We added to our hay bale garden this year, a vegetable garden on the left and an herb garden on the right. Last year, we planted two strawberry plants in our little garden, not knowing that they would totally take over the entire plot and make it impossible to plant anything else without ripping them out. We also did not know that they really don't start producing until they've been in the ground for a few years, so clearly they are here to stay.
We put in some regular basil and Thai basil, sage, rosemary, lavender, sage and peppermint. We'll see how it goes - last year our basil did horribly which was a big disappointment - especially in the winter when there was no homemade pesto in the freezer - but the sage grew out of control. Everything else did okay, as far as the herbs went (the vegetables were all a huge bust). We also got our tomatoes and bell peppers in today. We're planning on getting some cucumbers from a friend tomorrow, and maybe some squash as well.
A big focus for me this year is making our back yard an inviting play space for the kids. Now that they're older and can go outside without me being within an arm's length, it's nice for them to have things to do together or alone if they prefer. We put up a zip line which has been a big hit, and they have a swing set and a sandbox. They also have some ride-on toys on the patio (including a huge iron John Deere pedal tractor that I found at an antique store in PA) along with an easel and some sidewalk chalk. We spent a few hours collecting sticks and building our backyard tepee, but it hasn't gotten as much use as I expected. Still I think it's pretty cool, aesthetically speaking.
This thing, however, has been my backyard nemesis. The kids love playing on it, especially Harry who can finally climb up and go down the slide by himself. It was a hand-me-down from a very generous friend, and a great addition to our play repertoire. But let's face it - the thing is downright ugly. The more I read, the more I am coming to believe in the importance of creating a visually pleasing play space, so something had to be done with this. Today I used some landscaping fabric I had laying around to carpet the inside and make it a little less overgrown (it gets moved every now and then to cut the grass inside, but that usually doesn't happen until it gets eye-high to Harry and the kids don't want to go near it lest a grasshopper jump on their heads), and I will cover that with some wood chips. I also put a border around the edge and will plant some sunflowers, so that by the end of the summer - I hope - it will be a shady and magical sunflower house. It's all a work in progress.