Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Operation: Gnome Garden

Traditionally known as Fairy Gardens, I thought it would be fun to tweak the tradition and make it Nutshell style... so Operation: Gnome Garden was born.

I have been thinking for a few weeks now about what I wanted to do with the boys for a fun summer project with disguised learning involved.  The last two summers we did the vegetable garden, and this year I wanted to do something new but super cool.

The history of Fairy Gardens started back in 1893 at the Chicago World's Fair.  There was a bonsai tree display in the Japanese Pavilion, which was so popular the the New York Times did a feature about it and the tradition was born. 

What is a fairy garden??  Basically, it's a miniature garden with tiny structures and live plants.  The tradition is, that you can lure a fairy or two to take care of it, bless it with their magic, and bring everyone luck.

I would like to add to that tradition, and tweak it my favor for ultimate coolness.  Remember, I have five boys... who love all boy stuff... and "fairies" aren't very manly.  So I changed it, to the legend of Gnome gardens.  Because gnomes are grumpy little men who stomp around, create mischief, and make messes... they have so much in common with my kids.  Practically soulmates.  Just sayin'.

Okay, so my boys are very believing in the magical side of life.  Those of you who have read this blog for a while, know that they are really into Santa, Elf on the Self, and other mystical beings that come bearing gifts in baskets and taking baby teeth.  So it wasn't hard to confidence them of the Legend of the Gnome Garden.  I explained to them that if we got a pot, filled it with dirt, put a house on it, then either a fairy or a gnome would come move in.  They seriously thought this was the most awesome thing on the planet.  I told them that I wasn't sure there were many fairies in Oklahoma, so we would probably get a gnome, and they were pumped.  Now, I'm not a total idiot.  I have my suspicions that the older two boys may know I am full of crap, but they are excellent sports and play along for the little ones... or they may be totally snookered after all... I can't tell... yet.

So, how to get started....

Like any self-respecting woman who is coming up with a crafty plan, I got on Pinterest... and hit the mother load.  (You can check out my Fairy Garden Board here!)  I got all sorts of ideas, and then made them my own.

Warning:  Your neighbors will most likely think you are a crazy person.  Mine thinks we are soooo weird... and I'm pretty sure only 30% of that is because we are Mormons.  The rest is the crazy projects we are conducting on the front porch and of course, if you read my post yesterday, because of the haunting claims... should have kept my mouth shut... and now the Gnome garden... I can't help but chuckle to think about it... hehehe

Anyway, fellow awesome people... let's begin!

First step:

Get a pot!!  I looked at Goodwill, Walmart, and Target before I went to a ranch/farm store and found the one I wanted for a reasonable price.  I wanted a big metal round one. (See pictures below)

Second step:

Get potting soil enough to fill your pot, and a bunch of medium sized rocks (rocks optional, but important if you want to make the working wishing well).  When my husband isn't a soldier, he's a hydro-geologist... his specialty is understanding underground water and fluid movements, so I had him design an amazing watering system.

Third step (optional):

This is where we started making the wishing well... we had to have at least part of it made before we put in the rocks and soil. 

What you will need for the well:
 -1 2 in PVC pipe and 1 1 1/2 in ABS pipe that will fit inside one another.  We got a 2 in one (pvc white) and an 1 1/2 in one (ABS black) -- mostly because I wanted it to look dark if you looked down the well.  You will have to cut them the depth of the pot... the 2 in one to the depth of the top of the soil line, and the 1 1/2 in one cut to how tall you want your wishing well base.  The 2 in pipe will be underground from the beginning and the smaller one with the well made on top will fit down inside. 
- A 1 1/2 in plug that will fit into the bottom of the 1 1/2 in pipe... we actually had to super glue a flimsy one in and drilled holes in it for water to escape.  The plug is to capture coins when the kids make wishes so they can be later retrieved by pulling up the well.

We cut the pipes to the lengths we needed, and drilled holes up and down them. Sorry, I didn't take pictures of the process... 

Forth step:

Place your container where you want it, it can be indoors or outside.  But it's going to be heavy so make sure you like your spot.  We went up into the mountains, and LEGALLY collected some medium sized rocks.  We placed them on the bottom of the pot, this is so the water is more evenly distributed.  If you are placing a well, stand the 2 in pipe up where you want it into the rocks.  Now start filling the pot with the soil and patting it down.

Fifth Step:

Get rocks, marbles, shells, sticks, whatever you want to decorate your garden -- I hit the jackpot at the Dollar Tree!!  I got a ton of little rocks that I used to make the house, wishing well, and path.  I also got marbles and other cool stuff to magically add to the garden later.

Sixth Step:

Get little plants and flower seeds.  I got most of mine at Lowe's.  Do some research to find what you want, every area has different choices depending on climate.  I wanted live moss, but in Southern Oklahoma that was a no go, so I ordered some from a lady on Etsy (link to her shop here).  It is on it's way, so I will keep you updated! Need plant ideas?  See this link here!

Seventh Step:

Plant your plants.  I secretly planted the flower seeds, thought my kids would be surprised when they popped up later.  And do a little landscaping.  

In the picture above you can see where we placed the plants, some of the rocks we collected, and the beginnings of the well.

Eighth step:

This is where we filled it with water!  Down the hatch!!  Or wishing well, anyway... we filled the well with 2 utility buckets full of water before the water stayed in the well.  The ground was now saturated with underground water for the plants, and wishing well fun!  With the plug glued in the bottom of the 1 1/2 in pipe, any coins can be later retrieved by pulling up the well.  To water the TOP side of the well, I ordered a mist-spray bottle... here is the link: CoreGear Personal Water Mister Spray Bottle.
And it is SOOOOO awesome!  After spraying all my kids, I tried it out on the Gnome Garden and it kept everything nice and wet without making it look like a hurricane came through.

Ninth Step:

Make the house and finish the well.  I actually started this at the beginning, because it took me DAYS to finish it!!  There are a MILLION ways to make your house and your well if you want.  Be creative!  I found lots of great ideas on Pinterest! (see my page link above).  But this is how I did mine:

What you will need:

-Some kind of plastic container.  I used a Great Value Ammonia bottle.
-Large Funnel for the roof:  I found mine at the Dollar Tree.
-Little Rocks: once again Dollar Tree to the rescue!
-Grout: got mine at Lowes
-Paper Clay -- Hobby Lobby for roof
-Tin Foil
-Little sticks for door
-Button for door knob
-Can of Polyurethane -- I got mine at Lowes

Clean and dry your container. Cut out the windows and partially the door, keep the hinge area attached.  Hot glue rocks around and up to where the roof will meet the rocks.
 Use paper clay to make the roof:
 First use tin foil to give the roof some extra shape before covering it with the clay.  I got some design ideas from this site here.
Let it dry over night, and if it cracks, fill in the cracks with extra clay:

Paint with watercolors or any other paint you choose, and after dry, coat with polyurethane to waterproof.

I don't have a picture, but we then used grout over the rocks and let it dry overnight.  For grout instructions, see this link here! Then hot-glued the sticks on the door with the button doorknob.  Cover the rocks and door with polyurethane to water proof:

We also hot-glued the roof on and plugged up the chimney as to not attract spiders.

Wishing well:
You will need-
-little rocks (same as house)
-tongue depressors or Popsicle sticks
-thimble for bucket
-piece of wire for the crank (we used a chunk of a wire hanger)
-thin piece of wire for the bucket handle
-piece of twine or string for bucket rope

After you have done all the pipe work, mark your inner pipe so you know where to put your rocks.  We built the roof first out of tongue depressors, then hot glued it on, then covered the bottom with the rocks when we hot glued them on.  Then after we glued the rocks on, we added the grout and painted the roof with watercolors.  After that dried, we covered the whole thing with polyurethane to waterproof it.  

My husband then drilled the holes for the bucket and assembled it.

Last night we placed the well and the house in the garden just before bed.  After the kids went to bed we worked a little magic....

And when they woke up, they ran out to check on the garden and were AMAZED and THRILLED that a little ladder had appeared over night!  A Gnome had come!! (Obviously, because Fairies fly and don't need ladders, duh).
Rope ladder made of twine and sticks...

We love our garden!  I will be posting updates on my Facebook page -- if you want to follow our progress!  Each day, something new will magically appear... And PLEASE share photos of what you come up with as well!

Also don't forget to check out my Pinterest board for more ideas!


Update:  Day one, the ladder appeared.  Day two was this morning (Tuesday) and the boys woke up to a gravel path! (Found this pretty rocks at Dollar Tree)

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