The Haunted Fairground

Remember Backyard Carnival? Well, after a bit of Blue Petering and DIY yesterday it became the Haunted Fairground!

Having a kids’ Fright Night has become a bit of annual event after last year when I spooked up the garden for a haunted treasure hunt. The kids were terrified and delighted in equal measure while I thoroughly enjoyed myself cooking the whole thing up and executing it.

Following the success of Backyard Carnival this year I wanted to create a spooky version for Halloween, with the kids performing Crystal Maze type challenges at the carnival stalls.

I set up the stalls and manned them with classic ghouls such as killer clowns and vampires. The playhouse got a spooky makeover (including a Blair Witch stick figure set in a pile of rocks at the doorway, an excellent touch I thought but it didn’t get a second glance from the kids on whom the reference was lost lol). I also placed a few candles on an old piano I’d recently taken outside and scary music played through the outdoor speakers (a mix of Silent Hill soundtrack and creepy child laughter).

The challenges were as follows:

Spooky Snacks1. Spooky Snacks
The kids had to race against the clock to find the talisman hidden at the snack stall. An easy challenge to start them off… and lull them into a false sense of security!

2. Blood Bath
Guarded by a killer clown, this stall featured a bucket filled with blood and body parts, along with two smaller buckets connected by a pulley. The kids had to figure out that filling one small bucket raised the other and revealed the talisman.

“This was the candy floss stall” I told the kids, “until the candy floss maker fell into the machine!”

“It smells like jelly.” One of the kids announced.

“Erm, yeah, blood sometimes smells like jelly!” I answered. 😀

3. Very Bad Piggy
A can from my Angry Birds Tin Can Alley game connected to a talisman via a pulley. The kids had to throw a ball to knock the can off which would pull the talisman into reach.

The THING4. The THING!
Three boxes with a talisman in each. All the kids had to do was reach inside and retrieve them. But there was one catch, they had to search through brains (trifle) and intestines (spaghetti), food left for the THING, which could wake up at any moment. Even worse, the final box had a sneaky back door… When the kids reached inside I was waiting for them and grabbed their hands with my own! Think of the test of manhood in Flash Gordon 😉

5. The Piano of Purgatory
“What you are looking for is D E A D” read the clue. It took the kids a few minutes to figure out that they needed to look at the keys which spelled out D, E, A, D, but when they did they found four further clues that read “I’m… Behind… The… Lid” which led them to the talisman.

Blood Bath
Blood Bath
6. The Witch’s Lair
I’d hidden four bumper tubs of sweets inside the spookified playhouse, all they had to do was enter the witch’s lair and find them. However by this point the kids were pretty freaked out and needed some encouragement! They got in there in the end though and found their prizes! More importantly, they made it out alive! 😀

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August/September Wrap Up

Since Backyard Carnival in late July I haven’t had any big projects on the go in the backyard. Instead I’ve been focusing on putting some small finishes to other projects and having a good old tidy up.

The Shed
Tidy shedIn August I finally got around to tidying the shed! If you saw this old pic-post you’ll know the shed was in a very bad state. Over a couple of days I emptied and reorganised, even Blue Petering some empty bottles into tool storage. I have to say this was one of the most cathartic jobs I’d done in a while – and one I’d been putting off for almost a year! Going in the shed is now much more enjoyable and has a sense of satisfaction. I wonder if I can keep it tidy this time…

Painting
In late Autust I gave the fence panels a makeover with some Ronseal fence treatment. Then in early September I painted Wood Store #2 (gallery), then the bike shed (gallery) and Wood Store #1 (gallery).

Like tidying the shed these minor jobs brought big aesthetic changes and breathed some much needed fresh air into the garden.

Duck Coop
After procrastinating for quite some time on the subject of the duck coop surround I eventually opted to lay some decorative bark. I had initially wanted to pave around the coop but this would have been more costly and time consuming than I could manage, so I bought the bark and the results were surprisingly pleasing. I’m not sure paving would have looked half as nice now the bark is down!

I also finished painting the duck house and coop (a job I started months ago!) and again the results are both pleasing and satisfying. (Gallery)Duck coop

Lighting
One of my main reasons for trying to tie up these loose ends and make the garden that bit more respectable is Bonfire Night (Guy Fawkes Night). Here we host a big party for Bonfire Night (or Bommy Neet as we say in this part of the world) and each year as summer begins to wane my focus shifts on hosting this party.

IMG_3823With that in mind I finally installed some better garden lighting. I replaced my single, harsh floodlight with several soft bulkheads that make for a much nicer ambience. The picture here is of the garden entrance where previously visitors would have been dazzled with a 500w floodlight pointing directly at them!

Our first duck egg!

It’s been 20 weeks since we were given three Aylesbury ducklings and we had all but given up on them laying eggs, thinking we must have ended up with three males.

Well, we can safely say that at least one is female! Every morning I open the duck house and peer inside expecting to see nothing but straw (and duck poo) but this morning I had a pleasant surprise when I saw a lone egg sitting in the middle of the floor. Let’s hope this is the first of many.

IMG_3801.JPG

Backyard Carnival Birthday Party

Yesterday my eldest son turned 7 and we had an amazing carnival themed party. This was an idea I had back in February and after months of conceptualising, planning and DIY it was great to see it come to fruition – and even better to see how much fun my son and his friends had (not to mention the grownups).

Early in the morning I was out back setting up the stalls and giving the garden a fairground atmosphere with some bunting. We had 4 game stalls – Angry birds Tin Can Alley, Space Invaders Roll-a-Ball, Ball & Bucket a Shooting Gallery – a stand alone Hook a Duck game, and a snack stall.

When the kids arrived they dove straight in.

Archery was very popular, and I managed to send the kids home with all the eyes they came with!

Face painting went down a treat!

And candy floss making sessions drew a big crowd.

Kids young and old enjoyed the photo booth 😀

But by far the most popular part of Backyard Carnival was Splash Dunk and the Wet Sponge Stocks. The kids loved soaking the grownups and each other in equal measure!

The evolution of pallet carnival stalls: marks I—III

Lately I’ve been working on a new pallet carnival stall design for my son’s carnival themed birthday party. So far I’ve completed three with another two to go.

Carnival stall mk1The original stall I made back in April was more of a fascia than an actual stall. I used a full pallet and fastened two posts to the side which supported a small marquee made from small pallet pieces. The two problems I encountered with this design were stability (the stall had a tendency to topple over, even when I attached feet to it that could be pegged in the ground) and painting (the gaps in the pallet boards were very awkward to paint).

Carnival stall mk2The next stall I made was for a local youth centre who wanted a carnival style snack stall for their birthday celebration party in June. This time I completely dismantled the pallet and built it up again from scratch, making sure the boards were flush together to facilitate painting. I also included small sides to give it a more authentic stall look and added stability.

imageFor my third effort I had bought a £3 striped table cloth to try as an alternative to painting the stall (undercoat and gloss are both time consuming and costly). With this method I didn’t need to worry about gaps in the pallets as the table cloth would cover them. I spent a couple of weeks bringing home the pallets I needed, some of which were used in full, others dismantled for the sides and marquee.

First I attached a couple of feet to a full pallet. Then I made the stall sides from pallet boards and blocks. Next, the marquee went up, using long pallet boards for the posts and shorter ones for the marquee frame. Then I painted the posts and finished off by stapling the table cloth (in two parts) to the fascia of the stall and marquee.

I’m really pleased with the end result – it looks much more like a bona fide carnival stall, and it’s much sturdier than the previous designs, plus it’s already proving popular with the kids! 🙂

Backyard Carnival Game 4: Hook a Duck

The Backyard Carnival birthday party draws nearer and as well as working on more stalls (of a new design) to house carnival games, another game is ready to sit beside ‘Angry Birds Tin Can Alley‘, ‘Ball & Bucket‘ and ‘Space Invaders Roll-a-Ball‘.

Bucket and rubber ducksThis was as easy as it gets really since nearly all the components were bought (for next to nothing) from either ‘pound shops’ or eBay. There was just a small amount of Blue Petering, ie. fashioning a rod from one of the pieces of an unwanted play pen (a garden cane was my first thought and would work just as well, if not better, but I had this to hand).

Hook a duckAt first I screwed small hook eyes into the rubber ducks but this made them slightly top-heavy and prone to tipping over mid-game. I also had some reservations about the difficulty of hooking the ducks like this as the hook eyes were very small.

Magnets, rubber duck, super glue With that in mind I recalled the magnets I’d bought earlier in the year for a shooting range carnival game and decided to put some of them to use here. A few drops of super glue later and we were ready to play! See the video below of my son (whom Backyard Carnival is for) giving it it’s first test drive.

Duck Coop Almost Complete

Since my last update I’ve completed several jobs that were on my to do list:

  • Completed the roof (now changed to a flat roof)
  • Sunk the pool
  • Attached side rails
  • Laid turf
  • Made and hung the coop door

image

Remaining:

  • Finish painting the duck house
  • Secure the perimeter, especially the doorway
  • Finish off the surrounding area

All going well my next post on the duck coop will mark its completion (fingers crossed). For now though the remaining jobs will be put on the backburner while I focus on the Backyard Carnival project for my eldest son’s birthday in just a few weeks. I’m excited but also feeling the pressure, not least from my son and his daily reminders! 😀

Recycled Pallet Wood Lawn Edging

A couple of months ago I had the idea of using pallet wood as a cheap lawn edging solution. Lawn edging is something I’d wanted for a while but with around 80m to cover the cost was always prohibitive.

When I first thought of using pallets I tested out some self made stakes along a metre stretch and really liked the results. So, for the last two days I’ve been making hundreds of pallet wood stakes and making my way around the lawn. I think the result is great!

The wood is untreated so it won’t last forever but since pallet wood is free and these stakes are so easy to install I didn’t consider the benefit to be worth the cost and effort of treating it.

Duck Watering Hole

The ducks are being weaned outside now so I thought I’d provide them with a watering hole made from an unwanted bucket.

I dug out a hole to sink the bucket, then used some chicken wire and weed barrier to reinforce the sides of the hole so that the bucket can easily be removed for water changes.

Sinking the bucket keeps it stable and prevents it from being knocked over by thirsty ducks. The height of the exposed part of the bucket means they can dip their heads in for a drink and a wash without being able to climb in and soil the water.

Duck watering hole

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