Friday, October 21, 2011

Yard Work = Hard Work

Phase One (install 3 flower beds + shrubs and trees) of our big backyard makeover is under way! I was hoping I could just do a post when Phase 1 was done, but oh boy... this stuff is HARD work! We're almost there, but not quite. I guess you could say we're currently finished with Phase 1/2.

We knew installing flower beds was too big of a job to do by ourselves, so we "invited" our parents over for some "fun" in the backyard. Luckily, they all volunteered to spend their Saturday helping out! Of course, Jeff's dad ended up getting out of it due to a business trip, and I ended up getting out of some of it due to the worst stomach bug I've had in my entire life, but nevertheless... we created flower beds!

Here's the process we went through to create the flower beds:
1. Transfer bed shapes from the graph paper plan to the actual yard via wooden stakes and twine.
2. Spray paint an outline of where the beds with go and remove stakes.
3. Pull up the grass sod (this is BY FAR the toughest part!!).
4. Fill beds with dirt.
5. Adjust sprinkler heads so they're not buried in the flower beds.

We did the first couple steps ahead of time so we could live with the spray-paint beds for a while and make sure we liked the shape of them. First, we staked them out with wood and twine. There are a lot of houses under construction on our street, and they all have lots of scrap wood, so we just grabbed a bunch of their leftover wood pieces and Jeff put little notches in them so the string would stay put. We stuck them into the ground, wound the string around them, and adjusted everything so we liked the shape of the beds.

This is kinda hard to see, but this is the corner bed staked out with wood and string.

Obviously you can't get nice curved lines with the stakes, but it helped us to get a better idea of what they would look like.

The azalea bed, all staked out!

Once we were pretty sure we liked the placement, I used white spray paint to outline where the beds would go. I removed the stakes as I went, and we ended up with nice curvy lines that we would use later when removing the grass:

I didn't take a photo of the spray painted beds, but you can see the paint line on the right side of this photo.

Next, it was time to remove the grass. Before doing this, we dug out our cable wire (to avoid cutting it accidentally with a shovel) and marked the sprinkler heads with wood scraps (to avoid hitting them with a shovel and breaking them). Then, the grass had to come out. This is seriously hard. We wanted to have it all done by the time our big backyard workday arrived (so we could focus on hauling dirt in), but Jeff was only able to finish about half of it ahead of time. When my parents arrived around 10am to help out, Jeff and Dad got to work finishing the grass:

Step 1 - vertically cut the grass into rectangles using a shovel:

It takes pretty serious force to cut through grass. Mom and I were just physically too small to do it. Definitely a job for man muscles.

Step 2: horizontally slice under the rectangles to pull them out:

Step 3: Make giant stacks of sod.

Jeff's parents have some spots in their yard with dead grass (due to the drought we've been having), so they wanted to take the alive grass we were pulling up. Jeff's mom brought over their pick-up truck, and while Jeff and Dad pulled up the grass, we loaded it into the truck. This was really hard. Grass is really heavy, and there was just so much of it! We were all exhausted, it was hot (fall hadn't made it to Texas yet at this point), and at one point I thought we had killed my poor parents:

We filled the back of the pick-up THREE TIMES with grass. Jeff's mom drove back and forth all day, loading up grass and dropping it off! But really, it was good that they needed it because I'm not sure what we would have done with it all otherwise (where do you dispose of a ton of grass? I have no idea).

Big strong grass-removers!

Piles of sod.

More piles of sod.

After the grass was out, it was time for dirt! Jeff calculated that we would need about 8 square yards of dirt to fill the beds. We ordered it from a local company and scheduled it to be delivered on the morning of our big backyard day. We paid a little extra for the upgraded mix that has nutrients and stuff in it for plants (rather than just plain old dirt), and we ended up buying $225 worth of dirt. For some reason, I find the fact that we paid that much money for dirt to be really funny. But that stuff doesn't just grow on trees! Anyway, the nice dirt company came with a big truck and dumped 8 square yards of dirt into our driveway.

Let me tell you - having a giant mound of dirt in your driveway is motivating! If you don't get it all moved, you're left with no functioning driveway, plus you look dumb to all the neighbors (and all the construction workers on neighboring lots that look at you and judge you for being such amateurs). Once the dirt's in the driveway, you HAVE to get it out.

So we started tackling the giant pile of dirt in the driveway. Honestly, this was easy compared to all the grass-hauling we had just done. We had two wheelbarrows going back and forth all afternoon carrying loads of dirt until finally, it was all gone.

All the dirt came around the side of the house (where the neighboring construction workers watched us and silently laughed at how silly we looked)...

...through the backyard gate, and into the backyard!

Go, Jeff, go! These pictures make it look like Jeff and Dad did all the work. So not true! Mom and I actually hauled a lot of dirt (at least, we did until my stomach virus caught up with me...)!

I don't have a photo of the empty driveway, but this one was taken as we got close to the end.

I should mention that we had stakes in the beds where the sprinkler heads were so we made sure not to cover them up with dirt. Buried sprinklers = no good. We spread the dirt around the beds (reburying the cable wire as we went), and finally - it started to actually look like a backyard!

The far bed

The azalea bed

The corner bed (we filled our trashcan up with all the little chunks of grass that were too small to send with Jeff's parents).

When we finished, we were all so, so exhausted. It was a long, full day of tough manual labor. This is not a project for wimps. Haha. We all woke up the next morning with aching muscles, and I don't think we fully recovered for a few days (especially me, with the stomach virus and all). Seriously though, I didn't even know I had muscles in some of the sore places!

We've already bought some of the plants, but after all the hard work of creating the beds, we need a little break before we start digging holes and planting. For now, they're just waiting on the patio:

Azaleas and crotons!

Patiently waiting to be planted in their brand new beds!

Oh, and Jeff went to Home Depot a couple days later and bought stuff to raise the sprinkler heads, which ended up being a pretty simple project. At least that's done!

Stay tuned... Phase 1 should be finished soon! 

1 comment:

  1. I hear ya! Yard work is SO much harder than you think it's going to be. And it always takes longer than anticipated, too. But it's definitely worth it in the end!