How Can We Get Some Backyard Privacy?

Privacy, Please

When I first moved into My Crappy House in 2011, my neighbors, both to my right and to my left, were drummers who liked to practice outdoors in their respective backyards. Seriously. What are the freaking odds? Eventually, it got too cold outside to play. Then, finally, mercifully, they both moved away. Ahh, peace…

But not for long.

When Gloria (not her real name) moved in, she came over to introduce herself. How nice! Old school, right? Downright neighborly…

But an hour later, still standing in my open doorway in my pajamas, now having intimate knowledge of her life (and death, actually… In one story, she actually died and came back to life…), I knew I was in trouble. Gloria was lonely and probably had visions of me being the Laverne to her Shirley. She would wander over any time she saw me outside, so I started neglecting my yard in favor of indoor projects.

That didn’t stop her. If she saw my car in the driveway, she would knock on my door wanting to chat. Guys, I work from home. My car is always in the driveway.

I installed a peep hole.

I eventually lost my cool with her the day she frantically knocked on my door to tell me that the man, the one who was currently inside my house hooking up my new internet service, was an impostor. You see, she had called the company he worked for and they couldn’t verify the license plate on his van outside.

She was desperately trying to save me from being murdered by the Verizon guy.

Yup. Downright neighborly crazy.

Gloria keeps to herself since I told her that I had a near 100% murder-avoidance success rate without her help and that she should mind her own freaking business.

I may have used a different “F” word.

So, all of this to say that I value my privacy. Unfortunately, my backyard has none. Directly behind us is the backside of a two story house that has a deck built off of the second floor. They can see right down into our yard without even trying. No naked sunbathing for us. (As if!)

Trees take sooo long to grow, so for the last ten years I’ve been trying to mentally engineer a creative privacy screen that would not only be attractive, but quick to implement. Ironically, if I had just planted something, anything, there ten years ago when I moved in, I wouldn’t be having this problem now. Our naked sunbathing (as if!) would be hidden behind a wall of foliage provided by Mother Nature.

If I could turn back time… (I feel you, Cher.)

Refusing to let another ten years go by with our yard exposed, we finally decided to plant a tree. (Yes, just one. Trees are actually wicked expensive. Who knew?) It feels good to finally take a step towards privacy, even if it’s just one tree. It’s also way easier to avoid procrastination when you have a man around to dig the hole…


We’re lucky to have a great tree selling place just a few miles away. With lots to choose from, we finally settled on this one.

My most favorite tree is a weeping willow, but they have very shallow roots and are very messy when they drop their leaves. Plus, we thought it’d be nice to have foliage year round, so an evergreen made more sense. This Alaskan weeping cypress seemed like a good choice. All of the weepiness with none of the leafy-mess. (To deter neighbor creepiness…)

Schmoo asked his strong, kind, truck-owning friend to help us get it home and into the ground.

I was a nervous wreck the whole way home.

I was also a nervous wreck the whole time watching them get it in the hole. (In fact, I’m officially banned from future tree plantings because I “impede the process”. ExcUuuuUUSE me if I don’t want a 300 lb tree to crush my man to death…)

Our new tree (who we named Willow) was too heavy to pull into the hole by hand, so we came up with a plan. After securing her base to a fence post, Schmoo would hold the top of Willow while his friend pulled the truck forward, allowing her bottom to just plop into the hole. Good plan.

If this video had sound, you would hear me yelling for Schmoo to LET GO OF THE TREE! I don’t know what I was so worried about. That he would get pulled into the hole? He would have landed on top of Willow, so I’m not exactly sure why I thought this was so dangerous, but I–

HEY! I guess I do impede the process!


OK, so, I kinda wrecked the plan, but we were all able to pivot (PIVAAT!) Willow in the hole so she was upright without too much trouble. No big.

Willow was initially a little shocked by her new surroundings (having taken a bit of a beating in the planting process), but she adjusted quickly and now she’s thriving. It feels so good to finally have some privacy…

DOH! Stupid cone-shaped tree…

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  • Joan

    So, you got a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree? All kidding aside, the tree looks like it’s going to be a nice tree! Yes, trees are ridiculously expensive. I was looking a couple of years ago at trees to see what I might want to replace the ones around my house. Previous owners here had let some weed trees grow in bad spots. Three got cut down a few years ago, but three remain. My Mom gave me money for the first three because it’s insanely expensive to get them cut down. Every storm we have around here I have visions of one, or all, of those remaining trees falling on my house. It’s a lottery dream, at this point, that I can afford to get rid of these trees and get better ones that fit my impossible standards of not growing too high, no sap, no buds that drop and make a mess, stay healthy, and look good in summer and fall! LOL

  • Le

    Wow, you guys got a tall tree. That’s probably expensive. It does look a bit thin at the top…not sure how much privacy that’s going to give. =) But a very entertaining video of potential dangerous situations that could “accidently” kill or maim Schmoops. Has she taken out any life insurance on you lately, Schmoops?

  • Ellen Shook

    When I started reading, I was thinking “Leyland Cypress” because that is what we used for the same problems with privacy. Yours is probably a Cypress cousin to ours. We planted 10 of these, but they were only 2 feet high when we put them out so they were cheap. (about $5 each). In just seven years, they are 20 feet tall and still going strong. They will probably reach 30 feet. We do keep the underside and any dead stuff pruned out. Our yard was literally a goldfish bowl before, but now anyone who sees it comments on how private it is. Large trees like yours ARE very pricey, at least down here in Alabama. Long life and good health to your new tree!

    • My Crappy House

      I should have gone that route years ago, but now I’m impatient and I just don’t want to wait that long. I’ve got to come up with another solution… I want the world. I want the whole world. I want to lock it all up in my pocket. It’s my bar of chocolate. Give it to me now!

  • SusieQ

    Your Schmoopy guy – love the pics when he’s done! Hopefully that tree will perk up & provide a nice barrier for peeping eyes when you are doing your nude sunbathing!

  • Barbara Christianson

    Looks great! I planted 14 Arborvitaes across the back of my daughter’s backyard. Her house backs up to a middle school, so no privacy. They were 4′ when they were planted 5 years ago and now they are about 20′ and they filled in nicely.
    They cost about $15 a piece when I bought them. Money well spent.

    • My Crappy House

      This is what I should have done years ago. I suppose I could do it now, but I’m stubborn and I want something instant. Don’t care how, I want it now!

    • My Crappy House

      Ha yes, he even custom painted a van to go with his disguise… And it sure was nice of him to actually hook up my internet for real, even though he was planning to murder me.

  • em

    Oh wow, so many things to which I can relate. When our neighbor decided our family hijinks would be a great television option for his elderly mil, we rounded up all the trees we could afford at the time. (Still cheaper than a defense attorney.) We now have a horrendously overgrown wall that keeps out the guy he sold the house to, who enjoyed monitoring our activities with a commercial-quality security camera with high-powered zoom lens.

    All that to say, this is a good time of year to make the rounds to the big box stores in search of discounted oak trees. Although the leaves turn in the fall, ours don’t usually fall off until the spring. And they grow fast. We have a bunch of $15 oaks in our yard that are now taller than our house.

    Ugh, neighbors can be overrated.

    • My Crappy House

      I want a horrendously overgrown wall! I wouldn’t mind a bigger piece of property to push the neighbors off. Especially now that I have Schmoopy to do my landscaping… Our next house will have more land for sure.

  • Doug@Thumbandhammer

    I feel your pain. Our neighbor has a multi level deck overlooking our concrete patio. (Yeah, concrete– no tree planting for us) The upper level comes off the second floor of his house. The lower level, surrounding his pool, is raised above ground level so when he and his guests are sitting at the table, they are higher than the top of the fence (which is already the maximum height allowed). And given the footprint of our houses and layout of our yards, there is less than 20 feet between our patio door and the fence. So, yeah– lack of privacy with a touch of claustrophobia. That’s what we’re dealing with.

    • My Crappy House

      That sounds awful! They’re like… right there! I wish we could put up a higher fence, but that’s not allowed here either. Maybe you could put up one of those patio canopies close to the fence and bolt it to the concrete. Then you could put up a curtain on the neighbor side so they can’t see into your business.

    • My Crappy House

      Yes, you can buy big trees! But the bigger tree you buy, the more expensive it is. We got the biggest one we could afford, but we wish we could have gotten bigger! Thank you for reading

  • avery

    Really nice tree. I hope you took the wires off the roots or they will kill it when it’s big and expensive to chop down. Learned to hard way.

    Also, I’m glad to hear you were real with your neighbor. Is it awkward now. Thinking of doing the same.

    • My Crappy House

      Thanks for the warning! Not that I could do anything about it now, but yes, we did take the wire off the root ball. We left the burlap though. That’s what they told us to do at the garden center. We just made a bunch of cuts in it. So far, the tree has now lasted two seasons, so hopefully she’s got a good grip in the earth.

      I actually couldn’t have hoped for a better break up with my neighbor. Since the high volume “talking to”, she hasn’t come by or tried to talk to me. I must have scared her. She’s now a perfect neighbor! We have a little bit of foliage between our houses, so we never have any awkward driveway encounters and no real chance for accidental eye contact. Every situation is different, so I won’t tell you to do it yourself, but I will tell you that I’m very glad that I did. Letting that relationship go in the direction it was going would have made my life miserable. I’m happy I cut it off clean and early. Good luck!!!

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