So we attacked the yard.
We live in the city, in the kind of house that only has a back yard, and that postage-stamp sized. This house was (we figure) strictly a rental for at least a few decades before we bought it last August, and the yard has been duly neglected. The fence between our and our neighbors on the north is in three parts: closest to our yard is an old fashioned looking, wire fence with a decorative top - I believe it's called garden fencing; looks something like this one...except ours is in considerably worse shape. It's about 4 or 4 1/2 feet high.
Behind that is a layer of unfinished chain link - it looks like someone got hold of a roll of it, and basically blanketed the garden fencing with it, on the north neighbor side and the back; tying the two together with random bits of rope and wire, many of which are long since rotted or rusted away.
The final layer on the north side is the neighbor's wood privacy fence. Or at least, it may have provided privacy at one time. Now it is has large gaps in several places, and rapidly returning to the void. It is likewise loosely looped to the other two fences with random bits.
In between, around and through all of this fencing is what looks like 40-60 years of random vegetation. Oh, it's clear that people have tried to clear it periodically, and the largest tree bits (10 inch or so trunks) have been hacked off...but really, mostly it's been neglected. When we bought the house, the yard was a seething mass of randomly growing things. There were several sorts of vines looping through and around the fence, several types of shrub coming up in the inbetween, and the yard itself was weed and vine choked. Since it was August and we're procrastinators (and lazy besides), we decided to wait for winter to do most of the hard work for us.
And it did. The grassy weeds have only grown to about a foot high so far this spring, and they flop over, so it's really pretty tidy back there. Most of the vines died off in the winter, though they're showing signs of coming back.
I made arrangements on Friday to meet up with a craigslister who was offering free bamboo for the digging. Since our north neighbors are noisy and their yard junky, we'd like a privacy screen between us and them, and bamboo seems ideal. yes, I know, it's invasive and aggressive. I've been reading about it though, and it isn't that tough to control, with some vigilance. Getting rid of it altogether, THAT'S tough...but I'm not worried about that. It grows fast and thick and it takes up less space than evergreens. So it's no use trying to talk me out of it, okay?
Anyway, so Saturday we started in on the yard, the Troll raking up some of the weedy stuff from the back end, and then me pulling dead vines off of the fence, then Troll using the machete to whack at some of the more overbearing bushes. Found what we thought was probably poison ivy*. We got a lot done, but tired out pretty quickly. Sunday was the bamboo digging day. We stopped off on the way at the Troll's parents, so that we could borrow some appropriate digging tools (apppropriate digging tools for bamboo, btw, includes an axe. no, i'm not kidding - you would not believe how useful it was!), and because it was on the way.
Got to the place, was directed to the bamboo stand, and started in.
Talk about some SERIOUS hard work! We worked for a couple of hours, and pulled out something between 6-10 clumps, holding any from one to 6 actual stalks, and tons of root-stuff. We had to chop the tall ones (they were up to 15 ft, maybe higher) off in order to get them into the car. The guy was really very nice, and told us that anytime we needed more, to let him know. We chatted with him for quite a long while after we finished loading, it was nice. We stopped back by the Troll-rents to show off our bamboo-modded car (I wish we had taken a picture, but we were tired and forgot), and headed back home.
We got the car unloaded and the Troll created a small "nursery area" in which the bamboo will (hopefully) live until we get it planted in its proper places (sometime this week). While he did that, I went around the fence with a pair of loppers we borrowed from the 'rents. I was tired enough, sadly, that I wasn't really paying attention to what I was cutting, and I whacked down a big branch of poison ivy*, which fell on my head on its way down. Whoops.
We dragged the gardening tools inside with our last bits of real strength. But we're grownups, so there were things we still had to do, even though we were wiped. We took showers and some ibuprofen, and dragged ourselves downstairs to make a meal. While eating, we watched a couple of episodes of Terminator, the Sarah Connor Chronicles.
I slept like the dead. Woke up and took some more ibuprofen, had breakfast, sent the Troll (who had decidedly developed some poison ivy reaction) off to work, used some Zanfel (having learned that I developed some reaction too) and went back to bed.
It's amazing how utterly exhausted and physically beaten I feel today, still. I was actually shaking as I made lunch a bit earlier. Amazing. But we got a ton of stuff done, so I'm happy about it!
*Through most of my life, I was immune to poison ivy (my mom has always been, too). Then, about 6 years ago, I helped clear some out of my then-housemate's back yard. Somehow in the process, I got a sliver of poison ivy wood embedded in my right forearm. At least, so I think. What I KNOW happened, is that I developed a monstrous, flaming, seeping mess from wrist to elbow. It was remarkable. Seriously, random people who saw it asked me how I burned my arm so horribly. The skin on that forearm is still a bit oddly-textured. Then, I started getting random pop-ups of poison ivy on various places on my body. Yep, systemic poison ivy, and me with no medical insurance. Fortunately, I found a product called Zanfel - it's the most amazing thing for poison ivy EVAR. Pricy, but so VERY worth it. After several months, the arm healed up and the random popups...diminished. I still get them occasionally, 6 years later, but only very minorly. So I haven't had any contact with poison ivy since then, so I wasn't sure if my immunity somehow held, or I had joined the bulk of the rest of humanity in reacting to it. Thanks to the weekend's experiences, I know the answer to that now.