Does this sound like an interesting recipe? These three elements describe the bare bones of a more-than-two-month winter backyard project which came to completion this weekend.

It began as the relatively simple desire to replace two trees which had to be removed and solve an ongoing drainage problem. It morphed into replacing our amateur backyard paver patio with a professional one and connecting it with a little paver “bridge” to our small porch, which was also paved over with the same bricks. That porch was expanded, and underground wiring was installed for our three fountains. When the initial plans for solving the drainage problem were insufficient, an underground sump pump was installed and tubing routed between the porch and patio and around the side of the house, then covered over with a nice “pond” and “river” of rocks.

The end result is lovely, and I am grateful. I am also aware already of how much better it feels to be in the backyard. Since early last summer, when we had to remove the second of the trees, the backyard just hasn’t felt that inviting. First it was hot, then it felt barren, then, as work began, it was a mess. But now, already, we’ve sat out on the back porch and felt once again that we can relax.

It will be a long time before this backyard truly feels like it once did, because it will take years for the new trees to mature to the point that they provide good shade (we’ve purchased a table umbrella for the meantime). On the other hand, I can already sense how much more comfortable this space feels. We’ve replaced the dead plants that couldn’t handle the summer sun without the trees’ welcoming shade. There is sufficient room for all three backyard cooking devices (electric smoker, large grill, and small tabletop grill that now has its own small dedicated metal-topped table). Henry loves birdfeeders, and although the trees can’t yet bear their weight, we’ve got stands to hold them and welcome back the birds. All that new gravel also should mean less weeds to pull (our winter rains resulted in a bumper crop this year!).

I am grateful for many elements in this project. I’m grateful to Chris of CLM Landscaping who has worked with us patiently through this process and endured our inevitable changes and additional ideas. I’m grateful to have funds to invest in this project. I’m grateful for the free desert plants that fellow TCSS members bring to give away at our monthly meetings. I’m also grateful to have it finished! (This week on Instagram I’ll share some photos of the completed project.)

What projects have disrupted your life in recent months? For what are you grateful in these days?

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