Category: Backyard

Tree Stump Playground

We recently cut down some big trees in our yard, to make room for more sunshine and more gardens. We were going to give away the firewood to friends with wood-burning stoves, but when Kevin was moving the stumps and the mulch, he got one of his inspired improvisational ideas. Give the man a pile of stumps, and he’ll build a playground. Apparently, our new stump-jumping-obstacle-course is reminiscent of Kevin’s own childhood schoolyard, which had, as he tells it, no play equipment other than a bunch of stumps and some tires.

We didn’t have any old tires laying around (thankfully). And we’ve painted our stumps bright colours. They’re dug right into the ground so they won’t tip. No, this wasn’t one of the backyard projects we planned to do this summer; but sometimes the most fun projects emerge spontaneously, with no planning at all.

(P.S. Please don’t count heads in the trampoline pictured in the background of that middle photo. Yeah, we’ve already broken the “only two kids” rule. I’m not even sure that rule lasted a single day).

Piggy-bank project

This was an all-family project. At the start of the summer, we talked about getting a trampoline for the back yard. The kids seem to keep growing. And the old swing set looks kind of destructible with several ten-year-old boys playing on it. But trampolines are expensive. So, we started saving for it. In the end, the kids emptied their piggy banks (literally), we wrapped coins (a project still underway), used the money from the long-ago “reward jar,” found a whack of Canadian Tire money, and, after a lot of online research, chose a trampoline. It’s supposed to be the safest one around. Fingers and toes are crossed.

The trampoline came home from the store in three boxes. Putting it together was a two woman/man job requiring a lot of physical strength, and some smarts, too. Albus and AppleApple were both very helpful with the smarts.

We were hosting a double sleepover yesterday evening, so we had some extra help. After many hours of labour, the whole thing was finally built before it got dark.

The boys thought it would be funny to show this.

Followed by this. (I hope the trampoline doesn’t laugh last.)

We do have rules. Our rules are: no shoes, zipper closed, and only two kids at a time (kids of similar weight).

Oh, and it’s not just for kids.

Sunshine, sunshine

This is what we were working on last weekend, on the day before the duathlon. It’s hard to fathom, after a week of storms and rain and grey, that a day could be so sunny. I got to get my hands dirty, digging up the big beds in the backyard. It’s never too late to discover a love for gardening. We’re enriching the soil even more this year, and hoping to grow potatoes and kale despite the shade. In the front yard, Kevin’s put in strawberries and flowers, and we’re planning to add tomatoes and cucumbers this weekend. I will also have some herb pots around the side of the house where the sun falls strongest (when it falls at all, which currently feels a bit like never).

This post is a little gift to myself while I take a lunch break from other writing work. I’ve been longing to get on here all week to write about such exciting topics as: urban homesteading, and running with children (not quite the same as running with scissors). We’ve got big plans this year, for this brief and precious summer season (as always).

We are planning to take down a few trees to gain sunlight for more vegetable gardens, and possibly a greenhouse (advice, anyone?). We hope to dry and plane the wood for further projects. We’d like to build a trellis over the patio, for grapevines and prettiness. We have a treehouse plan in the works. And a chicken coop. Then there’s the porch project, with room for my teeny-tiny perfect office (architectural drawings already underway!).

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Earlier this week, I got to do something especially thrilling: I jogged with my kids. I have such wonderful memories of jogging with my dad, probably from about the age of seven. On longer runs, I would ride my bike. So last Sunday morning, in preparation for the duathlon (and because, after a long and tired week, I needed to remind myself that I knew what I was doing), I went for a short run around the neighbourhood. AppleApple was hanging around, bored, so I suggested she join me on her bicycle. Off we went on a 4km jaunt, me with a grin wider than a river. We talked about running, and I reminisced about my childhood jogs, and she said she’d like to try running with me, so Kevin and I decided to work it into this week’s schedule.

Wednesday morning I get up early to run with a friend; we’re usually home by 6:45 or so. This Wednesday, we laid out the two eldest kids’ running clothes, and Kevin set his alarm for 6:50, and the kids were set and ready to go by 7. I grabbed a drink and headed back out with my kids. The light was beautiful. I promised we’d go exactly 1 kilometre (which seemed like a long way to Albus). We chugged through that kilometre in about six minutes. AppleApple was keen for a second kilometre, so we said goodbye to Albus (red-faced, and proud of his run), and went around the loop again. She ran fast! We even sprinted at the finish (something I always like to do).

We plan to do the same tomorrow morning: the kids can join me for the first kilometre or two of my long run. And we hope to keep up the habit, twice a week, in the weeks to come.

It was such a good start to the day. Both kids were energized and in great moods. AppleApple said she felt like she was floating afterward. Me, too. It’s such a privilege, as a parent, to get to watch your children grow in skill and develop interests, and to encourage them to excel and to find courage and strength.

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If you’re following my triathlon journey on chatelaine.com, here’s a link to the latest story, on what it really costs (literally, in dollar figures) to train for and race in a triathlon.

Catch-me-up

Kevin is crafting the kids’ Halloween costumes. Praise be, ’cause crafty, I isn’t, and the man has talent. We now have an eerie likeness to the real Spongebob Squarepants grinning at us from our dining-room table. “Paint the rest of me!” he’s chirping. “Don’t forget my pants!”

On Thursday, it was just me and the two little ones home all day, and though we had several appointments to go to, we also had time to play “storytime.” I did not set the chairs up like this: it was Fooey’s doing.

This afternoon, the neighbours might have been forgiven for thinking our children were doing violence to each other in the backyard. The shrieks, the screams, the ongoing mayhem. And people are worried about the noise a few backyard chickens might make. Just try living next to us. You’d be begging for chickens. Let the photo evidence show that, in fact, fun was being had, if at ear-splitting volume. The three biggest were playing some sort of sandwich game on the motorcycle swing, while CJ hung around and gave me panic attacks every time he stepped too close.

Better Than Television

Here’s what’s happening in our yard this morning. Add in the sounds of the children yelling over the chipper, and you get the full picture.
Below, our Monday evening activity. Also better than television. Add in a popsicle and a scrounged-up frozen chocolate chip cookie or two, and Kevin’s soccer-playing night looks a whole lot more fun for this Mama.

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