Wednesday's Words, by Morgan Ashbury

Quite the debate has been happening in the Ashbury household this summer. And the topic of these intense discussions has been our back yard. We don’t spend much time there, because it’s unappealing. Basically, we have a couple corner gardens, it is a fenced space so it is puppy proof, but I’d like to be able to use it more. But how best to use it? That was our discussion.

To give you an idea of the situation, we have a back yard that stretches from our back door, about   110 feet to the west, to our back property line. And of that land, only about the first 18 feet of it is flat and level with the house. The rest is a hill, steep in places, with a couple of small plateaus. If you stand at the back property line, you are level with the roof of our two-story home.

We have a corner property, and the only way I can get up to the top of my yard, is to walk up a steep road and then make a 90 degree turn and walk onto the grass. This “terrace” is part of the old Grand River, river bottom, from ancient times, when it was very wide, indeed.

Even with my cane, I can’t walk up that road onto my yard without assistance.

So our useable back yard measures about 25 feet wide and 18 feet deep. In recent years we had one of those umbrella-type clothes lines in the grass, to the left of the back door, and, an innovation that my beloved installed, a flagstone patio to the right of it. In between grass and flagstone, the area in front of the back door, for a foot left and right and extending for all of the flat area to the beginning of the slope, is a concrete slab that is beginning to crumble. On that concrete slab, near the back fence, stands our propane barbeque.

Now, the thing about a flagstone patio is, if it isn’t installed meticulously, beginning with a ground sheet to prevent weed growth and extreme settling, then the weeds take over and some stones settle more than others, making it uneven.

You can weed that patio in twice April....and then May....and then June....well, you get idea. You are never free of those weeds. Up until a couple of years ago, however, I did weed it. I was able to get down onto a chaise lounge cushion, stretch out on my side, and weed. Getting up was difficult, but doable with the help of one of our sturdy metal lawn chairs and my cane.

Unfortunately, I can no longer put that much pressure on my knees, even for a moment.

I’ve tried various “home” methods to kill those weeds – methods that won’t poison our animals. But nothing has worked really well. I wanted my beloved to re-do the patio, this time putting down the ground sheet that should have gone down the first time.  Alas, he said no.

I suggested then that we just dig it up and forget about it—let grass grow there again. This wasn’t an option either, as it was labor intensive plus we really have no place to store the stones. We spent too long picking them out to just waste them (for free, years ago, when his place of employment was family owned and the boss said, “help yourselves”). The truth is, I do believe my beloved is emotionally attached to that patio.

In the interim, after our clothes line thingy broke and while we were debating what to do with the yard, he suggested that we might get a small pool for the area to the left of the door. Ah, my beloved knows how to mollify me. I began to look into this. We could fit a 12 foot diameter above ground pool in that grassy area (because, remember, the concrete and flagstone stay). The pool I was looking at had special steps out of the water that I could easily manage, and we could build outer steps, that I could use to get into it. The pool we considered had a 52 inch sidewall, effectively making it 4 foot deep. I don’t need more than that in the dog days of summer. Just enough to get in, get cooled off and get out.

And then my beloved said, “And we can move the dog’s area to a fenced in run up the hill.” I wouldn’t be able to get him there on my own, not in the summer and sure as heck not in the winter. So, alas, no pool. I threw my hands in the air and said, “Okay, fine. You decide, do whatever you want.”

I love my husband. I really do. And I accept that he is, as he takes great pride in admitting, a redneck.

We now have outdoor carpeting covering the flagstone patio and most of the concrete slab. On top of this carpeting, stands a gazebo with mosquito netting, and a patio set consisting of a table and 4 chairs. He has wired the gazebo so that I may sit out and use my lap top plugged in if I so choose. The patio beneath is still uneven and I need to take care walking on it, but it works.

And, he said, in the fall, both the rug and the gazebo will be stored in his shed until spring, and the theory is that the patio beneath will then be weed free—and grouting should take care of the problem permanently.

I didn’t point out that the weeds are no longer an issue if the patio is going to be covered, spring until fall. I just thanked him for his hard work and left it at that.

If you want to see this finished product, go here:



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