Exploring our own backyard

And I do mean that literally: our actual backyard, not Chapel Hill or North Carolina or North America or Planet Earth or any other metaphorical backyard.

January was a busy month–busy with work and traveling to DC for work, and also busy with combating a cold followed by a sinus infection followed by the desire to hibernate for the rest of the winter (not that it’s been anything really like “winter” here this year).  So I haven’t had any time to travel.

But not all adventures start when you leave your own driveway.  And our yard is an adventure in itself. It’s the kind of place a child, or an adult who remembers being a child, or a hound, can find nooks and crannies and leafy forts to hide in while getting lost in dreams . . . and quite possibly getting physically lost too.

Here’s a pretty view from our driveway on a sunny day:

IMG_9812Looks pretty nice, doesn’t it?  Let’s take a closer look . . .

We do also have a front yard, which is a little bit less primeval . . .

IMG_9751. . . but not exactly pretty.

We’ve done pretty well at ignoring our jungle for the last year and a half, even though every now and again I wake up in the middle of the night imagining creeping strands of invasive English ivy strangling us in our sleep.

But then something changed. Do you see those little white flags in the front yard?  One morning in December I was working from home, like I do almost every day, and I was busy, and Sasso was running around the house and begging me to play with her and generally being about as distracting as a dog can be.  I was up to walking her about five miles a day at that point, and it was clearly not enough for her and was well more than enough for me.  So, in my exasperation, I called the Invisible Fence company for a quote.  A couple of weeks later, the fence was installed and the training process had begun.

A quick (defensive) side note:  I know electric fences are controversial.  We researched and considered the issues carefully, and concluded that the benefits outweighed the possible downsides, particularly since we couldn’t think of any other practical means for enclosing our large, hilly, and heavily forested yard.  We did have a day or two during training when Sasso was afraid of the yard altogether and we second-guessed ourselves, but now she loves the yard and romps around it happily and incessantly.


Sasso surveying her territory.

It was during the process of training Sasso on the location of the boundary that we were hit in the face–again, literally, in the form of branches–by the need to do something about the yard.

We also made some interesting discoveries while tromping around the yard with Sasso:


I’ve always understood the term “old vine” to be a good thing, but something tells me this tree disagrees.


Fungi and firewood.


This mug was carefully wrapped in bubble wrap, surrounded by remnants of decaying box, in the deepest, darkest, brushiest corner of the yard. No one claims to have sent it to us, so it may have been there for years.

Enter Ambition.  Scott and I began developing plans for cleaning up the backyard–not too much, mind you, because if you are, say, a hound, you might like the yard just the way it is, in all its overgrown glory.  We also began working on plans to build terraced garden beds in part of the front yard.  To say we are novices is an understatement; both of us have lived our entire adult lives up to this point in small city apartments, so yardwork and gardening aren’t exactly our strengths. Luckily, although clearing brush is hard labor, it is not difficult to figure out.  As for gardening, we’ve got a lot to learn, like . . . well, everything.


Thank you, Chapel Hill Public Library.

We set to work on Sunday.  Scott began clearing at least two years’ worth of leaves out of the area we had settled on for the garden.  And I began hacking away at the brush in the backyard. Meanwhile, Sasso cavorted.

At the end of the day, I hadn’t made much of a dent on the backyard. But we did have at least three things to show for all the work:


Several impressive piles of brush like this one.


Half the front yard cleared of leaves.


And one tuckered out puppy dog.


9 thoughts on “Exploring our own backyard

  1. Margaret, indeed, you don’t have to travel to enjoy a journey. I love what you write about experiencing your front and back yards, especially since I’ve hand my hands in the dirt of your large lot. You really do having an enchanting property which offers many learning experiences for the three members of your family. Congratulations on the decision to conquer the mountains in your yard.

    Love, Chuck

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Elisa! We don’t want to change the overall effect–we love living in the forest. We just want to clean up some of the underbrush and the invasive vines that make it impassable. It’ll be so much worse once everything starts growing again!


  2. Good luck with planning your gardens. I am not sure the veggies will like the shade but you can try. If you need any suggestions for shade loving plants I will be happy to send you a list of the “proven winners”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Diane, that would be wonderful! I would love your suggestions. We are definitely worried that our entire lot will be too shady and are going to watch for branches we can cut strategically to create a little bit more sun on the garden.


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