Let’s Take It Outside (Again)

Ok, so lots of people (me included) found this original exterior tour of our yard a bit hard to follow. Our first house was nice and simple. We could describe the back and the front and the sides and call it a day with this ol’ post of yore, which even included this little sketch:

But this house is just waaay more complicated. Even though both lots are about the same size (almost an acre) this one is a lot less long and narrow than the last one. It’s more fat and square-ish. And it has a lot more quirks like this little alley between the original part of the house and the addition in the back (more on that here)…

There are also areas that don’t look like our property (like this slice of land on the left, which looks like it’s outside the bounds of our house but is actually ours)…

… and little brick paths that meander around the back and side yards…

So in an attempt to make sense of it all (or confuse everyone more, you decide) I did my best little sketch of our lot for you (and then scanned it and had fun coloring it in with Photoshop). Oh and obviously it’s not to the same scale as the first sketch since this house looks ten times bigger. Oops.

And we thought that the be-all-end-all explanation would be this video that will hopefully help you grasp the whole flow of our lot’s mojo (which is work-friendly if you play it on mute- but also funny not on mute thanks to some very excited birds in the background):

And on the subject of our backyard, dude it has CHANGED (!!!) in the last few months. We’ve loved watching it green up and were so surprised that the back portion of the lot which looked very very brown when we moved in…

… now looks oh so green and lush and a lot more private thanks to lots of trees and grasses filling in. Not all the way, but we’ll take it:

We still have to plant some fast growing evergreens in some strategic spots to add to the privacy-factor (since this house not only has a house on each side of it, but one that can be seen from the back) but it’s already feeling a lot less exposed now that lots and lots (and lots) of trees have greened up and created some pretty great leafy screens between us and the outside world. We definitely have a lot to do out there, but just like our last house, we’re planning to take our time and see where we end up. Should be fun in that dirt-under-the-nails kind of sore-but-satisfied way.

Have you guys been up to any outdoor stuff? Any dream outdoor features that you’d love to add someday? Mine would be a deck for outdoor dining and some sort of elaborate tree house for the bean. Someday…


  1. says

    We’ve been working on our lanscape for years. Living with a landscaper means that the yard is always changing. I love to see it evolve!

  2. Ana Silva says

    Ah so, now I understand it better. Cool, thanks for the video. I am working so hard on my yard, and I have to do it all by myself. I need to start taking more pictures and documenting this stuff. I always forget. Anyways, I will share one day with you all once I feel is worthy of showing off.

  3. says

    You have no idea how lucky you are that all of that happened for you! My husband and I are about 300 hours into transforming our yard from this mess (the front yard was just as bad) to the near-after shown in the main picture. We had gotten a quote from a landscaper to do everything for us, but with $14,000 for labor, we decided to do almost all of it ourselves.

  4. says

    Almost-an-acre yards can be so tough! My yard falls into the long and skinny camp, with no woods, just exposed chain link on all four sides and lots of good old Iowa flatness! We’re working on turning one corner into a nice shade garden, but our motto is “Cheap and slow”, so it will be a while before we get any after shots.


    Looks like the previous owners of your place really tried to use a lot of the space, which is cool!

  5. says

    I purchased a house in the country and 20 acres last fall. Our yard is about 5 acres and the rest is farm ground. My big projects outside so far have been:
    1. Garden
    2. Pasture for the horses – fenced off part of the yard (less mowing)
    3. Mulching everything
    4. Running power from the garage to the garden shed

    Other things I’d like to do this summer:
    1. Sandbox for my 2 year old son
    2. Removing all the rock landscaping (TONS) and replacing with dirt and low maintenance perennials
    3. Resealing the front and back wood decks

    Wow that seems like a lot. Not to mention what I want to do on the inside of the house…..

  6. says

    I love all the beautifull green-ness! If you made a recording of those birds, I’d listen all day. We mostly just have (dirty) pigeons here at our house in the desert. I like your stone driveway…do you know how old it is, and are any of the stones sinking from the weight of vehicles?

    • says

      We think it’s about five years old. So far there’s no sinking from the weight of stuff (even when they dropped off tons of patio supplies, it didn’t wiggle or sink an inch- not that I didn’t worry the whole time- haha).


  7. Lisa in Seattle says

    John, thanks for taking so much effort to make this video for us, especially with a summer cold! For the areas that you’re going to leave wild for now, do you have problems with invasive vegetation? Here in the Pacific Northwest, any unattended land gets covered in blackberries and nettles and Stinky Bob in no time. Will you have to do some maintenance?

    We’re starting to work toward a backyard wildlife garden at our house. It’s challenging because I don’t know anything at all about gardening. I heard your birds in the background – your property must be quite a haven for them!

    • says

      Our last house had a giant woods behind it and it was pretty much just allowed to naturalize (we did get a lot of ivy back there but it didn’t seem to inhibit any other growth or cause problems) so I think we’ll just try that here. So far there’s nothing invading- but who knows. Might have to cross our fingers and get ready to spring into action if need be…


  8. Renee S says

    I LOVE the fact that you have no John cuts written on your good scissors! I’ve always had the same problem with my husband, so now he knows that he can’t use the scissors with the orange handles. Does that always stop him? Probably not. I might have to break out the Sharpie and label mine too…

  9. Alissa says

    Thank you! I was one of those people that requested you do that plan sketch again. My inner architecture major is doing a little happy dance. :)

    • Alissa says

      Also, am I interpreting correctly that one of those winding paths that goes around the house also walks straight up to your.. bedroom window? Uh, kinda creepy. I hope that’s actually the entrance to your basement?

  10. says

    What a great garden, it has so much potential. Have you considered planting a vegetable garden? I planted one for the first time this year…I have started small!

    It is quite exciting to see how quickly everything grows. I suspect the strawberries I planted won’t make it indoors. My 13 year old checks them everyday.

    Do you have a deer problem, if so I have a ultra cheap and super easy homemade spray recipe that really does work.

    • says

      Thanks for the links! We’d love to plant an edible garden (we had one at our first house and I miss it like crazy). Better get to it soon! Time’s a wasting!


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