Youth: Badminton, running through sprinklers, tree climbing, jumping in leaf piles, baptisms (YM in heaven MV), football, frisbee.
Older: Most of above, plus: Grilling, drinking w/ friends, setting off fireworks, doobie smoking, drink w/out friends...
Missing a lot, I'm sure. Moreover, milkshakes are distributed in both yards, front and back. There's no actual charge for the milkshakes as far as I can tell, but teaching regarding the milkshakes (whether this is about how to make them, how to drink them, or simply about their boy-drawing abilities, in which case I suppose you would be billed immediately, as you've already been taught at least the beginning of this, given that we're discussing it) requires a charge.
I don't have a backyard, just an alley. there's garbage pickups. Cats roaming around, kids playing nerf basketball, people barbecuing and talking on their back porches and one maniac drunkenly dancing in his underwear. And trains, lots of trains.
Almost nothing happens in my backyard. I mow it. There are some raspberry and blackberry bushes along the edges that we go out and pick. It overlooks a road and I used to take my daughter out to look down at cars and trucks going by, but she's getting a bit old for that now. I kind of enjoy mowing it though.
In my particular backyard, the dog upstairs (a cute pit bull named Bowser) hides the various things he has stolen from his owners. Mostly shoes, though one day I looked back and saw that he had managed to snag a bra.
our neighbourhood: lawn tennis, bocce ball, wading pools, croquet and bouncy castles. also: various current and failed homeowner DIY projects. tomatoes, peaches, pears, grapes, and also a few junk cars, but that's only one derelict guy up the street these days.
when in doubt, set up a tent and go exploring!
oh yeah and the hippies up the way got some chickens this spring, which is awesome.
Dogs play, grass gets cut, yardwork, planting, trimming, bocci balls, croquet, games of all kinds, ball tossing, cooking out, occasional nature tragedies - birds fall out of nests, etc. Sometimes burials, usually of the nature tragedy kind, but depending on how long one has had the property, you could have folks out there. Cigarrette smoking. Firefly catching. Dew. Trying to see fireworks, looking at the moon. Talking to your neighbor over the back fence. Leaf piling and jumping. Accessing the crawl space (yuck). Treasure hunts. Shed building. Sandboxes. Pools. Laying in the grass. Watching the life in the grass, the little bugs. Reading. Taking some sun. Cartwheels. Children both fight and play. Making out. Entry for prowlers or stalkers or boyfriends and girlfriends to throw rocks at the beloved's window. Sneaking out of said window by the object of affection. Sending flashlight signals to neighbors. Hide and Seek. Dancing. Stringing lanterns. For a very few, tennis.
In my alley, deliveries happen and the hipster clerks from the local record shop smoke. The trash man cometh and the guys who live in the transient hotel down the block sit on abandoned furniture, drinking, while the kids who work at Chipotle slip them burritos. I once saw a girl, pacing around, yelling into her cell phone about how it was too much for her to cope with and then laughing. No-one walks their dog through my alley. I have yet to see a rat, but I know they are there. The neighborhood grapevine spreads a rumor that our deeded parking spot is free parking available to everyone; thus, towing happens in my alley.
In the backyard of my condo, we grow peppers and never mow the lawn. There's a table no-one uses but I use the hose to clean out my smelly trashcan and rinse off my muddy boots. One of the neighbors sometimes parks their deluxe baby carriage there.
In the backyard at my sister's townhouse, we grill and drink cocktails. The cat lurks and rolls around and sometimes, I sit out there, using the wireless. A tomato plant is growing out the side of the composter, but the lawn is neatly clipped. Sometimes, we have small parties, usually with cupcakes.
In her alley, people knock over the trash cans with their cars and people ride their bikes through to avoid heavier traffic. There is an abundance of pigeons and no-one ever leaves their garage door open.
Grilling and mowing, mostly. Not often enough do we take the kid back there for a swing. We actually go down to the park to play on the swings more often than the back yard, which strikes me as very strange, now that I've realized it.
When I was growing up, swings and kiddy pools. My mother's garden. Walkway to the garage.
The front yard seemed to be public property, and the backyard private, in the sense that all the neighborhood kids would play in each other's front yard, but I don't really remember ever going to anyone else's backyard, or having anyone over in mine. But my brother and I would play in the back.
In my current backyard: Tomato growing, reading, wine-drinking. Occasional admonitions to the neighbor's kids to stop making so much noise (seriously, who buys a whistle as a toy for a kid?).
Lots of mowing. When I was wee, we used to have a full volleyball court set up with all the lines and a net at the correct height (adjustable for men's/women's heights). Also when I was wee, my brother and I used to ride motorcycles and bicycles down the sloping hill that never manages to grow grass. Also, sledding in what is now the neighbor's yard (there was a culvert pipe that you could get airborne over if you were good enough. And then you would promptly hit the fence on the way down unless you knew to turn your body 45 degrees so the sled would hit instead.)
When I'd visit my grandparents in Indiana for the summer, all us kids were dispatched to the back steps to shuck corn. (My youngest cousin, who was a total crybaby, invariably ended up with a huge pile of corn silks dumped on her head. Which she cried about, of course.)
When dinner was ready -- usually corn, potato salad, and the Hoosier specialties of pork butt or Italian beef, always served on paper plates -- we'd all sit down at the picnic table to eat. Grandpa, a strapping union man in the Gary steel mills, always instructed us to toss the spent corn cobs over our shoulders, into the flower bed next to the garage. His 'theory' was that it would draw the flies away from the diners. Mostly, though, he just liked throwing corn cobs into the middle of the yard.
I'm assuming this backyard is in Colonial America:
-Outhouse is in the back yard.
-Smoke house is there. Beheading chickens and gutting goats.
-Kitchen garden might be there. Medicine garden too.
-Wringing and then hanging the laundry? Is the laundry stove in the back yard or the kitchen?
-Smacking the dirt out of rugs.
-The water well might be there.
-Chicken house and wood pile would be there.
-The shed was there. What's in a Colonial shed? Grind-stone? Where was horse tak (sp) kept?
-You might sit with other woman nutting pine cones, shucking corn, cutting beens, etc. to get out of the blazing hot kitchen in the summer. Also carding and spinning wool.
-Taking a bath in one of those copper bath tubs.
-Sun dial and weather instrument location?
-Was tanning done in the back yard?
-That's all I got.
In the house I grew up in: Not much, due to the shape of the lot, it was tiny. Sandbox, the occasional half-hearted attempt at gardening, smoking illicit cigarettes, hide-n-seek. When the retaining wall was rebuilt, all our handprints were in it.
In the house where my son grew up: still pretty small, but usable, lots of shade until the tree had to be cut down, playset with platform, slide & tire swing, "campfires" in the barbecue grill, compost heap, paintball (I took out the neighbor's window - ooops), a homemade ski jump that was a liability nightmare, and was disassembled, but they had a blast building it, probably lots of adventures that I never knew about.
Current backyard: leaching field, and a nice view into woods.
When I was a kid, and it was somewhat true for my son, all backyards were available to us. Notable exception: 1 neighbor who was cranky. There were a lot of kids, and we had epic after-dinner games of hide & seek, with many variations. We were fairly "free-range" and nobody said much about us marauding through their yard. An elderly couple maintained an excellent rope swing. There were few fences. It was upper-middle suburban, and my childhood wasn't actually idyllic, but that part of it was exactly what childhood should be.
We had two back yards growing up, the back yard and the back back yard - not to be confused with the middle yard and side yard. The garden and sewer pit were in the back yard, and the animals were in the back back yard, except for the ducks and geese, who had the run of the place.
There's a huge two car garage in the middle of my backyard now, but enough room around it for the kids to run races, and for the littler ones to battle the Monster Tree with sticks for swords.
I got mowing, weeding, compost, growing, BBQ-ing and cat-chasing going on in my yard. As soon as summer is on us, I'll add paddling, drinking, snoozing, eating and possibly dancing. With added cat antics.
When I was a kid, some neighborhood friends, my siblings and I built a fort in the backyard. One wall was the back of the garage. We used plywood, pieces from a discarded bunk-bed set, and whatever other random junk we could find inside that garage. It was quite a fort; we worked all day and we were proud. Just one problem... we didn't use nails or any nonsense of that sort.
The fort fell apart when someone stood on top of it. I was lucky enough to be on the inside.
Good times. How I avoided any serious childhood injuries; I cannot say.
Children play, and grow.
Vegetable gardens get started.
Friends share a drink.
Sumacs get bigger and bigger.
Music gets played.
Mosquitoes get swatted.
Decks warp, and patios don't.
Brothers and friends set up tents once in a blue moon.
Sometimes, people even kiss.
Crawfish boils! (and the attendant crawfish races)
and mowing, woodwork, swinging on that rope my brother tied between two trees one summer, GI Joes, skateboarding, badminton, basketball, swinging (when we still had a jungle gym), large school projects.
As a child, with a regular back yard: Looking for rocks and arrowheads (I collected); ever and forever seeking the lucky four-leafed clover; keeping a lookout for snakes (important to memorize what the poisonous ones look like); digging up nightcrawlers for fishing; BBQ, with parents and sometimes their friends in lawn chairs sipping cocktails; gardening - my parents grew most of our vegetables, plus lots of flowers and landscaping - they were always outside doing stuff; big trees to climb - I used to climb up high, find a perch, and read; treehouse! my next-door neighbor had one, and we used to hang out reading comic books, playing super heroes, generally plotting and conniving dire deeds, and eating apples, since it was an apple tree.
As an adult, in New Orleans, what we called "balconizing" and stoop-sitting; drinks on the balcony, coffee on the balcony, music and dancing on the balcony... many, many spontaneous block parties erupted in the residential French Quarter. Good times.
Here... hm. Let me think, what was it like when it was cool enough to sit outside? Mostly we just hang out, drink delicious beverages and talk a lot, sometimes with music. This is on our tiny terrace attached to our house, or downstairs in the shared courtyard. We water the (potted) plants and occasionally do a little tidying of same. If we invite people over, it's BBQ, of course. Sans guests, the only spontaneous neighborliness is with our upstairs neighbor, because the back is enclosed so we don't see anyone else. Also, there are many outdoor cafes here, so people have other options if they want to sit outside... we go to the nearest inexpensive street cafe a lot. (There's a much nicer one even closer, but it's about three times the price. At least.)