I am so excited today to be participating in Stefanie‘s “Take it Outside: Beautiful Backyard Blogger Series” so I can share with you an area that I haven’t blogged much about aside from last week’s post about our chicken coop, my beautiful backyard. Today is not so much about the landscaping or lovely seating areas, but about our family life in the country.
When Stefanie emailed me to invite me to participate in this series, I immediately responded, “Yes! Of course!” I hit send right away. And then a moment later, panic set in. My beautiful back yard??? I looked out my kitchen window into my back yard, where the grass is nothing but weeds, and it’s been trampled on by dogs and chickens. I thought of our hose running through the back yard leading up the hill into the unfenced portion of the yard into our vegetable garden that we (Chris especially) work hard on year after year. On the surface, there is not a lot of pretty eye candy there, but then I thought about what it all means to us. And although the backyard itself is far from beautiful on the surface, it’s a reflection of the beautiful life we are living in this home, surrounded by trees and hills.
I’ve shown you the porch, and just behind it is a little patio area leading to the back yard gate. This past Spring I decided to dig up part of the patio (it was made up of bricks instead of the same pavers you see above) and create an herb garden. It’s done really well and grown in beautifully, minus cilantro and dill which several of my friends have had trouble with as well, so I don’t feel so bad.
This little fence wall was here before we moved in and fenced in the back yard. We made use of it by creating a vertical garden which brings in color. Last year it was the herb garden, but the land gives us much more space now.
We moved here almost 5 years ago and one of the first things we had done was fence in a large portion of our back yard. (Our entire property is almost 2 acres which is pretty much perfect for us). At the time we had our old beagle Charlie, and our basset beagle mix, Jake. Jake liked to be in the yard if Charlie was with him, and Charlie loved having a back yard to roam in. Now we still have Jake who is almost 13, plus Catcher, an Aussie-Weim mix, and Snowball, a miniature schnoodle who happens to be deaf. Catcher has high anxiety, so none of the dogs put that back yard to use anymore… they don’t really care to just roam without us by their sides. I am certain that Snowball would, but since she is deaf and tiny I worry too much about her out there by herself.
Recently, we built a chicken coop, and now the fenced in back yard is once again in use as our chickens free range back there. Just behind the herb garden sits our blue coop. You can learn more about it here, and learn more about that vintage minty shovel, that isn’t just decorative. 😉
Our girls love to roam the entire yard for bugs, and the come running when they hear one of us open the gate, hopeful for some dinner scraps. And yes, there are a lot of locks and bolts and that coop, and you can read why here.
Recently a friend who has been raising chickens for years suggested that we get some sort of shelter in the middle of the yard as well, something to offer the hens shade and a place to hide from hawks. My kids had been asking for a trampoline, so I decided it would be a perfect shelter for the chickens and entertainment for the kiddos. On Amazon Prime Day, there was a deal and the 15 foot trampoline was pretty much the same price as the 12 foot trampoline I had planned to order. I bit the bullet and ordered the larger one. The kids have been loving it! Sawyer’s only request was that it have a basketball hoop, and he loves slamming balls in it. Now when I look out my back window, I see them happily jumping, and the chickens wandering about the yard.
And as you can see, the chickens come under it for shade and to eat, so I’m happy it’s serving its purposes.
Now, if you look back at that first photo I showed you and look very closely, you can see a hose running along the ground leading up the hill. Behind our garage is more of our property, and we have a small plateau up on a hill where we plant our vegetable garden every year. On the way up there, you’ll pass an apple tree and a mulberry tree, where I’ve hung an outdoor canopy for Emmy to play or relax with her friends. She and her little bestie are the sweetest girls, bursting with creativity and giggles. They love to daydream under hear, and imagine fairy house designs.
They also like to bring books to read, or color.
At the top of the hill, you’ll find out vegetable garden.We have it fenced in to protect from deer and other animals that want to steal my veggies.I found a vintage gate at a yard sale and asked Chris if we could use it as our garden gate, and he obliged.In our garden, our main focus is tomatoes, as we love them! We have heirloom, some other kind I honestly couldn’t tell you…., cherry tomatoes, and my personal favorite- green zebras! These guys are flavorful and have great texture. They’re ready when they are a yellow/green stripe.This was our fist harvest this season and I have been enjoying them on my salads!We have a raised bed which houses squashes and zucchini. Our squash did well for a while, and then died. I’ve replanted some small zucchini plants. And as you can see, we laid down hay to help keep out weeds. This was our second round of hay. You can also see we have some random tomato plants that pop up after using this garden for a few years. We always let those strays grow and see what fruit they might bear.
Behind the raised bed is a cucumber trellis Chris built and had the kids decorate. It adds a nice punch of color to our garden, and the kids are proud of their work.Check out the little caterpillar climbing up!Our cucumbers did really well until our sprinkler got stuck and we didn’t realize it… so for a few of the hottest days we’ve had they had no water and ended up dying. You can see it’s wilty below and I thought it was just the heat the day I was shooting… oops!We also have some peppers, green beans, and brussels sprouts growing, and are planning to add some lettuce where the cucumber plants were. The garden green beans are great steamed and then flavored with a little lemon juice, butter, and lemon zest.Next year we plan to create a second garden like this one, doubling our space, with rows of cutting flowers and a path between. Emmy has dreams of a cutting garden, and I love the idea of having fresh bouquets in the house. This year I picked up a few on clearance and planted them next to the fencing in hopes they’ll come back next year. As you can see, the plants were in need of some love and water. But I didn’t care so much what they looked like this year, and their blooms were lovely. I bought these Indian Paintbrush black eyed susans, as well as coneflowers in a variety of pinks and reds.
We’ve also planted a small fruit garden but we haven’t focused much on it. We did add a butterfly bush to it, just for fun, and Emmy loves to see the unique butterflies that visit.When we moved into this house 5 years ago, we had big dreams with our big yard, coming from one that was just 1/10th of this size and was totally shaded. I am so proud that we’re making use of the land, growing our own herbs and veggies, and raising our own chickens while we teach our children these important life skills, just like my parents taught me.
Of course, it’s all a lot of work to maintain, but at the end of the day, as I fall into bed exhausted, I am fully satisfied with what we’ve created. And the blazing orange and pink sunsets certainly help.
As I finished this post the other night in the kitchen, I watched out the window as Chris tended to the chickens (feeding them some of the darn caterpillars on our plants), and Emmy practiced cart wheels on the trampoline with the sun setting behind her. It might not be the pretties to look at, but it’s a beautiful life.
Thank you again to Stefanie for having me, and be sure to visit all of the others sharing their incredible backyard spaces. I know you will find something that inspires you in your own outdoor space!
July 25: Eclectically Vintage
July 26: DIY Playbook
July 27: That’s My Letter (you’re here!)
July 28: Life on Virginia Street
July 29: Brooklyn Limestone
Aug 1: Primitive + Proper
Aug 2: Migonis Home
Aug 3: House 214 Design
Aug 4: Rambling Renovators
Aug 5: Facci Designs