The sweatiest of the sweaty. I am not talking about planting flowers with one of those squishy pads to kneel on. I am talking about cultivating the land like real men and women! (Queue the Tooltime grunts: arghh arghh arghh!!!)
I should preface by explaining that our property sits on a circle with other properties all bordering marshy conservation land in the middle. Nothing can be built on the small portion of conservation land right in the middle (the house shown below is on the opposite side of the circle). As a result, most of the homeowners do not clear any of their land, and let it all grow wild.
This is what our rear backyard area looked like originally.
Here is what it looks like now:
Funny how reducing the vertical clutter makes a plot of land look larger…
So how did we do this… naturally, the first step was several hours over several weekends during summer 2012 clearing all that nasty brush. For example, the gross (but still fragrant) old Christmas tree deposited on its side in the “before” photo above. And the piles of rotting leaves and tumbleweeds.
This was by far the hardest part. I ran the gamut through that brush. Poisonous species. I got tons of poison ivy-like rashes every single time I went out there, but fortunately I seem to be somewhat immune to this. Thorns. Thorns of surprisingly many varieties and gross color combinations. I hate thorns. Every possible type of weird weeds: squishy, dusty, slimy, fuzzy, liquid-filled. The kind that pull real easily but leave all their roots behind. Eight foot reeds that shake a bunch of crap onto your head when you pull them out. All of these had to go. Patch by patch we cleared things and put them in piles.
Then we had an epic brush fire:
We were too busy making an awesome fire to take pictures, but the giant man provides the scale. The fire was indeed about 7′ high, flames licking higher than any reasonable backyard brush fire has business doing. There was easily enough brush to fill my living room to the ceiling. The embers were still smoking the next morning after several douses of water. A mightier, yet controlled, fire may not be soon seen.
Next came the fun part in spring 2013: the rototiller.
Rototiller prep. As shown, we had planted a test portion of grass at the end of summer 2012. This patch represents all that we had been able to clear appreciably to the dirt that first summer. We kept clearing the rest well through the chilly fall and again as soon as the snow melted in the spring. The rock divider (all rocks we pulled from the earth) was incomplete. In this photo Mr. Goodies was dismantling our recently laid fire pit to clear for rototilling.
Out the gate with the rototiller, which we rented from the local hardware store for about $100 for the day.
I tried my hand at this crazy machine – I was no match for it. I’m pretty sure I flew into a ditch at one point.
Slowly but surely everything got tilled. It was really satisfying watching all the nasty, time-worn surface get churned over to moist soil from underneath.
Almost done. After that, we just planted grass and watered like crazy until it grew.
The Mr. and I have discussed whether or to what extent this kind of work adds value to your property. I am convinced that this adds wow-factor, especially since the neighbors on either side have not cleared at all and have jungle worse than what we started with. I could see buyers or broker being impressed enough that the buyer might be compelled to offer more. And all for basically the $100 rototiller rental and $20 for some grass seed.
On a side note, there was a bit of bioethics in this for me. I like to add value and generally improve things. But I also like to improve safety for both humans and the types of plants I actually want around. Thorns and poison ivy are a scourge; they can genuinely hurt people and animals. I don’t have any tolerance for that. So we basically “created” usable land that others had abandoned. Now we have a grassy chicken paradise.
Photo from http://neverwinter.gamepedia.com/Campfire