The Project Begins . . .

Before we started in on landscaping, I wanted to upgrade the fence to a 6′ privacy fence. What I wanted was a very specific 6′ vinyl fence in a dark brown with a wood grain. In 2022, I found a contractor out of town who had exactly what I was looking for and he often works in Omaha. Viola!

My husband (Adam) balked at the price. “Let’s do a wood fence – it will cost half that.”

My brain rewound to childhood. . . . me, in the summer heat, staining the wood fence that surrounded our garden. Not just once. Several times. Wood fences are pretty in the short run. But I didn’t want to install a fence that required maintenance.

A debate ensued.

It took me a year to wear him down. The fence was installed in 2023.

This video shows the fence as we began prepping the backyard for dirt moving.

A Sloping Yard

The backyard has always sloped down towards the back of the lot. We agreed that it was time to get rid of the slope.

The question was . . . HOW?

I had ideas, but I had no clue where to start.

I watched a bunch of YouTubes and looked at photos online.

I knew I wanted to create intimate spaces in the backyard.

A shady nook. A sunny corner. A firepit. A patio with an outdoor kitchen.

I wanted the deck space to be private . . . almost “enclosed”. I wanted coziness.

And I wanted pathways that pulled me from one intimate space to another.

I gathered information.

Adam and I spent hours taking measurements. We spent many dark nights in the backyard with a laser level. We consulted with nurseries and landscape designers until we found a designer who clicked. I could visualize what I wanted and where I wanted it. I could verbalize it. Our landscape designer listened and walked the yard with us. She went back to her office and put the concepts on paper.

I poured over her plan. We made some tweaks. Regrouped. Made a few more tweaks.

With a plan in hand, we could push forward.

Dirt Moving

Adam estimated that we needed to remove about 100 yards of dirt.

He found a guy who retired from a local construction company and then bought all his own equipment. He moves dirt for “fun”. Adam hired him.

The dirt mover started on April 3rd.

We wanted to create a retaining wall that ran from the front yard to the backyard. There were several obstacles, including a gas line where we wanted to put a wall. Digging was slow and tentative.

We wanted to level out this area in front of the house and create a flat path to the backyard gate on the right side.

Utilities marked.

Leveling the side yard prior to the wall build

Backyard digging begins

Backyard digging begins

Old patio removed

Backyard from the roof

Sometimes things have to get worse before they can get better, right?

High tech discussion over the vision.

Things are leveling out.

THIRTY dump truck loads of dirt – gone!

Here’s a quick video of how things looked as the big equipment was wrapping up.

The Retaining Walls

After the dirt moving, preparations began for the retaining walls. These photos were taken April 16th.

Retaining wall block delivered and staged in preparation for walls

Retaining wall block and gravel for front yard wall build

The first wall – in process. This wall will run from the driveway all the way to the backyard.

Second wall added inside the first wall. April 30th.

Landscape plan

Landscape Plan

This plan is ever evolving.

front walls

Lower wall plants were added last weekend. Upper area still needs to be leveled out before we can add plants. 5.8.24

Rain, Rain Go Away! – May 2024

Before we began this project, my husband said we should wait until after the Spring rains.

My response to that suggestion has come back to haunt me. I said there was no way we were going to wait for Spring rains that never come. Look at the last several years! Drought.

I said, nope – not waiting. Let’s go!

And so we did.

Truth: May 2023 was the driest May on record with .17″ of rain the entire month.

I should have known better. I basically called the rain Gods. I asked for this.

May 2024 – the 2nd wettest May on record with almost 12″. That kind of precipitation is what Omaha would normally expect from January – June. Six months worth. When your entire yard is dirt, you can’t even walk around when it’s muddy.

When we started digging, we pushed the topsoil into piles. Underneath the topsoil: clay. You take one step, and your entire shoe is covered in mud. Every additional step adds a layer and pretty soon, you can’t pick up your feet. There’s just no way to work when it’s wet.

We are way behind schedule and are sitting in a mud-filled disaster.

In between the rains, a ridiculous amount of dirt continues to be moved and leveled. A portion of what little sod remained had to be removed. And old tree roots from a large silver Maple we took out have interfered with everything. Everywhere you dig, more roots. 

I’m spending many hours with a shovel and wheelbarrow.

I’m finding the physical labor to be quite enjoyable. When the sun shines and I can get out there and help with the progress, I’m in heaven. I fall into bed completely exhausted. I like that. I like it very much.

I’m also in charge of tidying up the area next to the wall . . . removing excess gravel, hauling it to another space where gravel is still needed, then filling it with top soil.  Meanwhile, we’ve also started painting the exterior of the house. Last week, I painted the area around the deck.

One Little Win

I had purchased the perennials for the upper front wall and was dying to get them in. First, we had to level the upper wall and it took a long time and lots of wheelbarrows of dirt. Now, it’s planted. Mostly. I was waiting on delivery of five Fire Light Tidbit Hydrangeas that I couldn’t find locally. They finally arrived – damaged in shipment. Reordered. Still waiting. So, there’s a patch of dirt on the side of the top wall that is still pending.

Here’s the before and after . . .