One perk of having my brother-in-law live in our house is that we get periodic updates. News! Word! Photographs! Of our beloved home!

Can I just whine for a second? It’s spriiiiiiiing back home. All in all, we got to experience five total days of spring this year before coming to this strange land where the seasons are reversed and the deer hop instead of run. As the weather gets cooler and rainier here, it’s kind of fun in a sick sort of way to see how beautiful our yard back home is looking.

Look at our glowing Japanese beauty:

There’s a good mix of purchased plants and free starts, and it’s all exploding.

Remember the parking strip? (Also known as the “verge”)

Oh, back yard, how I miss you and your green pastures (even though I kinda sorta killed part of you last year… don’t worry, Duncan is probably a more competent gardener).

Meanwhile down under…


I actually like the rain. If only I could be in two places at once.

Jesse says hi!

It’s been pretty much a snowless winter in SLC so far this year. The mountains have received some, but the valley has been pretty much “dry as a popcorn fart” as my brother would say. This has been wonderful for my lazy side who doesn’t like shoveling snow and picking out snow-approprate footwear, but it’s pretty bad for the ski resorts and for, you know, water supply for next summer.

So my wise, I-want-to-go-skiing side was thrilled to see this outside my window this morning:

It also happens to be doofer the dogger’s favorite weather.

Sure is pretty.

Back indoors, things are not so pretty.

We’re in the midst of some major de-junk and purge action. MAJOR.

I’m hungry.

When we left off with Part 1 of the fence building project, we had a fence that was on its way to being completed.

And here it is completed!

Excuse the non-staged photo, but I thought someone (cough Sara cough) might murder me if I didn’t get a finished pic up today.

Here’s another view so you can see how we now have a nice closed-in feeling across from the patio.

In pictures you can still totally see through the privacy slats, but I promise that in real life it feels very contained and private.

Next up is planting some flowers and shrubs in front of it and trying to train some more Virginia Creeper to grow on it.

*As a result of several comments (which I am not deleting), I have decided to remove the rest of this post. Apparently we have incriminated ourselves and whether commenter JoeKnows means “It’s a good thing your address isn’t readily available because you have broken several laws…..” as a threat or not, I am taking it as such.

I simply wanted to tell our story as a learning experience. I wanted to discuss neighborliness and general human understanding, and warn others to always discuss things with their neighbors, no matter how nice you think you’re being.

I welcome comments, even if they don’t agree with me. But it is also my right to respond to those comments and try to explain myself (which I thought I did in a diplomatic manner). Also, comments that are accusatory rather than constructively critical tend to illicit charged responses from protective older brothers and friends who know us, and there’s nothing I can do about that. So please keep that in mind if you plan to comment in such a manner.

And please feel free to comment constructively.

We have a lovely (well, we’re working on it!) yard. It’s big and spacious, and we love spending time out there in the garden and eating dinner on the patio.

But beyond our patio and shed and in-progress flower beds, the view is a little distracting:

We have this nice six-foot privacy fence around most of the yard. But the 50′ closest to the house is just this crappy old rusty bugger of a fence. If you click and zoom on the picture above, you can see where the 6′ privacy fence (on the right) ends and the 4′ rusty one begins.

The rusty four-footer does nothing to block the view of our neighbors’… well, junk.

To be fair, we know that our yard has been plenty junky in the past, and we’re not perfect. In fact, we had a pretty junky swamp cooler that we feel pretty guilty about leaving up for so long (it’s off now, though!). And in the interest of total fairness, allow me to post this doozy of a junk pile from last year that our neighbors probably weren’t too fond of looking at:

But you know how when it’s “your junk” it’s okay? Kind of like when it’s “your filth” in the bathtub it’s okay? No? Anyone?

So, a fence means that we don’t have to look at anyone’s junk but our own- a wonderful thing.

I will spare you all the gory details of putting in a fence. If you’ve never done it, I would recommend getting a book on the matter, or maybe finding a good tutorial online.

A couple of notes though:

  • We got the Home Depot book on fences and patios, and it said to NOT set the line posts in concrete- just the terminal (end) posts. It said to just dig the holes, put in the posts, and fill it back in with dirt. We didn’t trust that, so we set all of them in concrete.
  • We dug all of the post holes with a post hole digger, not an auger. It’s hard work but really not too bad with the two of us. If we had a bunch (we only had five), we would definitely rent an auger.
  • Roots are jerks.
  • We did chain link to match the existing six-foot fence. If we were building a completely new fence around the entire yard, we would have done wood.
  • Vinyl privacy slats are very expensive. For 50′ of 6′ high slats, it would have cost us $275 to buy them new. We found some in the local classifieds for $50.
  • Setting the end posts and then using a string (and line level) as a guide for how tall to set the line posts is a good idea.
  • Brothers-in-law that spend their weekends helping build a fence are nice.
  • To pull the fence tight, you need a fence puller and come-along. A fence puller alone costs $35 to buy, but luckily Home Depot rents out the puller and come-along for $15 for 4 hours, which is more than enough time.

Here is Stan pulling the fence tight with the above-mentioned tools:

Aww yeeeeah.

And here is our progress so far!

Just picture how nice it will be with privacy slats in it. The red truck, white SUV, and minivan parked on the back lawn will be invisible! Along with the toilet and decrepit swing set!

PS- We’re still figuring out the whole “water your lawn” thing so it looks pretty sad right now. So yeah- I know our yard isn’t perfect, but it will be that much nicer when we can look at our imperfections and not our neighbors’.

Stay tuned for Part 2, wherein we put in the privacy slats and gussy it up a bit. We’re hoping the Virginia Creeper will soon spread onto our new fence like it has by the vegetable garden (visible on the right-hand side of the above photo).

Here is our patio.

I spent weeks rebuilding and refinishing (again) the patio table set that we’d previously spent hours refinishing and repainting, but more on that later. (Hint: the table is now coffee table height.)

There are obviously a few things wrong with it, and we have lots of little things to do, but for now I was kind of brainstorming ways to make it feel more intimate. Our yard goes back about 90 or 100 feet I think, which is awesome, but it also means that making cozy intimate spaces, or “outdoor rooms”, is a bit of a challenge.

See? Big!

I love the little stone seats that Sara put in a corner of her patio. It helps to close it in as well as- duh- giving people a place to sit.

I was looking for more of a quick fix, so I pulled out some pots and some old wooden crate things that I’d dragged off the side of the road (hoarding is good!) and made a little “wall”. You can still see the fountain when you’re sitting at the table, but it gives a nice little separation so you feel like you’re in a room.

The difference is subtle in pictures, but it has a whole new feeling in real life.

Here is my horrific rendering of how I’d like the patio to progress:

I’d like hosta in that whiskey barrel (such a great wedding present), a fence between the patio and the driveway, and some virginia creeper growing up those 50’s curlicues, please.

Also, I planted this pot and was kind of proud of it. Tall plant + trailing plant = a pretty planting!

And for one last finishing touch, we hung up some lantern lights that we’d forgotten we had. We actually bought them a long time ago for the wedding, then decided that to try to decorate Cactus & Tropicals would be to mess with perfection.

They look cool here though, and they help to visually enclose the patio even more. I think we need to have a bbq.

Does anyone else have any tricks for making large spaces more intimate? (I definitely don’t have this problem inside the house!)

We made this:

Well okay, we didn’t throw that pot. I just mean that we made this pot into a fountain. It’s a little subtle and hard to tell from pictures, but the water bubbles up in the middle and runs down the sides. It makes quite a pleasant noise. I’ll show you how to make one too, if you want.


  • Ceramic pot of your liking (base of pot must be smaller than the diameter of a 5-gallon bucket)
  • 5-gallon bucket (we used plastic but are now thinking a metal one would be better)
  • Aluminum L-brackets
  • Screen material cut about 4-5 inches bigger than a 5-gallon bucket, and with a hole in the middle
  • Submersible pump
  • The kind of hose that goes with a submersible pump (technical term). It’s sold right next to the submersible pumps.

Step one: find an ugly spot in your yard that needs some beautification, and where your pump could be plugged in.


Step two: Dig a hole for your 5-gallon bucket.

*Note: If we were to do it again, we would have done all of the following assembly steps before putting the bucket in the ground. So, do that.

Step three: Hacksaw your aluminum L-brackets so that they fit over the bucket. Also, cut some notches in the bucket that one side of the “L” will fit into. Also also, cut a notch in the back for the pump’s power cord to run through. (I’m sorry about ending all these sentences with prepositions.)

These L-brackets are super strong. They can support my weight, which is a hundred and hummanahummana pounds. However, the bucket becomes weak when it’s cut that way, which is why we recommend a metal one. You’ll want to caulk or somehow seal the gaps where the brackets meet the bucket. Otherwise, it will leak.

Step four: You need to make the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot so that it doesn’t drain but so that you can still fit a piece of hose up through it. We accomplished this by patching the hole with a piece of spare inner tube with a hole just big enough for the hose.

We consulted This to That, which told us to use hot glue. It’s kind of hard to see, but there’s a small hole cut in that inner tube. And don’t mind the caulk- Stan just wanted to patch some little cracks in the pot.

Here’s a little diagram. Click to enlarge.

I have two options: A and B. More on those below.

Step five: assemble your pieces. Run the power cord through the nifty notch you made, and the hose up through your aluminum supports. In the picture we have expanded metal (that mesh looking stuff) but since we realized that it directs water away from the bucket and it rusts like crazy, we decided that screen is better. Use screen. Run the hose up through the screen, then up through your pot.

Step six: Carefully put it in place. You don’t want to kink your hose by setting the pot on it wrong.

*Note: Choose option A if you just want the water to pool over the edges of the pot with no bubbling action at the top. Option A = cutting the hose only a couple inches from the bottom of the pot. (This is the simpler way.)  If you choose Option A, you can skip to step eight.

Step seven: since we wanted a little bubbling action at the top (Option B), we tried to devise ways to get the bendy hose to stand up straight (so the bubbling action was centered) higher up in the pot.

First we came up with this:

It worked okay, but it’s a little janky and as I said before, that expanded metal rusts like crazy. To improve upon the wire situation though, I came up with the idea to shove the hose into some PVC. Since it’s rigid, it stands up straight. But it still needs to be kept centered somehow, so we’re still using the expanded metal for that. Maybe it will stop rusting once it gets to a certain point…?

Step eight: Fill up both the bucket (a couple inches shy of full) and the pot with water.

Step nine: Cover the screen with stones, and decorate the ugly area surrounding with mulch, grasses, and plants of your choosing!

We need more pretty rocks for the base of the fountain. Our back patio is to the left, and our bedroom window is on the upper right, so we get to sleep with the sound of tinkling water, which is quite relaxing. And no one has even wet the bed yet.

I usually don’t attempt tutorials since there are so many great ones out there, but we actually came up with this system all by ourselves so we’re pretty proud! Hopefully it’s not too confusing. Feel free to email or comment with questions.

Well, we finally got the garden planted. A combination of busy weekends and unseasonably wet, cold weather delayed its planting until this past weekend, but whew! It’s in and I can relax now that the threat of not having fat, juicy, garden fresh tomatoes this summer is gone.

Also, the lawn is coming in BALLER. Anyone doubting getting an awesome lawn from seed needs to check themselves before they wreck themselves.

Here it is toward the beginning of spring (note the bare area on the left):

And here is the lush lawn now (note the not-bare area to the left where Blanche is standing):

Also note where I threw a clump of mud at the garage.

Let’s take a closer look at that not-bare area on the left side of the yard:

Two raised beds full of tomatoes, basil, melon, and squash; two zucchinis in that little jutted out part on the left; and a row of climbing beans along the fence. And some marigolds because I heard somewhere once that they are good. Also, stepping stones (slowly finding homes for all the pavers) and mulch for easy access and a finished look. Oh yeah and a few weeks back I added the brick border.

I can already taste the fleshy tomatoes exploding in my mouth.

Oh! And I went shoe shopping. My budget said no but an REI gift card I won said yes.

And Larainy, you were right- these are Sperry top-siders! Your husband has excellent taste.

The other day I had just gotten home from work and, as I do, I was pulling a few weeds in my work clothes before going inside. My neighbor Mary Alice from two doors down pulled up and came over to say hi.

“Oh, I see you already got to your mowing! You beat me to it.”

<Confused look>

“Oh, I just always do these three lawns at once when I’m doing mine, since it’s a straight shot from one end to the other.”

Haha okay, Mary Alice. So she told me that if she’s ever mowing hers and mine is looking a little shaggy, to not be surprised if she goes ahead and mows it. Uh, score!

Anyway, I thought it was funny. Would you ever do something like that? I was about to mow the elderly people’s overgrown parking strip the other day, but Mary Alice had beaten me to that. But to set out to mow three times the amount of lawn than you really have to every time? I’m not sure if I would do it.

And now for a totally pointless video of Blanche being dumb running around excitedly.

PS- We’re still rocking the freebie lawnmower for now. We haven’t had a moment to make the decision, plus after booking our honeymoon we’re feeling the clench of tight finances. We’ll see…

This weekend we did lots of stuff, including:

  • Got rid of a huge eyesore hanging from the side of the house (more on that later)
  • Toured a neighbor’s current reno- I mean they are really in the thick of things!
  • Perused old pictures from when I was really in the thick of things

  • Built a tabletop raised bed for a friend (more on that later)
  • Spent half a day designing invitations and insert cards
  • Hand-addressed half of our wedding invitations
  • BBQed salmon burgers twice and hung out with my friend Becca who I wish would move back here
  • Performed a major cleanup on the patio and made a thrilling time-lapse video of it (I know, it seems like that’s all I ever do- move pavers around and make time-lapse videos of it. But this time I had help, and this time the patio is NOT going to turn into a storage unit again, and this time I used my Wingscapes ProjectCam that the nice folks over at Wingscapes sent me. This time is different.)

No there aren’t two Stans. The other one is Duncan.

  • Ate a delicious Easter dinner
  • Booked our Honeymoon! Well that was last week but it counts. We’re going to Playa del Carmen and I cannot WAIT. I’ve never been on a resort vacation before.

  • Thanks to all of your helpful input, we set up our registry. We chose to use myregistry.com, since you can put anything from any store in the world on there, and also set up a cash fund if you want (still figuring all that out). We also chose not to include the info on our invitations, but to tell our parents so they can spread the word if people ask.

I’m feeling pretty good about the amount of stuff we got done, but also a little overwhelmed by all that there is left to do. My brother-in-law offered to fly me out to Texas for my niece’s baptism and my new nephew’s blessing this weekend (robbers beware- I will have a housesitter so don’t try anything funny). I’m suuuuper excited to go there! But we also kind of made me going out of town the deadline for the invitations (which is probably laughable) and work is busy this week, so we’ll see how much more we can get done.


Even if I don’t end up getting a reel mower, at least I have one reason to feel eco-superior:

I even cropped out my skivvies for ya. You’re welcome. (Or sorry- depending on who’s reading this.)

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