Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

September 9, 2016

Losing Our Shore to Lake Superior + Learning to Care for Our Lawn and Property

Modern Fire Pit

Hubby is mildly obsessed with Google Earth and he's getting me hooked on exploring our neighborhood from the sky.  From our seemingly tidy neighbour's secret stash of junk hidden in the forest behind his house (busted!), to a landlocked shack deep in the woods, it's really interesting getting a bird's eye view of the area!  Truthfully though, Hubby spends most of his time examining our own property, comparing current aerial shots we took with older logged images to keep tabs on the rate of our shore erosion. 

Lake Erosion

Lake Superior has wreaked havoc on the properties of many of our neighbours, who have had to hire out expensive reconstruction.  The higher water levels are to blame and they've caught even seasoned lake lifers by surprise.  We've been somewhat sheltered from the damage because of our location on the bay, but we're still going to have to devise a plan for next year to keep our lawn from getting washed away.  Living lakeside is amazing, but we weren't prepared for the extra work of owning a lakeside property (#notcomplaining)! 

Canada Goose on Lawn

Meanwhile, last year Hubby noticed another trend while spying on our house: thanks to Szuka, our lawn had such bad brown spots, you can quite literally see them from space!  We're pretty rough on the lawn too though: we frequently leave stuff lying around so the lawn dies underneath and when we finally cut the lawn, inevitably it's too short!  Oh yeah, I also drove across the lawn in our Ram 2500, loaded with thousands of pounds of gravel, and you can still see the faint tire treads. 

Lake Life

With the combined efforts of our complete landscaping ineptitude, Szuka's bladder, and the black bear that forced our hand and made it necessary to chop down two beautiful apple trees, we kind of made our property worse the first couple of years we lived here (despite feeling swamped with yard work)...

Black Bear Problems
Cutting Down Apple Trees

I'm sure neighbors wondered what the heck we were doing with our time to still have such a crummy looking yard!  Even though we're pretty rural, our neighborhood is changing: smaller homes and cottages are regularly torn down to built giant houses - one of our neighbors supposedly spent $100,000 on landscaping alone!  Everyone who walks by our house peers down our driveway and frowns, so I have this sinking suspicion they think we're dragging down property values.

We're trying to improve, but we're not used to having any land so it's taking us some time to get the hang of it!  We were spoiled in the townhouse because the condo hired out lawn care so we didn't even own a lawn mower!  We planted a cute little bush and some lily of the valley flowers but that was it.  We'd make a fruit smoothie and watch someone else cut our lawn from behind the sheer curtains.  We have big plans for next year, but this year we chipped away at some outdoor projects: we finally fixed the riding lawn mower so we cut the lawn weekly instead of monthly (go us!).

Lake House Exterior // Modern DIY Fire Pit

We replaced the crumbling fire pit with our new modern DIY fire pit, finally got rid of the geese for good with a rope fence, removed some rotting flower beds, and finished cleaning up all of the junk and debris left on the property by the former owner - including that 1960s boat we kept moving around the yard, killing the grass!  Just this weekend we even pruned our overgrown raspberry bushes.

Fresh Raspberry
Bowl of Raspberries

I'm going to develop a green thumb, just you watch.  Once I can keep a shrub alive, I'm getting chickens.

In our most victorious bout of landscaping, we planted four teeny, tiny cedar trees!  The goal is to eventually line the entire property with them - including where we tore down the apple trees - to fill in the natural tree line and create a perfectly private backyard.

Newly Planted Cedar

Womp, womp, womp.

Seriously - those cedars looked WAY bigger when we brought them home in the truck.  Well, we're getting there!  Fifteen years from now we'll be happy we started today.

We have the enthusiasm, but it's clear we need a little guidance.

When TruGreen reached out, I was really interested in their services and expertise - especially the tree and shrub care.  Even itty bitty trees are expensive, so many of the TruGreen services, like seasonal insect control and a spring dormant oil application, help protect that investment - and they're essential for protecting old growth.  TruGreen specializes in providing the nourishment trees and shrubs need to grow, essential if your plan is to block out nosy neighbors as quickly as possible.  TruGreen also deals with pest control and tackles pressing problems like the Emerald Ash Borer.  I learned so much about what my trees need to be healthy from perusing the website. 

TruGreen lawn care
Until I cut my own lawn, I never realized how easy it is to completely destroy it with improper maintenance.  My crime was letting it grown too long, then cutting it too short.  I'm slowly getting the hang of it (although Hubby and I still bicker over the height of the lawn mower blades).  We've never fertilized or used anything on our lawn, which I realize now is a huge mistake.  We can really see in our aerial snooping just how dry and crunchy our poor lawn is.  With TruGreen, lawn care is a science, with different services tailored to ensuring a weed-free, lush lawn.  I love that they actually customize a plan for a specific lawn - it's not a one-size-fits-all service, which is the key to getting great results.  Plus, all natural and organic services are available - which is always a way to win me over!

Getting a beautiful lawn

Even if you're not in a position to hire professionals to help you out - or there isn't a service available in your area - TruGreen has such a great learning centre and I've picked up some great tips for mowing the lawn!  It turns out there's a word for what I was doing: "scalping" my lawn (oops).  As well, now that it's finally running, our old beast of a lawn mower could use some maintenance to ensure we aren't butchering the lawn each time we cut the grass.  I learned that excessive clippings can be a sign of not mowing enough - yep, guilty!  Plus, I didn't realize there were actually different mowing suggestions (like how short to cut it) outlined for different types of grass - seriously, a gorgeous lawn takes some know-how!  Luckily the TruGreen team can put together a customized plan for achieving that perfect lawn that will turn neighbour's heads - in a good way!

If you've been struggling with your lawn maintenance or trees and shrubbery, or just need some customized advice to help your yard looks its best, see if there's a TruGreen in your area and get a quote.

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of  The opinions, meandering digressions, sad little cedars, and text are all mine.


  1. our neighbor's across the street have apple and pear trees and the bear always visits them because of it. my neighbor's don't use the fruit, so i am heading over to pick some and help keep the bear away and make apple and pear sauce! :) we have an apple tree but it's sort of hidden among other trees and the bear has never been an issue there that i know of. this year it barely produced though anyhow.

    1. That's so great that you're able to use up that fruit! Such a bonus for you, and a great way to keep those bears away. Hope you haven't had any more scary encounters.

  2. We only have an acre but our lot is completely treed- mixed woods, lots of maple, oak and ash and some massive pines. Too much shade for a proper lawn but fine by us since we're not lawn maintenance types- we're looking forward to the time the moss will overtake the grass.
    However, our experience with wooded property (I grew up with fruit trees, my dad is an expert fruit grower) is that other than the fruit trees, the native trees do very well without interference. The previous owner of our house is an aborist for hydro and ran his own tree service business, he does emerald ash borer inoculation. Our first summer here I saw the odd emerald ash borer around and it set fear in tree-loving heart. I contemplated calling the previous owner about the last time he treated the ash trees here (apparently it should be done on a 4yr cycle) but wondered if he'd be honest just to sell me the service earlier. However in the meantime I have learned that the treatment may not be effective. I intend to learn more about that before we pay for it but also, I don't like the idea of injecting anything in our trees if it's not going to offer any protection. So far, I haven't see any signs of damage (but I don't really know what the early signs are) and still only the odd borer, no increase. I still need to evaluate treatment measures.
    And does trugreen differentiate between a fertilization program for an urban landscape versus the program for a lakeside property? Any fertilizer runoff, whether natural or not, can be adverse for the lake. I would want to know that they consider the environment impact of the lake since you live on the shore.

    1. Your lot sounds amazing! SO many trees - WOW! You'd have to check with TruGreen for specifics on their fertilizer responsibility. You raise an excellent question! I have yet to require any outside help with our property, but I partnered with TrueGreen to help spread the word about their services and as an exercise is education for me. I've learned A LOT from their free resource center. I am crossing my fingers that our trees will stay healthy but it's good to know that there are natural/organic options out there if we need them. I have so much more to learn about caring for this property (which isn't huge but feels massive to us, haha) and so I'm happy to soak up as much info as I can!

  3. Watch out for deer in the winter. They will eat the needles from your sad little cedars, then you will be stuck with dead little cedars. Wrap them in burlap, and that should help. You'll need to do this every winter up to about 6' in height (deer mouth reach), as they will will attack attack attack. That 6' wrap is even as the tree grows taller. If you don't do this, you won't have a private backyard :( A 20' tree with the bottom 6' eaten away is a sad big cedar. Oh yeah, if you get a lot of snow that the deer can stand on, then you need to take the height of the snow pack plus 6'.

    1. Oh gosh, I never even thought about that! Thanks so much for the info - I will definitely have to wrap these little saddies up this winter because we do have deer wandering through our property.


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