If I had to describe 2020 in one word then I would describe it as a year of change. We all experienced change in small, big, and meaningful ways last year. With that change, came uncertainty and even fear which made it a very stressful year for most of us. For many, it was a year of disappointment and loss, including me. The pandemic paused life as we know it, taking away a lot of the freedom we once took for granted, and forcing us to adjust our lives to a new way of doing things including constant lockdowns and social distancing. Personally, my career as a travel writer came to a grinding halt. Travel bans were put in place and we still cannot travel to most countries since the US has experienced the worst impacts of Covid19. Creating travel content was my job. It was all I’ve done for the last 5 years and it was really tough to come to terms with the overall change of direction in my life.
How We Dealt with it All.
However, I just want to tell you it means so much to me that a lot of you want to read about what’s going on in my life and thank you for following me here and on Instagram. I’m incredibly grateful for the adventures I’ve had thus far and believe more adventure awaits. We just have to get over this exceptionally large hump otherwise know as Covid19. Despite 2020 being absolutely bonkers, I feel pretty thankful for having experienced it. Why would I be thankful for such a crappy year? Well, while Covid19 is certainly a tragedy of epic and global proportions, my family has dealt with the pandemic in fairly healthy ways. The pandemic forced us all to slow down and brought many of us closer together. That togetherness is something I’ve learned is of great value to me. Before the pandemic, I was constantly on the road traveling from one destination to another. I would often not see my husband for weeks and weeks at a time. I was never home and that’s not even being dramatic. Sure, my life turned a quick 180 degrees but it made me look at living in a different light.
For a while, I felt stuck. I felt miserable. I felt like a loser because everything I worked for was just jerked away by a tiny, little virus. It took some time but eventually I started to see the positive side of everything occurring. I grew closer to my family…and I feel as though Alfred and I have grown closer as well. 2020 opened my eyes to the smaller more important things in life that, when taken together as a whole, are actually a really big deal. A roof over my head, food in my belly, my health and ability to recover from disease, my family and friends, my pets…all of these became significantly more important to me. This is why I am grateful to have lived through the year 2020. It also gave us plenty of time to focus on garden projects which I’ll get to in a minute.
Recognizing My Privilege
While I can go on and on about how terrible it felt to have my entire world rocked and my career stopped by Covid19, I have to also recognize my privilege in this situation. Before the pandemic, I was a full-time travel writer and content creator. Whenever anyone asked me what my occupation was, they’d always be surprised and impressed saying something to the extent of “I sure wish I could do that.” For many people, to travel as much as I have in the last 5 years is certainly a dream and it’s often not realistically achievable. In this sense, I am definitely privileged. On top of this, even before the pandemic, it wasn’t really necessary for me to make a lot of money from my occupation. We have other means of making money so I am free to pursue my passions in life, with travel being one of those passions. During the pandemic, my family’s economic situation hasn’t really changed for the worst. We’ve not lost any income and have continued living our life as we normally would save for the exception of travel. We have no experienced the fear of not being able to pay our bills like so many other people during these troubling times. After this pandemic, we hope to continue our life, raveling often, running our respective businesses, and doing the most good. All of this mean, I am economically privileged and it’s important to recognize that.
Without that privilege, we wouldn’t have been able to carry out all the projects we did in 2020. We recognize there are many people whose lives were and are totally disrupted and thrown into disarray as a result of this pandemic. To any of you suffering as a result, we hope things get better as soon as possible.
2020 Travel Recap
I know this article is about our garden DIY projects but I’ve decided to include a small portion about the trips we were able to take in 2020. To start, we rang in the New Year in France. Alfred and I took a trip to France at the end of December and spent New Year’s Eve in Paris at Open Bar. After that we took a road trip from Paris to Troyes to Strasbourg to Grenoble and back to Paris. It was such a fun trip even if we didn’t know it would be our last international adventure for a long time. Later, at the end of February, we traveled to California for the Travel Mom’s weekend getaway which was so much fun! We used the trip as an opportunity to also visit Palm Springs staying at a clothing-optional resort as well as visiting Joshua Tree. I fell in love with Joshua Tree and realized I want to own a home there. During the trip to California is when I contracted Covid19 then we didn’t travel again until September. We went camping in the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia with our family. I love camping!
So that’s that. There were no other trips and there haven’t been any in 2021 either. I can’t wait for the pandemic to end.
The Beginning of Our Garden Projects
Our garden projects all began with garden beds. We simply wanted to build a few, new garden beds to make it look prettier out there…that’s all. That was the plan. We definitely thought we would not have enough time to focus on doing as much as we ended up doing because this virus would be short lived and under control quickly. Boy, were we wrong. As you all know, the virus still is not under control which means we had more time than we ever imagined to work on our home and garden. The match that lit the fire for us was when I fell down the hillside in our garden and hurt my hand. We were carrying lumber into the garden which required me to carry large pieces down a hill. I slipped, fell, and the lumber landed on my arm. A couple x-rays later, Alfred decide it was a good idea to build some stairs into the garden. This project really created a domino effect of improvements throughout the summer. So, let’s hop into it.
Garden Projects 1: Garden Steps
As I said earlier, the stairs really set off the project conveyor belt at our home in 2020. When I fell down that hillside and hurt myself, it made us see the area was pretty dangerous and needed to be remedied. Alfred decided he would build a brand new set of stairs leading from our garage area into the garden. He made them of treated lumber and river stones. The steps look amazing and it’s so much easier to access the garden now!
Garden Projects 2: Garden Beds
Now, this was originally the main purpose in getting started with the garden improvement projects. Our old garden beds were simply hideous and could hardly be called garden beds. We tore those beds out the ground and were left with a blank slate. Alfred and I designed some pretty fun shaped beds on paper and then Alfred worked tirelessly to build them. He also built beds around our grape vines and blueberry bushes. At the time, I wasn’t able to help with this project because of an injury. He did an amazing job! I did help paint all the wood for the beds though!
Garden Projects 3: Garden Pavilion
This was one of the biggest projects we took on over the summer and it was entirely spur of the moment. After we were finished building the garden beds, we decided we wanted to build a seating area near them in. This small project grew larger and larger until it turned into a garden pavilion project. We spent about a month building the garden pavilion and dubbed it The Drinking Shack. It’s a wonderful place to hang out in warmer months. If you’re interested in building your own garden pavilion then take a look at my article about our process.
Garden Projects 4: Firepit
Randomly, I decided to dig a firepit in the middle of the hot summer. Well, it wasn’t really that random. To be honest, I wanted a place to burn some sticks in things we’d gathered from the garden and firepit is perfect for doing this. At the time, the city of Raleigh was not picking up yard waste so I needed a solution. Well, I dug an awesomely large fire pit that’s perfect for small bonfires. This is one of the garden projects I’m most excited about because I did all on my own and it’s been a great place for gathering with our family.
Garden Projects 5: Goldfish Pond
This was by far the most labor intensive project we carried out in 2020. It took us well over a month to complete thanks to figuring things out as we went. We decided we wanted a water feature in our garden and not just any water feature. No, we didn’t want a simple fountain. Instead we opted to build a 3,000 gallon goldfish pond complete with waterfall. This project was the most difficult thing we built. Of course, we decided to do this during the hottest portion of summer so you can imagine the stress, frustration, and determination it took to complete the project. In the end, we create a lovely area of the garden with quite a few goldfish. It really is so pretty to look at and we feel really proud after all the work we put in.
Garden Projects 6: Garden Walkways
Once we had a few new beds and a beautiful new garden pavilion built, we looked around and felt like it was all incomplete. We needed nice garden walkways and that turned into a sizeable project. I’ve never bought or carried so many bags of river pebbles before. In total, for what we’ve completed to this day, I think we bought about 300 bags of stones. It was quite the undertaki9ng and required weeding, leveling the ground, compacting the soil, laying weed control cloth, and pouring rocks. In the end, I think it looks really nice.
Garden Projects 7: Pollinator Pavilion
We had this grand idea for building a small rose garden in the bigger garden but then realized roses really need tons of sunlight. Since this something we are short on due to the abundance of trees on and surrounding our property, we decided to instead build a pollinator pavilion. We built a really neat looking garden bed and then planted it with a plethora of different shade tolerant flowering plants to attract pollinators to our garden. Eventually, the large open space in front of the pollinator bed will become a pavilion with pavers creating a flat surface where we can sit and enjoy the garden.
Garden Projects 8: Wood Drying Shed
The last update to our garden is a wood drying shed my stepdad built for us with one of his friends. We had so many projects going on and, as a result, we simply could not build the shed ourselves. My stepdad offered to build it and it looks amazing. One side of the shed is open for storing wood to dry. The other side of the shed has a door and lock for storing items such as all my outdoor cooking pots and pans.
As you can see, we used the year 2020 to really get our act together and make our home a much better place to live. The garden development continues this year and will continue on into the future.
What did you do in 2020?
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