Trapped A Second Time & This Is How 2 Years Of Neglect Looks!

There are so many crazy stories I could share from my visits to the Dollhouse. In a previous post a few weeks back, I shared how I managed to trap myself in an upstairs bedroom when a tiny, original-to-the-house deadbolt on a bedroom door, refused to release. I still don’t know how/why it finally worked and let me out. A friend suggested that we need a ghost to blame these strange occurrences on, or maybe it’s one of the many elves that I’m sure live in the Dollhouse since there are so many 3-4-foot elf doors all throughout the house. Am I living with a naughty ghost who likes to play tricks, or just a bunch of mischievous elves? Ha!


The whole trapping myself thing didn’t just happen that one time during my previous trip to the Dollhouse. No, I managed to do it twice during that trip! The second time was actually outdoors. The driveway for the dollhouse is super narrow, so narrow that often when I pull into the driveway, park and get out, I will find I’m a couple inches over onto the grass. I think my SUV must be very close to the exact same width as the driveway itself. See the shrubs there at the back of the house, the ones that are just on the other side of the chimney? This photo was taken a few years back, so just imagine two more years of unchecked growth on those.


Over the past two years, those shrubs on the side of the house have grown a lot. If I had to guess, I don’t think they were ever trimmed during that two-year period. After the sellers moved out, I wasn’t able to park my SUV in the garage for another week or so, since they still had a few items stored there. I was so happy and excited the day that everything was finally out of the garage because that meant I could finally park my car inside the garage instead out on the street. When that grand day arrived, I slowly drove down the driveway, avoiding the overgrown shrubs by letting the softer leaves of a tall shrub on the opposite side of the driveway gently rub across my driver’s side window.


One of the main reasons I was so eager to drive to the back of the house was that I wanted to try out the tiny turnaround area to see if it was large enough to use without having to do a multipoint turnaround. I have plenty of room when backing out of my garage in Georgia, but I knew there was a possibility that the turnaround for the Dollhouse might not be big enough without some back and forth maneuvering. Well, it turned out to be much worse than I thought!


Not only could I not back out of the garage into the teensy turnaround space and just go, I couldn’t even get my SUV turned around and back down the driveway. I couldn’t back out and go forward because of the overgrown shrubs, AND I couldn’t back down the driveway because of the shrubs. I was stuck in the backyard!

I can’t explain all the thoughts I had going through my head when I realized I was stuck and couldn’t get out. I was mad at myself for getting trapped, but also shocked that it was even possible! After several attempts to back around and point my SUV back up the driveway, I gave up and went inside and started making phone calls to anyone I thought could help.

Trapped in the back yard by shrubs


One of those calls was to the landscaping company the seller’s realtor had hired to cut back a lot of the overgrown shrubs and weeds a few days after the closing. Thankfully, the landscaper was working just down the street that day. Toward the end of the day, two of his men came and removed the shrubs completely. If they had just tried cutting them back, there would have been nothing left but sticks. The shrubs were just way too big for where they were planted.

Trapped in the back yard by shrubs


I’m not a very patient person and I hated the feeling of being trapped and unable to leave, so before the landscaper arrived late in the day, determined to get out, I finally managed to back around the shrubs and down the driveway by inching my way forward and backward, forward and backward—kind of like doing a 10-point turnaround, but in reverse. What a nightmare!

Amazingly, after the large shrubs were removed that day, not only could I get down the driveway without raking my windows against the shrubs on the other side, I could actually back out into the wee, tiny turnaround and exit the driveway in one try about 50% of the time. I still haven’t mastered it 100% of the time because you have to back out of the garage in just the right spot on the driveway—not too far to the right, not too far to the left, AND you have to start cutting the wheel at the exact perfect time to make it work in just one try. Before I left to come back home, I was averaging the single point turnaround on the first try about 50-60% of the time. The rest of the time, it was a multipoint turnaround process. These are the little annoyances that come with buying an older home!

Trapped in the back yard by shrubs


This annoyance is totally fixable, though. One of my goals for this house is to extend the little turnaround part of the driveway a few more feet back so that I can back out and leave without always having to do a back and forth dance. In this photo taken from my office window over the garage the day the realtor’s landscapers were working, you can kinda make out the almost non-existent turnaround. I may have to remove the tree with the reddish-brownish leaves to create a true-turnaround.


So, I have some additional surprising photos to share! When I looked at this home before making an offer, I never went into the backyard. My realtor and I came in through the front door and were only in the house for maybe 15 minutes. I don’t remember us going in the backyard at all, but that was okay because I had seen photos online a few years back and knew how it looked. Or, so I thought! Here’s how it looked in the photos I had seen online when previous owners lived here a couple of years back.


The day before the closing, my realtor and I went back for a final walkthrough, and that time we did go into the backyard. I was shocked by the condition of the yard. This is how it looked—there were 2 to 3 foot tall weeds everywhere!


I knew I was going to need help to get the garden back to where it should be. This was such a discouraging sight. 🙁


A few days after the closing, I had a roof/gutter cleaning/pressure washing company out for a quote to clean out the gutters that were full of leaves, and that’s when I snapped these photos.


This is how the yard looked two years ago when it was being maintained.


Remember this pretty path that led around the side of the house?


Here’s how it looks now. Those are notes from the landscaper who will be helping me with the yard. Do you think we’ll ever get the garden back to how it was?


Here’s how that path looked from the other end, the day the gutter cleaning company came out to give me a quote. The stone path wasn’t even visible. 🙁


Remember the pretty lawn section in back?


Here’s how it looks now. Unfortunately, Zoysia won’t grow in Ohio, so I’m back to having a Fescue lawn again that will have to be aerated and over-seeded every year. Not happy about that, I will miss my Zoysia lawn!


I noticed this a few days after I moved in, 2-foot tall weeds growing in the upstairs window box on the front of the house. I pulled those out before I left to come back home, and the gutters have been cleaned.


This is why the seller’s realtor told me at the closing that someone would be coming out to deal with the yard. The landscaper that the realtor hired did the best he could to save the flowers and plants that he could see, but he basically ended up scalping everything down to the ground.


I have enlisted the help of someone to get the garden back on track, and he has some great plans. He can see its potential. I also shared photos with him of how it looked just two years ago. He will start this Friday, and he and his crew will work all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday. He is as excited about bringing the garden back to life as I am, so I am thrilled to have his help! I will share some photos of how it all looks when I next visit, which won’t be too long. We will work on the fescue lawn this autumn. Maybe by next spring things will be looking very different.

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  1. That yard is going to be quite a challenge but, if anyone is up to it, it will be you. I am sure I would be overwhelmed but it sounds as if you are right on top of things!

  2. Jane Clary says

    A move is such a challenge. It will be worth it. The Dollhouse is gorgeous

  3. what possessed you to buy in OHIO and all that work?house is really pretty buy the work!!!!!OMG!your Ga homes was beautiful,,,,im sure this one will but the snow and cold and dreary winter NO THANKS

    • I’m not looking forward to the cold weather, but I stay inside all winter here in GA, too, so not much will change with that. I want to be close to family and be a part of my grandson’s lives before they are all grown. Also, it will be nice seeing my son and DIL more. I haven’t listed/sold the GA house yet. I think I’ll know when I’m ready to do that, but just not yet.

  4. Nancy Brantley says

    I hope you got a really good deal on cottage. You will be spending a lot of money to get everything fixed nice. Sounds like you got ghost or elves playing games with you….

    • Thankfully, it’s in a great area/neighborhood where houses appreciate nicely and hold their value really well, so it will be worth it in the long run. I’m really thankful that the previous owners didn’t do any updates that would have drastically changed the character of the house. They didn’t knock down a bunch of walls and “HGTV it” as I so often see done in older homes.

      • Don’t you have to get an inspection in Ohio before you purchase? I can’t imagine buying a house & not walking around outside. Before our daughter bought her house in Johns Creek next to a horse farm, her dad knocked on neighbor’s doors to ask questions & make sure there wasn’t an odor problem from the horse p—-!

        • Yes, but they don’t inspect the yard, only the house. The competition in that neighborhood is so fierce, if you hesitate, they move on to the next person waiting in line to purchase. That’s why I flew up the day after I saw it listed the night before. My son/DIL had three families come up to them the day after I purchased the house to say that their parents were coming in to town to purchase it. One of the families had already purchased plane tickets. Houses are never on the market for more than a day or two before they are gone, and some never even get listed and are sold by word of mouth. I missed that house 2 years ago when it had 20 showings the first day it was on the market, and sold for $25,000 over asking, so I really didn’t want to miss it this time around. But the yard was a shock after knowing how it had looked 2 years before.

  5. Susan,
    I would have snapped that house up in a heartbeat too. It is adorable and you will have so much fun customizing it to your liking.
    Be careful out there in that jungle. You never know what lurks in all that mess

    • Thanks, Susie! I love that you can see its dollhouse charm. 🙂 When I feel discouraged, I think about all the things I love, and I know I’ll eventually work out the small annoyances with time.

  6. Don’t sell your GA. home to quickly. You might consider leasing for a while. I found that grandchildren grow up fast and leave the nest for different reasons. You can sell the Doll House, which it will always be, and return home to GA.

  7. Tamara Nelson says

    Oh my Susan so much work. Your house was beautiful. If I was you I would have the house blessed. I would keep your old house just in case you change your mind. The dollhouse is nice but so much work you can always go visit your grandchildren. I just wouldn’t want to take on all that work at my age when your house down south was fantastic.

  8. I can’t help but wonder how the sellers were able to get in and out of the back driveway. Crazy! And I sure hope they didn’t use those two year old photos of the backyard in their listing, because that would be misrepresentation and against the law. Yikes! What a shame! I bet the neighbors are thrilled to have you moving in. The backyard was beautiful. I’m sure it will be again, because you’ll make sure of that. Sorry that is something you have to deal with though.

    • They didn’t park in the garage, it was used for storage, so I’m not sure they ever drove down the driveway to the backyard area. No, they used different photos, and they only showed one photo of the backyard patio area. All the photos, including the overhead drone photos, appeared to have been taken in early spring before a lot of the trees had leafed out. So, the weeds hadn’t really awakened yet, I guess. I was so glad I had saved photos of how it looked when it was listed two years ago because those will help so much now. Yes, I will definitely work hard to get it back and even better. The landscaper who is helping me is really excited, as well. I think between the two of us, we can get it back to being beautiful again.

  9. Michele M. says

    Hang in there, Susan. Going to be dreamy when you get it charming again. My home was empty for a while before we bought it – so I understand how weeds take over – but it will be soooo worth the expense and effort. It sure is a neat house and yard!!! I actually laughed out loud about your driveway. You need to downsize the SUV to a cute little Mini Cooper to go with your cute little Dollhouse!!!! (had a red one and they’re so cute.)

    • It’s truly shocking how fast it happens! lol You’re probably right about downsizing. A lovely neighbor down the street has the cutest convertible Volkswagen bug, and every time I see her driving it, it makes me want one.

  10. Love your new-to-you house. As a long-time Midwesterner, I’d recommend that you have that driveway widened, if your city will let you do that and that you consider having your drive turn-around area widened also. Snow in winter could make those areas more difficult to navigate with piled up snow. Also, hire a snow removal service now before they are all booked up for the winter. You’ll probably want a yard / mowing service. Usually the snow and lawn people can come from one company. Another recommendation, is to have your yard surveyed so you know exactly the area you own and that you mark the corners with a permanent / semi-permanent stake. Also, have the free underground locator service come and mark for you where all the gas/electric/water/sewer/etc. lines run so you don’t accidentally cut into something. Take pictures of this marking. Good luck and happy for you to have such a charming house.

    • Great suggestions! Thanks so much for all these great suggestions, Linda! I know from visiting during the wintertime, and from what my son has told me, that the city plows the street immediately after it snows. He says they are always there the very next morning to plow the street. I love the idea of hiring someone to handle the driveway, I never would have thought of that, so thanks for mentioning it! My son always shovels his own and I think he has a snow machine thingy, too, but I have no desire to shovel mine. Ha!
      The landscaper that I’m working with is going to take care of the mowing. That’s a great idea about having it surveyed, too! Thanks, Linda!

      • When you bought that house, it had to be surveyed. Didn’t you see any stakes with red ties on them? Is the report in your documents ?

        • No, I didn’t notice anything like that, but I wasn’t really looking and there were too many weeds to find that. I bet my landscaper will be able to help me look for those, though.

      • Hi Again,
        You might want to ask your landscaper if they do snow removal in addition to mowing and trimming. A lot of places do both.

  11. Hi Susan, what a chore that back garden is, but you’ll eventually see that beautiful area. I’m not sure where in Ohio the Doll house is but when I googled zoysia grass it said it can grow in growing zone 6.

    • I haven’t seen any sodded Zoysia looking lawns. I should call the Home Extension service here and get the low-down on what will and will not grow. I know in Georgia, if we have a bad snow/ice storm that lasts 3-4 days, my Zoysia grass takes a long, long time to recover in the spring/summer. One year it didn’t fully recover until July after we had a really bad ice storm the winter before. So I think if snow/ice sat on it for a week or two, it might not recover at all. Another thing you don’t see in Ohio is pine straw mulch. Everyone uses bark. I much prefer pine straw, but a landscaper here said it costs a fortune to have it trucked up to Ohio. So I’ll have to be happy with bark, I guess.

      • Susan, about straw as mulch, I live in MD and get small bales (supposed to cover 40 sq ft) from: You can see if they deliver to your new home, Dollhouse. Otherwise, I think you could try tractor supply company. I know when I was looking for straw to truck in it was going to cost me over $600. And I didn’t need that much.

      • Zoysia is a warm weather Southern grass. In the Midwest you plant blue grass and fescue. Sometimes in a mixed combination if your yard is iffy about shade. Pine straw is another Southern only item. You will want cedar mulch. It comes in shredded or chunks. Cedar discourages bad bugs and animals from entering your flower beds and ultimately your house. (Think of what a cedar chest does.)

        • I will have a video call with my landscaper tomorrow and I will ask him about the cedar mulch. Is cedar mulch red? I need to do a search and see. I really don’t like red colored mulch, and I’m not crazy about black mulch. I prefer a medium to dark brown so it doesn’t create too much contrast with the plants. I also don’t like too shredded, which, to me, looks a bit messy. I know I sound picky. lol

          • Hello again, Cedar mulch will have a beautiful wood color to begin with which will darken to a dull brown/grey over the course of a Summer. It is not a red. Wood mulch is sometimes found that has been dyed red or brown, or black. That is a lasting color that usually masks inferior wood products like softwoods. Leaving the cedar or hardwood mulch on the flower beds is good because it eventually decomposes and helps the soil. You only have to refresh the mulch on additional years by putting a thinner layer on top of the existing mulch. You want cedar because it is one of the wood mulches that decomposes slowly. Wood mulch can be delivered in bags or in bulk and is not very difficult to spread. However your area is large and you will probably want to have the landscaping team do it at least the first time. Midwest winds will blow anything like straw or pine straw easily. Chunk cedar or hardwood mulch generally stays put except under extreme winds and then only in exposed areas. You can also buy bagged mulch on sale in the Fall and have it delivered and placed in an out of the way spot to use the next Spring.

  12. I feel your pain. Our turnaround at the condo was awful, only to find out later that the HOA majority had lied to us about which space was ours, and had actually assigned us a nonparking space that was to be used for turnaround from all the other spaces. Ultimately spaces were reassigned and deeded, and we ended up with what was rightfully ours (just another reason I’m glad we’re not there any longer!).
    You should invest in leaf filters, Susan. My friend just did in a part of town where oaks were planted all down the street 100 years goo amd cannot be removed. They’re a life saver.
    I’d be as excited as the landscaper to tackle your property! I’d cut everything to the ground and/or rip out and start over. There are so many beautiful dwarf varieties of plants that won’t outgrow your space, I’d be sure to consult with your guy to make sure he considers them for replacements. It’s hard to be patient for good grass, but I think I’m finally there after 3 yrs (I did mine in stages).
    Watch out for those mischievous elves, lol.

    • That is terrible that they did that to you. It’s a wonder you didn’t have someone back into you during that time.
      I have Leaf Guard gutters on my home here in Georgia. I may look into adding them there because I really don’t want to have to worry about gutter cleaning a couple of times a year. What kind do you recommend, Rita? Is there a brand you like?
      I may be emailing you for ideas for dwarf varieties! Right now, I have so much going on, my brain just can’t make any decisions on plants right now. Once things are more settled, I do need to think about those things. So I welcome suggestions!

  13. I’m dealing, very slowly, with a beautiful but neglected woodland garden that was planted 25 years ago and went untended for 15 years. I moved here last summer, and my husband and I are doing all the work ourselves. The poison ivy is fierce here, but I am determined to return this leaf factory back into the gem it was. This spring and summer I found that the bloom succession is remarkable, and I love the moss used as ground cover on the paths. Right now the 90+ weather is sapping my energy as much as being a senior does.
    Thanks for taking us on the revitalization of your new property. Getting professional help will speed up your process so much, I am sure.

    • Ohh, I hate dealing with poison ivy. I’m highly allergic to it and poison oak. Miserable stuff! Your woodland garden sounds challenging but also really beautiful! I love the idea of moss for the paths, that sounds so pretty and dreamy. I’ll update as things improve, but I think it’s going to take a while before there’s a significant turnaround or anything really great to report. Maybe I’ll be surprised.

  14. SharonFromMichigan says

    It’s unbelievable how quickly nature will reclaim a yard & buildings. It surely doesn’t take long. It might be a daunting task right now, but give it a couple weeks & you’ll see a huge difference. Remember gardens are living, evolving things. I love that your house has so many brick pavers, they are very charming!

    • I know, it really is! I sure hope so, I’m glad I’ve found someone who is excited about helping me get the yard back in shape.
      Thanks! I love the pavers, too. I hope more of the same can be found when it comes time to extend the turnaround a bit.
      Thanks, Sharon!

  15. Hi Susan – I’ve been reading your blog long enough to know that if there is anyone up to a good project, it’s you! While the yard may have moved up on your to-do list it will be fun to see it come back to life and for you to put your signature on it! I love your house and all its eccentricities and I’m looking forward to following you on your new adventure.

    • That’s so true, Claudia. And think of all the Met Monday before and after material she’ll have to share with us. It’s going to be glorious when she’s finished.

    • lol That is a great way to describe it…eccentricities! The Dollhouse has eccentricities in abundance! Hahaha! I love most of them, but some are def a challenge! Thanks, Claudia! I can’t wait to share the things I have planned. 🙂

  16. I know you have a challenge ahead of you but when you finish it will be cuter than two years ago because you always have the best ideas and taste when redoing anything, just don’t get discouraged.

    • Thanks so much, Annette! I love your comment and will re-read it whenever I need a boost to push me through a challenge! ♥

  17. When the architect designed that house, he could never have imagined the size of the cars (basically trucks) that people would be driving around in for everyday needs!
    Since you will be living in Ohio and no longer be hauling goods back and forth to Georgia, maybe a smaller car is in your future?
    Don’t let the naysayers put fear in your heart about the winters. Yes, they’re cold, but not as cold as they used to be. And…you’ve got tons of beautiful sweaters and boots!

  18. I love your Dollhouse! I also think dealing with the challenges is part of the fun. You are going to have a wonderful feeling of accomplishment and pride when your projects are completed. The best perk is being close to your family. Nothing beats that! Once your new home starts to feel like home, it will be easier for you to let go of your Georgia home. Take your time and enjoy every minute of this process of change. It can at times be overwhelming, but the rewards are worth it. I love your blog!

  19. Wiped out again. LOL Susan, it sounds like you have found some good people to do the yard “reconstruction” versus DIY. I would take it all out and slowly remake your design after you have widen areas you want larger. It’s just overwhelming right now. Walmart has this weedkiller I can never remember the name of except it begins with an E. Much better than Roundup. I had a real problem area and hard to reach. I was unhappy at first because it didn’t seem to be working. In two weeks, everything was dead. I don’t know if it’s universal, but here you dial 811 and they come out and spray paint where electric lines are and put flags out. Is your home designated as historical because of age? Check with planing and zoning about restrictions and permits.
    As I said before, your lot had to be surveyed before closing. Check your documents.
    If I was that landscaper, I would be excited too. Customer for life.

  20. Very easy for mother nature to get out of control once neglected, but I have no doubt your landscaper will reign things back in and make these areas beautiful and welcoming once again! You definitely needed to make getting in the garage easier, so shrub had to go! Can’t wait to see it all come together, lots to do and time needed….but will be well worth it. Hugs, Brenda

  21. Love your Dollhouse and I see what you are talking about with the driveway. If you were to widen the driveway consider extending the pavers you have in the back on each side to give more width. It would be more economical then cement and easier to remove if you are on a septic system.

  22. Franceil Parde says

    Ooooh, SUSAN…”Mama said there’d be days like this, mama said, mama said” AND…you are fortunate people were around…omg!!! feanki

  23. Something I don’t see mentioned in comments.. What do landscapes look like in the new neighborhood. That’s a good way to see what works locally.

  24. Susan, I know how disappointing it was for you to see the overgrown yard and garden. Loving to garden, I would actually be excited about starting over. Let them tear out and amend your soil. Take the fall and winter to plan your garden areas and take time to research plants that work in OH. For one, I know that tulips are hardy! Lots to be excited about! Find OH gardeners on Instagram and scour their posts and see what you love that they have done. My niece lived in Hudson, OH, for quite a few years and she had a gorgeous grass, that was definitely not fescue. We actually cut tree limbs to allow more sun to get to our Memphis yard in the south so we could plant Palisades Zoysia (I know you can’t plant that) and get away from seeding fescue every year. At least if you do plant it, it won’t be so hot in the summer. Heat used to really thin out our fescue. SO glad to be rid of all that! In short, give yourself nearly a year to plan and design. It will be gorgeous!

  25. Lynnefred says

    How exciting to be moving so close to family. The house is adorable and you’ll have it looking the way you’d like very soon. I haven’t noticed you lacking the fortitude to take on challenges and improve your environment. You go girl!

  26. As a lifelong midwesterner, we have never needed to overseer every year. All fine fescue yards haven’t been the norm since the 70s. We have always had a beautiful, lush blend of fescue & bluegrass. We’ve always fertilized spring & fall & used organic Milky Spore to eliminate grubs/Japanese beetles. Our kids & then grandkids loved running & playing barefoot on the lush lawn. A good landscaper will be able to give you a lovely lawn & restore the beauty to your sadly neglected trees & gardens. I know in time, you will have it more beautiful than it ever was!
    *Before I earned my Master Gardener certification, I regularly walked the local arboretum, botanical gardens, & garden centers with planted perennials, to see what grew well, what trees I did(& didn’t) like, as well as noting if something already on my property might do well moved to different sun/shade exposure. Something for all your spare time

    • It would be wonderful if I don’t have to overseed every single fall. In Georgia, fescue looks great from the time you overseed in the fall and through spring, then summer arrives and it takes a beating since it’s a cool-weather grass. But maybe the temps won’t be so bad here, and maybe it won’t suffer so much during the summer. That would be nice because it sure gets old having to aerate and overseed every single fall, like starting all over again almost. I guess that’s why Zoysia is so popular here in the south. It spreads horizontally, unlike fescue, so if it suffers a bit during a drought or during a super cold winter, it will bounce back and grow thick again in no time. Maybe this winter I can do some research and learn more about the plants that are native and thrive here. Thanks, MerriJo, appreciate that so much!

  27. Terry Lloyd says

    Because my husband and I were going through health issues our patio and fire pit area had weeds coming up through the patio stones. It took no time to clean up the area and looks brand new. Landscapers do amazing work! I have also learned that less is more. Limiting the plantings open the areas up looking bigger and less bugs. I have pots of annuals and perennials that thrive in sun which means less watering. This gives me more time with family, friends and church. Being in my seventies means enjoying more and less worries.

  28. Beverly Anderson says

    Have you thought of tearing out (and saving) the existing pavers and enlarging your outdoor living space with more pavers/hardscaping, perhaps a water feature or fountain, fire pit? In effect, reducing maintenance and reducing all or most of the lawn and refreshing existing overgrown trees and shrubs.

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