Posts Tagged ‘backyard’

Camping in the Backyard

Monday, August 13th, 2012


My husband and third son went camping in the backyard last weekend. It was my husband’s idea. He wanted to spend time one-on-one with each of our kids this summer. He is planning to go fishing with my second son, and he will be taking my oldest son to a robotics class for youth. He also plans to take my daughter to the local children’s museum. I love that my husband wants to spend time with our kids, and that he enjoys them.

It must have been fun for my son Nathaniel to lie down in a sleeping bag next to his dad’s sleeping bag, chatting as they fell asleep in the tent. There’s something about one-on-one time that makes a kid feel important, like he matters. It doesn’t even have to cost any money.

Old Deck/New Deck

Friday, August 13th, 2010

rotten-deckI am so amazed by God. Earlier this year my husband and I looked out onto our rotten deck and realized that it had to go. Ten years ago when we moved into our house, the inspector told us that we needed to replace the deck. For ten years we haven’t had the money. My husband kept wanting to smash it to pieces, but I knew that it would be a worse eyesore to have nothing. I was using that deck. I’m ashamed to say that I told him, “Just wait ’til someone falls through. Then we’ll replace it.” I was stalling for time. I didn’t want to go into debt for something that was optional.

old-deckWhen this spring came, I saw how awful it was. I had planned to teach a poetry class and film it outside, but alas! The deck looked so putrid that I had to cancel the class before I even announced it. It was dangerous. My husband started chopping the deck to pieces, and we burned it all in our fireplace little by little during the spring. It was nice to have firewood. The wood burned so quickly, I had to keep throwing on more wood just to keep the fire burning.

I had no idea how we were going to pay for the deck, but I thought that at least the hideous thing would be gone. At the worst, there would be a sheer drop off, and no one would be able to go out into the back yard to play.

new-deckA check suddenly arrived in the mail from a relative who had no idea we were replacing our deck. She just decided to give us what she called “early inheritance money.” I had prayed that God would somehow send us the money we needed for the deck, and God certainly answered that prayer. I felt all choked up and ready to cry from gratitude.

My husband designed the deck with benches and planters, in a style that I had never seen before. We hired a Christian handyman to go ahead and begin the work. The entire deck was built while my husband was on a missions trip to the Czech Republic. On the day my husband came back, before going to the airport to pick him up, I planted flowers that were on sale, since it was so late in the summer. It looked beautiful.

I sometimes go out there with a cup of coffee to read my Bible and pray in the morning. God gave me that deck. My husband worked hard to remove tnew-deck-2he old deck, and he was creative to design a deck that I absolutely love. My husband never ceases to amaze me, when I see more good qualities that I haven’t seen before. He would have built the deck himself, but for the lack of time and energy. Even though my husband is a computer programmer, he has done nearly all the renovations in our house himself. I just wish our house would stop falling apart so that my husband could get some rest!

My First Garden (at Boarding School)

Friday, May 21st, 2010


My science teacher at boarding school was super cool. Besides having a live snake in his classroom, he gave each of us a plot of garden for our own, sectioned off by rope. During the first semester, we planted wheat. After it was ripe for harvest, we removed all the grains by hand, and we ground it and made flour. We baked bread out of it, and it was delicious, hot from the oven.

The second semester, we could plant whatever vegetables we wanted. That was when I grew to love the smell of the soil. (That is, before we were required to put old cow manure into it. It never smelled the same after that.) I made furrows the correct spacing apart, and I planted the seeds and covered them with soil. I ended up growing carrots, radishes, lettuce, cucumbers, beans, and peas.

Every day, I would run out to my garden, look at the progress of each tiny plant, and pull any weeds that were growing. When it was time to harvest the fastest-growing plants, we had a huge, absolutely enormous basket of radishes and carrots. The carrots were so sweet and huge, with beautiful green tops still attached. I felt like Bugs Bunny as I chomped away. I eventually got sick of burping radishes, and the rest of the radishes spoiled, even though we let everyone in our dorm eat as much as they wanted.

The harvest from the other vegetables was eaten by us little by little as it grew, so we never had any leftovers of those. I enjoyed opening the small gate and swinging it shut behind me. I would walk down the rows of plants, because I had left enough space to walk around each row. As I saw the vegetables growing, I would pluck them off like Peter Rabbit. What a clever way to get children to eat more vegetables!

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My Gardening Binder

Friday, May 14th, 2010


I created a gardening binder with pictures, articles, and blueprints from my backyard. I’ve used this as a source of inspiration for years now.

When I moved into our first house 12 years ago, I saw an overgrown backyard with a lot of potential. I had never really been good at gardening (aside from my boarding school experience). So the entire backyard (and front yard!) loomed like a daunting task, waiting to be magnificent.

My first step was to sign up for an inexpensive gardening class, put on by the local community college. I took copious notes and asked lots of questions. The good thing about taking a local class was that the expert could tell me what grew well in my area.

gardening-binder-2I read some gardening magazines, ripping out any articles that were helpful “how to’s,” such as how to prune a bush correctly or when and how to plant bulbs. I punched three holes into the pages and put them into a binder. I made dividers: perennials, bulbs, herbs, lawn, trees and shrubs, exercises for gardeners, and general advice. I hole punched all my class notes and handouts from my gardening class and categorized them accordingly.

I also cut out pictures of inspiring gardens so that I had an idea of what I liked, and so that I would be excited to do all the work that needed to be done. I grabbed a black sheet of construction paper and glued some beautiful gardening pictures on the front. I slid this into the pocket on the outside cover of the binder. I wrote “Gardening” on a sheet of black paper and slid it down the binding pocket so that when the binder was on a shelf, I could spot it quickly.

In the back pgardening-binder-3ocket I put “before” and “after” pictures. I went outside and took pictures for the “before” side. I left the “after” side empty for years. Behind the “before” and “after” pictures, in that same back pocket, I put my garden blueprints. I bought a sheet of blueprint paper at the art supply store while taking a landscaping class (another local class). I had to measure my entire yard with a measuring tape, and then measure out where each tree and bush was. I found out that day that I had 23 pine trees in my small backyard in the suburbs. No wonder my soil was acidic!

Over the years I have improved my yard, but I’ve had more failure than success. Being on a tight budget, at first I refused to buy dirt. But my soil was so bad, I really needed to amend it or it would never look good. The thought of buying dirt seemed ludicrous to me, but that was one secret that helped my garden to begin to do well. When I had no money whatsoever for plants, I threw a garden party, where peopgardening-binder-4le brought plants from their yard to share, and swapped their plants for other people’s plants. That was how I began my perennial garden. If you go to people’s houses with fabulous yards, you can compliment them and start letting people know that your garden is pathetic. Sooner or later people will start giving you plants, especially women from church who have seen your real garden and feel sorry for you. Then again, I also told my husband to never buy me flowers unless they had a root attached. In these sneaky ways, I built my garden over time, with virtually no money.