The cute reason we haven’t shown off a finished backyard fence

See, I know you’ve been jonesing to see a finished backyard fence, or read about some new project we’ve tackled, but we’ve just been way too busy through the holidays looking after this little lady.

2012-12-23 14.52.34

Aren’t you strangely filled with love and forgiveness now for our lack of activity lately? I thought so.

The weeks since Thanksgiving — when we built the raised beds in the backyard, basically the last big project we tackled — was a bit of a blur. We were working frantically at our jobs to clear the decks for the holidays, finishing up our shopping, going to Christmas parties and and then leaving town for ten days to see both of our families in Atlanta for Christmas. Needless to say, almost nothing has been done at the old rowhouse since Thanksgiving, other than decorating for Christmas…and then promptly undecorating on the 11th day of Christmas because our tree was so dried up it was about to fall over on us as we lounged in the living room.

The one thing that has changed is that the fence in the backyard has been completed. All done. Well, save for a latch on the gate that still needs to be installed, but it’s all been completed. You could see the side fence already finished as we were doing the raised bed, and the posts in at the back when I showed off the back steps at the retaining wall, but now it’s all done.

Back fence completed Jan 2013

The best part about the new fence, is that it makes it impossible to see the ugly bottom floor of the house from the alley anymore. Awful old garage doors, peeling paint on the concrete, junk under the stairs in the little nook — all of that is invisible now.

We opted for the privacy fence only in the back, because we really enjoy our neighbors on both sides and don’t want to just shut them out. It also keeps things from feeling quite so small and closed-off by having the shorter fences on the side.

All in all, I saved at least 50% compared to every estimate I got from fence/wall companies by going with my friend and talented contractor Kurt for the fence and doing the back retaining wall and steps on my own. To say nothing of building the new raised beds on my own and using stone, which is chronicled here in greater detail.

The next few big steps to come in the backyard are

  • Pavers for the walk from the porch stairs all the way to the back steps. I’m having a contractor do this (now in February after some delays), but the cost will mostly be covered by the city through an awesome grant program they have to replace impervious surface with permeable materials to reduce stormwater runoff.
  • That walk will create a rectangle of space between the walk and the back fence where I’ll need to turn over the ground big time, enrich it with good soil, and work to plant grass there. Which I guess I’ll be able to mow with scissors it’ll be so small.
  • Lastly, garden planning for the raised bed is well underway. We’re hoping to get some of the late winter crops like lettuce in the ground pretty soon. And we have two blueberry bushes ready to go now. But the rest will come in late late winter.
  • There will be an area between the walk and the house that I hope to fill in with pavers at some point, but I really just don’t know if I’ll be able to a) afford to pay someone to do that or b) afford to pay for the stones and do it myself. It’s a lower priority at this point.

We don’t make New Year’s resolutions, per se, but this year Rachel and I are finishing up our list of to-dos on the house for 2013, so we’ve got an idea of what’s most important to each of us, and then trying to allocate time to get ’em all done. Maybe we’ll post our top 10 to-dos here on the blog when we get them figured out. One thing that will help big time with my motivation is the slow return of the sun in the next few months. More daylight after work, please!

The other big news is that we’re having our first contractor meeting tonight to talk about the basement renovation (into a rentable apartment.) I’ll probably be doing the demolition and some of the finish work myself, but we’re having a contractor run that project and I’ll be free to keep working on other projects.

On to the before/afters. Here’s a look at how far the backyard has come since May 2011 in the first picture here, to today. That’s how the backyard was when we moved in, save for the new deck/stairs we built before moving in.

Backyard aerial may 2011backyard aerial Jan 2013

Backyard hedges september 2010Back fence completed interior Jan 2013

And lastly, a look back at some of the notable steps from there to here. Though we’ve did a few pieces between move-in and this summer, like pulling the hedges down and Jeremy breaking up the concrete, we didn’t really start the backyard in earnest until this fall. The retaining wall, back steps, raised beds and fence were all done basically between September and December 2012.

Hedges removed north side backyard

backyard hedges hauled away

Hedges removed

Backyard concrete destroyedSledgehammering concrete driveway backyard

Backyard grass no hedge no fence

Digging out backyard stump

building retaining wall

Raised beds construction thanksgiving

backyard back steps november 2012

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