Backyard plans and inspiration

So what do we dream of for our little backyard?

First let me give you an idea of the layout. Our house sits on a third of an acre, with most of it being in the front yard. That leaves a small but functional fenced in backyard.

On the right side of the house you come through the gate and walk along a sidewalk. On that side we have two large trees, a Kim lilac, hydrangeas and the kids’ sandbox. Oh, and a compost pile… we call it that because it sounds eco-friendly, but really we just needed a place to dump yard waste. I did buy a green tarp to cover it, so it looked earthy and not dumpy… No real plans for this section of the yard for now.


Behind the house is our attached sunroom which juts out into the backyard.

IMG_20170731_132324144Next comes our 50/50 mix of grass and creeping charlie. A unique blend made by lack of effort, but with not quite enough time for the creeping charlie to completely consume the yard.

Then there is the hill where the deck used to be. You can see all our junk in it’s native environment, stewed about, catching some rays. The winters are long here so we try to let our stuff out for some vitamin D for the entirety of summer.


One thing that makes this little backyard slightly more complicated is the elevation changes. The sunroom jutting into the backyard is 2 and half feet below the grass. Where the deck used to be is a sloping hill a couple feet higher than the grass.

As of now we don’t use our backyard all that often for a few major reasons.

  1. No shade. More than the average person I hate being hot. I don’t understand how some enjoy the feeling of the warm sun. Except in March, when I do, and it makes me deliriously happy and I find myself in shorts and a tank top chipping the ice away on my driveway as temps climb up in the upper 40’s.
  2. No grown up space. I’d love to have people over for an alfresco dinner or to have somewhere to sit and relax.
  3. No twinkle lights, doesn’t every outside space that feels even a little magical have twinkle lights?
  4. Littered with crap. Oh wait, maybe this will never change. But we do have zero toy storage, so that could be part of the problem.

Here’s the rough idea of our planned new layout. You’ll never believe I made this in Paint. Sometimes I worry Microsoft may get rid of it and then where will I be, having to learn some program made after 1985?


If you are one of those weird people who need to know to know which way you are facing, you will love the following explanation. If you are in the house looking out the backyard it is East, the patio to the north and the sandbox and other parts you can’t see to the South.

Here’s how we plan to address the problems:

  1. No shade. Plant a free crab-apple from the city on Arbor Day. Check. Almost kill it because you don’t water it. Check. Finally start watering it and slowly see it come back to life. Check.

This picture was the dry root tree before budding.


Also to address the lack of shade: Build a pergola. Originally I thought pergolas were pretty, but stupid. Where is the shade!? Then I saw this picture and knew it was meant to be. It just so happens that I already have wisteria vines along my fence that are growing like crazy and looking for a pergola to wrap around.

wisteria trellis

Apparently most varieties don’t bloom in this cold of a growing zone. These two are the Minnesota hearty versions I bought a few year back. They grow like crazy and bloom beautifully.

2/3. Grown Up space/Twinkle lights.

So our plans include a patio, because who doesn’t love the idea of not only removing a hill, but also digging down below the grass another 10 inches! We plan to place retaining walls below the fence line where the hill once was.

I love the traditional pavers and the lights in the first picture and the built in firepit on the edge of the second.


Along the back corner of the patio and fence line we would love to do something like this, built into the pergola for outdoor movies.outdoor movie

For seating of course we would need a hammock or some kind of swinging chair for a little whimsy and magic.

hanging chairs

4. Backyard littered with crap.

Become the kind of people that pick up after themselves, raise our children accordingly. Buy something to put toys in. Consider organizing the shed.


So that’s where we are for now, dreaming up the plans, our favorite part! We are still deciding about whether we hire the patio out or try to determine just how many months we would have to wait to forget about how much we hate manual labor and do it ourselves. Only time will tell…


After 5 years it’s time to tackle the outside

This spring we started ripping out the second deck in the back that was rotted out.

Flash back to Fall 2013 when we ripped out the 1st deck that was built with non-treated wood set right in the mud…


we then laid grass back in Spring 2014DSCN2188.JPG

So much better and weirdly rug like. We played mini soccer games. Played in our sandbox (because once you are wheel-barrowing dirt and sod, why not do a yard of sand– you know just 1 and 1/2 tons of sand).

So we lived with that backyard until this year Spring 2017. So you might be wondering to yourself what kind of beef do these people have with decks!? We are sort of anti splinter fest, weirdly shaped multi-levels that no furniture fits on, rotting, infested with carpenter ants, oh and did I mention that for 5 years we have had a hot tub in our backyard that hasn’t worked for at least that long? It feels like a pretty safe assumption given that there was a decomposing hot tub cover inside of it when we bought the house.

DSC_2556.JPGThis is how it looked before starting. We had two weed boxes up top on either side. You can see the bench along the top where you would have never sat because of serious splinters. The beloved hot tub, which we of course had added a free slide to, because you might as well work what you’ve got in the mean time. The top level also had a decent sized hole in the center because the previous owners kept their fire pit up there and some burning something must have made a hole. Who are we kidding — we had out fire pit up there too. The kids loved to throw things down the hole and then lament that they were lost forever. We put our grill on the bottom level and would occasionally put a table on that first level too, which would fit exactly one chair.

These are alternate views, from the sandbox and from the shed. We casually started beginning of May and then spent some of the best days of our life with a crowbar and sawzall. Nothing could quite prepare me for the bone jarring, eye-ball shaking of the sawzall.


This was July 11th. After a nice nasty gram from the city saying we couldn’t leave heaps of rotted lumber in our driveway for months, we finally powered through and took 5000 pounds to the dump two days later!

So it wasn’t exactly demo day. And it it wasn’t exactly fun, or cool, or terribly safe…. it is now much closer to a blank slate and the start of something. I think it is fair to say after demoing the deck, walking the boards through a tiny passage way on the side of our house, down to the pile in the middle of the driveway, loading them in Josh’s trailer and unloading them at the dump, we are very certain we do not like manual labor!

Next time I’ll run down the plans for what we hope to do!