Putting Up a Fight

When I bought this old house I was prepared for a lot of things. I was prepared for the plumbing and electrical to be shit. I was prepared for painting and patching and stripping (both floors and walls). I was prepared for tearing things down and putting things back together. But you know what I wasn’t prepared for?



These kind of weeds.

I was just not aware that this was a thing that could happen. Inside of three weeks. In the middle of your driveway.

I grew up on some property, so big yards aren’t a new thing to me, but my family always kept it so well maintained that I never saw a blade of grass over six inches. My first house in the city had a postage-stamp sized lawn that was fully shaded, which means I had to cut the grass with a little reel mower two or three times per year, if that.

Then, when I moved out to the Memorial house, 1.) The property was a construction zone for the better part of the first year I lived there, so mostly it looked like this. And 2.) I was living with a guy who I think used the lawn mower as an escape from the fact that I was probably starting a new project somewhere in the house that he would have to finish. (Which was very likely true.) As a result, uh, we had a really well maintained yard.

It occurs to me now that I never actually witnessed a “lawn” get out of control before I bought the Liberty House, so I was kind of la-ti-da about moving on to 6 acres of property in the springtime. I didn’t even own a lawn-mower with an actual motor. (Which, in retrospect? That was a *facepalm* moment if I’ve ever had one.)

So those first couple of months were rough. And I’m not the same clueless 23-year-old who bought her first house a decade ago, but even so, I remember a Saturday just two years ago when my grandparents came up to see the new house, took one look around, and the next thing I know my grandpa is mowing down the jungle lawn around the house and my grandmother is unpacking all of the boxes in my kitchen, and I just stood around dumbfounded, thinking, these people are just so much better at life than me.

And they are. The first time I got on my hand-me-down riding mower, I had to call my grandpa twice for help. Once to talk me through how to make it go forward. Once to talk me through how to turn the actual mower part on.

That still makes me laugh every time I get on my tractor.

I’ve learned a lot of lessons in the last two years, but I still have a hard time not letting parts of the yard get out of control. Like, for example, this part…


What happened here was that sometime in the last two years I stacked some wood next to the garage with the intent of using it on my bonfire. But I must have let it sit for more than five minutes two weeks and the wood pile quickly became both covered with weeds, and un-mowable.

Then I noticed something strange inside my workshop…


Why yes, those are jungle vines growing mysteriously out of the rafters inside. Inside my workshop. Basically, no place on the farm is safe from this shit.

The problem is, unlike the dirty dishes that only seem to multiply like rabbits when I leave them unattended in the sink for a while, this problem actually gets worse the longer you ignore it. So, on Saturday I decided that this was the thing I was going to get done this weekend. I was going to reclaim my land from the jungle. And then I did what any reasonable person would do before heading into this kind of battle…


Drank a beer and grabbed my machete. (And also called my mom to come up with her tree pruners.)


This wasn’t just a large patch of weeds that I could knock down with the brush hog. This was weeds, growing around two wood piles, covered in some kind of wild grape vine, on top of what I later found out was a nest of carpenter bees.

Side note: Carpenter bees do not actually sting, but you know what they will do? Headbutt you. That happened to me this weekend. I got headbutted by an angry bee.

There were hours upon hours of ripping out, chopping down, and hauling away greenery. Like 15 foot long vines…


After all of that, I was able to move the wood (and burn it.)


Then I could get the brush hog in there.


Then, finally, I was able to weed whack.


I mean, holy shit, those weeds put up a fight. But since I made it this far, I decided to tackle a couple of other trouble spots as well. Like this one at the front of (still horribly ugly) garage as well…


Oh, look. A chicken. Helping.


Those Nugs are always trying to take credit for my hard work.

And hard work it was, but sometimes in life you just need to wield a machete and chop some shit down like a badass. That was my primary motivation for this project, but, also, I’ve got plans to work on my pergola and paint some of that siding in the near future.

I would love to have the whole garage re-sided, trimmed out, and painted before winter, but I haven’t quite figured out how to work that into my budget, so if it has to wait another winter, it has to wait another winter. If nothing else this farm has taught me patience and that the work isn’t going anywhere. Well, that and how to swing a machete.

27 Responses

  1. For the sake of all your readers, could you please post an epic picture of you charging ahead on your kitapillar with machete in hand, warrior style? That’d be great…

  2. You’re welcome to come do me yard if you’d like! Husband and I have been so busy trying to finish the creepy, blood red hole in the floor we call our basement into something liveable. Between the basement and my race schedule the weeds and dishes are both wayyyy out of control!

  3. Yep, knew this post was going to be about weeds halfway through the first paragraph.

    I recently bought a house in Ann Arbor and feel your pain. Even though my property is tiny compared to yours, I feel like I spend 50% of my mental energy thinking about weeds.

    And I, too, have jungle vines growing in my shed. Where there is absolutely no light.

  4. Weeds! The bane of my existence. Hubs and I were just discussing how the first few years we lived at our place we thought the thistles were going to take over and force us out. Revenge of the Thistles!

    1. Buy the super-sized high potency. Any of the weeds that happened to be thistles that already bloomed and went to seed will be back. all over… super mean to get rid of.

      1. As noted below, it’s neonicotinoids that are linked to bee deaths. Those are pesticides. Roundup is a herbicide.

        I never thought I’d use Roundup, because it has other problems, but I resorted to it this spring with bittersweet. The bittersweet just laughed at it,

    2. A flame-thrower is good on young thistle plants. If the spring is as wet as this past one, you’ll be good to go!

  5. Two thoughts…

    One, you know weed destruction is my thing (reference the rubble pile). Next time, call me 🙂

    Two, there is some crazy, alien weed that has sprouted up all over Michigan over the last two years. Multiple “heads” that disguise themselves as purple or pink pretty things. But the thing is a beast and grows, ahem, like a weed. And is damn near indestructible.

    Well done friend – that is indeed some epic progress! 🙂

    1. That article only spoke of insecticides, nothing about herbicides. Round up is about as safe a product you can buy.

      I don’t know much about alternatives for the products they were attacking but the article at least admitted that they only found correlation not causation. Plus, if the world is going to expect us to feed 30,000,000 extra illegal immigrants over the next few years we’re going to need the latest and greatest farming tech. Available.

  6. When I bought my first farm house back in 2001 the people that lived there hadn’t mowed most of the yard in 4 years! It took me about 2 years to get it looking like a yard again.

    Our current house is well manicured, but only because I spend a LOT of time on our mower! My BF is in charge of the weedeater!

  7. That is such a beautiful picture with you and the weeds. Truly!

    I’m in the process of tackling a part of my yard that used to be a gorgeous garden (previous owner) but is now a tangle of weeds and vines (me). Six hours of weeding, pulling and cursing and I uncovered only one “step” of the garden…plus got a super-duper migraine and a pulled back muscle. It is very therapeutic, though….free therapy! It’s a multi-level stepped garden. It’s about 4 steps of jungle right now…so only 3 more to go.

    And my carpenter bees? Yeah, they sting or bite…both myself & my husband.

  8. Wow…those are some weeds! Great job, Kit, and what IS that vine in the garage? Carpenter bees… have those where I work and they are fearless – always feel like they are studying me! I do keep Tough Brush & Poison Ivy killer (Ortho brand, I think)on hand and use it when hand weeding or machete wielding just won’t do the job and/or when there is poison ivy/poison oak involved! My acre is more than enough of a challenge for me!

  9. Looks to me like you could make use of a small herd of goats. I personally prefer that to roundup…

  10. Cool tattoo by the way….

    Great read, this is something most homebuyers including myslef have gone through. I agree, the ones on the driveway are the worst though, and always seem to be the biggest.

  11. The purple flowered Thistle is interesting…almost pretty, but is considered a noxious weed. It is dangerous to grass eating livestock and spreads like crazy. Seeds can be transferred on the tread of your tires. It will ruin your hands if you try to pull it out, and you will be exhausted if you try to dig it all out. We’ve been told to cut off the flower, then spray a little Roundup on top the open stem. Plant will die and you can mower or weed whack.

  12. I second the goats. Back when we lived in Georgia there was pretty much no way to mow where brush and vines would get too thick and the goats just loved them. Of course, it was a pain to get their heads un-stuck from the fence when the weeds on the other side of the fence looked tastier than the grass on their side.

    Besides… you need a few more critters, don’t you. LOL

  13. I use my chain saw on thistles. Nothing else cuts through them. Then I pour boiling water on the stumps. Sometimes I add bleach. I then sit back with some wine and pretend that I am winning my battle against them. But seriously, use a chain saw. I love mine.


  14. The carpenter bees have probably drilled holes in eaves and such and are damaging the wood. You probably need to find the holes, pump carpenter-bee-killer in there and then plug the holes with steel wool. At least that’s one solution somebody suggested. Saw some really neat carpenter bee traps that would be perfect solution. http://www.instructables.com/id/Making-Carpenter-Bee-Traps/ has one set but there are others!

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