Labor of Love: Our Garden’s Transformation (With Before and After Photos)

Several weeks ago Nick and I moved from Castaic, California, to Oxnard (just 55 miles West) – a lovely coastal town with a somewhat unattractive name 🙂

We’re now living in a milder climate with fresh ocean air just a short drive away from the beach. Truly a dream come true! No more crazy hot inland summers or outrageous AC bills (plus, I really don’t do well in the heat). But the Castaic house was our first home and I will always cherish our time there. The hardest part about moving was leaving our garden, our personal little oasis, behind.

When we bought the Castaic house (which was a foreclosure) in 2009 it was in terrible shape. We fixed, painted and remodeled the house and made it completely our own. But our proudest achievement was transforming the backyard from what looked like a post-apocalyptic barren land to a special place we loved. Over the years Nick and I planted and lovingly cared for a variety of trees, bushes, flowers and herbs (for my kitchen, not talking about MJ here😊).

This was first time we had a piece of land to call our own. Both Nick and I inherited the love of gardening from our families: he from his grandfather in Illinois and myself from my dad in Russia (growing up in Moscow we had a tiny plot of land outside the city where we grew enough produce to keep us through the winters and food shortages). Nick and I remembered some things but also learned and experimented as we went along (whole different climate and all). It was absolutely wonderful and a real joy to plant each plant and watch it grow.

Our awesome neighbors (shout out to Glen & family, Beigi & Rosanna, and Walter & Keisha!) kept an eye on the garden while we were gone on long tours and made sure it survived the hottest (often 110F) days. And our friend Kirk built us (Nick and I helped!) a beautiful new gate when the old ugly one finally keeled over.

We spent many relaxing mornings gardening and pruning roses, and evenings drinking wine, talking by the fire, hanging out with dear friends or watching stars and meteor showers while laying in the hammock. Nick and I hosted multiple Dinner & Concert at My House events and most of these dinners were in our backyard. Our friends Kirk and Charlie got married there (did you know Nick has a license to marry people? He does!) 🙂 I remember how overcome with joy we were to harvest our very first apples, strawberries, tomatoes and herbs, and to watch birds, bees and butterflies make our garden their home.

Going over the photos we’ve taken over the years made me very sentimental. I thought I’d share some of them with you.

Note: The collages were made just for my own records and to send to family, so please excuse the crappy photoshopping 🙂  

before after - 2009 and oct 2016
Above: 2009 and 2016

before after - 2009 to 2018

before after - 2009, 2010, 2012, 2018Notice the evergreen tree getting bigger and bigger!

And here are a few photos in the last couple of years, including an apple from one of our apple trees! Click on the first photo and then go next.


Thank you for reading. I have no idea if you will find this even remotely interesting (being that this is a travel blog😊), but I really felt like sharing. Please leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts!

P.S. HUGE thanks to our amazing realtor Marty Berardini for finding this house in 2009 and then helping us sell it and buy our new dream house in Oxnard in 2018!


  1. WOW. I never saw the “BEFORE” photos. I only saw what you did with your backyard later. We had the opportunity to visit your home in Castaic several times but only once during the daytime. I do remember seeing a lush oasis.

    I’m not sure what outdoor spaces you have in your new place in Oxnard but I am sure you will create another beautiful space. Hope you are lucky to find such caring neighbors in your new place.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • THANK YOU so much. This garden was our little pride and joy. So glad you like the before photos. You’ll see our Oxnard place soon, it has a tiny front yard (no backyard) but enough room to plant some stuff nevertheless! 🙂


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