Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Big Backyard Project - Part I

Weekend before last, we FINALLY got some major projects we've been talking about and planning for moved along in a big way. We've been dreaming up exciting stuff for our backyard with our neighbors (we share a nice big area on the back of our two lots). We put in a little garden area last year but for the most part, the back area has been a pretty darn ugly place where the kids had fun building forts out of random leftover wood back there and climbing the one good tree back there. Last summer, they got into digging a hole together out there with their neighborhood friends. The idea came up to dig a hole big enough to put in an in-ground trampoline and that idea spurred daily teamwork on digging for quite a while. But by the end of the summer, their hole in that rock-hard ground wasn't very big and we tabled the trampoline idea for a while.

Then when we had to replace our water main this past April (read about that fiasco here), we had a guy here with a mini-backhoe and realized we could get that trampoline hole dug for a decent price. So we went for it.

(The twins loved watching the whole thing from the tree - and you can see one of the kids' many varieties of "clubhouses" they built out there over the past three years.)

It would have been much more expensive to have the guy take the dirt away so we had him pile it up in an area where there was an old foundation from an old house and where nothing would grow w/o a lot more dirt on top. It turned out to be a LOT of dirt. And that dirt hill became beloved by all the kids in the neighborhood. They molded it into a hard-packed mini-mountain and played on top of it for hours and hours, running their bikes down it, sledding down it, and even making a tunnel through it with a couple day's work. One little girl came around the corner, saw the dirt hill and said, "WOW! You have a DIRT HILL! You have the most awesome backyard ever!"

So to most adult eyes, our backyard was a serious eyesore.

But to children, it was quite a wonderland.


Then this past summer, horrible puncture vines really took over, producing thousands upon thousands of really mean burrs that went right through the kids' flip flops to send them crying into the house and went through bike tires, basketballs, everything. Those darn burrs made the backyard way less fun. And along with our neighbors, we started to get to a place with everything else going on in our lives where we could actually think about the back yard and make plans and begin to carry them out.

We decided to dig up all the horrible weeds for once and for all, make the dirt hill even better, embed a tube through it since the tunnel the kids had dug was such a hit, plant grass on it, get the trampoline hole finished, get sprinklers in, get sod, improve our garden area, put in some fruit trees and bushes, create some fun non-grass areas where the kids could keep building and re-building little clubhouses and balance beams and the like with some safer building materials we'd round up (the splintery rusty-nail-infested wood they'd been using - luckily with no casualties so far - just had to go).

I researched trampolines forever (I just have to explore every aspect of every purchase - I now know WAY more than anyone really needs to know about trampolines - especially rectangular ones as I found they are much safer and longer-lasting if you have older kids and/or anticipate there will be more than one person on the trampoline at the same time). I finally found a trampoline that seemed to have all the qualifications at at a somewhat OK price (they are EXPENSIVE for the serious ones with the lifetime frame warranty and if you're going to put the thing in the ground, you'd better get a good one that'll be lasting a long long time!). I got it ordered. Then almost 2 weeks later, I got a notice saying it was out of stock. Back to researching! Darn! I finally found another one and got that ordered. This one came quickly and seemed great. The kids started to get so excited!

But then we had all these projects that hinged on other projects and most of them hinged on renting a small tractor which relied on us being able to borrow a big truck from someone so we could bring the tractor to our house. Jared decided to grab the bull by the horns. He researched renting a tractor and learned tons about sod and found a great deal on sod we could roll out ourselves. He showed up after work on Thursday with a beautiful tube he found (it had been damaged slightly so it was in the recycle area at a construction place nearby). The squeals of delight as he pulled in the driveway with that thing hanging out of his car were priceless!

The kids had SO much fun playing in the tube with all their neighborhood friends on Thursday night. They'd all get in there and Jared would gently roll it around. Here's Jared with the tube (and the beloved dirt hill and not-so-beloved weeds in the background):



But when Silas somehow stuck his finger under the tube right when another kid rocked it from the inside, Silas got his finger squashed and his fingernail didn't like that one bit. It detached. It was PAINFUL. Poor boy!  He was so brave about having that sad little fingernail removed (it was only attached by a tiny thread and everything we read online said it had to go). And he's been totally fine ever since (and really good about keeping it clean). He was sort of excited to start school with his unique finger to show off (and we taught him not to hold up just that finger to show people - it's his middle finger!).

(skip these next pictures if you're squimish! there are more gross photos but I'll spare you those...)

Here's the fingernail just hanging on by a thread:

here's the finger w/o the fingernail:

After that casualty, we decided this was the weekend to get that tube safely buried, get rid of the puncture vine and burrs and get that trampoline in, once and for all. We didn't have a truck to haul the tractor but Jared got the rental people to bring it to us and spent all day on that thing while our neighbors worked hard to build a retaining wall to hold back the dirt in the trampoline hole so we could install the trampoline.

It was a long day of serious clouds of dust. I helped shape the hill with a shovel and get compost distributed around the yard (our poor dirt needs some help before we can lay down the sod). Our kids and the neighborhood kids picked big rocks and a fair amount of garbage out of the dirt after it was churned up by the tractor plus helped with other odd jobs (and loved sitting on the tractor and pretending to drive it when it got a rest from time to time).

Everyone pitched in to clean up trash and big rocks (and someday our back fence will be completely covered with creative graffiti by the kids- they started a month ago but then we ran out of paint...)




First Jared moved the dirt hill back so we could put the tube under it:


Then he plowed all the sticker weeds underneath lots of good dirt:

We placed the tube in the right spot:

Then Jared covered it with dirt:

While our neighbor worked hard on the retaining fence thing inside the trampoline hole:

The a huge rain storm moved in during a key moment as we worked against the clock (the tractor had to be returned!) and Jared and our neighbor worked right on through.

Then the first week of school was busy, busy, busy so we just left the project for a while. Finally this weekend, we had time to actually install the trampoline in it's waiting hole.



Here's Isaac testing out the trampoline to see if it needed to be adjusted a bit before putting on the pads.It was just right!

The kids and all their neighborhood friends have been on that trampoline just about every minute since! We gave all the kids a little orientation about the trampoline rules (only 2 at a time on the tramp, no shoes or socks on it, no neighbor friends on the tramp w/o first asking permission from us or our neighbors, etc.). And in the past couple days, the kids have learned all sorts of new tricks plus had 100's of "bum wars" plus had a great time just bouncing around. They're definitely sleeping well!


We're getting so much closer to a really fun and safe backyard! Now we've got to trench for sprinkler lines, put in the sprinklers and lay sod plus plant some fruit trees and bushes and maybe make a fun climbing area with old logs on the back side of the dirt/tube hill. So there's still work to go but it's so exciting to see things really taking shape.

Hopefully before too terribly long, you'll see a "big backyard project - part II" post. That'll mean we'll have grass back there and things will be much more "done." But what I've posted about here has been a huge huge bunch of work already so it deserves its own post!

3 comments:

Camile said...

What a fun backyard! Any kid would LOVE all that stuff. And I love that you have kid graffiti on your fence! Good luck with the rest of the project!

Eyrealm said...

Good Grief! We missed this post while. Wish we'd have seen it before we had the kids this weekend. They told us a few things about it but not the whole story! What a creative and fun backyard! So sorry about Si's finger. He didn't even mention it! Sure love those great kids!

Karen Harris said...

I know this post is old, but I remembered it and now we're in the boat of buying a trampoline. I would love to know the info of the brand-style etc etc. of the trampoline you got. I'm soo new at all of this so any info you have would be so great! Thanks!!

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