Project Back Yard: Day 1

If you’ve visited my house recently but you didn’t get a back yard tour, there’s a reason for that.

Yeah. Whoops?

Okay, story time. For the first two or three years I lived here, I used my “yard.” I grew snap peas, herbs, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce — the usual urban container gardening nonsense. I had an outdoor loveseat. I had a table and chairs and a tiny little barbecue. I had wildflowers growing in old paint buckets. I had cuteness.

I also had no idea what I was doing, but it was fun.

Then came the plagues.

My back yard is under unrelenting assault from three separate menaces: flies, pigeons, and mosquitoes. The flies are plentiful because this neighborhood is pretty dense with dogs, and most of the backyards are used as places for Fido to, err, unload. And sometimes the neighbors aren’t quick with the clean-up. In particularly egregious cases (ahem, house directly across the alley from me), the clean-up seems to happen once per season.

For a while I bought fly traps. Watching them fill up until they reached complete black opaqueness was a satisfying, disgusting, and somewhat pointless endeavor.

And then there are the mosquitoes. The Asian tiger variety, to be exact. These things breed practically anywhere and will laugh tiny, evil laughs through their little banded appendages at your citronella candles and Whole Foods DEET-free lotions and plastic traps full of mystery bait. All of which I have bought.

Think you’re going to go outside to water those adorable herbs? WRONG. The tigers know you’re coming. They’ve sensed it before you’ve even opened the door. If — IF — you make it to the hose, all you’ll be able to do is dance in circles, spraying water around you wildly as you curse whatever demented creator dreamed up the Asian tiger mosquito.

But we haven’t even talked about the pigeons. Holy piles of birdshit, the pigeons.

It started with just a few specimens. They worked their way under a crack in the siding above my neighbor’s back door. They bred. I went outside yesterday, and I’m pretty sure there were 20 pigeons angrily rolling their whooooooos at me.

I keep them off my windowsills with bird spikes, but there’s no keeping them off the power lines between houses. There they lounge, covering the floor of my breezeway with a material that one would hope never to smell on the breeze passing through one’s living room.

There are other back yard hazards to be dealt with, too. The pigeon-breeding, dog-poop-collecting family also planted some morning glories what may very well have been two hundred years ago, because that is how long it might take some Nobel-worthy genius to figure out a way to eradicate them. “Morning glories are pretty!” you say. And then you brush by a vine, and this happens.

Except in reverse. And the bugs are mosquitoes. And the bird is you.

The morning glory vines are everywhere, harboring their tiny terrorists.

So for the last year or two, I’ve pretty much ignored the back yard. But now I’m feeling guilty. The concrete floor is deteriorating. One of three mismatched sections of fence is falling down. The back walls of the house really need to be re-sealed (I would take a picture, but there’s currently a surly-looking teenager smoking back there — another back yard hazard). So I’ve decided to invest a little bit of a time and a verrry little bit of money to see if the situation can’t be improved. Here’s the plan:

  • House: caulk the kitchen siding, prime and repaint.
  • Ground: patch the concrete. I think it’s salvageable, and ripping it out for a re-pour isn’t in the budget. I may end up sealing and painting it.
  • Walls: take all the fences down and install one consistent, tall privacy fence. Dad’s probably gonna help with this bit. Having a van, a second pair of hands and some know-how would go a long way here.
  • Everywhere: Even More Pest Control. I’ve ordered some flashy tape that’s supposed to scare birds. We’ll see. And I’ve planted a bunch of smelly lemon eucalyptus and marigolds, which mosquitoes don’t like. Again, we’ll see.

I don’t have much hope for any of this, but it seems like the right thing to do. And when the bugs and birds finally run me outta town, at least the yard will look nice for the next suckers.

Got any other ideas? I’m all ears.