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  • July 10th, 2008 | 10:46 AM
What I did on my summer vacation

Last week with the shut-down from the day off and my normal Fridays off I ended up off work from 6/27 thru 7/7. I love love loved being away from work. I did not have to get up at 5am every day. I did, however, have to get up at 7 every day because of the work we had going on around the house. I am going to start a garden blog (as soon as I can decide whether to do it here on LJ or on Blogger) but until then here's what's been going on for the last couple of weeks.

This is our house. A normal house in the Silicon Valley with lots of houses all around. A very small yard. The front yard is made smaller because the previous owners fenced in half of it and made a courtyard which we love.

You will notice there is a lot of cement. The previous owners extended the driveway on either side, some with cement (a different color) and some with aggregate (a different color) none of which did much to compliment the house nor add any wildlife value. The also added cement to the parking strip area surrounding the Crepe Myrtle tree.

Our plan is to convert the entire yard, front and back, to California Native Plants with the intent of creating a habitat for any wildlife. We also hope to show people that they too, can use native plants and still have beautiful and inviting yards. If you want to see the rest of the small yard that we have to work with you can check out the album here.

The first thing we did last fall was replace the backyard fence that was falling apart. The expense of that pretty much stopped us from going any further since only 1 of the 4 neighbors paid their share of the "good neighbor" fence. Grrr. We also had the backyard cleared of everything except for one Japanese Maple. Though not native it is a big tree and does have some wildlife value. 

This year we have big plans. We had the county water district out to measure the lawns in the front and the back because they are offering a nice rebate if you reduce/remove your lawns. Then we had a crew come in and begin the tough job of removing the back lawn. It was almost all the dreaded Bermuda grass. It is evil evil evil! Every little inch long scrap of it can reroot. They dug down, chopped it up and shook the dirt off the clods. We still have to rake it out and remove more roots and pieces. There is no way we got it all but we made a start and we will have to be diligent about digging out all the resprouts. We are using no chemicals in the yard so I really appreciate this crew's hard work. There's still the front to be done but it is a good start.

Next it was time to get rid of all that excess cement. I needed DIRT! First to go was the sideyard of wall-to-wall cement with serious drainage issues.

Much better! We have big plans for this space starting tomorrow!

The path to nowhere in the backyard had to go. 

With the path gone I can start to see the garden begin to take shape, at least in my mind.

The aggregate in the front and the driveway were next. From this:

to this!

Along the way there were a few more adventures. Like my idea to have them trench the stamped concrete in the courtyard and run pipes for the downspouts out the front yard.

And then there was the back stoop that was so narrow you couldn't step out on safely and the dog would curl up as tiny as she could get to try and lay there and not fall off.



Ditto the stoop in the front courtyard. It was supposed to be 3 feet for code. It wasn't.

But now it is.

The new driveway gives us a bit more room to plant on the left and a lot of room to plant on the right (which will help hide the hideous motorhome that never moves). I also had them leave a couple of cut-outs for planting on each side of the garage.

We are really pleased with it all. I love the earthiness of the pavers and the way everything flows now. I can't wait to move all my plants and furniture back to the courtyard! The whole album can be seen here.

Tomorrow the next phase, the path and planting on the sideyard!

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( 14 comments — Leave comment )
July 10th, 2008 06:24 pm (UTC)
Very nice. It is looking fantabulous. Can't wait to see pictures with the gardens planted!
July 10th, 2008 09:25 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I hated having to do the hardscape now because I so want the plants in but this is being sensible.
July 10th, 2008 06:58 pm (UTC)
Oh wow! It looks fantastic, Susan! I bet you can't WAIT to get some planting done. Post more photos when you do! (You have more patience than me. I want everything done instantly...)
July 10th, 2008 09:27 pm (UTC)

I want it all done now. I hated that last year all the landscape money had to go for a new fence. And to do this right we really needed to do the hardscape first. It is much easier now to plan the rest of the yard.

In any event the natives really shouldn't be planted until fall (though we are cheating tomorrow with the sideyard.)

July 10th, 2008 08:21 pm (UTC)
I love the pavers! I've been wanting to lay some down myself. *G* Everything looks great!
July 10th, 2008 09:29 pm (UTC)
Thank you. It was a big hit to the wallet but we are very happy. Here in earthquake country cement cracks all the time!
July 10th, 2008 08:54 pm (UTC)
I'm so excited to see the before and am really looking forward to seeing the after. It's already looking better and will be gorgeous when you're done. Wow!
July 10th, 2008 09:29 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I am trying to be very good at documenting all of this to give other people hope. Right now I am trying to figure out how big of a wildlife pond I have room for. :)
July 10th, 2008 09:07 pm (UTC)
wow, susan! that is quite a massive project! i had no idea it was THAT big. it must cost a fortune, but i can tell it'll be spectacular when it's done.
July 10th, 2008 09:30 pm (UTC)
I think this is my birthday and Christmas and anniversary present for a long time. LOL.
July 11th, 2008 12:48 am (UTC)
July 10th, 2008 10:09 pm (UTC)
The changes look wonderful, Susan. It's going to be a lovely space.
July 11th, 2008 01:24 am (UTC)
Wow! It all looks so pretty. I hope you post more pictures!
July 11th, 2008 02:25 am (UTC)
That stone driveway is GORGEOUS!!!!
( 14 comments — Leave comment )

Who am I?I was born on the Cancer/Leo cusp and share a birthday with Ernest Hemingway and Robin Williams. The similarities don't stop there as I can go from depressed to ecstatic without ever passing go. I feel scared most of the time though my friends call me brave and I find it easier to believe in my friends than to believe in my own abilities to make what I want out of my life.

Who am I? A wife, a mother, a daughter, and even, gulp, a grandmother.

Who am I? A writer who never gets tired of playing with words, even when the words are hard to find. A writer of books for children and articles for grown-ups and many things in-between.

Who am I? A motivational speaker, writing instructor, workshop leader and full-time follower of dreams.

Who am I? Read and find out.

Susan Taylor Brown

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