Category Archives: gardening

Garden! 

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Sorry I haven’t been posting a whole lot lately, I have been so busy at work the past few months, I just haven’t had the time to make stuff and write about it… So I have a whole bunch of projects to catch up on sharing! Now that we are on summer break, I can finally take a step back and breathe, do some crafts, and then actually write about them. I love being a teacher, especially in July and August! 

Ok, I am the first one to admit that I am not a gardener! I basically buy a bunch of perennials I like in the spring, I plant them and keep my fingers crossed. Sometimes it grows, sometimes it doesn’t. Then, when stuff starts growing the next spring, I never know if I should pull it out, or let it grow… So I let it grow, as you can tell by this photo I took of our garden last fall (below), I should probably not do that. And, Yes, that is broccoli growing in the middle of the garden bed below! By the time I figured out it was broccoli, I figured I might as well let it grow…and maybe we could eat it.  

What a mess 😦  I wish I could say that the rest of the backyard was way better, but nope. It was pretty overgrown too. 

So as you can see, everything had grown on top of everything else, and by the end, I had no idea what I had actually bought, and what was weeds. So, I decided to start from scratch this spring. I pulled everything out, except the plants I was sure about. I spread thing out so they have more room, and we unloaded a trunkful of topsoil a couple weeks ago. So, here’s what it looks like now…

  The ferns are from my grandmothers garden…and the forget me nots were so pretty, I decided to let them take over a little. 
Here is the side gardens in the backyard…it is not a good picture, but this garden is my favourite.

   

And here is the side garden.
 And the front of our house…
   
   
I even got my vegetable garden planted down the side pathway, in front of the arbour my brother made. John and I (and my younger brother and wife) were married under it. 

 

So, bring it on, I’m ready for summer, and I am ready to pull out whatever starts growing that I don’t recognize… Including broccoli! 

Here is a better pic of our whole backyard…

  

The picture below is what our backyard looked like when we first moved in…. It looks a lot different now!

   

And here is John and Dylan at the front of our house… It was pretty overgrown there too! 
  
Anyways, it has been a couple weeks since I have taken the photos, and I already notice a difference, but I am determined to keep things under control this year! I’ll keep you posted…

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Can’t Take Credit for this One!

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Can’t Take Credit for this One!

I can’t begin to say how excited I am to announce to you the new additions to our family! Nope, not my babies, but I am considering myself sort of a granny! Every friend I have seen in the last month, my whole family, neighbours, and everyone at work knows about my baby birds. If I have seen you in the last month, chances are you have seen photos already.  I think it’s finally time to make it public! I wish I could take some sort of credit for this, but other than hanging the planters, I can’t really credit for any of this, But I can share my excitement!

About a month ago, we noticed a bird sitting by our front door…. Not just close to our front door, or near the front of our house, this dumb bird was literally at eye level right beside the door.   

We thought it was a little strange, but we thought if it was nesting, it would be more aggressive. Every time we came out the front door, it would literally freeze. We had a robins nest by the back of our house, a couple of years ago, and if we even went close, they would be dive bombing us… Not this bird, it would barely blink.

Then, one morning as I was leaving for work, I finally saw inside the nest…. An egg!! I couldn’t believe our luck!  

So, I did some research online, and it is a morning dove. And, apparently morning doves take turns sitting on the nest, the male sits on it during the day, and the female sits at night time.  

I have to give Dylan credit for figuring that one out. He said there were two different birds, but I didn’t believe him until I googled it, and saw them both together.

  So we waited, and waited, and almost to the day, 14 days later, look what we saw! Not just one baby, but two!! They started out really ugly looking…   
But, after they dried, they became all fluffy and started looking a whole lot cuter!  Most of the time, all we could see what the male or female bird sitting on the babies, but a couple times a day, they would be left alone.

 
  

To get a better perspective on how close they nested to our front door, here is Dylan taking a picture…
    
We didn’t get to see them for a few days because as soon as we opened the door, mom would just sit on them. But it was amazing how fast they grew!

Here is a video of mom feeding. The mother eats, then regurgitates the food. But as you can see, the babies don’t sit quietly waiting for their turns.    
Here is what they looked like yesterday morning. I thought it was an appropriate post for Mother’s Day. 

 

As I said, I have been pretty excited about the whole process. Dylan even edited a video of the birds for me for Mother’s Day. The worst part is that It’s all happening so fast! Before I know it, they will be flying on their own, rolling their eyes at their parents, and ready to leave the nest… I might have a tough time with that…sniff sniff… It won’t be long before my nest is empty too. 

Happy belated Mother’s Day to everyone! And a special shout out to my mom…the most positive, inspiring, and generous person in the world. I feel so fortunate to have you in our lives, and to have such a great friend. I love you mom! And to my mother-in-law, the most energetic, happy, and helpful person ever! How lucky was I to benefit from all of your amazing parenting skills by marrying your son! You are both very special women who have been inspirational and irreplaceable parts of our family. Love you both!

 

Yummy summer Pasta Salad

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Yummy summer Pasta Salad

it is our first year planting the garden in cedar boxes on the pool deck. Although we have a lot of space in our backyard, the pool deck is the only place where there is sun in the afternoon, and the only spot where the rabbits haven’t seem to have figured out yet….

So as you can see, most of the seeds I planted in the spring are doing really well… We will have a lot of tomatoes, cucucumbers and zucchini…

 

Every time I go out, we have a whole bunch of snow peas, ready to go! We have been eating them right off of the plant and steaming them, but sometimes they are a little tough or stringy. So, one of my favourite ways to eat them is in a pasta salad. Plus, we have so many visitors over the summer, I always keep a couple salads in the fridge just in case! 

 Start by cutting off the tops and bottoms, and getting rid of any of the stringy bits you can, then, cut them into smaller pieces, 4 or 5 pieces each. I love adding them to pasta salad because I find that even if they are a little stringy or chewy, the smaller pieces, in combination with the pasta makes it barely noticeable..

 One of my favourite herbs is dill, and I am lucky that is seems to really grow well in our garden. So I picked a handful and chopped it into little pieces too…  I didn’t do such a great job of taking photos, but this isn’t an incredibly complicated recipe. I cooked a couple cups of pasta, added a couple tablespoons of olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, and lemon juice, and tossed it all together with the snow peas.  

Then, I thought it needed some colour, so I added some red pepper…     

That’s it. I find that it makes the best pasta salad when you mix everything together when the pasta is still warm, and put it in the fridge to cool. But, I always taste it before serving, as it may need a little more oil and vinegar added before serving. Enjoy! 

Our new swing! 

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Our new swing! 

We are now on summer holidays! Yahoo! So, now I am going down my list of things to do and trying to get some jobs done as well as clear some clutter from around the house. I have been busy posting a whole bunch of things on Kijiji, and facebook.

And, I will admit, I have also bought a few things too… For some reason one day I mentioned to my friend that I wanted a swing for the backyard, and she sent me an email for this chair on kijiji… I absolutely love the design… But wasn’t sure about the colours…but I bought it anyways, because it was a great price, and…. paint exists for a reason, right?   

As you can see from the photo below, it was brand new, it took us 1/2 hour just to unwrap all of the packaging…  

So obviously, it isn’t real wicker, but here is a close up of the colours….love the design of the chair, but not really my choice in colours…

A couple years ago, I bought this old wicker set from our neighbours and refinished it…. Here is what it looked like when I bought it…

And here is part of the set finished…

  

There is actually 6 chairs, a love seat, and two tables. So, after refinishing that whole set, I feel pretty confident in my ability to refinish wicker, and…I still had some leftover fabric and spray paint.  So I thought, why not make them matching?

I started by giving the swing a very quick sanding, with a very fine sandpaper, just to scratch off the shiny surface. Then I used a spray primer as a first coat. I really like the Rustoleum brand. Here is a pic…

  
Here is what the chair looked like after a coat of primer…

Btw, the frame made it so easy to spray paint, I could do all sides at once!    
I let it dry for a couple hours, then sprayed it with the actual colour. It took two light coats to cover up all of the primer. I did also spray all of the edges with a bit of clear varnish. I have found that with the other set, the paint does tend to chip off in places where it is frequently bumped. But, I just get out my spraypaint and touch it up a couple times a season. 

I forgot to take pictures of the making of the cushions, but I just laid out the cushions on the leftover fabric and cut out a square and circle, sewed around three sides, put them on, and hand stitched them closed…

Here is what the swing looks like finished. Big improvement, I think!

  

And here it is with the rest of my set… The only problem is that I didn’t realize how much the other fabric has faded… I am sure after a couple months in the sun, it will all look the same.    

It looks great with our new fire table! Time to start roasting some marshmallows! 
Btw, forgot to wish everyone a belated Happy Canada Day from July 1st, Go Canada! 

  
  

We’re gonna have a baby!! (two actually!)

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We’re gonna have a baby!! (two actually!)

OK, before I freak out everyone I know, maybe I should clarify… I am not the one expecting…. (thank you lord!)…

Let me tell the story from the start. We are going to have baby birds!

Dylan and I noticed a couple weeks ago that a robin was trying to build a nest on an outdoor light outside his bedroom window. We watched it fly up with bits in his beak over and over.
Then we would watch as a gentle breeze would blow it right off of the light onto the patio. Here are some of the nest bits on the patio…

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The robin would just start again, and again and again. Over a week, we probably watched it restart the nest at least 10 times. I couldn’t decide whether to laugh at the stupid bird or feel sorry for it.

But, my compassionate side took over. So, I got John to help me dig out the tall ladder. Even though I am afraid of heights, I braved the extreme heights, an risked my life to help this stupid bird. (My wonderfully supportive husband held the ladder in case you were wondering…he didn’t think I was being crazy at all….) The window beside the light is Dylan’s room.

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Here is a close up of the light I took when I got to the top of the ladder, you can see a few of its failed nesting attempts hanging off the sides.

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I have to admit that this isn’t by far my prettiest work, but as I said, I’m not a fan of heights, so when I was on the top step of the ladder, leaning over to reach the light, making it look pretty didn’t seem as important as staying alive (ok, that’s a tad dramatic, but still) I got a length of yellow rope and a metal bread basket, and I tied the breadbasket to the light. Once again, not pretty, but it did the job. Check out my handiwork!!

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So, we patiently waited a few days, and nothing! I was just a tad bitter that I had risked my life and all, but I tried to let it go, and move on with my life.
But, wait, that’s not the end of the story! Dylan noticed the other day that the robin was sitting in the basket! But, we couldn’t see what was happening inside.

So, naturally, I leaned out the window over the nest to take a quick picture, and….

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I saw the most perfectly made nest with two perfect little blue eggs! Isn’t it amazing! I would have taken a little longer to admire the miracle of nature, but the momma robin really didn’t appreciate me leaning out the window over her nest, she was making quite the racket! But, don’t worry, she’ll get used to it, she’s not going to get rid of me that easy!

My plan is to stick my phone out the window everyday until I see some baby birds…. don’t worry, I will be sure to share the pictures. You will be the first ones to know! Keep your fingers crossed though, we are expecting thunderstorms tomorrow.

Maybe I need to climb up the ladder again to rig something else up to extend the roof and keep the eggs dry, I’m sure John will think that’s a great idea 🙂

********UPDATE********
I was contemplating sending out birth announcements, but I thought I would write a post instead…. Look at the picture I took yesterday morning!!!

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I was hoping the other egg would have hatched today, but
I tried to take another picture just now and let me tell you, those robins can be vicious…. Don’t let their cute little beaks fool you! All I did was lean out the window and stick my arm out over their nest to take a photo… and both the male and female took turns dive bombing me!
I guess I don’t blame them.
But isn’t the baby adorable???

How to Train your tree

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I have been working on my gardening skills lately, but let me tell you, I am by no means, by any stretch of the imagination a skilled gardener. Nor do I pretend to have any sort of knowledge about plants, or what to plant where. John and I sort of follow a trial and error gardening philosophy. I try planting new plants every year, and whatever doesn’t die by the end of the summer, I buy again (or it comes back on its own).
I tend to try to make up for my lack of gardening skills by adding other features, like little animals, or fancy stepping stones. This way your attention is drawn towards the cute little decorations, not the plants! Last year, I added a dry riverbed to our front garden. Who ever came up with that idea was a genius (no, I can’t take credit, but I love that you can landscape using things other than plants)
Here is what my front garden looks like now: (sorry, don’t know why the second pic is sideways)

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Look at the little hippo I found at the dollar store!

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Anyways, back to my lack of gardening skills….I’m just going to tell it like it is. Last year at some point, this bush started growing just through the bottom of our fence. So, I just let it grow to see what it would look like…you never know, right?

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It turns out that it was actually pretty ugly. But, it also grows incredibly fast. So, I thought why not try to train it to grow in a nicer shape. It is pretty flexible.
So, I pulled out a few scraps of wood I bought for something last year. I think they are bannister railing pieces for a deck. I laid them out and added a couple screws to each corner.

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Then I screwed it to the fence using a couple of screws.

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I split the branches into two and wired them to the frame. I used some plastic wrapped wire for plants from the dollar store.

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Then, after I tied the branches down in a few places, I started getting really creative… I screwed a couple more boards underneath because there was still a lot of branches sticking out.

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I tied the branches down, and using my pruners, I cut off any branches that were sticking out or facing the wrong way.

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Here is what it looked like after…

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The last thing I did was loop the ends together using some more wire.
I think it looks cute! I will post another picture in about a month or so after it has filled in some more. But here is what it looks like now…

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If anyone knows what kind of tree or bush this might be, let me know!

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Privacy Screen

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Privacy Screen

Our last job in finishing the backyard, was to build a privacy screen. When the landscapers put in the retaining walls, they left these posts up beside the walls, and instead of cutting them off, we told them to leave them so we could build a privacy screen. Our plan was to put up some lattice, but the more I thought about it, the more I am not even sure I like the look of lattice. And, we thought the posts were evenly spaced, but turns out they were all different distances apart. The posts range from 9 to 11 feet apart.
Here are what the posts looked like before…

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Here is another view, you can see the posts in the background in this photo…

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Here was my original plan…

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Then I saw this piece of art when John and I went to the beaches…

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And, it got John and I to thinking about cutting out a design. Why can’t we make a pattern or design? But, the problem is I couldn’t think of a material to use. I kept coming back to the idea of using fence boards. So here is my, sorry our, idea…

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By the way, I think this is a good point to mention the fact that I watched the guys carefully as they were putting up the fence…so, the way we made this, was pretty much the same way they put up our back fence. Lol.
We started by buying the wood. We bought 20 pieces of 10 foot 2×4, along with 20 framing or fencing brackets, and about 35 fencing boards (6 foot pieces, cut in half, giving us 70 pieces), plus nails and screws.
The first step was to measure down from the top of the posts and screw in the brackets.

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Then, we measured, and cut the 2×4 the right length, and nailed it in the brackets. Checked to see if it was level….

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Then measured down to add the bottom railing…

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Then we cut, and added a cross piece on the top and bottom. While John was nailing them in, I used a jig saw to cut out a few leaves on each piece. I randomly cut the leaves on each board, cutting out 2-6 leaves on each board.

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I used a 2×4 as a spacer to measure out the fence boards with a pencil on the top railing.

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Then, we nailed the boards at the top, with one nail,

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And used a level to level each board, and nailed a few extra nails at the top and bottom…

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And…a few hours later, here is the finished product!

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Not bad, eh? We had budgeted about $500, but it cost just over $300…. But, the best part is that we are now truly finished the backyard!

Flagstone patio

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Another area of our backyard we decided to do ourselves was the space around the bbq.
We had a few pieces of flagstone that we found around the backyard when we first moved in, but as the guys were excavating the backyard, they dug up a bunch of flagstone, so I ran out and dug them all up and stashed them at the side of the house to save them. One more piece of evidence for these landscapers to think that I am totally off my rocker.
Anyways, this is what the area looked like before we started…

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We raked the area level, then covered it with landscaping fabric. Then, brought in all of the flagstone pieces we had. I lifted all of the small pieces and John lifted the big.
Then, this would have been the fun part if they weren’t rocks, and weighed a hundred pounds each! It was kind of like a jigsaw puzzle, fitting all of the pieces of stone together. Although, we didn’t have enough puzzle pieces…So I tried..

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And tried…

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And I finally decided on this layout…

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I tried to put the larger stones on the pathways that would be used most often, like in and out of the backyard. Also, by making a pathway that forked, we used what stone we had without having to buy more flagstone. (I have to be honest here, I didn’t want to buy more flagstone not to save money, but because by this point, I just didn’t want to have to lift it in and out of the car!)
So, we filled in the cracks and spaces with the same pea gravel we used on the pathway…

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And, made sure the stones were level… it was hard to level them after the landscaping fabric was down, so I added some screening in places to even some of the stones out.
Overall, considering that I dug up all of the flagstone from the backyard, and it didn’t cost a penny, I thought it turned out pretty well. Maybe we will revisit it in the future, but for now, I am happy with it. And, I am happy with not lifting any stones for a while too!

Our side walkway…

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Here is what the side of our house has looked like for the last month during our renovations. They had to remove the neighbours retaining wall, and move our shed out of the way to get their machinery in and out of the backyard. And let me tell you, it was a slippery mess, like the rest of the backyard for most of the time!

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We paid the landscapers to move the shed back and build the retaining wall, but we decided to do the pathway ourselves. After all, we were the ones who laid the path in the first place after we ripped out the interlock to fix the leak in our basement a couple years ago.
Our thinking about the side of our house is that it is just a passage way to get to the backyard. We want it to look nice, be low maintenance, but an area where we could save a bit of money by doing ourselves.
Luckily, the landscapers were kind enough to level out the space for us. So, this is what we started with…

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And, a massive pile of gravel…(that’s a long story, I’ll spare you from hearing. You’re welcome.)

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Here are a couple different angles.

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So, we began by raking the entire area flat. There was a lot of limestone screening at the sides, so we raked that into the middle to level everything out. Then we covered the area with black landscaping fabric to stop weeds from growing.
We started with large cement pavers…Those of you that know me know I am not a huge fan of measuring, so 90% of the things I do, I put on a slight angle on purpose because I think that looks far better that trying to be straight and being a little off. It also makes stuff look a little funky, and funky is always good. So, we put down each of the pavers on a slight angle.

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Also, every couple months when the kids were babies, and whenever the mood hits me since, I have made stepping stones of the kids feet, so every three pavers, I added a homemade stepping stone…

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Then, we went around the garden and collected all of the rocks we had laying around, to make a border along the pathway, not a great picture, but you can kind of see where I was going with this idea…

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Then we stared digging gravel. We filled in the outsides of the path with the rough, larger gravel, and got a load of of pea gravel delivered for the pathway. (btw: the kids thought the name “pea gravel” was the funniest thing ever – you can imagine the quality of conversation between John and the kids here) So we spent quite a while shovelling. But, this is the end product…

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As you can see, we still have a little cleaning up to do, but we were happy overall. I would like to add a rock sculpture, or some painted rocks, or more stepping stones or something to make it a little more interesting. Right now, there is a lot of rock, not a whole lot else…let me know if you have any ideas! Now, onto the flagstone…

Busy lately…

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Hi everyone.
I am tired. John and I have finally made the decision to have our backyard redone. So, I really haven’t had time to do much else. Every day after work, we have spent all our time digging and lifting stuff in the backyard. It all started with a small crack in the cement in the pool deck…

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This was causing the water to get in under the stairs, washing away the sand that was supporting the stairs, and the stairs were cracking. So, we decided to get it fixed this year, before someone ended up putting their foot through the stairs. Sounds easy right? Well, to replace the stairs, they have to replace the liner because our liner is so old and faded. Then they have to cut the cement to get the stairs out, so while they were replacing the cement we were going to expand the deck a foot around the stairs…and since they are expanding the deck they have to replace a section of retaining wall, and since they are doing that, they might as well replace the whole retaining wall….since they have to replace the retaining wall, they might as well rip up the deck…and so on….
The end result is they are coming tomorrow (hopefully) to move our shed and take down the neighbours retaining wall so they can fit their vehicles in our backyard… We are digging down a couple feet to expand our pool deck by a couple hundred feet, replacing the retaining wall around the whole perimeter of our pool. We are having our current deck ripped up, and everything is going to be covered in an interlock stone. as well as having the stairs and liner replaced.
To prepare for this, we have had to go through every garden in the backyard, and dig out the plants we want to save. Keep in mind that our back yard is 60 feet wide and about 75 feet long…So, every piece of furniture and every plant in our back yard is now shoved to one side…

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We also had to rip up the pathway at the side of our house and move every rock and the pile of interlock that has sat at the side of our house for years…lots of lifting. I feel like an old woman. (I am complaining, but really John has done most of the lifting and never complains…love you honey!)
Here is what our backyard looks like now… this picture is looking at the side that we are having dug up. Everything past the wall to the house will be dug up and will be level with the pool deck.

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Here is the deck now…

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and here is the other side of the backyard, beside the pool…

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So, as I said, I haven’t had time for much else. June is a crazy time for our family, and adding this to the mix, has made it a little crazier! So if I am not posting as often, this is my excuse!
But, I do have a new project in the works…I bought a wicker patio set from our neighbours yesterday, and it needs fixing up…so I am going to spray paint the wicker and sew new chair covers for the six chairs, love seat and table.

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Stay tuned…