Friday, June 27, 2008

Yard Crew Day 3

The pictures for Yard Crew Day 3 were actually taken today, since it rained yesterday and I worked late. We'll start the tour around the back right corner, looking towards the street.

I knew Tree Man was going to clean up, but I didn't know he really meant 'clean up'. As in cutting back ALL the foliage, weed-eating, and raking. The yard around the house has never been this clean, not since I've owned the house. It's very inspiring. Pay no attention to the overgrown stuff on my neighbors' side because that will be trimmed by me and possibly 'accidentally' killed by Round-Up over spray.

At the front right corner of the house, looking back. See how clean, almost manicured? See how crappy the neighbors' overgrown weeds/trees/plants/shrubs make my house look? It's a triplex and they're all renters. They nor their landlord care what it looks like. But I can take care of that. Maybe fixing up my house and yard will encourage them to fix up theirs... If not, Round Up!

So this picture is back off the left hand front corner of the lot. I'm actually standing under my neighbor's tree. But note how much different my lot looks. Tree Man cut all this back, too, and raked the front yard. Unfortunately, it draws more attention to my sub-par foundation. But that is first on the to-do list.

A few steps closer, looking down the left side of the house--- you can see the whole length of the house and INTO the back yard. Amazing. I still can't get over it. I'll have to find the pictures of this side of the house from when I bought it...

Here we're at the front right corner of the lot, on the sidewalk, looking back at the house. My triplex neighbors' fence is in sad, sad shape. But look at the steps! Hopefully they can be repaired good as new eventually. I would like to build the retaining wall up a few feet so I can have a square front lawn, maybe with a place to put my garbage bin, to the right of the steps.

Across the street, front view of the house. I ride by the house 3 or 4 times a day, now. It just looks so different. You really can see the house, now. It was lost before, but the Tree Man and his crew made SUCH a difference... I think other people are now seeing what I saw when I bought it. A question for you, here: What kind of porch railings should I put back up?

Looking right down the left hand side of the house. Note the brick pile and the lack of bamboo. Note the makeshift foundation. Note all the trash spilling out from under the house. That's the next thing that will be done, cleaning out underneath the house so the foundation work/jacking up and leveling the house, can begin.

Opposite view of the picture above. So clean and clear. I don't have a fabulous view of anything, but at least I can see something now, rather than the house being choked by greenery.

Today when I met with the Tree Man and concluded business, he told me that sometimes he and his crew nickname their projects. And guess what they called my house? The Jungle. Well, it was a jungle, but it's certainly not anymore. This is peeking around the left rear edge of the house.

This is looking, from the same spot at the edge of the house, straight back. Now my lot does not go to the greenery in the back. That's part of a neighbor's lot who let the Tree Man and Yard Crew through his yard to get to mine. Can you see the bent, leaning fence post on the left hand side?

It's kind of hard to see, you might have to click the picture and make it bigger. That's where the fence was, and is what I'm assuming is my property line. Before I put up a fence, I guess I'll have to get the lot professionally surveyed. See my tree? This back yard has so much potential, now. It's just a blank slate, begging to be used.

Here's at the back corner on the right hand (if standing in front of the house) side, at the corner fence post. I think the tree is in a pretty good location, and hopefully now it won't have to compete as much for nutrients and will branch out and shade the yard more.

This is from a guessed vantage point of about the center of my back yard. I roughly measured it out the other day when contemplating a privacy fence, but with tools at hand. I think it's about 28 feet wide and 54 feet long. Or about 1500 square feet, which is larger than my house.

This is from the other corner of the lot, at the crooked fence post. I just can't get over being able to walk back here, move around, and look at the house. It's unreal. But let's focus on some of the not-so-great findings:

The back porch. The poor, abandoned, cut-off, under used, sad, lonely back porch. The floor at some point rotted, and someone before me built another one on top of it. And the siding is falling off, which I anticipated. Actually I knew pretty much that the whole porch, minus the roof, will have to be rebuilt. But, uhmm, look closer. At the underneath part. I believe that's the sill? Doesn't look too great.

Oh, and this is looking at the base of the back porch, at the part that was closed in and turned into a bathroom for Apartment A. The shower is right behind here. It looks like there might be a water issue (ha). If you remember correctly, there was an old, decrepit stove that sat here, hiding this mess. The sill here is BAD. Like, let's-hope-the-rest-of-the-house-doesn't-look-like-this bad. Looks like termite city to me, but I didn't see one. I really don't think the wood should just be sitting on the ground, either...

BUT let's look at the tree again. The tree makes me happy. The tree makes me forget about the scary sill:

So there's my tree, with a little photo-fenangling. See yet another neighbor's house that ends at the side of mine? Yeah. I SO need a privacy fence, pronto.

That's my new yard and lot. I am having a hard time wrapping my head around how different it looks, how good it looks. I can imagine interior changes in a house, and how moving a wall would make a space flow, but there's no way I could have imagined how the yard would look, once cleared. This completely reaffirms my initial attraction to the house, and makes me ten times more excited and encouraged about redoing the house, bad sill and great tree, in all.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Yard Crew Day 2

Of course I went by the house today, it was Day 2 of the Tree Man and his crew. There wasn't a whole lot different in the front yard.

I did notice that he ground up the two stumps from the trees in the front yard that he removed yesterday. I didn't realize he was going to do that. The other two stumps he didn't grind because of their proximity to the old retaining wall along the left hand side of the house. Digging out the bamboo already caused a lot of damage and he didn't want to add any more to it.

He's going to come back and spray all this green overgrown stuff tomorrow with something similar to Round Up. He might cut it back some, too. Along this side is where the retaining wall is. I'll have to rebuild it at some point, which is fine because I want the wall higher in the front, anyway.

He cut down the tree along the side of the house too, the one I left when I cut back the bamboo the first time. It was just not in a good location. But what's this I see at the corner of the house? I can SEE into the back yard! It looks like I can WALK into the back yard!

Here's a closer view, at the corner edge there, right by the screened in porch.

And turning a little to the right, we have full walking access into the back yard from the left hand side, all across the back and INTO the back yard lot.

It turns out my lot is a little askew, meaning not exactly a rectangle. At least, that's where the fence posts were. And let me tell you, they are OLD fence posts.

Here's looking down the right hand side of the house. He didn't do any work over here, besides clearing the access into the back yard (there was already a gate here) because most of this just needs to be sprayed and killed. Not too bad.

Here's the view around the right hand corner side of the house.

And closer in, you see what a difference a day has made. It's all taken down to the dirt, with just a little debris left over. There was nothing to save, really. He cleared up to the fence on one side, and took down the fence on the other side, but cleared over my property line by about three feet. I asked him to, so it would be easier to put a privacy fence back up.

Here's the cleared view from the back property line to the back of the house. It looks SO much better and I'm excited about having this usable space, especially since the inside of the house is so small. But the back porch doesn't look too good, does it?

Back here there was ONE thing to be saved, or rather, cleared around. A tree! I actually had a tree in my back yard that I didn't know about. It was hard to tell which trees were on who's property before, but this one is actually mine. It was covered in vines, he said.

And here is today's final view of the back yard. Because that's what this yard project was all about; reclaiming the back yard. I already went today and started pricing putting back up a privacy fence. I'm not sure where on the time line that will fall, but it will probably need to be sooner rather than later, for privacy, security, and just to keep the yard clear until I can really transform it.

I've been thinking lately about paint colors, too. The house on my immediate right is yellow, the house on my left is brick, the house across the street is blue, and the house caddy-corner to me is light green. I was leaning towards a gray, but now I'm thinking... how about plain white? It's historic and clean, and I can punch it up with accent colors... a haint blue porch ceiling, black porch floors, a vivid front door color, and maybe even an accent on the windows themselves (the sashes not the trim).

We'll see. One project at the time, I know.

Tomorrow is mostly clean up and a few things I asked him to do in regards to the yard and lot today when I walked around with him. These guys have been working hard in the heat and dealing with all that mess. Money well earned.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Yard Crew Day 1

I woke up early this morning so I could get down to the house before work and take some 'before' pictures. I knew the Tree Man and his crew would begin work today and I was very excited to document the before and afters. I didn't know how much they would be able to get done in one day, though.

The original reason I wanted this tree down was because it was lopsided, ugly, blocked the views of and from my house, and seemed to lean towards my house. The electricity company was not interested in taking it down for me, so I hired it down. It is GONE now. But more on that later.

Why does this picture make me happy? Because of the little bobcat machine? What is this view, anyway? It's the view from my BACK PORCH looking out into the BACK YARD. Yes, I have a back yard now. Not a jungle. It's a back yard in progress...

See the bobcat? See the back of my house? I'm standing at the property line, immensely enjoying the view of what will one day be my back yard. Of what is becoming my back yard. Of what I'm reclaiming to be my back yard. It's a pretty nice size, too.

Still work to be done closer in to the house, though. This is peeking around the right hand side of the house towards the back. See the bobcat? That's why this is going to take 3 days...

Left hand side of house, peeking into backyard. See the kitty? See the jungle mess? This is a before picture, taken this morning.

This is the after picture, taken this afternoon. No kitty. Less Jungle.

On the left hand side of my house, standing in the back looking towards the front. What are those dirt patches?

HA! They WERE bamboo! When bamboo and a bobcat fight, bobcat wins. Hopefully all will be gone.

Before side yard/ bamboo haven picture.

After side yard/bamboo haven picture.

And these two pictures just make me happy.
See how clean my front yard looks? and how open and loved it looks? Like somebody cares and is attempting to fix it up?

Here we see evidence of where the trees were. I'm standing on the sidewalk looking up at the house. You can see that all the old shrubs were taken out of the front, too. SO much better! I do wonder what kind of catastrophe brought down my makeshift railing, though.

Now my favorite part: The BEFORE & AFTER PICTURES:

Before: The lot looks overgrown and abandoned.

After: Wow. I never knew that little house was there.

Looks like all tree to me, all the time.

Definite improvement. Think of the sight lines alone from the front porch!

You can definitely see the potential for the house in this picture.

Doesn't it look SO much better today? I can't get over the difference.

I knew taking down the trees would have a big impact, but not this much. It's amazing. And to see my side yards clear up... and to actually be able to WALK around in my back yard... it's so wonderful! I can already imagine living here. This is money well spent.

And this has just been the first day of the Tree Man and his crew working! I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings.

I have a call in to my contractor. Hopefully they'll start once Tree Man is finished.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Tree Man

Just like house contractors, yard contractors seem a little flaky, too. I did have this one guy lined up but he wouldn't just come out and say he wasn't interested in my project. So I waited. Lucky for me, it paid off.

Not too long ago, my sister hired a different contractor to finish cleaning up her yard and lot (we had a tornado here over a year ago, now) and said contractor, who I'll refer to as Tree Man, also has recently done work for my parents at their house. Great work, excellent prices. And we asked him if he'd like to give me a bid on my yard.

I think he went by twice last week, looking at everything and getting a game plan together. This morning he met up with me over at the house and we walked through the yard, talking about what I wanted to happen and what he thought should happen. And those things matched.

Then he gave me his bid and it was as if he was reading my mind. It was a figure I had come up with as being a comfortable price for the work and he matched it dead on without even knowing.

Starting Monday, the Tree Man and his crew will get bobcats and a chipper and one of those big cherry picker bucket trucks and begin taking down 4 trees on my property (including the two I blogged about earlier), all of the old overgrown bushes in the front, and will take the backyard down to dirt. Level, perfect, clean, clear dirt. All this in three days. AND all the trash in the back will be hauled away.

I'll make sure to have my camera handy because the transformation from not being able to walk in the backyard to actually having an open lot will be amazing. Even the bamboo will be dug out as completely as possible!!!

With the front trees gone, You'll be able to actually SEE my house. I plan on planting some trees back. In fact, since this little lot clearing project is coming in so well budget-wise, I'm already planning to get a landscape designer over there and I know already just who to use.

AND GET THIS: I have a contractor and his crew ready and waiting to begin work on the inside of the house, too! He's actually been turning down other jobs in anticipation of my project, which he will begin as soon as the Tree Man is finished. Things are really starting to happen, finally.

Pictures to come soon!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Man Vs. Bamboo Part Deux

It is that time again. I drive by my house every day on my way to work and I've been watching the bamboo slowly sneak back along the side of my house. True, it looked meager, brown, skimpy, and innocent for a while, but then we had one good rain storm and it declared war.

The above view is from the front porch, looking down the side of the house. It may not look very tall, but it is. Below, you'll see the patch behind the fireplace brick pile sprouting up. I'm 6'4'' and a lot of those shoots are taller than I am.

I think a few posts back I wrote about this tree along the side of the house. I'm not sure what kind of tree it is, but I left it back when we cut the bamboo the first time, just to see what it would do. It's trying to do something, but I think it's going to have to go. It's too close the side of the house.

After a good bit of work, the picture below shows what I accomplished in the front bunch of bamboo. Man, it was hot outside. I had to keep taking breaks to drink water and sit in the shade a bit.

Of course it didn't help that it was on a Saturday afternoon during the hottest part of the day. The halo of bamboo behind this brick pile kept leering at me and mocking me. I was tired just looking at it. But slowly, I started on it, as I had the front, pacing myself to not get too hot.

I thought about my grandmother a lot while working outside that day. I always do when I work in the yard. I felt like she was right there with me, working along side me, encouraging me to keep going and telling me how much better it was looking with every shoot I cut down.

The shoots themselves weren't thick; I was cutting them with hand snips and some I could rip right out of the ground. But they sure were dense and resilient.

This marked my halfway point through the clump in the back. I'd already cut down the first bit and this bed of bamboo is about three times as big. I felt like it was growing back as I cut it.

But looking down at it, I could see the progress I was making, however slow. I found it easier to just do it, rather than think about what I was doing. Or how hot it was.

At this point, I quit for the day. It was just too hot and the last few times I bent over, I was feeling lightheaded. So I called it a day. A few moments after a refreshing shower, I got a call to come fill in for someone at work. Good timing.

So, another day is left for me to work down there. I still need to find the stuff to hopefully kill it. My aunt has suggested something, but I haven't made the time to go pick it up yet, plus I was waiting to get it all cut back again, first.

I may talk with the Tree Man soon to get a bid about taking down those two trees out front and the one along the side of the house. I plan on landscaping the house, one day, and trees will be replanted, just not ones that will get as big as the ones there now. Hopefully the bamboo will be gone then, permanently.

I also have met up with another contractor (surprise) down at the house since the last few I've talked to have flaked out on me. I'm trying not to get too excited about him, though, since my history with contractors at the house. But maybe he'll come through for me. I hope so.

It's been a little over a year since the tornado, so contractors are running out of the work that has kept them steadily busy for so long. Maybe I'll be next.