We planned to put a cement-paver patio on the west side of the house, off the dining room. There is a sliding glass door there and we had always planned a small grilling deck for the space. Then we realized how much time we spend on that side of the yard (nearly all of our time outdoors) and decided we would really like a bigger deck. After marking off where the expanded deck would sit with stakes and string, we realized that with the slope of the yard, the far end of the deck would be much higher off the ground than we wanted. We wanted something that would flow more smoothly, something that would transition from the house to the yard almost seemlessly. A standard deck wasn't going to work. Then we looked at the option of a tiered deck with a couple of steps between tiers. The trouble with that was that the tiers would break up the large space into spaces too small for the patio furniture that we envisioned out there.
Where we have landed now is a small deck off the door (just big enough to sit down and tie your shoes) with a couple of wide end-to-end steps down to a cement-paver patio.
Cliff had been working on removing and rebuilding our limestone retaining wall since we would need it to be about twice as long as it was initially. I had been digging the gravel and dirt out from behind the old retaining wall so Cliff could remove the limestone rocks in order to extend the wall.
This is the view from what will soon be the patio, down to the lower level of the yard. Cliff is working on extending the limestone retaining wall. The first half of the wall was built using limestone reclaimed from the foundation of the old barn that once stood right where our house now stands. We had to buy limestone from a local quarry in order to extend the wall as we had used up all of the big pieces we had saved from the old barn.
The view above is from the lower part of the yard looking up at the side of the house where the patio is going. (This picture was obviously taken AFTER we had the gravel spread.)
Cliff borrowed a friend's tractor that was a little better suited to yard work than our big farm tractors to haul gravel for the base of the patio. Gavin helped, of course!
It was a beautiful spring night, the kind where the sun streams through the trees in glowing rays of yellow and gold as it lowers in the early evening sky. The sky was an intense blue. The temperature was in the high sixties and we were perfectly comfortable jeans and a long-sleeved shirt.
When we were finished with the tractor, Cliff loaded it up on the trailer to return it to our friend. It was long past dinner time by now and I didn't have any ideas since we'd been busy outside. I was in the mood for something filling! When Cliff came back from returning the tractor, he brought dinner home from Dairy Queen! Yum!
Just then we heard the roar of a hot air balloon coming near. We couldn't see it yet as it was still behind the trees, but we knew it was nearby and heading our direction. We live about a mile East of the St. Croix River and the valley that we live in is a very popular place for hot air ballooning. It's always fun to see the balloons float over the farm. I would love to ride in a hot air balloon and always tell Cliff "someday I want to do that". He has no interest in riding in a hot air balloon, so I'll be going on that adventure on my own. Someday...
It wasn't too long before the balloon cleared the trees and passed right by us between our house and Cliff's parents' farm. We watched it as it crossed over our soybean fields and soon landed perfectly on the road between the county line and the small cemetery near our farm. We hopped into the Ranger and rode over there to get a closer look at the landing and the packing up of the balloon. I'm always amazed how many people fit into the basket of the balloons - they never look that big from below on the ground!
This was such a magnificently perfect night, a night I'll always remember. The progress on the patio project made us feel great, the DQ picnic was delicious and satisfying, and the hot air balloon spectacle was a perfect ending to the night. I guess you could say we enjoyed dinner and a show! It was perfect!