This isn’t the prettiest update. (In fact, I couldn’t take a somewhat decent photo if I tried.) There are no afters. This is, hands down, all about the process. Our backyard? We’re in the thick of it. This is where we are today, and in this process, we are making progress! The only thing we can keep repeating to ourself is, it gets worse before it gets better. Over and over again. We knew that going in, but when the going gets tough, it’s easy to forget.
Not long ago, we took you around the exterior of our Tree House. Those photos were taken at the tail end of (a very long) winter, and today, the trees lining the perimeter are full and green. Finally! At the time of that post, the only real greenery in the yard came from 8 overgrown yews, all of which have since been pulled out. We also had a 100+ ft silver maple that had been neglected, and that’s where you came in; several landscapers (and a couple of arborists) told us that the maple had to be cut way, way back, if we wanted to salvage it at all. We said, help!, and you all came through with the most thoughtful advice. We took notes, brought in more opinions, asked more questions from the professionals and – well, the tree ultimately had to come down. (Here’s that post again with all of your feedback!)
Was it sad? Absolutely! But further inspection had us realizing that the tree was full of rot and dangerously top heavy (and right over our roof!). We could either wait, deal with it later, and cross our fingers that a bad storm wouldn’t send a rogue limb onto our roof, or we could book the job to take her down and breathe a little easier. After our conversations with you and again with the pros, we felt at peace with our final decision.
The job took the better part of a week, and I wish we could have been at Tree House the whole time to watch it unfold!
There is a bit of a silver lining, and it’s that we were able to salvage several parts of the trunk! The largest piece is at least 2′ wide, and they’re all between 5-8′ long. Many of you suggested we save what we could, and our idea is to make furniture (our dining table, at the very least?) for Tree House. We found a local guy who will come to our home and mill it into planks, and he’ll be back in July to help us through that! (We honestly didn’t know that was a thing, but how awesome is that?) We’re really looking forward to sharing that with you.
After the tree came down, we could really, really see the yard. That was the whole goal, but, yeeesh. Suddenly, we had a lot of other problems on our list:
We’re not sure if the fence belongs to us or a neighbor, but what we do know is that it’s different in the back than it is along the sides, and even into the front yard, too. If the fence was consistent in style – and more importantly, if it wasn’t completely falling apart – a pressure wash and stain could work wonders! But you’ll also notice that the level of the yard has shifted over the years, causing our neighbor’s debris to spill out from under the pickets:
It’s bad. This backyard slopes without any proper drainage, and the slightest drizzle will cause massive muddy puddles. All Jack and CC want to do is run free and scratch their backs on the earth, and one day – one day! – they will. Of course, taking the tree down didn’t do the yard any favors, so we have even less grass now than when we started:
The bed of ferns. And the outhouse?
On one end of our yard, we inherited a long bed of ferns in a raised planter. Next to the ferns? An outhouse. While every boy that has seen our home thinks the outhouse is the coolest thing, I’m turning a blind eye for now! But what we could both agree on was the fern bed made no sense, and it was time for it to go:
With the yews and the tree removed, the yard was our blank slate! (We’re trying to stay positive here.) After a long meeting with the lawn care company, we knew that we could remove the bed of ferns and repurpose that soil to grade the yard. To completely eliminate the excessive mud / puddles / mild flooding, we would be installing a dry well! The dry well was new to us, but essentially, there’s a physical, porous structure that lives underground at the lowest point in the yard. At ground level, we’ll see a grate where water can easily flow in, and the well allows the water to slowly soak into the earth.
A few days after the tree was cleaned up, the team came back to get started:
Above, the planter bed is being removed, and below, the hole for the drywall is being created. You can see in the close up that they were barely 3′ underground before they had already reached standing water (which we learned was pretty unusual). There has been a lot of rain this past season!
We had to head back to Chicago before the dry well was installed, but we did get a sneak peek of what it looks like:
The next time we returned to Tree House, it rained. And rained. And rained. Honestly, we joke that the rain in our part of Michigan is starting to feel cozy; we have a hard time imagining Tree House on a sunny day! But because of all that rain, we were able to see the dry well at work, and you guys. There was no standing water. Okay, so there is a grate in our yard, but once the grass grows in (or should we sod?), it’s in a mostly inconspicuous place. The landscaping team threw down a bunch of grass seed, but of course the rain washed it all away – ha! In any case, we’re not too worried about the grass – yet.
So! Here’s our yard today. This is the process. It gets worse before it gets better. It gets worse before it gets better. It gets worse…
Tree House to Our Left | Tree House to Our Right
Tree House Behind Us
And then there’s our tree. That silver maple was how Tree House got her nickname! (I mean, we’re literally surrounded by trees, but still.) We’re so happy we could salvage so much of her trunk, and we’re looking forward to creating something from it. But I digress. Here’s the view from our patio with the tree and yews and that jumbled up fence that we couldn’t even see:
and here’s our view now:
Friends, we remain hopeful! We’re playing the long game, and we’re dreaming of the potential. We see Lucy and her cousins playing Red Rover and kickball and running in circles. We see the dogs lazing in the hot sun. We see all of our favorite people huddled around a big circle fire pit. We hear belly laughs and kids shrieking and birds sing-songing! It gets worse before it gets better.