So, on Labor Day this year, we labored. We finally got around to pouring cement for the Backyard Race Car Track, and we started a Fairy Garden.
I have been sitting on the race car track idea for a while, and wondering what to do landscape-wise around the one small tree in the back. We recently got some fairy garden furniture stuff as a gift… so we thought that would be a cool second (3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th?) backyard play-space.
I had purchased some Quikrete coloring from Amazon a while ago, and some bags of Quikrete Sand/Topping Mix from Home Depot this Saturday knowing that we had a full day to work today.
We had also started the digging a while ago when Ian was over-zealous and wanted to “Dig, Dig Dig!” in the back yard.
We had an easy enough start, put down some gravel, and mixed two of the three bags of Sand/Topping Mix with the coloring. I mixed it a little thick, and really what was all the coloring was meant to cover. The track was only about ⅔ of the way complete. So, I mixed the one other bag we had on hand. It was a little sloppier and went on really well. The kids helped in a kid-helping capacity, and Bethany did nearly all of the troweling/finishing work. Molly told me that she wanted to use the trowel because that’s what “brick builders” use to put the stuff in between bricks. I have no idea where she learned that.
So. It was obvious we needed a quick trip back to Home Depot to get some more bags. Ian & I went on a mission.
I asked the little man if we should get 3, or 4. He was adamant about getting 4. We also got the cheapest bag of garden soil, and some pebbles. Sadly, the bottle of coloring didn’t last long, and maddeningly Home Depot didn’t carry it… even with two shelves full of Quikrete products. I ended up asking if they had anything in the paint department, and they just had a concrete paint or dye to use after the fact.
We got back and Bethany made us a delicious salad for lunch. We needed to re-fuel for more work out back! I mixed 2 more bags, with some help:
After that, we did use just one more bag… but that’s OK. I can use the rest for some driveway patch work now that I have some more recent practice with this stuff. (A long time ago, I worked for a bit for a general contractor, and would sometimes mix mortar all day for the subcontracted bricklayers.)
For now, that’s about all we can do. The bag says it needs to set up for five days. Hopefully we can be patient and the neighborhood wildlife (including my children) stays out of it. I did grab an odd old brick from out front that had originally been in the back yard, and made a sort of garage out of it. I plan to get some river rocks or pebbles or something to kind of clean up the edges of the track. Maybe they will need to go on with concrete, or some of that stuff that comes in a caulking-gun dispenser. If they’re not stuck down, they will end up all over and most likely destroy my lawn mower.
The other quick family project was to make a fairy garden. I was hoping to use stuff that we had around in addition to the recently gifted furniture and starter items.
After thinking about a couple of different ideas, we settled on me taking a chainsaw to some large branches and small logs that we had out back, and driving nails partway into the bottom so we could drive them into the ground and they would hopefully hold. It worked!
I played with the chainsaw, demonstrated the nail technique, then Bethany and the kids did most of the nail-driving… and I think that was mostly Bethany. Molly helped me place them around the tree in sort of a kidney bean shape, including an old wooden bucket that I think we bought from the estate sale of the previous owner of this house (who coincidentally said she would miss the little tree in the backyard most of all).
Then we pulled up 90% of the grass, and Ian hauled it away in his wheelbarrow. We put down the bag of cheap garden soil and it was perfect for coverage & fairy garden decoration placement. We also planted a small succulent plant that my mom had recently given us in a small pot that should be durable outdoors, but may look cool covered in small round stones so it looks like a fairy house. We’re putting Grandma on craft duty to help make little projects to decorate the space. I would love to use some of the stuff we have around the yard or house like tiny terracotta pots, or Popsicle sticks, or wire.
It would be nice to plant some small ornamental succulents, moss, or super tiny flowers eventually too. Luckily (?) Pinterest is an endless rabbit hole when it comes to fairy garden stuff. Speaking of rabbits, our backyard is overrun with them as well as squirrels, chipmunks, birds, deer, and who knows what else. Think they’ll leave this stuff alone?
At any rate, playing in the dirt has been proven over-and-over to be good for you. These spaces offer two additional opportunities for the kids to get into the dirt in the back yard. It’s great to learn about gardening, ecosystems, using your imagination, and more… all without even realizing that you’re learning.
Check out some photos from the day if you have the time and interest, and let us know what you think in the comments!
If this is something you’d like to try yourself, check out these Pinterest boards for inspiration:
If it’s something you have tried yourself, please share your stuff in the comments! I would love to see some other backyard family projects.