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:

  1. 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!)

Stairs

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.

Patio

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.

Inspiration:

Lighting

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?

Mural

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?

Inspiration:



The Snake

By Brian Camp, age 10

Earlier this week, I was playing with my sisters, Ava ,and Vinny. They were running around the yard catching butterflies. Ella was about to step in our flower bed when she thought there was a stick on the ground. Suddenly she screamed as loud as she could, “Snake!”

My Mom jumped up, she was working on the deck with her computer, and told me to get the shovel from the shed. She said I needed to walk around the deck to bring her the shovel so I didn’t scare the snake and she could kill it.

When I handed her the shovel I said, “Don’t kill it unless it’s a poisonous snake! if it’s a garter snake we should let Andrew have it!” My friend Andrew has been wanting a garter snake forever. Mom said she didn’t know what kind of snake it was so Andrew better get here fast or it was going to be a DEAD snake. Mom texted Andrew’s mom and they headed right over–they live just up the street.

When Andrew got here, he looked at the snake and said it was a garter snake.. he was 99% sure and he said it’s harmless. He went to grab it but Mom made him put on gloves. So I gave him. moms rubber garden gloves and then he grabbed a pole off the deck. He put a pole on top of the snake and then he grabbed the snake behind the head and picked it up. Mom screamed. then took some pictures.

Andrew’s mom showed up and Andrew walked back to his house with the snake. At Andrew’s house, we made it a big cage. He was going to name him Fang but chose Slitherin instead. Then we played. That’s it.



That’s how I roll!

by Grace Camp, age 5

*Posts edited by Mom for clarity, spelling, and punctuation.

This weekend I got my first pair of roller skates! I really like them. They are Frozen kind. They fit over my shoe and they cam with knee pads and elbow pads.

I’ve always wanted skates. I have worn them almost every day. I can skate really really far, even on the road with Mommy’s help. I’m really good on the grass.

I signed up for soccer and I can’t wait for that to begin but I still love my roller skates.

Have you ever roller skated? I think it’d be cool if Jack could roller skate!

My roller skates are my favorite roller skates ever… wait they’re my ONLY roller skates!

Okay, bye!


This week on the Half-ass Homestead | May 31-June 1, 2020

The week Brian Sr. came home from his brain surgery and we were blessed with so much help on the Camp Farm from mowing the yard to delicious dinners. Honestly, I haven’t had to think about dinner all week. It’s been glorious, and super helpful as I pick up Sr.’s activities. So. much. laundry. We are so thankful for the continued support. Check out these awesome cookies my friend and colleague, Kyle made and sent to us from Houston!

As for Sr., it’s been pretty rough with severe nausea and pain. Mornings are the worst for him and walking is still pretty taxing as his neck is regaining strength and balance is still off. He’s supposed to work up to walking 5 miles a day. The first day he could gather strength to get out side and walk, he only made it across the street and back. We have a long way to go but each day he makes it a little further down the neighborhood and this weekend, he was able to walk with out his walking stick.

Ella and Grace have been playing entrepreneur all week, with an “Amazon delivery” adventure and having lots of meetings. It’s quite the business of the future. I don’t even have to order the items, the just show up in bags with “invoices”. And they are things I love, like my favorite books or high heels from my closet. 🤣

Little Miss Grace has gotten quite good on a bike and earned herself a shiny new one! And Jr. finally earned enough to get his new bike–thanks to his cat sitting job and helping in the yard and garden.

The hens continue to grow and have proven themselves capable of being able to roam free in the back yard mostly un supervised… I guess this means they’re now free range!

In the gardens, plants have been loving the sunshine this week. We’ve seen tons of growth in both the house gardens and big garden. My favorite peonies came into bloom and Ella and Grace helped me make a trellis for the peas and to support the green beans.

With all the extra sun, the soil in our growing rows was starting to dry out and crack. We hadn’t gotten around to adding mulch to the rows, or even deciding what kind of mulch we’d use, so I added grass clippings from our last mow. I’m hopeful this will be a good, free, solution.

Grace found our first strawberry and the girls helped me pull seeds out of a few melons and cucumbers for later planting since our first round of them didn’t take after all the heavy rains a few weeks ago. My sweet friend, neighbor, and fellow gardener, Amiée, brought us a few of her extra cucumber plants as well as a few extra goodies! I mean, I couldn’t be more excited about this book, y’all!


Ziggy and Harold

by Ella Rose, age 8

I think wildlife is fascinating. When I find bugs and animals I want to take care of them.

Ziggy is a bug. When I found Ziggy last week, we were in the garden. We were looking at the kale, green beans, and other stuff. I was walking when I saw him. He had stripes on his wings that made a zig-zag pattern.

I scooped him up with my hands then I walked around with him and put him the pot with pansies and forget-me-nots on the back deck. I wonder if he is still there.

A few days later, when my Dad was in the hospital and our Aunt Rosey was taking care of us, we found a toad. We named him Harold but I wanted to name him Kyle.

We let him swim in the pool. Brian swam with him. 🤣 We were going to to keep Harold but the inernet said not to keep wild toads. Now I’m asking Mom and Dad if I can get a pet toad from the store. Mom’s not a fan of the idea.

I love that our house has a big yard full of wildlife.