Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Backyard Improvements

We had some backyard problems. If I were on twitter I would hashtag it as #backyardprobz (I think that's the right way to do it.)
If you remember, last year we had a patio poured under our deck, and we were finally able to take our kids outside without fear of man-eating snakes and black widows.
But what you probably didn't see (because there was nothing to see) was the other part of our yard, below the patio and rock retaining wall. Basically I like to call it the grassy slope of death. It was pretty much a straight-down-hill half-sodded yard which ended in a non-sodded dirt/rock/weed trap.
I know the picture doesn't do it justice, but trust me, this hill goes straight down.

Because of this, the rest of our yard was pretty much useless, unless you count accumulating dog poop. We never went down there because, well, we didn't want to walk back up the hill. Steep, I tell you.
So we had our landscaping friends come and assess the situation.
(Chad insisted on the landscaping people coming because he knew if I assessed it myself that I would probably rent myself a Bobcat and start digging us a nice big swimming pool. He was correct.)

Anyhow, the landscaping friends agreed that it would be a good idea to level out some of the bottom of the yard so that we could actually use the space. We had some gravel left over from our patio project that they were able to use and with a lot of digging and many many man hours, they were able to create a nice level area at the bottom of the yard. We chose mulch instead of sod because we wanted to be able to actually use the space and if we'd gone with sod, apparently the water situation would've been horrendous, what with the ginormous sloping hill and all. So they basically dug another wall, put up some railroad ties (almost like another retaining wall) and put mulch behind it. Another reason we chose mulch is because we wanted a swing set, and they recommend mulch underneath them.

Then in the area you see over to the right we sectioned it off and put in crushed pea gravel because we wanted to use our fire pit in this area too. And apparently mulch and fire pits don't get along too well. (We tried using our fire pit a couple times last year up on the patio and it was too close to our house and would make our entire house smell like a camp site for days on end. Not good.)

We also had them remove this jungle of evergreen that was growing along our rock retaining wall, because of the fear of the aforementioned man-eating creatures and the horrible weeds that we were afraid to remove, and once they cleared out this evergreen they put in some sod in its place and it made the yard look so much cleaner.

The entire area of new sod (below) was covered in that juniper that you see in the picture above. It was literally a jungle of evergreen and was quite scary looking.

Here's what the area looks like when you're standing it it...

and from the other side...

 Our yard pretty much stayed like the pictures above for almost 2 months because we couldn't decide or find a good deal on a swing set. We went back and forth between different ones we'd found, where to buy it, how to find someone to put it together, etc. I'm sure our neighbors thought we were about to plant some massive crop of prize winning produce in our bed out back, but we had other plans.
We finally decided on a set from Sam's that ended up being the best deal for the size set we wanted. We also decided to put it together ourselves. I love a good project and since I didn't get to rent my Bobcat for the pool I wanted to do something hands-on to feel like I had a part in the backyard project of 2013.
We read all the reviews on the Sam's website which really helped us when it came to building.
There were TONS, I repeat, TONS of pieces.
We're talking over a couple hundred pieces of wood.
Over 3000 screws and other hardware.
It was pretty overwhelming at first.
Luckily we had 2 eager helpers. A guitar playing princess and a cheetoh-faced saggy-diaper-wearing space ranger boy.

Sam was more than eager to practice his fine motor skills by adding washers to each of our bolts and screws. #freelabor

I will say this: after we took inventory of every.single.piece of lumber and most of the screws, we organized the entire project into steps, using the instructions manual. We laid out the lumber and the hardware needed for each individual step of the process and put the hardware in a small ziplock. This took over 2 hours but was totally worth it. There's no telling how much time it saved us once the actual building started.
The slide was a pretty early step in the process, and we figured we could get some good use out of it while we waited for the rest of the set to be complete. This was the best idea ever. Kids loved it.

And I won't bore you with photos of the process, but we worked our butts off the rest of that weekend (mostly during naps or we'd let the kids swim up on the patio) and we finally finished late Tuesday night. It was a long process but we had a good time doing it and I'm glad we did!
And we were still married at the end of the process, which was our #1 goal. Check.

We ended up switching a few things around so that the slide came off the side of the set instead of off the front, and it wasn't a problem at all.

We moved our sandbox down to the area too and now the kids have a backyard they can run around in and an area that's all their own. I'm really happy with the result. I never thought we'd be able to have a swing set with our sloped yard and this has made such a difference.
Mary Ella is in hog heaven and for the first week after it was built she'd head to the fort first thing in the morning. Sam loves it too and is practicing getting up and down the ladder by himself (he's a bit wary of heights and he underestimates his ability too) but he loves being in the clubhouse below or up in the fort. I've loved being able to look out the kitchen window and watch them playing in our yard (for the first time ever.)
Here's to summer fun, swinging and hopefully some s'mores in the fire pit SOON!

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