Tag Archives: front yard

Swinging around

This last weekend we had little time for getting the deck pergola started. But the kids got lucky with a 15 minute project that we easily found time for.


Master W has long since outgrown the swing that we all love, and Miss E is finding it a tight squeeze to get in and out now too.

So while I was out and about last week I stopped by a repair shop and asked about getting a tyre. As it turns out, they have to pay to dispose of them, so it was no problem for me to just help myself to one.

A quick scrub with some soapy water and a brush, and it was ready and waiting for a man with a plan. My plan was to tie some rope around and hang it in a tree, but Andre had a better idea. Maybe he just wanted to involve fire and power tools? I don’t know, but it’s a good thing he did, and I’ll tell you why in a minute.

So, first up. Get out the drill. After drilling the first hole, we got a tape measure and then marked up two more drill holes all equal distance apart.


We used some rope we had in the garage, and on the previous crate swing so this was a no cost project for us. We like those!
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A simple knot on the end, and repeat another two times…0325_0063


To keep things clean and dry Andre also drilled a few holes around the bottom side to let any rain water drain right on out.


And with that it was all ready to hang in the tree.0325_0098

These are the two eye bolts we fixed into the tree for the first swing. You can see how (as per our research that time) the tree has just grown around the bolt, and is much happier than if we’d just tied a rope around and ring-barked it.0325_0062We only need one hanging point for this swing, but it’s nice to leave the other bolt in for swing 1.3 at some point in the future!

So with all three ropes threaded through the eye of the bolt, the hardest part of the whole project was getting them tied off with the swing sitting level. Kids keen to jump on already and wife calling out “that’s not level!” were no help apparently!

But before things got too grumpy it was all done and has hardly stopped swinging since!0325_0112 0325_0122

Now here’s why this way up is much better for our (younger) kids than my idea of hanging it vertically with a single rope tied around it (like this one, which is maybe better for older kids).

1. Multiple kids can sit on it at once (we’ve only tested it so far with two, but I can see three times that number having a ball on it!)

2. It’s a more comfy seat than wedged over the inner gap

3. Having ropes to hold is easier for littlies than trying to hold the tyre itself

4. This is the biggie… the kids can climb on it and push it themselves with their feet, then tuck them up on the inside to swing – even Miss E!

Their favourite way to “swing” is to twist it around and around then shriek madly that they want to hop off as it unwinds and spins them back the other way!

With this, the sandpit, and the gorgeous warm weather holding, the kids are spending lots of time outside, which is always a good thing!

Have a lovely week…

Pillar to paint

It seems we’re a little hasty in calling things done and moving onto the next big thing. You see, for every big project we cross off the list, there seem to be always just a couple of little finishing touches that we turn a blind eye to, being more enthusiastic about planning for the next job. And I doubt it’s just us?!

0705_7301Last summer, we “completed” our front fence and gate, and it was a glorious moment crossing that one off the list! But hang on… those pillars look a little rough?!

Yes, it’s taken me a year to slap some paint on those. But overlooking that minor issue, we’re all good now. See…?

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Note 1: Yes, the gate is missing a couple of coats of paint still. Give me another year? (Actually this one needs a little more attention because the steel frame actually needs to be regalvanised… it’s rusting. And really annoying me in the process!)

Note 2: Yes we do have a couple of apricot planter boxes still on the right hand side of the drive (scroll up… up… up) but they’re a little lower on the priority list yet.

If you’re very extremely rather observant you might have seen a hint of pipe sitting on the front lawn in one of the photos up above? If this weekends scheduled cyclone doesn’t arrive that’s the project for the weekend – getting started on putting up a pergola over our deck. Oooh la la!

If it does get wild, we’ll be inside and hopefully getting a real door on our bedroom at last. I’ve been busy painting it this week and I’ll be almost as excited as I am about our brick wall* when it actually gets hung!

*As of today, the bricklayer has bid us adieu and packed up his saw. I am actually hoping for some rain to wash away all the dust because I want to do it justice and photograph it all fresh and clean! It’s going to be a good one…


It all adds up


A month ago this was where we were at. And then I got all gloomy and felt like nothing was happening so I got a little envious over someone else’s awesome (finished) space…

But I’ve just collated all my photos of the last few weeks, and lo and behold – progress!


If you feel like playing “spot the difference” you’re welcome to. If not, here are the answers:

– New deck joists
– Plants in planters
– New side garden
– All tidied up
– Decking timber ready and waiting!

So, starting with the biggie, here’s deck progress.


We are extremely lucky to have Andre’s dad doing our building. Not only do we get a deck built, but we get babysitting at the same time. I feel pretty guilty about him trying to get a job done with them underfoot, but I’m assured he doesn’t mind, and I know he adores them and they him. It’s like trying to prise an oyster off a rock to get them back inside or playing in the front yard out of the way. So I’ve about given up, and just send regular trays of coffee and hot chocolate out to keep the grizzles to a minimum.

1029_1715These are from a couple of weeks ago, so there are now spacer bits (technical term!) between the joists to keep everything straight. You might spot them in another photo further down, but no promises.

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For a simple deck we seem to spend a lot of time in contemplation over the details. Andre and his Dad have had numerous discussions and quite a lot of mutterings over the confusing nature of the building code. I had a quick look and left them to it. I’m better at the grand scheme stage.

Polka dot gumboots definitely help with grand scheming (although my feet are starting to swelter in these so it might be time for some new DIY jandals).


This is us trying to visualise the couple of steps down from the house, and a balustrade along the eastern side. 1029_8281 And the usual messy state of affairs:


So, we’re excited to have some decking timber now ready to go, but builders between big jobs are in hot demand to complete lots of little jobs so we’re sharing him around and just grateful for the days when the white van pulls up in the drive!

Next. After shovelling a trailer load of dirt out of the backyard, the last thing I felt like was shovelling another load right back in. But it had to be done, and don’t tell Andre, but I kind of don’t mind jobs like this. At least not when I’m nearing the end… there’s satisfaction in shifting a cubic metre of soil!


It was destined for these gigantic planters now never to be removed from our backyard in a million years. There have been many small steps with these planters in getting to this stage, but I won’t go into the detail just yet. I’m still mulling over my original plans for finishing touches.1029_1710

But one sunshowery day I got them all planted up. I wanted both screen-the-neighbours and fruit trees, so I picked out a couple of feijoas (two varieties is recommended because even though most types are self-pollinating, they still prefer company) and a mandarin. For now, I’ve underplanted with strawberries, just for fun, but once we get a few nibbles off them I plan to replace them with some more permanent ground cover like baby’s tears or Irish moss. We’ll see!

In the biggest pot I’ve just popped in a trio of daisies, for some colour, until our plum tree in the corner is dormant (next winter) and we can gently transplant it. It’s a great producer so I already have my fingers crossed we won’t harm it by shifting it.1029_1724

Last Saturday saw the remaining smaller pipes sitting in our drive cut up into planter sized bits. So we’re not done with planters yet…


Last Saturday also saw a scruffy little strip of weeds transformed into a promising garden bed. Down the western side of the deck we have a narrow garden space alongside the neighbours fence. Originally it was full of all sorts of jungle-variety plants but gradually we have sent them all to the tip and these scrappy weeds took over for a while.


Up against the house are were these trees, which we’ve been trimming away at for a few weeks, hoping if we take it slowly the neighbours won’t mind so much that suddenly there are no trees in the backyard offering privacy between us and them. But with a full height panel due to go up along that side of the deck I decided it was now or never and recruited Andre and his long arms to put them (me?) out of their misery.


The pink flowering one was first to go (it was always a little neglected and scrappy looking, as well as scraped annoyingly on the windows in the slightest breeze) and bit by bit we started cutting down the tall one. At the very last minute, it got a reprieve. We decided it’ll probably be happy to share with the new planting we had planned, and will actually be helpful in providing an illusion of shade (it’s on the wrong side of the sun to really give any shade) over the deck. So it just got a severe trim in order to fit the panel alongside it.1029_1873

While Andre had yet another discussion with his Dad over the finer details of the deck plan, I got busy with some rocks that had been put aside after the big hole dig.


Then we all pitched in to clear those pesky weeds and fill in with some leftover topsoil, before planting some gorgeous scented jasmine, and a few ferns that were growing mad up under the trees. Originally we were going to use some of the old decking timber to re-edge this garden bed (the railway sleepers that were there were a bit rotten and fell apart during the clear out stage) but the spur of the moment decision to make use of the rocks was a good one, even if we can’t remember whose it was! It’s the little unexpected jobs like this that really make a day feel like an achievement – completed in less than half an hour, and only using what is to hand. (A bit like this temporary sandpit of many months ago.)


As for the jasmine… I chose it because it ticks a few boxes like fast-growing, minimal maintenance (once it grows it’ll be a bit tricky to get to in this narrow space), and good screening, but also because of its bonus smells so good factor. Because we need it to fill the space and not grow primarily on either the neighbours side fence, or the panel on the side of the deck, we have staked out (hah!) a frame for it to climb on right between the two. Of course it’ll grow where it likes, but I want to be able to trim it back off the fence or deck panel if/when necessary so this middle-ground structure is where I’ll do my best to train it to.1029_8346 1029_8345I did underestimate my staking requirement initially, but now have another pack waiting to be added to this frame so there is somewhere for my little jasmines to aim for next.1029_1877

And that yucca-y tree at the north end… days are numbered. Neighbours love it, I hate it, Andre’s somewhere in between. So until my little jasmines grow a little, it stays put. But the day is coming when the jasmines and I will slowly but surely prove it’s ugliness and uselessness. All it does is drop those annoying fronds and it doesn’t even smell nice – right jasmines?!

It’s a little hard to tell in the latest “after” photo, with the new stack of decking timber under cover (here it is again so you don’t have to scroll all the way back)…


…but Andre had a huge tidy up out the back here. Piles of timber got shifted and nails and sawdust cleaned up. I was out first thing on Saturday and came back expecting some “real work” to be underway, but was pleasantly surprised with this. If ever you’re feeling disheartened about progress or lack thereof, just opt for a real good tidy up instead. It works wonders and feels just as good as progress.


While we’re on the progress train, here’s another something to keep it going…


The front yard is looking fabulous with spring helping the front garden flourish. My hydrangeas have taken off, after more than a year of being less than impressive, and sending me running for more ground cover plants and some sweet flowers to fill in the gaps, and even wondering if I’d have to pull them out and put something else in. But they’re telling me “not so hasty naive new gardener – good things take time!”

1029_1865Delighted to bring them inside to enjoy too!

Enormous post – thanks for sticking it out to the end!

I call that a lawn


As Master W would say (he gets this one from his mama), “Pretty much!”. Pretty much a lawn. If it needs mowing it’s a lawn right?!


Oh I just love our front yard. It’s far from magazine-worthy but it doesn’t scare me anymore. And I’m even a bit proud of it! And the lawn… well it’s not perfect (at all) but I’m proud of that too – we did it all by ourselves! Dirt, grass seed, tlc


There are bare patches, but it’s filling in slowly, and I have high hopes it will get there in the end. My dreams of a weedfree lawn are lying shattered but I’m not crying about it. I’m fine, and to prove it I’ll even show you a picture of the worst patch:


The shady bit under the tree. Perfect for a diy nail box swing, not so perfect for growing grass.

Definitely looks better if we spin around the other way:


More spinning…




Oops big bare patch.

One last request – take a step just outside the gate for a view of the afternoon sun in all it’s warmliness (definitely a word).


That winter sunshine is begging for attention a lot louder than the gate pillars that need plaster and paint, the patio that needs another go with moss, the baseboard that needs painting, the hedge that needs trimming, or the invisible border planting that can’t wait to tidy along the base of the fence and hedge. As for the mud on the drive… that does get pretty loud. Might have to add it to this weekends list.

Let’s hope sunshine is also on the list – it does make winter hibernating so much more pleasant! Enjoy your weekend.

Pots on the patio

0606_0264Warning: this post may contain a few mildly irritating references to pottering.

Some days are just plain old rewarding. Saturday was like that. After a morning doing kid things like the crazy-long-queue Lego show, the afternoon was spent pottering outside in the front yard. It was looking a little sad after some battering rain, and a little inattention since we’ve been out back for the last month of weekends. It’s still looking a little sad because the lawn is a mess, but I had yet another chat with the guys (they’re all just lovely old dads, with dad kind of advice) at Newton’s Seed this morning and came home with another bag of seed, some fertiliser, and some nutritious soil. Hoping for sunshine this weekend.

So, pots. Pots and pots!

And chairs and potting mix and plants and garden tools…


It got pretty messy for a while. But there really is nothing quite like planting fresh new plants – there’s so much excitement in a teensy little plant and a pile of rich brown soil. I can’t wait until they grow! Here’s how it looked after a minor hose down:


And today, on this beautiful sunshiney day, here’s some more patio prettiness:

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I got all my plants from Roger’s nursery in Mangere. It’s pretty cheap, but I go there for the entertainment if nothing else. It’s jam-packed full of goodies, but if you can find one of the chaps who work there they can always point you in the right direction (if you can turn your wheelbarrow around that is). And Roger can always be heard shouting tidbits of advice from his hut at the entrance as he takes your money (cash only – go prepared).

As for my plant selection… I had a short list – lambs ear, some herbs, succulents… then just filled up the wheelbarrow with whatever else I liked the look of. And Master W picked out a plant for himself too. Some others that I already had waiting for pots came from my Poppa – let’s hope my ones do as well as his own patio full.

0606_7164As well as pottering on the patio, I had a tidy up of the garden bed on the other side, and filled in some gaps with a random assortment of flowers. Some of my hydrangeas have done really well, others have barely grown – not sure why, but I’m done waiting for them to fill out.


When you live amidst the chaos of so many unfinished projects and rooms and outdoor areas it is nice to have something that feels a bit more done. Someplace you can just go and admire and feel a bit satisfied with how it is right now.

The front yard is in no way complete, but for now it feels like we’ve done enough (apart from rescuing the lawn) and the rest can wait. It’s winter after all!



Grass is greener: second attempt

So, last time we talked about grass I was still holding out hope.


This time, not so much. A sad and sorry lawn after 3 weeks of waiting for a miracle sent me back to the seed shop for another bag of Supalawn seed and some more advice. Another $11.70. And a disappointed face.


After all that rain we’ve had the bare patches were pretty compacted and so unwelcoming. 0516_7089

A gentle as possible rake over while trying not to disturb the baby grass roughed them up a bit ready for new seed. 0516_7090

This time I ripped a small hole in the bag and shook it around as I walked, spreading heavier on the barest patches and a light sprinkling everywhere else. As I went, I stamped it in a little to help it to hold on in case of more rain. A light watering, and I was done. I didn’t want to give it too much water as the soil is still pretty soggy. And once again, the hose is left trailing along our front pathway as I’m far too lazy to roll it up between daily waterings. 0516_7091

Fingers and toes crossed this time.

The grass is greener on this side

Hey thanks for stopping in last week, even though I was on a self-imposed blogging break. I appreciate it!

There has been a few instagram (@duckeggblueblog) pics – which incidentally also end up on Facebook – of our front yard progress.

But if you’re like me, you’ll be wanting a step by step rundown all in one place so you can start at “hmmmm” and end up at “aahhhhh!” all in the one go.

So, remember we started here with pondering over the concrete turning bay in front of the house? It was very useful and meant we could both park in the drive and get in and out without shifting the other car. However, there is sooo much concrete around the house, and with the loss of the back lawn we were keen to make the front one as big as possible for kiddies (little and big) to run and play. Plus, there’s something nice about cars parked to the side of the house rather than right out in front. So Andre had a smashing good time (he’d probably disagree) and it was gone.


Next up was spraying out the existing lawn, which was more weed than lawn because we haven’t given it any tlc, knowing it’s time was limited anyway.


Because we got shovel-fright at the start of the next step we handed over $200+ and traded up for a digger. Money well spent!


The following week was a bit more exciting for me. Diggers – pah! Just give me some grass seed! We were up and into it early, starting with removing all the leaves, sticks and roots that had come uncovered.


Then the pile of topsoil that had been sitting in a gluggy mess all week got spread and Andre did his level best to make our lawn look super smart. Master W thought the roller was almost as good as last weeks digger!0507_7022

Once Andre was satisfied with how things were looking (yup, I did a good job finishing off while he went to get the last load of topsoil) he compacted it with this hired lawn roller.0507_7024

A final layer of topsoil spread over the compacted soil, and we’re ready for seeding. Whoop whoop! 0507_7032

A bit of browsing around led me to Newton’s Seed, in Onehunga. They’re a dedicated grass seed company (claiming to have the freshest seed) and their prices were good. I also appreciated a quick chat with them to ensure we were on the right track with our chosen seed and our method of preparing the soil and spreading the seed. They recommended mixing the seed with a bit of sand to help with distribution. Their Supalawn seed is good for family lawns which get a bit of wear and tear, and can handle a lack of tlc. So let’s hope it’s going to prove itself! (It’s also a mixture of rye and fescue, which I mentioned as recommended back here.)0507_7035

Here’s me with my spreading action going on. 0507_7040

Still loving those polka dot gumboots! 0507_7043

This is how it looked with all the seed spread – oooh promising! 0507_7045

Somewhere I read that it was a good idea to rake over the seed very gently, and the guy at Newton Seed backed that up, but he said to use the back of the rake and only just cover the seed.

0507_7046So that’s what I tried to do!

0507_7052With that done, it was clean up time… so… much…. mud!

0507_7050We strung up plastic bags and some blank cds in an attempt to keep the birds away. I think it helped, although there were always birds munching away whenever I stepped out the front door. Maybe just a few less than there would have been otherwise?!0507_7068

A week of warm temperatures and sunshine mixed with gentle rain followed, which was perfect lawn growing weather!0507_7065

But just as the shoots started to come up… Bam! Thunderstorms and lightning and buckets of rain came persisting down. There were puddles all over the front yard and I contemplated making some little origami lifeboats to try and save the drowning seed. Lots of it got washed across the drive… 0507_7066So, right now we’re just waiting. The sun is shining again and another week will give us more of an idea about whether we need to resow. A bit disappointing, but not a major, and if we do need to give it another seeding, it’ll make for a sturdier lawn in the long run. I’ll keep you posted!

Here’s a little cost breakdown:

Concrete cutter and jackhammer to break up turning bay: $0 (courtesy of Andre’s employer)
Truck and dumping of concrete: $0 (courtesy of Andre’s employer)
Kiwicare weed spray: $25ish from Mitre10
Digger hire: $200+
Topsoil: 3 loads at $60 each = $180
Lawn roller hire: $20
Grass seed and sand: $26
Total: $451

By far the biggest cost was in the digger and the topsoil, which was really only necessary because we were reshaping and levelling the lawn. So if you’re just wanting to give your lawn a spruce up you could scrape off the surface by hand and spread a thin layer of fresh topsoil – saving more than $300. Best to venture into this in the Autumn (Fall) so judging by the drop in temperature here the last couple of days it’s a bit late to do anything this year. Put it on next years list!

I’ll be back in a week or so hopefully with some more lush greenness to show you! In the meantime, I’m excited about some planning for the backyard makeover. More on that later in the week. And don’t forget instagram (@duckeggblueblog) and Facebook for some in between blog post action.

Mud at the front door

After a second go over with Kiwicare’s Organic Weedfree Rapid, most greenery on our front patch had turned to brownery. So… plan A to borrow a digger didn’t work out. (Yes there were tears from Master W, and maybe even some from me!) And Andre didn’t get far beyond this corner before he threw in the towel spade and went to hire a digger. 0423_6981

First though, he dug out the cherry tree and we have put that aside for some lucky bidder.0423_6982

At $200 for half a day, diggers don’t come cheap. But sometimes you just have to deal with that. Especially when the sunny morning turns to a stormy afternoon, and you have way too many loads of washing due to sick kids. $200 well spent!

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Our deadline to return the digger was 2pm, and the landscaping place where we planned to get some new topsoil closed at 3pm. So… for one rainy hour it was all go and we managed to get two loads of topsoil dumped on the drive by 3pm. Access onto the lawn is tight through that gate… so we resigned ourselves to shovelling in the rain. 0423_6990 0423_6991

I was pretty tired of sitting around a steamy house so I volunteered to shovel the first shift. Andre got to finish off, and did a great job removing all evidence of a pile of dirt on the drive.

Here’s how the front doorway looked all day. You know I’m fussy about grubby floors. Please wash up in the bucket, wipe your feet, and wipe them again!0423_6993

If I get a sunny moment combining with Miss E in bed, I’ll be out with Master W spreading the pile of dirt from one end of the front yard to the other… and yes, there’ll be another bucket at the front door! Right now it doesn’t look promising, but at least we have Thursday (Anzac Day) this week to get a little further ahead. Autumn is fast disappearing and the seed isn’t in yet…

Because green is the new grey

Hey Mr Big Concrete Slab… we had a date remember? It was fun, but I don’t think we’ll be seeing you again. We’re looking for something a little more… green.

0411_6892  Ten points for spotting the cute boy in the grey hoodie:0411_68950411_6930 Bonus points: Aww who’s the cutest l’il Daddy’s helper? Clue: Not the one in the high vis jacket.0411_6893

Here’s the updated front yard list:

Build and paint fence
Build and paint gate
Build and paint letterbox
Make a sweet spot for morning tea in the front yard
Remove concrete turning bay
Kill off lawn with Kiwicare Organic Weedfree Rapid
Fill in and level with new topsoil
Plant new grass seed
Plant climbing vine along inside of fence
Plant a row of something else at base of fence

It looks like we’ve still got a long list… but the worst is over. Can’t wait to get it finished and then I can tear up our master bedroom!

Here’s a little funny story: My car was parked on the street while the demo was happening. Once it was all done and just before heading out to visit friends for dinner, I shifted it back in. Andre was waiting with the kids in his car on the street. As I reversed back and forth a bit to get around the corner (I normally drive in forwards – smoothly) he was watching with this “bemused man watching a woman driving a car” face. I was halfway into my manuevering when I remembered the pile of broken up concrete where my parking space used to be! Ooops!