A no maintenance front yard and a Tennessee mountain walk

A “no maintenance” front yard and a prepositional walk on a Tennessee mountain top.

 Almost every time I discuss a yard design with a new client, they immediately mention ‘low maintenance.”  I always try to explain that we can do “low maintenance”, but that there is no such thing as “no maintenance.”  I have been corrected.  Last weekend I saw a no maintenance front yard.  Brad Robertson owns it.  Here is a picture of Brad waiting for us to show up.

 

 

a no maintenance front yard

a no maintenance front yard

 

Brad is an exccellent wholesale plant grower in north Georgia, and I have been using his plants for a number of years in my landscaping business.  He has mentioned his “cabin on a hill” several times and this week he had invited Dekie and me to a small gathering. 

 The directions said to go way north of Chattanooga, look for a street sign that has been torn down, turn left, and proceed in an upward curvy direction for ten or twelve miles or something like that, taking all left forks.  The directions worked and we knew we had followed them well when we got to the part where the road ended.  A gravel driveway about a half a mile long took us to the house. That’s when I saw the maintenance free front yard.

The rain washes it, the winds clean and prune

The rain washes it, the winds clean and prune

 

 

 The house looks out over a deep valley to another peak.  Only one house can be seen from Brad’s front porch and binoculars are needed for that.  Brad told me that in order to accomplish the no maintenance effect, he had removed all of the pockets of dirt from the expanse of flat sandstone.  Now, he enjoys the rocks.  I was told that when the leaves fall on the yard in the fall, an strong wind will come and blow them away.  I walked out to see where the yard ended rather abruptly

The yard ends rather abrubtly

The yard ends rather abrubtly

 

 

 While the other men watched Auburn struggle to contain the Georgia Bulldogs, I wandered around the front yard enjoying the shapes of the naturally dwarfed pine trees growing among the dwarf grasses and clumps of moss and lichen.  Dekie and Laura enjoyed the view from the porch.

It's almost like "nature's bonsai garden"

It’s almost like “nature’s bonsai garden”

 

 

Here’s the view from the front porch

Laura said, "Brad's a plant guy, so every morning is a whole new world for him."

Laura said, “Brad’s a plant guy, so every morning is a whole new world for him.”

 

 

The dwarfed trees and lichen were off to the side.  I liked this combination:

nature's landscape art with dwarf pine and lichen

nature’s landscape art with dwarf pine and lichen

 

 

 There was also a no maintenance back yard and patio area. We had eaten a very good bison chili dinner while we watched the Tigers just barely squeak by to win the game after which it was time for the party to move outside.  A fire was built right there on the patio and chairs were brought out.  It was a nice evening sitting around the fire, toasting marshmallows and telling lies. 

A big rock is ideal for a campfire and marshmallow roast

A big rock is ideal for a campfire and marshmallow roast

 

 

 

Part Two: the prepositional walk (over, under, around, and through).

The next morning, Brad asked if we would like to go for a walk through a part of his yard (the entire “yard” is 80 acres).  The ponderous sky was cloudy and misty. Brandy and Laura declined, mentioning the fact that they had done that before and adding on something else about butts and “fat man’s squeeze”.  I didn’t understand at the time, but I found out quickly.  Brad, Brian, and Dekie led the way and I followed with my trusty camera. A lot of the “walk” was done on a sideways basis.  We started out going downhill through a narrow opening between two of the rocks.

oooooh! squeezing between the rocks

oooooh! squeezing between the rocks

 

 

 I understood what the other ladies had meant about “butts and fat man’s squeeze” when Dekie got stuck.  Here’s a picture of her approaching the ‘squeeze’.  I had to lay the camera down right after this because it took Brad on one side and me on the other side to get her through. I’m probably going to get in trouble for this but it’s also probably worth it.

fat man's squeeze.  Will "you" make it through?

fat man’s squeeze. Will “you” make it through?

 

 

 I had trouble with the next one.  We had to get down and crawl through a small opening between two rocks that couldn’t get any closer.  (I sure did hope they couldn’t)

"Tight, ain't it?"

“Tight, ain’t it?”

 

 

There was a rather large and comfortable overhang as we exited the narrow crawl space. I could picture some Indians and later on Daniel Boone building a fire under the shelter.

(The Cumberland Trail National Park is a few miles to the east.)  The overhang looked out on a small clearing.  I got this picture of Dekie and Brian resting and enjoying the view.

Brian and Dekie enjoy the hidden clearing

Brian and Dekie enjoy the hidden clearing

 

 

Across the clearing was another overhang and crawl space.  Brad told us that there was a “turkey buzzard” that had regular batches of babies under there.  He said that as he would approach the nest, the mother would move off into the distance and let him pass.  He told us that the babies were solid white and didn’t get any color until they exited into the light.

The dark cave beckons. Careful, "It does not do to leave a sleeping dragon out of your calculations."

The dark cave beckons. Careful, “It does not do to leave a sleeping dragon out of your calculations.”

 

 

The way home was somewhere on the other side of this narrow passage.  I remembered Daniel Boone as saying: “I’ve never been lost, but I have been confused for weeks at a time.”

"I always take the long way home."

“I always take the long way home.”

 

 

 The adventure continued and we ended up on top of a cliff where I saw one of natures bonsai trees enveloped in the hanging moisture
It seemed that all that held it down was the weight of the clouds.

It seemed that all that held it down was the weight of the clouds.

There was one more later adventure to an old coal mine.  The mine went under the rocks, but apparently the Indians had liked this overhang and left lots of relics.  Brad showed us where raiders had sifted the dirt for relics and piled the siftings in front of the coal mine entrance.

.

An old coal mine under a natural overhang

An old coal mine under a natural overhang

 

 

 We found small iron train tracks heading up the mountain which would have once supported a mule cart.  Let me tell you, that would have been a long, hard way to haul some coal.

 It was a memorable trip.  Thanks, Brad.  Here’s the parting shot:

I just kind of liked this one eyed tree looking out over the valley.

I just kind of liked this one eyed tree looking out over the valley.

 

********

Would you like a consultation with johntheplantman in your yard? Contact John Schulz BY EMAIL

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

******

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Bob Hicks
    Nov 21, 2010 @ 14:29:04

    John, from time to time I try and grade your posts. This is surely one of the most enjoyable ones. The rock formations are extremely intriguing. The last photo of the hole in the tree leaves me with the question: “Why did you not explain just how it got there?”

    Reply

  2. ponygirl
    Nov 21, 2010 @ 15:44:36

    “Thanks Brad” is right! It was a marvelous experience, one that we hope will be repeated. I’m gonna tackle fat man’s squeeze again!

    Reply

  3. Jane Schulz
    Nov 21, 2010 @ 20:21:27

    Such a great story and beautiful photography! I never saw a slate yard before. The nearest I ever saw was my brother John’s front yard, which he had cemented and painted green to avoid lawn mowing.

    That must have been a fabulous weekend. And I did get the innuendo you posted for me.

    Reply

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