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(So this is a total sidebar:  I have just recently started watching Sons of Anarchy. Holy crap, I love it after only one episode. I know, I know – it takes me forever to watch extremely popular shows. But the bonus is that I get to watch shows the way I like ‘em:  fifty plus episodes back to insomnia-producing back. And I’m not all that into blondes, but the lead character ain’t too hard on the eyes, either.)

The item of the day:  ivy. As of this week, I’ve now managed to walk over every inch of my property. Which, believe it or not, is a first – there are certain places in the back yard, like the back-most area (that I’ve always been scared as having poison ivy), that I just never bothered to walk to. Considering that this lot is so small and I live in a subdivision, it’s pretty strange that it took this long. But I guess my avoidance powers are just that strong.

the enchanted forest

I tend to call my back yard “The Enchanted Forest” from time to time – in the spring, when the azaleas bloom, the yard looks snarly and green, but it also looks pink and cheerful:

pink azaleas

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, my ex-boyfriend and I tried killing off the ivy three years ago. I came home one day to find that he’d simply chopped a few feet of ivy away from each tree, and sprayed everything down with some type of poison guaranteed to turn healthy plants into extras on The Walking Dead (I seem to have randomly picked TV shows as an underlying theme today; forgive me). It subsequently turned brown, and we thought it would fall right off.

brown ivy

We were wrong. After waiting a few months for the ivy to just fall away, I got distracted and left the yard alone again. And after my ex moved out, I didn’t really touch the back yard again for a couple of years (having grad school, work, a new pup, and a house full of projects took my attention).

So, that brings us to here:

backyard before

The ivy is back with a vengeance.

Knowing what I learned from last time (that simply cutting off a chunk and hoping some dinky little spray is going to do all the work for me isn’t the way to go), I knew I had to apply a little muscle to the problem. The first day of what I like to call Sarah versus The Enchanted Forest, I spent the morning in class and Dad met me at the house mid-afternoon. I quickly changed into some workout gear and began peeling off the first section of ivy:

remove ivy with a rake

New lesson:  I didn’t cover myself enough to really get down to bidness. There are creepy-crawlies in ivy, and for the most part, I was working directly over my head. I’m still a total squealy girl if something falls down my shirt. So even though I toughed it out on Day One and just kept going, by Day Two, I was a little better prepared.

this is more like what you should wear

Believe it or not, the rake was extremely effective at getting the ivy to come off the tree. Considering that the vines were weaving themselves in and out of the bark, and I had a layer of dead ivy to peel away too, the rake simply dug right in, grabbed a tangled hold, and ripped it away.

The main goal for the first (and second) day was just to clear the trees as much as possible. I even tried getting on a ladder, but that proved to dump far more bugs down my bra than accomplish more feet of removed ivy, so I stopped. Maybe I’ll try again soon with a larger ladder. As I removed the ivy and worked my way down the trunk to the root system, other plants and weeds kept getting in the way. I started pulling:

root pulling

Little did I know what kind of a mess I was really dealing with!

On Day One, I also took a turn with the reciprocating saw and trimmed back the Japanese laurel (at least, that’s what they look like – I suck at identifying plants). The one I received from Ryobi earlier this year came in handy. The intent wasn’t to kill this one; but she’s way overgrown and now seemed like as good a time as any to sheer it down (like Dad did to the camellias in the front yard – which are still growing back quite healthy).

Forewarning: I tried to look like a badass in this photo, and now I just feel silly that I took it. I’m only posting it because I think we should all laugh at me together. It’s a bonding moment.

But like I said: I had a little fun hacking things down (though it really wore out my forearms – go ahead and snicker – from trying to hold down the safety button and the handle at the same time; the other arm was busy holding branches still for the execution). I eventually switched to a heavy-duty Milwaukee (like this one) to get at some of the thicker stuff (but kept switching back and forth for the next few days; the fact that the Ryobi saw is cordless is awesome when you’re stuck behind bushes).

Tip: you want a big, scary blade made from shark teeth to do the job (this is Dad’s arm; not mine).

Kidding. But a blade made for pruning will cut through branches like they’re made of cheese (Why not use “like butter,” you ask? I guess the butter analogy never really sat well with me. Trying to slice a stick of cold butter with a butter knife actually tends to piss me off). Dad and I also used the pole saw again and trimmed down the low-hanging branches toward the other neighbor’s fence, which let light come pouring into the yard.

I. was. TIRED. So was Dad (he was my photographer, branch-dragger, limb chopper, truck loader, etc etc. – could NOT have gotten through it without his help!). And before I knew it, I’d already created a huge pile of branches, broken vines, comically-sized root systems, and scared the crap out of the dog from all of the power tools.

Of course I had to end a Friday post with Charlie.  Of course I did.

Happy weekend, everyone. I don’t often find an opportunity to brag about upcoming projects (since they’re usually only halfway finished), but next week, I’ve got quite a few before and afters for you!

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  1. Ohh man your backyard is great but dude, Sons of Anarchy is the BEST SHOW EVER. You’re gonna be obsessed. Have fun.

  2. Hey! Nice job!!!! Really nice job! Not going to say anything about plants, cause I don’t know anything about plants!

    Ps. To cut cold butter with a butter knife, try heating the knife first! Works wonders!

  3. You are a badass! Seriously, I couldn’t believe the tree with dead ivy and the root ball pictures! They look like out of a horror movie–like they will come to life! You are fearless. And I really wanted to comment on your “sidebar” immediately. I am not only a “treat bully” (dubbed by my husband–as I insist you eat my desserts/cookies while at my house, or shove them on you to take home) but also a “Netflix” bully. Please tell me you have Netflix and you are watching S of A on that. My husband watched it (back to back while doing the eliptical in the a.m.) and loved it. I didn’t think I would care for it but did think “hmm. who is this scuzzy blond?” and saw a show or two at the end. We only watch our Netflix all. at. once! Night after night. Can we watch just one more? NO.Must.go.to.bed. OBSESSED! Don’t get me started. I have a list for you and because I am a bully you must watch them! Can’t wait to see the after pics!! And you better tell me you want my show list, because I’ll be back, pushing it on you if not :)

  4. Thanks for the tip about the rake. I was sitting here squinting at the screen trying to figure out what tool you were using. That photo does look badass to me. If you’re using a reciprocating saw one handed, you are a badass IMO.

  5. Your post reminded me of the burning bushes that are now burning trees that I’ve been slowly removing in my yard. Their roots are so hard you’d think I was hacking into rocks. I’ve even resorted to using my sawzall on the roots.

    Good luck with your clean up. You seem to have a good handle on it and the day will come when you only have small weeds to deal with.

  6. That’s a lot of work. This reminds me of the few years we spent living in East Texas. Our back yard required a constant battle with the rapidly encroaching forest growth. Luckily, I was able to fight without suffering from vine-dwelling beasts falling down my shirt, a welcome bonus of being a dude I suppose.

  7. Wow, I wouldn’t say Die Hard. After viewing the pics, I think you look like another Sarah …. Conner from Terminator. :)

    Good job on the clean up.

    From the pics, it doesn’t look that hot in Atlanta. I am driving up on Monday and would welcome a little relief from the heat.

  8. I started ripping out a bit of ivy last weekend and it was ridiculous. It was so difficult, I didn’t even try to dig out the roots. I mostly just clipped the vines as close to the ground as I could. Now seeing your roots is scaring me even more!

    1. Complete removal — I wrote an old post about killing it off back here and here. I knew how we’d previously killed off the ivy by cutting at its roots and being vigilant about treating it, so I kept doing it over time.