No Garden Mullets Please

I have finally convinced my husband that we need to hire someone! I have this vision in my head of our yard 30+ years ago when our house was built. It must have had nice landscaping, a sturdy retaining wall, and timber and gravel steps down our steep hill in our backyard. That was a long time ago. Now things are overgrown and the only clues that our hill once had prior steps are the rebar poking up out of the dirt in intervals and a few remaining pieces of rotted wood. In the two summers we have lived here, we have walked, slid, and slipped down this neglected path. Now that our lower yard is shaping up into something we can use and enjoy, it’s time to make the trek down there less treacherous.

I have pondered the task of building the steps for quite awhile. After tossing around many ideas, I came to the conclusion that we lack the tools and measuring skills needed to deal with the steep grade. Plus, the back aches and marital arguments probably would not be worth the money we’d save on doing it ourselves. It might actually be more money if we had to redo it if it wasn’t done properly. So it’s time to hire a contractor to do the job we cannot do ourselves. However, I learned that even hiring an expert will not guarantee the end result.

When I was in the 4th grade, my mom took me to our local hairdresser to get my hair cut. I was super excited. I had long, somewhat curly hair that I had envisioned transforming into a sleek, between neck and shoulder length bob. If only I had used my specific adult description back then. Instead, I believe I had used the word “layered” to describe the cut I wanted. When the hairdresser asked me if I was sure more than once, I should have clued in. However, she was an adult and an expert so of course she would know what I wanted and how to do it and I was going to look great.

It did not look great. I ended up with what is now referred to as a mullet. Me. I had a mullet. By accident of course. By not properly communicating what I had wanted. If only I had an iPhone back then, like most kids seems to these days, I would have been able to produce a picture of exactly what I had wanted in seconds. There were hairstyle books and magazines of course, but they weren’t always up-to-date or for kids. So the end result was a mullet that took a good 2 years to grow out which also included a perm phase and a lesson I will not forget.

I have never had a hair mullet since, but I have had other mishaps that I may have prevented with better communication. If you don’t properly convey your wants and expectations, you can end up with a mullet in life.

Currently, I’m trying to prevent a garden mullet. I’m in the research and quote phase of my plan, which I think may be the most import part. It’s certainly not as easy as I thought it would be. In my search for a contractor, I have learned a few things so far. 1. It’s called hardscaping. This is when structures are landscaped into the yard. 2. Despite HomeAdvisor and Angie’s List and reviews, some contractors don’t call you back. 3. Many do not work on the weekends. 4. Some have very busy personal lives.

We’ve had one quote so far. I placed a call to a company highly recommended by HomeAdvisor and a man with a thick accent answered. He seemed nice enough so I gave him my address and he came out after work. I had to call again because he was late, but he apologized. There was a communication error with the address. His name is Fernando and I was ready for him with a few pictures on my iPhone of what I had envisioned. There will be no further communication errors. I am determined not to end up with a garden mullet!

Fernando had envisioned a grand staircase made of brick. He showed us pictures. It would have been beautiful had we a big fancy house with a well-manicured yard. Our house is nice, but humble in appearance and our yard has a very wild and whimsical feel despite my attempts to tame it. What our grounds need is a more natural, more rustic style of steps. So I pulled out my phone and pointed out some natural stone steps to Fernando. We went back and forth sharing photos. He was partial to brick or paving stones with tops on them. I wanted natural. There was a lot of pointing and discussion of width and materials. I wanted no miscommunication.

We showed him the path on the hill and his assistant used a tape measure on wheels to find the distance. The stones would be more than what we want to spend so I found another photo of a wood frame on three sides with gravel filling. It’s a common step system that I’ve seen in many yards. While it’s not as nice as the stone steps, it will blend better than a staircase of fancy bricks. Fernando can get that done for half the price of the stone steps.

Quote number one down. I think it’s a good one, but I have been advised to get a few since pricing and skill vary. Obtaining quotes is harder than one would imagine though. Especially when one works all day and most contractors don’t seem to work weekends. It’s hard to get home in the daylight this time of year as well. I realize that it’s a small-scale job, so it might not be appealing to some companies. I’ve had several no callbacks and one guy who said he could give me a quote but it really depended on what was going on in his personal life. He never called me back after that. The last company I called returned my call right away. I’m optimistic. He’s coming out next week for a quote.

I’ll have my photos ready. No garden mullets please.

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