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My calendar originally had today’s spot reserved for an update on my moving announcement from earlier this year. I like to share more personal things on Fridays, but after yesterday’s 2600+ word post, I’ve used up all my available brain cells that know how to edit things (plus, it’s Friday night, so… beer). So even though that post is written, it will have to wait until next week until I can give it a polish (look for that sometime around Wednesday).

But, I still feel the need to give you an update about more progress around the house. There have been lots of little tasks completed all over the place, yet so few of them seem post-worthy until they’re closer to a more impactful reveal. But since it’s close to Black Friday (my family’s most sacred of retail holidays), let’s get that wish list filled out a little more and just talk about tools :)

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you are probably aware of the sluggish progress around the exterior. The honest explanation for that is simply that I find working on the exterior to be a huge pain in the ass. I hate raking. And mowing. And digging. And getting bugs down my bra. Whine, whine, whine. Oh, and not to mention, just when you think that you’re done, shit grows back. It’s the outdoor equivalent of making your bed.

So when Dad was all “Hey, I‘m going to come over this weekend and cut down those stumps from the bushes we cut back last year that never grew back in,” I was all, “Um… sure. I absolutely want to spend my Sunday afternoon doing exactly that. And then do my taxes.”

But little did I know, I was actually going to have a little fun. This nifty tool pictured above is called a mattock. For a long time, I’ve pretty much just regarded this thing with a more common name, the “pickaxe”, only to find out that I was completely wrong. The difference is that the mattock has a wide, horizontal blade on one end instead of an ax (it still has a pick – the narrow pointy part – on the other end… just no ax part). It makes for an EXCELLENT root removal tool, as it can cut through the hard Georgia dirt/clay mixture like buttah. I am forever going to look at this thing as the shovel’s more capable and muscular older brother.

The front of the house had two bushes that never grew back from last year’s chainsaw massacre, and I was pretty glad to see them go (the shiny, evergreen holly came back strong, but the other ones – I think they were a different holly species with tinier, duller leaves – did not). Their roots were way too close to the house, and the bushes were so hodgepodge in front that they always looked a little disheveled (Note: if you like buying bushes for your front yard, do not buy three different species just because you like all three. Or do, but be prepared for the next homeowner to want to rip out the uglier ones because they create a hedge that is made of completely different plants). First, Dad attacked them with his chainsaw again, under the assumption that we were just going to cut the roots down to the ground & leave it like that (we did not originally plan to remove the root altogether).

But, after noticing how easy it was to dig around the root with the mattock, I yanked on the root to find it lifting out of the ground like I was pulling on a wildflower. I’d like to give the loose roots all the credit, but I’m going to pretend it was all meIf there are a few warm days left this year, I’ll be busy trying to figure out what to do with these areas now that they are unencumbered by old roots. I’ll likely just plant shrubs that match the other holly that I do like – a little further away from the house, that is.

With momentum on our side, we seized the opportunity to do the same to the side of the garage. You remember that ugly space, right? A couple of years ago, it looked like this:

Overgrown. Towering. Unkempt and friendly only to gigantic spider nests (shudder). While the angle is more flattering in this photo, most of them were completely different species from each other and growing much too far above my head to maintain. I couldn’t see what was under them or what damage their neglect may have done to the house. Most were cut down to a more manageable size last year, but they are well-established, so the huge shearing didn’t seem to bother most of them. Two were cut down to the stump to kill off, or so I expected. Overall, every single one was originally planted way too close to the house for comfort (most of them would grow about 3 feet wide, but were planted about 12 inches from the base of the house). It’s not that I wanted them all to go, but they just needed to reboot and maintain a smaller, more condensed growth pattern. It had worked extremely well for the camellias in the front yard, so I expected as much for these. Ctrl+Alt+Delete works in all forms, people.

Most of it came back plenty lively, but considerably removed and ready for a new landscaping plan. I’m still working on a layout that will have more perennial color involved (I cannot landscape to save my life, but I’m working on it… I’ll save that update for a separate post). Since this picture is very much a “before” version of what things are going to look like, I’ve labeled it so you can tell the difference between trash and stuff that’s sticking around (sad, I know… but things will be looking more purposeful soon).

side of garage

One root in particular, though, just needed to go. It was too close to the house and spaced too close to the other well-established bushes. So, we again attacked it with a mattock and dug for the root.

And dug. And hacked. And Dad even lost a blade in the root when he tried to cut into it.

But in the end, we were victorious. It kind of looks like a sculpture to me, with all of its twisty roots.

Except for, you know, the sharp serrated blade in the bottom.

But, new lesson learned: a mattock is a better way to dig into hard dirt than a shovel. If the weather is warm enough over the weekend, that knowledge will come in very handy for some new plantings. What are you planning to work on?

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  1. I love my mattock! My husband likes a spade, but whenever there is any digging I grab the mattock first every time. The weight of the head piece gives me way more power, whereas I can’t make much of a dent with a spade. Great to hear you enjoyed using my favourite garden tool. :)

  2. I didn’t know it was called mattock, I thought it was pickaxe for sure! Happy for you that you have a land to do some gardening :)

  3. My sister and her husband finally conquered something very similar in the front of their house. I’m always amazed at how nature can fight back:).

  4. So when we took out the pool at our last house we actually dug up a bone… like femur size bone.. and had to call the cops and get it identified before we could continue work just in case it was human… it was not but you post title got me a little excited that someone else found some weird bones

    1. I found a butter knife just the other day… no telling what you’ll find buried with an old house!

  5. So last time I was digging up roots near the house I dug up a glove, beer can (not mine) and a black trash bad. Seems that after the house is build and the clay and soil comes in they just go about leveling it on and over anything in sight! Why can’t someone something a little more valuable than an empty beer can!?