In the middle of my back yard, where that massive New Years storm blew down 3 trees several years ago, there is a new open space, just looking for something to move in. The Salmonberries saw the opportunity, and moved fast. There used to be about 6 smallish bushes, spread around the edges of the back 40. Now that the space has opened to the sunlight, there must be 20 - 30 of those suckers! And they're 7-8 feet tall now. I cut them back in the spring, to about 3-4 feet, hoping to clear a space around the tree stumps left from the blow downs.
"That would make a great bird bath" I thought. "There's room on that taller stump for a bird house, next to the bath." "What more could a bird family need?"
So I asked my hard working hubby to build me a bird house. We had 2 wooden pallets left over from the concrete stepping stones that had been off loaded onto the front drive. There was lots of wood in those pallets, & making a bird house would be better use of it than dumping them for fire wood.
The sawing and hammering started in the garage. Designs were drawn on shingles, and cardboard. The sound of drilling drowned out the crows in the back yard. Then, requests for picking paint colours came across my desk.
The final product was nailed into its place of honour on the large stump 2 weeks ago. No, we will not be hanging out a "$2.50 a night" sign. This is a better neighbourhood than that!
Been a long time since I was here, but there's a good reason: we've been working! But we have got a lot finished in the Back 40: * The patio area is finished, planted and best of all - we have a water feature! * The gravel path along the back of the house now has stepping stones all the way to the corner by the Veggie Planter! It was a joy to sit out on the patio in those warm evenings at the end of August, with just the light from the candles in the lanterns, listening the the snaps and crunches in the bush behind the yard. (Is that a footstep? No, just the wind).
This work has finally produced the result that I'd hoped for - to make our back yard ("The Back Forty") pleasant enough to really use. At long last.
It's been two weeks since my last blog, and by gosh, things are moving along! The hedge is planted. The dry creek now flows from the stone wall Falls through to the steps, and is pushing toward the Green Belt. My Japanese ferns have found a shady space to tuck in (finally), but the poor Hostas have had another visit from the local deer. They're looking rather ratty. They'll recover, but I really must find something to deter those nibblers. Perhaps some hot red pepper flakes, sprayed onto the leaves of those poor Hostas. Deer are not the only visitors to my garden, but they are the most destructive. Two days ago, just as we were sitting down to supper, we hard a loud crunching in the back yard. Thinking something had fallen, I rushed out and found a juvenile (about 1-2 years) black bear tearing up a fallen log at the back of the yard. Guess he was looking for his dinner-he had that log apart in minutes, and then silently walked back in the bush. Bob got a quick, but blurry picture (it was getting dark in that corner). Our first bear this year!
Dog and I gave been busy in the Back Forty, starting that garden reno. I hadn't realized how long it's been since I posted, but checking back, it's been 6 weeks. Goodness! Six weeks of very good weather has allowed us to make major changes to the North Garden. First, the patio got built. This was the easy part-hired a neat contractor-got it done in one afternoon. Very glad we did, too. After much measuring, pricing, and research, we realized that we didn't have the tools, or the backs to move and install that stone. Next, the hedge. After poking around along the property line, the numerous stones and Alder roots convinced us that we wouldn't be able to dig down to plant cedars, so we decided to dig "up". Those bright green hedging cedars got planted in chimney flue tiles, lined up along the edge of the garden. The neighbours kept peeking around the corner ("what are those crazy people up to now?"). It was heavy work-hauling each tile (~ 30 pounds) and each cedar (5-6 feet tall) around from the front drive to the back of the yard, balanced on a dolly. There were 16 of each in all, but they all made it. The best part- this narrow strip of land, 8 feet wide and 40 feet long, suddenly had real space. Now- time to order the rocks.
Advantage of all that snow-I have a record of who has been walking in my Back Forty. Throughout this last winter there were squirrel & deer tracks, many sizes of bird "shoes" and one morning a solitary track from a coyote traipsing across the front drive! (You can just make out the tracks coming up the slope from the Green Belt and through to the drive). Since this last winter was colder than any during the last three or four decades, and the snow fall (4 feet by mid-March) three times what we usually get, I was surprised to see that many animals out and about. Our bird feeder was busy with tiny chickadees, finches and other birds that we hadn't seen in previous winters. Snow shoveling was a twice daily chore, so it was easy to sympathize with all those visitors. Watching them reinforced the need to design this back garden to welcome the resident animals, not attempt fence them out. Tiny chickadees are easy to welcome, but black squirrels and deer not so easy. Fences will not slow them down either. The bears- a mother and her three cubs- that we enjoyed watching as they strolled along the back of our lot, and climbed over the neighbours fence will not be a feature this year. That is a sad tale for another post, but bears must be part of this plan. I can see that I will need to plan for winter food for these creatures, along with plants that will provide snacks through all the seasons. A challenge!
Welcome to my tale about the wilderness in my back yard.
We had been ignoring this space (No ones goes there/ You can't see it from the front street/ The squirrels and bears do like it), but a long winter of snow - 4 feet! - showed the emptiness back there, just trees, sad bushes and bark mulch. Time to make a right turn and create a space the everyone, including me, will want to enjoy.
First step: learn about garden design and native plants. My yard lives in zone 7/8, half-way up a mountain in a West Coast rain forest. It slopes down into a greenbelt with a small creek at the bottom. Lots of tall cedars and hemlocks live in the greenbelt, but my yard has mostly Salal, Red Alders, some small skinny cedars and lots of 6 foot tall Salmonberry bushes. And 7 stumps. This is going to be trickier than I thought!