Here's a little photomerge shot of the backyard from one of the uncovered side porches. (There is a big screened in porch off the center of the back of the house, and a smaller uncovered porch on either side, one off our master bedroom and one outside the kitchen window. This photo series was taken from the one in front of the kitchen)
This is the 'before' shot. My family has already been down one weekend working on the overgrown patch of whatever-all-that-mess-is that's in the way of our view. I know my stepdad cut down a small walnut tree, a bunch of crepe myrtles that were out of hand and took care of a ton of poison oak. By an incredible stroke of luck, my stepdad doesn't react to poison oak...so I put that job in his hands. He tracked down the vines to their source in the center of that little wilderness and found that all the vines were coming from a single parent plant that looked to be about 6 inches in diameter. I've never seen poison oak so big.
There is still a lot to be done, but I've trimmed up a bunch of bushes and I'm still slowly working on them. My grandmother found a nice bunch of freely growing impatiens and replanted some of those in pots around the yard (using a butter knife as a spade...Nanny-Macgyver) and those look great, though I have to actually water them so they may not last long.
We've found a number of fire ant hills in the process of all the cleanup. Only one wasn't spotted in time to back off and get the bug spray to destroy it before they got the upper hand on us (Bella found that one, poor little thing). I can't wait to get all this stuff trimmed back and see the glory of this yard. After pictures will come soon!