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This weekend was the fourth anniversary of our backyard renovation, a moment I celebrate annually. In the midst of being thankful for our personal freedoms and grateful for those who made and continue to make that possible, we also quietly mark a major achievement for our home. This was one of the moments that made us realize we really could turn this hideous house around. Think I’m exaggerating? Wait till you see the before shots. You’ve seen the front of the house when we bought it. It’s not fabulous, but it doesn’t make you want to run the other direction screaming. This my friends, was our backyard view.

Pretty awesome, yes? Paved over from alley to house (with, as we later discovered, asphalt OVER concrete. Because really, why stop at just concrete).  And let’s not discuss the pepto pink color. You can’t tell from the photo, but its not even the same material across the back of the house. Also not pictured, the 10 foot satellite dish and rusty basketball hoop. Those we managed to take down ourselves. Want to see more?  They all include the adorable two and three-year old, as she was the focus of the documentation at the time. Oddly, I have very few photos of the backyard during this period. Its like I didn’t want to remember it.

Why yes, that fence is falling down. No, I’m not sure why I even tried with the container garden. Nothing was going to help this. Classy stuff going on here. But wait, there’s more.

That’s right, there was also a metal shed. Falling down as well, of course. Not pictured, the drum container located inside of unidentified chemical something and the giant wasp nest. It was, I think it goes without saying, our dream home.

This was not a DIY project.  And, as you might imagine, it was not cheap. The backyard project had three phases. Phase one included removal of the metal shed and replacing it with a wooden kit one from Lowes. Phase two included removal of everything else. Which took about two weeks, with numerous strong men and machines and untold dumpsters. That was in March 2008. Then it rained for two months, so we had mud. SO. MUCH. MUD. The tall one was in kindergarten, so we invited all her friends over for a mud pie party one day, trying to make the best of it. It was insane and lots of fun.

Finally it dried up enough for the fence crew to place the fence posts and the landscapers to install the parking pad/patio and sod. A garage is part of phase four, but who knows when that will actually happen. I put in all the plants and four years later its hard to even remember just how ugly it once was.

So green, in fact, that I need to get out there and weed the patio. This next photo shows where the metal shed used to be. Now the home of our patio and herb garden.

The perennial beds. Our yard has no shade, which is perfect for a cottage butterfly garden. Everything I’ve planted is perennial, super low maintenance (with the exception of the hydrangeas, which need lots of water and aren’t happy in July) and attracts so many butterflies and bees to the area. Plants include may night salvia, Echinacea, foster’s reed grass, flame grass, butterfly bush, lilacs, hydrangeas, roses, tickseed, coreopsis, coral bells, the willow dome, crane’s bill geranium, peonies, the vegi garden by the house, asters, phlox … I’m sure there are more I’ve forgotten or that just haven’t come up yet.

The fence is no longer falling down and several happy freecyclers took the more than 200 day lilies I dug out from underneath it. I really need to trim back the monster butterfly bush and lilacs back there so that the grasses and Echinacea planted with it have a chance. And I wish we’d put in a higher fence at the back, when we do use the parking pad as a patio for parties I’d like more privacy.

Phase four, currently dubbed the “Someday Phase” includes installing patio doors and a narrow deck along the back of the house, as well as a green roof garage/covered patio utilizing the model of an architect friend who recently built one for his own home. Someday. There’s always a next step, but this weekend I was really happy with how far everything has come. It’s not quite as good for side-walk chalk as asphalt, but its much, much more livable.