How our yard makeover almost broke our marriage

Yard photo at sunrise by Jewel Allen


I have a new firefighter romance to draft, but I need to get this off my chest. I need to share my tale of how our yard makeover almost broke my marriage.

This is what happened…


We had been in this house for ten years when we finally decided we needed to re-do our entire yard. We live on six acres of horse property out in the country, but carved out only a half acre for our home and yard. When we first moved in, we’d commissioned barns and fences. To simplify matters (and due to cash flow realities), the yard simply involved lawn in the front, side, and back.

Fast forward ten years later, and our kids have grown and flown, and we’re empty nesters. We’re back to hosting little babies, this time our married children with their children. The use of our yard has evolved over time. We’re back to having a dog, even though I vowed, after our beagle Emmie died, that I would never have a dog again; losing one would be too painful.

So, with a casual inventory of what our yard needed, we could at least agree upon: a dog run, a back lawn for sports, a sport court, low-maintenance flower beds, and xeriscaping.


We knew right away that we were in trouble. We had three different contractors come to bid on our yard, but my husband and I couldn’t agree on the elements we wanted. I wanted a fence for our return to dog ownership; he questioned if that was a need. I wanted to go ahead and put in a playset, though our grandkids are still babies. In the end, I mostly got my way, though I did agree to his soccer lawn.

I suggested working with a landscape architect, and my husband reluctantly agreed. Even that process had its share of headaches, but ultimately, getting a design professionally done was worth every single penny.

If I were to advise anyone attempting a yard makeover, it would be this: get a plan on paper.


Having a design helped with contractor bids. This time, we could truly compare apples to apples. If the contractor had a question, we only needed to say, “Look at the design.”

Having a professional design also meant that I had fewer decisions to make. I don’t recommend this to everyone, but our designer even picked out our plants. Luckily, once they were delivered from the nursery, we liked them. I might have gone with more showy flowering bushes, but they are all drought tolerant. Living in Utah, that’s a big deal.

Xeriscaped plantings

Once we got bids and got over the sticker shock (somewhat), we picked our contractors and they got to work.

Before embarking on a full yard makeover, one must assess the health of one’s marriage, to make sure it can withstand the stresses of dealing with contractors and ever-shifting schedules. We tried to save money by cobbling together one main contractor, and sub other parts. I could totally see why we would have paid more for someone to organize it all.

Every day raised a new set of questions and collaborations between the landscaper and the concrete guy, the fence guy and the electrician. When someone got behind, as they invariably did, I (working from home) was caught in the middle, trying to smooth things out, trying to get back on someone’s schedule.

I cried many tears. My poor husband had to endure my nightly tirades. I fired our initial fire pit contractor, delaying the project further.

“How badly do you want a fire pit?” I railed against my husband as we stared down another two weeks of delays.

The firepit

In the end, it all worked out.

That plan on paper actually translated to the real thing, with maybe a few tweaks here and there. The whole yard is done, except for an addition to our driveway, which should be completed in two weeks, weather permitting.

For Labor Day yesterday, two of our kids and their families came over and we played pickle ball on our new sport court, played a game of fetch with the dogs on our lawn, and swung on the new play set for the grandkids. We ran out of time, or we’d have sat around the fire pit.



When our kids first saw the makeover, they marveled and said, “Wow, this is nothing like it was two months ago.” And I looked around, marveling too. It all feels like a dream, like I had simply woken up one morning and everything sprang up overnight.

But it didn’t. Don’t I know it! I give credit to the amazing craftsmen who made over our yard, one layer at a time, and who didn’t quit even though I am sure I gave them every reason to.

And my husband, well. He deserves sainthood for his patience through the whole project. But then again, he’s gotten quite a bit of practice over the past 33 years being married to me.

In another ten years, who knows how the yard will look like? But I’ll enjoy it for now.

Yard path


Thank you for reading!

Check out my novels and my quick guides to writing and publishing fast for profit.