Backyard bliss

So it’s cold here. Like negative something degrees. And I’m pretty much confined to my house, because… Germs. And I’m wanting to write about a lighter topic, because these last several months have been a bit intense, and, not surprisingly, my feelings are still pretty intense… (Hello, PPA and PPD – so nice of you to visit me again.) And also because I have little energy. And also because the outdoors are on my mind, because I’m perpetually looking out the window at them, unable to enjoy them, my cabin fever beginning to rage… So here’s an update on the other event that defined our 2017 besides the arrival of baby Fredrik (who’s doing well, by the way)… Our backyard renovation!

When we finished construction on our house in 2014, we were out of time and money and patience and also super paranoid about interest rate hikes that never came to fruition, so, suffice it to say, we devoted little resources to our backyard, so it turned out… Not exactly as we had envisioned.

So this year, we wanted to bring our backyard more in line with our desires as well as our home value, so we budgeted about $1,500 and two weekends to finish it, and about $89,000 and seven months later (kidding, but seriously though – we were severely over budget a la the HGTV show, Renovation Realities, where an unsuspecting couple files for bankruptcy and divorce over a seemingly small home renovation project that is actually much bigger than anyone could have ever anticipated, or, really, I guess on most episodes, the couple should have anticipated things going awry if it were going to take them three days to move out their old refrigerator, but I digress), it’s finally finished, and we’re pleased with the results, so I figured I’d share them here.

Here are some pictures from this fall, when it was green, right after we planted our grass.




My favorite part of our backyard is our hill coming off of our porch. Said hill presented some design challenges, but, I think we miraculously achieved exactly what we were going for, as I have always wanted a mountain-esque switchback in my Midwest, urban/suburban backyard. I think it will only get more beautiful as the foliage thickens, and I think the neatest part about it is the 20 tons of trap rock boulders we incorporated.

We experienced some delays with our project, which ended up helping us immensely, as the extra time gave Mark the opportunity to source the boulders directly from a local quarry rather than going through one of our urban suppliers. Mark even visited said quarry to select each rock himself, and then a truck dumped the 20 tons of rock in our front yard, which wasn’t disruptive at all…

rock quarry1rock quarry2

rock scale.jpeg

So basically, we got ~$7,000 worth of rock for $1,500. Also, normally these rocks would cost like $20,000 in labor to install, but Mark is really good at driving a bobcat (he’s diverse in his talents), so he was able to set the boulders himself (in less than four hours!), so our only other costs incurred related to these rocks were our bobcat rental fees.

My other favorite backyard features are the row of pine trees (green giant arbor vitaes) lining the back property line as well as our split-rail farm fence (which effectively keeps the livestock dogs in/out). Because trees will eventually grow taller than a privacy fence, we thought trees plus a small, less obtrusive fence was preferable, though we’ll have to wait a few years to realize our truly desired effect.

This yard project was a team effort, as we received so much help from our families. (Bless them.) But I really have to hand it to Mark on this one. Without his time/talent, it never would have turned out like this. Basically everyone who’s seen the final product (including an engineer and a senior city planning official/inspector) has told him that if he ever wants to leave accounting, he could enjoy a successful career in backyard renovations.

It snowed on the day Fredrik was born, so we had a white Christmas, which I mostly didn’t see, as I was chained to my hospital bed. But here’s what our backyard looked like with snow, and this is kind of what it looks like now too.


I must say though, I’m not a huge fan of snow, so I’m anxiously awaiting it greening up again this spring. It will be fun to be able to use it again with Joel and Fredrik. But of course, like everything, the thought of this also makes me sad…

Back when I was pregnant with Matthew, we had this backyard renovation on our to-do list. And now it’s done, but he isn’t here to enjoy it. Every time I allow myself to feel the weight of this reality, I can’t breathe. I just wish more than anything that, come spring, I could watch all three of my boys happily playing back there in this beautiful space their daddy (and their entire families) so lovingly created for them.


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