Posts Tagged: city living

This Year’s Backyard Project

I’ve spent most of the year completely redesigning my small Harrisburg City backyard. What started as simply wanting to replace the small, ancient, crumbling sidewalk grew into something much larger. As many homeowners can tell you, that seems to happen with a lot of projects.

Lets take a trip back in time. Back to October 4th, 2005. The day after my birthday and the day after my offer was accepted for my very first home. Below is a photo of the backyard. Note the chain link fence, the two shrubs at the back pf the yard, and the tree to the right. Well, that tree finally met it’s demise last October when we got the early snowfall and the tree still had leaves. It came down in pieces. The sidewalk was only about 12″ wide. Too small for anything useful.

Back Yard

Now let’s jump ahead to May 5th, 2012. I talked my neighbor in to helping me out a bit. You see, the soil around the sidewalk was about 1-2 inches taller than the sidewalk. This caused a problem for rain runoff. So we needed to remove some topsoil from my yard. After killing the grass off, we dug up about a ton of soil to be removed. We also formed out where the new sidewalk would go. It’s going to be over twice as wide! This will give me more room to park the motorcycle. Note the arrowwood tree that was given to me by Chris from Wildwood Lake (Dauphin County Parks) when I was doing some volunteer work for them. I’m trying to use native plants in my yard. This is where the project begins to grow. Notice how the sidewalk seems to run in to the fence posts at the back of the yard? That is going to be a problem. Because at some point I want to replace that fence with a wooden privacy fence.

Yard Work

Here’s another view via Instagram with Terry playing in the dirt. He sure enjoyed all of this. This is a better view to see how the fence and gate were going to get in the way. This is when I decided I would need to remove the fence in order to properly pour a new concrete sidewalk. Looks like I’ll be building that fence earlier than I thought.

My yard has been a muddy mess lately.

Skip ahead to June 6th. I spend the evening removing the old chain link fence. Carriage bolts are a pain the butt to remove when they are rusted or if they start spinning. I needed to use a saw to cut some bolts and a hammer to beat some hardware into submission to remove the fence. You can see how I started to dig out the fence posts here too. These poles were buried about 3′ deep with remnants a tree stump and roots that grew in the back of the yard over the last seven years.

Spent the evening removing the chain link fence.

June 9th I was able to pull the first post out. All thanks to my neighbor’s truck, a chain, and lots of prying with various tools. Spraying the holes with water helped to soften the ground and make it easier to work around the concrete and also to reveal any roots that were getting in the way. This took hours of back breaking work in the hot, humid Summer we had. I was not a happy camper. I thought I would be done by the end of May. I was so wrong.

1 post down, 2 to go!

Looking back towards the alley you can see the fence posts are out of the ground leaving huge holes in the yard. I used my dad’s wheel barrow (which was stolen a few days later) to cover one and my trash can to cover another while we had plenty of more work to do.

3 fence posts removed. Time for a break.

On July 7th my cousin Clint came over to help me remove the old sidewalk. You see, my neighbor was trying to help, but his plans were, umm…. not very precise. Clint helped by adjusting the sidewalk forms to be more even and wanted to remove as much of the old concrete as possible which would give more room, and a better foundation for the new concrete. We rented the jack hammer from Hornung’s on Mountain Road near Linglestown. These guys have almost anything you can think of to rent. It was around 95 degrees by 9AM that day. But Clint had the old concrete removed and the forms re-positioned within about 2 hours. Thanks cuz!

Jack hammer work!

Here is Terry on July 11th staring at the backyard which has has become a pond due to a huge storm that rolled through the area. The sidewalk forms are in place with a nice layer of stone waiting for the concrete.

Back yard is a pond. That's @TerryThePup

The concrete was delivered in July 28th and my cousin Clint came over once again to give me a hand. Another hot day was in store for us. The concrete delivery was a nightmare! The concrete truck was unable to make it down the alley to deliver the concrete due to low hanging branches and cables (Comcast, telephone, and/or electric). It was up to me to get the concrete from the truck parked out on Seneca Street to my yard which is about half way down the block. What didn’t help was the fact that my dad’s wheel barrow was stolen earlier in the project. I sent dad to Hurning’s to buy another wheel barrow. Meanwhile, my neighbor went to round up some plastic trash cans to use to transport the concrete in the back of his truck (which didn’t work very well).

Concrete sidewalk almost done.

Here’s Clint working in the expansion joints and smoothing thing out.

Cousin Clint doing the finishing touches.

And the final sidewalk is in place. Time to let it dry.

Let it dry! Everything that could go wrong, went wrong.

July 29th I removed the sidewalk forms and began to backfill with soil using a tamper to pack the ground.

Forms are removed and sidewalk is back filled. Time to put the tools away.

Now I’m left with a pile of concrete and fence poles. Everything is piled up waiting for a hauler to take it all away.

I hope to make this disappear this morning. #DirtyDog

Sure enough, Dirty Dog Hauling removed it all for a reasonable price. I totally recommend them if you need ANYTHING hauled away from your home.

Concrete is gone. On to the next step of the project.

On August 6th I started to really work on the area that would become grass. The entire yard was hand raked and level out to the best of my ability. My back really felt it after a few days of this.

Lots of dirt. When will this project end?!

Now you can see how well the BMW R1100S (Gray Ghost) sits on the new sidewalk.

The Gray Ghost's new parking spot.

On September 16th you can see how I placed some stone edgers around areas that were to be planted with shrubs and such. This includes the left side of the sidewalk.

Stone edging is done. Soil is raked. Ready to plant grass.

On September 17th I mulched the areas behind the stone edging. Starting to look the way I want it to. I also have new grass seed down and the entire area is watered.

Mulching is done and grass seed is watered.

On November 3rd I dug holes for the wooden fence posts and have them concreted in with QuickCrete. Staining all of the wood for the posts and fence pieces took weeks. I’ll spare you the photos of watching the stain dry.

Fence posts are finally in! I'll finish this project before Winter.

On November 10th I was able to get the cross braces on and start hanging the vertical boards. The project is finally coming to an end!

The fence is quickly coming together.

December 2nd you can see the grass has come in nicely over the Fall. The fence is finally up and waiting for the gates to be build and installed.

DSC_0103

A view of the fence from the outside.

DSC_0104

December 8th, the gate is installed with locking hardware keeping nosey people and prying eyes out and little Terry in.

DSC_0130

The yard finally feels more private and relaxing. I’m excited to see how things are in the Spring and I’ll probably plant more grass around that time. The project is finally finished. Phew… that was a lot of work. I wonder if this adds any value to my house.

The fence and gate are now finished. Keeping prying eyes out and @TerryThePup in.