Yard Cleanup

These are photos of yard clean-up in the spring over the last three years.

First year pile.
The first pile above was mostly removing multi-flora rose from the side yard that had grown so far into the road that it had trapped enough leaves to completely hide the granite block curb and make a 4" bed of really great compost which I moved up and around the ailing Lilacs.  Note: wear double long-sleeve shirts and gloves when dealing with the thorns of this bush or as this Rutgers website recommends, get a bulldozer.
The 2nd first year pile.
This pile included boxes of coal that was raked up out of the yard.  The chicks and hens seemed to be doing well growing in and around it but shiny black rocks in the yard is just a bit too odd.  We figured out what was in that google street view photo (3rd pics this post), an old pot belly stove was in the basement.  Ah, the good ol' 70's and their alternative fuels... I wonder how many of today's solar panels, lithium batteries and wind farms will end up like our boxes of coal?
Ariel view of The Ring and the tree swing (behind the roof corner) hung on the most dead tree in the yard.
This is another photo of the fire pit.  We just recently saw an episode of This Old House and debated recreating the fire pit in a proper fashion but we're too busy planting and saving the bones of the yard yet.

If you click and enlarge the photo above you'll also notice the rope swing that was hung on the most dead tree in the yard.  We figured the tree needed to come down due to the fungus growing on it but we were really put into action to get quotes for tree removal after a large 15 foot branch crashed down while we were having lunch on the deck.  

I don't know where you live but we found that tree removal near us in central NJ is less expensive if you have it done in the winter.  We're on a wooded lot with lots of ash trees that were dying and needed quite a few taken down.  Tie some twine around the trees you can't save so as not to confuse them when the leaves are gone.  Also, ask to have the wood removed unless you have the time and ability to chop it into log size pieces.  We came home to find we were left *ahem* "fire-place sized" wood pieces.  Unless you have a 20 foot tall fireplace in a castle you're not fitting a 12 inch log that's 2 or 3 feet thick.  
Pile year 2, now it's getting serious
This was the second year of our spring pile.  We split our acre yard into sections and are still taking the clean up bit by bit, slow and steady, and there's only so much advil you can take.  
Pile year 2, landscape view
The thin bits in the front was our first experiment in trimming up the forsythia because we heard it grows back crazy fast... yet to be seen, though we have lots of deer.  While advertised as resistant to the deer it can only be said in our experience that the forsythia just lives on even though stripped of leaves, which really isn't resistant.  We've found keeping the deer away helps it to sucker and grow thicker by putting black rubberized garden fence around.  I'd love to deer-fence the yard as I think it once was but it is so much money.
One of many trips in the ol' Jeep Liberty.
We made about 6 trips to the local dump a year where they turn the debris into mulch.  Last year we got smart and rented a Budget box truck for $90 and did the haul in one trip.
Pile 2 point 1, year 2, the bigger stuff.
We debated buying a chipper and having lots of great mulch and wood chips but there was just so much big stuff we took it to the dump which was free.  The sweat equity really helped us learn the lay of the land and find all kinds of great plants season to season, appreciate the hidden bits of moss or new varied plant life growing where before the sun couldn't reach.
Those crazy kids, zero.  Old man in the bushes, one.
When we disassembled The Ring we put the pavers back behind the shed thinking while they wouldn't serve a purpose for us it could continue to be a great habitat for the snakes and chipmunks.  The neighborhood kids decided it was a good spot to drink beer because now with the multi-flora gone they could walk right up from the road not just chuck their bottles from the car into the thorny mess.  

The debate where to post our National Wildlife Foundation Back Yard Habitat sign was over and the back of the shed proudly displays to all who walk or drive by.  And so far it has discouraged any crazy teen discotechs from establishing itself behind our shed, which was of course the next step.  

While the snakes don't like the shady location, the salamanders are loving it!
Powerwashing the deck the year after removing the hot tub of death.
We don't use chemicals in our lawn, at most sulfur to acidify the plants that need it, because we don't want to harm the amphibians.  We found quite a few salamanders in and around our deck and didn't realize it was probably because of all the algae growing on it.  

After much research on how to clean the deck we decided our only option was high pressure but plain old water.  
Wow what a difference!
I can't believe we walked on it barefoot previously!

Half way there!
Ta - Da!
Foundation planting done wrong and not thinking 30+ years later.
Most places you'll find chemicals used is either in the lawn or the plantings in the front of the house.  We saw clear signs under the front window as the dirt was dry and dusty as if it had been bleached of all life.  We felt bad to remove these old bushes from the front of the house and the beautiful blue spruce but it had to be done.  Someone clearly didn't think about size proportion when planting and no one who moved into the house after that thought about buying pruning sheers.  

Also, the view is facing north west.  These trees would make a great north wind block further away from the house but up close to the house they only trap the shadows and cold.  Our ranch is cantilevered and so the over-hang would remain cold by not only funneling the wind but also because it was never allowed the winter sun to warm up the house.  Even in summer it remained cold with these ever-greens.  

Even though our ranch was built in 1965, the builders (as well as builders now!) could well have heeded the following advice from one of my favorite references.

From America's Garden Book by Louise Bush-Brown & James Bush-Brown Copyright 1939
Foundation Planting

"'Foundation Planting' has been given altogether too much emphasis in this country.  It all came about, and the habit became fixed, several decades ago, when the foundations of houses were made, as they still so often are, of ugly materials such as concrete block, while the house itself was a self-respecting frame structure.  Bushes and low evergreens were called upon to mask the existence of this regrettable, but apparently unavoidable condition.  The nursery catalogs were filled with pictures of various combinations of dwarf evergreens.  Variety of form, and color, and texture seemed to be the great aim in this type of planting.  It never occurred to people that the array of tall and short corquets, round and oval globes, and the green and yellow and blue pincushions, with a pair stiff blue toy trees, had only covered up one type of ugliness with another.  The only difference was that for monotony there was substituted a restlessness; for frank utility, a discordant decoration."

The book is just brilliant!  And that was it for our guilt, especially after we replaced the windows, the view from inside just had to change.

After.  Not only could we see but the Japanese holly behind them was glad to see the light of day.
New window, old stumps.
Dig that summer tan!
In all the dirt through out the yard we've found lots of kids toys, several plastic shovels and rakes, a plastic muffin, and a green metal double-decker bus.  One time I found a bottle of gin burried under one of the pine trees while trying to pull up granite blocks in the rain that had been sinking for years.
But the scariest was this ice cream cone
Seriously freaky, no?

One last spring clean up tip for yard sales... Don't.
Just put it in the yard the night before and at dawn the next day put up a sign & post to Craig's List.
All done!