When Carol Sue and Kerry Gougher sit on their backyard porch, they can view a 10-year labor of love.

What they have created is a stunningly beautiful natural oasis. It's almost like visiting a botanical garden.

Eleven years ago, the Goughers, Palmerton, decided to downsize from their 23-acre homestead. They purchased their present home at 855 Princeton Ave. which sits on 8/10 of an acre. The backyard sloped ascent was a tangled mess of sticker bushes and fallen tree logs that butted up against Stoney Ridge. It was a blank canvas for these two amateur landscape artists, who work well together.

"I was brought up on a farm. I've always had flower and vegetable gardens," says Carol Sue. "I love working outdoors."

The soil was mostly clay. Kerry, with the help of Brendan Arner and his backhoe, worked on removing most of it and brought in top soil, about a couple hundred tons. "Brendan was very patient with us. He'd dig out a stone and move it. I'd decide I liked it better someplace else and he'd move it again," she says.

Kerry wanted to create areas to walk on and brought in fine shale that he covered in red stones.

Carol Sue loves color and over the years has been planting perennials, shrubs and ferns in what she calls "pockets." The end result is a very natural-looking environment.

"I love nature and wanted to keep the natural look," says Carol Sue, a retired elementary teacher who also loves to quilt.

Rabbits, deer, squirrels and an occasional bear enjoy the Goughers' back yard almost as much as they do.

Thanks to eight bird feeders, there is a constant flow of colorful birds. Carol Sue brings the feeders in each night, to discourage bear and deer from eating the birdseed. Each morning she is greeted by her feathered flocks waiting for breakfast, and if she happens to sleep in, they are quick to scold. But they have provided Carol Sue with endless hours of photographing her visitors and their antics.

"I've seen birds here this year I've never seen before," she says.

She walks the area every morning to see what is new and blooming.

"It changes day to day, season to season," she says.

Kerry and Carol Sue, parents of one son, Ethan, are avid bikers and love the outdoors.

"We have always liked creating our own environment," says Kerry, retired from construction and restoration.

They enjoy the haven they've created together, often sitting at an inviting area with two rocking chairs and an electric firepit that gives a soft ambience as they sip on cups of coffee, listening to the falling water in their nearby pond.

"It's very relaxing, very peaceful," says Carol Sue.