When his workplace temporarily closed in March as COVID-19 swept across the country, a Seymour man used that time to build something beautiful.
Michael Deckard decided to create a bit of paradise in his front yard.
He and his wife, Sandi Deckard, and Sandi’s mom, Esther Hodge, live at 931 Stanley St. near Seymour Middle School.
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Some exotic landscaping and structures already were adorning their front yard, but the latest additions include a bird sanctuary, a squirrel ledge around a tree, a tall water feature with water cascading down and a bog filter, all built by Deckard.
“We live at the end of a dead end street here in Seymour, so no one will probably ever get to see it,” 57-year-old Deckard said. “We already had small ponds in the front yard and back yard. Then our bridge has been here about 15 years.”
Deckard grew up in Seymour, and he and Sandi have four children, Jeremy, Michael Jr., Jonathan and Barbie.
“As far as the yard, I wanted something bigger, and the idea just jumped in my head, and I never planned any of it really,” Deckard said. “I create these kinds of things through research and ideas, like I’ll see other people’s ideas and put them together as my own.”
Deckard has been employed at NTN Driveshaft in Columbus for 13 years.
“NTN shut down in March and was closed for around six weeks, and he stayed busy,” Sandi said. “We never knew how the yard was going to turn out because he didn’t have anything down on paper, so we just had to wait and see how it turned out.”
Sandi said she actually enjoyed those six weeks because everything calmed down and people were staying home and having family time together.
She wishes they could somehow keep that calmness and family time but with everything back to normal and with people realizing what is important in life.
Her husband built all of their yard creations, the bridge, sidewalk and even their front porch. Anything around their house that was built, it was done by him, Sandi said.
“I started on this in March, and I finished in early September, and it’s really not completely done because I’m always changing something,” Deckard said. “The pond is 12-feet-by-12 feet and it’s 3 feet deep, and I took a shovel and dug it out and built all of this myself.”
Years ago during Michael and Sandi’s Hawaiian honeymoon, they saw a lot of koi fish in displays there, such as in hotels and restaurants. Since then, he has always liked koi, so that’s why they have some in their pond.
“The tall water feature was probably the most difficult to make, probably because I didn’t plan any of it and just started building,” Deckard said. “I’d cut a board and say, ‘Well, that’s not right,’ so then I’d cut another one, and it all just came together as I put it together.”
The water for the tall water feature is pumped from the front yard pond and then goes up through the back and circulates the water.
They also now have a bog filter, where the water pumps in from the bottom, where there’s about 12 inches of pea gravel and the water comes up through that and comes out where plants are growing in the water.
“I’ve always wanted those boy and girl statues where they’re fishing, but you can’t find those things anywhere,” Sandi said. “So Michael surprised me and made some wooden ones, and they’re sitting on the bog filter.”
In their bird sanctuary, the Deckards said they have seen several different species of birds, like blue jays, robins, red birds, yellow finches, woodpeckers and more.
“The bird sanctuary was Mom’s idea, and she loves sitting outside on the porch and watching the birds. It’s her favorite place to be,” Sandi said. “Then there’s a ledge built around the tree, where we leave food, like corn, peanuts and apples, for the squirrels.”
She said the squirrels climb down the tree and sit really still and will just look around for a minute. Then they’ll sit there and eat, regardless if there are people outside or not.
“One of the squirrels torments our dog, and he’ll come down the tree just far enough that the dog can’t get to it,” Michael said. “Then it’ll run around the tree and the dog will run around the tree after it, and it’s pretty funny to watch.”
Sandi said their yard looks really neat at night.
“There are solar lights everywhere, and even the pink flamingos around the pond light up,” she said. “We like bright colors, and it brighten things up and looks so pretty.”
Sometimes, a few of their neighbors will come over to see their yard decorations and exotic landscape.
“One time, a neighbor brought her granddaughter over and took her picture standing on the bridge,” Deckard said. “Then once in awhile, there will be some cars drive down here to take a look.”
Deckard also built a garden box onto their house and is growing vegetables there, too.
“I also planted elephant ear plants and a banana tree here next to the house because I just wanted to get them into the ground as soon as I could,” he said. “Next year, I plan on putting some out around the pond, and I might build some more things out here, as it’s an ongoing process.”