Anyone who has bought an old fixer upper with the hopes of renovating it to suit your own needs and tastes knows there’s no such thing as a blank slate. In the summer of 2008, my wife and I signed the mortgage papers on a nonagenarian American Four Square in Merion Village, just outside of downtown Columbus, Ohio. We soon found that the fixes we thought would be simple and easy were going to take hours, days or weeks of remedial work before the cosmetic changes could be done.

The new old house.

In the same way, we later realized that the back yard we saw as a blank slate of endless possibilites was in need of some serious infrastructure before the first tomato or pea could go into the ground.

Not such a blank slate.

 For that first summer, the crabgrass filled back yard served as the domain of our dog, Scout. With occassional mowing during the warm months and the raking of dozens of bags of leaves and about a hundred pounds of rotting walnuts from the neighbor’s trees in the fall, we left the back yard to its own devices in 2008.

Scout didn't mind the crabgrass.