Making outdoor spaces together smooths rough edges.
Over the last thirty plus years, my husband and I have learned how to work together on projects. So, now when we work outside to make outdoors spaces come back to life, our shared experience is for the most part both healthy and positive. It took time, but we have become a great team. Most importantly, working together for so long forced our rough edges to be revealed and eventually evened them out like a river smooths its stones.
Recently, he and I started the seasonal cleanup at our Mississippi home.
Our winter months are gray, brown, and dingy outside, so I am excited to add some bursts of color to wake things back up. But, the spring planting will have to wait for the last frost. In the mean time, we will clean up our outdoor spaces to prepare for springtime colors and cultivating.
Every season has its to do list, but the end of winter outdoor seasonal clean up is so satisfying in the south.
Over a weekend in February, it was 65 degrees out, and it felt like spring for a couple of days. With the sun shining overhead, I wore shorts while I raked, shoveled, and cleared away debris with absolute glee.
The warmth of the sun brought out my outdoor girl and I was like a machine. It was one of those magic moments. In the balmy February temperatures, we picked up fallen branches, filled holes in the yard, and strategically relocated mounds of decomposing leaves. My husband cut down some invasive foliage and we cut back some overgrown mature shrubs that were massive.
Happily occupied with destruction, he used his new chain saw to remove a few trees trying to attack our garden wall.
While working outside, my husband and I made plans to power-wash the garden wall and then to paint it. We talked about how to position a new deck area that he wants to build. Each space needs some attention after the long wet winter.
For the past two years we have not had a “yard guy,” so we ARE the yard guys. Making the outdoor spaces look nice and taking care of our property is our weekend job.
When we had a yard guy, the lawn was always mowed and the drive and grass carefully blown clean, but our hill was damaged and eroding, so we took over.
Getting rid of all the leaves prevented grass from taking root on the steep hill out front. Our efforts have saved our hill. Instead of removing all the leaves, we blow them to the locations that need coverage and refill holes when they appear. We don’t cut the grass as short as the lawn service did. Also, we don’t leave bare areas to dry out in a Mississippi summer scorcher. Over time, with our constant maintenance, the hill has filled back in with grass.
I miss seeing everything clean all the time, but it is great exercise to do it yourself when it is cool outside in Mississippi. At least that is what we tell ourselves.
Two years ago, after one large rainstorm on the drive side of the house, we lost a whole section of hill. Part of our seasonal clean up that year was constructing a dry river bed with a hundred feet of piping underneath to reroute the water.
We had just put in an expensive black metal fence, so we decided to do the hill and erosion work ourselves to get it done quickly and for less money. First, the two of us refilled the large hole left by the mini landslide with dirt, decomposing material, and red clay dug from another area, and secured it with all sizes of rocks. Then, we topped it with a very light mulch. We had to do that several times as the rains kept coming.
After reading several articles on how to construct a river bed with piping, we started the drainage system to keep our driveway intact.
We dug a trench to route the water, and placed two pipes down inside the bottom and middle of the trench. The water drainage needed to be routed and run all the way down our hill to save our driveway.
It was quite a job digging the massive trench with just the two of us and shovels, but we bonded and felt like conquerors. Clearly, making outdoor spaces and working together is good for our marriage.
Just the digging took a while. After laying the pipe to counteract further run off issues down the side of the hill and driveway, we added dirt, and egg rock. Then, I carefully lined the 5-6 foot wide trench with various sizes of rock until I was satisfied that it looked like a river.
We added some smooth Alabama stones to give it color and make it beautiful.
The impact was immediate.
Due to our hard work, our water runoff next to the drive was solved. Our hill, the driveway, and the surrounding area remains intact now. After the relentless rain this winter, I am so thankful we got out there and fixed the hill and drive. It was satisfying (and still is) because we did it ourselves and did it together. The best part is that it looks great!
While working outdoors for a couple of months on our property, I became familiar with the animals that share our acreage.
Armadillos, a hawk family, deer, foxes, rabbits, turtles, owls, bluebirds (and many other colorful birds) keep us enthralled. The occasional snake has freaked me out, but the two we saw were from afar. This year, once again, we are getting in touch with our outdoor selves and seeing the wildlife closeup while we work on the side-yard.
For instance, over the weekend my husband showed me where the brown bunnies with the white cotton tails live.
They have taken up residence in a debris pile we created in the woods this fall, and I watched one of them bound away when we got close.
On Saturday, our dogs joyously ran amuck, thrilled to have us outside after a month of being cooped up due to rain and more rain. The cats followed us around and sat on stumps while we weeded and chain-sawed debris. Until we fired up the chainsaw, a deer watched us cautiously from down the hill to see just how far we intended to invade his morning reverie.
The squirrels made the most noise throughout the day running through the leaves. Their activity tantalized our big dog Darcy who chased them all morning. Overhead, a couple of hawks screeched as we cleaned up the yard. One of them was quite large, so we sent Janie (our 8 pound Pom-Chi) inside for safety.
Occasionally we took breaks in our chairs on the back deck, while we contemplated all the areas that need attention.
Making outdoor spaces is our bonding experience and it continues to smooth our rough edges. It is part of our love story.
I’ve needed the outdoors and movement. A chilly breeze promises a cooler week, but I enjoyed these temporary reprieves from the cold. It felt great to get out there and make it look good too. As soon as the rain stops, I will get back out there. I don’t want to miss all the activity.