I have been walking increasingly larger swaths of my neighbourhood this summer, not exactly first thing in the morning, but as soon as I am sufficiently caffeinated. Part of my rationale for foregoing the basement exercise equipment (aka torture chamber) in favour of outdoor exercise is that winter will be here soon enough so I had better enjoy the ice-free sidewalks while I can, and the other part is that it's getting tougher with each passing year to maintain my workout regime without injury or burnout. Walking may not get my heart rate soaring and leave me dripping in sweat, but it's much easier to distract myself. I look for landscaping ideas while I walk.
Now that the interior renos are largely complete and the siding is finished, the yard is starting to show its age and its limitations. We plan to do a complete overhaul in the spring, the whole shebang - fence, patio, retaining walls, sidewalks. We are even going to demolish the cute little playhouse that nobody ever used and now exists just to store a hockey net, a little red wagon, and a whole lot of spider webs. Cute it may be - even though it is basically non-functional and a little fally-downy - but it also takes up considerable space in our tiny backyard. But other than a vague notion of tall grasses, washed pebbles and slate stepping stones, I have no idea of what to replace it with.
Hence the walking. It's the best way to compile ideas, to check out what others have done, and what will and won't work for our house and yard. My neck gets almost as good a workout during my walks as my legs do, what with the gawking and the swivelling from side to side. Some may call it snooping, but I call it research.
There have been a lot of commercial landscapers doing work all around our neighbourhood this summer and I always stop and chat to them. It's not unusual for me to come home with a mittful of business cards. They are quite accommodating, often inviting me into the yard to take a look at what they have done, seemingly not put off by the old lady in mismatched socks, no makeup and a fright-wig of bed-head.
Come winter, I will break out the graph paper and pencil sharpener and plan my future urban oasis. Comfy seating will be a given.