Spring is started to show her face around these parts and while I’m not an outdoors-woman by any means, I am starting to feel a little bit of the fever myself. We’ve started out tomatoes on the windowsill and are eagerly awaiting the time when we can put them in the ground. I’ve thought a few times about going out to ride my bike and I actually spent a couple hours outside this weekend taking photos of some items for the shop. Spring means so many things to me and apparently it does to other bloggers as well. I’ve noticed lots of cleaning posts and pastel crafts taking over on some of my favorite blogs! Every year at this time I am drawn back to my poor old house sitting all alone and empty with it’s blacktopped backyard and poison ivy overgrowth. We won’t be able to paint the house or reside in it or anything for a very long time. The Navy keeps us WAY more than a daily comutes distance away. For vinyl siding they want $17,000 to cover the house, and of course vinyl siding is the Devil in my opinion, but that is the CHEAPEST option. Even though it will be years before we can live in it, I figure that we can at least maybe get SOME of the outside fixed up this year. We did some repairs in the fall, and I would like to get at least the asphalt off the backyard before we leave for Summer vacation in New York.
As you can see from the diagrams below, we have a long way to go from what we currently HAVE, to what we WANT. The first diagram is our home and lot in it’s current state. The poorly blacktopped driveway needs to be redone. The steps to nowhere on the back right hand side (where there used to be a door 100 years ago) are an issue. The overgrowth of poison ivy and other nonsense on the right hand side is out of control. The gray circles represent the areas where I managed to get the asphalt up with a pick-axe and a shovel by myself, LOL, but really the rest of it needs to go, NOW! We have the old rusted black fire escape stairs to the second floor back door which we are going to close off and join back into the first floor like it used to be, so those can go as well. The tiny little eve over the back door and the skewed and ugly concrete stoop that is right there too can be disposed of. We have a temporary chicken wire fence that we need to take down so that the black top can be cleared out. Our front staircase is made from HUGE limestone slabs which are moving a tad bit askew, the front planter box is empty, the front retaining wall is pushing out, the limestone sidewalk on the right side is out of whack. The dirt-blar-mess in front of the porch where the huge bushes used to be needs to have the stumps dug out of it and grass seed and perennials put down. That is just landscaping stuff really. lol I haven’t even figured in what the exterior of the house itself needs. While it’s all cosmetic, it’s all still a pain in my butt!
What we eventually want it to look like is the second image above. I want the limestone steps in front and the limestone sidewalk to the right straightened up correctly. I’d like the front planter to have some flowers and the limestone mail box enclosure at the front of it constructed properly. I want the retaining wall fixed, the stumps and excess dirt removed from the front yard so it won’t push out again and some plantings put next to the steps. I want new railings for the front steps too. I’d like a 4 ft or so black or dark red wrought iron fence enclosing the front yard with a gate at the top of the little side steps, then for the fence to continue down the right side of the house, stopping at the back corner of the building. Along that side I would like to have all the weeds cleared out and small fruit bearing trees brought in. I would do gravel around the bases for drainage. I want those stairs to nowhere twisted (they are limestone blocks so it will be hard) so that they can be used to go down the slight slope from the backyard to the side yard and the empty spot left filled with gravel for good drainage. On the left hand side of the house I want either a red-brick and grass or limestone-brick and moss driveway put in and the nasty old asphalt one taken out. I want the back corner of the left hand side (which actually belongs to the retirement home, but they don’t use it) to be cleared of the pile of torn up asphalt and to transplant my hollyhocks there. We need a 6-7 ft tall privacy fence around the property line enclosing the back yard (which needs to be sodded or seeded after the blacktop is gone).
There will be a gate in the middle of the left hand side of the fence and one at the steps to the side yard. When you walk into the backyard from the driveway, to the left, going around to the other side of the fence will be waist high limestone planters that will serve as raised garden beds. I hate having to kneel down and hubby has bad knees already and he’s not yet 30. lol. I think tall beds are the way to go. Since our home is in the limestone capital of the world, it won’t be expensive or difficult to find enough cast off stones to make these beds. We have plenty of gravel under the asphalt which we will use to fill the bottom half of the beds so that we won’t need a million tons of top soil to do the job. This will allow us to plant many veggies! We can train vines up the fence and use vertical planters attached to the fence for growing our herbs too. If you turn to the right when you come in the same gate, you’ll be met with the completely fenced in chicken yard. I’d like to keep a couple of chickens for eggs. I’ve wanted them for a long time and I even checked with local animal control and we are allowed to have chickens, just no roosters in city limits. I want their yard completely fenced, even on top, so I don’t have to worry about wild birds getting to them. Next to that we’d like to place a small chicken house. I want a really nice one, not something that looks like a death trap! I plan to make the roof of it double as a raised bed with a removable cold box lid for growing salad greens even in chilly weather. This will be where the horrible fire stairs and concrete stoop used to be! I want to remove the little eve over the back door and replace it with a grape arbor type of structure that would have clear plastic on the underside to keep the rain off, but so that it would still have the look of an open trellis. I could plant flowering vines or climbing roses on it and put a nice flagstone patio under it where we would keep some outdoor seating, the grill and a counter that would double as a gas meter cover.
Again, we aren’t outdoorsy people, so a little bit of yard and enough space for our garden, some chickens and a few small trees is more than enough space for us. Less to mow you know? lol Like I said, I’ve noticed many other bloggers getting Spring fever too. Katy Elliot of KatyElliot.com featured this lovely patio set above from West Elm called the Dexter set. However for 2 chairs, 2 chair cushions, the table and the bench it is a whopping $1080 on sale. That does not include tax, shipping or the cushion for the bench, which must be sold out because I couldn’t find it on the site. I love the Dexter set and while it would be perfect for our old house, that is a lot of money for lawn furniture!
A few years ago Kmart had a lovely red iron set by Martha Stewart Everyday called the Aberdeen Collection (above). This set also featured 2 chairs with cushions, a table and a bench with a cushion. The chairs were spring chairs, so they slightly rocked and reclined. At the time we had just bought the house and I always tried to restrain myself from EVER thinking about or considering ANY of the fun stuff like decorating and landscaping until all of the drudge work on the house was done. This meant they sold out, winter came, then another year and now Kmart no longer carries MS products apparently. I couldn’t find anything MS on their site when I went looking for the set last week. I did eventually find a set called the Rock Lake Collection (below) by Country Living which is absolutely IDENTICAL to the old Aberdeen set in every way! See for yourself! At $460 this set is less than half the price of West Elm’s Dexter set that I mentioned previously.
I also have to figure out something that I can do with the front porch. We have a 300 sqft limestone porch in the front with hand carved pillars and stone railing. Right now we don’t use it and it’s roof is only half fixed. lol We had to build a temporary roof over the top of the frame because we took it apart to repair it correctly, but the insurance company complained before we could get it back together the way we wanted it. The previous owners had concreted over the roof of the porch to make it a balcony, which cracked and held water in the cracks, rotting the roof itself. Most of the support beams are still good, but we would like to have the Amish or someone who does quality work, repair it correctly once and for all. Once it is done, I’m not sure what I would put out there other than maybe a porch swing. I’ve always wanted one of those bed-style porch swings like the one pictured below from the 2008 Windmark Beach Idea House. Usually I find porch swings to be so stiff and uncomfortable, but this one looks like a dream!