So I don't know about you all, but our backyard hasn't always been a place I wanted to hang out. In fact, it was a definitely a place that sucked my joy until recently.
You have to know that when we moved to Colorado six years ago, we actually picked this house because of the detached 3-car garage and the unfinished basement. The basement has outdoor steps leading up to the garage. We had our machinery outside and our assembly/shipping inside, and our backyard was strewn with bits and pieces of stray metal, constantly under the spray of some type of sealant, and bombarded with the sound of our plasma machine working away.
Not by a long shot.
Nearly four years ago we moved our business out of the house and to its own shop (thank goodness--heads were about to roll). But then we were pregnant twice and worked to death, and broken legs and Covid, and time just slipped away while our backyard stayed pretty inhabitable.
To be fair, my boys seemed to enjoy the dirt and the rocks, and we did inherit a nice outdoor furniture set. We cleaned the area up a bit to make it safe for the kids and we finally got rid of our temporary shed filled with the last of the business paraphernalia last Fall.
Here's a bit of a before picture. Since this point, we've torn down railing, painted and planted!
But, it wasn't until March of this year that we started taking small steps--frugal for the most part to make it a place we actually wanted to spend time in.
Here are seven small things that we've tried recently to make our backyard a happy place for days in the sun and family gatherings and good company. (And I'm going to put it out there very candidly--I know our backyard isn't top of the line. We live in a very old house--1950s--and we're not out to blow all our money on a yard makeover. My goal was to make little, effective tweaks to brighten up a place we spend a lot of time in!)
I don't know about you all, but I love myself a good paint makeover. For my outdoor projects, I actually found old cans of paint in the garage so I didn't have to spend a penny on this portion.
I started with the fence. We've got one beautiful, redone portion of the fence that Kyle was able to finish during quarantine before he broke his leg last year, but there's a final stretch of fence that was so old and weary and UGLY, that I felt I must slap some paint on it. So I did.
I also went at the poop-colored brown that was, for some reason, the color chosen for our patio. It's white now, and so when I look out the kitchen window, my outlook is brighter--literally.
2.) A garden!
I started my garden inside in order to save money way back in March. I'm not even going to pretend that I know what I'm doing, but guess what?! Somehow, someway, everything is growing and I am so excited.
3.) A garden bed!
Now, I'm lucky enough that my partner can make things--and make them well. So when it was time to transfer my sweet baby plants, Kyle was ready with this beautiful raised garden bed. Now the kids can lean over and look--and very, very gently touch "the babies". (Maybe it's because these little seedlings are loved so well that they're growing?)
We laid down seed last year in our front yard, and making it grow lush and happy was a labor of love.
This year we've made an excellent start on our little postage stamp of grass in the backyard. I am very pleased with the way this tiny blanket of green has transformed the dusty brown I used to see when I looked out the bedroom window. Also--it should be noted that bearded dragons also enjoy a good romp in the grass--something we couldn't do in the front yard because of the family of crows that lives in our neighbor's tree.
5.) Order rather than chaos!
As Murphy's Law teaches us, all things go to disorder if left unchecked. Our house--filled with three kids 5 and under--is a textbook example of this principle. The backyard is no exception.
So everyday when the kids are out playing, I go out too and make sure to sweep up some leaves, pick a few weeds, mow, wipe the table down, or just contain some of the toys strewn about haphazardly. Being outside makes me happy--and the kids just love it when I'm right there with them, no matter what I'm doing.
6.) A pool!
Now when we say "pool" what we mean is a stock tank trough.
These things have gained popularity on Pinterest lately and when we saw them for the first time, we knew we wanted one. This was our biggest splurge of the whole backyard--and we still need to add the filter and figure out what type of chemicals we need to use to keep the water healthy. But the amount of joy it's brought makes me think it'll be around for long enough to justify shelling out a little bit more on this part of the yard makeover.
7.) A place to sit comfortably!
You need grown up chairs--preferably with cushions. This probably sounds like a "well, duh" thing to most of you, but we didn't have anything comfortable to sit on for a long while. Now we have a little love seat, and two chairs along with a dining table.
To finish up, here is another quick list of the things we either already have or are planning to incorporate into our backyard to continue the process of beautification:
- Fire Pits! Our Baby Fire Pits, of course ;)
- Plants. And more plants. Some were grown from seed--to save some money and to enjoy the process of growing something--and some were bought big and luscious. My ferns from Walmart and my rose bush are my prized plant possessions of the year.
- A Shade Sail!
- Twinkle Lights!
And that's all folks! I'd love to hear how you've brightened up your outdoor living space!