I have been tearing out everything, but three bushes of our front landscaping (ok my husband pulled out most of the big bushes, but I did absolutely everything else). This required several days worth of shoveling stones. I'm not a physical labor type person during most the year. The most I carry around during the day is a dry erase marker. Needless to say I was sore pretty much every day, but proud of my work.
We had stones at the house that we used to rent and I hated weeding and spraying them all of the time. The stones at our house now were in just as bad shape (lots of dirt had accumulated on top). I still have fresh memories of all of the weeds at the old house. Honestly I think I start to get that Clint Eastwood glare just thinking of them. I decided that it would be worth the work to get rid of all of the stones here and replace with mulch.
Here is a very very before picture (before we bought the house- it was a foreclosure and looked like a jungle!).
Things I learned from this process:
1. Do not overload a wheel barrow with rocks. During this process I listened to all of the The Help on 15 cds (yes that is how long it took- not counting that I paused every time I took a wheel barrow load to the ditch). That book was so entertaining to listen to that I wouldn't always pay attention to how full I had filled the wheel barrow. I would end up barely able to lift up the load and I think the neighbors found me pretty entertaining when I would get it stuck in a low spot in the yard. I'm not a very big person so it took everything to get it out of those dips. I have a mental topical map of our yard now:).
2. Old landscape fabric is the devil. The previous homeowners had dutifully used these plastic pokey things to hold it down so I had to pull up each one of those. Then I would have the fun of slowly pulling it up. The stuff was stretchy and would pull out in small chunks. Roots had slowly pushed their way through the cloth in a way they acted like stitching- sewing it tightly to the ground.
3. Our neighbors are home a lot more than I thought. I figured that I would be pretty much alone working in the yard most of the day, but I found that some of my neighbors make 4-5 trips to somewhere (who knows where) a day. I like to think I providing some entertainment for their frequent travels.
4. Wait a little while before buying plants and they go on great sales. I wanted to get this landscaping done right away, but it took me quite a while to remove the rocks and till up the soil to flatten everything. By the time I went to buy most of the plants they were on great sales compared to the spring. I learned a lot from my parents that most of the sad looking withered up plants just need a bit of water and they'll be back to looking great in no time.
5. Borrow, borrow, borrow. We are lucky (yes I said lucky) that we live near family. I was able to loan a nice little rototiller to till up our rock hard landscaping. There was no need for us to buy one and then have to deal with storing and upkeep for our little job. We also got a lot of splits of hosta and daylillies from family. They were completely free to us and actually helped out one family member who no longer wanted the daylillies at all.
6. Use local expertise. My dad has always loved plants. I did not inherit that love. However, I was able to use his wealth of knowledge and landscape books to find a significant number of plant choices that were low/no upkeep that would probably survive my lack of care. Also, my husband recently switched jobs and now does landscaping, so he used some of what he has learned to teach me the best ways to plant things when you are going to use mulch afterwards (I grew up in a no mulch/stones family so it it weird to put in mulch to me).
7. Wheel barrow stones first, then mulch. By this I mean, after days and days of hot, sweaty, dirty work with pulling out the stones, putting in mulch felt like a dream. Seriously, I would load up our wheel barrow to where it was heaping and it felt like feathers! What a nice reward!
Here's two after shots (hopefully the bushes will eventually grow and look a bit less pitiful).
Another project that has been tackled with the help of my saintly mother was our front porch. Eventually we would like to replace the posts and rails with the vinyl stuff, but for now we decided to spruce up what we had. I loaned from my in-laws (thanks!) their power washer and power washed all of the railings/spindles/posts. This was my first time using a power washer. It is an interesting device and I have to say that it is a thousand times more fun than cleaning and scraping (what I grew up doing).
Before the power washer...
My mother then came over and we put on one coat of Clark and Kinsington Paint and Primer in one. This is my first in years, full price gallon of paint, but it was worth it. We matched the color to the white of our vinyl front door. That was actually my husband's idea and I'm glad he thought of it because we didn't want the front porch to glow compared to the door. My mom was a saint in dealing with me though because I hate painting. It is just yucky. However, I love the way newly painted stuff looks, so I normally just suck it up. Luckily having a painting partner made the work so much more fun... wait that is not true... the work was still terrible, but she took my mind off it which made the process more fun. Now our porch looks great. It should probably get another coat, but we might just save that job for next year.
Another project I have worked on that is still a work in progress is the deck. Our poor deck had soft boards, splintery boards, bowed boards, and carpenter bees (they don't sting, but are super annoying). I attacked the bees and then spent an afternoon bent over unscrewing by hand all of the unacceptable boards. My husband suggested prying them up, but that was really comedic because I am a naturally cautious person and I don't weigh a ton so me vs. the boards- the boards won hands down. I then tried using a screw gun. My husband didn't suggest it because he thought I would break a bit. Well, he was right- I did, and the screws were so rusty that it just stripped the tops. Finally I went all 1800's and got out a screwdriver and unscrewed by hand over 100 deck screws. I learned that I have the power to pry up a 10' deck board if it is only held down by 6 screws, so I would just remove enough to pry it up.
Here is the original before picture from when we were looking into buying it (yes those trees are growing in the deck...
Three steps gone- watch your step!
Can you tell which are the new boards?
Ahhh.... Steps again!
I went with my mom to Menards and was so proud of myself for picking out replacement boards and screws. My husband has now put them all in. It looks like a lovely striped deck. I've almost got the whole thing power washed and then next week my mil is probably going to come over to help paint it (return a favor) and I can use my awesome $15 deck stain find (5 gallon bucket from Menards that was a mistint) to make our deck gleam!
Yet another project I have tackled is organizing our bedroom and closet. Pretty much last fall we brought in everything and dumped it and it has stayed their ever since because I was too busy with school to deal with it. Well, I went through everything in our closet and I love the way it looks now. I was able to donate a whole trashbag worth of stuff, plus I probably threw away a trashbag worth.
After all of that I went through our nightstands and dresser. Finally I gave it all a little polish and boy does it look good!
Another project that most won't consider a project, but I do, is I did my bi (maybe tri?) annual cleaning of my car. I don't like cleaning the inside of my car. There are way too many crooks and crannies. However, it is so nice to drive it when it has been Armor-Alled and vacuumed. I'm good to go now for the summer.
My not so productive self watched through not one, but two full seasons of Downton Abbey in only a few days. Seriously sucked me in!
Next there was the July 4th holiday and then it was southward to Kentucky for our youth group trip. This year they were in charge of a camp in the hollows of Kentucky. Half of our group ran the camp and half of the group was part of maintenance and local outreach. Although the trip was very different than the Honduras trip it was very good. Trips like that really pretty much force me to get over my insecurities. I had a lot of time to think because my group was in charge of music which left me with free time in between practices and chapels. I realized that I had been lying to myself that I am not good with people in a touchy feely way. By the end of the week I had come to the conclusion that God had made me the way I am for a reason and that I don't need to be like this coach or that coach, but that I just need to be me and quit worrying about how well I am doing.
During camp I pretty much finished So Long Insecurity, You've Been a Bad Friend to Us by Beth Moore. It really spoke into my life. Beth talks a lot about how women constantly are comparing themselves to others based on what is valued. I think that is why I struggled a lot at the beginning of the trip because I felt "touchy/feelyness" was highly valued and I was out of my element. If they would have thrown up some math problems or asked me to teach how to do them I would have been right at home. I also lean towards the introvert side which doesn't help. By the end of the week I felt a peace that I am an alternative to the other coaches that really glow in areas that I don't. Some girls who might not open up to the other coaches opened up to me. Another key point in the book is that another person can be better than you in an area, but that doesn't mean that you are a zero- maybe they're a 10 and you're an 8, which still isn't bad.
It's one of those books that I didn't want to be caught dead with (own up that I have a problem with this), but now that I've read it I wish that all women would read it (especially the girls in our youth group). There is a chapter that only consists of ridiculous things women have done because of insecurity and I found myself laughing and nodding along. If you get a chance this summer I definitely suggest reading it. It is one of those books that I think I will look back and say that it really changed me.
So I leave this post with 3.5 weeks left until school starts. I am more grateful than ever that I essentially get a summer sabbatical each year. I still have projects left to complete, books left to read, and people left to see, but it has been a great break so far. I wrestled with the common core standards for a few hours yesterday trying to get them to fit into my units that were based on our old standards. At the end I was super annoyed, but then I realized how grateful I was that I did have time to dedicate to tweaking (although it is more like an overhaul) the curriculum. Many teachers are on a much tighter budget and have to work during the summer. Time is a luxury and I am basking in it right now.