Family Fun and Backyard Beauty on a Budget

The weather’s warming up, slowly but surely.  Blooms are popping up, and trees have buds. The forsythia is yellow, birds are nesting, and the grass gets greener everyday. With all the beauty and promise, there’s also a lot of clean up after such a long, hard winter. Relatives in Texas are already harvesting some garden goodies, but for those of us in colder climates with four seasons, nature takes her time.  Some days are still chilly, and real heat won’t hit us for another few months. It makes for great weather to open the flowerbeds, get the gardens going, and take moments to enjoy outside. We’ve been busy adding backyard beauty and family fun on a budget. Come see what we’ve been up to (and bring some marshmallows for toasting over the new fire pit).


Our home’s not a cookie-cutter, typical design. It’s clapboard is cedar and woods surround the yard, giving it a rustic, country feel. There’s a deck spanning the entire length of the back of the house.  The front has a small deck, and a southern exposure. I’ve always loved rocking chairs on porches, and found this beauty on an online tag sale for $20! It’s a smaller scale than some, so it’s a perfect fit for the front. It’s a great place for me to pop outside for a bit of sun (or to write)! I wanted to protect the rocker from weather without sacrificing the beautiful wood grain.  Several people recommended Minwax Helmsman indoor/outdoor finish in a spray can.  It was easy to use and dried quickly.

The rocker just fits perfectly.  Our next projects in the coming weeks  is to stain the deck and repaint the doors. Do you think I should sand down my vintage milk can and repaint it, too?

The rocker just fits perfectly. Our next project in the coming weeks is to stain the deck and repaint the doors. Do you think I should sand down my vintage milk can and repaint it, too?

I know it’s spring, because the back porch is set up again, as well. It’s where we dine alfresco and spend family time.  Decorated in red, white and blue, it’s the same theme I dream of fixing up a vintage glamper in…someday!



I recently went “junktiquing” with my friend Andrea, who has an amazing eye for finding treasure. She found a big bowl from circa 1894 for $6 (worth way more).  I found the rooster thermometer for $3.00, and the vintage English tin tray for $1.00! The 1970’s Americana tablecloth is a recent flea market find, in perfect condition, for $7.00. I love my rustic porch with it’s nod to my birth state, and everything there is reused or re-purposed.

IMG_7815(On that same trip, I couldn’t resist a hen on the nest milk glass candy dish for $4.00. I’ve always wanted one. It was pretty grimy in the shop, but after bringing it home and cleaning it up, I realized it’s a vintage Indiana milk glass hen in mint condition. Score!)

All cleaned up, I love my milk glass hen...reminds me of my girls...

It reminds me of my “real” hens on a nest…

My daughter affectionately dubbed me a "chicken stalker" for taking this photo!

My daughter affectionately dubbed me a “chicken stalker” for taking this photo!

With the patios all set up, we’ve been busy trying to get the rest of the yard tidy from winter. There’s sticks littering the grass everywhere. We’ve long wanted a fire pit, and were inspired by the one at the home of my husband’s friend, Peter Darbisi.

Don't you love the fire pit and the red Adirondeck chairs? Photo courtesy of Peter Darbisi

Don’t you love the fire pit and  red Adirondack chairs? Photo courtesy Peter Darbisi

After seeing Peter’s, we decided right then to make our own fire pit, using the natural rocks that pepper our property.  Last year I finished making rock borders around all the flower beds, and each year, more rocks pop up right out of the ground.  If you decide to make or buy a fire pit, check your town’s restrictions. Speaking with our fire marshall, a small, recreational fire pit is fine. Don’t burn on windy, dry days, don’t burn trash or leaves, and make sure it isn’t where it’s a nuisance to other properties. A permit’s needed for larger fires, but we’re talking a small campfire to gather ‘round. In Connecticut, check out the state’s DEEP site here:

Our pit is away from the woods and brush, and near enough that the hose can be grabbed quickly, just in case. We dug the ground down a little over a foot, and stacked the stones in a circular shape. I had purchased a new metal fireplace grate several years ago. Too big for our fireplace, it’s perfect for the fire pit! Large tree stumps serve as rustic seating. It reminds me of the one we had at my dad’s Texas ranch growing up. I spent many an hour with my school friends making s’mores over that campfire! I adore ours with the re-purposed rocks. You could also purchase stones or use bricks to make one.


We surprised my daughter when she got home from school with marshmallows to toast on the new pit, making us “the coolest parents ever”.

My daughter and her BFF are all smiles toasting marshmallows. Next time I will make MaryJane's recipe for homemade marshmallows!

My daughter and her BFF are all smiles toasting marshmallows. Next time I will make MaryJane’s recipe for homemade marshmallows!

Our status went to “epic cool” with the surprise of her best friend arriving to join in on the fun. Wanting to keep the fire burning, she gathered every stick she could find. Yard cleanup was never so easy, (giggle)!

Hope you found some outdoor inspiration! Share with me your tips and memories of campfires!

Until Next Time…Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  1. Adrienne says:

    First, do NOT paint the milk can. Leave it as is: it’s a wonderful reminder of the past. The porch is lovely. Another thing you can do on your fire pit is put a grate over the top and do some outdoor cooking (corn on the cob wrapped in aluminum foil, veggies in foil pouches, hot dogs, burgers, etc.). If you can put a tripod over the fire pit that will hold a Dutch oven, you can have dinner cooking or bake some biscuits. Just some ideas. Enjoy!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Adrienne! I love all your ideas! We will do that…thank you for the inspiration! My husband just asked if I can help him translate an old Danish recipe he remembers from his childhood for a type of hotdog with a fast-baking bread that goes around the dog (similar to a corn dog) and cooks on a stick over an open campfire. I will have to post it once we get it translated. The fire pit we had as a child at my dad’s ranch had a grate over it. Many meals were cooked “cowboy” style…lots of fun memories! Farmgirl hugs, Nicole PS…thank you for your input on the milk can. I’ve been so undecided on what to do with it, and I do like it all “rustic”, too.

  2. Joan says:

    So beautifully you have decorated your porches and the fire pit is superb, such nice times you can have gathering in your well appointed sites. We had a blizzard last night so another day of not working/being outside today. We mostly wait till at least Mother’s Day, if not Memorial weekend to plant then we have until Sept. Oct. when we get our 1st frost/snow, so it is a short season for us, so seeing your area helps make the day. What great memories for Audrey and her BFF. Thanks for sharing. God Bless.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Joan, thank you. Audrey and her BFF had a perfect afternoon, reminding me of when I was a kids with my friends toasting marshmallows. Your season is similar to ours. My lettuce and snow peas are planted, but everything else is waiting still. My husband just built me a new veggie garden, so I can’t wait to get out there! It’s a cold, rainy day today, but we don’t share your blizzard! Warm thoughts and wishes to you! Farmgirl hugs, Nicole

  3. Laurie Dimino says:

    Hi Nicole,
    Everything looks GREAT!!!!! Love the décor on the back porch, the new rocking chair out front and that firepit!!!!! Love it all!
    Audrey looks like she is in her glory with her friend and marshmallows!
    I am hoping to set up my back decks this weekend since it is supposed to FINALLY be nice!!!
    Have to get all my cozy goodies out, I LOVE sitting out there after dinner and just reading and relaxing! It truly is the simple, little things in life that make it complete!
    Big hugs to you my friend!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Laurie! We spend a lot of time out on the back deck, too. I also love to drink my coffee out there in the morning, listening to the birds and taking a quiet pause before the day gets hectic! I haven’t spent much time out there this week, as the cold, raw weather has returned again! Tomorrow is supposed to warm up a bit more, though. Happy porch sitting, dear farmsister! Farmgirl hugs, Nicole

  4. Diana Henretty says:

    Such a sweet surprise to wake up to this morn, your pictures are so gorgeous.
    We too have built a rock bonfire pit in our yard, the grandkids love coming here and eating dinner over the fire and Smores for desert. it is the highlight of their visit, it brings us all together every night.
    I love your ideas about budget decorating, I would much rather shop at a flea mrkt than a mall in my old age!!
    Your post is so cozy and comfy on this cold Ozark morning, thanks for sharing all your “bounty on a budget” ideas, they are precious!
    Sending you Happiness from Noel, Mo…..Diana

  5. CJ Armstrong says:

    Love the porch, Nicole! If you didn’t live so cotton-pickin’ far away I’d come over and sit a spell and chat with you on your porch! We have a deck (no roof) on the east side of our house which we love for mornings until the sun gets too intense, but we LIVE on the deck in the late afternoon/evenings in warm weather!
    We’re looking forward to outdoor opportunities to come . . . still a bit chilly most of the time here.
    Thanks, Nicole!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      CJ, I know, wouldn’t that be fun if we lived nearby? We’d have a blast, I just know it. Ya know, I’m still hoping you will make a Glamping Trip to the East Coast one of these days! From what I have seen of your state from pictures, it looks breathtaking. Enjoy that porch of yours! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  6. CR LAGROUE says:

    Really enjoyed the blog. Fire pits in the back yard is a fun way to bring friends and family together to socialize (beats texting any day).

  7. Dewitt says:

    Let’s face it: We’re all spending way more time at home these days, so it’s more important than ever to make our backyards welcoming and special. And in northern climates, we need to make the most of those precious few warm weather months! Any backyard can be made a little cozier with our best tips and tricks for making your space more beautiful, useful and fun. And you don’t need to spend a lot of money or hire a landscape designer to make over your backyard. With these simple ideas, you can create a restful oasis for you and your entire family (pets included).

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