When we put a thick layer of leaves on the front yard (sheet mulch for next year's gardens), we knew there was a risk that kids might play in them. When we got a big pile of dirt in our back yard, the neighbor kids delighted in walking up and down on it. But it wasn't until we got a 5-foot-deep trench in the side yard for days on end (and an equivalent amount of dirt piled 2 feet high all over the back yard) that we started to have problems.
The work crew started digging the Saturday before Thanksgiving, exposing the north wall of the foundation so they could seal it and put in a "French drain" to the sump pump. By the time we left town on Wednesday, the trench was already about 4 feet deep. When the cat sitter arrived on Wednesday night, she found the garage door (which doesn't lock) open, and closed it for us. When we got back to town on Sunday, we found the workers' shovels (which they had left in the trench) scattered around the back yard. One of my wire compost cages had been moved to the driveway, along with a mysterious piece of wire fencing of unknown origin.
When we talked to the cat sitter, she told us about the garage door, so I went to check if anything was taken, and I found my new loppers in the middle of the floor, with their blades nicked as if they had been used to cut metal. I took another look at the mysterious piece of fencing and found it had been cut from one of my other wire cages. At first I suspected the work crew, because they're the only people I knew had been in the yard, and their manners are a little unrefined. But they were as baffled as I was about how their tools had been moved around.
Yesterday afternoon I saw through the curtains that two kids and a woman were looking at the trench. I ran outside and found one of the 5th-grade neighbor girls who often offers to help with yard work, with a much younger boy and the boy's mother. I asked if they had seen anyone in our yard and explained what had happened. The girl immediately said, "That wasn't us!" but the boy said, "If you mean the wire cutters, that was us!" He went on to describe all that they had done, which accounted for all the changes I had seen. I explained that the tool in question was not for cutting wire, and had been damaged, and that the trench is potentially dangerous, and the shovels don't belong to us, and in any case it's not nice to play with our stuff without permission.
Both kids apologized quickly, and I thanked them for their honesty, but the boy's mother didn't let him off so easily -- she made him repeat line for line an extended apology, which I accepted. I was glad she was there! Come to think of it, I'm glad the boy was there, because the girl on her own might not have admitted to anything!
The trench should be filled in in a few more days, and we can fix the lock on the garage door, but this makes us question future projects we'd had in mind for the yard... especially the ponds. I picked up two small pond liners on Freecycle and had thought about putting one in front and one in back. Depending on local laws and the amount of kid traffic our street gets, that may not be a good idea!