Happy Place

Are you wondering what’s going on with my renovation?  Oh sorry, I’ve been in my happy place.

So, everyone who’s ever renovated anything knows you should budget twice as much time and twice as much money as you think you need to get the job done.  Don’t imagine that you are exempt from this rule because you work in the construction industry and are a serviceable carpenter, like I did.  The rule always applies.

But that’s not what today’s post about.  While the structural engineer and my contractor Ken deal with what Ken calls the “horror show” of the structural problems with my houses (he’s started referring to the structure as two different buildings that were never really attached to each other properly), I invite you to come with me into my happy place: the yard.

Perhaps you recall when the yard was full of lovely trees.  Actually, the trees turned out to be not so lovely.  Mostly they were seedlings of a gigantic Norway Maple (a beautiful but frowned-upon invasive tree) and a thicket of mulberry trees.  Fun fact: some mulberry trees are indigenous to North America, but a lot of the mulberries you see around were imported in the 1700s in an effort to raise silkworms and provide a source of domestic silk.  The silkworms didn’t take, but the imported mulberry trees did.  They can be very invasive, and my side yard was full of them, like this one:


This large tree was actually the regrown sprout of a stump that someone had previously cut down.  It was leaning precariously, and was one of the first to come down.  Turns out my stepdad is something of a lumberjack.


Looks bigger lying on the ground!



It took some doing, but the tree came down and we chopped and sawed it up into burnable and mulchable pieces.

The back side of the lot had a large ash tree that had been dead for some time, as well as lots of Norway Maples.  These were too big and too close to the house for us to deal with, so we called in Alex from Global Tree Care, who came through and took down all of the weedy and dead trees in one fell swoop.  I got a stern talking to from my neighbors, who enjoy watching the birds in these trees, but I assured them that I had extensive plans to plant nice replacement trees that will provide food and habitat for birds, and they were glad to hear it.  Here is my neighbor Diane feeding me soup in her nice, heated, habitable house:

Camera 360

The real tree heartbreak was yet to come, however.  Toward the front of the lot, there was a giant tree that I did not intend to take down.  Here you can see it towering over the full-grown Norway Maple behind:


Tree people can probably spot the problem – the very deep and very narrow “V” shape of this tree.  Alex the tree guy got up there and reached down into the point of the V, and found it full of water, down a couple of feet.  That’s not a good thing.  He told us that when that water freezes, it will expand and can crack the two main trunks apart.  One was poised to fall on the roof of my house, and the other on the triple decker next door.  So down it came.



We now have lots and lots of firewood.  Now all I need is a wood stove!  All things in time.

A little later, the tree guys brought out the stump grinder to kill those stumps, some of them two feet across.  The stump grinder was a terrifying machine that resembled a green metal rhinoceros, operated by remote control.  It lumbered around the yard with a huge spinning blade where its horn should be, taking out the stumps.

Camera 360

In the meantime, here are the new trees I planted.  A red maple:

Camera 360


A ‘Forest Pansy’ Redbud:

Camera 360


And a baby fall-blooming witch hazel, which isn’t much to look at yet.

Other stuff I’ve planted so far: some hellebores, a strawberry shrub, false indigo, and two native vines to attract butterfiles and other pollinators – a red honeysuckle, and this dutchman’s pipe vine:

Camera 360


Out in front, I planted a combination of perennial flowers and vegetables: echinacea, rhubarb, bee balm, asparagus, and milkweed:

Camera 360

The pollinators are happy:

Camera 360


One day we noticed that this sunflower had volunteered behind the dumpster:

Camera 360


And now you know what keeps me happy in between bouts of wondering whether I will have enough money to finish my renovation.  Stay tuned.



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5 Responses to Happy Place

  1. Silvia Styles says:

    What a great historical record of the landscaping as it has evolved. Nice writing and photos. Keep it going
    Sent from my BlackBerry

  2. rafoley says:

    And nice landscaping choices – including the Dutchman’s pipe vine, which some hate, it can be very invasive but has the wonderful ability to clamber up and over eyesore areas (not that you have any of those!) and provides great shade for south-facing patios, etc.

  3. corar2000 says:

    Fantastic post!!! I love the sunflower by the dumpster.
    I also am happier outside my renovation than in where lurks the computer and its daunting budget. We’re in it together, sister. Can’t wait to start planting things to kill the budget blues. I’m also looking to find a used Washington State approved woodstove — preferably soapstone. Let me know if you find a good source.

  4. M.T. says:

    You inspire me. I’ve been so focused on the inside of my renovation I haven’t been dreaming about the yard. The few things I have planted have been compromised (I say this diplomatically) from construction workers throwing debris on them or drowning them in drywall mud. So I put up major protection on my old concord grapevine and I’ve been waiting for the construction guys to leave….please leave…. please…. Looking forward to seeing your yard in five years! I may need some advice. xo

  5. I enjoy reading your updates and seeing the accompanying photos very much. Thank you! xo

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