The weather has been steadily getting more chilly in the evenings. The leaves on our maple tree are starting to turn. While I love Fall, it makes me sad to see summer go.
My husband’s favorite thing at the beginning of summer is to decide on what landscape projects to undertake. In June, he threw out all these projects to improve our yard.
Let’s add more planting beds. Let's add rock to the beds around the house. Let's plant more trees.
I just kept hearing “dollar sign, dollar sign, dollar sign.” The poor guy just wanted to convey his excitement about being able to spend time outside again. I might have rained on his parade a bit, when I said, “I don’t care about the empty flower beds with little-to-no rock left and a ripped fabric weed barrier. I hate those beds anyhow and don’t want to spend money on making those look better.”
But I had to throw him a bone and come up with a less expensive alternative. I came up with quite the list on the fly. “Let’s call this the summer of removal. Let’s remove our sad-looking, decrepit fence. I like our neighbors anyhow. Let’s get rid of the 3-foot-high and 30-foot-long burn pile.
And let's donate our overabundance of firewood that we couldn't use in 20 years and keep a reasonable amount. And please, can we get rid of our too-large-to-turn compost pile that became the critters-of-the-night's favorite place to drag eggshells onto our grass?"
He was only slightly deflated but took me seriously.
Our 13-year-old was motivated to earn money, so he tore down the chicken wire and metal post fence rather quickly. Then things stalled.
It rained the rest of June. Then it rained into July. That created 3-foot-tall weeds. Instead of tackling it early on, we did what tired parents do. We looked at the weeds. We hated the weeds. But we did not pull the weeds.
S’mores and fire pits are a must for our Idaho summers. Due to the horrendous-ness (I made up that word) of the weeds staking a claim to our fire pit, we couldn’t enjoy it. Every time I walked out there, I got overwhelmed and wanted to head back in. That was the tipping point. Idaho summers are meant to be spent outside. Over the next few weekends, we cut, sprayed, burned, and raked.
Next up, we got to work removing our piles: the only-going-to-smolder-and-create-nasty-smoke burn pile and the abundant firewood piles. We borrowed our awesome neighbor’s dump trailer and tractor.
And over the course of 3 days, we took 5.79 tons of yard waste to the dump. It sounds ridiculous. I know. But I have the receipts to prove it. There were a couple of smaller trees in there and some bricks. But still! The rest was just pinecones and weeds.
The last project was moving our fire pit to a more level area of the yard. Jim came up with this additional project. I seconded the motion since I squashed his original projects.
During the construction, I looked to my left and our 8-year-old was building a moat. The concept was great, but the dirt soaked up all his water. The camoflauged piece of bark and sole pinecone in the middle are his fort. He's a genius.
Jim and our 13-year-old started moving and stacking the lava rocks. I looked at it and said, "Don't we want it bigger than that?" So I drew a larger circle in the dirt. Then, I kept bringing random rocks hidden in piles around the yard. We stacked and re-stacked since we weren't using mortar.
The fire pit is so huge that you must step into it to place the logs.
As we sat there and looked at all we had done, we felt like our labor wasn't in vain. It was backache-inducing labor. We might have been nearly crippled and doped up on Advil, but it was a great feeling.
We celebrated with our inaugural fire pit. Our daughter struck a pose for me early that evening.
Later, as I surveyed our family around the fire pit, eating s’mores, I thought, “This. This is something I can control. This matters.”
Adding stuff to our yard wasn’t a budgeted item this year. We removed stuff instead. It encouraged us to work together to clean up our yard, gather the kids in one place, and enjoy each other around our non-weed-owned fire pit.
As we enter in fall, I hope you have the luxury of time. Time to ask yourself and reflect on, “What are the things that matter? What are the things I can control?” And then, choose to focus on those.
Since this is a financial blog, I’m going to do my obligatory analogy to investment decisions. You can’t control the markets. You can’t control international trade negotiations.
But you can control your decisions to buy into or sell out of investments. You can choose to stick to your plan. You can control how much you save. Focus on those and tune out the noise.
Cheers to Fall weather, very large fire pits, and focusing on things and people that matter!
* Carl Richards' Behavior Gap sketch use used under Creative Commons Attribution license.
* All other Images by Shannon Woolley.