attack of the man-eating pecan tree

PSSST: see an updated version of all things back yard, here!

So, I have a dirty little secret to share with all of you.

I’m here, a bit nervous, as what I am about to reveal is not for the faint at heart. But let’s start from the beginning, so you can have a little bit of our backstory…shall we?

Before we proceed, I need each of you to raise your right hand. Good. Now repeat after me. DO IT. “I, faithful reader {and for some: not-so-much-I-just-stumbled-upon-you-today-and-if-you-don’t-make-your-stinkin-point-I-be-movin-on} solemnly swear not to judge Jamin and/or Ashley for the scene they are about to reveal before me”

Once upon a time, when we moved into our home, we had a back porch. No. Wait for it. This isn’t the ugly part. This is the plain part. And it was a porch, and we were happy. {Our last house had a 12 x 12 slab of concrete sans any roof, so we were totally pumped, as we are not complete and total ingrates-but seriously, can I just say, who paints a house brown? As well as the entire inside? Just sayin.} On the right is Jamin posed in our newly sodded and oh so plain pretty back porch. Who’s that kid he’s holding? That’s not Malone. Aiden turns 6 this August. {Yep… I just may cry. Can we say preschool graduation=sobfest? digression.} We moved in at the top of the market, and that was 4 years ago.

This was our first official “real” transformation in our house. We added a slab-o-concrete, cut and stained it. I was totally preggers with Emmy, so Jamin painted the porch. we found some furniture at Tarjay and added that, along with a swing welded by a local artist. TADA! Add a firepit, and we had an outdoor room. Then last spring, after baby no. 3 had arrived, we decided to finish off that porch, into a sunroom, to give us more square footage. So we added a wall.

and this is usually what you see. We built a wall, laid some tile, we painted, I sewed, and refinished some furniture…etc. The room was complete.

But beyond those walls…beyond this facade of a happy space…the truth lurked. Scary. And ugly. Brace yourselves. Because at about this time last spring, we completely and totally let our back yard…go. We were both pretty busy with the kids, and launching our furniture painting and my art, and well, it just fell by the wayside. So the completely unedited photos of this samford and son inspired back yard are, understandably disturbing.

{gasp!} I know. Try not to lose consciousness at the horrible scene that lay before you. We have a love hate relationship with the man-eating pecan tree in our back yard. She {we call her Bertha} kills our grass, allows a plethora of weeds to grow in its place, {okay. maybe that’s us} and in return, houses killer wombats from outer space, as well as opossums and other creatures that continue to bombard us a-la swiss family robinson…constantly.┬áThink snakes. On a plane.

The tree is pretty. But quite evil. Evil Bertha. Sigh.

True story: We unwittingly saved a field mouse the size of my foot on Monday from certain death…but that’s another story for another day. And no, it wasn’t a rat. It was a mouse. I wear a size 7.5. I’m afraid. So, here you have it. After the storms of last week, after the latest pollen invasion, we have this yard. It gives us shade. And we respect life, so we would never cut her down. But really. Sometimes the cons are bigger than those pros. And Jamin and I realized it was time to get serious about our yard. The photos make it look better than it is. That’s what photos do. And I realized I needed to start treating my outdoors, just like I treat my indoors. I guess for starters, I should stop ignoring it.

{Check out my crete. Bummer.} + that pollen is the bane of my existence.

womp. womp.

There is no real landscaping. There is nowhere for the kids to really play. As Emerson would say, “This is BOW-ING!” {boring. sans R. and no, I don’t know why those chairs are in the middle of our yard.}

So I sat down, and of all people, I made MYSELF an inspiration board. And Jamin and I are taking a look at that budget, and devising a plan. A process that will take place this summer to make our space a better place. So we can start having shindigs like this, by the time the weather starts to cool in the fall:

{I’ve been wanting to do this forever. With an ice cream bar, of course.} You’re all invited.

So here’s a few ideas I came up with.

I wanted to share this with all of you today, for the simple fact that I am hardcore excited. Maybe some of you have a few of the same problems we do. But either way, we’ll be sharing the process of making our backyard more “user friendly” this summer. So, Let’s begin, shall we?

1. + 6. + 3. + 11. I love the idea of exotic lighting, and handmade fixtures, and simple photographs like this share some great inspiration. I love to jump on ambience first. {true to form, par for course.} Forget the fact that we need to start with simple things like, pruning our man eating pecan tree. Putting in some fresh sod. Or weeding the yard. Let’s make it purdy! {and you’re surprised, why?} Technically, all of this should come last. But I believe that you should start with what you’re the most excited about in any project. Because later this summer, when I am cursing my own birth in the 105 degree Alabama heat, as I hammer another nail into the kids playhouse, I can remind myself of the lights. My ultimate goal in all of this. And this is one of my top loves. So, here we are. Lighting. Humor me.

via pottery barn – so far, they have the prettiest ones, and their prices aren’t outlandish {??!!} I’m sure I’ll find some more. Because that’s how I roll.

via kate miller events

via flower wild designs

via style me pretty

This is going to sound stupid. But I’m going to say it anyway: I want my back yard to give people that feeling when they walk the main street of Disney World, before the fireworks show. You know those beautiful twinkling lights they have in all the trees, year round? I worked there in college. {claim. fame.} And every night, I would watch the guests, and the excitement that loomed in the air, around all the children and their parents and those twinkling lights. So, at the risk of sounding weird and/or like michael jackson, I want my yard to feel like a vacay. To evoke an atmosphere of wonderment. I want it to feel like the subtle touches of ambience via disney world. Because a little ambience can go an awful long way…

I spied this little treasure on first dibs. But I’m not gonna buuuuuuuyyyyy hiiiiimmmmm…

2. I’m kind of over my cafe chairs and table. That set started out as our kitchen furniture when we were first hitched, and my taste changed. But it does make a great outdoor set and for now, the budget isn’t allowing some kind of crazy furniture exchange, and I think an update is in order with a new coat of paint. Or two. Think Benjamin Moore’s baby’s breath with Woodlawn Blue. We’ll see what the combinations become. I can’t wait to give these guys a fresh face.

4. Especially when paired with: some spiffy new fabric combos.

It’ll be something bold, but these outdoor fabrics are just asking to reupholster my cushions.


5. I’d absolutely adore some potted veggie plants, and a lime plant in particular. When I was pregnant, I ate around two limes a day. With salt. True story. And I still love them in my water. There’s just something kinda fun/convenient/exotic about a potted lemon/lime/orange plant.

7. One of the main elements that I think will transform our yard, would be raised flower gardens. I’d love some rocks in the mix as well, but the idea of handmade crates in the backyard, serving as retaining walls, to hold a nice mix of textures…kind of rocks my world. We need to do our research to find out what will survive well in each part of our yard, and plant accordingly. What we need more than anything is a majority of self sustainable plants. Ana White, of course, has a simple plan for making them at 10 bucks a pop, out of fence posts. Kinda gotta keep it affordable.

via diggin food

via diggin food

via purple area

this can even be used for window boxes…IN a pergola.

or as a fabulous sand box.

I love the combo of these flowers. A nice mixed look like this would add insta-interest.

8. As far as my sad, faded concrete, it’s funny how the smallest hints in photos can spark an idea.

this flooring on our back porch…would create some major character…and freshen up the area, instantly. What do I need to do? Pick out two contrasting colors in floor/outdoor paint {basically the best stuff I can find} and paint in my diamonds.

9. Just for fun: I think everyone should have a small collection of mason Jars. And a hydrangea plant. Or two. So they can fill them to the brim when guests arrive.

10. Of course, I know what that concrete block is ultimately calling for. I think we all do.

People have long made a fine art out of the pergola. I once thought they were expensive, and unattainable. {via better homes and gardens} But the simpler the design, the more attainable they really are.

via HGTV: I’m in love with this super simple look. I combined these photos for a quick mock up, so I could see some of the difference a simple paint and wood treatment would make…

Don’t you just love my silly little mock up? But… I did all that to show you this: such a vast difference. And these are just a few simple changes. Now picture it with twinkle cafe lights, covered in jasmine. And a little garden in the background, with the house painted a delightful light grey. AHHHH. I think I’m gonna love these changes… And the shindigs that are soon to ensue…

Of course, I had to dig up a little inspiration on our main event of the summer. Think: mini screen door. Vintage windows. Fun little shutters. And Emerson would no longer be proclaiming the back yard as “BOW-ING.”

A combination of the feminine…

and the masculine…

but built on its own little deck, of course.

via hus and hem.

Hope you all have an inspired weekend. Even if it is “just” mowing your lawn.

Don’t miss our backyard bliss series, here!

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26 Responses to attack of the man-eating pecan tree

  1. Christina says:

    Ok so seriously don’t feel bad about your backyard… as you just made me feel better. Not because I have this fabulous backyard that’s better than yours or anything either. I’m right in there with you in the Sanford & Son’s department with no grass- just a paved (as in blacktop)skinny “patio” for a backyard and then a foresty slope going up. So feel better, you at least have the bones of a real backyard and ideas of what to do with yours. I’m kinda at a loss. And now I can’t get the Sanford & Son’s theme song out of my head. ;)

  2. Sarah Stahl says:

    LOVE It!!! Since moving in almost 1 year ago, we share the same kinds of feelings towards our backyard that you do. I have been careful about making the changes as i want them to be just right…but I have been making plans to go in a similar direction and you have inspired me greatly!!!! Thanks!!

  3. vanessa says:

    I feel for ya. We finally have the inside of the house pretty much finished so now it is time for the back yard. Ours backyard reno involves new beds & sod, grading and irrigation. I really wish it involved a bulldozier digging a pool! I bought those pb lights at Target last year. I had to get the solor ones, I guess they didn’t do exterior plugs in 1950 but they had the plug in type too.

  4. louise says:

    OMGoodness! I think we’d best friends if we knew each other! We have the same dilemna, except with a cedar tree. Huge cedar tree… He too is beautiful, but evil. It actually covers ours and our two neighbor’s yards. It let’s nothing grow. He says to the other plants, ‘Only Me and nothing else. I will drink all the water and poison all you other plants with my acidic soil I leave behind. And I will drink up all the sun! Ha, Ha, HA!!!’ And your inspiration pics. Love them! I actually have about half of those saved for my yard inspiration. And the ones I don’t have, I love. And the yellow swing! How wonderful!!! I might have to make one of those for our beach house!

  5. jami nato says:

    all of that is super cute…love the ideas! can’t wait to see what you come up with.

  6. LOVE it! We have an awesome backyard space with so much potential. I love to entertain outside but lately I’ve been embarrassed by the sad state of our yard. For Mother’s Day, I asked to spiff up the area, so hopefully that’s what we’ll be working on this weekend. Your post was perfect timing for a little inspiration. I can’t wait to check back over the next few months and see what the final results are!

  7. Jill says:

    First of all, I love, love, love it! Love it all. Loved the patio before the screened in room. LOVE the sun room! LOVE, LOVE the ideas for improving the patio! But, I must ask, where did you get your little love seat/bench in your sun room. I have been looking for a bench like that for my kitchen table and have no idea where to find something like that. You have inspired me to overhaul my boring backyard. Can’t wait, just wish I had more money! :)
    Thanks for sharing!

  8. Jennifer says:

    our backyard…is a hill. That’s it! (At least it’s good for the kids to roll down in the summer and sled down in the winter!) So I shall live vicariously through your backyard revamp; I’m loving the ideas!

  9. Dorothy says:

    I have a strong feeling that whatever you do will turn out beautifully. And don’t worry, here in Minnesota, we’re one of the few houses around that isn’t painted a ubiquitous tan/brown/greige color I refer to as “elephant dung.” We have trees we hate to get rid of but that pretty much wreck our lawn and shed nastily too. I think it’s an ongoing battle owning property. :) Have a terrific Mother’s Day.

  10. Yarnista says:

    Normally, I would say something about how awesome your choices and ideas are, because they always are, and I do love them.

    But I’m not talking to you this morning. It is May 7th and we still have no leaves on the trees here in Northern Minnesota. This is your fault in some way, yes? You are stealing all the vegetation? Your pecan tree is diverting all the nutrients from us? What did Minnesota ever do to you, Ashley? What?


  11. Haha thanks guys-I guess were trying to pump ourselves up! ;) glad to know were not alone! and yes, yarnista-it’s already been quite hot here in good ole tropics of the south Alabama. At least you have enjoyable summers? ;)

  12. Judy says:

    Love these ideas! I have been dreaming about a pergola in our backyard since I realized the builder screwed us on ours…. When you figure out the logistics of attaching it to the side of the house (why didn’t I think of that?) let me know. Our “patio” is so stinkin narrow. Better yet, when you decide what weekend to do it let me know and I’ll send B over to help!

  13. Alima says:

    Love all your ideas! This post took me twice as long to read as it should have because I kept stopping to “pin” pictures! :)
    Oh and I am totally taking you up on that inviation for the outside movie and ice cream bar! I’ll bring my fav – Haggan Daz Chocolate Peanut Butter :)

  14. Holly says:

    Love all your ideas. It made me think of our pecan tree we had when we lived in SC. It was hot there too! We planted hydrangeas under the pecan tree and they did really well. Our pecan tree was much more overgrown than yours. Our branches almost touched the ground,so you couldn’t really see the hydrangeas…great for cutting.
    Good luck!

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  16. Amy says:

    I love your ideas and I love the whole Disney World thought.

    So nice to visit with you. Amy

  17. Thank Goodness–you are normal! Love your plans! Glad to see we all hide a little something! hehehehehe!

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