Friday, May 16, 2014

Doin' a Little Work on the Side (Yard)...

The Facts

Our side yard was horrendous. Not anymore.

His Side

“I hate yard work!”

That’s me in high school telling you how much I dislike working in the yard. That was my thought process when I was working in my parents’s yard. I know it was sort of my yard, too, because I lived there; but, it certainly didn’t feel like mine at the time. I also didn’t choose to spread mulch or pull weeds… I was told I would do those things. Recently, Kristi and I have been working in the yard and it’s not so bad because It’s more fun when you choose to do it yourself. It’s less fun when you have to pay for it yourself, though, so it’s a double edged sword. 

We have a nice large backyard that has a lot of undiscovered potential. It could be great but it’s not. It’s really just a mess. But, one day, it will be glorious. At least that’s what we have been saying for a while now. We have had big plans to circle our yard in a nice wooden privacy fence, but that is a lot of work and a lot of money. The “a lot of money” part is what convinced us that chain link fence would work just fine. But that’s still a lot of work and we are notoriously bad procrastinators. With that in mind, we decided to focus on a smaller project:  the side yard.

When we first got married, the side yard was atrocious but did have part of a wooden privacy fence still standing. We had wanted to do something about the side yard because it was an awful eye-sore that was ruining our curb appeal, but it didn’t seem to be such a pressing issue. That is, until one wind storm blew over the piece of wooden privacy fence that had been standing. It clearly wasn’t the most sturdy of structures because the wind had no problem knocking it down. With that broken down fence staring at us, we decided it was time to do something about it.

We started by smashing up the concrete pathway that had been there. And when I say “smashing up” I literally mean smashing it by hand with pick axes and sledgehammers. It’s a good way to get aggression out and get a work out. That process didn’t actually take as long as we thought it would, but we didn’t move on in the process until much later… you know, because of the procrastination thing.

Finally getting off our lazy butts, we got rid of the old fence posts and killed as many weeds as we could in preparation to put in a fence and a walkway to that fence. The prep work was a lot more involved than you might think, though. We had planned to get an gas-powered tiller and till it all up. But, we have quite rocky soil over there, so we were afraid of what might happen to those rocks when they come in contact with the gas tiller (the possibility of rocks hitting us in the head crossed our minds). So I did all the tilling by hand. It was a work out but wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Once it was all tilled and a lot of the rocks (and other assorted junk that the previous owners had buried over there) was gone, Kristi leveled it out a little and we were ready to get to work.

We went with my parents to look at some ideas for a walkway and figure out how much it was all gong to cost (more than it should). Once we had all our ducks in a row, as they say, we made our order from Lowe’s and thought it was everything we needed. It wasn’t… it never is. I’m just glad we have a Lowe’s so close because we probably took 10 trips back and forth during the whole process.

The first Saturday of work, we put in the posts for the fence. Holes were dug, posts were put in, cement was mixed, levels were used, etc. It was a very tedious process because, if those aren’t right, your fence won’t work. Luckily, we had help in the form of my brother-in-law. He had done this type of thing before so it was infinitely easier with him there. Cementing the posts in didn’t take as long as we expected so we were even able to start working on our walkway that day. With that, we had help in the form of my mother-in-law. Over the rest of that Saturday and part of Sunday, we got the walkway completely done… metal siding in, weed barrier down, then sand, then pavers, then pebbles. Lots and lots and lots of pebbles. When we originally bought pebbles, we thought we got enough bags. We were only off by about FIFTEEN BAGS. We got it done, though.

The posts have to sit for 24 hours before you can hang any fence on them. We had planned on working on it that week… but we didn’t. Then we were out of town for a weekend… so we didn’t work on it. We finally got back to work the following weekend and it went much more smoothly than expected. I got rather adept with a circular saw and used my drill skills I had gained from the storm door installation to knock out the fence hanging in no time. The only time consuming part was building the gate, but it went off with only a few minor hiccups (thanks again to my brother-in-law who randomly showed up right when we were starting on the gate).

Since that didn’t take long, we decided to take one last trip to Lowe’s and get some plants to spruce up the area around the walkway. Mulch, pots, plants, and soil came out more expensive than I thought, but you can’t put a price on beautiful landscaping (I guess you can… Lowe’s did). With more help from my mother-in-law (who actually enjoys yard work), we got the plants and mulch set up in no time. We stepped back and looked on our creation very proudly.

I was literally in awe of it when it was done. I still go out and just look at it sometime. It’s a really cool feeling to see that and know that my wife and I created it (with help). We didn’t have to hire professionals. We just put in our own time and sweat. That makes it so much more satisfying. So, I guess I don’t mind yard work too much now that it’s my own yard. Yea, it costs more than it should, but everything does. I am just glad we have something to be proud of and to show off to friends and family. Also, I like to think it increased our property value by more than what we spent in the process… maybe not but I’m going to pretend it did!

Her Side

I’m not one of those people who enjoys doing yard work. I’m not great at it and I really don’t like being out in the heat of South Carolina… and it’s hot all the time. So, Nolan and I tend to be all talk and no action in the yard work department. Whether we wanted to or not, we knew yard work projects were in our near future and, for a while, have been discussing the possibility of doing some extensive overhauling of our yard. After months of half-hearted attempts at getting our yard under control, we finally started a project and stuck with it. It all began when we thought we wanted to put up a new wooden privacy fence around our entire back yard and create our own little sanctuary. We measured the yard and began to do research on what this little sanctuary would run us. The numbers came back and we quickly decided to amend our plan and price out installing chain link fencing… still a sanctuary, right?

Set on the chain link fence, we started to prepare our backyard for what was to come. We began to dig up old dilapidated fence posts with MUCH help from my cousin Sam. He was in our neck of the woods for a few weeks on business and decided to lend a hand (well he basically did all the work) and dig up our five bazillion existing posts… only a slight exaggeration. Our intent was to follow through with installing chain link fencing around our large backyard but, as most things do, plans changed. We decided it was more pressing to have some sort of privacy from the road to our backyard and installing a small section of wooden privacy fencing would answer that dilemma. So, that’s the project we set out to tackle. I mean, if we have to choose a place to start it might as well be a place that our neighbors can enjoy as well, right?

When we began this project we realized we would need a walkway in our side yard to take you from the front to the backyard where the gate would eventually have a home. We bought all of the items we thought were necessary to install 4 fence posts, 2 fence panels, a gate, and a walkway… except, as usual, we didn’t get EVERYTHING we needed and had to make what felt like a dozen extra trips to Lowe’s before our tiny project was completed. Holes were dug. We felt like things were well on their way… except the holes are just the first of many many steps on the way to a functioning fence. My brother graciously offered to help us install the posts (since, if they aren’t done right, the entire fence could be in trouble). If you have never done it before, installing posts doesn’t seem like it should take a ton of time but it does. There is a pretty exact science to the process (or so it seems).

With the fence posts in, we thought the rest of the installation would take no time at all… and you might be right… under normal circumstances. Unfortunately, I have a bad case of what I like to call “laziness”. We planned to work on the fence after work on multiple occasions, but I somehow convinced Nolan that we didn’t really need to be out in that heat and that sitting on the couch would be much more enjoyable. Those excuses extended our side yard project out by a week or two. Oops!

Thankfully, I overcame the laziness and this past weekend we decided to finally finish the project that we started. We set our alarms for earlier than normal and recruited help so we could have another set of hands to help maneuver the fencing. The alarm went off and I so badly wanted to hit snooze but, thankfully, Nolan wouldn’t let that happen! So, we got up and got to work. I was fully expecting to have some major issues as we began the final step in the fencing process; but, much to my surprise, things went relatively smoothly! We put the first section of fence up and, after a multitude of cuts were made, we put the second section up. Easy as pie! 

The most challenging section was the gate, but even that didn’t hold us back much. If you want to talk about perfect timing, my brother unexpectedly showed up at our house just as we were starting to tackle the gate. He and Nolan figured out how to install the gate (without using instructions, of course… okay, just kidding). So, now we have a fence that is complete and it feels amazing! We even decided to make the our last trip of this project to Lowe’s to purchase some shrubs and plants to make the side yard a little more homey.

So, even though neither Nolan nor I really enjoy yard work and had no idea how to put up a fence at the beginning of the process, we did it! We have gained some pretty valuable knowledge along the way and what’s even better is that we are the proud new owners of an awesome looking side yard! It’s amazing what a little hard work, a lot of sweat, dedication, lots of extra hands, and a lot of love (from our family members) can create. It really is true that you appreciate something so much more when you work for it… and work for it is exactly what we did. So, if you’re around us in the weeks to come I apologize in advance, but this side yard is probably all we are going to talk about. 



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