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A House With a Yard

May 20, 2009

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January 2002, before work on house.

A work in progress. 

Few intermediate stages of my work are represented in this post, just the first photo of the house taken by a friend (back in January 2002), a couple of shots of my first trees, and photos of the yard last summer when the vegetable garden at the side was up and looking good. I didn’t have a digital camera in 2002, and was so busy with the buying of the house that I didn’t think to photograph it with film, despite the fact that I have taken tons of photos of everyplace else I’ve lived. This was the first house I bought by myself, and frankly, I passed by it several times in my search. It was ugly—bad colors, flat white and ugly gray on top, an odd mixed brick and limestone facing below. It had a boring bare yard. I finally looked inside to rule it out, and was amazed at the beautiful custom woodwork and the yard, very large by city standards here. An ugly duckling.

Buying a house is a big job, and though I bought a house that was sound, it needed to be renovated. Fortunately it hadn’t been in the hands of “investors” who slap on a new cheap roof and a coat of paint and try to flip it for a fast profit. After sitting empty for nearly 2 years, and the previously 15 years as a rental home, I bought it from the absentee owner. It wasn’t just a matter of waiting to hear from a real estate broker in town, it was “what day and time is it in Jordan?” and waiting a couple of days to receive any answer that they would fax back in the middle of our night. The best thing I can say about the absentee owners is that they once had a vision; when they lived here they took good care of it and when they rented it to others they kept it from falling down.

I trimmed the hedge at first, but then gave myself permission to cut it all down. It felt good, but it took me several years to get all of the stumps out, after letting them rot. The tree  above in the middle is a vitex, or purple chaste, a multi-stemmed native tree.

I trimmed the hedge at first, but then gave myself permission to cut it all down. It felt good, but it took me several years to get all of the stumps out, after letting them rot. The tree above in the middle is a vitex, or purple chaste, a multi-stemmed native tree.

As much as I enjoyed working indoors on this house (I painted, and put down new tile in all but two rooms), I really wanted to get my hands on the half-acre that came with it. It was bare, just Bermuda grass all around, with an ugly hedge in front, and dead trees and a big hackberry in the back yard. The property is adjacent to woods, and my back yard runs down into the creek. I pay flood insurance, but I love being in such a beautiful and still relatively wild area in my village enclave surrounded by a much larger city. Knock wood the house doesn’t flood, but the bottom of the yard gets wet some years.

I found a great sale–75% off of trees at my local garden center. The only catch? It was July 4 in Texas. We had some heavy rains right before I planted, and most of them made it. I have since learned that I should have removed all of the dirt from the pot and treated them as bare root. They’d have established sooner and grown faster.

I found a great sale–75% off of trees at my local garden center. The only catch? It was July 4 in Texas. We had some heavy rains right before I planted, and most of them made it. I have since learned that I should have removed all of the dirt from the pot and treated them as bare root. They’d have established sooner and grown faster.

The house was built in 1976, and the back yard, I am told, was once a garden of earthly delights. The Jordanian owner had a large vegetable garden and had planted fruit trees and placed figs along the back fence. Like an archaeologist, I have pulled dozens and dozens of bricks from under matted roots of weedy shrubs along the back fence where I think they once had a landscaped patio. I took out the dead peach trees in the middle of the yard and hauled away a rusted out pump used for irrigating with creek water. The figs that once lined the back fence are long gone, in fact, when I moved in I didn’t even know I had a back gate. It was several months before I cut my way through the brush and moved piles of discarded bricks and limestone facing stones to cut a path that extended another 25 feet to my little bluff that overlooks Sycamore Creek, a year-round tributary to the Trinity River.

From last spring, when the Vitex was in bloom.

From last spring, when the Vitex was in bloom.

The yard and house are both works in progress. Two years ago the house was painted better colors by a friend after a new roof was put on. The rest I do myself; I have lots of hand tools, a drawer full of ointment and Band-Aids, lots of ball caps and broad-brimmed hats, bandannas, work shoes, leather and cloth gloves, and many buckets and pots for moving things around. I am an organic gardener, I plant as much xeriscape material as possible. What I planted years ago is crowded now, and there are many more beds, in my vision for this house and yard, that await digging. I’ll spread around my iris rhizomes, transplant lantana and salvia, and keep going. Seeds are cheap. There are several compost heaps in the back yard. And now that I live in a house with a big yard, there are also two dogs in the yard.

A low rock wall and pots placed on the concrete help conceal that there was a garage on the house.

A low rock wall and pots placed on the concrete help conceal that there was a garage on the house.

I am even luckier than just getting the yard I wanted, because I also got the neighborhood and the neighbors I wanted. We’re all gardeners, we enjoy each other’s company, and some sunny spring morning if you drive down our street you’re liable to see two or three of us standing in one of our yards, comparing notes, exchanging plants, or pulling weeds together as we talk.

This photo was renamed and replaced in the body of the blog so I could insert a copyright message via an existing jpg link a plagiarist has set up.

This photo was renamed and replaced in the body of the blog. I was sorry to do this, but it was the only way to insert a comment into the blog of some guy in Indiana who copied my entry and posted it at his site without attribution. Live and learn.

This page has been edited a couple of times, to add a link back to this blog and to rename a photo.  I find my blog entry was lifted wholesale and deposited, unattributed, elsewhere (tracked via photobucket images). Interesting, but also annoying. 

If you want to quote or link to this blog, that is fine, but please attribute it to me!

Maggie Dwyer at  lilybarthes.wordpress.com

 

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