So I spent some time wading through files of digital photos, pulling a few from this year, a few from that year. I didn't nearly look at them all, but I think there are enough to give some idea of how this plot of land has developed over the past fourteen years.
Before we get started, here are few things I noticed while flicking through all those photos:
--The quality of digital cameras has increased dramatically since 2001! (g) Those first few photos are so tiny and grainy!
--There were periods where I took hardly any photos at all. Photos from a distance, showing the whole landscape, seemed especially rare, some years.
--It took a while for the yard to show any serious improvement (as far as planting/landscaping/weeding goes), but pictures from the last two or three years show major strides. This is probably mostly a reflection of an increased level of interest in gardening-- and the amount of time spent outside actually working on the tedious parts of up-keep. However, I think I've learned a lot in the past few years, too. There are things in some of the older photos that I know went right over my head, back then.
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The land we live on was pasture (I believe) for a while. (I know that there was a fenced pasture on part of my grandparents' land, but I'm not sure if it extended all the way over here.) Then my maternal grandparents planted it in pine trees. When my husband and I got engaged, my grandparents offered to deed us a plot of land to build and live on, from their acreage here. From the area offered, we selected a section fairly far off the main road, but connected to it by an existing easement already in use by a neighbor.
My grandparents had many of the pines on our chosen plot cleared to make room for building.
Here's a photo soon after that clearing, in April 2001.
The wedding was in July of that year, and Donald--my husband-- wasn't in the photo, because he hadn't yet made the final move from Sweden. (I think... Though I don't recall who took the photo...) From left: my maternal grandparents, my mother, one of my aunts (in back), my youngest sister, and me, with one of my cousins in the front.
We lived in a mobile home (which was older than I was!) for a couple of years, to give us time to plan and save up for a house. In the second half of 2003, we were ready to build. We'd had to bring in a lot of dirt to put in a septic system for the trailer, and now we had to bring in more for the house.
Here's another photo taken at the same time, from beside the trailer. See that scrawny little tree there? That's the bald cypress that's still growing in front of the garage and gravel parking area.
Here's one with the dirt smoothed out...
If you look at the boards, you can make out the location of the bay window (which is now fronted by old-fashioned pink shrub roses).
The house-building went smoothly enough. Here it is in June 2004.
It doesn't look like I did much landscaping, that first year. Mom helped me plant foundation shrubs, though, and I remember that there was a lot of work to do just to smooth out the soil along the back of the house.
When I took this photo on September 7th, 2004, Hurricane Ivan was already a hurricane, but we had no way of knowing, yet, that it would come barreling through our area in a little more than a week.
Hurricane Ivan made landfall in the dark, wee hours of September 16th, 2004.
My parents and youngest sister (and the family dogs) came to our house to weather the storm that evening, because their own house at the time had a huge pecan tree in the backyard that could potentially fall through the roof. We passed a long, exhausting night-- and a few very tense moments.
When the sun rose and we got our first glimpses of the world outside, I couldn't believe the extent of the damage to my grandparents' pine trees. Some sections came through well enough, but a wide strip extending to right behind our backyard had changed overnight from a dense pine forest to an eerie tangle of snapped tree trunks.
This was the view from our backyard:
A high wind was still whipping the trees around when we took these photos.
We could see the barn through the trees, now. Before it had been completely hidden.
A look up the easement toward the road...
Fortunately, the neighbor who also uses the easement had a brother who was experienced with a chainsaw. We pitched in, and before long, it was possible to drive out again.
A handful of pines snapped and blew into our front yard (and the side yard, too). Fortunately, Grandpa had foreseen the dangers of falling trees, back when he was having the land cleared, and made sure there was plenty of room around the projected location of the house. The trees didn't hit us.
That's me taking video of the broken trees:
If you've ever had to clean up after a hurricane, you probably know how exhausting it can be. We were without electricity for a while, which was tiring in its own right-- and then there were all those fallen trees to clear. With help from my family, we eventually got it done. Fortunately, the house came through the storm without much damage-- just a few shingles had to be replaced. Still, for a while, it's hard to believe that things will ever get back to normal again.
Here's the house in October 2004:
This is the part of the yard that has undergone the most significant changes, I think. As you can see, at this point, we hadn't even put up a fence, yet. I tried planting a few things on this north side of the house, but it wasn't much to look at-- by any set of standards!
Somewhere between late 2004 and the next photos (from mid-2008), I'm sure we made some improvements in the yard... For one thing, we fenced the yard... We also built the shed, at some point. (That's where the lawnmower "lives".) I must've planted a few trees, if nothing else. And yet, when I look at these photos, I stunned by how little things had improved in over three years. I guess I was putting my focus on something other than the yard...
In August 2008, we collected the supplies to build the covered patio.
Here's an August 2008 photo of the back yard. Grandpa had had the trees cleaned up as well as could be. Young trees were just getting started, but you could still see across to the barn in the distance. If you look in the background of some of my recent pictures, I think you'll be surprised by how much this area has filled in since this photo was taken. It's amazing how quickly trees can grow!
There's the shed I was talking about before. The three birch trees to the right of the shed have grown so much!
We were putting some serious effort into the covered patio, that year.
I guess we took a break, though, because the covered patio wasn't finished by summer of the next year-- though it was getting closer.
...And you can see in this photo from August 2009 (with Trixie jumping after soap bubbles (g)) that the current flower garden area was nothing but overgrown grass.
By autumn, the covered patio was nearly done. We were still trying to decide whether just one "wall" of lattice was good, or if the front should be partially latticed, too.
Here's a prospect familiar to anyone who's been following this blog-- but look how it's changed! (That's Trixie in all these photos, by the way. She looked a lot more like Luna, back then. If you catch a glimpse of a black dog, that would be our cocker spaniel, Molly-- our first pet together.)
The crepe myrtle closer to the patio... I'm not sure what happened with that. Maybe that's the one I tried to move closer to the corner of the house, only to have it die from stress.
The gardenia right beside the front edge of the patio was just too close, so we moved it down to the shadier, wilder part of the yard-- the southwestern corner-- where it seems to be satisfied with its lot in life.
A lot of grass and very little else. The clumps of Mexican petunia were just getting started.
Don't look too closely at the rose bed in front of the bay window. At this point, it was more a patch of weeds than a flower bed.
The post with the hanging bird feeder is in the same location it is now-- a handy reference point when comparing these old photos to the more recent ones.
By June 2011, we'd finally finished the patio area.
I can't believe how much that loropetalum has grown in the past four years! Good grief! Of course, I'm forgetting that it was already pretty big-- head-high or more?-- when we cut it back severely and moved it from its former location (outside the fence) to where it is now. They love to grow.
(I guess I hadn't moved that gardenia, yet, because there it still was...)
We were about to have the garage built, so we took some "before" photos.
You can just barely see, on the left, that the circular bed (filled with stones, over the septic tank) was in place, by this time.
We had to remove part of the fence to make way for the garage and were unable to close the fence back up until it was in place, so we temporarily kinda-sorta closed off the yard with the doghouse, dogloo, and a few other things from around the yard.
Here's the garage in the middle of construction:
...And completed. (Well, completed on the outside, at least. We still had a lot to do inside, so that took a while to finish...)
Spring a couple of years ago. The flower garden as we know it today was still not even a plan. I can tell that we hadn't finished the inside of the garage, yet, either, because the floodlights hadn't been installed.
More photos from that same month:
Fast-forward another year.
The loropetalum was getting taller and taller...
We'd joined the patio and gate with a paved pathway-- one that proved to hold water in big rains, but at least an effort in the right direction...
I was putting in more plants with greater success, including a hydrangea I'd propagated myself (which may not sound like much now, but was a big deal to me at the time).
That same month, we put in the trellis for the passionflower vine and this combination trellis-planter for the English ivy.
The rose bed looks so much better in this photo! I think it was during the previous year that I did some serious weeding and digging out of torpedo grass and montbretia. I moved the rose bushes out from the house, too, because I'd originally planted them too close for comfort.
The flower garden with gravel paths was officially in the planning stage by now. Otherwise we wouldn't have bought those edging "stones" and been playing around with the layout.
I'd begun to plant things in the flower garden area. It doesn't look like much, but the path was more or less laid out, and some of the shrubs-- KO roses, viburnum-- were already in place.
No arbor, yet, of course-- and the flower garden still looked awfully barren of plants, at the end of that growing season.
Now we're almost up to the current time. This spring, we set up the raised vegetable beds in their new (current) location-- and put in drip irrigation.
After a very rainy day in April 2015.
I think that concludes this long journey from 2001 to 2015.
For more up-to-date photos (though maybe nothing more recent from the angle above), see blog posts tagged "garden survey".