Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Last weekend was one filled with some hard labor.

While Michelle, assisted by her sister, Rachel, lined cabinets in the kitchen, I took to landscaping the yard.

OK, let's be more truthful: I took to hacking away at the jungle that is our yard. We have a big, L-shaped plot in our fair little town. If you look at our place on Google Maps, you can make out our house – barely – but all you see is a mass of green to the north and to the west. That double lot, my friends, is ours. Currently, it's a mess, a cacophony of nature let loose to compete with itself. Someday, it'll be a lot of space for our boys to romp and roam. But for that to happen, some order needed to be restored.

So, armed with loppers and two handsaws, I got to it. It may seem against my nature (pun intended) to relish chopping down trees and clearing vegetation, but it's also sound ecology, in my book, to make way for species that are valued (to us, admittedly) and to get rid of those that are less so. So, yes, it is modification, stamping our imprint on the land, but the fact is this lot has been remade many times already, and we can create something that is good for our children, for us, and for birds, bees and other critters.

Luckily, we have a lot of really good stuff in our large yards. Two soaring evergreen trees in front. Two mature oak trees on the side and in the back. A maple tree. Blackberry bushes. Vines of grapes. A cherry tree in the back. More trees of other kinds. Some wild grasses. Nice variety. My goal, then, was not to engage in some clear cutting, but to let what we have breathe and thrive.

Here's what I was working with:

Back yard before

Back yard after

Side yard before

Side yard after

Do you see a difference? I must admit it doesn't seem as dramatic in pictures as it does in reality. The back yard looks like it's been leveled, which isn't quite accurate. Here's the back yard, as seen from the street:

You can barely see the scraped-away, newly mowed grass in the middle and back of the lot. Most of the trees in this picture will stay, which offers some measure of seclusion and a nice bit of woody diversity to the yard. We're getting there.

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