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August 28

Written September 16


Dear Friends and Families,


I know I said the House Diaries were over in May, so this is just a little August footnote.

Mike, our friend and landscape architect had given some broad ideas for the side and back yards. "Minimum maintenance" was the guiding principal but no one mentioned how much work it would be to reach the maintenance stage. Even today, we are not done, but at least we can see the end of the tunnel.


The side yard is small and relatively dark. Nevertheless, we wanted a nice place because it is the view from our kitchen table and from my bathroom. And, "minimum maintenance". Our answer was a "lawn" of river rocks, accented by two large pots and a bird bath. The pots will hold the kitchen herb assortment.

The pots were fun and easy. We visited a nearby potter, Topferei im Chausseehaus, near Rotenburg and found just what we needed. The ceramic pots are "winterfest", meaning we can leave them out in the snow and ice.

The hard part was the "lawn". It took about a ton of stones and each bag had to be loaded into the car, unloaded, emptied, and leveled. This was after a major earth moving exercise getting the area reasonably flat and sloped correctly. Despite the hard work, we are happy with the result.

  Meanwhile, the edge of the patio was getting finished too. Mr. Krall and his father-in-law had done much of the hard work, but there was still plenty to do to finish off the small wall and to fill the gap with plants. Again, though, the final look is satisfying. We certainly hope the plants (and rocks) are winterfest because we would not want all this to be an annual chore.  
  The REAL hard job of the back yard was the grass lawn. The lawn goes in the space between the patio and the flower garden and, on paper, it is a nice size, a combination of big enough and small enough. However, at installation time, it was only BIG. First, we dug up all the old weeds and field grass. Realistically, I don't think this will keep the wild plants from invading our new lawn, but I hoped that it would at least give the new seed a chance. In any event, cleaning out all this was not easy!  

Next came dirt, nine tons or three and a half cubic meters of it. (4 cubic yards) Unfortunately the delivery truck was too big to fit through the back door of the barn so all nine tonnes were dumped in the "hof" out front.

Shovel by shovel, we loaded wheelbarrows and rolled the dirt to the back. In the picture, the dirt pile looks shorter than me but, I swear, in person it was a towering mountain.

  Out back, the goal was to re-grade the lawn area to gently slope from the patio to the flower garden. Done only with shovels, rakes and wheelbarrows, this too was very tiring work. I was feeling all of my 60 years. Eventually, however, we had a reasonably even coating of dirt. We leveled and and rolled it flat. Then we carefully scattered grass seed and rolled again. For amateurs, it was looking OK.  

However, within hours, a mole had made the yard his (her?) home. All that freshly dug dirt was too tempting. The scar across our rolled yard was a reminder that moles were here first and would be here after we've moved on. Somehow, we need to co-exist.

Other than the scar, things looked OK. We hoped that a few weeks later there would be real green surrounding the mole trails.But, that will be another story.

  In the end, we still like our yard. Weeds, moles, work, and view. It's all a package.  

So, that's where we stood at the end of August. Next month we hope to put in the "driveway" from the barn to the orchard and get rid of the pile of construction debris that we have managed to migrate into one corner of the yard. At that point, the yard will indeed be done and ready for maintenance. Maintenance, as any home owner knows, is never done. Oh well, Mike told us it would be "minimum" and we'll hold him to it.

John and Marianne.


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