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Ready for Summer Entertaining! Our Garden Makeover in a Weekend

Posted Monday, January 30, 2017 in: Before & After DIY Nerd Life Our House

Okay, honesty time. If I didn’t have a blog, I don’t think I would do a QUARTER of the stuff around our home that we do, and especially not in the time frames that we do it. I am just too lazy, people. I think one of the main reasons I became a journalist was because subconsciously I knew that I always need a looming deadline to move my reluctant butt into gear.

I’m the same way when it comes to creating blog content and renovating our house. In fact, I am pretty certain that if I did not blog I would just live in squalor, with the curtains always closed (or maybe there would just be newspaper on the windows) and whenever there was a knock on the door I would scuttle nervously between piles of renovation rubble with a hunted expression on my face.

Ok ok that’s probably not entirely true. We did do home improvement projects long before I started blogging. But it IS true that writing a blog is one of the best motivators to get my butt moving on a DIY project.


Other excellent motivators for getting stuff done around the house:

- having a baby (something I am not particularly keen on doing again anytime soon, thank you; I complained dolorously wrote a post about what being pregnant is like here)
- having a big party
- entertaining!

Yes, I know what they say when it comes to having a messy or unfinished house and having friends over; those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter, lalala.

But when people come over, I am the one who wants to feel that our place is at least a bit tidy. I don’t want to be sitting there chatting to friends, holding my wine glass, while my eyes wander over to all the cobwebs hanging from the windows. Then the next thing I’m staring fixedly at all the weeds choking the blueberry bush that I meant to pull out three weeks ago… then I’ll appear to be transfixed by some dirty grout. No-one likes that person. Ok I’m not going to lie, sometimes I drink too much wine and I don’t care about the physical condition of anything whatsoever in this house at all anymore (“Yes! YES! EVERYONE SHOULD DANCE ON THE COFFEE TABLE,” I recall enthusiastically shouting at our tacky weddings-themed party and then there six people jumping on the coffee table and that was just too many. I would never have encouraged six people to dance on that table that if I were sober. Three, maybe).

 

A photo posted by Modaokon | Maya Anderson (@housenerd) onOct 6, 2015 at 12:40am PDT


In Perth, through most of the year it’s usually warm enough to entertain outside in the evenings, especially in the summer when we have the most wonderful summer evenings. We often have people over for food and drinks outside.

I have a love-hate relationship with our garden. I love a lot of things in it, like the mature trees, the vegie garden and the wildlife.

OUR GARDEN WILDLIFE: Left, one of the bearded dragons, right, a tree frog in our vegie patch. We live near nature reserves and we get little creatures passing through or living here. We have the CUTEST pair of bearded dragons in the front garden who are really inquisitive and love popping up randomly to watch us water the plants. A quenda (bandicoot) used to live in the front garden, and a little family of blue tongue lizards have been here since we bought the house. We get beautiful black cockatoos ing from our trees and I’ve even seen owls and bats. I love the wildlife here and it’s devastating that their trees and homes are already being destroyed to make room for the proposed Roe 8 highway extension. One of the main reasons I am massively against Roe 8. I know who I will be voting for come March 11!) You can support and .


What don’t I love about our garden? The way we sometimes forget about it for a week or two and all of a sudden it looks wild and overgrown and neglected. When life and work gets really busy and I just don’t enough time to spend in the garden, I instead try to turn a blind eye to it. Then eventually I have to get the nerve up to creep outside and see the damage.

 

A photo posted by Modaokon | Maya Anderson (@housenerd) onNov 6, 2015 at 7:42pm PST

 

And lately, our garden had been looking REALLY bad – especially the alfresco area in the backyard. It wasn’t long before it became a total dumping ground.

I blame the heat. I feel energised when it’s cold and miserable; apathetic when it’s 40 degrees. And I also blame Little Nerd. 


Yeah sure, he’s cute. Sure, he enjoys the odd half hour of watering the plants and light gardening himself (mostly hosing himself in the face).

But if there is one thing I have learned since we had a kid - babies and toddlers are the ULTIMATE hindrance to being productive and getting things on your house and garden to-do list done. Having a baby is like having a tiny, disagreeable sidekick.

DON’T BE FOOLED: He looks innocent, but he is already plotting when he can waylay my best-laid plans at ANY GIVEN MOMENT by pulling out his Linda Blair impression. Where will this happen? When will it happen? Only time will tell. It could be in the manure aisle of Bunnings at 3pm. Or at 8am at my favourite café when I have 40 people lined up behind me and I desperately need some Parent Elixir (which is usually coffee, but sometimes wine). He likes to keep us on our toes in case we become complacent.


So with a baby in our clan, here's how our garden was looking.

BEFORE

BEFORE

BEFORE: Yup, a dumping ground. 

Little Nerd decided to add the 'before' into 'before photo' by slathering everything in chalk, including our outdoor furniture. Brilliant. Thanks, little guy. I love sitting down with a glass of wine after a long day and getting chalkbutt.

This is why we can't have nice stuff.

The garden looked bad, it needed work but I just didn’t have the motivation to do it.

So when asked me if I would like to work with them to do some kind of summer makeover or DIY project, I was keen - and I knew straightaway what I wanted to do. I wanted to get a pressure washer and clean our filthy poured limestone alfresco area in the back garden.

We did this limestone ourselves years ago (I will never do poured limestone myself ever again, I got overtired, impatient and mucked it up) and while it looked so lovely and clean at first, as the years passed it got mossy and dirty and it just looked awful.

BEFORE

BEFORE


Trying to make it look nice by popping throw cushions about and pretty lanterns about was like putting lipstick on a pig. The limestone just had to be cleaned.

So I got a, got Little Nerd looked after and called my sister Simone and invited her over to help me. DIY is way more fun when you have a friend. And here is our guide: how to use a pressure washer to clean paving.

Allow yourself a couple of hours and try to pick the coolest time of day.
I’d never used or even seen a pressure washer in action before so admittedly I had quite naïve expectations about how long it would take. “It will just take 15 minutes!” I told Simone confidently, and no, all up it took a few hours, with breaks in between for coffee, Nala cuddles and rests (it was 40 degrees!)


Timing-wise I probably didn’t time it the best and I think if it was a cooler day we would have been finished a lot quicker; because it was so hot the water evaporated quickly. But we had invited people over for dinner that weekend and I thought, this will be fantastic incentive to get my butt moving.

Move plants and other breakable items out of the way. This thing is powerful.

Wet the area first, then use a good detergent.
The instructions that came with the pressure washer recommend using diluted detergent on paving. I used several different ones, including sugar soap, but found that the most effective was concentrated heavy duty car wash which really helped to get off the worst of the grime. Wet it a little more and allow it to sit for a few minutes before washing that area.

Don’t pressure wash body parts.
But we had invited people over for dinner that weekend and I thought, this will be fantastic incentive to get my butt moving. The pressure hose took a few minutes to put together, and then it was time to play. Simone and I got quite excited about it and fought over who got to have first go. She is bigger and she has a brown belt in karate. She won. “Give me a turn,” I shouted eventually. Woah.


I quickly realised that it was going to take us longer than I had anticipated to clean the whole alfresco, but it was SO satisfying watching all that muck drain off.

The limestone was literally transforming before my eyes. You could almost write words in the dirt. It was SO COOL.

In my mind I was like this:

Reality, however, painted a different picture. 

It was addictive and we probably got a bit overexcited in the beginning. “Spray my foot,” Simone screamed, “I want to see what happens” and I guess I kind of knew it wasn’t our greatest idea but I still zipped over her foot just for funsies. She screamed. “IT HURTS,” she shouted. There was a neat, clean line on the paving by her foot, and a small, red line on her foot, like you'd expect from a jellyfish tentacle. Note for safety. Simone was fine, but don’t be a bogan Australian; wear shoes (proper shoes, not thongs, ideally rubber boots) and don’t spray body parts. Really you should also wear safety glasses.

The was fantastic. Easy to use - next week I'm going to pressure wash our rubbish bins and our front garden paving too. (Well, I say that... let's see how that plan pans out with Little Nerd!)

Check out how much better it looks!

BEFORE

AFTER

SUPER-BEFORE: In case you were interested in seeing what our garden looked like when we bought the house... here she is! To me it looks so different now and sometimes whenever I find myself whinging, "Ohh, our garden is looking so bad," all I need to do is look at these photos and realise that it could be worse!

BEFORE

AFTER

AFTER

A POTTED GREENERY MINI-MAKEOVER WITH MEGHAN PLOWMAN x BAUWERK COLOUR PAINT RANGE

I also decided to up our backyard makeover game a little more. What better way to distract the eye from the less-than-desirable bits of our alfresco than by hiding them with lovely pots of greenery?

I gathered together a whole bunch of old and new terracotta pots and painted them using paints from my friend Meghan Plowman’s recent collaboration with , where she released her own paint range.


The colours are beautiful - so I got a few little sample pots (Mountain, Whitelight and Agave) and went to town. I seriously have NEVER enjoyed painting something as much as these pots. The Bauwerk paints (which are all-natural limewash paints and eco-friendly) are divine and they were so satisfying to paint with, especially the dark inky-grey blue in particular (Mountain). The terracotta pots just seemed to drink up the paint (but not in a bad way).

If you are looking for a fun way to personalise your backyard or balcony I now totally recommend getting some old pots and doing this! Bauwerk have the and the velvety texture of the paint makes even a crappy old pot you found on the side of the road look sort of expensive and designer. My photos don’t do them justice but in real life they look really good! Try getting old pots from Melville markets, vergeside collection, or just Bunnings - you can get nice-sized Italian terracotta pots for just $17 (and $1 for the very little ones) and Bauwerk sell sample pots of paint for just $15. A little bit of paint (particularly the darker colours) go a long way, too. I finished it all up just in time for our evening entertaining!

It was a hot, exhausting weekend, and no it's not going to win any design awards – but doing this to our patio was definitely worth it.

BEFORE

BEFORE

AFTER

What do you think? I have long come to terms with the fact that our garden is never going to be the super-stylish, manicured outdoor space a lot of my friends have - it is always going to look a little bit untidy, a little bit old, and very much a traditional Aussie backyard. But I am okay with that. We like it. In a time when suburban blocks are getting smaller and smaller, we always feel grateful that we have a nice-sized backyard - and now we’re looking forward to many more lovely summer evenings spent entertaining friends out here. Maya x

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