Sunday, June 06, 2010

backyard



One of the things I love about the neighbourhood I live in is the diversity of backyards. There are alleys behind almost every street and I take the neighbour's dog for walks along them. I love to check out all the various backyards. They range from mini-farms to magical eating nooks to utter neglect (and the occassional concrete parking lot; boo).



I share our backyard with our downstairs neighbour. She has a real green thumb, especially for indoor plants and brings hers out to her deck every spring. She is really cool and we get along fine, but she has the more direct access to the backyard so tends to take advantage of it more. The other disadvantage of the backyard is that it has three large trees. They are érables à giguères, a maple species not native to Québec, but fairly prolific in and around Montreal. People consider them kind of junky trees, but I'm quite happy with their funky growth patterns and aggressive seeding. I say disadvantage only because it has basically been impossible to grow anything in the backyard, because of all the shade. On the other hand, when it is baking hot, our backyard remains nicely cool and our trees absorb sound and probably a lot of crap spewed from the cars on St.urbain, so we definitely like them.



But because I'm not gardening, I don't spend as much time as I should in the backyard. So I've been thinking about ways to take advantage of the space. My downstairs neighbour has pointed out several times that the patio laid out there is starting to rot and though I like it, I realize that it kind of blocks the fun stuff that could be done with the backyard. So I decided to rip it out.



It was a good Friday evening project and took only about an hour and a half, though I was chasing the light at the end. Our only concern is that the open dirt may well be viewed by the army of cats that hang out back there as a giant toilet. Thus, our pathetic attempt to cover part of it with a bit of plastic.



My plan is to build some little trails and take advantage of the lush growth, to give it a cozy, private feel. I'm going to keep the hexagonal picnic bench for now, but eventually, I'll maybe go for something smaller. A little bench for reading or complementing against one side might be nice as well.

7 comments:

Olivier said...

It's interesting that the city now ask promoters to put a little space between the front of new buildings and the curb so there can be a little green zone there. A friend told me this was good and helped make the city more humane and gives some breathing room.

I hail from the Quartier Saint-Jean Baptiste (Québec city) school of space allocation: basically, you have the street, the curb and the building, with indoor stairs for the 2nd and 3rd floor so you don't have to shovel them in the winter. Now what's my point, you ask? Well, those 3-5 meters taken from the front go in the back, thus allowing for even more spacious backyards! That or larger housing.

But it seems Montréal is married to the outdoor stairwells, so...

But enough idle rambling: You have an *hexagonal picinic bench* in your backyard? I'm jealous.

WalkerP said...

I handtrucked that picnic bench from the North side of Mile End.

Do the residences in the Quarter Saint-Jean Baptiste have balcons? Or do the families all spend their outside time in the backyard? I do like a big backyard, but I like the way the token front yards in the Plateau bring people out to their porches, making more of a public life in the streets.

Olivier said...

Not much in the way of balcons in SJB but, as I said, the backyards are pretty big. But you bring an important point with them; it's important to have a public life in streets!

So I'd say this is a less than interesting aspect of the Saint-jean Baptiste model.

Here is a link to Rue Saint-Olivier, a pretty typical street of the Quartier. Hopefully the google maps link is ok. Google street view gives a prtty good feeling of the place.

But I'd say the big plus are the indoor stairs. We can all brag about our macho shoveling-fu, but the fact is that it's far less dangerous that way once the sleet and ice rain comes in...

sicnaxyz said...

You're back posting I can see. I know you want to keep your pics small but I feel frustrated because I like seeing the details. Any way you could put them on another see so we can see bigger pics?

WalkerP said...

If you click on them, the larger version should show up, but I don't like to put them up bigger than 600 pixels across, unless it's a picture that really demands a close scrutiny. I've got a limited amount of free space to store photos and since I've got this new camera, I'm going to be putting up a lot of photos. Also, trying to keep down the carbon impact of this blog. But I'll keep you in mind, the next time there is a photo that might look better in higher res.

WalkerP said...

Olivier, while I quite enjoy keeping my stairs clear of snow, it can become a real time burden if it's a snowy winter. Also, I'm in relatively good health and that isn't the case for all homeowners. Finally, Québec gets a lot more snow! So I can see the wisdom in the indoor stairs.

Why do we have the outdoor stairs in Montreal, anyways?

Olivier said...

Someone once told me it was some kind of public decency act that was passed at the beginning of the century for Montréal's appartment buildings to have external stairwells so to avoid inappropriate behavior (ie: prostitutes and other seedy practicionners servicing their clients there).

I think it sounds like an urban legend, but I don't know how to check up on it, so there you go...