Working on the Yard

comments: 40










Good Saturday morning to you, dear friends. It's a rainy morning here. We've been working on our backyard a lot this week. We started at the back door and have been working our way out. It was a total mess. Our yard has been neglected for the past few years. I'm not sure why. It used to be pretty. It's time to reclaim it. We ripped out all the dead plants, cleaned the millions upon millions of tiny Mimi-toys from every planter and pot, replaced dead dirt with fresh potting soil, and cleaned slug streaks from every surface. I trimmed hundreds of old dead hydrangea flowers and have more to do. We ordered some plants from a local nursery that was doing deliveries. I got eight English lavenders for our deck planters and an assortment of fifteen other 4" annuals for various pots. We dumped out piles of old leaves and scrubbed the pots with brushes. Andy planted everything for me and it is beautiful and helpful.

We cleaned up the back corner where Amelia likes to play and are planning to help her make a mud kitchen back there. I didn't realize this was such a trendy thing and had a huge laugh when I saw the fancy pictures of them on Pinterest. How awesome. I think Ginny's is the ultimate. The headscarf Mimi is wearing is a present from my dear Ginny, too. I'm channeling Ginny. Mimi's uncle is going to make a sign that says "Mimi's Secret Hideout" for her (her choice of name :) and Mimi is going to help me trace and cut triangles so we can make a bunting. It's pretty cute. She likes to dink around with little things — pots and pans and leaves and rocks and tiny dolls and furniture — so I am excited to make this a good spot for her. She's excited, too. We are going to get some sand and fill up the planter back there for her to use as a sandbox. It's shady in that corner under a huge lilac tree and the dogwood tree. A giant pile of pea gravel got dumped back there at some point last summer so there's no actual mud, which is nice. There's mud close by, but not right there. I think I am going to give her my lemonade dispenser so she has a water source. This will all be a good way to get her to stop watching so much Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures.

Working on the yard has given me a sense of control and accomplishment and hope. The weather has been absolutely glorious and that's such a gift. I think it's literally the best weather I've ever seen in my life. Andy put up two shade sails over the back deck and oh, wow. What a difference they make. I love them I love them I love them. I mean, duh. The place was as hot as a diner grill back there. Faces south and gets blasted by sun all day long. Now it's all filtered white shade-sail light. You can sit at the table and not get fried. You can sit at the table and drink your blueberry iced tea and think a whole thought in the filtered light. I don't know why it takes us so long to solve these problems, and for next to no money, too. Sigh. We are slow.

My sister-in-law Jen lives in Madison, Wisconsin, and she sent me a few videos of the birds coming to her birdbath and bird feeder. It was so inspiring. I am getting a few more bird feeders for the backyard now. I noticed there were a ton of birds flying across our yard, really low, practically buzzing us. It's kind of a superhighway from one place to another, apparently. It is thrilling. Our apple tree is in full bloom right now, and it's such a lovely, lovely tree. Little chickadees come and sit in it and it literally looks just like a vintage postcard. Now I sit on my shady deck and watch them. It's really nice.

Thank you for all of your kind comments on my last post. I am thinking of you and wishing you strength, peace, and hope. And lots of love.


Shade sails! Can you please show us how you put them/attached them? My husband thinks they’ll try to sail away, but it’s what I’ve been wanting for our south facing deck too. It’s pretty breezy here, which is why I’m not a fan of umbrellas.

Christine says: April 18, 2020 at 12:18 PM

The way you capture the essence of your daughter in her photographs is astounding! This one takes my breath away. What a lovely child!

I wish we were getting more consistent spring-like weather---we got yet more snowstorms this week! It's definitely messed a bit with our plans, but we did finally get out today to pull some weeds and see the lay of the land. (Spoiler alert: We have a LOOOOT that we need to do!)

Also, how do those little toys end up everywhere?! I have 3 kids, and I am forever finding them in the oddest places---under my pillow, in my shoes, in the planters, by the chicken coop...

Kids, man. Bless their untidy little hearts.

Dearest Alicia, I can't recall if I commented on your last post - I meant to - and specifically about your recent acquisition of 'September' - it's my FAVORITE BOOK OF ALL TIME. Seriously. In my top 5. I've re-read it more times than I can count. I've read it so much my copy is falling apart. I'm so thrilled a kindred spirit sent it to you - I assumed it was a book you would have read years ago, otherwise I would have sent it myself!! Thank you for the backyard inspiration. Ours is very neglected and I'm trying hard to figure out how to make it more charming. I'm NOT a plant person!

Gosh, it's beautiful out there. I know what you mean about feeling better for doing some gardening, I've been doing some here in the UK in the glorious weather we've been having and it's left me feeling great. I'm looking forward to doing lots more next week, we have a whole week of sun forecast. Lovely to see your apple blossom, I think that's my favourite thing of spring. CJ xx

What a beautiful backyard you have, you have done a great job.
Lots of love and peace from Geneva, Switzerland

I see you have been doing a pysanka, Ukrainian Easter egg decorating!
Looks good, keep it up, you’ll get better with each one.
from a pysanky writer & Ukrainian/American for all my 60 years!

Your backyard looks so nice and pretty. I look forward to seeing your English lavendar in bloom. I plant some every year. Please tell me more about your blueberry iced tea! Yum!!

The beauty of these photographs, and the reassurance that the ordinary, simple, routine activity of a springtime yard clean up goes on, felt needed today. Thank you, Alicia.

Your yard looks wonderful! So glad you planted lavender. You'll be able to make lavender baskets later this spring!

Any chance you’d be willing to share the recipe for the rhubarb tart???

Beautiful. Your back area is inspiring. My friends showed us how to make Ukrainian eggs one year. It was fun but tricky. They are beautiful eggs. I know Mimi will love her mud pie kitchen. I follow Ginnys blog and wish I had known about you two when my kids were little. So fun!! 🌸

My husband and I also are finding ourselves working in the yard, after a looong hiatus. A few weeks ago, I planted a little vegetable garden for the first time in years, and am scheming about a blank patch in the middle of the backyard that long ago was grass. Grass really doesn't grow well in Arizona! I want to make it a little naturalized bit of desert, to encourage the birds and butterflies. My front yard is already that way, but we barely see that from inside the house.

Love the idea of the mud kitchen. We had something like this when our children were little. I forwarded the link to Ginny's to my daughter and son-in-law, so that they can start dreaming about this for their sweet almost one year old. They live in an apartment now but it does have a wee balcony porch. They dream of a house of their own, but who knows when that will happen now.

I am so glad you are finding some peace and joy in these times, Alison, and helping others to do the same.

What is the rhubarb recipe in the picture? Looks delicious. Such beautiful pictures.

Rika Toll says: April 19, 2020 at 08:45 AM

Where did you get your sun sail shades?

Linda Lacy says: April 19, 2020 at 11:31 AM

This made me remember a book from my childhood called Mud Pies and Other Recipes. My sister and I checked it our repeatedly from the library.She died April 8 and it was nice to think back on those memories.
Looks like it was published in 1962 and a new edition has been released.

Please share the rhubarb recipe. I am so craving rhubarb tarts. Everyone has strawberry and rhubarb but being highly allergic to strawberries, I am always wanting new rhubarb only recipes.

I have followed you for a bazillion years---but not commented. You do the most wonderful pictures, and I'm shopping for a camera, so I'm curious what kind of camera you use? Your pictures really are always just a delight.

I love that Amelia wants a mud kitchen. My girls have one and tree fort with it and it is called Blueberry Village. They have wind-chimes, pots of flowers, flowers planted in the ground lots of dishes, blueberry curtains in their fort, and a fairy house. It is so much fun. I truly hope that Amelia absolutely loves it. Your yard is beautiful.

I've always enjoyed seeing your back yard and wow.. all the new blossoms you captured! I was out on the deck today doing something similar. I adore Spring! We got a neat little outdoor fireplace that has a pizza oven on the top. I'm looking forward to trying that out soon! Now all I need is to get some mozzarella! I look forward to Mimi enjoying her own corner of the yard. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

My nine-year-old daughter has always loved “garden cooking” as she calls it. We have the most charming cookbook called “Mud Pies and Other Recipes” and of course she also invents her own recipes. Playing “garden restaurant” has been one of her favourite games these last few weeks of lockdown and I am served delicacies such as dandelion delight, twiggy crumble with daisy sauce and grassy pudding!

On the birdbath front, although tempting to get a traditional/antique heavy stone type, they are difficult to clean (and move, if you wanted to). I have a plastic one (I know - ugh! but bear with me!) which comes painted up to reasonably resemble stone/aged iron. The benefits are that it is *so* easy to tip out the old dirty water; clean and wipe any dirt or slime from the basin, and move around the garden if necessary. It has a decorative filigree type base which can be tethered for stability into the ground with the metal pegs it comes with (although I've used mine without and it didn't fall over anyway, with the weight of the water in the top). The birds in my garden absolutely love the bird bath and it is heartwarming to see them drinking, splashing and bathing in it, especially in hot weather! I can fill mine up with the large watering can too, it doesn't need the big hose dragging out every time :) PS I love your sail shades!

Linda McCorkle says: April 20, 2020 at 05:00 AM

Your blog is a breathe of fresh air. I love your sweet spaces and can't wait to see your backyard transform even more. I visited Portland about 5 years ago and spent some time walking the neighborhoods (one of my favorite things to do)and I can so picture your house in one of those neighborhoods.

I love seeing photos of your backyard. It looks like such a relaxing spot. The sails are the perfect touch. Enjoy your time out there.

Stefanie Price says: April 20, 2020 at 07:07 AM

it is lovely to be out and about...and accomplishing the out and about!!!...We too are doing things we only ever "planned" or "dreamed" about doing...such as my husband building a raised planter, where I have planted probably more seeds than I needed for a starter garden!!!...Vegetables, ...and two herbs!!!...but I am ever hopeful!!!...HOPE...what a WONDERFUL THING!!!...Blessings to you and yours...

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at




Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.