Posted by joeabbott on November 2, 2014
There are a lot of different kinds of work. When I’m talking about doing something for my employer (whether I head “into work” or “work from home”), I refer to that as “work-work”; Suzy knows immediately what I’m talking about. Then there are all the jobs around the house; some is busy work, most is productive, but then there’s just toil. Yesterday was that sort of work day for us: a day of toil.
Our backyard is biggish by normal neighborhood standards, but certainly not acreage. I think our total plot measures out just around 1/3 of an acre, meaning it takes dedicated time but something manageable over the weekends. But then we’ve done things to it: setup Chickenville, amassed a small nursery of plants, flowers, and trees, and put in all sorts of hardscaping in place. This is what makes maintenance a chore.
Suzy has been at the garden beds nonstop all summer and, as a result, we didn’t have a lot of work there. She notices the weeding that needs doing, but everyone else just sees a wide variety of autumn colors and textures. Nope, that wasn’t part of yesterday’s work. Then there are the retaining walls, the bridge, the benches and deck … all of that requires some maintenance but we didn’t do much there. Yesterday’s work was in the green stuff in-between all the plants and structures.
When we first started tending the backyard, it would take 2 days to weedwhack the entire thing and rake it up. Since then we’ve taken away from the growing spaces (the chicken coop, the paths, the stairways, etc.) and we get on the growth much earlier, so we have it down to something like 4 hours of work. But work it is!
In most of the grass, our power line trimmer (weedwhacker) makes short work of the tall stuff; the challenge is the steepness of the yard and the gimpiness of my ankles (which are always aflame with fatigue after these sessions). The tall grass is the challenge and never moreso than on the days we haven’t whacked in a while and when it’s wet. When wet, the motor bogs down and you need a follow-up trimming after the raking to make sure you’ve gotten it all.
Then there’s working around the plants and trees. Most heartbreaking of all is seeing what needs repairing: the Pacific Northwest winters are absolutely brutal on anything made of wood, whether it’s the moss and lichen\algae on the bridge and deck, or just the rot that sets in to things like our path edging. It all makes a long and tedious job longer and more tedious yet.
Raking usually goes quickly but yesterday it was especially quick as we were composting most of the stuff we mowed down. There’s a stretch near the fence that has lots of nettle and other weeds … I toss those clippings away … but everything else just goes to the lowest part of Chickenville where our hens like to forage, poop, and otherwise hangout, making for the absolute best compost and fertilizer around. If you want something to grow, give our composting efforts a season and then use that soil … you’ll have more bountiful, taller, and healthier plants than ever!
We started by measuring out the area around the coop for an expansion. Now that Suzy has a little more time around the house and our four hens have proven to be unreliable layers, we’ve decided to add onto the coop and bring in more hens. We figure we’ll have a total flock size of around a dozen birds but we need to make sure we’ll have a shelter for them all. The current shelter box is about 25”x48” … we’d like to expand that and were wondering if we should add 48” or 60” to the length (it would remain 48” wide). After our quick layout lines on the ground, we realized the expansion would be a small imposition but 48” was as bad as 60”, so we’ll go with 60”.
All of this entailed a couple trips to and from the house, using chalk-spray to mark the lines, moving a bunch of concrete bricks we have, and mulling over the options. Now that we know what we want, we have to design it and get it built by sometime around February. It’ll be a lotta work.
Anyhow, I then started whacking the weeds while Suzy did the detail work around the plants. I’ve buzzed out plants and small saplings before and even ringed young trees, so I’m no longer allowed within 6” of our plants. It makes some work for Suzy but I haven’t killed many plants since we’ve agreed to this policy. After that it was raking and a bit of cleanup with the weedwhacker. Tiring stuff but it really helps to have Suzy out there working on this stuff with me.
At that point, I decided the bridge handrail I’m trying to curve needed to be removed from the bridge so I can bend it even more. By taking it off, I can really start to put some curve into it and, hopefully, when it springs back a bit, it’ll hold the curve of the bridge. I’m not happy with how long this is taking but running out of ideas!
Once that was complete, we had some grasses in the front bed that were taking over; time to cut them out and move them to another location. While we’re running out of a lot of space, we did have a nice area Suzy reclaimed earlier this summer up by the fence; they’ll look great there! To get the grass out, we use a short toolbox saw that I got for Suzy from Harbor Freight and literally saw out the roots. The earth in this spot is mostly rock-free so it wasn’t too bad. Getting it out wasn’t super-hard, but I did break off one of our sprinkler heads in the process and made a small fix-up job for me another day.
After cutting out the grasses, we hauled them to the top of the backyard. By the time I had the last clump of grass up there, I was fall-on-my-back-exhausted. We took a small break and then planted the grass … and then it was time to call it quits.
As always, calling it quits means gathering, cleaning, and storing the many tools and gear we used, spreading a bit more rock or soil, making sure the coop is locked up, washing up, and then stripping the soiled and ragged clothing off for a wash on the “extra dirty” cycle.
It’s always gratifying to see the yard after it’s been tidied up, but yesterday was a hard bit of work. And in this sense, that work was pure toil, but it was good to have taken a big step in preparing our yard for its winter rest.
Hope your weekend was as productive and thanks for dropping by!