Monday, August 31, 2015

Time To Mulch

My yard is a cool yard... not flat like most but has some interesting quirks.  Let me explain.

When we bought our property back in 2005, there was a trailer of dubious quality.  The floors by the bedroom windows were rotted through so you couldn't get near any of the outside walls.  As one walked the hallway to the rear bedroom, if you did it properly, you could get a nice sway going. Okay, maybe not the best thing. (More on that later.) The fireplace seemed to work. (More on that later.) The kitchen was fantastic — large, open and extremely inviting. It also had an attached metal awning which extended 12 feet out from the trailer and was about 16 feet long and covered a cement patio.  So fantastic to sit under in the heat of the day and enjoy the cool, refreshing breezes.

BUT, the place, in reality was a dump.  Let me explain the "sway" that the trailer had.  The ground dipped and the 70 foot trailer extended out over this hill.  The previous owner created a "basement" of sorts with plywood.  Uh, would you believe at that the very rear of the trailer, it was not quite 12 feet from the ground to the bottom of the trailer?  Now for the sway.  The support was one single stack of cement blocks approximately 4 feet from the end — we're talking about 9 or 10 feet of cement blocks, each 8 inches X 8 inches X 16 inches. They were loose, not cemented together. The only other "support" was the simple 2-by-4 structure running the perimeter of the back to enclose the "basement" area.  The realtor even had the nerve to say "This will make excellent dry storage." as a marketing ploy.  Yes, the whole structure swayed as the trailer swayed.  To this day, I'm still amazed that the trailer didn't fall.

Remember I mentioned the fireplace?  We burned some wood in the fireplace a couple of nights.  We didn't spend too many cold nights in the trailer since they wanted us to get rid of the structure before we had our new home put on in the basic same area.  Anyway, when we told the trailer down, which didn't take too much work to accomplish, we attempted to save what we could: most of the appliances, some cabinets and counter tops, sinks and the huge garden tub.  We wanted to save the fireplace.  OMG!  Imagine our shock when we started to tear into the walls and discovered scorched insulation and charred wood.  We were very lucky.  The trailer could have burned at any moment with us sleeping — and it would have went up like "poof!"  We wouldn't have stood a chance of escape.

Oh, during the demolition we discovered the skeletal remains of a raccoon in one of the walls.

Now about that yard. With the new house coming in, a basement was dug and a lot of dirt got re-situated.  Then, when they put in the septic system, a new mound of dirt (call it a small hill) was created to cover the drainage area.  The basement stuck out of the ground for about 75% of the home so I had several truckloads of dirt brought in to create a walled terrace.  Here's a secret: You heard the phrase "dirt cheap" — well, dirt ain't cheap... especially when you build an 8 foot retaining wall.

So I have an area where my house is on one level, the driveway flows up to it and from the driveway the ground flows downward to a small area.  Across the front of the house, and in front of the retaining wall, it also slopes away.  Then where it all comes together, that's where the septic system creates another hill.  To the immediate side of the house, behind the 8 foot retaining wall and septic hill, the land is basically flat and is a walkout from the basement.  Behind the house, the basement is 60% out of the ground and that is the north wall so I've got some solid insulation in the basement on the north wall so help keep it sort of warmish.  In other words, during the winter, it don't freeze but it is a tad chilly.

So what does all this mean?  Lawn mowing is a bitch. Yes, the yard has character but it is an awkward act to mow.  Therefore, to help me (when I have to mow) and my son (who does most of the mowing anyway) — I bought a lot of mulch in the last couple of days.  I'm going to put mulch around the swing set so we don't have to mow that area.  I'm going to mulch my hillside flower bed so everyone will know what is grass and what is flowers (and weeds since I have so much trouble keeping them controlled) and I plan to mulch an area out closer to the road which has some "ripples" and gets a lot of stones pushed into it by my neighbor who plows his driveway snow into my front yard. It also has some small trees and a lilac bush which are miserable to mow around.  I'll mulch that area so no mowing.  Yay!!

I decided, while I was at it, I'd mulch behind and on the side of the garden which now is kept under control by the weed-whacker. Yes, my garden is in the front yard, up by the house.  We live in the country and when I had the garden in the backyard, the critters raided it before we had a chance to harvest.   Also, I have two raised flower beds that will be mulched so I don't have to weed them anymore.

As you read this on Monday morning, I will be killing the grass and weeds in those areas in preparation of putting down newspapers to be covered by mulch.  The newspapers will be a minimum of 10 sheets thick.  I don't want anything coming up through cuz I really don't want to have to use harsh chemicals like RoundUp to kill them.  Somebody suggested yard fabric.  It does nothing for the ground and if a mower catches it... what a mess.  At least, as the paper rots, it will improve the soil.  I did that with my raised garden in the front yard when I put it in two years ago and it is working quite well today.

Hopefully, the mulch will make my yard even more attractive AND much easier for me to deal with.

It's an old picture, but it shows some of the land's unique features. This is when the house was first built and we'd just finished building the wall.  The camera angle is from the septic mound. The swing set is now located approximately where the dirt and grass meet closest to you. My raised garden is located in front of the three windows (the kitchen) to the right of the front porch. I can come out the side door and collect my garden goodies and be back in the kitchen in seconds — we're talking fresh!

Maybe I'll update this with a better (aka more current) picture, but probably not. lol.

Okay, I updated. As you can see, the little tree at the corner of the porch has grown some. In front of the kitchen windows is the garden with pole beans standing in the back. The rest of the garden is now tomatoes, carrots, beets, garlic, onions, and peppers. The "corn field" has been pulled which completely covered the window to the left.  You can see the swingset and that horrible cluster of growth in front of the long retaining wall is what results in 3 weeks of camping and not weeding. My daylilies are in there — somewhere but are finished blooming.  I'll dig them then root out the weeds, plant the lilies and mulch.  That weed patch to the right (below the raised deck) is my rock garden, but again, the weeds took over while I was gone. Those Canadian thistles really enjoy growing in my soil where nothing else seems to want to grow.  Can't mulch a rock garden but will be putting more "small" stones in to fill it out.

Until next I ramble on...


  1. My husband is a retired architect. When we moved into our current location I asked if he wanted me to apply for an architectural license in Texas. He looked around the subdivision and said, "No. If I want to do any work here, I'll become a handyman and help the neighbors." He did that and has marveled at the shoddy construction techniques local "contractors" employ. He tries to help widows repair cracks and leaks without tearing down everything, but sometimes it would be better. Glad you didn't stay in that trailer too long! In Texas we use pine straw as mulch, sweep it off the roof and spread it around the garden. My husband tries to ignore weeds in the grass as they're still green after he mows. Hope the mulch keeps your weeds under control.

    1. Texas has so many lovely pines, if you didn't use the needles for mulch, what a waste. They really do keep the weeds in check. BTW, the trailer was only around for 3 months and then GONE! As to weeds in the grass - uh, in my yard if I used a weedkiller, the amount of grass remaining would hardly be worth the notice.

  2. I enjoyed the before and after pics, too, Bob, and especially the change in color of the trim (it's much more muted, but is that weathering?), and the height of that tree. Nice house and good idea to mulch. Glad you don't use weedkiller, that stuff is brutal on anything that grows nearby.

    1. The trim may have some weathering (probably a lot!) but I think it is more the glare of the sunlight since even the bricks are muted, too. I try to keep the harsh weedkiller stuff as a last resort, for aggressive plants, and things like poison ivy and pigweed which I don't want my grandkids to get into.