Thursday, July 9, 2020

My Practically Perfect Patio

Last fall, our next-door neighbors cut down a huge Douglas fir that had lived in their backyard long before it ever was a backyard. Most likely the tree was second growth - as opposed to original, unlogged, first growth which is the most pristine forest imaginable in these here Pacific Northwest parts, and mostly exists only in protected places. But a second-growth tree is no slouch, and it was a glorious monument that had towered over their yard and ours since the day we moved in, and I grieved to see it go.

Thank goodness I wasn't home when they cut it down. 

But once the dust had settled and my tears dried, I realized that there was a fabulous silver lining. 

My formerly shady backyard is now drenched in evening sunshine.

Dominoes continued to fall this summer:

Making room for the guys to work on our new fences led to me cutting back a psychotically huge clematis - don't worry, that pup is still alive and kicking, and already growing back.

Once the vine was whacked back, I removed the big cedar trellis upon which said clematis was draped. This trellis had a lovely seat built underneath the arch, for reading Jane Austen and sipping lemonade, which of course is why I bought it. But while sitting on the trellis seat, snails living in the vines overhead would intermittently rain down on the seated humans, and let me tell you, that is not cool at all. Jane would not approve.

And while I was busy taming my green beast, my back-door neighbors whittled back an enormous butterfly bush that was trespassing merrily on this same corner of my yard. 

Once all these changes fell into place, I discovered that this corner of the yard was a perfect spot for dinner.
See where the sun is? That is exactly where the giant Doug fir used to stand. By five p.m. on summer evenings, my backyard lay mostly in its shadow.

 Just one bitty little problem though.

You know how that goes. Any good idea always has a bitty little problem attached, and ninety-five percent of the project's time, money, and sweat ends up directed to that devilish complication.

The problem here was that this corner patio was designed with that whomping clematis and snail-dropping trellis in mind, so it didn't go all the way to the fence. We left about two feet of soil around the pavers and planting it with ground cover. You know, so the snails would have a nice, soft landing after we brushed them out of our hair and off the pages of Pride and Prejudice, then ran away screaming.

So with the clematis and trellis gone, the snails sent packing, and the ground cover ripped out with my bare and very determined hands, I now had a weird gap of soil between the patio and the fence.

This was my little bitty problem.
Gracie's my go-to tail model.

Well, no worries. My fourth-born and I laid those big slate stones with our own bare and very determined hands about five years ago, so it was no big thing to head back to the stone yard and grab a few more.

I shop at a stone yard like many women flock to Nordstrom's Half Yearly. It's just my idea of a really good time, and while I'm picking out whatever it is I came for, I'm also oogling the stacks and stalls of beautiful specimens, and dreaming up projects so I can come back and buy more.

I bought these slate pavers at Mutual Materials in Bellevue, but my favorite place to wander and dream is Terrazzo and Stone Supply in Marysville.
Yeah, that purple trellis is definitely crooked. Thank goodness, now I have something to fix this weekend.

But wait, said my husband, who loves nothing more than to think up little bitty problems and lob them across my creative plate.

The existing patio is higher than the bottom of the fence. If you bring the pavers right up to the fence, the sand and gravel will bury the first couple inches of the fence boards.

Gah. That's not going to happen.

But this is not my first at-bat, and I'm well-acquainted with my husband's change-up pitch.

I came up with an answer fast.

Alright, fine. Then I'll lay a ridge of blocks just a few inches inside the fence as a mini retaining wall. That will keep the patio level and the sand off the wood.


I knocked that pitch straight out of the park.
Of course, the stone guys no longer carry the exact match for my existing stones, which are the darker ones you see here. The new kids are lighter in color, and a bit sparkly. But I mixed them in as best I could and in the end, they look fine.

So that's exactly what I did.

To be completely honest, I consider the finished effect to be a tiny bit janky. If I really wanted to solve the problem correctly, I would take out all the slate stones, regrade the entire gravel bed to be level with the bottom of the fence, and then relay the whole patio.

That sounds like a ridiculous amount of work, doesn't it.

So you know, later this summer, if I find myself with a slow weekend on my hands, I can always do that.
But for now, I just want to enjoy my dinner in the golden sunshine. And so I'm calling this patio expansion project practically perfect and officially complete. 

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