Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Come on Seany, Finish What Ya Started--And I Did!

You may recall that in early May 2016, I took a little time away from the first draft of Ticket Agent in order to do the first bit of yard work for the year; we had just finished a mild winter, with the exception of late March/early April, and since I had been sick in mid-March and had lost too much time writing due to that illness, I didn't do anything outside during the month of April in order to catch up on the writing. I took about four days after Mother's Day to get a lot of yard work and the first real mow of the year completed, ignoring Jaclyn's calls to let my fingers dance.

One of the yard work projects was a long-term one that, at times, required my full attention. As I explained last May, our house abuts a man-made pond. Over the years, little had been done with the maintenance near it: Jen and I had tried to slash through the brush maybe four years ago, but we didn't get far, and it eventually returned. It returned to the point that our view of the pond from our living room grew marred with brush.

There's also another reason why we stopped: we didn't have a proper, working push lawnmower in order to keep that area maintained and under control. We only had a riding mower, and that section slopes down to the pond. I would mow up to the slope's beginnings with the ride-on, even as I felt gravity pulling me toward the left, and that was it. So yes, it was rather overgrown.

In August 2015, our riding mower had an issue with starting; it's an old riding mower, probably from the 1980's, and it's owned by Jen's uncle, our landlord. After being unable to start the thing and not wanting to bother him with it, I went down to Lowe's and bought a brand new Toro push lawnmower for about $100, and I managed to get the lawns cut in a few hours. I even got to dig a little deeper into the pondside's slope, eating the brush away a little at a time--but it was still too dense to completely mow it down.

By spring 2016, I had made the decision: with our still relatively brand-new push lawnmower, I would get the project underway at some point. I also decided that I would document my progress with photos... because, Facebook.

Taken April 23, 2016. Two weeks before the start of the project. Take note of the red brick near Jen's perennial garden.
Then Mother's Day rolled around. I got a little antsy after a week's work of rain, and after getting the fixed ride-on mower off the back porch and pulling the push mower out of the cellar, and with the sun breaking through early in the afternoon, I got outside while the Momma of my horses and cats took a little nap.

After the first hour or so of work. A little less overgrown.
Two days later, I had made some progress in clearing it.

And May 11, after some guidance from my bride regarding what was a perennial and what was crap that needed clearing, I made some more.

Definitely looking better...
The next day, I finished stage one of the clearing.

As you can see, in just four days, about five hours of work, I managed to get that area pretty much clear. The green spot right in the middle are a patch of daffodils, and if I hit those, Jen would have been pissed at me (she moved them out of there this past April). Closer to the rock are plants; daylillies by the tree to the left-hand side.

Here's another view:

Nice and clear. My skin, though, was a different story: as a result of this, I contracted a rather nasty case of poison ivy, from my collarbone to my waist. I was absolutely covered in it, and I was rather uncomfortable for about three weeks.

Now, I could have just as easily laid down a fresh layer of topsoil right then and seeded it and called it a day... but I didn't. A lot of what I had cut out still had anchors in the ground, i.e. stumps. I had to cut those out in order to make sure the brush didn't return. Alas, I managed to cut out a few in June after I returned to Ticket Agent's first draft for a few weeks and after getting the vegetable garden planted, and letting the poison ivy rash vanish; some of those stumps were too close to the pond's edge, and I weedwhack those area now instead of digging the damn things out.

Those stumps were stubborn bastards, let me tell you!

Here's one of them:

This one was dead center of the slope. I dug and dug and dug, trying to pry it loose. In the end, I managed to move enough soil to clip the thing out, then filled the hole with the remaining dirt, as well as some composted horse manure. I would take the other one out a few days later. I could have seeded then... but we hadn't had any rain for quite some time, and we were in the start of a drought; last summer was an incredibly hot one! I made sure that when I did mow, I went over to the pondside area and mowed down anything that came up.

By October, I still hadn't done anything else to pondside, seeing as I was deep into Persuaded By The Reflections' first draft; September was uber busy, between writing, game coverage, and family obligations on consecutive weekends. With Halloween approaching, it was too late to do anything else to it, seeing as the growing season had come to a close.

Winter came next.

Pondside is in the direct center of this panorama I took in February.
As spring approached, I told Jen, "I'm going to finish the pondside project. That's top of the agenda." And in order to do that, I had to make sure that there was a barrier between my grass and her perennial garden. We dug a small trench which wound around the perennials, the borders an old brick shaped with a bend.

We did that on April 23, one year to the day that I took that first photo and decided that I was going to do something about it:

You will also notice a little darker soil near the border to the perennials: I also laid down two bags of topsoil in an attempt to make that area a little more level. I kind of succeeded, but not quite. I also contracted a second case of poison ivy this day, but as I'm thinking about it, I believe that was from doing some work on the top lawn, not pondside.

Then I finally laid down the seed that day, and Jen and I put down some light mulch (hay) in order to keep in moisture. With the rainy spring we had, I only had to stretch the hose twice: once on the 23rd, and probably four or five days later to make sure it had enough water.

Nine days later....


On May 16, we had enough grass in order to give it its first haircut.

You will also notice the line of leaves at the top of the slope that really never got mulched up enough by any of the mowers. About a week or so after this, I raked all of that up, then raked up the dirt to stir it up and prepare it for a second seeding. I seeded it in the middle of June, laid down some more hay in order for the seed to retain moisture, and watered it a few times.

And now.....

Ta-da! Pondside is complete!

After 14 months of on and off work, I can safely say that the pondside project is finally done. There is very little I can do to add to it; I could seed right down to the water's edge, and I might do that this fall, but I have to acknowledge the mower will only go so far, and remember that there are a few leftover stumps in that section. There is another section to the left of the above tree (you'll see it in the last picture) that I could clear and risk a third case of poison ivy, but now is not the time for long sleeves and long pants.

There is another project that I want to accomplish this fall, and it entails getting rid of the thin trees and brush from the other side of pondside headed toward the rear corner of the property. That will allow me the ability to get the push mower in to keep the grass--and more importantly, ticks--away. That'll involve a lot of cutting, and a lot of raking. I also have to complete the perennial garden border on the other slope, then re-seed the newly-created bare spots. Will I have the strength to do three massive landscaping projects this fall, plus writing fiction, keeping up my fitness, and covering games? Probably not, but we'll see.

But not only was this a nice exercise in improving the property value-slash-curb appeal, I also see it as an allegory to writing. One of the lessons I've learned is "You can edit crap. You can fix broken sentences."

Consider the first picture as a crappy page. I massaged it and cut out the loose crap, and eventually got to clip out a hard phrase, erm, stump. Then I finally polished it up and laid down grass seed.

And now, it's done... and published.

Another work of art.