Back Outside |

Back Outside!

Winter hung on far too long this year, and things were getting weird. Not only did I have to put the oil company on speed dial, but the oil delivery man had started to leave a toothbrush and overnight bag here. Things got awkward in the mornings. My poor wife seems to have gotten fused to her long underwear. I don’t think I’ve seen her legs since last September – just two fleecy sticks jutting down from her waist. And the birds! They spent the past month marching around our back yard carrying little signs that read, “No Chirping Until Summer!!” and “We Won’t Chirp! We Won’t Sing! Give Us Back Our F#@%ing Spring!” Things were getting weird, I tell you. I received a postcard from a flock of geese that used to hang out around here. They were good geese. Very polite. But this postcard was anything but.

Dear Morons,
We’re staying in Florida. Have fun freezing your asses off.
Sayonara, suckers!!
– The Geese

I was steeling myself for this new perpetual winter. I could turn the swimming pool into a reserve oil tank. I could chop down the forest for firewood. I could install skis on the car. I could…

And then, just like that, the world thawed. Spring arrived and delivered a weekend that knocked winter on its bony white ass and sent the oil man scurrying home.

Handan and I stepped out onto our deck. We blinked in the bright morning sun and looked around the yard. The fresh air invigorated us. We saw the promise of summer. And then we saw the reality of spring.

Cleanup. And lots of it. Too much for one weekend. But we had to start somewhere, so we started near the new deck.

Since the deck project took far longer than we anticipated last year (The Big Reveal is coming…just as soon as things get a little greener and bloomier around here), we didn’t have a chance to fully clean the area before winter set in.  One of our tasks was to remove the old fire pit. We’ll be building a new one in a new area either this summer or next, but the old one needed to go. It was too close to the deck, and it was squatting on sacred ground: my future grill and barbecue area.

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Before we could remove the fire pit, we had to pull all of the crap out of it. Fortunately, we still have a construction dumpster in our front yard that’s been there since last summer.

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We’ve filled it twice already, and a third will be delivered tomorrow. Though I’m looking forward to quickly filling and getting rid of the last dumpster, it has been great having it around for all our miscellaneous dumping needs. I’m sure Handan has thought about tossing me in there a time or two πŸ˜€

Once the junk was cleared, Handan, Barish and I got to work hauling bricks away.

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“Hey Babes! Smile!”

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We also needed to remove about 20 years of compacted ash. Handan dug it up and filled 5 gallon buckets which Barish and I lugged to the fence and dumped in the woods. I was hoping we’d find ancient relics and artifacts, but the best we found was a few rusty nails.

Last summer we had a couple of cubic yards of river stone, like the stuff pictured above, delivered and dumped next to the dumpster. We needed it to fill in some low areas around the deck and bring it up to grade. We ordered too much, and then we ran out of summer, so the pile sat through the winter.

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Until this weekend. We first laid down a plastic woven weed barrier, and then we piled on the stone.

Our deck area is now one step closer to being in shape for the summer, and my new grill area awaits!

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Soon, I will move them over to their new home and the steaks, burgers and ribs will flow like manna from heaven.

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With one task completed, we moved on to the vegetable garden. Something’s been bugging Handan about that area. We made all of the beds from cedar (except three small decorative brick circles), but our blueberry bush enclosure was made from cinder blocks and green metal posts. It was an eyesore, and Handan wanted it gone.

Furthermore, last year it had turned into a lush jungle of weeds, as the enclosure did not allow for easy entry, and if I did manage to get inside, I needed to crawl around like an infant to pull the weeds. We needed a better way.

I assured her that it would be taken care of and that I’d build a new enclosure. She wanted me to build it with the non-ruined remains of 47 landscape logs we had bought and had delivered two years ago. The original plan was for me to build a small fence around the garden area, and I was gonna get around to it, but then….HEY LOOK OVER THERE!

Huh? Oh, I could have sworn I saw something. Anyway, what was I talking about? Ah, yes – I had a plan to build the new blueberry bush enclosure. I told my babes that I would build it while she went inside to take care of some blog business. I set to work removing all traces of the old enclosure.

When I was ready to start building the new one, I called for Handan and Barish to help me. Six hands are better than two, eh? I had gathered the tools I thought I would need: sawhorses, circular saw, drill, screws, impact driver. We decided to widen the bed first, so we’d be able to walk in on either side. Once we had our measurements, I started cutting the logs. Barish found straight ones for me, and Handan helped lay them out.

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Handan’s Ongoing Pajama Counter: 27
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Handan’s Ongoing Pajama Counter: 28

When the first four pieces were cut and laid around the blueberry bushes, I stopped to consider how I’d be fastening them together.

Handan took this pause as a sign that I didn’t have a plan. She hates it when I just barrel headlong into a project on a wing and a prayer.

But I did have a plan! And it would work! But when I tried to explain it to her, either my mouth wasn’t cooperating with my brain or her ears had become disconnected from hers. She wasn’t getting it, and I was having trouble explaining it. Finally I just blurted out, “Well, you’re an engineer, can’t you figure it out?”

As helpful as that sounds, oddly it didn’t help matters at all.

After a few more minutes of me lamely attempting to explain my very fuzzy vision for the blueberry enclosure, and after Handan all but giving up and telling me to go to Lowe’s to go drop a bunch of money on cedar planks, I was able to get our frequencies in tune. She understood! (I think this was more due to her figuring it out on her own than me explaining) We’d use 12 inch galvanized spikes to secure the first course into the ground. They were also bought two years ago when we bought the logs. My original plan was to use deck screws to to fasten each new layer to the one below it, but Handan suggested we keep using the galvanized spikes.

It was a good plan, and we set to work. With the help of a yard-long carpenter’s level, a 3/8 inch drill bit, the galvanized spikes and a framing hammer, we got the first course set and level. We used bricks and stones to prop up the logs on the lower side.

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But once we got to the second tier, I realized that my small drill bit wasn’t long enough. It’s every man’s worst fear: the moment he discovers his drill bit isn’t long enough for the job. I hung my head in shame and told Handan to get dressed.

She’d need to change out of her pajamas so we could go to Home Depot where I could upgrade my tiny drill bit to an 18 inch monster that could fulfill all my drilling needs. It seems size does matter. Especially when there’s drilling to be done!

We got back home, and I twisted on my new bit. I was ready for some serious drilling.

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I drilled the logs and then pounded in the spikes. Even Handan got in on the pounding.

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We laid three layers of logs, and then Handan filled back some stone.

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This week, I will build the rest: four corner posts from 4x4s and some 2x4s that will go around the top of the 4x4s. From that, we’ll hang bird netting. All this work, just to keep out the birds and the chipmunks! Last year was the first year that our entire crop wasn’t eaten. But it was such a pain in the butt to get into the old enclosure that most of the fruit just hung there, uneaten. Not this year, my friends. This year, I shall have blueberries or I will eat my shoes!

Yeah, yeah, I know I made a similar promise last year:

This year, I will eat blueberries or nations will crumble and burn at my feet.

And I did eat blueberries. I just could have eaten a lot more if I had easier access to the bushes!

So that was our first weekend outdoors. We were tired and sore come Sunday night, and there was only one thing that could fix that: steak, martinis and spiced rum. Our backs are still barking at us today, but we’ll be back in shape in no time and ready for more work!

We still have ton of work to do (include yard cleanup this week), but we’ll knock all of the items off our list, one by one, and we’ll be ready when summer arrives!

Stay tuned for the next installment of the Dining Room Makeover. I just finished building a Farmhouse Console Table, and I’ll be sharing that post with you guys in the next day or two.

Have you guys ventured outside yet this spring? How are things looking in your yard? What outdoor projects do you have planned this spring and summer? Let me know in the comments!

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  1. Well, Greg. My husband and I decided this would be the year we would put a wrap-around porch around our shed. Who doesn’t need a porch on a shed that’s only used for storage? Evidently, us. So, the deconstruction began; removing the existing pavers, two wine casks that held flowers every year, plants that need to be transplanted (but now will have to be happy being in pots temporarily) and oh, that’s right, removing all the collected miscellaneous “stuff” being housed in the lean-to. Of course, now we have to purchase a Bagster and get that stuff to the curb. Our rubbish collector would never come back to our house again if we left that stuff curbside! Also, we have an area with huge pines next to the shed that always begins to get a makeover, but never quite gets finished. So, while I was cleaning what leaves and all were still there from the Fall, my husband continued with his “project.” We had a huge tree cut down a few years ago and much of the wood still remains. However, as projects go, some of it got stacked, much of it did not. Soooo, decomposing logs amidst the leaves, makes for some back-breaking clean up. We had our first nice weekend, so why go somewhere else and enjoy it like my bike-riding friends when you can stay home and be creative? Why are weekend projects never completed in a weekend? I think that name needs to be changed to something like “never completed projects because you always add something on to them” projects. LOL. So, as we continue on our quest to complete our wrap-around porch, other projects rear their ugly heads. When it’s all done though, there’s not much better than sitting back and enjoying your accomplishments with friends and a nice cold beverage of choice. I love your posts and look forward to reading them. Thanks, too, for all your helpful tips!

    1. A wrap-around porch for a shed? You guys may be crazier than we are, lol! Send me some pics when it’s completed, Audrey. We have a shed out back, so you never know… πŸ˜€ We’re still waiting to have drinks on our new deck…any week now, I hope!

  2. Ha ha thanks for this post! We worked in our yard here in Virginia for the first time since winter,too! We had about a million sticks to pick up and were a little achy also… but it looks pretty good now! We have a few projects too and seeing you guys moving along keeps me encouraged!! Thanks?

  3. Wow…fantastic job. I love reading your blogs u crack me up and puts a smile on my face everytime. cheers kaz
    Land of Oz ??

  4. I am at the end (almost) of a one month reno that started in January (you know, that list that keeps growing).
    I wish now that I had kept a blog/log of the adventure which I had to trek through alone with MBH remaining at our old place to prep it for sale and keep the winter blahs under control.
    I first encountered your blog when searching for an alternative to the missing TV in the short winter evenings on my own. You cheered me up and gave me courage to continue this solo undertaking (okay so I had a crew of 3 working all that time, but Spouse was noticeably absent). I figured if you could strike out into unknown countries and master the potentially dangerous situations in which you found yourselves, the least I could do was to ensure that this house became a comfortable home for our ‘senior’ years.
    Thanks for the light- hearted approach you have taken to explicate the events of your wonderful adventure with Handon and Barish. May you live long and prosper. Thanks for being there to cheer my own path.

    1. Lu, this is a wonderful comment – thank you so much! I wish you and your husband the best of luck with your renovations and with selling your old house! πŸ™‚

  5. Yea! Pajama count!! Let’s hear it for the “PJ Girls”!! Your posts are always so funny, Greg! (And, OMG, that drill bit!) Lucky Handan, there’s nothing like a guy who can handle a drill, am I right?? Thank you for your posts, always good for a laugh, and very useful information! Keep it up!

  6. forgive me for not posting sooner, i have been feeling a little punky and funky, finally got some meds from the doc including anti b’s and med pain pills thank you asshole druggies for screwing things up a person who needs pain meds has to jump through hoops to get them because i was given opoids after my surgery in feb. and then asking for something milder because i don’t want to be in a coma or in pain, i present like an addict, which i am not i quit the surgery drugs 4 days after and have just try to endure the pain, i found out from my lung doc that i have a compression fracture in my t 4 vertabrae and that is what is causing me so much pain, ah crap i am sorry for ranting on here i did read all three posts and loved them as always and i too am ready to pull my hair out with this winter weather, even the poor plants don,t know what to do love you guys and oh wow barish is getting so tall he is going to tower over you both lol xx

    1. Oh Chris, I’m so sorry that you’re not feeling like your old self. You’re going to get better this spring, and you’ll be outside running around with the boys this summer. Handan and I are always thinking of you and prayer for your quick and full recovery.

  7. With spring cleaning it seems to me that the list of things to do keep growing as you go… Ok, that’s done, hey look, this need to be done too – you know that feeling? πŸ™‚ But with two good weather weekends behind and a long weekend (10 days in fact!) along the way, I hope my garden will soon start looking a little more like I imagined it πŸ™‚ Two outdoor lighting projects are coming to reality this season, thanks to your inspiration!
    Good luck with your garden works and can’t wait for the next episode of the Dining Room Makeover πŸ™‚

    1. Oh cool! Be sure to send us pics of your garden creations! The next dining room makeover post will be coming either this weekend or early next week. πŸ™‚

  8. Your drill bit size commentary had me cackling, love it. LOL We live in a rental so we don’t have a ton of outdoor chores, but the bad storms we had in our area made for lots of limb cleanup and now that I’m certain all that is over, I’ll actually pick them up. Our landlord pressure washed (finally!) our (black from buildup!) deck this week and it looks new, amazing! So this weekend we go get our supplies for project spruce up for spring. New dirt for my planter boxes on the deck and other various yard prep items. Mainly there are just lots of weeds to pull already, but soon I’ll be getting plants for the one flower bed I allow myself to splurge on. When you move every few years you don’t want to invest in a lot you’ll have to leave behind, but my little slice of planting heaven sits right outside the kitchen window and I love it. I’ll enjoy following along with your backyard clean up and can’t wait to see the new deck in all it’s glory!

    1. Ugh, picking up branches is the worst! Where in MA are you? Any idea where you’ll be moving next? You may have told me in the past, but I’m guessing military family?

    2. We live in the little town of Marion which is right near Cape Cod. And yes, proud Coast Guard family. πŸ™‚ Transfer season for us is next June and we don’t usually find out where we’re going until Jan/Feb of that year. I’m already starting to plan for it, actually I start planning for the next move as we’re unpacking. LOL My brain is always in moving mode. I often wonder what I’ll do when we don’t have to worry about how heavy or nice a piece of furniture is or always having to get rid of stuff. Will I turn into a hoarder?? LOL

      1. On the plus side, April – I’ll bet you’re always living in awesome coastal towns! Oh, Handan would love it! (so would I, for that matter!)

  9. Definitely! It’s been a wonderful adventure that I’m so thankful for, even during the stressful times. We moved to MA from CA and by far CA was my favorite place we’ve lived and I miss it so much. We lived about an hour north of San Francisco and I never knew such beautiful weather existed, no humidity! It was glorious!! lol Hope you and Handan have a wonderful weekend and happy Mother’s Day to her!