We bought our house because of our backyard.

I know that might seem like a oversimplification of why we would sign away the next thirty years of our lives, but it’s mostly true.

Yes, there were a lot of things to like about our house, and we still like those things about our house, but we fell in love with the backyard. We fell in love with what it was, we fell in love with what it offered our whole family, and we fell in love with what it could be when we had both the time and the money.

We left a house with a HUGE backyard with space for our dog to run and play and for our kids to have a large playset and still wander the large expanse of both our backyard and front yard. Moving from a small city in Indiana to a suburb of the fourth largest city in the U.S., we knew that it was going to be difficult to find a house with everything we wanted. To add to that tall order? My husband wanted to fulfill his lifelong dream of having a pool (we were moving to Texas, after all) and I wanted to make sure that we still had a backyard for our kids and our new puppy to play in. A house with those specifications within the confines of our budget was a tall order, but after our first house offer was rejected, we found it: a house with the backyard of our dreams.

Or at least, it was a backyard with the potential of our dreams. The house is one of the few in our subdivision on an easement, with a gas line running underneath the middle of the grassy area of our yard. Behind the fence at the far end of the yard is a wooded area leading to an old cemetery. None of that bothered us. We had a pool right behind our house, a huge yard for the kids to run in, and after a lot of haggling at our local Sam’s Club, a playset that our kids wouldn’t outgrow for several more years.

During the first two years that we lived in the house, we did our best with overhauling the backyard. We cleaned out the extra decor from the bed behind the pool and tried to work with the little flower bed right next to the pool, but if we’re being honest, we don’t enjoy working in the outdoors. We love camping and hiking and biking and being outside, but outdoor work? We hate it. I enjoy flowers, but I hate planting them. I would really enjoy fresh vegetables and all the other benefits of an outdoor garden, but weeding is not my thing. In fact, two years ago I got bit by a couple fire ants while working in one of the backyard beds and ended up in an immediate care clinic, solidifying my belief that I am allergic to working outdoors. One would think that my failed gardening experiment at our Fort Wayne house would have been enough to let me know that I needed to leave the outdoors to the experts, but we’re cheap and I’m hopelessly stubborn. So I just kept occasionally working in the backyard with small, shortly lived victories, such as clearing out of the weeds right next to the pool and filling in the bed with mulch. It looked nice, for a couple months.

Eventually we decided it was time to get an estimate for renovating the pool area. The plaster was starting the show its age, tiles were falling off of the inside of the pool, and the flagstone coping around the outside edge was coming loose in places, rocking under our feet every time we stepped on a select few spots. We knew what we wanted: a relined pool, new coping, new tile, new concrete decking around the entire pool, new pool lights, and a new heater. We weren’t quite sure how we were going to pay for it, but we couldn’t seek a loan until we had a number.

We got a number for the entire job. The truth was, it was too much for us to pay with cash and the few loan options available to us seemed irresponsible, at best. We had spent the last several years working towards careful budgeting and making responsible, adult decisions. We needed to do what was best for our budget, not necessarily what we wanted to do. We finally decided to split the job in half. We would take care of the pool first with the cash we had on hand and then do the rest at a later date when we had more cash on hand to justify the renovation.

By the time we signed on the dotted line, this is what the pool area looked like.

The construction crew came in and drained the pool, tearing out all of the plaster, tile, and stone in and around the pool, carefully preserving the ugly pea gravel decking that we had opted to replace at a later date.

Over the course of the next couple of weeks, they cleaned up the area and put down new tile and travertine coping around the outside of the pool.

When they finally sprayed in the light blue speckled plaster inside the pool, the outdated tiles on the front of the steps were replaced with tiny blue accent tiles that matched the new edging around the entire pool.

And while the pool looks gorgeous, I was left with my nemesis: outdoor gardening labor. I finally caved. I knew that if I was going to be able to enjoy my backyard, I needed to swallow my pride, pull out my checkbook, and just pay someone to take care of the landscaping mess that surrounded my now beautiful pool.

I put out a request for names on the Nextdoor app, made some phone calls, and finally settled on a landscaper who I trusted with the care of my backyard. In the end, the mess above became this:

And while we still struggled with what to do with the bed right next to the pool, he eventually came back and dug out all of the weeds and grass that sat right next to our pool. It wasn’t the decking solution that we desperately wanted, it was what we could afford for now. We were going to have to be satisfied with a completed phase one.

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