A young man was passing through our side-yard, stopping briefly to take a photo of our neighbor’s truck. He stepped backwards into the yard to frame and capture the shot, then swiveled around to take in the scene. “Hey there!” we called from down the hill, where we sat on the patio. The young man looked to us, and with an air of bewilderment asked, “What is this place?”
I’ve always wanted to build an outdoor kitchen and now that I’m retired I had the time to tackle the project. I designed and built it all myself only having help spreading the cement slab, hooking up the 100 amp electrical panel and painting the ceiling.
Just one year ago we closed on this property — with a backyard filled with cement pavers, drastically unleveled by time, tree stumps and ferocious city weeds. I was determined to have a vegetable garden in our little 1,200 square foot plot, especially after enrolling in UMaines Master Gardener Program in York County that ran from January to June.
The side yard to my home in on Clark Street in Portland’s West End had clearly been under-loved when I purchased the property in July 2014. The yard itself is quite small—measuring 15 feet wide along the brick sidewalk and 35 feet back from the street. It was uninviting, but a few redeeming features included a large maple casting full time shade and beautiful small stone retaining wall. Abutting the property is a small 4-6 car parking lot for the next door apartments. The yard was unkempt; the garden was pitiful; and the view of the asphalt lot was unpalatable. I set out with the goal of transforming the yard into usable space with an inviting layout and bounty of shade-loving plants.