It’s party central up in here (backyard updates)

We decided the best time to go outside and do loads of manual labor on the yard would be August. In Texas. Poor planning on our part, obviously. If you are unfamiliar with Texas weather, we have 4 seasons here: Hot, Really Hot, Hot as Hell, and Hot with a Few Freezing Cold Days Until 10am at Which Point it Gets Really Hot Again. August would fall under the Hot as Hell season.

We also like to party during the Hot as Hell season considering school is out for 3 solid months, so doing manual labor on the yard is a necessity if you don’t want your friends to think they’ve shown up at the Clampett’s house.

So we got to work. There is still so much more to be done, but we do what we can when we have time without working too much and suffering from heat exhaustion.

The first order of business is the pool. Always the pool. The house came with a big oval above-ground pool. Eventually we’d love to put in an in-ground pool, but the pool we have certainly hits the spot on those really hot days.

Without warning (or after a rain storm) it can go from crystal clear to green overnight. It can also go green when you move in, have no clue how to take care of a pool, and then hire a pool boy to come clean it for you who removes the entire filter to “fix” something, and then disappears for over 5 days, at which point you fire him and become your own pool boy with google’s help. Oh, and a fun little side-note, do you know what the pool boy said to me when I called him on day 5 and told him the pool was neon green? He said it was okay, he would just DRAIN THE POOL and start over. At which point I replied, “you’re fired.”

A $400 trip to the pool store to pick up new filter parts, and a crash course in water testing, chlorine and PH levels, and you’ve got a crystal clear pool again.

The pool has made for some of the best parties this summer. I have a go-to lifeguard that I hire so the kids can swim to their hearts content while the parents ignore all of them and have our own party sitting on the deck, or better yet, inside with the air conditioning. I joke to the kids that the parties are for us and our friends, and they get to just play with whatever kids show up. Good thing we met most of our friends through the kids’ various school and extracurricular activities. Ha!

Another thing we’ve done recently is the removal of this octagon picnic table:

Apparently I was so eager to demo this table that I have no pictures of the actual table, so pardon all the random background shots of it. Here’s one from the photos I took of the house before we bought it (the chairs in the foreground are the previous owner’s).

And here’s one more of the offending table during my daughter’s 9th birthday party last June. The table doesn’t look half bad, but trust me, it was an accident waiting to happen. I added several new screws to the table when we moved in, just to tighten it up more, but the wood was too rotten to save it, which is a bummer because we were excited that the previous owners left the table for us when we moved in.

So we demolished it. I basically flipped it upside down and then just gave it a little nudge and the thing collapsed. From there Ben went at it with a sledgehammer. The table was so rotten that we didn’t have to do much to get it into small pieces.

Since Ben was enjoying the demo of the table so much, I let him have at it while I cleaned up the pieces and put them in our trash pile.

The final big project we’ve done around here is dealing with this flower planter.

It sits at the edge of our deck and blocks a large portion of the stairs. I have wanted to move it since we moved in, but it was too heavy to even schooch anywhere. (Did you know “schooch” isn’t a real word? Hua. News to me! Thank you spell checker for enlightening me with your little red squiggly line.)

The plan was to move the planter box to the side of the house under a span of windows we have. First though, I had to unload all the dirt. It took two full wheelbarrows full to empty the planter. Who would have thought this seemingly smallish planting box could hold so.much.dirt?

Finally the planter was empty. My son and I each grabbed an end and as soon as we picked it up, the entire thing collapsed into a pile of scrap wood. Darn it! It was nice looking and functional, but not well built. The wood used were decking boards, and those suckers are heavy! I managed to get them in a pile off to the side, and then Ben and I carried them away later that day.

Apparently the deck is in urgent need of a new stain job. I didn’t realize the deck use to be red, but now that the planter is gone you can see the original deck stain color.

Ahh, A nicer view for sure (except for how tacky it looks with a big barn-red rectangle on the deck). I like how much cleaner the view is now. It felt too closed off before.

And here’s a few more views of the deck sans the planter box.

Here you can see that there are stairs that wrap around the side of the deck. They were blocked before.

And a few top-and-bottom (side-by-sides?) of the deck with and without the planter:

  


We’ve also done tons of other random stuff that we haven’t taken pictures of like trimming trees, clearing brush, hauling trash, fixing the pool deck, etc. It has a long way to go, but at least we can have parties out there which, lets be honest, is all that really matters. ;)


     

The sod saga in House 2

It’s been three months since we moved and I realized I never shared a few last minute updates on our previous house (henceforth to be known as House2). Once we found our dream house (House3), we had to list House2 at lighting speed. We had about a week to work through a huge to-do list, and there were many nights we were up until 1am working our tails off.

One major thing on our list was the side yard. It was a mess when we bought the house, and pretty much continued to be a hot mess for the following three years. We knew if we didn’t take care of the grass issue, we’d never sell the house!

Here’s the eye sore when we moved in:

And one more. I blogged about it previously here. And you know what is like goose-bumps weird? This old post was on August 24, 2010. Three years ago almost to the day. Weird. Apparently August is my blog-about-the-yard month.

Fast forward to March of last year. Our fence fell over in a wind storm so we had to build a new fence and gate. Don’t mind the “after” on the photo. I lifted the photo from that post.

We were so busy prepping the house that we couldn’t sod the yard until like 9pm. In the dark. With a Honda Civic (we had just sold the minivan and were a one-car family while we did Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover). It was hella fun sodding a yard in the dark. We used over 60 pieces of sod and two trips to pick it up.

I think we finished at around midnight. I waited until the morning to snap a picture so that you could actually see it.

Why did we wait 3 years to do this? How come whenever you sell a house you do all those projects to make it perfect for the next owner instead of just doing the projects 3 years prior so you (the current owner!) can actually enjoy them? I’m sure the neighbors were so happy to see this eyesore finished.

And here was the yard about a month later, the day before we closed on it. I kinda wanted to roll around in it. But I didn’t. I do have some standards.

You guys, I’m seriously embarrased about these “before” photos. Check out how awful the yard use to be (and how pretty it is now).

Here you can see the prepping of the yard for sod, sodding, and then what it will look like a month later.

This is the biggest project we tackled to get the house ready to sell. All in all we spent just under $100 on sod (around 60 squares). Adding sod is an inexpensive update that gives you the most bang for your buck. Just make sure you water it! And it’s also easier to lay sod in the daylight, but in a pinch midnight works too. Unfortunately I have first-hand knowledge of that!

Oh, and PS, this type of grass is called St Augustine. I’m not sure if they have it everywhere but in Texas it’s pretty popular. I much prefer St Augustine over Bermuda any day. As soon as we put in a sprinkler system in House3, St Augustine is going in asap. But that might be awhile. Boo.


     

Cleanup on isle 1 (the fence and side yard post)

Last week I shared how we replaced our fence on the side of our house.

As you can see from the before and after photo, we did a little bit of yard cleanup in front of the fence. We took out a box hedge and smoothed all the dirt out flat in preparation for some new sod.

Well, that yard cleanup is only a small amont of cleanup that we actually did over here. Behind the fence was an absolute nightmare.

Here is the side yard behind the fence when we moved in over two and a half years ago:

It wasn’t that bad, but there was a huge pile of random rocks and a bunch of metal flowerbed edging stuff just piled up. Also, if you look closely on the tree, we have the beginnings of a huge out-of-control ivy vine that would eventually try to take over the entire area.

As of two weeks ago, this is what the side yard looked like.

All the brush and tree trunks are from when we cut down some trees NINETEEN months ago.

This yard has been a slow work-in-progress for years, people. YEARS.

And while I’m on a tangent, that post I just linked to has an even more “before” photo of the fence and yard that made my eyes bug out. I forgot just how far this yard has really come:

  

Wow. We’ve taken out a crepe myrtal, two hedges, all those pavers lining the sidewalk, and replaced the fence. Yet somehow I can’t help but think that if we had just hired a yard crew years ago, this would all be done already. Ah the pains of being cheap and DIYing it all yourself.

Okay, now where were we? Oh ya, I cleaned up the side yard…

I started by dropping $30 like it’s hot on a Bagster bag.

And for the record, I know they have been promoting like breeding little bunnies on blogs lately, but this is not a sponsored post (I don’t do those anymore). I just thought I’d try it out, and it was a great easy way to unload piles of crap quickly.

So ya, I stuffed that bagster as full as I could get it (and then some). In fact, it is so full that I’ll admit, I was a little worried they wouldn’t take it. Fortunately they did and all is right in the world again. In case you are curious, you pay for pick up depending on where you live. I paid about $120 for them to pick it up which brought my grand total to $150 for the bag and pick up.

I bet that bag weighed like 3 thousand pounds. I am still laughing at how much crap we stuffed in there. Let’s see… 3 4-foot sections of fence; still assembled, two entire trees; stumps and brush and all, a hedge, an entire cage that goes around a trampoline including about 12 metal poles, a trampoline pad, and oh, at least 500 pounds in rock and concrete that we dug up (and this is after we kept all the good rock).


Here’s a very small portion of all 500 pounds of rock we hauled to the bagster.

For the record, someone did steal all the metal poles from the bag, which makes me giggle. The jokes on them because those things sat under my deck for more than 2.5 years and were totally full of rusty water when I threw them out.

I also enlisted the kids to pick up leaves and debris. They helped fill up these recycle brush bags from costco.

I got most of the cleanup done before we started on the fence. By this point it was already looking so much better:

And now, here’s what the side yard currently looks like. I never knew dirt could be so beautiful.

Curious where all those rocks went? I moved them. All 25+ wheelbarrow fulls of them. And then my OCD kicked in and I stacked them into nice neat sacrificial alter looking piles. I promise there isn’t a dog buried under there. *No lambs were harmed on top of that rock pile.

I thought we had like 20 rocks. Nope. There were dozens and dozens of rocks piled up on the side of the house. I just never knew it because they were so overgrown with ivy that it hid most of them. Now I need to think of something fun to make out of them. Maybe I’ll extend the sidewalk.

Curious what that looked like when we moved in? Boom. Yikes.

We also unearthed a huge amount of brick that matches the house. We got all fancy with them and made a little wall that will hopefully deter our little dog to stop climbing under the fence and running away. I’ve met most of my neighbors as they’ve knocked on my door asking if the little dog is mine. Oops.

Now that I’m staring at this picture I might go rotate all the bricks so you can’t see the holes. That’s kinda bugging me now.

Anyway… Here’s a fun picture of my niece, my daughter, and Ben during all this. The girls were “working” so hard on bike-riding that they got hot and needed a popsicle break. In February. Welcome to Texas.

So ya, that’s pretty much it. We’ve been doing yard work, which I’ve determined is a lot like laundry. Just when you think you are done, you have to start all over again.

Oh, and this is no joke. Only in my world… literally THE DAY I posted about fixing our fence, we got a huge wind storm and two sections of fence fell over in the back yard. Oh the irony.

Off to build another fence. Pray the rest holds up, ’cause I’m sick of building fences!


     
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