The last half of 2010 and all of 2011 have flown by in a blink. And yet, before we know it Baby V will be here and life will be even more different.  We are both looking forward to the changes awaiting us in 2012 but I distinctly want to remember this time, before kids — just us. What we spent our free time on, how we entertained ourselves, and what our big projects were. I’m going to attempt to capture some of these details in a “life before” series if you will. And since the last year in particular has been all about our house, I’m going to begin with…the tree from hell.

When we bought the house in September 2009, every bush, shrub, and tree was overgrown. In the first weekend alone, we cut down or tore out enough yard waste to fill and haul multiple U-Haul moving van loads to the dump.  Slowly but surely, we started to get things cleaned up and got the house the breathing room it needs to not be a big old moldy bug haven. But there was one tree that was going to be a bigger undertaking. Meet Toby (aka the HR Rep on ‘The Office’, you know, the guy that’s just really annoying and weird):

Notice how closely Toby hugs the house. Not good.  Toby should have been cut down or transplanted sometime around the early 80s when we were born. But alas, 30 years later it was now our problem to solve.  It threatened the house, it threatened our neighbor’s house, and behold the top:

You can see the random limbs broken off the top of the tree in various spots.  This tree lost tons of branches anytime it snowed. The limbs fell on our roof (oy) and narrowly missed our neighbors car multiple times (double oy). It was only a matter of time before the tree cost us a significant amount of money by seriously damaging property.

I got quotes from 4 landscaping companies to cut and haul away the tree. All four quotes came in over $1000. Ouch. We were prepared to spend some money getting rid of Toby the monster but not that much.  That’s almost a new flat screen tv! Priorities, people.  Based on an excellent recommendation from our brother-in-law, we posted the job on Craigslist. We decided to hire someone to cut down the tree and take on the task of getting rid of it ourselves. Little did we know how much work that would be.

After receiving a LOT of emails from Craigslist, we went with a certified Arborist who was insured and bonded. He knew exactly how to prep the tree to fall and where to bring it down so our house and our power lines were safe. He arrived at 8 am on a Saturday morning and by 10 am, Toby was down! The best part – his services set us back $180. So much cheaper than a landscape company!

No more threatening tree, just an enormous tree in our front yard and driveway to cleanup.

So we did what any young couple trying to save a buck does…we got out the small hack saws we had and started chopping up Toby! It’s worth noting that every one of our 70+ year old neighbors visited that day to tell us how we would never get the tree removed from our yard and how we should have hired the landscaping companies instead of trying to do it ourselves.  We persevered with our hack saws anyway.  For another $50 (for a project total of $230), we rented a 17 foot moving truck and packed it to the brim with limbs from that tree. While it sounds like a simple cleanup job now, on that particular Saturday we encountered rain, sleet, and thunder while we were chopping up and hauling out that darn tree.

Today we have a small mound of mulch where the tree stump remains (I will update with a picture soon). Due to the proximity of the stump to the house we can’t dig out the stump without threatening the integrity of the footing on that corner of our house. We’ve planted two shrubs around the stump and anticipate it will completely disintegrate within a few years.

We are both really proud of this project because we got it done (albeit with lots of manual labor) for less than a quarter of the price of hiring it out.  It’s also a huge visual change to the whole house because that tree was the last remnant of overgrown, unattended landscaping from the previous owners. Goodbye, Toby!