When we first toured our house, we didn’t really pay much attention to the backyard. Or the front yard for that matter. Coming from living in apartments for almost 15 years, I don’t think we really knew what exactly to look for in a yard. A month or two after moving in, we realized, “Oh, so we have to do yard work now. How do you do that?” Well, we mostly just mowed the front yard and raked some leaves. The backyard was where the first big projects started.

The wee backyard had lots of potential, but a couple issues. The beautiful Dogwood and a large garage are big pluses, other than those elements it was kinda blah. We had spotty grass, a tore-up ol’ cinder block wall with ivy starting to grow around it, a cracked concrete walkway to the side door, some sorry-lookin’ blue flowers, a haggered rose bush that literally reached out to scratch you as you walked by and a picket fence with peeling paint that divided the space up smaller than it needed to be.

First things first

In the Spring of 2010 we decided to deal with the cinder block wall as the first thing to do in the backyard. So, we hired T&T Concrete, a local St. Johns crew, to tear down the wall, excavate the area along the back edge of the property and lay down a 2′ tall, 1′ thick concrete retaining wall.

Set into the concrete retaining wall are Simpson Strong-Tie Column Bases which keep the 4″ x 4″ fence posts out of the concrete prolonging the life of the posts and making them easier to replace if ever necessary.

Thanks to our neighbor, and all-around great, guy Randy Brunelle of Refined Restoration, the new fence turned out beautifully (shown below prior to the chocolate colored stain). No, we didn’t build our own fence. At that time we didn’t know where to start and didn’t want our first try at carpentry to be on display so prominently. However, watching Randy work, and helping friends with their fence projects in the meantime, has boosted our confidence in a big way. Next fence, we’re doing ourselves.

Like I said, “Junk in the Trunk”

Little did we know that the retaining wall would displace so much dirt. Plus, the cinder block wall took up a lot more space in pieces than it did when it was a wall. So, all we could do was pile it behind our little picket fence.

Eventually, I rented a U-Haul pick-up and took the concrete to a recycling center with the help of my pal Kevin. Oh, what happened to the dirt? I’ll save that for another post.