A change of scenery is always a good thing. I've noted in past articles that I do enjoy change. At a half-century old I really do enjoy my normal routine, but getting out for adventures is still very high on my list. This week we are in Paonia, Colorado. We have no friends or family here. It's just a place my honey used to live and has always wanted to revisit with me. Aside from the destruction of local businesses due to the pandemic, this is a great little town.

My favorite part so far, besides the chickens wandering around the property, is how dark it is at night. As I type this, we're kicking off International Dark Sky Week. Sitting in the lawn chairs at night is simply sublime. It feels like camping with the lack of light pollution around. The only time I enjoyed darker skies was in the desert in Morocco. It's no secret we live in rural areas because we love the outdoors and nature. Today, let's look at some of the ways you can accentuate your outdoor space to take advantage of the silence and darkness in your neck of the woods.

Literally the only items on the lawn here are the aforementioned chairs. As silent and dark as it is, you don't really need much else. At home we have a gas fire-table. It's great and provides a little ambiance and since we live close to town, there's no harm in the light it provides. Depending on what you plan to do in your backyard this summer, the accoutrements necessary can vary widely. We even considered (shortly) an outdoor pizza oven. Then realized the unnecessary hassle and maintenance would not be worth it. It really comes down to your lifestyle.

We entertain quite a bit in the spring, summer and fall. Having a comfortable place to sit is very important. We have included a sectional couch which takes up an entire corner of the deck. Sitting across from that is a small table with 2 chairs. In the garage we have a handful of other chairs for folks to use on the deck or down on the grass. The more comfortable and easy you make it to sit and relax in your yard, the better your entertaining will go. We don't always feed everyone, but always have music and drinks. Of course dogs are always welcome and we put out water bowls for them as well. The goal is to create an easy place to just "be."

If you're looking to take things up a notch, consider how you may feed the masses when they arrive. From a simple grill to a full outdoor kitchen, the options are endless. Your climate certainly plays a role in your decision. If you enjoy having people over and don't want to spend all your time in the house (with all your guests out back), consider getting a smoker or other culinary items that can withstand the elements. You will spend more time with your friends and can even make the neighbors jealous with all the amazing smells coming from your yard.

Some friends and I have been having a casual debate about storage. On the one hand we Americans tend to buy way too much crap and then have no place to keep it all. On the other hand, it is really nice to have bikes, skis, snowshoes, skateboards, lawnmowers, rakes and a chainsaw depending on one's weekend plans. If you don't have a roomy garage or basement, consider outdoor storage. We always had a shed growing up and there's nothing like it. All of our bikes and other toys were in there along with yard tools and countless other items that really had no place in our house.

If you have (or aspire to have) a green thumb, your back yard will most certainly look much different than mine. For the gardeners, the shed is still a great feature but you can add a rain barrel for watering and maybe even a greenhouse? Having worked at the Owl's Nest golf course in Campton, I'm a big fan of automatic watering and can't wait to install my own system this summer. "Raised garden beds are a great option if your soil is less than awesome and can make even the most challenged gardener successful," notes Badger Realty agent, Mike Rogers.

I was reminded this week about how much I appreciate the peace and quiet of rural living and am remotivated to seek out a home that affords me this luxury. If you're like me, spending time outside is a critical component of your happiness. Take a little time this weekend and see if there are things you can do to your own backyard that will help you and your friends enjoy it more and spend more time out there. And get someplace dark this week so you too can enjoy the splendor of our night sky without (as much) light pollution. Happy stargazing!

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