Wordless Wednesday: FINISHED!

I will put up a proper final Project Dreamcatcher post soon–I didn’t finish everything on my list but I’m very proud of what I got done–but until then, I just have to put up a few shots of what I got done in the yard. Today marks the first day of the new school year. I literally finished this yesterday afternoon.



Here is a before and after shot, a quick reminder of how bad it looked in June.Yard before after

Project Dreamcatcher: Final Update Before Big Reveal!

I missed an update (I intended to post an update after every two week period) but that’s okay, better late than never. And honestly. I didn’t have all that much done after weeks 3-4 so it’s better I delayed my post. I’ve been in a bit of a holding pattern waiting for some paper mulch to arrive. But now I actually do have some progress to report and I think the next time I’ll be writing about this it will be to show you that final product! Whatever that may be.

I can’t believe I only really have one week left to work in the backyard without Isa around. It’s going to take a lot of work next week, but I do believe I can get all the landscaping done. Here are the goals I’ve accomplished so far.

WEEKS 3-4 (July 7-20)

1. Buy lavender bushes, ground cover, plant compost and mini-mulch. COMPLETED!

2. Clear the rocks from the rest of the back stretch. COMPLETED!

3. Amend the soil in the back stretch. COMPLETED!

4. Plant lavender bushes and tree from mom in the back stretch. COMPLETED!

5. Clear grass from right side stretch. COMPLETED!

6. Cut down–and dig up roots–of rose bush. COMPLETED!

7. Amend soil on the right side stretch. COMPLETED!

8. Plant ground cover on the right side stretch. 3/4 COMPLETED!

9. Cover spaces between ground cover with wet newspaper and mulch on the left side. COMPLETED!

10. Cover spaces between ground cover with wet newspaper and much on the right side. COMPLETED!

(I actually ended up laying the paper and mulch first and I’m 3/4 of the way through planting the ground cover.)

WEEKS 5-6 (July 21 – August 3)

1. Get massive pile of debris from back stretch hauled away (How will I do this?!) SCHEDULED FOR NEXT SUNDAY

2. Find and buy stepping stones. COMPLETED!

3. Order miniature stonecrop. DOING THIS TOMORROW

4. Clear grass from square. COMPLETED!

5. Amend soil in square. STILL TO DO

6. Lay paper mulch. STILL TO DO

7. Place stepping stones. STILL TO DO

8. Lay pavers base and stepping stones. STILL TO DO

9. Fill space between stones with mulch. STILL TO DO

10. Plant miniature stone crop. STILL TO DO

Wow, it feels pretty awesome to write all those COMPLETED!s up there. I know I still have a lot to do (and I’m not attempting to finish the stairs or get rid of the table–which were goals for the coming week–until later in the year) but I’ve also done quite a bit. And it should be made clear that my dad actually cleared the grass from the 300 sq ft square, no small feat even with the electric tiller my mom got (which was incredibly powerful for such a compact machine). I still can’t really believe the whole thing has been tilled. I’m pretty much in shock.

The stepping stones were also a huge proposition. I didn’t have the first clue what I was getting myself into with those. I first went down with my FIL’s CRV but was told it couldn’t haul the weight of the stones. I went out back anyway and figured out what I wanted, lifted a few of the rocks to make sure I could handle them on my own and then went home to rent a truck for the next day.

When I returned I was told that the stones I originally looked at were not nearly big enough. I was directed to these massive Arizona Flagstones and told I’d need quite a few of them to cover the 100 sq ft I was hoping to have in stone. I ended up choosing seven giant stones, which weighed 2/3s of ton (1300lbs) total. That means each stone was around 200lbs, though some were definitely more than that, and some a little less.

I had to frantically call my father to meet me at my house so I could unload them and thank god my mother came too or we’d have never gotten them off the truck. We managed to get five of them out (down a long hallway and across the patio) near the 300 sq ft square but two of them were so big we could barely slide them along the hallway with a giant comforter (that we promptly ripped huge holes in) to leave them right at the top of the patio. I don’t know how I’ll place those two… maybe with four adults we can get them where they need to be?

I was also told I needed over 2 tons of base rock for that much stone, but since I’m not planning on putting anything on top of them, and we won’t even be walking on them much, I’m just going to lay 3-4 inches of pavers base under each one and hope for the best. Worst comes to worst I have to pull them up some day and put the proper amount of base stones and sand underneath. I can handle that later.

The good news is, even thought I don’t think I got 100 sq ft of stone, I still think it will be plenty for the space. The bad news is they cost $235 total and the miniature stonecrop will cost another $200, plus the truck cost me $50 and the mulch and planters compost will be another $150 at least so the middle square is going to be well over $600, all told. Of course the yard project is costing me twice as much as I had budgeted for (over $2000 total). I can’t imagine how much it would have cost if I weren’t doing it all myself.

Anyway, here are some pictures of what is now done. Enjoy!

The back area, planted mostly with lavender.


The right side, 3/4 planted with vinca minor


The middle square, cleared of grass and weeds


The rocks, purchased and in the backyard


Project Dreamcatcher: Goals Revisited

After two weeks of working on Project Dreamcatcher: Operation Reclaim Our Backyard it became clear that I needed to re-visit my weekly goals. First of all I added the back stretch, and that quickly became a disaster. Second of all I can’t find anyone who wants to help me with the middle square, which means I have to do it myself. Third of all, extra work is presenting itself quite frequently. I finally checked the district calendar and have my official first work day marked, which is Wednesday, August 21. Isa is home the whole week before that so that means I have only about five, maybe six weeks left to work on the back yard (I’m assuming I can get a few days worth of work done that week Isa is off, my mom will probably take her for me, plus I have a few days the week I go back to work). That isn’t much time. In fact, it’s not enough time, which means I have to abandon some goals or keep them and then be disappointed when I don’t achieve them. Blerg.

So, this is what I’m trying to do in the next five to six weeks.

WEEKS 1-2 (June 16-29)

Clear, amend soil and plant the left side and half of back. CHECK!

WEEKS 3-4 (July 7-20)

1. Buy lavender bushes, ground cover, plant compost and mini-mulch.

2. Clear the rocks from the rest of the back stretch.

3. Amend the soil in the back stretch.

4. Plant lavender bushes and tree from mom in the back stretch.

5. Clear grass from right side stretch.

6. Cut down–and dig up roots–of rose bush.

7. Amend soil on the right side stretch.

8. Plant ground cover on the right side stretch.

9. Cover spaces between ground cover with wet newspaper and mulch on the left side.

10. Cover spaces between ground cover with wet newspaper and much on the right side.

WEEKS 5-6 (July 21 – August 3)

1. Get massive pile of debris from back stretch hauled away (How will I do this?!)

2. Find and buy stepping stones.

3. Order miniature stonecrop.

4. Clear grass from square.

5. Amend soil in square.

6. Place stepping stones.

7. Plant miniature stonecrop.

8. Cover soil between plants with newspaper and mulch.

Weeks 7-8+ (August 4-20)

1. Finish the middle square (I highly doubt I can get that done in two weeks).

2. Measure stairs for lattice work.

3. Buy lattice work pieces for stairs.

4. Hammer lattice work to stairs.

5. Get old picnic table out of the backyard and picked up.

6. Get a new picnic table for the backyard.

7. Set up new picnic table.

8. Get ALL the bags out of the backyard and picked up.



I am a get-shit-done kind of person. I generally make big goals and get very frustrated when my assumptions about how much I can get done, or how much something will cost, are incorrect. I also hate when my ignorance about how to do something is clearly evident in the final product.

Unfortunately, this backyard revamp is riddled with road blocks and I’m realizing that the final product–despite the countless hours and significant amount of money I will spend–is going to have the tell tale signs of “I didn’t actually know what I was doing” written all over it.

Today was actually an amazing day because my daughter was home and I still managed to get 3+ hours of yard work done. Isa played happily with her water table and all the myriad toys we brought down for over two hours and then spent the last hour making a mud castle for me over by where I was digging. In the meantime I got another 10 sq feet of rocks dug up. I was making decent progress until I can across this monstrosity.


It’s about 2-3 ft across and over a foot deep. And yes, those are metal foundation poles sticking out of it.

After an hour I realized I was not getting it out of the ground today. In fact, I may never be getting it out of the ground, in which case I have to change my whole plan for the back space, because I can’t plant a bush when there is a giant rock/concrete/ceramic island chilling just one foot below the surface.

Haha! I actually went down to take a picture of the monstrosity after I wrote that paragraph and I started working on it again. I have to stand on it because the hole is getting too deep to maneuver otherwise. As I dug deeper and deeper around the behemoth a massive piece broke away! Now it looks like this!


The part that is still in there is obviously the rement of some long ago foundation and it’s clearly not going anywhere. The good news is that I can plant what I wanted in front of that thing and so I feel like I won this battle with my backyard.

The thing is, I don’t know how many more battles there might be. I still have half of the back span to dig up, de-rock and amend. What if another monstrosity awaits? Sometimes the whole thing feels too daunting. I can’t decide whether I should be stoked that I got the majority of that huge thing out of the ground (after 2+ hours of hard labor) or if I should be scared something just as bad is waiting for me under the next mound of dirt.

Right now I feel equal both conflicting emotions equally.

Blerg. Like most things in life, this is so much harder than I thought it would be.

And yet I will keep going, because honestly I don’t know how to quit. I was thinking that as I tried to dig up the monstrosity, wondering how I’d walk away from it when it was still in the ground. Thank goodness my daughter needed to use the bathroom (and refused to go in the grass like I was asking her to) or we may never have made it inside for lunch.

There are other road blocks as well. Some of the plants are not doing to well. And some that I don’t want to be back there are sprouting despite my efforts. I came home to this.


I guess it’s good that something is thriving in my newly amended, well watered soil, I just wish it were the stuff I planted and not what I tried to dig up.

Tomorrow I’m getting mulch, which I’ll spread over the soil in between the ground cover and other bushes I planted. Hopefully that will help keep in moisture and smother all these little invaders who are trying to take over. (If anyone has a better idea PLEASE SHARE IT. Again, I’m clueless about this stuff.)

It’s clear that I have A LOT more work to do on this project this summer. I’m going to write a new list of bi-monthly goals to keep me focused and on track so that hopefully I will have the whole thing done by the end of the summer. Sadly, that is a short six weeks away (I think, I’m too scared to actually check the calendar to make sure) and Isa is home the whole last week, plus she’s only at school 3 days a week for the month of July. I don’t have as much time back there as I originally thought.

I really hope I get it done. It would mean a lot to me to be able to do this by the one year anniversary of us buying this house. The timing would be perfect…

How do you deal with roadblocks in life? Do you plough through them? Work around them? Or just stop in front of them? Do you find it difficult to quit something once you’ve started?

Project Dreamcatcher: Two Week Check-in

Isa and I leave for St. Louis tomorrow. We’ll be gone for 10 days, so the first two weeks of my Project Dreamcatcher: Operation Reclaim Our Backyard are officially finished. I have to admit, I’m really impressed with all I’ve accomplished so far. I’ve also changed a lof of my plans and I think an entire new weekly schedule is probably in order. These were my goals for the first two weeks:

WEEK 1 (June 16-22)

1. Buy grub hoe, good gardening gloves and a hose. (CHECK!)

2. Pull out both side lawns plus the rose (????) bush. (ONE SIDE AND BACK – CHECK!)

3. Prepare space for new soil and plants. (CHECK!)

4. Get recommendations for what drought resistant plants to put on the side yard spaces. (CHECK!)

5. Choose drought resistant ground cover for main lawn and order enough for 325 sq ft. (CHECK!)

WEEK 2 (June 23-29)

1. Buy plants for side yard. (CHECK!)

2. Put in soil and plant at least 5 new plants on each side. (ALMOST!)

First of all, pulling up one side yard took an entire week, but I also spent time amending the soil and planting as I went because I found it much easier to keep working if I could switch between tasks. Early in the week I also decided that I was going to pull up the back and plant some lavender (my original plan was to leave the back this summer and eventually build planters back there for a veggie garden but I realized I wouldn’t be ready for that for a long time and I’d rather plant lavender back there anyway). So I decided to change my goal of pulling up both side yards in the first two weeks and instead hoped to pull up the left side yard and the back. I finished both!

I also planted five plants along the left side yard, with ground cover in between each plant.

photo-167I pulled up the grass and weeds in the back in two short days; it all came up so easily! Then on Wednesday I started digging to amend the soil. That is when I realized why the grass and weed roots were so shallow back there–I couldn’t get my shovel more than three inches into the ground. I kept hitting something, no matter where I put my shovel. Finally I was able to find a way under the hard masses and realized the ground back there is FILLED with huge chunks of concrete, giant rocks, old ceramic pots, rusty pipes and even tiled counter top! After two days of back breaking work I’d cleared about 10 square feet and planted two lavender bushes.

photo-168In the space below those two small plants, I dug up this:

photo-170Can you believe that shit?! It’s insane how much crap was down there. It took forever to get it all up, and I think I actually pulled something in my pelvic area because I can hardly walk today. Oh, and I have blisters all over my hands.

So I have to get rid of all that stone. Oh, and these 20+ bags of dead grass and soil.


Clearing the rest of the back stretch is going to take another week entirely and then I have to clear, amend and plant the other side yard and the middle square. And I have to dispose of all that yard waste as well.

I actually asked a friend’s son if he would be interested in pulling the grass out of the middle square. His mom seemed to think he’d be interested but he hasn’t responded to my message on Facebook. Not sure what to make of that.

Deciding on what to put in the 300 sq ft square also took WAY longer than I expected. I found a couple drought tolerate ground covers that could withstand heavy foot traffic but neither was available online and I couldn’t find them at any local nurseries. Nothing I could find locally was drought tolerant or could withstand foot traffic–most couldn’t do either. I actually starting looking into fake grass again but quickly realized that at $7K for purchasing the stuff and installing it, I couldn’t begin to afford it. When I was about to lose hope I came across Miniature Stonecrop, which is very drought tolerant, can withstand heavy foot traffic AND is available online.I also love the way it looks. I’ve decided I’m going to put some very large, flat stones in the middle square too, so it won’t be just ground cover.

This gives you an idea of what Miniature Stonecrop looks like. I’m not going to do a checker board look, but more big, stepping stones scattered throughout the 300 sq ft space with miniature stonecrop in between.

I actually think it’s going to look amazing. Finally figuring out what to do with that middle square has been almost as big an accomplishment as all the hard labor I’ve performed outside. I’m really looking forward to enjoying the final product.

In the meantime, I’m very pleased with what I’ve accomplished so far.

photo-166I plan on posting a new schedule of goals for the rest of the summer, now that I know what I’ve gotten myself into. I still think I can finish before the school year starts, but it’s going to require A LOT of work. I really hope I can get it done and that it’s all worth it.

Pep Talk

As you all know, I’ve created a goal for myself this summer: to completely redo my yard. I’ve determined the five specific things I want to get done and even outlined the steps I need to take to get there. This week, I bought the tools I needed to get started and I got to work. I’ve spent about five hours (of concentrated work time) in the backyard over the last three days and so far I’ve accomplished this:

photo-163That is about 55 sq ft of cleared space. I have about 45 sq ft left on this stretch and then about 300 sq ft in the middle and another 100 sq ft on the other side (plus another 100 sq ft along the back that I’m not trying to clear this summer). All of it needs to be cleared. And clearing it requires an incredible amount of difficult but mind numbingly boring work. I can’t tell you how slowly that 55 sq ft of overgrown grass was pulled up. It literally takes me an hour to get through a 10 sq ft section. Every time I look at the 300 sq ft middle square my heart drops. I just can fathom how I’m going to pull up all the dead grass and weeds and then amend the soil (I learned that word at the nursery today! Slowly I’m becoming a real gardener.) before I actually plant the ground cover. And of course, when I plant the ground cover it will just be little ground cover seedlings planted a foot apart for months until they grow together. That is assuming they actually even grow.

The whole thing just feels incredibly overwhelming. I honestly don’t know if I have it in me to do it all.

I’m the kind of person who fixates on a project I’ve started. Once I take those first steps I want to do it all the time; it’s hard for me to stop and do other thing when I know there is so much more to accomplish. Every time I look outside those last 45 sq ft taunt me, reminding me of all I still have to do. I pretty much can’t work on other things while I know how much more there still is to do outside.

And yet, the task awaiting me in the backyard feels too big. I just don’t think I can do it. It will literally take all summer for me to pull up all the grass, amend the soil and plant new things. All fucking summer. And even if I get it all done, I have no idea if the plants will thrive. All this hard work might be for naught.

Today, as I was washing dishes, I glanced out at the backyard and felt my heart just sink. I considered just abandoning the whole enterprise; it literally felt impossible. Then I reminded myself that I had just started, that I still have 7 weeks to work back there, that if I persist it will get done, slowly but surely.

As I was giving myself that pep talk, I was suddenly reminded of how overwhelmingly impossible our secondary infertility diagnosis felt, just six months ago. I remember how long the six months of no caffeine/alcohol/dairy/wheat/sugar diet seemed, especially with a husband that was only following it begrudgingly, and with a significant amount of resentment. We weren’t sure how much we could save for treatments that summer or if those treatments would even be worth spending our money on. We were just starting to dip our toes into the deep pool of acceptance, beginning to imagine our life with just one child. I were also exploring foster adoption, even though I guessed Mi.Vida would never feel comfortable going down that road.

The whole thing felt impossibly overwhelming and there were many days I cried myself to sleep, unsure we could do it.

And then every morning I woke up and did what I had to do, no matter how hard it was, no matter how impossible it felt.

If I could do that, I can do this. Sure it will take forever. Sure my muscles will hurt and my palms will scream and my back will ache and my mind will beg me to do something more interesting. Sure it will be tedious as all fuck, and there will be moments I just need to throw down my tiller (I’ve already broken two by the way, tomorrow will be the first morning I don’t need to exchange a busted one for an in-tact model) and go the fuck inside to take a break. There will be times I walk away from the yard feeling super disappointed by how little I’ve accomplished, but there will also be days I am proud of what I have done.

And maybe, just maybe, at the end of the summer, I will have a backyard I can take pride in, a space I want to spend time in, that feels like an extension of my home.

Have you ever started a project that later felt too overwhelming to complete? Did you keep going or abandon the attempt?

Project Dreamcatcher: Outlining My Steps to Success

It’s time for some more Project Dreamcatcher! Today I define my steps toward success!

So I have this massive backyard project waiting for me and I REALLY want to get this thing done this summer. My new goal is to have a “garden party” celebrating our new backyard sometime in August. There are only two weekends that work for us so hopefully I can have the space finished by then. Here are the specific steps I’m focusing on this summer.

(A HUGE thank you to my parents who removed those horrendous weeds from our backyard last week so we could eat outside for Isa’s party. One of my five goals is already finished because of you!)

WEEK 1 (June 16-22)

1. Buy grub hoe, good gardening gloves and a hose.

2. Pull out both side lawns plus the rose (????) bush.

3. Prepare space for new soil and plants.

4. Get recommendations for what drought resistant plants to put on the side yard spaces.

5. Choose drought resistant ground cover for main lawn and order enough for 325 sq ft. (if necessary).

WEEK 2 (June 23-29)

1. Buy plants for side yard.

2. Put in soil and plant at least 5 new plants on each side.

Week 3 (June 30-July 6)

Take a break while we’re in St. Louis AND remind Mi.Vida to water my new plants!

WEEK 4 (July 7-13)

1. Pull out main lawn.

2. Prepare soil.

3. Plant drought resistant ground cover.

WEEK 5 (July 14-20)

1. Measure stairs.

2. Choose and buy latice work.

3. Secure lattice work to stairs.

WEEK 6 (July 21-27)

1. Pull up grass/weeds of back strip.

2. Take apart crappy picnic table and haul to dump.

WEEK 7 (July 28-August 3)

1. Get new table and chairs.

2. Buy potted Japanese maple.