Yup, We’re Those Neighbors. Again.

Remember when John met his frog friend (well, technically his toad friend) here?

Well, this time around we made a new neighborhood acquaintance…

… a snaaaaaaake! And we were skeeeeered. But not to scared to take a picture. Thankfully he was just a harmless garter snake.

Why were we outside? Yard maintenance. We figure our exterior will need a whole lotta small phase projects if it’s going to ever-so-slowly transform like our last one did, which went from this…

… to this (over the course of 4.5 years)…

So since that’s nothing we’ll ever be able to accomplish overnight – or even within a year – we’re all about breaking that humongous task down into much smaller bite sized pieces to tackle slowly over time. So here are a few little outdoor undertakings that we’ve recently checked off.

First on the list: spray the mailbox and our house numbers with ORB (oil-rubbed bronze spray paint) so they would look a little more refreshed.

The most fun part of the process was when John brought it to me using rubber pot holder thingies because it was literally too hot to touch from sitting out in the sun out front:

Up close and personal, she definitely wasn’t looking so hot (even though she was literally quite hot):

So I wiped down all the bird poo with a wet cloth (I live a glamorous life) and used my favorite ORB spray paint (hi my name is Sherry and I have an ORB problem) to apply a few thin and even coats (you can check out some spray painting tips here). I also sprayed the rusted tops of the screws for holding the mailbox in place and our brass house numbers.

Oh and for “drop cloths” I usually use an old fabric one (or cardboard from the recycling bin) but this time I decided to use the same few big black plastic bags that I’ve used for other ORB projects as of late (I just ball them up after they’re dry to be reused since I’m such a spray painting fool these days, and hate to toss them after one go).

Can’t show you all of our house numbers of course, but the mailbox is looking mighty shiny:

Oh and I did this on a Sunday so as not to confound the mailman. By the end of the day everything was dry and I was able to screw them back into place. And while I was up there I snapped a few shots of the flowers since we had some requests for updated pics to see how they’ve grown.

But first, here they are before, back when we planted them:

And here they are now, paired with the freshly sprayed mailbox (we photoshopped out the newly painted house numbers on the post though):

Isn’t it amazing how much they’ve filled in? And it’s worth noting that we only watered them once (when we planted them) and it’s been scorchingly hot so I’m extreeeeeeeemely impressed. Wave petunias are the way to go, it seems.

Even Lord Squirrelio is enjoying the expanding flora:

Oh and as for the mailbox post, we’ve considered painting it but kind of like how it blends into the landscape thanks to the old weathered wood. A landscape designer friend of ours has a theory that you should never bring attention to your mailbox or post itself, just keep it neat and let it be what it is (so it doesn’t stand out/detract from the yard around it). That natural wood post definitely does that. We still might paint it down the line, but for now we’re happy to leave it au naturale.

But I digress with all of the mailbox updating. Back to the title. Here’s why we’re those neighbors again. Remember when we admitted that we had a bit of a mailbox problem (before we weeded, laid down landscaping fabric, planted some flowers, mulched, and removed some extra signs on our mailbox post) which made us quite the embarrassed new family in town?

Well, we also have this insane side yard that doesn’t look like it’s ours, but it is. Yup, everything in this picture is our lot:

Even the crazy shaggy stuff on the left.

See, it’s a whole lotta don’t-know-what-to-do-with-that-but-don’t-want-to-have-to-mow-or-weed-or-otherwise-maintain-it space to deal with, so we decided to see if we could naturalize it (the neighbors have some naturalized land on their lot next to ours so we thought it would “go together” nicely).

Oops. Total failure. It just ended up looking crazy and overgrown:

Not only wasn’t the overgrown grass doing it for us, a few well meaning neighbors actually mentioned that we might want to mow it before “we get reported to the neighborhood association.” Talk about embarrassing. We muttered something about trying to naturalize it like the lot to the left, admitted that it definitely wasn’t working out the way we hoped, and vowed to at least cut the grass in the front for less of an unkempt appearance from the curb.

But it meant that we had to attempt to mow that wayyyyy-too-looong-to-easily-mow grass. Thankfully big strong John got ‘er done! It didn’t take five minutes (more like about an hour of slow back and forth maneuvering and turning off the mower to get clumps of grass out every ten minutes or so)…

… but slowly but surely…

… we went from that crazy overgrown embarrassment to a slightly more manicured-up-top look, thanks to just moving that front strip:

We like how it actually looks like it’s part of our lot now, even if it’s obviously the more naturalized portion of it:

Now it looks like the area down the hill is intentionally wild (hooray- no weeding or incline mowing necessary down there) but the area up top is a bit neater from the road. You know, as opposed to looking all sad slash abandoned.

In other small-things-we-tackle-in-the-hopes-that-in-five-years-we’ll-blink-our-eyes-and-love-our-exterior news, we also planted three more evergreens in the back area of our house to hopefully provide more future privacy from the back (and to pay the environment back for doing all this clothespin driving).

We went with three more of the same fast growing evergreen trees that we planted on the side of our house (so you can check out more on how that all went down here).

Next we did a little weeding. Or should I say big weeding. We don’t know what the heck is in the soil here, but check out the size of some of the weeds springing up around the someday-we-hope-it’ll-look-naturalized-and-wooded side & back yard:

Yeah, that’s a giant dandelion. And yes, it felt like we were suddenly on the set of Jurassic Park and would soon see a pterodactylfly by or something.

Sure we want some areas of our side and back yard to look woodsy and naturalized someday, but for now these big ol’ weeds were more that a little embarrassing. So we dug them out and marveled at their shrub-like proportions. Crazytown.

As for our outdoor checklist, it’s waay too long to share in its entirety, but we’ll jot down a few things that we did (just for the satisfaction of crossing them off) and list a few more objectives that we hope to tackle over time:

  • weed the side of the carport (done here with some mom help)
  • limb up the giant magnolia (done here)
  • build a side patio (done over the course of about four weeks here)
  • weed, mulch & plant the embarrassingly unkempt mailbox area (done here)
  • plant three fast growing evergreen trees on the side of our house for privacy (done here)
  • make some mini porch updates (done here)
  • upgrade the mailbox and our house numbers with some ORB
  • plant three more fast growing evergreen trees in the back of our house
  • weed the side and back yard areas, so they naturalize with trees (not giant dandelions)
  • avoid snakes (so far so good, but this is an ongoing initiative)
  • transplant the tree that’s planted ON our house (seen here)
  • remove/transplant a ton of bushes and shrubs that block our front walkway & our house in general (in multiple phases)
  • paint the front door
  • frame out the round country-ish columns on the porch
  • remove the also-country-ish scalloped header on the porch
  • build raised bed gardens in the back
  • add a wood compost bin in the back (right now we use this slightly less handsome compost method)

In short, we’d like to slowly tame the jungle that is this in a bunch of not-too-intimidating phases:

Because let’s be honest, you can’t even see the porch. Le sigh.

What about you guys? Do you completely “gut” your yard and rebuild it all at once, or are you one-project-at-a-time folks like us? Have you ever seen a sneaky little snake? Or a giant person-sized dandelion? Or been told to mow your lawn by the neighbors? Oh man, we’re still kind of blushing.


  1. Janelle says

    Most of my front garden are perennials, but when I need to fill in, I always turn to petunias. I tried a few different things the first couple of years in my house, but I love petunias. They spread and fill in easily, a super low maintenance, have great variety of color and pattern, and are super cheerful.

  2. Maggie S. says

    We totally have an out of control “natural area” in our back yard. I’m thinking we’re going to sod it because mowing it would be WAY easier than digging up the weeds. Super embarrassing for us was when our neighbor to the left asked if he could cut our bushes on his side of the yard. We thankfully accepted since they easily can get 10′ tall!

  3. says

    Our backyard was treacherous when we bought our house a year and a half ago. Last summer, my husband starting removing all the terrible, cracked hardscape and the various weeds that have been growing. And this spring my FIL and husband put in a paver patio (similar to yours!) and leveled out the ground. So now we have a beautiful patio and a lovely dirt lawn. We can’t plant grass until the end of the summer, so we’ve just been dealing with the landscape as is. Although, its great to start from scratch, it would have been nice to have some greenery back there. I have to say that our neighbors are happy with our progress and have enjoyed watching the transformation as the property was neglected for so many years.

  4. Becky Jo says

    Good thing that was just a harmless little gartersnake!

    I grew up in the desert in southern California, and every summer, we would find rattlesnakes all over the yard. I remember one incident when my dad was having a peaceful afternoon nap in his hammock up on the hill, when all of a sudden, he jumps out as far away from it as he can and comes running toward the house, ushering us all inside. Apparently, there was a massive king snake laying right underneath the hammock! Who knew how long it had been there! It’s not venomous, but it was still scary!

  5. says

    Things are looking good!

    If you plan to do all landscaping at your home yourself…you have to do one project at a time. I don’t think many would be mentally or physically prepared for one giant overhaul. And definitely not with a yard that is your size.

  6. says

    I don’t know about you but I’m not too crazy about mowing stuff but I do love the neat after-look when you’re done :o) Makes it all worthwhile. Our little urban house doesn’t come with a whole lot of yard and thanks to its rental days it wasn’t much of a yard to speak of: a few crape myrtles, some loquats and a whole lot of short weeds. Turning it into a garden oasis is the feat we’re facing :o)

  7. Allison says

    I’m definitely a one-project-at-a-time. The budget dictates how many plants/trees/shrubs I can buy at Lowe’s in any one visit! As for snakes, well, I live in the country so I’m used to their presence and choose to ignore them…unless they find their way into the house…which has happened on a few occassions…Love your blog!

  8. says

    We are those neighbors too…to the point that I was doing some work up around our mailbox clearing out weeks, and some neighbors walking by actually cheered to see the yard being worked on. We moved in after the lot had been vacant for 2 years (and owned by an elderly couple prior to that) so there is a lot of neglect to make up for.

  9. says

    Yes unfortunately we have had snakes in our yard. I almost moved. Seriously. I hate snakes. Our backyard is a disaster zone. We are candidates for Yard Crashers seriously. We have decided this fall or at least once it’s not 101 in the shade we are just going to level it and then slowly build up from there. We also have to get a fence put in and we are getting estimates on that. We are definitely slow with the yard work mainly because we hate it so much. :)

  10. Sabrina says

    Our front yard has 12 horrible yew bushes that are half dead and just house spiders that we need to rip out lol Our backyard they tried to make a paver/mulch/brick/river rock/white pebble patio. Seriously! All it does is house huge weeds that I can’t keep up with. Speaking of snakes… While weeding I heard a noise and felt something slither over my foot. Ahhha! Ran like hell lol And that is where are back yard stands right now. Half weeded. We also had a mini tornado that blew down a 100ft tree that we still haven’t cut up yet.

  11. says

    By the way, completely random question…do mailmen actually flip that thing on your mailbox up when you have mail? I always had a slot on my front door (that’s what she said?), so I never knew the answer to that.

  12. Crystal says

    Definitely be careful of the snakes! We live in Virginia too and had a close friend loose their Chihuahua last summer because it got bit by a baby copperhead.

    Cutting that grass will to help minimize snakes around :)

    • says

      Oh no, that’s so sad! We have a really cool neighborhood page where we can all post wildlife warnings (like “I saw a fox on blank street!”) so if we ever hear of a coppyhead I’l gonna be a crazy person (standing next to poor peeing Burger sounding an air horn to scare snakes, haha).


    • Jill says

      EEEEK!!! Snakes! I hate em! Kill em all!!! AAAACKK! There have been 4 copperhead sightings in our hood and my neighbor got bit by one at her boyfriend’s house and spent the night in the ER. We had some kind of one- it had lots of shiny designs on it- crawl into our garage. I freaked. Didn’t go in there for almost 2 weeks. We scattered moth balls all inside (it stunk to high heavens and don’t worry we did not let the pups in as those would be hazardous to their health) and I think he ran out (I just pictured the snake picking up its skirt and sprouting legs with tiny sneakers on his feet! Ha!). Supposedly black snakes like to eat copperheads SO we try to leave them alone but sometimes I freak out too much and unleash the shovel on it’s life. :/ Please don’t call PETA, they really scare me!!

  13. Betsy says

    Speaking of creepy outdoor vistors… our countertop guys moved our fridge OVER the water line coming up through the floor (snapping the tube thinging which fell through the floor into the crawl space!), and while my husband was in the crawl space trying to find it to fish it back up, he encountered hundreds of what he called “spider/grasshopper mutants” … turns out they were harmess (albeit huge and creepy) crickets. Haha, poor guy.

    • gk says

      i bet these were spider crickets! my father in-law has TONS of these guys in an unfinished room in his basement (the broken window doesn’t help…) and my husband goes down occasionally and sprays the heck out of them. i’m normally okay with bugs and snakes and whatever…but spider crickets freak me out. they can jump like 4′ in the air. it’s too much!

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