Taking back the yard

Our backyard has a slight overgrowth problem. Much progress was made last summer on one side of the yard, removing vines and replacing broken sections of fence, but with the subsequent discovery of my husband’s terrible reaction to poison ivy, we had to back off from that sort of work.
Years of neglect by the previous owners resulted in a curtain of ivy over two feet thick covering the fence. We weren’t even sure what shape the fence was in underneath, because we could barely get to it. The neighbor on that side is content to let that side of his yard resemble a rainforest, so it’s not likely that we can ever stop the vines completely, but I wanted our yard back. I’d prefer to look at grass and a fence, and I’d like to give wasps fewer places to hang out.

But ivy is very hard to kill. My husband tried slashing the vines along the whole length of the fence and then spraying the leaves with a herbicide that had “ivy” listed as a usual victim, but the leaves barely even faded. We considered hiring a landscaping crew – we keep getting bright advertising flyers stuffed into our mailbox, so there’s no lack of companies to choose from – but those guys are expensive. So, we decided to be reckless and put a “help wanted” ad on Craigslist. Within a few hours, we’d gotten several replies, most of them intelligible. We called back one guy who said he’d bring his girlfriend to help, we set up a time, and then hoped they’d show up and do a decent job.
Here’s what the fence looked like once they were finished their 4 hour day. The line where the grass stops is where the ivy ended!

They filled twenty-one huge trash bags with ivy, twigs, and weeds. And the best part? They came back for more. They’ve done two days now and the yard is almost unrecognizable! There’s still more to be done, and they seem willing to finish the job completely, at a price well below what we’d be paying landscapers (which is also cheaper than the medical treatment my husband would need if he hit poison ivy again).
As with all projects we undertake here, it’s led to a new project: it seems that the ivy was a supporting frame for the fence. Some sections, not shown in my photo, have fallen completely, and the ones that are still upright aren’t very solid. Most of the fencing on that side of the house will need to be replaced, and with the neighbor’s short chain-link fence about a foot behind ours, spanning a small section of Maryland rainforest, navigation will be difficult.
The other fun bit is the rocks. There are so many rocks in our yard. They must have had a rock garden set up along the fence and along some sides of the house, along with a gravel area near the pool. I have no idea what we’re supposed to do with these rocks. Maybe I can get a rock tumbler and an acid etching kit and start making smooth rocks with “peace” and “family” and baby names on them so I can sell them on Etsy for two bucks each plus shipping.

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