Pictures of Grading Work (Thanks for advice!)
I think of these as Before and After shots, but I know we aren't even close to being a real "after".
Here is what our backyard looked like in October of 2010. We'd lived here just 9 months, and had gotten a lot of the brush down and some of the small trees. But at the pace we were working it would have taken years to really clear the place out. Dimensions are 125' wide & 175' long.
The dog is about 32 pounds (a little taller than a beagle) if that helps with scale.
Now the yard looks like this:
We kept 6 large trees (5 oaks, 1 maple). I count that 3-in-1 tree as just one oak. Another view below, the single oak there is over 3' diameter at chest height and the base flares out. It feels very Jurassic Park to me, I love that tree.
These 3 rocks looked really small on the surface. I'm going to add plants in here so we don't have to mow between these 2 trees. The garden hose is marking the outline of the future bed (I watered that area so I could imagine how it would look with mulch).
A close-up shot of the loam & a distant image of the biggest rock they pulled out. It's about the size of a washer & there are 8' between it and the back fence, so I can put in some mountain laurel and dogwoods back there. I'm thinking Winterberry holly in that area as well b/c it's fairly moist. About 25' away from the back fence corner is a seasonal pond that arrives in the spring & dries up mid-summer, so that area stays moist but doesn't have standing water (still, no drought loving plants need apply for that corner).
Many thanks for the advice here, I am sure I will be back for more :)