Words: Megan Rajner
Photos: Megan Rajner, Gerber86
You grab your cup of coffee, put on your slippers, and walk outside onto the porch to get a fresh breath of crisp morning air. A quick glance over at what used to be a vegetable garden and the once beautiful, leafy perennials -that you somehow can never remember the name of- now drooping and turning brown makes you think for a moment.
What if the garden rows were more organized and I could tend to them without stepping in the dirt? What if those other plants that need maintenance each year were not tucked into a jungle of greenery? What if there was not a jungle of greenery on the ground there at all, and it did not make raking leaves out of there so difficult in the first place?!
So you walk back in the house, grab the closest pen and turn an old holiday napkin from last year inside out and draw a sketch.
The garden vegetables can be contained in planter boxes, which can be made with wood posts from the local lumber store. Could stain them for a more polished look or maybe paint to a color that matches the house. Instead of walking through dirt or grass between planters, I could lay down some pavers to keep my shoes cleaner while I water the garden… but what if puddles start collecting where the pavers meet the planter boxes when it rains? Crushed stone is great for drainage –
…and then you finish it up with a squiggle that denotes a crushed stone perimeter at each new garden box.
A couple of months later when your kids and the dog are playing in the first snow of the year, they run past the fire pit that the family loves spending summer nights around. You run back inside to look for hot cocoa mix before the kids run out of energy and rediscover that old napkin sketch in the catchall drawer. Gears start turning.
Why have a fire pit that we can only use during summer? The wife’s birthday is coming up soon, I bet she would be head over heels if I turned this area of the yard into the Pinterest pictures she is always looking at… only need a few of those posts, some concrete mix and a string of lights.
A 15% discount, 30-minute chat with the lumber yard assistant, and two truckloads later, you have collected more cedar posts and crushed stones than you actually needed for the patio upgrade you planned on completing this weekend and even for the Springtime garden box overhaul. After your wife finds out about your plan for the outdoor lighting project, she convinces you some new benches are just what a growing family needs to enjoy the outdoor space so you can all fit around the fire. So naturally, you both go back to Lowes together thinking you will exchange the unneeded Sakcrete, even though it was a really good deal, for some much-needed patio furniture. After three of four trips around the Christmas decorations, your wife decides you might as well make the seating another DIY project because all the outdoor furniture has been put away for the season.
Why are we looking for metal patio furniture that will rust in the snow anyway, the Sakrete would have fared better in winter weather… that is it. Some form of concrete will be much more durable…
After a few days of painting CMU blocks, picking things up, putting things down, and putting the extra cedar posts to good use, the family has some durable, modern and thrifty outdoor seating that will continue to be used through each season into the next year. One night just as the sun is setting and the darkness starts to creep in, you get caught in a daze as the fire whispers in your ear…
You know, we are spending so much time out here it would be even better if it actually felt private, a little more secluded from the neighbors. I will have to make one of those Pinterest accounts to check out the latest modern ideas for privacy walls. But how will that work with the organic shape of our stone patio? And I swear if I have to buy one more cedar post…
Once you are finished running all the possible scenarios and sightlines on that crinkled holiday napkin, you admire your dog, cozy and nestled up next to you on the couch. She lets out a tiny bark mid-sleep and starts fluttering her legs as if she is running in a dream. Guess you did not run all the scenarios, because you just realized you might as well turn the privacy wall into a whole fenced-in area while you are at it. One thing turns into another and you have got an assortment of Pins saved to your “Yard, Patio, & Garden” board.
Your next trip to the hardware store starts to feel a little déjà vu, especially after getting assistance from the same chatterbox you met last time. He gives you the contact you will need for a large stone order to complete the gabion fence style that the family voted on.
And while it is all so worth it, the projects continue. The yard begins to fill with intentionally placed features you created with your own two hands. The laughter of the family brings a smile to your face as you find yourself on the porch yet again another morning with slippers on the feet and a coffee mug in hand, waiting for the next breath of crisp air to fill your lungs with another outdoor inspiration.