We finally are 99% towards the conclusion of a project we've had waiting on our to-do list pretty much since day 1 of living in this house. Our backyard, while a decent size, came with this lovely swing set which took up about half of the yard.
If we had kids, it would be a swell bonus. And we did consider keeping it so that when that day comes (years and years from now) we'd have it handy (swing sets like this can run hundreds to thousands of dollars). But, the thought of living with half of our yard being essentially unusable for years while we waited to have kids old enough to even make use of it was quite unpalatable and just didn't make sense. Plus there's a super awesome park/playground a short walk from our neighborhood, so having a playground in our backyard didn't feel all that necessary, even when we do have munchkins. So we knew we wanted to get rid of it and fill that space in with grass, but given the expense, did not do anything about it right away. Last summer, we did successfully sell the swing set on Craig's List, so not only did we get some extra $$ in our pocket, but we at least had more open, usable yard space (even if it was still a gravel pit). This summer we made it a goal to finally turn that gravel pit into grass. We started by shoveling and hauling the gravel out ourselves, to save on the cost of labor.
Piper acted as the trusty supervisor of the project, as you can see. (Oh, and all that gravel is still sitting in a big pile in our side yard, so if anyone reading this wants some free gravel, PLEASE. Let us know, and come take it off our hands!)
So we were left with a bare dirt patch after hours and hours of hard physical labor. I underestimated how hard it would be to get rid of all that gravel, but I think I calculated that between Phil and I, we put in a solid 10+ hours of shoveling to get it all out of there. Phew. Also, it was crazy how much bigger that part of our yard seemed after the swing set and gravel were gone. It really felt like such a huge chunk of our yard, and made us so glad we were going to finally get that space back.
Anyway, after the aforementioned physical labor, it was finally ready for grass! We hired out the rest of the work, because laying sod is quite an involved process and the margin of error felt very high and it would have been a risky gamble to try to DIY it. We found a local landscaping company that gave us an extremely fair price, and in addition to laying our new sod, also reworked the sprinkler system to make sure the new grass got watered, and audited and repaired the entire sprinkler system in the front and back yard.
Here's a mid-process shot of them at work. From what I could tell from creepily watching them out the windows every so often while they were working, they tilled the already existing soil, added quite a bit of new soil, and then plopped down the sod! Obviously it's more complicated and involved than I make it seem, they were working for a solid 8+ hours the day they installed the sod.
After they were done, we had this! It was wonderful to see all that grass in place of the gravel/dirt that once was, but we weren't all the way excited yet because our new grass was inaccessible for two weeks while we waited for it to take root. We fenced off the new sod so that Piper couldn't get to it, with some basic garden stakes and chicken wire.
We wished we could have explained to Piper why we had to do that - we would see her gaze at the new grass through the chicken wire fence and she must have been thinking "Why, oh why, can I not frolic in the new grass? Cruel, cruel world." But the two weeks finally passed, and after mowing what had become a ridiculously overgrown lawn from two weeks+ of no mowing, I give you, our new yard!!
(Piper approves, as you can see). Here's the before shot again, for direct comparison:
It's crazy how much bigger it feels. Even though we had the same amount of space before, the gravel pit always felt unusable. Having that filled in with grass makes our yard literally twice as big as it was, and it's glorious! It feels so spacious. We still have to do some landscaping along the fence, where there is just a bare strip of dirt between the grass and the fence, but we hope to get that done soon, and then this will be 100% finished. And when that day comes, we plan to have a big 'ol BBQ to celebrate are awesome new yard, so get ready to come enjoy our new grass someday soon! Yay!