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Dirt under the fingernails

Nothing gets you motivated to work in the yard like nice weather.  The past week and a half in Portland has been sublime.  I’ve caught myself on several occasions saying “so this must be how people in California feel.” Consecutive days of 80+ degrees, sunshine, and no work or personal obligations for entire weekend was just what I needed to get my hands dirty.

This is what the front yard looked like nearly a year ago.


This is what it looked like when I got my hands on it bright and early Saturday morning.

DSCN1527A whole lotta nothing.  As you can see, the railings had come down long ago.  This was partly due to the contractor disliking their style and flimsiness and partly due to an “accident” that occurred while conducting a bachelor party weekend for a relative.  We won’t go into further details for all of our sakes.

The contractor used the generous gift of some flagstone to create a retaining wall as the street slopes downward towards the left in the photo.  I think it looks quite dandy and I’d say our neighbors’ young daughter thinks it’s pretty nifty as well since she insists on walking on it to and from the grocery store as if it were a balance beam.  The retaining wall project displaced quite a bit of dirt that found its way on top of the grass and to other low areas of the front and backyards.

Many individuals would be thrilled to have such a blank slate to deal with.  I was terrified into complete and utter avoidance.  I even called a few nurseries and thought about paying them to design something for me.  Then my cheapskate frugal self took over and vetoed that idea.  I was on my own.

Here is how it looked at the end of the weekend.



I started by using an old hose to divide the space and a possible walkway, essentially creating two beds.  Then I got to work moving what I hoped were not weeds from the overgrown mass of green directly in front of the porch to give the plants room to breathe.


The contractor didn’t sit around either.  He was hard at work on the side of the front yard.  DSCN1528

Those blueberry bushes that never see much light due to the line of arborvitae found themselves a new home in front of the porch so the contractor moved the raised bed to the strip between the sidewalk and the street.  He also used his herculean strength (do you see the size of those stones?!?) the remnants of flagstone from the retaining wall project to the backyard for future use on another project.

There is still loads of work to be done.  Path preparation, definition, gravel, planting, and mulching to name a few, but now that my gardener’s block is gone and I can walk up the path from my car without my eyes squeezed shut in total avoidance, I’m motivated to see it through.  That is, if this weather holds out!

3 Responses to “Dirt under the fingernails”

  1. Ian Anderson says:

    It’s the light evenings that’s rocking my boat, I’m in Norway now and after a long, cold and dark winter, some late daylight is much needed!

    It’s light until 10pm but I keep forgetting not to make too much noise after 8.30pm or so. Oops, sorry, I didn’t realise it was so late being my excuse when caught.

    Are the raised beds temporary there? Just wondering about wandering pooches, not to mention local scallywags!
    Stay well

    • Zara says:

      Hi Ian,
      You caught me! The raised beds are a temporary solution. We hope to eliminate the grass in the “parking strip” and replace it with 3-4 custom raised beds, that also take design into consideration, by next summer. Reusing the existing ones will do for this year’s growing season while we focus on getting the front looking less like the neighborhood eyesore.
      Take care,

      • Ian Anderson says:

        Also guilty of that a little, stuff is often ‘in transition’! People often stop to look, but I’m sure it’s just our little ‘fairy house’ thats the reason……not the woodpiles, oh no, blame it on the fairies!

        I’m looking for an old 18′ wooden boat thats beyond repair to create a new raised bed, it’s next to a stream so will look cool. So many advertised but so far they have all been too far away 🙁

        Good luck with the veg!

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