New Year New Dreams Update

New Year New Dreams Update

The time is here!  

Hello! My name is Annie, and I am Al’s Fourth Generation. I am so sorry for the delay, but I have an update you from the article at the beginning of the year New Year New Dreams. My yard is ready for its debut! Believe me when I tell you that I wanted this update to happen a lot sooner than now! We finished just in time to enjoy our backyard this fall! 

Who knew we were going to have such a wet spring? The progress in our yard was very slow going. Working in the yard turned into one day here and there, along with weekends when the weather would cooperate.  

When I originally sat down to write the first article, I knew going in that the plans I was envisioning were general and not set in stone. Little did I know how much my plans would evolve and change as time went on. Our original vision was adapted and modified a few times based on three main causes: functionality, material availability, and different vision. 

Side Yard of House with Wooden Fence Entry Greater Portland Area

My original goals and updates:  

  • Making the side “yards” (if you can call them that) more accessible. On one side there is a gate that leads to the front of the house, so we want to make sure that it is easily accessible, and you do not have to traipse through mud to get there. Uncle Mark had the great idea of using cedar steppingstones that are made from a cedar tree we had to take down (ice storm of 2021 damage) at my childhood home. 
  • Update: The cedar steppingstones are on hold for now. The spring was too wet and muddy to install, and we compacted the path making it extremely hard from all our work. The cedar steppingstones are not functional because we would have to dig down and make them level. This is a larger project that we may do in the future depending on the level of usage of the path.  
  • We did create a brick path that leads the way to the gate and provides a lovely place to roll our compost, recycling, and garbage to be stored. We continued the French drain under the path to provide adequate drainage. 
  • Constructing an outdoor covered area and expanding the patio so that a BBQ can sit under cover with nice outdoor seating to entertain guests a.k.a. Uncle Mark and Grandpa. 
  • Update: We were able to expand the patio creating space for seating and the BBQ. Covered area yet to be installed. We have found the house next door provides enough shade in the summer for now. For extra shade around the firepit, we will plant a tree to shade that portion of the patio. 
  • For seating, we purchased a wine barrel with a glass top and bar stools from Al’s! It fits perfectly on our small patio and is lovely for dining.
  • Planting some evergreen plants and flowering trees hopefully my favorite crape myrtle can be added. Grandpa has visions of these lining the fence to add a little bit of a buffer from the road noise on the other side. 
  • Update: I can honestly tell you the number of times I thought “oooh that would be good in our backyard” as I was working in the nursery was well over five times a day. I would call Grandpa Jack and say, “I saw this cool plant today what do you think?” and he would say, (think of best grandpa voice) “Nah you don’t want that it is too (big/ small/ ugly (in his opinion), or you have too much (sun/shade).” or he would say, “ahh that is a not an ungood idea that wouldn’t look bad at all!” We had a ton of options and a lot of not “ungood” ideas (In Grandpa Jack speak ‘not ungood’ means ‘good’). You could say I came home from Al’s with plants more often than not and my husband would say, “More? We don’t even have raised beds built! Our patio is disappearing in front of our eyes!” 

 I was putting the cart before the horse or the plants before the flower beds. We absolutely needed to build raised beds first because the soil around our house is so dense and full of clay.  

I found these bricks that made assembling the beds very easy. The planed boards are reused decking from my aunt and uncle. The 2’x 6’ boards slid into the bricks and made a box! You can even make them tiered.  

One major change to the plan that I did not anticipate was taking out our grass. I never would have thought that I would not be happy having grass in the backyard. We couldn’t seem to get it green enough, fill the gaps between the sod, or get rid of the weeds throughout. Not to mention the flower beds were a tad too close to the grass and hard to get the mower around. Therefore, we decided to make the space more functional to our current needs. That meant more planting space, more seating, and a place to hang out! We came to the realization that it would be nice to have a fire pit and seating surrounded by an outdoor oasis (once I am able to decide on the plants I want), planting ground cover between the steppingstones, a tree to shade the seating area, and I am open to more suggestions!  


Throughout my frustration with the rain and lack of daylight after work, I had to remind myself that my dream yard would come together eventually. I just had to have patience in myself and the weather. On the bright side, I was able to have fresh strawberries until last week and our tomatoes are still growing! Even though I did not plant either of them until the first of July. 

Thank you for your patience and following along. We would love to hear and see what projects you have accomplished throughout this year!  

Share your stories and tips in the comments below!


  • Annie

    Thank you all! It has been fun refreshing our yard.
    We used 5×7 inch pavers for the path and back patio. For the raised beds we used concrete gardening blocks is what they are called and spray painted the outside black!

  • Leslide Moloney

    I enjoyed your article, Annie. I remember the ongoing process of creative trial and error in developing a back yard/ living space over the course of 20 years. Keep up the great work! See you in Sherwood.

  • Sue Barr

    I like your Grandpa Jack’s idea of the Crapemyrtle lining the fence. Choose an evergreen underplanting like Spring Bouquet Viburnum, add in a contouring grass like Sweet Flag plus a 2’ Boulder or two to accent your current stonework and wa la, it’s a perfect fit…I enjoy seeing your space changes.

  • Valerie Humke

    I’ve been in this home a year. Needed time to see what I had to work with. Now I’m removing almost everything the builder put in. (Quaking aspens on a small urban lot? Really?) Keep sharing. Nice to know I’m not the only one feeling my way along.

  • Sheila shapiro

    I love what you are doing patiently developing your dream yard. We are close to neighbors also and our yard is pretty small. We just planted grass because of our two dogs going out into dirt and /or mud any time of year. It should be tough enough in another month.
    I like your brick path and wondering what type/brand of bricks you use and the necessity of the french drain was new to me. We get pretty soggy in our yard.
    I also would like the source of those bricks to assemble your raised beds. We left an area without grass to use for veggie/flower planting.
    Our border are small and I could use a Grandpa Jack too.
    Good job!
    Sheila Shapiro

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