This is our back yard: small, muddy, and mosquito-infested. But I'm starting to know its little quirks and see its magnificent possibilities.
Since a large part of our homeschooling philosophy (and for that matter, life philosophy) involves spending time outdoors, both in active play and observing nature, I want to make the back yard a good place to do that. What we lack in money, muscles and space we will have to make up for in inventiveness. Fortunately we have no shortage on that.
First of all, the lawn is just not big enough for a full game of football. So if we nibble away at it here and there, it's no great loss. That swampy spot in the back end of the property, with the thicket of shrubs just past (in the neighbor's yard, but he shows no interest in cutting them) is a favorite haven for birds. We can dig that away to make a real pond, and next to it work on growing a small meadow of other bird and butterfly-friendly plants.
The pond should improve drainage in the rest of the yard, and will provide some extra dirt to heap up a little mountain for the ducklings to climb, and later run, up and down. It can go over near the back left corner of the property, which being a shady spot and supplied with some old stacks of cement blocks and bricks, and a good pile of clay, already serves as a sort of open-air playhouse. Planting a screen of tall grasses there will make it feel cozier, and eventually we can build a little stepping stone trail that winds through the yard, around by the pond and the bird meadow, and back into the little playhouse corner.
In the back right corner we can put in a quick-growing climbing tree (and dig up more dirt for the mountain) and all along the fence and patio can be narrow (someday perhaps raised) beds for growing vegetables and berries. Somewhere, someday, I want to find a spot for a bean tent or a sunflower house. And somehow I've got to find a way to camouflage that compost bin.
That should leave enough yard for a game of horseshoes or croquet, while attracting all the birds and bugs (except mosquitos!--I continue to vow biological warfare against them) to keep our little naturalists busy for years.
Yes, it will take years to do all this. But a girl's got to dream sometime.
Note: My own imaginings have this past day been greatly enhanced by checking out A Child's Garden, by Molly Dannenmaier.