Outdoor Adventures… at Home, Part 2

As we’re all spending more time at homes these days, my hubby and I have again focused on sprucing up our outdoor areas at home and getting more use out of our spaces. This post is another one on the outdoor projects that we, two novice backyard DIYers, started back in 2017. The first post of this series, if you will, was about getting started and dealing with our mess of a side yard and other non-usable outdoor spaces (post here). We’ve been really happy with our updates, but it’s the satisfaction that we did it ourselves that has been so rewarding. I’m here to report back that if we could do it, so can anyone! All that wonderful information is out there, you just have to look.

Below is a before picture of the side yard before renovations. Yup, not a space you want to hang out in.

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Spring 2017

During the summer of 2017 we added a redwood privacy fence, fixed the side retaining wall, cleaned and relaid the pavers on both landings, refinished the deck, and painted the railings white. Everything 3 years later is still standing and still feeling solid. We’ve power washed the landings each spring and the deck will get another stain this year, but overall, everything has held up nicely. The area behind this space (where the two wood planter boxes are) is what we worked on the following summer.

End of Summer 2017

In the spring of 2018 we decided to replace the retaining wall behind the deck (water was pouring out of a large hole during the rainy season). This area is our main view from the kitchen window. I tried planting flowers, but eventually everything got eaten by the deer (even “deer-resistant” ones). If we held out any hope of growing plants in this deer throughfare, we also needed to make some fencing both on the bottom and top of this area. We also needed some sturdy stairs to connect to the backyard, not the slip ‘n slide stone pavers that we tried nestling into the hillside.

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The view from the kitchen window. A cute, but hungry visitor
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This area needed help!
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First things first, we took out the rotted wood retaining wall, no turning back now!
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Had to think about what to do with the water that flowed down to the new retaining wall. Added a drainage catch to divert the water away from the deck
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We added a new retaining wall with pressure treated wood and some sturdier stairs made from redwood (please excuse the astro turf, it was a temporary fix until we tackled the area)
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May 2020, our succulent garden is starting to take off. We planted some grasses in the area above
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So far this simple, albeit temporary, fence prevents deer (but not raccoons) from getting into the side yard
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We built this deer fence and gate on the bottom with leftover wood and paint. We used a privacy screen that we bought at Home Depot as part of the gate

The front landing retaining wall was replaced right before the rains in 2018. We added some deer resistant grass in bright shiny blue pots surrounded by white rocks for contrast. We are still trying to figure out what to do with the super steep and shady area above it. Not much besides tall prickly weeds grow well here.

I used pressure treated wood, foam fence post mixes and brackets. We later added post caps (didn’t leave the plastic bags on top of the posts 🙂 (the freshly cut post tops needed to be protected from the rain)

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The front yard weathered the wet winters nicely. The automatic drip watering system is a life saver, not sure if the garden would have survived if it were left to me to water.

The view of the front garden from above before
The front garden, many plants were lost (by deer) in the making of this picture 🙂
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The garden is growing nicely, the many varieties of sage have survived the deer foraging. Lavendar, thyme, oregano, and rosemary have thrived as well.

I’ve put cardboard and the plastic bags that the mulch came in under the white rocks, but I have to admit I still have a few hours of weeding after each rainy season to pretty up the yard

Frequent front yard visitors

Our latest project:

Last summer (2019), we started working on the “backyard.” At first we just wanted a small area to sit and look up at the wild hillside and maybe a small area to put a raised bed. Thinking of ideas is my favorite part, but thinking of how we were going to move supplies up to the hillside (4 sets of stairs), build structures, then maintain it made it a bit limiting.

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Buckeyes and oak trees abound in our very steep and wild “backyard.”
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The area above the retaining wall seemed to be the most useable area, but it needed to be leveled (and weeded!).

We moved the dirt and carved out some area of bedrock to make space, then realized how much work it was going to take to haul the dirt and rocks to street level. My daughter helped out a lot at this stage, and seemed to have a blast using the pick ax (not sure what that’s all about, but hey don’t rock the boat!). This was going to take time. We moved dirt and rocks to every space that needed it or could take it (we covered the astro turf with the rocks), but the pile didn’t seem to be getting any smaller.

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The never ending rock pile

Unfortunately, the project fizzled out when my hubby started a new job, I filled in to coach high school freshman volleyball, and my daughter started her junior year and volleyball season. The hillside as expected was not affected by the rains, thank goodness for bedrock. It was fun to dream, and the physical labor was no doubt a great workout, but our backyard was soon forgotten once the seasons changed and it was nicer being indoors…

…until the world changed. With the pandemic keeping us at home, we came to rely on our outdoor spaces to stay sane. Being outdoors with a purpose has been very healing. We’ve now started to shift our priorities about our outdoor spaces, and think about using it to grow food. For now, we’ve added 2 raised beds (both about 4′ x 4′ of plantable space) to the backyard area along with a few large ceramic pots. I’ve started seedlings indoors under grow lights and we are excited to grow some vegetables in our backyard this summer. It’s been another way to connect as a family. The three of us fawning over a salad made of just lettuce we grew was kind of comical. Really, lettuce? It has to do with that sense of DIY satisfaction that we’ve come to love. DIY lettuce!!

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The makeshift seedling grow area in the living room
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2 raised beds we made with lumber we had from another project, used brackets and galvanized screws to hold the wood together (before we can plant, we need to build a cover to prevent deer and other critters from eating up everything)
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So much potential, so many ideas. Zipline? Rope swing? Deck under the buckeye? What great ideas!

Gardening has been a great way to be outdoors and we, like many others, have turned to growing our own food. I’ve always enjoyed gardening, but now I feel that there is more meaning and importance to be able to provide food for ourselves. We definitely miss our travels, but we’ve found another sort of outdoor adventure at the moment. What outdoor adventures are you enjoying at home these days?


6 thoughts on “Outdoor Adventures… at Home, Part 2

  1. Wow, I loved reading your post and seeing all that you’ve done in your yard. I am so impressed, you are truly even more talented than I thought. Amazing, great job!


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