Nightmare on Elm St.

The journey of turning the nightmare we bought on Elm St. into our dream home...

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Monday, July 24, 2006


This weekend marked the end of an era... the era of the ugly, nonfunctional patios and horrible rotten deck in preparation for the pretty new slate patio that goes in starting tomorrow. Aaron and I began late last week, removing plants that were good enough either to keep (my golden hosta, assorted lilies of the valley) or give away (tiger lilies, some scraggly hostas, and day lilies that wouldn't fit into the new garden plan), and cleaning out our fenced in storage area to make room for more stuff during the work. THAT was an adventure!

We've been so busy this year that we hadn't cleaned it out since last fall. Well, we've had a virtual avalanche of pine needles since then. Combine that with a big pile of rocks and a densly wooded area, and you get snakes. I was raking away happily when suddenly I saw a lot of wiggling and writhing on the part of the pine needle pile. I screamed, threw down my rake and ran across the yard so fast you would have thought that the snakes were chasing me with flames shooting out of their mouths! I kept yelling "SNAKES" at Aaron. Aaron was trying to be calm and rational and ask me questions about the snakes:

Aaron: Are you sure? How big were they?
Me: Yes, I'm sure! They were snake sized snakes!
Aaron: Hmmm. What color were they?
Me: Snake colored!
Aaron: Snake colored?
Me: Yes! You take the rake! You'll see!
Aaron take the rake and rakes for awhile...
Aaron: All I see are earthworms. I don't see any snakes!
Me: Well, they heard me yelling and decided that this wasn't a good place to live. They went somewhere else to be snakey.
Aaron: I really think that they were just big earthworms.
Me: If we have earthworms that big, then we've got bigger problems than snakes!

Anyway, we were up bright and early Saturday to arm ourselves with Gatorade, water, and beer. The beer would serve as payment for our two helpers, Jonathan, who works with Aaron and seriously came because he didn't have anything better to do. (I don't think that he had any idea what he was getting into.) And, of course, Mike, who comes around any time that we have to smash something. Aaron and I got stated around 9:30 am, at which time the backyard and porch looked like this:

Backyard before
before byard1

Deck/porch area before
before deck1

Closeup of poor condition of deck
before deck2

Aaron and I started moving pavers out systematically and stacking them along the side of the house. By the time that Jonathan showed up at 11 am, we were nearly done with the center patio. With an extra big, strong guy we were done with all of the patios by 11:40 or so. We celebrated by drinking a Gatorade, and then started tackling the porch.

We tried taking things apart nicely, but it just wasn't working for us. Mike showed up around 12:00 or so and proposed liberal use of the sledgehammer and the circular saw. This method of brute force destruction went much faster. By lunchtime (around 1:30 pm) we were well on our way to demolishing the entire porch!

Aaron uses the circular saw to cut the boards into smashable pieces.

deck cutout

Aaron tries his hand at smashing

aaron sledge

Mike, who seems to have a lot of pent-up aggression, demonstrates his mad sledging skillz for the internets

mike sledge1

mike sledge2

mike destructo

We made two trips to the dump and there are still a few boards left tht need to go! Between the two trips, we had a huge rainstorm that made the second trip a truly disgusting, smelly, muddy experience. We were all very glad to get a shower after the day was over!

Sunday, Aaron and I cleaned up the last of the debris and tuckpointed the wall behind the porch (it was in bad shape). We're very good at this now, so it went lightning fast. The biggest slowdown we faced was running out of sand! Check out our hard work...


None of that will show above the porch, so we didn't kill ourselves making it look perfect, just structurally sound was fine with us.

Sunday we also did a ton of yardwork. I trimmed back the perennial bed out front which is getting out of control. I thinned out the Mexican primrose and yarrow back in the spring and gave the extra plants away. I think that I did a good job on the primrose, but I should have been much more ruthless with the yarrow. Yarrow was eating all the other plants in the flower bed! So, I thinned it out liberally and now it looks a little more normal, plus you can see that pretty silver stuff and the St. John's Wort. The Russian sage was a similar story. I didn't cut it all the way back last fall, which was silly (although I felt like it was the first year, so I should baby the perennials, even the vigrous ones). So, I did some significant thinning of it as well, in order to rediscover my pretty pink phlox with the varigated leaves.

Trimmed up bed
front bed

The City no longer takes yard waste, and I generated a ton with all this trimming (and weeding) so Aaron and I used the big trash can that we bought when we moved in, but the city said was oversized (and ripped off all the stickers so we couldn't return it) to make a composter. I did a little internet research, and it said to cut a slot to remove the compost and drill a bunch of holes, which is exactly what we did. I filled this thing almost all the way up! Can you believe it???


I also finally ripped out the half dead pansies out front and replaced them with a few dahlias. There wasn't much to choose from at the nusery this late in the year. I didn't go overboard because I'll put pansies back in, probably in October.

dahlia bed

We found tons of bricks in the backyard... more than I ever could have imagined. We're considering using them as a flower bed edging... we'll see. As for the pavers that we stacked on the side of the house, we had many piles going all the way along the side of the house, even taller than this pile of bricks:


Why no picture of all these pavers, you ask? Because I posted the pavers (assuming that no one would ever want them, just thought that I'd give it a shot) to the Frederick Freecycle group list and they were claimed within an hour! The people who took them made a trip out on Saturday night and got half, then came back at 11 am on Sunday for the rest (there were about 300+ pavers out there). The pavers were gone in less than 24 hours! If you have extra materials you'd like to get rid of, check to see if your town has a freecycle list! I found ours on the Frederick County Landfill homepage. I've also given away a doghouse and some old rusty garden fence this way and have been tremendously pleased with the response and the politeness of the people who have picked things up. It helps the environment, saves landfill space, and helps me feel better because I know stuff is being used!

I'll leave you with some post demo pictures of the area. It will be so exciting to see things going on out there!

deck aftr

backyard aftr

backyard aftr2