Gardening, House / Porch & Yard, In Progress

Fired Up to Create a Backyard Escape

Do you have a specific part of your home that you avoid sharing on your blog? 

I know I do . . . and it’s the outer limits of our backyard, between our two sheds.   Only our closest friends, who come over in the nice weather for backyard bonfires, have been privy to the view – and that’s because the embarrassment helps fuel our fires.  Literally.

You can’t see the mess here, because this was taken before it got bad, but this is our backyard.

Since we rented this house 2.5 years ago we’ve had a slew of crazy storms that regularly bring down massive branches from the towering trees in our backyard.  It always makes me sad, because I love the yard, with its thick, multi-layered canopy of leaves. Even though the yard is small, encircled by a ratty chain link fence, I can sit out back, and truly feel like I am escaping from the hustle and bustle of the mega suburbs around me.

Whenever I had a really bad day (few and far between, thankfully) I would come home and go straight out to the backyard with my journal.  I’d set up Ryan’s portable hammock or my lounge chair, lay back, and start to write, but without fail I’d end up setting the pages aside and just staring up at the trees.  I recently stared at the trees a lot as I was pondering what to do about my shop.

So when Ryan and I found ourselves with several Crate and Barrel gift cards after our wedding, we knew just what to do with them:  buy a large, 2-person hammock to hang in the backyard.

The only problem?  Our massive pile of downed branches stood exactly between the only two trees that could hold the hammock.

Frankly, the brush pile was out of control.  It looked more like a beaver dam:

Massive Brush Pile

This was the state of the brush in 2011. This year it was even bigger, but I forgot to photograph it. The swing set and other junk is long gone.

What choice did we have other than to clean up the back of the yard?  I never thought I’d say this, but I set about organizing our downed tree branches.

After breaking down all the good, strong branches into piles by thickness (kindling and then small, medium, and large firewood) I realized that we had more “firewood” than we’d ever use.  I hauled 3 10×10 tarp-loads to the curb for the city to pick up.

Remaining Brush Backyard Hammock

That left us with a smaller pile of debris that I burned in the fire pit every night after work for about 2 weeks.  It went slower than expected, but at least the ground under the hammock is clean.

And I’ve had an excuse to play with fire. A lot.  🙂

Burning Brush Firepit Backyard

As you can see above and below, the whole endeavor has been supervised by my four-footed family.

Doctor the Cat Helping Backyard Cleanup

The brush is finally cleared out, and now we’re laying a bed of mulch and turning the whole space into a little backyard oasis.

There’s still a lot of work to do, but that’s not stopping me from enjoying the hammock.

PS:  IF you’re new, check out how we cleaned up the “front” of our back yard, aka our porch, last summer.

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  • Reply Michelle at 2:43 pm

    Tell me more about this portable hammock…. Is it easy to set-up/break-down, how small does it pack?

    Also – Yay! for the backyard hammock and cleanup.

  • Reply Dot at 6:34 am

    I’m sure the hammock is divine!

  • Reply Funnelcloud Rachel at 9:31 am

    Oh my goodness, I could’ve written this exact post (minus the hammock, sadly). We also have two sheds in our backyard. Between them are five huge tree stumps that I insisted Larry & our friends HAUL FROM THE NEIGHBOR’S TRASH because I wanted to go all Martha Stewart on them and paint them and turn in them into pretty stools. That was three years ago, I never painted them, and they have since rotted. (There also used to be a swingset which we gave to friends.) But the real problem is behind Shed #2 which is where our brush pile from the storms is. It is as big as your pile, but weeds and vines have grown up around it, too. Ugh. We love burning the debris in our fire pit, too, but at this point I think our brush pile has become a home for critters – Banjo seems very interested in it!

  • Reply Ashley at 10:50 pm

    oh! I totally CANNOT wait to see what you guys come up with! We spend a ton of time in our back yard and I know you guys will be in heaven when you get it the way you want it! Can’t wait to add an awesome fire pit like yours to our back yard!

  • Reply Weekend Roundup: Landscaping, Gold Leaf Painting, and Pioneer Jane | The Borrowed Abode: Adventures in decorating a rental home. at 10:01 am

    […] we cleaned up the beaver dam months ago, a few late-summer storms left us with another brush pile.  Saturday, while Ryan was out […]

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