Thursday, June 12, 2008

My Neighbors Hate Me

I’m a nice person, I swear I am. But I’m also one of those neighbors. While my husband usually does a good job of keeping the lawn mowed and edged – as he likes to remind me, he worked for the parks and rec department when he was in high school – there are times when his schedule gets too busy to keep things up the way we want them to.

He has baseball announcing after teaching all day at school and doesn’t get home until late. Or he has a Scholastic Bowl match that keeps him away. Or it rains. Or he’s in a tournament. Or he decides the Monday before Memorial Day that this is the time to finally get the mower tuned up and its blades sharpened.

(My only comment is to ask – any guesses as to how many days it takes to service a non-emergency repair of a lawn mower at the end of May? 13 business days, in case anyone’s wondering. Ok, I’ll comment: I asked him in November of 2006 to take the mower in for servicing. He didn’t and didn’t service it at all last year. I asked him again after the first snowfall if he was going to take it in. Finally, the third lawn cut of the season showed that the grass was being ripped by the mower instead of cut nicely. He took it in. Grrrr.)

Plus, we have previous owners of our house (we’ve lived here for two years and four days now) did nothing to the landscaping. They didn’t trim, they didn’t weed, they didn’t mulch, they didn’t stop the volunteer trees. Inside had a lot of halfway done things, but outside was bad.

The first summer we were here, we trimmed back everything hugely in the vain idea that this would solve the problem and keep us looking ok. We realized that fall that things were growing faster than we could trim.

Last spring, I called a couple of landscaping companies to get a landscape design and some quotes. Apparently business was really good last year, as only two called me back. I had one come out and create a plan for us and give us a quote. They drew up lovely blueprints that mostly listened to what I had to say (other than ignoring my disdain for prairie grass). By the time they got out and drew up plans and reviewed them with me, it was already mid-June.

For the front quarter of our house, they gave me a price. I requested a price for the other three sides of my house, but I never heard from the guy again. Apparently my jaw dropping to the floor when he told me the front alone was going to be over $11,000 (yes, that’s eleven thousand dollars – American dollars, at that) alerted him to the fact that I wasn’t really going to use their services so he decided to ignore me.

Seriously, $11K. For one quarter of my house. I was afraid to see what they wanted for the rest of the house – where there were more plants, but I was afraid to ask. I never heard from them again, and I never did get that quote. Needless to say, landscaping didn’t happen last June after I got that design.

Last summer, I started working hard out there though. I decided that maybe it was possible to save the landscaping. I pulled out the 18’x18’ patch that had once been a swingset area (according to neighbors) and when we bought the house had housed the trampoline that they had owned. Needless to say, it was filled with weeds and old mulch and yuck. I’m proud to say that I pulled out every weed by hand and fully resodded it. And the sod took beautifully.

I also weeded every bit of the landscaping and cut back all the bushes so they weren’t so horribly overgrown and nasty. That way, I could also see the weeds to try to pull them out. I also began to pull out the yucky white rocks that had been put in 15 years ago for apparently decorative purposes. The huge pile that began appearing next to the garage was my first clue that my strategy wasn’t going to be successful.

At this point, I knew we were the eyesore of the neighborhood and people had to be talking about us.

I talked to another landscaping company who was willing to install the design we’d had created. However, I also realized that I wanted to try to save some of the tulip and daffodil bulbs that the previous owners had planted. We did put in a new brick paver sidewalk and stoop late last summer, but I had to wait until I could find the bulbs after they bloomed and then died back this spring before I could redo the landscaping.

Finally, I got a quote from the landscaper, I got quotes from two different nurseries – which took three weeks, much to my frustration – and had a time for my landscaper to show up. They were coming this Wednesday, and it would take them four to five days to finish the job. Yeah!

So Tuesday morning, I had just gotten out of the shower when I heard a diesel engine. It was way too early for Mister Man’s bus, so I peeked out between the blinds. Huh. It was the landscapers’ truck. They came a day early. I wasn’t about to tell them to go away, so thank God for the schoolteacher who was home and could deal with the landscapers while I finished getting ready.

Last night, the plants were placed in their positions, and I was able to move them around to my liking after I got home from my conference. Yep, using the moonlight to move plants and try to read blueprints was a trick. But I succeeded in getting them all arranged before I drove off at 7am this morning to get back to my conference.

And when I got home tonight? This is the sight that awaited me:

Seriously, three days to do ALL that work. These guys are fantastic. They pulled out all the old landscaping. They removed all the “decorative” rock. They removed the roots of the trees and shrubs. They edged. They widened the sidewalk and built two retaining walls. They dug out the clayey soil and replaced the topsoil. They picked up all my plants. They planted them, mulched them and watered them. Then they cleaned everything up. I mean there was not a stray water bottle top in sight. And the cost for the whole thing was thousands less than the quote for the front quarter of my yard. Anyone need a recommendation for landscapers? These guys ROCK!

Now when the neighbors slow down to stare at our house – which they have been doing the past few days – it’s for a good reason, not because they’re trying to figure out what’s wrong with the morons in the neighborhood who have the worst landscaping they’ve ever seen.

So even though the Fox River is starting to flood. And even though we were deluged last weekend, I’m praying for rain tonight! Two to three inches are predicted, but I don’t trust the weathermen!


Kellan June 12, 2008 at 10:59 PM  

WOW - it looks fabulous! I do a lot of the work in my yard - A LOT and that was a deal - it looks so beautiful!

Hope you had a good day - Kellan

Anonymous June 12, 2008 at 11:00 PM  

WOW! That looks fantastic, and I cannot believe they did it all in 3 days! That may have been the kick in the rear I needed to get going on my backyard . . . MAY being the operative word in that sentance!

Feener June 13, 2008 at 6:29 AM  

looks great. i too need to do something with our yard. it is a mess.

Angie June 15, 2008 at 11:40 PM  

That's an amazing difference! The new landscaping looks GREAT! It really makes me want to tackle my crappy looking yard that makes me the "most hated neighbor" around here. Ha ha!

Michelle June 16, 2008 at 8:00 PM  

Kellan -- thanks! Now that I have something I can work with to start, I'll be doing a lot of work out there. I tried to keep the old stuff the last two summers, but it just wasn't possible with the lack of maintenance the previous 8 years!

Nicole -- I'm shocked they did it all in 3 days, too. They had told us 4-5 days, but these guys totally rock. I love love love them (they did our sidewalk and a retaining wall last summer). And don't complain -- you have a beautiful new deck, AND you've inspired me to get our deck taken care of, too (it's been on the list for awhile).

Feener -- trust me, this took some doing. We've lived here for over 2 years now with that yucky landscaping before I finally called uncle on saving it and got onto the landscaper's schedule (both were tough feats for me). If you change yours up, definitely share!

Angie -- Thanks! I do really love it, especially since it's rained every day (ok, except today) since we planted it, so we've yet to have to water. I also planted some veggies on Saturday. Once the ground dries out a bit, I'll transplant the herbs I started and get some more seeds going. Wish me luck! (And I've found that baking helps the voting for most hated neighbor!)

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