The Klapwijk yard
The pictures on this page will give you a fair idea of the basic structure and feel of the yard and some of its components. Here we will show a bit more of the various ways we use a lot of recycled materials for both decorative and structural purposes. In particular cleaned-up old fence boards are being put to abundant use, from barriers to tables and chairs, from planters to shelving to hold clay flower pots.
It became clear to us fairly quickly after our Rottie pups were able to get into the vegetable beds we used to have in our backyard, that things just couldn't stay the way they were. What's virtual barren hardpan in this shot, will turn into a mudbowl in the winter and we really don't want muddy paws all over the house, even though the bulk of the floor covering in the lower part of the house is now hardwood.
Behind Waita and her friend Judy Tupper in this next picture, you can see the remnants of the former vegetable garden. It shows the extension put onto the barriers, but they still were only just barely enough to keep the dogs out, so changes, drastic changes, had to be made. Note the cedar to the left, on the other side of the fence in our neighbour's yard, it's being referred to later. If you look closely, you can see the braids of garlic hanging from the screen leaning against the fence; surprising they survived, the pups used to have a favourite game called "yank the garlic" and would delight in pulling garlic out of the vegetable beds and have a game of tug-of-war with one or more of the siblings.
It just wouldn't be practical with the dogs to even try and continue to grow vegetables in the small yard we have, so we did away with the vegetable beds and set about to transform the backyard through a major expansion of our patio and the addition of planters and raised perimeter beds. The need for these raised beds came out of the necessity to accomodate all the yards of fill (mushroom manure etc.) we had brought in over the years for the vegetable beds, as well as the digging down needed in the yard for the sand pad for the patio.
One of the earliest pictures we have of this transformation is one of Waita leveling the sand pad for the patio expansion.
A peek at one of those intermediate stages, the patio is in, the pergola structure has been started, as have some of our planters. The old fence is still up however and none of the perimeter beds have been put into place as yet. Winter time still turns the backyard into a mudbowl, but not for much longer. This was prior to us putting the large screens across the patio to keep the pooches off the grass in the winter months.
While it never seems as if much progress has been made day-to-day, it helps to periodically remind yourself of where you have come from and where you are today.
This next shot, a more recent one, shows about the same position in the yard as Waita and Judy's picture, but from a slightly different angle (look at how much that
cedar shrub in the neighbour's yard has grown over time). You can see we have gone from vegetable beds to flower beds/borders. Still there is fencing to keep
the canines out, but the distance from the front of the beds to the shrubs or fence is such that they are not very inclined to attempt to jump over the barrier; the
distance is too shallow. The fencing on the beds is about to be replaced by an electric wire/fence; it should go a long way towards opening up the view of the vegetation
and still keep the furry friends at bay. The mentioned shrub in the neighbour's yard was taken down this past June (2002) and that has drastically changed the amount of light we
get in our yard in the afternoon. It obviously also changed the whole feel of that area in our yard and it now feels kind of naked around that bright spot. That presents
an opportunity for another project: maybe we'll add some form of arbour with seating in the space between the two perimeter beds.
The picture to the left gives a good impression of how the various projects we have done over successive holidays, have resulted in a very drastic change from where we were when started out in 1995. Between the pergola, new fence, planter boxes and raised perimeter planters it is quite the transformation. From a backyard with vegetables where we spent little time for relaxation, we have gone to no veggies (save one or two garlics), lots of flowers with their colour and scent, and ample shaded areas and private areas. We end up spending way more time outdoors in the spring, summer and fall than we ever did, be it puttering around in planters, beds or baskets, having an el-fresco breakfast in the sideyard "bistro", or just hanging around looking at the blooms and sipping coffee (or wine).
Peter's 2002 holidays were spent putzing around to build another 2 chairs for our patio set to give us a set of 4 chairs and a table, complete with umbrella for that "bistro" feel. The last week of his holidays was the heavy hauling week: dig about 6 inches off the top of the backyard, haul in umpteen wheelbarrow loads of sand, pavers and stone, and set about to accomplishing the goal of a backyard that doesn't turn into a mudbowl every winter. It wasn't until we could find someone to take all the dug-up soil off our hands that we started in earnest with this project. We were very fortunate that one of our neighbours had indicated he wanted to raise his garden beds and we were happy to oblige by supplying him with lord-knows-how-many loads of what Waita dug up and Peter hauled, which had to be carried around, with each trip an approximately 700 feet roundtrip to deposit it a distance of 15-20 feet as the crow flies from where we dug it up. For most of that last week the weather was favourable: when the heavy hauling was done it was overcast or raining, trust me, you really don't want the sun beating down on you when you're straining with another load of sand or pavers.
As mentioned elsewhere, one of the projects will probably be an arbour and seating (just to the right and slightly behind where Pieter is standing). We're thinking that the seating should be removable rather than fixed within the arbour, to allow the seating to be pulled out for use in a game of checkers or chess. The chess pieces and checkers will be made out of the famous recycled fence boards. We're gathering ideas now for the creation of the chess pieces. As you can see, the diamonds for the requisite playing boards are in place and the pavers are just waiting to get stained. The particular picture you see here right now shows the construction phase, but as I'm writing this the grass in the stone borders surrounding these diamonds has started to grow quite nicely. The dogs cannot wait until they can put their paws on the new yard and we cannot wait until we can finally take down those darned screens that keep them out of the yard.
Here we are, 2 weeks later and look at all that grass sprouting. The only thing that will change over the short haul is that the chess diamonds will get stained and the wooden barriers on the perimeter beds will be replaced by an electric fence.
Waita taking a well-deserved breather, surveying the "estate".
We very briefly removed the barriers on the perimeter planters in late summer 2002, just to see what would happen. Well, it didn't take Keats and Karo long to figure out what was different about this picture and into the garden they jumped. So, it's back with the barriers, which have since proved to be not much of one once all the finished plants and flowers were removed in early October.
For a different angle, and a few years later, this is what you would have seen late May 2005. It's obvious the grass is thicker and heavier, but it won't be long before the canines have managed to kill most of it off again. What's not so obvious is the red maple where once was a rhododendron. BTW, most of what you see growing in the cracks between the bricks is either Bacopa or Lavender that self-seeded.