story by Janice Henshaw –
The stars are bright in the dark night sky, only slightly dimmed by the rising moon. A meteor flashes by so fast I wonder if I only imagined it. In the forest, a barred owl calls. Frogs chirp in concert and a mosquito-hunting bat swoops overhead. The sweet scent from a nearby lilac tree hovers in the air. Immersed to my chin in our hot tub, I feel totally at peace. For the soul, it’s much better entertainment than watching TV!
Hot tubs also provide therapeutic relief from sore achy muscles brought on by too heavy a day gardening, hiking or biking. If one is chilled from kayaking or sailing, there is no better way to warm up one’s bones. Unlike a bathtub, the water does not cool off: it stays warm and relaxing. And you don’t have to clean the tub when you get out! Installing an outdoor shower close by is terrific for the warm weather months. Adding a second, lower shower head for dogs and sandy kids is a “pro”add-on.
If a hot tub is in your purchase plans, go only as big as necessary. The larger the tub, the higher the energy costs. When shopping for one, take your shoes off and get in the tub – don’t be shy – it’s important to ensure your body fits comfortably in the seats and the jets are where you need them.
After choosing where the tub will go in your yard or deck, you may want to add walls and/or a roof to turn your spa into a private oasis. Because we wanted a wide-open view, I attached wheels to our metal-roofed gazebo so, in the case of inclement weather, it provides instant cover. Other things to consider are stairs, a surrounding deck, patio stones or pavers, and a place to hang towels. An energy-saving insulated cover is a must; it will save energy costs and keep the tub clean of bugs and leaves.
Pools can be pretty life-changing too: custom-built Infinity pools to highlight great views, fiberglass or concrete in-ground pools, above ground pools (less expensive), spools (blended spa and pool) or cold-water plunge pools are just a few options to consider. How fabulous to have a gorgeous pool to swim laps in and splash around with family and friends. Swimming is a great aerobic workout and provides soothing exercise for those who have arthritis. The expense can be an issue though. Whether a pool adds to the resale value of a house is debatable too. It all depends on whether the buyers want to swim or fill it in! But the fun of having a pool for the hot summer months, especially when you have kids, is undeniable. Good, clean fun, great exercise, and lots of laughter! And all the neighbourhood kids learn to swim like seals. Yes, they will all want to visit often!
Cleaning, and scooping bugs and leaves missed by the filter system is definitely part of pool maintenance. As in hot tubs, it’s essential to keep the right mix of chemicals in the pool to keep the water safe and sparkling. Some automatic filter systems and vacuums do the cleaning for you, and there are pool maintenance services as well. Fencing needs to be factored into the expense of a pool (don’t forget to check the bylaws). Imagine … a cabana, with a bathroom, outdoor shower, plants in pots, chairs and umbrellas, and a sound system. At night, clear or illuminated Lamina jet streams set into the pool deck can add a spectacular look. Who needs to travel?
If a hot tub or a pool doesn’t light up your eyes, then how about an outdoor pond or stream? I remember watching with shock as my 12-year-old brother started to dig a large hole in our backyard because he wanted a fishpond. Unfortunately, I wasn’t there to see my parent’s reaction! He lined it with plastic, added rocks along the banked sides, and aquatic plants for food and shade. The goldfish loved it, but the golfers going by on the fairway were undecided. Some walked by pretending their first ball hadn’t sliced into the pond, while others nonchalantly extended their ball retriever and went fishing.
Liners, water filters and pumps for ponds are easily available and container ideas are limitless. They range from wicker deck/balcony/garden pond kits with fountains, to huge tractor tires, and galvanized water troughs. Or enjoy a do-it-yourself family dig project and add a liner. It’s easier than you think! If your pond is large enough, add plants, goldfish or exotic koi. Be aware, though: raccoons, otters, or blue herons may come fishing! A filtration system will keep the water clear. Bubblers (aka gurglers) help keep the water oxygenated to avoid stagnation and algae bloom. They also add visual interest; gurglers make the water look like it springs from underground. The lower the budget you have, the more pleasure you will receive from doing the work yourself.
Another elegant and space-efficient water feature is a waterwall, which helps dampen street or neighbourhood noise. Water cascades down the wall and is pumped back to the top. It can be added next to your outdoor kitchen or seating area; LED lights enhance its beauty at night. Rain curtains are another indoor or outdoor option – tiny holes drilled in the top of a feature wall form a gentle curtain of rain. Or how about a fountain with old-world charm, or the opposite: an ultra-modern design? These are made from many different materials – stainless steel, resin, slate, bronze, copper, terra cotta pots or cement, to name a few. If possible, solar power is an excellent option.
Travel may be on your agenda this summer, but it’s good to know that our backyards provide us with endless options to be creative and enjoy some rejuvenating slow the world downtime. Sun, shade, water features, outdoor kitchens, trees, plants and songbirds all contribute to a beautiful retreat from which to enjoy the fine summer days and gorgeous evening sky.