Backyard Reno: Totally Functional – Help me decide how to finish it!
Last week, fall finally showed its beautiful temps here in central Ohio and I decided to make the most of it. Thursday afternoon I spent a few hours unloading pea gravel between meetings (since it was cool and breezy enough to do so without breaking much of a sweat). On Friday two of my calls were canceled so I took the day off to finish the job. One more day, another yard of pea gravel, 12 bags of cobblestone, 2 bunny statues, and 583 pounds of stepping stone later, and I have a beautiful, still not finished but fully functional backyard space right off the deck and living room patio.
I wasted no time, even pumping while I shoveled and raked. Bladen played in his outdoor high chair while I worked and my brother Josh made sure the floodlights stayed on for me and even helped me put my new table together that had been sitting in the garage since April.
One more day, another yard of pea gravel, 12 bags of cobblestone, 2 bunny statues, and 583 pounds of stepping stone later, and I have a beautiful, still not finished but fully functional backyard space right off the deck and living room patio.
I present to you my new favorite spot in the backyard. I placed every 👏 single 👏 rock 👏 and 👏 stone 👏 here 👏 !
With only a few alterations to my original vision (see it here) and a few more final touches needed, I couldn’t ‘t love it more. Here’s why:
- Flow & Connection. The space flows nicely from the existing garden beds and walkways. I extended the stepping stone and cobblestone pathway from the soon-to-be wrap-around corner stairs off the deck to the concrete (soon-to-be covered) patio off the living room, to the pathway around the tree trunk, and out to the yard. This created continuity and a visual flow from one space to another, as well as a separation between the walkways and the outdoor “room”. On the deck overlooking this space is another outdoor dining table; I shared in my original post that this felt disconnected from the other side of the deck where the main outdoor eating space was. Now that I’ve got a table under the tree, our larger gatherings will stay connected–allowing people to see and talk to each other.
Easy, smokeless heat. Originally I planned on getting a bowl-shaped fire pit for the space but hadn’t purchased one yet and the kids were so excited to have a fire in the new space so I moved the old fire ring to the new space. But Sr. had other plans. He wasn’t a fan of a wood-burning fire under our beautiful tree. Plus we’ve (I) got an awful track record of wanting to have a fire right after a rain–when all our wood is wet. So he surprised me with a great little propane fire table. I love it! I can have fire any time I want AND we don’t all need to go wash off the smell of smoke when we come in.
Room with a view. I think this is actually one of Sr.’s highlights–the t.v. in the living room is visible through the doors. We watched the Buckeye’s game the first night out there. The only thing missing was sound. Luckily, Jr. found out that our t.v. sound can hook up to Bluetooth so problem solved! Eventually, we’ll replace these doors and I think this idea will influence our decision on the design of those doors.
Shade. Not that this will matter the rest of this year with fall, and soon winter, but this tree provides the BEST shade and cool temps on hot, sunny days. Seriously, it feels 10-20 degrees cooler in the shade of that tree. The canopy is also mesmerizing to look up at as you relax with a nice beverage in the sitting area.
Bunnies. During my many trips to the outdoor and garden store for soil gravel and stone last week I fell in love with these two bunny statues. Of course, after just picking up a rooster statue for the new coop, my co-workers think I have a slight problem. They told me one more statue and they’re staging an intervention. 🤣 But you can’t tell me these bunnies don’t fit in the space perfectly.
So, what’s left? (Here is where you can help!)
My brother Josh, who has been staying with us for a few months and helped me excavate the area this spring, had the idea to create more flow with stairs that wrap around the corner of the deck. He’s actually suggested many ways for us to open the deck up more since he started staying with us–I think the fact that when you come out of the sunroom, you have to go either right or left to get off the deck drives him nuts. Anyway, this is the first of his ideas that I’ve liked, and felt it was a manageable change. Of course, it means that the deck railing bar I envisioned won’t work since this is the rail where I would have put that, but I think it really would make a statement.
So, while I was tossing stepping stones and cobblestone around, I went ahead and placed them as if the stairs were there to match the stepping stone landing of the existing stairs. I also dug up the part of the garden bed where the steps would go. This actually worked out GREAT because I relocated the soil and plants to the small retaining wall I built up around the trunk of the tree.
Another change I plan to make is to cover the existing concrete patio off the living room door. It’s list pretty blah and, where the bricks were added to extend the pad, water still sits, though not as much. I just can’t decide if I was to put decking material there or stone. 🤔 I’d love to know what you think.
Currently, we’ve used the floodlights above the doors to light the space but this is obviously temporary. I have several boxes of my favorite outdoor solar-powered string lights sitting in the garage, waiting for me to figure out what configuration I want to hang them in. It’s going to be gorgeous BUT I’m having trouble identifying the best placement for maximum solar powering–remember the great shade I was boasting about?
Lastly, there is the matter of the boring brick wall on either side of the door. It’s just missing something. It looks like there used to be some kind of ivy growing on the wall which is long gone now. I’ve considered a few different things to break up the wall space but the most appealing is the idea of painting a mural here (another one of Josh’s ideas!). When we moved into our childhood home, our mother drew a fun mural on the backside of the garage where the pool patio was. The whimsical frogs swimming in a pond and diving off lily pads. She had us help her paint it which was super fun and a memory I hold to this day.
I’m thinking of something floral and colorful and of course, getting the kids into the action. Currently, I’m just trying to decide if I want a more realistic or playful, more abstract look. To me, the realistic would feel like a giant painting as opposed to an abstract pattern that would have more of a wallpaper feel. Let’s do another poll! What do you think?
Progress! Backyard Reno
Last time I shared with y’all I was fresh into redoing the backyard, so excited about the possibilities. It’s been a month and a half and until this weekend the project hadn’t gone any further.
Luckily the stars aligned and I had the energy AND the time. I told Sr. that all I wanted for my birthday was the materials to bring my vision to life (and his truck to haul it all 🤣).
We’re in the middle of football and softball season so Saturdays are just about the only day we have free so this past Saturday we got to work. Brian and Ella even HELPED!
Two loads of topsoil later and we’ve got a pretty good, level base for the pea gravel. The two railroad ties from the existing garden bed, of which we removed 4-5 feet in July ended up being great borders for the two sides. These are only temporary –Sr. thinks the ties are yellow jacket magnets and wants to get rid of all of them down the road. I used rock from a pathway I removed in the front gardens to round out the corner between the two ties. This matches the layered rock corners found elsewhere around the house gardens.
We also decided to move the azalea, opening up the space even more–another 3-4 feet. This was my brother Josh’s brilliant idea! We moved it to the little outside corner of the space and added some rocks. The larger space now has me thinking we could open the stairs up more on the corner to further connect the space!
Next up, I’ll dig a trench to fix a standing water issue at the patio and divert it downhill, add landscape fabric, and then pea gravel and done! I’m hoping I can get to it all by this weekend. 🤞🏻🤞🏻
Lately on the Homestead: Backyard Reno
Last summer, despite Sr.’s disapproval, I put a pool up. He was against the idea for two reasons
1. He’s not a fan of pools(unless there’s a slide going into the pool, he doesn’t see the point) and thinks they attract mosquitos. 🙄
2. He thought I’d ruin the grass.
While it didn’t attack mosquitos, the pool was more trouble than it was worth, and, given all the sand I put down to level the spot for the pool, I ruined the grass. 😬
But with failure comes opportunity!
So now I’m working on a renovation of the “old” pool area by opening the space up and adding a dining and firepit area. Before I get into the details of my vision and progress so far, here are a few other reasons why I’m making a change:
- It’s significantly cooler it was under the shade of that big oak tree than in the shade of our gazebo on the other side of the porch.
- During our mothers day cookout, I became frustrated with how segregated the two dining areas were–with the sunroom between the two spaces it can be hard to monitor the kids (if they are on the other side) or have a conversation with the rest of the party.
- I never really liked the table that came with the sectional under the gazebo–I prefer that sectional to be a sitting space.
- The walkout patio has always been too small to be functional for us but I’d prefer to use that door more for coming in and out, especially after sledding in the winter when we need to head straight to the laundry room to remove our wet clothes and set them to dry (the laundry room is directly to the right of the walkout). Currently, we use the sunroom or garage entrance and then have to walk through the main floor and down to the living room to access the laundry.
- The brickwork at the end of the patio also collected water after rains, which needs to be addressed. It’s not causing damage, it just annoys me.
- I needed another project to fill the time that I don’t have this summer 🤣
Alright, so what’s the plan? So glad you asked!
Cue vision board!
Okay, so the plan is to remove a portion of the existing border gardens to open the space for an easier flow to the new conversation/firepit area and add a dining space behind it. Oh, and those wagon wheel chandeliers, hoping to get some old wheels from the family ranch back in Texas. We almost came home with a few in June but they were much heavier than I anticipated.
All this new space will be filled with pea gravel… primarily because it’s inexpensive and I’m too half-assy to do anything more legit.
I’ll also be fixing the pooling water at the edge of the walkout patio.
And since there is a bit of a grade to the lawn (the area under the tree and where the bench swing is higher than the lawn space in front of the patio), I’ll build up the new space to the height of the railroad ties using a layered rock border so it can taper off as it goes uphill.
We’ve already begun working on the space–removing portions of the existing garden beds and moving some of the river rock to expand/define the pathway.
Heat and a busy schedule (and a baby) have kept me from making much more progress in the last month but I’m hoping to complete the space before the end of fall so we can make some good nights by the fire happen before winter!
It’s been nearly three months since we’ve brought Bladen home and I’m excited to finally share my new favorite room in our home!
The nursery took me much longer to put together than nurseries in the past, in part due to lack of energy and in part due to putting together some special touches, like a gallery wall of art made by each family member ❤️. It has become the place we come for quiet snuggles and read-alouds– especially when the hot or cold weather keeps us from our other favorite space for this, the sunroom.
The nursery is located between our master bedroom and the girls’ shared room. Like the other bedrooms in this 1970’s home, there are no overhead lighting fixtures–just natural light and light from lamps. Despite that, it’s on the sunnier side of the house and gets great light throughout the day. Since we left the gender of this little one a surprise, I wanted to design a room that would be special, regardless of gender. Inspired by the beautiful outdoors we’ve cherished more since moving to Ohio, we decided on a woodland theme, complete with natural light, woods, and touches of greenery.
Despite having rid our storage of ALL the baby things when we thought we were done growing our family, we held on to the crib we used with all 3 kids…until last year when our friends were surprised with the news of a fourth on the way, shortly after their third. When we shared the news of our pregnancy, the first thing they did was insist we take our crib back. The timing was perfect given that their third would be moving to a toddler bed and their fourth could move into his big sister’s crib. Now, while there isn’t anything particularly special about this crib we purchased 12-13 years ago from Target, its dark finish is marred with scratches and teeth marks– teeth marks made by each of our three children. Brian, Ella, and Grace spent nearly every night and nap of their first few years in this crib, so it’s pretty special that our last child gets the same experience.
When looking for a dresser, I knew I wanted one that would grow with the space as the child does and serve as a space for diaper changing in these early years. I found this sleek, budget-friendly dresser at Ikea and I am pleased with how well the dark finish pairs with the crib. Even better, it has plenty of storage for all the little clothes, diapers, burp cloths, and baby linens. I don’t even use the closet for anything other than clothing he’s far from fitting into.
BASKETS, CHANGING BASKET, AND BASSINET
One thing that has really spoken to me lately is natural wood and woven baskets. I may be a little obsessed. Baskets are actually the first thing I purchased for the nursery when they showed up on shelves at our local TJ Maxx several months ago. You can see them scattered throughout the room. They serve as storage for playthings and hold essentials for nursing/feeding and changing. I also couldn’t resist this precious changing basket and bassinet combo from Design Dua. Since I had to have a c-section (due to a difficult and nearly tragic delivery of our firstborn) and we have a split level home, the bassinet lives in the living room and sometimes the dining room where I’ll work from time to time so naps can happen close by if needed. While Blade truly prefers his own crib for sleeping both the changing basket and the bassinet came in handy during our newborn shoot and made for some precious photos!
I’ve never had a nursery chair–well, not a real one anyway– so I decided to splurge a bit on this part of the nursery. I wanted something modern and comfortable; something I could see putting in another room in my house when it was no longer needed in this room. I wanted it to rock and have a high enough back that I could sleep in it if needed. I originally purchased a dark blue chair from Wayfair but was underwhelmed with it when it arrived, realizing it was more of a grandmother’s chair–old-fashioned and hard, perfect to wear a divet in the seat in while crocheting and watching wheel of fortune or soap operas, not one for nursing and rocking a newborn babe in. Luckily, the chair came with a missing rocking leg and the manufacturer couldn’t replace it so, I was reimbursed for the chair. (Wayfair customer service is fantastic by the way!) Instead, I purchased this adorable longhorn (at least that’s what this Texan is calling it) footstool, and a few other items for the house. My continued search brought me to this eco-friendly, cream rocker from West Elm Kids. This chair is perfect and will withstand stains for years to come. Blade has already tested it with some spit up a few times and it wipes right off. I have also found myself enjoying many naps in this chair in the few months I’ve had it. Alongside the chair is an old side table with a mid-century feel from my house in college and a Tiffany-style lamp gifted to me a few years ago by my Mom–dragonflies are her favorite– and I love the soft, warm ambiance it provides when the sun is down.
For each of the kids, I’ve painted something to go along with the decor. When I began my paintings for this nursery, the kids asked if they could create something as well. ❤️ Each picked their own subject (staying with the theme) and inspiration for the process. For the girls, it was Eric Carl while Jr. chose a mentor image on Pinterest. It was Ella’s idea to put all the pieces together as a gallery. They liked it so much that they asked to add more so they created some drawings and paintings of our favorite birds. With one spot left, we challenged Sr. to create something for the wall. In true Sr. fashion, he took the challenge and did his own thing–if you knew him, you’d know the grumpy cat is his spirit animal 🤣 Read more about this project in my nursery sneak peek post. I can’t wait to add Bladen’s work on this wall as he grows.
If you read my earlier post and sneak peek, you know what a pain it was for Sr. to install these shelves. The installation was rather easy, the pain just came from the fact that he hates putting holes in walls. 🙄 However, I LOVE how it turned out! I even made Sr. put up a few more shelves for some greenery and knickknacks. These wood and iron-look shelves came from Target’s Magnolia line (another little homage to our Texas roots).
PLAYTABLE and ROCKING DEER
Lastly, and perhaps most special are the custom-made pieces from Papa Jeff. First is the darling rocking deer he surprised us with at Christmas. Handmade and painted by Papa himself. Jeff struggles with Parkinson’s, so to see such detailed woodworking and painting from him is amazing (you should see the moon-shaped gliding bassinet that he made for Brian’s sister, Mary). I also asked Jeff to make a small paytable to go with these cute raccoon stools I scored for $14.99 at the Home Goods store. A plain white table was a pretty boring project for Jeff, but it’s the girl’s favorite place to sit in the nursery.
So, that’s the nursery! I’d love to know your favorite par – there are too many for me to choose from!
Special thanks to Butcher & Co. Photography for the beautiful newborn photos of our family!
Meet the newest member of the Camp family
Nearly three months ago we anxiously awaited the arrival of March. Not only would we be welcoming the newest member of our family to the world, but I’d also have 6 weeks of maternity leave and the plans I had to do with my time were endless! One of which was to get back on a regular blog writing schedule.
Well, folks, most of those plans have fallen through BUT the best one, welcoming and nurturing our youngest, has been a total success!
Bladen Ell was born on March 9th and at 10lbs 15oz, 22.75 inches, and the biggest, sweetest, squishiest cheeks ever. He was the talk of the maternity ward!
We were a bit shocked by his size–considering he was projected to top out around 8lbs 12oz–and though we didn’t know the gender, I thought it might be a girl, considering all the morning sickness and headaches I had–a symptom I only had with our girls. We also had a girl’s name all picked out but we’re still up in the air with what we would name a boy.
Choosing a Name
Bladen remained nameless for the first hour or so. We knew a few things we knew–we wanted to honor my Opa, Ell Kramer, with our name choice, given his size and deep almost manly cry, he needed a strong name, and we wanted a name you don’t hear often.
Ell is definitely uncommon but not the best choice for a first name since we have an Ella. Bladen was a name Sr. had discovered and was towards the top of our list. As we considered the meaning of the names in our list, we discovered Bladen means hero and so his name was decided.
Though visitation was yet allowed at the hospital, Sr and I enjoyed the quiet bonding we had during our stay. We brought Bladen home on his third day to a home full of loving siblings, grandparents, and curious pets.
Jack, our labradoodle is most confused when Ell has hiccups (which happens about 5 times a day) because he sounds just like Jack’s orange squeaker toy.
The day I delivered Bladen, my blood pressure was elevated. However, all seemed fine by the time I was discharged. At my one-week check-up, it was still higher than normal and though Ii was concerned, my OB was not worried.
The following week, just over two weeks after having Bladen, I had an in-home visit from a nurse (a wonderful service offered by our local hospital). Bladen was asleep when she arrived so she began by taking my vitals. I shared that I was concerned about my blood pressure since I never had issues before. I had been having headaches but chalked it up to exhaustion and maybe dehydration. Turns out it was significantly higher than it should be so our wonderful called ahead to the hospital, finished Bladen’s check-up, and helped us pack for the hospital. By the time we checked in at the E.R. my pressure was sky high-as in a hypertensive crisis, at risk for seizure or stroke, I was admitted immediately and administered magnesium. Once they got us back up to the maternity floor, I was placed in a padded bed and put on a 24-hour magnesium drip with bed rest. Bladen and Sr. were by my side the whole time.
Turns out preclampsia can happen before delivery as well as up to 6 weeks after! Three days later we returned home again, I was placed on blood pressure medication (since it was still a bit elevated after the magnesium drip) and we have been on the mend since. I only had to stay on the medication for a few weeks and my blood pressure is back to normal. I still have elevated liver enzymes and will be seeing a specialist in the next month.
The past several weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind as the baseball and softball season kicked into full swing. Bladen’s such a champ at the field–and probably the quietest fan in the stands.
All the kids take turns feeding and playing with him and Uncle Josh helps out too!
As I get back into the garden, Bladen joins in the stroller or the carrier (babywearing is kind of our thing).
We’re so close to those heavenly baby giggles, I can barely stand it.
On the homestead today
It’s cool and cloudy here so I’m in the gardens getting dirty—planting new plants and taming old ones.
4 years ago there were just 3 poppies on this plant, look how many this year! It’s my favorite plant and blooms around Memorial Day each year.
This Week on the Half-Ass Homestead: February 12-19, 2022
This week has been a stressful one on the Camp Farm.
Everything has been so frozen here, our poor hens seem to have made the menu of some predators. Sunday we discovered something tried to get into the chicken run by ripping up the chicken wire from the bottom of the run door frame. It was easily fixed with some more zip ties but it has put us on high alert. Thursday something made it INTO the chicken run and tried to get into the coop. Luckily, they were unsuccessful and all hens are accounted for. We suspect raccoons.
Tuesday we found out that, while my due date is 4 weeks out, my body and this baby are preparing for a very possible early arrival. I’m in early labor, which can last days to weeks. Since Tuesday I’ve been been trying to balance an attitude of “GET ALL THE SHIT DONE!!!!” to “take it easy, rest while you can”. Not sure who it’s more stressful for, me or those who have to live with me 🥴
Either way, we’ve been making some MAJOR progress on the nursery and it’s almost ready for its reveal!
If you follow our page on Facebook, you probably saw the paintings I created for the nursery. As I was painting, the kids asked if they could creat something for the nursery too (OF COURSE!)
Ella and Grace drew inspiration for Eric Carle and Jr. looked to the internet for a mentor image. We’re only missing some original art from Sr. now 🤣. Check them out!
Finally, despite all we have going on, and soon to come, my mind keeps drifting to spring and planting the flower and vegetable gardens. Pretty sure I won’t be able to do much this year but I’m itching to plan. What are your super-simple, go-to plants?!