Life Will Out ~ Jen

I don’t like to be hot. I have never liked to be hot. God knows this about me and gave me parents who lived near the ocean and who listened to their children when we begged them to buy a house with a pool. Many a day growing up, I washed the sand from the beach out of my hair and bathing suit by jumping into the pool.

It was a lovely way to grow up.

Shea and I got all big in our britches after we married and decided that one thing married folks do is buy a house. The only place we could afford one without moving out of state—and without moving to the desert—was the Inland Empire. The average temperature out here during July and August is 100 degrees. We are an hour’s drive either way to the beach.

And since we bought a brand new house, the only thing in the backyard was dirt.

“We’ll get as pool in a few years when we have some equity in the house”, we said. Two years later we were $200,000 upside down. And even though I said I wanted a house sideways to the sun, we ended up with one that faces the sun. Which means we take the heat on the front of the house in the morning (like this morning when it was 89 degrees at 9:30) and the back of the house in the afternoon.

The back of the house was more of an issue, since all the living space is in the back of the house. We decided to plant some trees. We bought three, a non-fruit bearing pear tree and two hybrid cottonwoods that were supposed to grow 5-6 feet a year. We planted them strategically to grow and meet in the middle and block the sun from the back of the house.

We nailed it. By the second summer we had them, they were almost 20 feet tall and cast shade over the backyard grass by 3 pm. By the fifth summer, they had touched and my kitchen and family room were shaded by 3 pm. This Spring I noticed that our bedroom windows were in shadow by 5 pm, protected by a solid wall of 35 foot tall trees. They had done exactly what we needed them to do. They sheltered the house.

Our trees in all their glory.
Our trees in all their glory.

They also blocked the garage light of the neighbor behind us who works nights and whose wife only feels safe if her driveway is lit up like noon. They brought an extended family of wrens into our backyard who woke us up with happy chirps in the morning. For two summers, they were covered in hundreds of thousands of lady bugs for three weeks. They housed all kinds of bugs and spiders, and the geckos that came to eat them. When the wind blew, they rustled with the most peaceful, restful sound.


And every Fall, the leaves turned bright yellow and fell to the ground in heaps and heaps of glorious color.



The morning after we got back from Disney World in June, I went out to get the paper and noticed that one of the tree roots had sprouted next to the roses.

In the front yard.

The roots had been a problem for a while. We’d dug them up once and they’d grown back. The dirt is hard out here and the tree could not grow down, so it grew out.  But never in a million years did we think the roots would reach under the house to the front yard. It was a good 40 feet from the trunk and under at least 25 feet of concrete.

Shea did an inspection around the house and found something even worse. There was a four foot sprout under the fence in the neighbor’s yard. And the neighbors, God bless them, have a pool. The sprout was very close to the edge of the pool.

The trees had to come down.

Maybe you think that would be an easy decision, but it’s not. We picked those trees and grew those trees. We have pictures of them when they were $35 saplings and now they were giants. It was painful to end something so grand and proud. I almost felt like I had tricked them into life and now at my convenience, they had to go.

It took 20 minutes to cut down seven years of life. The kids and I watched from the window and I felt every moment of it.




Then last weekend we went camping. Our gardener is on vacation, so we’ve missed a cut. When we came home Sunday, this is what we saw in the backyard.


Life will out.

We cut down two trees. And forty sprouted up in their place. It’s worth thinking about, huh?

PS: I know that Shea has to get out there and take those sprouts down, but in my heart, I am rooting for the sprouts.

Planting Trees ~ Dana

One thing that I’ll say about my in-laws is that when they go, they go large.  So when we told them that we wanted to put some fruit trees in our new backyard, they got us some.  Nine to be exact.  Nine fruit trees for my husband Hansel’s birthday back in February.

These poor little trees sat, waiting to be planted, for two months until finally last weekend the weather was warm enough and we had time enough to put them in the ground.  It was quite an undertaking.  There were ten trees all-together, plus three lavender bushes, two salvia bushes, a lilac bush, and no less that sixteen little yellow annual flowers that I had bought that morning to help accent the bushes.  What a wonderful idea!

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With post-digger in hand, we (and by we I mean he) started the planting around 11:00.  I mean really, how long could planting 10 trees take?

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The answer is about six hours.  About half way through, when Hansel was taking a much-deserved break, I thought I’d get in on the fun, too.  But when I couldn’t really lift the post-digger, I decided that the little yellow annuals were just my speed, in between playing with the baby, feeding the toddler, and hunting ladybugs.

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So now we’ve got an even prettier backyard, and I love the thought of watching these trees grow.  They are just another physical reminder that we are planting our roots here.  And that feels so good.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had real roots somewhere.

Up until we got married five years ago, I hadn’t lived in one place for more than two years since I moved out of my parents’ house to go to college at the age of seventeen (in 1993, y’all).  The first house that my husband and I lived in was nice, but it never really felt like home to me.  But this place.  This place is my beautiful home.  My children are happy here.  I can put up my feet in my backyard and sip a glass of sweet tea.  In fact, I’m writing this outside right now, smelling the orange blossoms, my skin warming in the sun, and the roots of my trees anchoring themselves down in the beautiful dirt.

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