One of the first projects we have undertaken is cleaning up the front yard. (My dad is so happy about this. He loves his lawn care!)
First, we removed two juniper shrubs right next to the front door that smelled like cat urine. You see, when we moved in there was a lingering odor of cat. We thought it because the house had been closed up for a month and leftover smell from the seller's cat. However, after cleaning all the carpets (twice), mopping all the hard surfaces (twice) and checking the house with a black light for any possible areas needing treatment, it still smelled strongly of cat pee around the front of the house. We just couldn't figure it out. Turns out the culprit was those pretty little juniper bushes. Apparently a strong smell is very common with junipers. As much as we loved the formal look and clean lines of the shrubs, we hated the odor and the fact it always smelled like a stinky litter box in the front of our house. So they had to go. But we did Freecycle (http://www.freecycle.org/) them so that someone with a less sensitive nose could enjoy them.
Second, we mowed the grass. After finding a great deal on a self-propelled mower on our local Craigslist site (http://www.craigslist.org/) to replace the old fashioned push mower we used in our tiny city yard, I am sure the neighbors were so excited to see me out there cutting a swath through the tall grass. Just the clippings from the front yard filled the yard waste can to overflowing, just to give you an idea of how long it was. We also rented an edger to clean up the lawn along the driveway, sidewalk and road. I was surprised at how much the lawn had encroached on the pavement in several places.
Third, I trimmed the dead stems off the dozens and dozens of hostas in the front. Time consuming but I think it looks more tidy.
Finally, we trimmed the lower branches off of the pine trees in the front. We are still unsure of the exact species of our four pines, or maybe they are spruce since the needles on some of the branches have a distinct bluish hue and they are very sharp, but they are definitely unique looking with their drooping branches. Almost like the tree itself is melting. Apparently one of the drawbacks of this type of conifer is that it likes the sun. Sadly, three of the four are shaded by large oak trees so have many dead branches. So, I got up on the ladder and, using our reciprocating saw along with my brother's loppers, cut off several dozen branches. We think that it definitely lightens up the look of the front of the house now that those dead branches have been removed. Additionally, more light reaches the ground allowing us to plant some annuals next year to add some color to the front.
With the changing season, you will have to wait until spring to see what else we have in store for the exterior of our home.
Tip of the Project: If you get pine sap on your skin, use Pam or cooking oil to remove it. Apply to the skin and rub until the sap is loosened. After the sap is loose, wash with warm soap and water.