Taking Back the Yard: Part 2

Last night the sun cooperated and went down just enough (was there any doubt)  to get some less harsh after pictures of the side yard.

During our trip to Lowes, the kids and I picked up a red ti plant, a philodendron, 2 types of liriope, some type of garlic, and coleus.

The palms were already growing here, so I made Jamie carefully remove the chicken wire that they were growing through.

Now we just need to figure out how to use this extra patio space.

Maybe a little storage container for kids toys.  We could make a little sitting area with potted plants and a couple of cute chairs.  There is always leaving the space open for the kids to use the area like a racetrack for their various wheeled toys.  I guess we don’t have to figure it out right now.  We’ll live with it for a while and in time maybe it will tell us what it wants to be.


Taking Back the Yard

We’re learning.  Almost everyday holds a new lesson.  Today, don’t start any project until you have taken “before” pictures.  Because when you tell someone you unearthed a new patio they probably won’t believe you unless you show them the before pictures.  Well, today we unearthed part of a patio.  Our side yard to the west has been over-grown,   covered with leaves and home to hundreds of lizards.  There is, what we thought was a concrete walkway that lead from the gate to the back patio.  Turns out that most of our west side yard is patio too.

This discovery probably wouldn’t have happened until the fall if it hadn’t been for the AC dying Friday afternoon.  The soonest we can get someone to come and look at the AC unit is Tuesday, after the holiday weekend.  So we have been spending the mornings and evenings outside where it’s cooler and the heat of the day inside where it’s barely cooler.  This morning Jamie headed out to mow the lawn, so I decided to tackle some of the leaf piles in the yard.  Well, about two hours later and a trash pile that rivals our moving in trash piles, the side yard looks like this (the side where you can see sunlight was the part covered in leaves and branches):

You will just have to take my word for it, this is a vast improvement.  There was leaves and debris all along the fence and it was about 2 feet wide.  Some areas were a little bit wider.

The dark areas on the concrete along the fence are the areas that the leaves were covering.  That is all new patio!  We had no idea the concrete went that far over to the fence.  I love the circle planters that are built into the concrete.  There are technically 3 of them, but one is filled with a tree trunk.

Sorry these pictures are so contrasty, Florida sun is not very forgiving when you are trying to get pictures.  Look at all that reclaimed space!

There was chicken wire running the full length of the fence on this side of the yard.  Jamie worked on getting that off.  He’ll write more about that later.  It was something that made you wonder why one of the previous owners had put it up.  It was buried under the ground in some spots and even had the trunk of a tree that had grown on top of it.  Bizarre.

After it was all cleared I felt bad.  We had just removed the homes of lots and lots of lizards. I didn’t want them to leave our yard, they eat so many bugs, so I headed out to Lowes and bought a bunch of plants and mulch.  I’ll show you the end result after the sun goes down a little and I can get some decent pictures of the side yard and new patio space.


UPDATE:  Check out the after pictures here.

The New Number

Besides the circle pathway and tackling the overgrown backyard, the house numbers were a top priority for outdoor projects.  We started with tile numbers that were glued to a board that had been screwed to the wall.  There was no way to get to the screw, since the tiles had been glued over the screw, so I ended up just prying it off the wall and praying for the best.  I needed to keep the numbers intact just in case it took a few days (for deliveries and such).

The tiles were a little too classical or Spanish colonial for our taste.  Luckily, they came off pretty easily.  What I found underneath was a bit confusing, but hey it’s going to get covered back up so not a big deal.

I bought a piece of poplar that I thought would be wide enough to cover the big brown square.

I was wrong.  So off to our local Ace Hardware to try to find a solution.  Thankfully they are only about a mile from the house.  What I ended up with was a 1″ wide piece of wood (and 8 feet long) that is used for lattice.  I decided that I could mount a piece on the top and bottom of the poplar creating a little bit of a frame and in the process covering the extra space that needed covering.  Here’s a picture of the lattice behind the top of the piece of poplar.  Sorry, it’s hard to see.

Once I got the pieces all cut to size, I sanded them down and attached them together with small nails. I should have done pilot holes through the lattice strips.  They split very easily.  You can’t see it from the front, so I’m not too worried about it.  The numbers we used are these from Home Depot (the packaging looked different at our store).  You can either mount them flush or floating.  We went with floating.  I used the template to mark where I needed to drill the holes for the numbers, but the template was off.  I just wanted to double check to make sure the screws for the numbers lined up and they didn’t.  I’m glad I checked.  It was an easy fix though. Here is the board with the holes all ready to be stained covering what it’s supposed to cover.

I set the board outside after I was done staining it so it could dry in the sun.  I, being highly impatient, couldn’t wait to see how it would look.  So, I set the numbers on top of the board.

After it was dry, the screws went into their holes.  The screws were a bit long and suck out the back.  Jamie used a little hack saw to cut them even with the wood so it would hang flat against the wall.  I had to get a bit creative to hang the finished numbers.  I used interlocking panel clips (that I picked up at Ace).  There was a little bit of fiddling and a touch of improvising, but I got it to work.

Here is the before again:

And the after:

We are really happy with how it turned out.  Because I always need to worry about something, I worry that the stain is too dark.  I guess we will find out the next time someone tries to find out house.  It’s an easy fix.

Here you can see the floating numbers better:

The next big outdoor project is refinishing the front door.  It’s in serious need of some love.  Oh, and in case you were wondering what type of stone is used on the front of the house.  Well, it’s coral.  I guess in 1965 it was OK to use coral as part of home construction.

Our fireplace is made out of it too.  It’s really pretty and very unique.

The Sunset


To escape the dust we decided to sit out on the dock.  I’m so glad we did.  Just a reminder to stop and watch the sunsets.  Hope you have a great night!



Christmas in July

It was Christmas in July. We were fresh off being awarded the keys to our new mid-century home after waiting nearly seven months through a short sale. What a better time to cut down a Christmas tree?!

I know it sounds crazy. A bright sunny Florida day – 88 degrees and more humidity than many parts of the Amazon – and I was off to cut down a Christmas tree. In our backyard!

Now I hear you. Douglas Firs don’t grow in Florida, zipper-head! We’re not talking about a traditional Christmas tree but a Brazilian pepper-tree. During the 18 months that this house has sat empty, a tree that mid-18th century residents brought to Florida as a decorative tree for Christmas because of its berries that reddened during the month of December had grown nearly 20-feet tall. These days, the State of Florida sees the Brazilian pepper-tree as the Al Qaeda of agricultural tropical south.

This particular terrorist ate our dock. Well, part of it anyway. Our new house comes with an alleged canal-access with a nice view up to the river but the pepper-tree grew beside and under the dock with its thicket of branches wrapping and ripping their way through the fence at the edge of the dock.

Self-deputized with a handsaw and a fistful of determination, I set out to rip this tree to its roots.

As you can see from the pictures, I’m happy to report that despite one wasp sting and a few nibbles from some recently-evicted and ornery fire ants, I grinched out the unwelcome Christmas tree and reclaimed our dock.




Yard Circles

We knew our front yard had a cool walkway, but 18 months of little to no lawn care made it very hard to tell.

We could tell that the stepping stones were circles.

I started by using the shovel to cut the grass away from the edges of the stones, getting on my hands and knees to clean away all of the grass and built up dirt.  Next I used the hose and a scrub brush and cleaned all the excess dirt.  I did that over and over and over again for the better part of the day today.  And I’m so happy I did.

It looks amazing!  I was blown away by how big the steps were.  The big ones are about 3 feet across. We also had no idea that there were more stones along the front of the house.  They were completely covered in grass and bushes.  So we cut back the bushes and repeated the process from the front steps.  Please ignore the messy, over flowing garage.

And this is where we uncovered hints of previous owners.  Buried deep under leaves and bushes was a little decorative stone.  When I first found it I was a bit scared that it was a gravestone for a beloved pet.  Love does indeed make all things grow.  I’m thinking of keeping it as an ode to the love that this house has experienced. And if it is a grave stone I don’t want to have a pet cemetery  situation on my hands.

It was hard work.  My shoulder is still burning from all the digging, but it was so worth it.  Eventually the front will be fully landscaped and the house will be repainted, but we need to figure out what the house wants to look like first.

Have you ever unearthed any ancient artifacts when landscaping/reclaiming your yard?