Before and after: The tiny patio + fence project


There were some things I wish I’d done differently when I negotiated the purchase of our old house. And, one of them was coming to an agreement about dealing with the totally dilapidated fence. Looking out the kitchen window was not a pretty sight:

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Even minus the fence, the side yard was UGLY and full of stumps. Half a dozen trees had once been there! We live in a duplex, so there isn’t a lot of private space. We wanted to use what we had, but the existing yard was way too lumpy.

Here’s one more pic of what we were dealing with toward the front yard:

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We were not flush with cash, but the fence really needed a fix. Last spring, we brought in a stump grinder and took out the stumps. (That was crazy and violent and satisfying and I wish I’d filmed it.) Our neighbors pitched in for supplies and I called in my little brother Joseph.

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He tore down the fence (all except a one still-sturdy, if a little crooked, post. #brotherlogic) and put in new pilings. That was no small task.

We gave the old weathered wood to some friends. Some of it became a chicken coop and some became the sign that is now on the front of South Restaurant.

Awww, look. There’s Joseph with then-baby Neri.

We wanted privacy, but to let in some light. We decided to go with an 8-foot fence made of treated wood with lattice at the top.

It got a little hairy because the old fence was built on a retaining wall. But Uncle Joseph figured it out:

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Where the stumps had been, we used sand and pavers to make a patio.

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It turned out great. That’s the old gate that I spray-painted and replaced the hardware.

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(Don’t look too hard at the dirt the chickens scratched onto the stairs….)

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I planted mint and rhubarb and waited all summer for this dang beanstalk to bloom. A super cool plant.

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I found the pallet bench at the home consignment store on Fireweed Lane.

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It’s a little uneven when you sit on it, but that kind of goes with our general aesthetic. (Not pictured: my dirty old grill. Though it looks much more dignified in its new environs)

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Julia O’Malley is a journalist who lives in Anchorage. She writes about culture, family, home, the environment and food in Alaska.

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