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Inspiration for the DayRenovating my House

It takes a Village to Own a Home

By 05/01/2012August 4th, 201923 Comments


(my nephew William) Photos by Maria Killam

My sister Lea (I have 3 sisters) will be moving to one of the first Ecovillages in Canada just down the street from where I will live in Yarrow.


It’s a real community with 20 acres of farmland where everyone participates because this is about eating organic, recycling and riding your bike instead of driving.

It’s a great little village (this is the view) which includes common areas where parties can happen, a guest room and best of all, the kids can run outside to play safely with 15 other kids (like William painting above). Read more here.

Sunday I arrived to work on the front yard. I wasn’t sure what to do with all the straggly, ancient rosebushes and misc. plants. At first I clipped them. And then I got to the far side of the house where there was some old ones that were barely green, so I got out my shovel and dug them out. Turns out roses are easy to extricate.

In the end the only bush that remained was the yellow honeysuckle beside the dining room window.


UPDATE FAST FORWARD TO 2015, here’s what it looks like now (above)

Our two neighbours, Darryl (right beside us) and Troy (right across the street) came over to watch and hang out but that didn’t last long when I got to the wild rose bush by the front door.

Darryl & Troy

Darryl and Troy were only too happy to jump in to enhance the curb appeal of the street and help me with the tough bushes. Now I know why everyone keeps telling me they love living in Yarrow! My immediate neighbours already make me feel that way!


We have a gazebo in the back yard that also needs to come down because we need space for a garden, so I posted it for free on Craigslist. A guy called to tell me he’d come next Sunday with five of his friends to take it down and when he told me that, I thought ‘Wow I don’t have 5 friends that would help me do something like that.’ But I figured it out on Sunday, it’s called neighbors. If everyone helps each other, that’s a fun and stylish neighborhood.



Fast forward to 2015; Here’s what it looks like now (above).

The first thing I was going to do that day was clip these bushes on the side of my house but Darryl  (who was outside mowing his lawn) told me not to bother, he’d cut them down. Rosemarie (his mother-in-law) came outside at the same time and pulled out all the ivy growing from their side. She said it was the least she could do. So sweet! Thanks Rosemarie!

So much better! Now I need a garden plan for the front yard although I’m most focused on the backyard at the moment, it’s much worse than the front.


Fast forward to 2013 (above).

That’s the update on the house, the old kitchen is coming out as we speak!

Related posts:

I’m moving to the Country

Happiness is. . . Getting how Rich you are Right Now

Happiness is. . . Being Remarkable

Download my eBook, to learn what you didn’t get in Colour Theory. How to Choose Paint Colours: It’s All in the Undertones.

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact me.

To make sure the undertones in your home are right, get some large samples!

If you would like to learn to how choose the right colours for your home or for your clients, become a True Colour Expert.


2 pins


  • Maria,
    It’s great to have good neighbors. My next door neighbor has become one of my closest friends, and our children are like brothers and sisters. What a blessing!

  • Rene says:

    Maria! We are going through the same landscape/ gardening challenges. Since this is our second home I have been around the block once and have a couple of suggestions. Here in Minneapolis we have garden centers where we can bring a schematic of our garden space, information about lighting, direction and pictures of the house/garden space as well as neighbors. For 60.00 (last time I checked), the landscape architect will tell you what to plant, spacing, etc to make sure everything grows in its new home. You can even send soil samples to the U of MN to test your dirt! Very nice. I spent SO MUCH MONEY on things that did not thrive when we started – getting expert advice was a smart move and saved me money. I also now see how close everyone plants things to the house – beautiful shrubs LEANING over, growing on top of each other…. Just a heads up.

  • tara dillard says:

    OMG, that dreadful little entry from driveway to frontdoor.

    Alas, sooooo common.

    Love the guys smiling faces !

    Garden & Be Well, XO T

  • Sarah says:

    We have a fabulous community of neighbours too. Everyone pitches in and the kids just run from yard to yard!

  • There’s nothing like neighbours = you’re right it does take a community.

    Love that you got rid of the rose bushes (and this is a gardener talking). They would have been in the way all summer when you were getting in and out of the car – so I see snagged nylons?

  • frances says:

    I found by walking down my street looking into the neighbours garden you will soon see what plants flourish
    how big they grow what needs less sun or more maintenance and the sculptural shapes that others have tried. As they all have the same orientation and soil conditions this free observation is quiet helpful.

  • There’s nothing like the feeling of ‘community’. I’m so happy for you. Great friends make all the difference, and great neighbours close the gap!

  • Elizabeth says:

    Wow! What nice neighbors, sounds like a great place to live.

  • Kim says:

    You have some fabulous and energetic neighbors! One of my new neighbors got rid of all the rectilinear areas of her lawn and added curves. She is a trauma nurse and gardens for relaxation. Over the years (within three years) she developed gorgeous garden areas around her home, and just as FRANCES suggested, it’s fun to see what grows well. Your before and after photos show big improvements, and reveal that all the steps along the way to improving our homes are experiences we can enjoy!

  • What awesome neighbors!! Love hearing about that Ecovillages project! Popping over to learn more now!

  • Maria,

    Looks like we don’t have to worry about you and your new homstead coming together. You’re in great company with like-minded action neighbors.

    I’ve been working on a landscaping project in the backyard myself. The best exercise you can do is gardening (raking, sweeping, bending, squating, tossing, pushing and pulling the wheelbarel) and you’ll feel it the next day or two.

    Looks like your really going to have everything done by the end of the year too! So excited for you.


  • I miss having neighbors! We moved to a country road 6 years ago and it isn’t the same. Tradeoffs I guess! There is nothing like just being able to chat with the peole around you. I live digging in the dirt. It’s such a real connection with the earth. Have fun making it beautiful. Just remember it takes 3 years, in general, for plants to take hold and then thrive, especially perennials.

  • Debbiecz says:

    Helpful neighbors are such a nice housewarming gift! We have a ranch home similar to you and adjusted our planned sidewalk entry to a full concrete (stained) pad in the front for a fire put, seating area so we can enjoy the neighborhood. Bunny grasses around the edge provide just enough screening to buffer both the street & the view towards our house. Just like interiors, do the big stuff first such as a walk way, a BIG Trevor three, etc. You can always plop a pretty container of annuals at the door for the first summer while you learn how you use your yard. Oh and as the daughter of a farmer/snowplower I always think,where will the snow go? No use planting a gorgeous bush that gets demolished by snow! You come paint my house, I’ll plant your garden.

  • JoAnna says:

    Hi Maria
    The yard looks much better! And thanks for sharing about your sister’s community. Very interesting!

  • SandyCGC says:

    It is wonderful to have good neighbors – we were so lucky when we owned the house but miss that now that it’s just me in a 258-unit condo. As Carol says, ‘tradeoffs” but it’s not the same and I miss it.

    Your entryway is common to houses in that area, of course, and it’s rather barren at the moment, but I don’t think it’s dreadful. It’s in a stage of hopeful anticipation. Put in a beautiful curved walkway, deepen the porch area (but keep the light into the house) and set up a seating area where those wonderful neighbors can stop by for morning coffee or evening mini chats in the midst of your inviting garden. It’s going to be beautiful, Maria. I can see it!

  • mollie duvall says:

    Maria how wonderful to have smiling, helpful neighbors. One of the reasons we have stayed in our house for 32 years is the wonderful neighbors we have.
    As another poster mentioned, the best thing you can do for yourself is have a professional landscaper or two come and take a look and make suggestions. Choose the one you like and pay to have plans drawn up. The work can be done by them all at once (assuming you are VERY rich, LOL), or over time. What has worked for me is to have the pros install the hardscape and any very large plants. Then, following the plan, fill in with the easier perennials, annuals, etc. as time and finances permit.
    I know, I am probably preaching to the choir here, as similar principals have been put forth by you concerning home decor. You, of all people, know that paying for a professional up front is by far the least expensive way to go in most cases!

  • Hey, neighbor! Thanx for posting the pics!! Maybe I should have combed my hair:)

    Your place looks much nicer now!

    Keep up the hard work!!!


  • Deb Bruna says:

    Since you love yellow, try a Gold Euonymous bush, they make a great accent planted alone or you can plant them in multiples to make a hedge or a statement. Another favorite of mine is Red Barberry Bush for it’s great color. Be sure to get the miniature variety of the Red Barberry if you do. I have three Red Barberrys in my front yard with soft silver grey Lamb’s Ear as an accent complimenting the Red Barberrys. Speaking from experience, Rene’s advice above is superb!

  • Victoria says:

    How wonderful to find yourself in a friendly and helpful community of people. I know your new home will be beautiful after you have put your special, colorful touches on it! Excited to see your new home and garden! We have just commenced a relandscaping of our front yard right now. So I can relate. We are at the planting stage and it is hard to know what will make the house look better and at the same time, will grow well in our Texas heat. Love seeing all the lush greenery of your beautiful area in Canada, Maria. You are truly blessed!

  • Regarding you neighbours, consider yourself fortunte as having good good ones can be a blessing.

    By no stretch of the imagination do I claim to be a Gardner (give me a paintbrush any day) but here is some advice that I hope you will consider. To cut down on the chore of weeding, during the process of your new landscaping, lay down some black tarp. (Preferably the Commerical type.) Not only will it control the weeds, it will kill them dead! It is also a great deterrent from having Squirrels dig up your Fall bulbs.


  • Maryanne says:


    I would be more than happy to offer my assistance …….a freebee!…….in designing your front & rear yard. I have been a professional Landscape Designer for over 35 years and find that most architects and interior designs fall short in this area due to lack of plant knowledge as well as space relationships once outside. Your posts have been a great help to me in the past and I would like to be able to do something in kind for you as well.

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