We once had a swing in the yard, it took up a lot of space but was fun for the kids. In this picture you can see the dirt and weeds. It was ugly and messy, and just off our deck. When it rained the dogs would get mud all over their feet and then want to come into the house. So I would have to wipe them off every single time they came in, or we had little muddy paw prints all over the kitchen floor.
A few years ago Rich put in a new retaining wall, replacing the rotting timbers of the logs and the re bar which held up the hill before. I tried to plant a few flowers on the other slope, some iris, dianthus, a few annuals. Rich stuck some starts from St. John's Wort. It was still ugly but looked a little better.
A closeup of our attempt to fill in the weeds with some flowers. Rich also put in a nice cement patio just off the deck which helped cut down on the mud, since that area always would puddle and become a slippery slimy mess of red mud when it rained.
This photo was taken this past August. At the bottom you can see the cement patio. There is no lawn, just dried up weeds, a little bit of grass, left over from an attempt last year to grow a lawn from seed. I think mostly the birds ate the seeds, but we tried. The dog house is still here in this shot. It is now out in the orchard. Our corgi, Robbi, does not use the dog house, he prefers to sit in our people chairs on the covered deck. Since he usually gets the chairs all muddy or dusty from the mess in the yard, we cover "his" chair with a dog bed.
When we came home from our vacation in October, we had a few days left. Rich decided he was going to have a lawn. This is the story of our "instant lawn", made possible by the magic of sod.
Our sod came from Home Depot in Placerville. They get new shipments almost every morning, and they get snatched up quickly. It seems like our entire county should be covered with green.
Rich has started rototilling here. The clay soil was hard as bricks. There were lots of rocks. No wonder the grass seed didn't want to grow last year!
This old rototiller came from a yard sale in Georgetown, California a few years ago. I had always wanted a rototiller so I couldn't resist this one when I found it for $40. It has the tines on the front. When I was very small, my Dad had one with the tines on the back, which had a cover over them. I used to get to ride on the handles as he tilled. Yes, I imagine it was dangerous, but back in those days I guess we lived for danger. I never lost any limbs, and I remember it was great fun to "help" Daddy.
When Rich got the soil tilled to a certain point, and had taken out many rocks, he fired up his little John Deere tractor and I jumped into our truck, and we went next door to visit the neighbors. They have a herd of big horn sheep, and a gigantic pile of manure. They are very happy to share the "spoils" of their herd with us. Rich loaded the truck with the manure using the tractor and we came home with our fertilizer.
Then the tilling started again, this time to mix in the manure. Red clay soil is actually full of nutrients, but needs the manure to help keep it broken up so that it doesn't just dry into the consistency of brick again, or turn into the slick slippery mud we end up with in the rainy season.
Wow, a strip of grass, and we have a lawn all of a sudden. The color almost looks surreal against all the red soil and dried out weeds. In this shot you can see the nice retaining wall Rich built and the cement patio.
My husband is a do-it-yourself-er just like our Dad was. He works at something at home almost every minute he isn't at his full time job. It is a rare moment that we have to hire someone to complete a project at our house. We did have our home roofed and sided by contractors, but that is about it. Otherwise, Rich is the one providing the elbow grease.
He really worked with that soil to get it smooth and ready for the sod. It was rather like laying a carpet.
Getting closer to looking like a real lawn.
I am so looking forward to this winter. Since this is "Robbi's yard" now, he will be a lot less muddy. Rich plans to put in some kind of stepping stones along the fence at the top. Robbi likes to run along there and bark at the deer. We will probably plant a ground cover around the stones to keep the soil covered. We also have naked ladies (Amaryllis Belladonna) planted along the fence. I plan to put in climbing roses at each corner of the fence. We have already planted them in the middle of each side, so hopefully some day they will grow up to cover the fence (if the deer allow them to) and we will have lovely blooms and nice scents all summer.