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Backyard bliss
Turlock Resident’s Dream Garden Comes to Life

Julie Rummer has always had an affinity for the outdoors. She can spend hours browsing the gardening sections at Home Depot and Lowe’s. She takes regular visits to The Greenery in downtown and can spend an entire day taking in the views at an area winery. It was a way to experience something she hasn’t had since moving into her home in northeast Turlock in 2012 — her own backyard filled with plants.

That changed in early April for Rummer, a wheelchair-dependent quadriplegic, and her husband, Rich, when the folks at the Bobcat Company gave the couple a $25,000 backyard makeover.

Bobcat’s backyard makeover contest receives inspirational submissions from thousands of people across the nation each year. Rummer’s story of navigating life on an electric wheelchair following a 1995 vehicle accident that left her paralyzed was a standout. 

Rummer’s backyard consisted mostly of dirt mounds and dead trees. She couldn’t even navigate throughout the dirt yard if she wanted to because of the way it would hamper her electric chair. On the small porch that existed when the couple first bought the house, there was never enough space for her and the chair to comfortably move side to side. 

After entering the contest last summer on the very last day of eligibility and receiving thousands of votes from community members, Rummer was informed she won the nationwide contest this past winter. Thanks to the Bobcat team, area contractors, friends, family and equipment from local dealer Bobcat Central, Inc., Rummer’s dream finally became a reality. In three months, she saw her backyard transform into a wheelchair-accessible oasis. 

“I wasn’t going to enter,” Rummer admitted. “We saw it on Facebook, Rich kept telling me I should do it, but I just didn’t know where to start or if it was going to cost us any money. So he told me, ‘It’s the last day, just letting you know.’ And of course I had one of my neck spasms that day. But I just decided to get up, read the fine print, write the letter, send it in and head out to the backyard with no makeup and dressed terribly to just see what happened.

“I was shocked when I heard I had actually won. Not only did we apply on the last day, we claimed the prize on the last day, too.”

The Rummers are always hesitant to open emails from unknown senders. But a phone call from Bobcat sent the family into a frenzy to sign the necessary documents to claim the new backyard.

“I’ve been scammed so many times,” Rummer joked. “We opened the document, signed it, sent it, and things got started. And it all was so fast. They started working on it and spent so many hours. I’m still in shock. And so happy. It’s just pure joy to know I have my own garden, a whole backyard that I can call mine.”

Work on Rummer’s personalized backyard began by using a Bobcat skid-steer loader to prepare the area, which included demolition and removal of an existing patio to make room for a new ramp leading to their back door. Tree removal, relocation and planting was done by HIS Tree Service and concrete work preparations by Ultimate Concrete. Then came Bobcat Central with a Bobcat MT100 mini track loader to complete work in the fenced-in area. Crews installed concrete paths, which was preferred for Rummer’s accessibility rather than stone pathways or a patio.

And just like the personalized ramps and concrete paths, crews planted a variety of plants at the request of Rummer, many coming from The Greenery. There are fruits and vegetables scattered across the lot, supported by a new irrigation system. Several plants are also in raised garden beds to accommodate those of all abilities. There are even drought-tolerant plants with complimentary compost and fertilizer. New cedar mulch was placed to prevent weeds and hold moisture during the summer. The team even added lighting, a fire pit and sound system.

“The team at Bobcat is thrilled that we could help Julie achieve her dream of a wheelchair-accessible backyard with room to garden, entertain and get away,” said Laura Ness Owens, Doosan Bobcat vice president of brand and marketing. “Bobcat exists to empower people to accomplish more, and this is a perfect example of doing just that. We hope others are inspired by this transformation and recognize the potential in their own outdoor spaces.”

“We have just about everything here,” Rummer said. “When people ask what my favorite part is, I just say I love everything. Because I really do. I mean, just look at this place.”

And it’s only getting better with the help of her husband (and Pinterest). Rich has been hard at work building benches, buying and putting together outdoor seating and adding other pieces of outdoor decor to the space.

“This is literally her dream,” Rich said. “As she’s described it, it would be embarrassing when people saw what we had back here. We love having people over, but it is embarrassing to shut your backyard off from people, to hide it from your neighbors. People in this neighborhood are great and invite us over, and we see their beautiful patios and backyards with pools. And we’re over here hoping, ‘Please don’t ask to come to our backyard.’”

“Even for myself, I couldn’t stand the sight of it before,” Rummer added. “Now, I don’t shut the curtains at night. When I’m not out here, I just want to stare at it. Especially with the lighting. It’s just so beautiful.”

Aside from a reveal party that was held on April 12, the couple has invited family and friends over on multiple occasions.

“We’ve eaten dinner out here every night,” Rich shared. “It’s really just so cool. We could never do this before.”

“I call the people from Bobcat the ‘dream builder.’ I know that’s not their motto, but without their equipment and them coordinating everything, this doesn’t happen. They made Julie’s dream and vision come to life.”

The couple expressed an abundance of gratitude to those who voted for them last year.

“We were shocked at the support and we are so thankful,” Rich said. “From people we know excited about seeing us in the newspaper, to people we don’t know, the people we have never met at the grocery store saying they were voting for us, it was truly a community coming together to make her dream come true.”