Transforming the Outdoor Space: Before

After twelve years of dreaming, the new backyard is becoming a reality. A landscape architect friend came up with a plan after I gave him all the pieces (four seasons of interest, tree, water feature etc.) and yesterday we took the first step–demolition!

Here are the before shots:

An overview, taken from the second-story. Just about everything you see here is going. The purple cone flower, a false lupine (hiding behind one of the railings) and the purple moor grass (in the big pot) are the only plants that will make it into the new yard.

Little did I know when I took this shot, I was two feet away from a paper wasp nest. (Which has subsequently been dealt with.) As you can see from here, the majority of the yard is taken up by a drab, gray-weathered deck. I've been waiting years to rip it up and replace it with colorful and green growing things.
Old Deck, Old Yard

Looking toward the garage, the finest feature about this deck was the massive railing. God forbid if you should fall off the one-foot drop to the ground below. Mostly it served to block what little of the yard had anything of interest to look at.

Strange Grouping
The serviceberry tree will go in this corner. The pots are in this strange arrangement, simulating where the table and chairs will eventually go.
BBQ
The ridiculous benches on either side along the fence were never used by us and only served as convenient ways to peek over the fence and chat with the neighbors. They were a real waste of space.
Old Deck: Escape Hatch

Here's the escape hatch for the basement window well. Good luck actually trying to get out of there.

Air Conditioner

The window well and the air conditioner provide two corner challenges for the landscape design. The hope is that the new, very much abbreviated deck (more of a stoop) and some shrubs will conceal the A/C unit. And don't you love the ridiculous gate? That's history too.

The jungle:

Invasive morning glory vine and various bird seed sprouts made this a never-ending patch of hell. Near the end, when we knew we were going to redo the yard, I just let it go crazy.

The view from the garage:

Again, more of the gray-upon-gray. My Blick birds are fleeing the drabness. There was a time when I'd cover the deck in pots of colorful flowers, but that gets expensive year after year and requires a lot of watering. I'm looking forward to a backyard that I don't have to replant every season.

These are keepers. The purple coneflower does really well back here. In fact, they've all but taken over the black-eyed susan that used to share this space.

Another shot of the kudzu:

Won't miss this mess at all. Nor will I miss the swampy mess it becomes every time we get a good rain. One of the major goals of the backyard redo is to fix the grading and get the water to drain out and away.

Learning Curve, Over the Falls

This past weekend, I spent a bit of time exploring the different ways I could upload and share longer form videos. (Flickr is intended for “long form photos” (less than 60 seconds) and YouTube wasn’t the direction I was aiming for.)

I’ve got a MobileMe account that I’m trying out for free, but there’s no way to give photo galleries or videos any sort of description beyond a title and there’s no ability for visitors to leave comments. Not great. Plus, I wasn’t crazy about the viewing size and quality constraints, so it’s not really an option.

I signed up for a Vimeo account two years ago and I’m only now getting around to exploring it. It was a snap to use (though uploading can take some time, so I set it for overnight and left it.) Other than the occasional stuttering of playback, which I think has more to do with my internet/wireless combo, I’m pleased with the way it looks.

I edited this snippet in 2008 as an exercise to get acquainted with iMovie; I used footage of Niagara Falls that I’d shot with my then very new G9. In fact, I’d been shooting photos of the falls for twenty minutes when I suddenly remembered I had the capacity to shoot video at all.

Click here see a higher res version, without the black bars.

Lake Calm

The lake was a lot calmer yesterday than it was last weekend. All the action was in the skies. In all, we probably got around nine inches of white stuff. And as I type this, a light snow is beginning to fall but it shouldn’t add up to much.

The small icebergs in the lake are pylons from an old pier (from long before my time.) You can barely see the gently rolling swells of the lake.

This Video Does Not Convey How Bitterly Cold It Was

I shot this video on Saturday afternoon, as the pink of the setting sunset was fading and the wind chill was about 5 degrees. Lake Michigan was gorgeous and the waves at Lawrence Avenue were pretty cool, rolling in from the east and then buffeting back into the lake from the retaining wall on the shore. The water coming from two directions created the neat effect of a steep peak of waves rolling horizontally to the shore like a sea serpent.

In the minute that I took to shoot this (I’ve edited it down slightly) I nearly froze my fingers off holding the iPhone. Serious pain.

At the beginning of the clip you can see, way off on the horizon, the water intake crib that was often our destination marker for sailing over the summer.

There was a flock of birds surfing and diving in the frigid water. (Portions of the lake had frozen along the shore and there was ice floating out in the middle.) In this clip you can see them just off the embankment. These are common goldeneyes who are wintering here. Brrr. But considering they came in from Alaska, this is a warm up for them.

Geese Rest Stop


NaBloPoMo, Day 23

Lately, I’ve noticed a lot of geese hanging out in a particular patch of the lake, just bobbing around in the water close to the shore. It’s odd to see geese in the water around here. Duck and seagulls, yes. Geese, not so much. They tend to loiter on golf courses and around office park ponds. But these geese bob around in Lake Michigan, (right on the border of Evanston and Chicago, just across Sheridan Road from a graveyard, a popular hangout for geese in the Fall) which makes me think these guys are tourists, passing through on their way south.

I sat for a while on the rocks watching this crowd, a combination of many different flocks; they would all change direction in unison, pointing into the wind. Those closer to the shore had to put more effort into it, as they were continually fighting the surf. Every so often, a group of them would raise off the lake together heading in the southern direction and then bank west, up and over into the graveyard, honking all the while. I was hoping to catch a large group in flight; the best I could do was a small crowd passing by.

Saturday 3 p.m. ~ Seventh Inning Stretch



Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Yesterday’s game was a true test of any Cubs fan’s stamina. As you watch, please note the score at the time this was shot. The crowd was flying high. Unfortunately, a disastrous ninth inning allowed the Giants to tie the game up. I have never heard it so quiet at Wrigley field as it was during the second half of the ninth. Stunned silence. It was truly amazing. It took two more innings for the Cubs to win it. The classic Cubs roller coaster ride.