Bill Moeller Commentary: A Paean (Look It Up) for Backyards


In the past dozen or so years, I’ve based more than a few columns on things, places or people that I dislike, so I think it’s time to focus on some of the more pleasant parts about life on this planet.

First, though, I have to drift halfway in the other direction by saying that, if there’s one thing in this world that I’m sorry about, it’s the increasing number of people in our land who have no backyards.

Think of those wealthy people who are forced to live in the 36th or higher level of those tall boxes that dot the skylines of cities such as Seattle and have no space to unfold a free-standing hammock outside.

Some — if not most — of them may have a small balcony that probably squeezes in two chairs and a tiny table, but I’ll wager that none of them have even a small strip of lawn such as the one that you and I do.

Even mine — behind an old mobile home — measures only 15 by 40 feet, but it’s sure better than what they have. One of the rules about living in Nylandia Park is that there must be an open space of 12 feet to admit any possible emergency vehicle.

Can’t gripe about that, can you? 

Since I have only 15 feet between my home and the back fence, I may be fudging a little with my garden space, but I wouldn’t mind losing a peony or two if either my home or that of my neighbor was sending up flames.

The land on the other side of that back fence is an open grass field, except behind mine which once contained a tall hazelnut tree that used to be home for quite a few squirrels when I moved here. They always got the possession of the nuts before I could. The tree has since died but remains in place for birds to pause and chat with each other and for many climbing shrubs to grab hold of. And that results in my only gripe — Himalayan blackberries and ivy seem to be most prevalent plants that take advantage of that opportunity and require constant trimming to keep them on their own side of the fence.

But on my side — in the welcome shade that has been created — I’ve planted more than a half dozen different species of fern including, from left (east) to right (west) the first being a large sword fern that I wouldn’t dare omit here in the Pacific Northwest.

Next is an ostrich fern that isn’t growing as large as it’s supposed to, followed by an Alaska fern that I purchased years ago and always take with me when I move.

Next is a maidenhair fern that’s sometimes difficult to grow in domestic spaces, snuggled next to a licorice fern, which is the fern you most often see climbing up old Douglas fir trees.

I planted two lovely examples of autumn fern — separated by a midget fern — which, no doubt,  could do with a name change in this day and age.

Other plants are tucked into the spaces between them including four Trillium plants that I didn’t expect to last through the winter, and one of them had a small blossom this spring.

These provide a nice setting for Zelda’s grave, my old cat who broke too many bones in a fall and had to be tearfully put to sleep.

Finally, on the brighter side, is a collection of a dozen or so ceramic angels grouped together in front of a sign designating that space to be Angeltown U.S.A.

The point I’m trying to make is that I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy any of those things if I had more money and lived in a multi-layered box.


Bill Moeller is a former entertainer, mayor, bookstore owner, city council member, paratrooper and pilot living in Centralia. He can be reached at