Design

Backyard Dreams (Is This A Crazy Idea?)

In the early evening yesterday, I needed to take a break from working on the bathroom, so Cooper (our dog) and I took a walk around our property. I have to admit that I don’t often venture out to the back half of our back yard, so on the occasions that I do make time to walk around back there, I’m always amazed at how large our property is, and how much land is back there not being used for anything.

This picture was taken with me standing about five feet from our back fence on the property line on the carport side of our property, and looking diagonally across the back section of our back yard towards the neighbor’s house (i.e., the dreadful flip house that still hasn’t sold).

That’s a lot of space back there, just sitting there unused!

I know some of you live on 10+ acres of land and have horses and cows and ponds and the like, so comparatively speaking, our property is quite small. But Matt and I live inside the city of Waco on a one-acre lot, so for city living, that’s quite a bit of land.

In fact, the large one-acre lot was the selling point for me when I saw this house the first time. I knew the house needed a ton of work, but it was worth it to me since it came on such a big lot. I’m not a country girl, so living out in the country on acreage was not an option for me. I like to be within minutes of a grocery store, Home Depot, etc., but I also like to have space and not be in a neighborhood where the houses are so close that it feels like you can reach out of your window and touch your neighbor’s house.

So the lot really sold me on this house. It’s amazing how quiet and private it feels here even though it’s in the city. And yet, almost nine years into living here, we still haven’t done anything with the land we have — the land that sold me on this house. We haven’t done any landscaping in the front, and other than being mowed once every two weeks, the back yard is completely untouched.

As Cooper and I were wandering around back there yesterday, I was dreaming about what I want to do with all of this space. This tree line (marked with the line with the arrows) is the tree line that cuts our back yard into two sections. And the white line on the right shows our property line. There’s a fence about 12-18 inches past that rusted storage building.

So about 2/3 of our back yard is behind that tree row that cuts the back yard into two sections. The section of our back yard that sits on the house side of that tree line feels like a large but normal sized back yard. But then you add this section behind that tree line, and it feels huge (again, compared to other city lots).

I know it’s hard to tell much of anything about pictures of land with nothing on it. When people show their pictures of their lots before breaking ground on a house, I can always tell their excitement, but as I’m looking at the pictures, I’m thinking to myself, “This isn’t interesting. I can’t tell what I’m looking at.” And yet, here I am putting y’all through that same torturous exercise. 😀

So perhaps an aerial view is more helpful. Here’s our lot from Google earth. You can see the tree row that cuts the back yard into two sections. And you can see that the section on the house side of that tree row is more like a normal sized back yard.

In fact, most of the people on this side of the street who also have one-acre lots have just built fences about where that tree line is, and completely ignore the rest of their property. But that seems like such a shame to have such a big lot (and pay property taxes on it every year) and completely ignore it.

So as I was thinking through the different options for how to use this space, of course, all of the standard things went through my mind — swimming pool, gardens, gazebo, fire pit, etc.

I really don’t want a swimming pool. I think they’re pretty to look at, but I’m just not much of a swimmer, and the thought of adding one more thing that I’d be in charge of cleaning and maintaining myself, or hiring someone to maintain, seems overwhelming to me. If I knew I’d use it often, the cost of maintenance (either with my time or by hiring someone else) might be worth it. But I’d probably be one of those people who uses it a lot the first year, uses it a little the second year, and then I’m just stuck maintaining something I never use after that.

So a pool is out. But I do want gardens. And I also want back yard chickens eventually. I’ve been dreaming of backyard chickens since 2013, months before we even bought our house.

Those are all possibilities, but do you know what I really want more than anything else?

A walking track! I want my own personal walking track that I can use every day to get exercise outside. I hate walking on the street (crazy drivers and stray dogs ruin it for me), and I’d rather brush my teeth with a prickly pear cactus leaf than walk on a treadmill. That’s a lesson I learned after I spent hundreds of dollars on a pretty nice treadmill that has now sat in our sunroom unused since 2019. But I do love to walk, and I love to be outside. So my own personal track seems like a perfect use for some of this space we have!

I envision something like this…

I would want it to go around to the front of the house because it would make the “track” longer, but also, it’s pretty normal to have walking paths around a house. In the front, the paths would join with the front sidewalk and veer off to the right and to the left. The one going to the left would wrap around the left side of the house and go to the back yard, and the one to the right would join with the driveway that leads to the back yard.

(I couldn’t find a more recent picture with the current sidewalk that actually shows what the front of our house looks like now, so that one will have to do. It doesn’t show the new steps and handrails to the front porch.)

And I would want the view to be pretty. I envision gardens around the perimeter in the back yard filled with native low/no maintenance plants that look something like this…

And then the middle section would still leave plenty of room for other things, like a fire pit or…you know…a basketball court. 😀 Just kiddin’. But there would still be so much room for chickens and veggie gardens and a gazebo and a fire pit or whatever else my little heart desires. The more I think about it, the more I love this idea!

So now I’m trying to think through what material would need to be used. I would want Matt to be able to use it also, and it would need to be pretty wide so that he and I can go on a stroll together and be side-by-side rather than a single-file line. So for him to be able to join me on the “track”, it seems that concrete is the only option. Anything else might be difficult for him to maneuver over in his wheelchair, and anything too bumpy (like cobblestone or pavers) might be uncomfortable for my feet as I’m walking. It seems like concrete is it. And I’m sure it would cost an absolute fortune to pour something like that out of concrete. So I really need to look at other options to see how this can be done without spending $50,000 to have tons of concrete poured just for me to have my own personal track. (Our front sidewalk was about $4000, if I remember correctly, and concrete was cheaper then, and the length is a small fraction of what I’m looking at for this “track”.)

If you have any ideas of how I could cut costs on something like this, but still have a surface that Matt could maneuver over, and that would be comfortable on my feet as I walk, and that could easily and naturally meet up with our concrete sidewalk and concrete driveway (which has yet to be poured) in the front, I’d love to hear it!

So is this a crazy idea? It might be a little strange, but I think it would be a great use of some of this space we have!

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