Tuesday, August 25, 2015

your antidote to Pinterest: part one - my back yard

There are a lot of reasons I am not on Pinterest, but the two main ones are: 1) I really do not need another reason to waste time online; 2) it's just too aspirational for me. From what I understand and see alluded to on blogs, Pinterest is full of gorgeous photos of other people's gorgeous houses, hairstyles, adorable DIY projects and beautiful food. Maybe on a good day those things provide inspiration, but most of the time, too much of that makes me feel shabby and lame. 

Instagram can have that same effect, but I follow plenty of regular folks there who show pictures of their lives, not just perfectly backlit bowls of soup and manicured toes relaxing in the sand.

Does this happen to you? Do you ever look at Pinterest or skim lifestyle blogs or pass by the magazine aisle in the drugstore and find yourself feeling really crappy about your house/nails/garden/meal presentation?

If your answer is YES, then read on. My friends, this post is an antidote to all those aspirational traps.  I'm going to show you a bunch of pictures of my junky, crappy back yard, and by the end of it you will all feel better about your surroundings. 

Let's start with some renovation prep.

Exhibit A: the temporary utility pole


Yes, this is temporary, and thank goodness, because if it were there to stay I'd probably try to grow some climber beans up those 2x4s holding it in place. Now that wheelbarrow without the wheel right there next to it? It's been there for a while, like at least two years, ever since the wheel went permanently flat and we couldn't find a replacement that fit. I've been meaning to drill some holes in the bottom and turn it into a raised herb planter, but I obviously haven't gotten around to it.

Exhibit B: Deck wreckage

Stairs to nowhere.
The back of our house with the deck completely gone.

Stuart spent most of Saturday annihilating the back deck, which was not in great shape to begin with. Now we have a crumbling concrete porch with a really awkward step up to the back door. 

Why anyone would cover this marvel of concrete engineering with a spacious wooden deck is beyond my understanding.
This will be gone next week when the excavators dig a giant hole there.

Exhibit C: The pile of splinters and tetanus

Attempts to preserve the deck wood so it could be repurposed did not work out. After an hour with a reciprocating saw and crowbar, Stuart had removed exactly one board. Understandably, he declared this rate of progress far too slow so he went out and bought a circular saw and started slicing. What's left of the deck is now a pile of splintered wood and rusty screws, equal parts human safety hazard and chipmunk paradise.



Now you might be thinking, but the ugly utility pole and demolished deck are temporary! They're only uglifying your back yard because you're getting ready for a big remodel that will resolve these issues soon enough. And you'd be right. But I'm not done showing you crap yet.

Exhibit D: The garden.

I garden a lot. I have a community garden plot, I do a lot of work at the school garden, and I also attempt to grow stuff at home. Eventually I want raised beds bursting with juicy vegetables, but for this year I didn't want to put in anything permanent (knowing it might get trampled during construction). So last fall I built a lasagna garden, which basically just means smothering an area with cardboard and newspaper and piling compost and organic matter on top, letting it break down over the winter, and planting vegetables and whatnot in the spring. It looks every bit as classy as it sounds.

This is what it looks like now:


Look at that squash vine! you might be thinking. Not bad! Except that I didn't plant that squash vine. It's a vigorous volunteer that is threatening to take over the back yard, and then the neighborhood. World domination might be its eventual plan, and while I wouldn't ordinarily mind volunteer vegetable plants, the squash this behemoth is producing look tough and inedible. They are pumpkin-shaped but alternately dark green and pale yellow, and will probably be too small for carving. Useless.

I also have tomatoes. Approximately 500 volunteer tomato plants sprouted from the compost I layered on the garden, and I didn't intentionally plant a single one. All my tomatoes got blight last year, and I didn't want a repeat performance. I left a few plants anyway to see how they'd do. They are sprawled all over the ground and producing a few small fruits that aren't especially juicy or flavorful, but I pick a small handful every few days to throw into sauce. The way they are growing amongst the mutant squash vine and creeping charlie, you really have to search for them.

It's like Where's Waldo for tomatoes.
If I showed you pictures of the stuff I wanted to grow, you wouldn't see anything because nothing I planted on purpose even made it except for a few leaves of chard. Whoop dee do.

Exhibit E: the mulch pile


This mound of wood chips used to be the birch tree in front of our house. I had the arborist dump all the mulch in back thinking I'd spread it all around and make good use of it. That was in May. I've used some of it, but clearly not all. It has joined the rusty wagon in being a big eyesore.

But maybe not as much of an eyesore as Exhibit F: the shed!


This shed sucks. Since we have no garage, this 8'x8' shed houses all of our bikes, the lawn mower and some garden tools - some, not all, because as you can see from the pictures below, the walls are only about 4' high before it tilts in for the roof, you can't lean anything tall inside. I suppose the reason for this aspect of the shed's design was to make it look like a barn, perhaps to bring some rural charm into an urban back yard, but I find it aggravating. 




Also, there is no concrete pad for the shed; it just sits on cinder blocks and provides safe haven for gosh only knows how many critters underneath. And the roof has no overhang, so there is some water damage along the edges.

Snow shovels and step ladder live outside all year long amongst the weeds.
Bonus exhibit: the junk that lives by the shed. 

We have that temporary utility pole and useless wheelbarrow, and to complete the look, some old buckets, extra cinder blocks, the wheelbarrow's wheel, scraps of garden fence and a small pile of sand. There used to be a sandbox there, but we gave it and all the sand toys to new neighbors whose toddler daughter seemed very excited to get them.


So that's my back yard. Honestly, I sometimes look back there at all the junk and the weeds and piece of crap shed and I despair. All we need is a battered pickup truck and an above-ground pool and we'll complete the White Trash theme we've inadvertently been perfecting the last few years.

Postscript: It's like our house knows the Big Renovation is coming and it's just giving up. Since I started writing this post yesterday, the light switches in Anya's room quit working and the back storm door broke:


I've also noticed siding coming loose and the roof sagging in front of the house over the soffits. (I'm pretty sure there's some water damage in there.) All that broken stuff will be fixed eventually, as it's part of the Big Renovation. Now that you can see how bad it is, maybe you understand why we're willing to go to the trouble and expense of fixing it.

So that's part one of my anti-Pinterest series of posts. Feel better about yourself yet? Next time I'll show you the kitchen and all its charms.

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