated and a little worried. This stuff is growing faster than I thought possible and seems to be spreading at an increasing rate. I’m not sure what to do.

I did some quick Google research and found a few home remedies such as mowing, digging and white vinegar. I am rather curious about pickled bamboo. For now, I have begun to dig up the clumped roots but everything seems to be connected into some vast labyrinth of living network. I’m seeing a scifi movie in my backyard.

The most drastic solution involves RoundUp weed killer and I am extremely reluctant to go there.

Does anyone know how to defeat the Bamboo Beast? Or does anyone know where I can rent a panda?

My wife, Sheri, thinks a nice yard is relaxing and gives her a place to find contentment. I agree with her, it is relaxing. But having a yard project completed is even more relaxing. In my case I stripped out yard down to dirt and rock and started over. Now we have grass growing, paths completed, flowers planted and replanted, and even a birdbath.

I feel complete and peaceful now. My landlord will also be thrilled. Yes…that is what I said. I spent months of weekend labor and >$1000 on a yard that is not mine. All for the sake of my wife’s sanity and contentment. She has been forced to work from home for two months, while I’ve continued going to my essential industry job every day. I haven’t had any ‘lockdown’ days. So when I get home she is ready to get out or climb the walls. She needed something to spend her pent up energy on and she chose the yard.

I want to make clear that she does NOT have a green thumb, by any means. She likes flowers, and pretty plants, and even vegetable gardens, but she has little skill or luck with them. When we go to our local garden center the ferns and hibiscuses shake and shiver as she approaches. She is the ‘widow-maker’ of ferns. She loves them and waters them and moves them into the sun and out of the sun and talks to them and then they still die. So every spring out trip to the garden center for a new troop of plants is much like a prisoner selection for the gulag. It is a short one way trip. Always.

I’ve joked with her about just planting silk or plastic flowers. Which just makes her laugh. Apparently her grandmother actually did that and even water them. For years, my wife thought they were real. So, I believe that her lack of plant skills is hereditary.

I dislike yard work in any form, so am willing to support her yearly death march to keep her happy. I absolutely do enjoy a good yard and beautiful flowers, so if I have to continue to be the undertaker and bury the corpses of each years batch of volunteers, I will do that. In fact, I will bury whatever I need to to keep the Goddess happy. Mostly because I’m afraid of what other projects or interests she would find to spend her energy on. I have no desire to start square-dancing, or bowling league or stockcar racing or competitive tatooing. I am a simple man that wants a complete yard with as little of my own labor as possible. 

This year has turned into kind of a bust in the no-labor plan, but I do have a nice yard now and a very happy wife. So, overall, mission accomplished.

 

 

 

WE HAVE GRASS!!!

For two weeks we didn’t see anything and then suddenly one morning I saw a haze over my dirt-yard and bent down to see GRASS! Thin spindly barely-there grass. Let’s just say that I could finally release the breath I had been holding. I was secretly terrified that we had done something wrong and would never get grass to grow again. Glad that fate was dodged.

It was a difficult couple of weeds that didn’t see much activity due to rain, but I did add a brick platform for our rain barrel. We have a spot along our rain gutters where the water just pours out onto the ground. A hole had been drilled into the yard where it had been eroded away by years of rain.

Fixing the gutters would be the best solution, but not one we can tackle at this point, for reasons. However, we have a drain in the middle of the yard that allows rain to go directly into the sewer. I suggested we rig it so that the water off the gutter would drain to there instead. It took a while to find a workable and aesthetically approved solution, but I located a wine-barrel planter on Craigslist for $20. I then drilled a hole in the bottom to allow the water to drain out into a hose and ran the hose in a trench to the drain. The drain and hose are now hidden and not an eyesore.

The yard will need a little repair, but it’s still growing and will cover my damage in time.

The next project is to add a path extension along the garage. Then I think I can relax and just watch the grass grow.

Weather and life teamed up to delay our concrete work and tilling, but this weekend we took advantage of beautiful weather and hammered through both tasks in two days. I am exhausted and sore but also done with the heavy work.

Last weekend I laid down the brick path to the garage. It was cold and rainy all week so it just sat there waiting for me. So, on Saturday it was above 60F and sunny. It was perfect for some concrete work. My wife and I were on our hands and knees for over three hours pushing mortar between bricks. I don’t think I will ever do it that way again. It turned out great but I can’t really say it was worth it. There has to be a better way to do this.

BUT… it is complete and looks great.

The next phase of the project was tilling the yard for new grass. I was able to borrow an old Troy-Bilt tiller from a friend and fired it up on Sunday. I then spent the next three hours being drug around the yard like a dog toy. It was comical and, again, exhausting. This ground hadn’t been worked or dug up in decades or ever. It was full of bricks and nails and mystery trash along with long-dead roots and buried steel posts. It was an adventure in itself.

The ground is now fluffy soft and waiting for seed. It’s supposed to rain on Wednesday, so we plan to have it seeded and fertilized by then. All the hardest work in our project is complete and our yard has been beaten into a semblance of submission. Right now, every muscle in my body is sore and I need Chiropractor. 

My wife has already announced that we will be contracting someone to do the sidewalk next time. I am in full agreement! I won’t even ask the cost.

The weather has held, but the labor is not fairing so well. I’m getting worn and tired. But I am plugging forward. We completed the small patio area under the deck. The place where my grill was parked didn’t have a full brick underlay so my wife wanted to use larger paving stones to redo it. I’ve done larger sizes before am not a fan. I’m not sure why maybe my technique is not up to it?

However, our cat Turkey has turned into quite the assistant. Has to have his paw in everything.

91908484_10158519608818694_4228885766702366720_o

Turkey supervising.

But we finished that area on the weekend and then did the next section in the original repurposed red brick. The smaller bricks were much easier to work with. They are more forgiving. The area is NOT level or uniform or anything else professionally expected. I mortared the joints on Monday after work. It took a lot more than I expected. However, they are pretty and permanent. That is enough for me.

My knees and feet are killing me. Today, rather than tackle the next section, we broke mandatory isolation and snuck to Menards for more mortar and sand. I think we had 1000lbs of materials in our old beat-up minivan. It was NOT happy.

Tomorrow we’ll tackle the run to the garage. It should be easier than the patio. I might know what I’m doing now. My goal is to survive this lawn. I haven’t bled into it yet, but I gave it all my aches and pains. This is why people hire professionals.

20200405_183432

The weather here in St Louis has been cool and sunny. Perfect for DESTROYING… I mean remodeling a yard.  My wife is still working from home and it is beginning to wear on both of us. (I go to work daily to get away from her.) She is taking her frustration on our back lawn. Weekend #2 is coming up, so I’m sure there will be some significant activity.

During the week we work on it in the evening. I have sprayed chemical death on everything living and it is all turning brown. I’m assuming that is a good sign. We also decided to dig up the sawtooth leaf thing on the side of the yard.

Can you tell I’m not a plant guy? I have NO IDEA what these things are called. They all have leaves, a stem, maybe flower…plants, right?

Anyway, we dug up the hideous sharp leaved plants that were there when we moved in. The roots went deep, so I had to dig up the yard a bit. I expect to see them again. Nothing with roots like that dies easily!

Now, while we wait for everything to finish dying, we’ve decided to redo that path also. So, yesterday we dug up all the old bricks and trim. We even found some old path we didn’t know about hidden under an overgrowth of grass. Tonight, I’m researching how to install a bricked garden path. This should be interesting.

Please keep in mind that we are renting this property. I keep trying to explain that to the wife, but she must have what she wants. Because… Happy Wife, Happy Life.

thumbnail_20200402_181145 (1)

It has been beautiful here in St Louis and my wife is very much an outdoor person. She is currently working from home and going stir crazy. So, that means I get roped into going on walks, house hunting treks, and trips to Home Depot. On Saturday we went to buy a garden rake and came out with $400 worth of plants and planters and spreaders and hose and dirt in a bag and rocks in a bag and fertilizer and finally, a rake!

We have a little yard, merely a tarp-sized yard, really. But it has been populated by grass-like plants that are seemingly impossible to kill. We sprayed the yard with Kill-Everything juice last year and most of it just laughed us. This is back alley knife-wielding grass.

This year, my wife decided she wanted to till it up completely and start from scratch. Therefore, we rented a tiller and hired a neighbor to manhandle it. In the end,  the yard was tore up plenty, but I think the grass still won. It’s back there snickering at us now.

However, we did get a win out of it. Our master bedroom has a deck off of it that we use as a reading / sunroom area. It now has window boxes, a fern, some other flowery stem plant, and a palm, all nicely arrayed and pretty.

I am exhausted and ready to go back to work tomorrow. My wife is visibly more relaxed for having established her plant sanctuary. The yard is still laughing at me. I think a gallon of RoundUp is in its future. Yes, yes… its the evil Monsanto Monster Juice, but sometimes drastic situations demand drastic actions.

Die, Evil Grass-like weed, Die!!