It may sound a bit strange but my own enterprising family figured out early on that all the children loved to be outdoors in the fall. They also figured out that by the end of most summers, their yard looked like hurricane or two had hit it. They quickly put two and two together and our fall camp out sessions became a regular thing.
Family Fun and Winterizing Your Yard
Every fall my Dad would grab up some camping gear and head out to the far reaches of our yard, pitch a tent, set up campfire chairs and his favorite part, the grill. While Dad was setting up, Mom would get us ready by putting us in warm clothes, helping us get our gloves on, and reminding us to gather up our favorite pillows and blankets before heading out. This would be an all day and “all night” event. I’ll explain the quotations later.
Once we were encamped in the yard the fun began. And I don’t need to put the fun in quotes, it really was fun.
We’d start by doing a walk around the yard where Dad would point out yard items such as our swingsets, bicycles or other outdoor toys and it was up to us three children to give the Thumbs up, it’s staying or the Thumbs down, get rid of it sign.
Then we’d begin the raking. And as un-fun as raking is, my expert parents figured out the perfect place to put it, just after debris clearance from the yard and just before Dad’s special campfire lunch on the grill. So we didn’t muck around much and our rather large back yard would be raked clear in under an hour with five rakes working together. Before Dad’s special lunch started, we usually spent another hour or so jumping in the leaves, playing in the leaves, watching the dog do the same, pushing Mom into the leaves because she never wants leaves on her, and just in general, having good healthy outdoor fall fun with our family.
Renewed Energy, Renewed Vigor
After lunch we’d really set in to working through the continued winterization of our yard. We all set into a variety of tasks that Mom and Dad always added a bit of fun competition to, most often complete with the promise of smores over the fire later. Some of those tasks included:
- Renewing, remulching the flower beds
- Gathering scattered rocks back to their original landscaping areas
- Planting Winter foliage
- Trimming bushes or trees
- Taking down and storing summer fun gear like waterslides, pools, or sandboxes
- Spreading grass seed (make sure it’s cool weather grass seed!)
- Helping Mom or Dad with more serious tasks such as repairing broken toys or lawn equipment
And while that certainly wasn’t the extent of everything we did to take care of our own space every fall it isn’t so much the tasks I recall as it was the togetherness. The unspoken rule that no one can go inside unless it’s for a bathroom break. The thought that we were ‘toughing it out’ with our family while our little noses would be running or frozen. The getting warmed up by work and shedding our coats, to the sitting around Dad’s grill waiting for those long-promised smores for our hard work.
All the way up to how we all crammed in that four-person tent at night and immediately fell asleep from physical exhaustion, only to wake up in the cool, crisp, early morning hours to ask Mom to take us inside because it was cold. Of all things that I remember was their mutual giggles and them calling out the time we made it to this year; and that each year as we got older we made it further and further.
I think I was around 12 when I realized that our fall camp out sessions weren’t just to please my sisters and I. And I recall discussing it, jokingly, with my mother. I also remember well that she asked me if I had enjoyed them, even with some of the tedious tasks involved. I did and I do and I still participate in a similar version with my husband every year, even though our children are grown and gone on to their own lives. We don’t do the camp out part anymore, but we do lay in the yard and gaze at the impressive, light-pollution free view of the universe we hold dear until our tired bones and chilly bodies force us back inside.