When his workplace temporarily closed in March as COVID-19 swept the country, a man from Seymour 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 mother, Esther Hodge, live at 931 Stanley Street near Seymour High School.
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Some exotic landscaping and structures already graced their front yard, but the latest additions include a bird sanctuary, a squirrel ledge around a tree, a large water body with cascading water and a bog filter, all built by Deckard.
“We’re living at the end of a dead end here in Seymour, so probably no one will ever be able to see it,” said Deckard, 57. “We already had small ponds in the front yard and in the back yard. Then our bridge has been around for about 15 years.
Deckard grew up in Seymour, and he and Sandi have four children, Jeremy, Michael Jr., Jonathan and Barbie.
“As for the yard, I wanted something bigger, and the idea came to my mind, and I never really planned anything,” Deckard said. “I create these kinds of things through research and ideas, as if I would see other people’s ideas and put them together as my own.”
Deckard has worked at NTN Driveshaft in Columbus for 13 years.
“NTN closed in March and has been closed for about six weeks, and it has remained occupied,” Sandi said. “We never knew how the job was going to go because he didn’t write anything down on paper, so we just had to wait and see how it went.
Sandi said she actually enjoyed the six weeks because everything had calmed down and people were staying at home and spending time with family.
She wishes they could kind of keep that calm and that family time, but with everything back to normal and with the people doing what’s important in life.
Her husband built all of their garden creations, the bridge, the sidewalk and even their porch. Everything that was built around their house was done by him, Sandi said.
“I started this in March, and 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 3 feet deep, and I took a shovel, dug it out and built it all myself.
Years ago, during Michael and Sandi’s Hawaiian honeymoon, they saw a lot of koi fish in displays, like in hotels and restaurants. He has always loved koi ever since, which is why they have them in their pond.
“The high water feature was probably the most difficult to achieve, probably because I hadn’t planned for it and just started building,” Deckard said. “I would cut a board and say, ‘Well, that’s not right,’ so I cut another one, and it all came together as I put it together.
Big water water is pumped from the front yard pond, then back up through the back and circulate the water.
They also now have a bog filter, where the water pumps out from the bottom, where there is about 12 inches of pea gravel and the water rises through and out where the plants grow in the water.
“I’ve always wanted these statues of boys and girls where they fish, but you can’t find these things anywhere,” Sandi said. “So Michael surprised me and made some out of wood, and they’re sitting on the bog filter.”
In their bird sanctuary, the Deckards said they saw several different bird species, such as blue jays, blackbirds, red birds, yellow finches, woodpeckers and more.
“The bird sanctuary was mom’s idea, and she loves to sit outside on the porch and watch the birds. It’s his favorite place, ”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 come down from the tree and sit really still and just go look around for a minute. Then they’ll just sit there and eat, whether there are people outside or not.
“One of the squirrels is tormenting our dog, and it will come down from the tree just far enough that the dog cannot access it,” said Michael. “Then he’ll run around the tree and the dog will run around the tree after, and it’s pretty funny to watch.
Sandi said their garden gets really neat at night.
“There are solar lights everywhere, and even the flamingos around the pond light up,” she says. “We love bright colors, they brighten things up and are so pretty.”
Sometimes a few of their neighbors come to see their garden decorations and exotic landscapes.
“Once, a neighbor brought her granddaughter and took a picture of her standing on the deck,” Deckard said. “Then every once in a while there will be cars driving around here to take a look.”
Deckard also built a garden box on their house and also grows vegetables there.
“I also planted elephant ears and a banana tree here next to the house because I just wanted to put them in the ground as soon as possible,” he says. “Next year I’m planning to put some around the pond, and maybe I could build some other stuff here, as it’s an ongoing process.