John and Deb Skyrms moved from Green Bay to Waupaca seven years ago for one reason – to be closer to their grandchildren – who live in Stevens Point and Neenah.
“My husband drew a circle on the map and said, ‘Waupaca, that’s where we’ll move to, it’s halfway between each,'” Deb said.
When looking for a property in the Waupaca area seven years ago, there were some things the property had to have. First, Deb said the property had to be in the country but close to the city. Also, John said the property had to be on the water.
“I don’t want to downplay the water because that was an important piece when we were looking for a home. I wanted it,” John said. “We didn’t want to be on the Chain O’Lakes because of the noise and the congestion.”
The property they settled on is located on the east shore of Old Taylor Lake. The property was in need of a makeover, but they both agreed the location was too good to pass up. The property is located in a country setting, but is only three minutes from Highway 10, which makes it easy to travel to Neenah and Stevens Point to visit the grandkids. It is also within minutes of the city of Waupaca.
John described the house as a cabin when they bought it. He said they remodeled the entire inside, adding new flooring and redoing the bathrooms.
The outside of the house was painted, as well as the other buildings on the property.
John said when they first moved there, they tried to grow grass, but couldn’t because of the sandy, gravel soil on the property. They then decided to have dirt hauled to the property and have an irrigation system installed.
“We brought in a lot of dirt. It was really unbelievable how much we brought in,” Deb said.
But rather than just planting grass and creating a great lawn, they decided to add lots of plant beds. One of the reasons was the fact John said he didn’t want to spend an hour and a half mowing the lawn each time.
Before adding all the plant beds, they took time to plan where the plant beds would go, and when they would be added.
“There was a lot of thought that went into the design of where the beds go,” John said.
“Shelly Christie helped us with the layout of some of the beds,” Deb said. “She was instrumental because she knows about plants that deer will nibble on but don’t kill. She came out and drew designs and gave us ideas. Like I said, we had dirt brought in and then a bunch of compost put in. The vegetable garden we added two years ago with the little fence.”
To help with planning the layout of the plant beds, they created a sketch of the property which included the locations of trees and other items on the property.
“The gardens have evolved. It didn’t start out with everything you see now,” John said.
“Every year we would add more because it was overwhelming otherwise,” Deb said. “And then we started to separate and divide plants and put them in different beds. The property was never landscaped. We got lots of plants from friends and some from Shelly.”
Deb said there are not a lot of different varieties of plants in the plant beds, but the same plants are repeated a lot. This helped save money. There roughly 15 plant beds on the property.
When asked if they have completed their gardens or if it is still a work in progress, Deb responded, “We are pretty much done. Some years something dies and we replace that, but for the most part I would say yeah.”
They both said the main maintenance item performed each year is adding mulch to the plant beds. Deb said the mulch keeps most of the weeds away. This year they added 21 yards of mulch, but in the future they plan on adding 15 yards of mulch each year and mulching half of the plant beds. Then the following year they will add mulch to the other half of the plant beds.
“If you mulch, the weeding is really minimal. I maybe weed a half hour a week, but you have to mulch,” Deb said.
For those looking to create a variety of plant beds on their property, Deb said to start out small and gradually add beds.
John agreed, “A master plan would help because this was so overwhelming. This was a blank canvas when we got here.”
In addition to enjoying their plant beds and gardens, John and Deb also enjoy the views of Old Taylor Lake, even though the lake gets weed covered during the summer.
“In the winter it is pretty. We ice skate down there with the grandkids. In the spring it is pretty because the weeds haven’t come yet. In the fall they die down and it is pretty,” Johns said.
“We have lots of birds down there and of course all the snapping turtles,” Deb said. “For us, we like serenity, the quiet. So for us it’s ideal.”