Sunday, June 26, 2016

Back Yard Makeover

About a year after we finished re-doing the gardens in the front yard, we decided it was time for another outdoor project. 

Not only did the back garden have all of the same problems we encountered in the front yard, but because the back of our house faces north, we were also dealing with swamp-like conditions back there for most of the year.

Once again, the builder just tossed in some landscaping, none of which was meant to grow in the shade of a north-facing garden. 

The photo above was taken before we even moved in. Unfortunately I don't have a photo of the mess it had become two years later, but needless to say, once again we had some work to do...

This time, we decided that trying to make anything grow back there would be a complete waste of energy. 

Instead, we decided to remove all of the landscaping and extend our patio area.

Luckily, that meant that this time Stew only had to dig out a few inches of soil to prep for pouring concrete, rather than digging down several feet, like last time. 

We removed all of the disgusting, dead plants... except for one.

This little guy just had to be saved! It is Ryder's "birth plant," a small hydrangea that my mom brought to the hospital on the day he was born. By some miracle, it had managed to thrive in the swamp-like conditions of the back garden thus far. So I said a little prayer for its continued survival and transplanted it to a pot on the back patio.

Then Stew and Brett got to work on pouring concrete to replace the garden.

Once everything dried, I was so, so happy with the results!

Now we don't have to deal with that soggy, wet mess back there anymore, and Ryder has an extended play area that was ready just in time for the best part of summer.

As as for his birth plant? It survived! And even started to bloom...

Also around this time, we also started another project on the side yard in between our house and the neighbors'. 

Unfortunately I didn't take any before photos, but it really was a transformation. 

This used to be just an empty space between the houses with some bark thrown on top that would blow around everywhere. The addition of a fence/gate, pathway, gravel, rock wall, and new landscaping really makes it look pretty.

Although I certainly wouldn't call myself an experienced landscaper, I'm just a little bit proud of myself for helping Stewart complete these outdoor projects around our house. 

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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Father's Day

One of the more amazing things about becoming a parent is that you fall in love with your husband all over again. 

May 5, 2014

When I see Stewart and Ryder together, my heart just melts, and I remember all the reasons that I fell in love in the first place.

Our relationship changed a lot during that first year after Ryder was born. It was good... and bad. Bad because we were sleep deprived, stressed, and grumpy. The responsibility of running a household, having full time jobs, and a child who sucks up almost every once of our energy on a daily basis has definitely taken a toll on the romance in our marriage.

But there were good parts, too. And to this day, whenever I sit back and look for a minute, watching my husband and our son with fascination and adoration, I fall in love with him a little bit more... again and again and again.

Ryder has brought happiness into our lives that we never even realized was missing. He makes us laugh, smile and worry like we never had before, and sharing that experience has brought us even closer together.

I will never really be able to express how thankful I am that Ryder has such a good daddy.

It seems like more often than not, Stew ends up having to work on holidays, and Father's Day this year was no exception. However, determined to spend some time with him, Ryder and I went down to the fire station for a visit.

Trying on all the gear and hanging out on the ladder truck are definitely some of the perks of having a firefighter for a daddy!

Happy Father's Day to all the Dads out there (especially mine). Thank you for everything you've done, and for all that you continue to do.

I hope you had a wonderful day!

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Saturday, June 4, 2016

Front Yard Makeover

When we moved into our brand new home, we really didn't anticipate the amount of work that would need to be done.

We were so excited to move into our first real house, complete with a yard, that we hardly thought about all the things that we would need to do in the future to maintain it. Let alone all the tools and materials it would require -- I shudder to think about how much we must have spent at Home Depot during that first year... 

We definitely didn't think much about the landscaping when we first saw it. 

It looked pretty typical compared to what we had seen around the neighborhood.

However, when spring came and a bunch of the plants started to die, we realized we may have a problem. 

We found out a few things:

1)  Our neighborhood has had amazing soil. That is, before the developer came along and stripped it all and sold it to the people building the golf course, leaving rocky, hard, clay behind. 

2)  Our builder didn't do anything to prep our yard for landscaping. Instead, they just dumped about two inches of topsoil over the rocky clay and covered the bumpy ground with sod.

3)  Also, they didn't bother to put in any climate or soil-appropriate plants. Instead, they just popped in whatever they had (or whatever was on sale) that would look decent and convince us to close on the home sale. Thus, why everything was turning yellow and/or dying. 

Ah, hindsight is 20/20, but these are the things that happen to first-time home buyers like us. 

We had some work to do. 

Eventually, we realized that in order to make our front gardens into something that anything living could thrive in, we would have to remove about two feet of the rocky, clay dirt that was there and replace it with decent soil. 

We had no idea what we were about to unearth.

Bucketful by painful bucketful, Stewart began the backbreaking work of digging out the soil... 

Once we started digging in the garden bed, we discovered rotten two-by-fours, rusty nails, burlap sacks, bottles and cans, and a huge amount of concrete over-pour from the foundation just a few inches down. 

No wonder nothing would grow here! 

It was basically a construction waste dumping ground with a few inches of topsoil thrown on.

You can see that just a few inches down, we encountered what was basically a thin slab of concrete. Stew actually had to use a pickaxe to get through most of it.


Finally, after uncountable hours of digging and hauling away buckets of dirt, we were ready to bring in replacement soil. If someone would have told me that someday in my life I would pay good money for dirt, I would have laughed in their face. 

Just look at me now... 

Shovelful by shovelful, poor Stew started filling in the holes. 

In the meantime, I started researching and shopping for replacement plants.

And with some helpful resources (the main one being my mother) we were able to select what I think turned out to be the makings for a really pretty front garden.

We also replaced a hedge on the side of the house that surrounds some unsightly power boxes. 

The addition of some decorative bark, rocks and lighting finished off the final look. 

I really can't take credit for much of this project. Stew really took the initiative to get it done and did all the manual labor himself. 

And I still can't believe what a difference it made!

We actually finished this project about a year ago, and everything we planted is still thriving in our new garden beds. 

Even though it involved a ton of cost and effort, I am so happy with the results, and proud of us for completing our first major outdoor project at our new home. 

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