Creating a Refuge Home & Family

Bird Watching and Backyard Dreams

For many years now we have had a wild backyard. Just weeds and trees and a pit in the middle of the yard for burning the branches that regularly fall out of the surrounding pines and sweet gum trees. When the kids were young, we had a big wooden swing set and climbing tower, a sandbox, and a zip line that stretched from one end of the yard to the other. The basketball goal got regular use and there was often a game of catch or tag or wiffle ball in progress, with the dog happily weaving in and out. Our pop-up camping trailer was parked under the trees in one corner, and the deck was a great place for reading, eating, and doing homeschool science experiments out in the sun. We didn’t worry much about the grass, other than to keep it from getting too high. The yard is shady and I don’t have much of a green thumb, so I didn’t ever attempt flower beds or a vegetable garden.

Many years have passed and the swing set, sandbox and zip line are all gone. The basketball goal is unused. The deck is rotted in places and needs to be replaced. We recently gave the camping trailer away to a young family after the dad did some work for us. The kids are grown ups and the dog has gone to doggy heaven. Up until recently, the yard was a weedy, tangled mess and held no invitation for anyone to spend time out there.

While there haven’t been kids playing in the yard for quite a while, a one-year-old grandson has me seeing a future for our back yard again. As I’ve started to settle into this empty nest phase of life, I have started to dream of a backyard that is a sanctuary, and a home that is a refuge for my grown up children and their families, as well as friends, neighbors, my husband…. and me.

One good thing about kids growing up is more money in the bank account. We recently paid a hefty sum to have several big trees taken down in our yard, to make more open area and room for possibilities. The Bobcat tractors, chipper and other machinery churned up the yard and all those weeds, so we put some grass seed down after they were done. And voila!we have lovely green grass out there for the first time in almost forever!

We could never afford to fence in our large yard while our kids were growing up, but we have gotten a quote to do that soon, as well. The road beside our house has gotten quite busy and we aren’t far from a main boulevard, and with grandchildren playing in the yard in the almost immediate future and my new dream to create a sanctuary, a fence seems essential. Plus my dream now includes chickens and possibly probably another dog or two, so we need a fenced yard now. Okay, all my chicken-raising friends, what comes first? The chickens or the chicken coop?

For Christmas I asked for a bird feeder pole and feeders, and for the past month I’ve been enjoying watching a nice variety of birds on those feeders and also on the ground and on the decrepit deck where I keep tossing seed. Dark-eyed juncos, chickadees, goldfinches, chipping sparrows, cardinals, tufted titmice, Carolina wrens, eastern bluebirds, mourning doves, red-bellied woodpeckers and downy woodpeckers. A couple of fat squirrels are also very appreciative of the abundance they find outside my back door daily.

My backyard dream includes a garden with the requisite compost pile – maybe even a food forest! ( I dream big). Berry bushes, nut trees, herbs and veggies, with some colorful flowers to entice the pollinators. I mentioned earlier that I do not possess a green thumb, so this part is iffy, but I have a neighbor who is a very dedicated and prolific gardener and I am counting on her giving me critical knowledge in exchange for cupcakes or a pretty picture for her wall. Or eggs. From the little brood of hens that I dream of having.

Other elements of my backyard dream are a new deck and/or patio, of course – since the current deck is a health hazard and has no place in a backyard refuge. That deck and/or patio will be the home of our gas grill, which currently resides in the garage, as well as a picnic table and comfy outdoor furniture, the site of future family gatherings and cookouts. I already bought a beautiful, hand-crafted ladder golf set I found on Etsy for my competitive crew to enjoy. A fire pit will probably be a spring 2021 project, since that shouldn’t be too hard to manage. My new neighbors to the left just put one in themselves, over the course of a week, so we’ll just ask for their advice. Cupcakes for all the neighbors!!

And if I’m really going to dream big, then an above-ground swimming pool would make Grammie’s house the place to be during our long, hot Carolina summers.

The drawback to doing all this after our kids have grown and moved away is that I no longer have a built-in crew of yard workers to maintain all this.

I’ve never really had a plan for my yard before, but now that I have some time and some resources, I dare to dream! My dream is for a backyard refuge that is a welcoming, happy, comfortable bit of nature, sheltered from the cares of the world, that will produce food, comfort, relaxation, fun and lots of good memories for us and our now-grown family for years to come. I’m sure the plan will evolve as time goes on, but I’m pretty fired up about those chickens.

Keep watch, friends. I’ll keep you posted on the progress.

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