Because this year is an exponential leap from last year’s eerily successful Dead Thing Pen, I’ve needed to arrange my zombie ducks in a row well in advance of that eagerly anticipated day in late October.
Accordingly, the purchasing process began in earnest as early as July. The imagination process began as early as last November.
Parsing the solution has been at least as involved as the actual work will be. Major issues that needed to be resolved included things that worked and failed from last year and how to pull off the ambitious aims for this year.
Mulch is my nemesis
Black mulch is a beautiful thing. I’ve used it for several Halloween’s now as a base for my graveyard and other constructions. So it was natural for me to use it as my go-to when constructing my Dead Thing Pen.
Except, I ill-considered the spatial requirements of a 14 foot by 3 foot area. 42 square feet of mulch. Ten mulch bags. 500 total pounds. Looked gorgeous.
Ah, but the kicker was cleanup. 500 pounds plus being soaked. Shoveling it all up is a heckuva lot harder than pouring it down. And the driveway afterwards…!
So, I needed a new idea for the base.
There’s foam and there’s foam
My first thought was a polyfoam base, the stuff used in couch and chair cushions. This was not that hard to come by, as even most of the big box home repair stores stock rolls of the stuff.
But, even at its thickest (about 4 inches), it was floppy. Challenges arose regarding how was I going to get the Dead Things to stand in the foam (obviously cutting into it, but there was no real lateral support) and also, how would it hold up to the nefarious Florida weather.
I looked into floral foam, having familiarity with that from my days of helping Mom at the florist shop. Firmness problem solved, but weather remained my enemy, as those blocks are meant to be absorbent (to keep the flowers fresh) and thus would continue to soak up rain and eventually crumble.
Finally, with reservations, I opted for styrofoam. Deadly to the environment and deadly to the house (it flakes almost instantly upon unwrapping, it does solve most of the problems above while also serving as a potentially reusable feature (assuming I pay for an extension to my overloaded storage room).
Black is the old black
Of course, all of those styrofoam blocks are traditional, unadulterated styrofoam, i.e., white as a winter mountaintop.
That means paint. Cans and cans of paint. Cheap paint, if you please, because I’ve got 73 of those blocks to paint. But at least I only have to paint the top and sides. No need to paint the bottom.
Wired to get started
But it’s not quite that simple. The styrofoam blocks are strong, but they’re pretty puncture resistant. In order to ensure my Dead Things will stay upright, I had to pick up a mass of wire that I will use to secure their feet, paws, claws and whatevers.
Of course, that means more spray paint. Can’t have colored wire ruining the spooky effect.
No straw men needed
In fact, no men at all. Skeletons, m’boy, skeletons!
The need for two “life-sized” (what an ironic term for a skeleton) skeletons is also complicated in that they have to be poseable. That means no hanging skeletons and no doctor’s/teacher’s skeletons.
While one will be sitting down while “performing”, the other needs to be standing. I anxiously await my chosen skeleton and stand to determine if I can make these guys work.
Clothes make the man
And it holds true for skeletons, too.
With my needs for an animal control/dog catcher outfit and a Pied Piper outfit, I knew I might face a challenge. In fact, I face a total lack of costumes of these two types whatsoever.
While I thought the first could be problematical (not the most scary costume, unless you’re a stray dog or cat), I didn’t imagine the second would be hard to find.
Imagine my surprise to discover a dearth of musical costumes out there. Throw away your guitarists and 70’s disco themes and there’s naught to be found. Even browsing through medieval outfits only turned up one “minstrel” costume and, frankly, it looked no different from any other peasant outfit advertised.
I’ve located a “bug catcher” outfit online at Wal-Mart and that will be my fall back costume for skeleton #1. What I do about my Pied Piper is still under consideration/imagination.
There’s no time like the present
Given the amount of painting I need to do and the amount of inclement weather I expect over the next two months, I foresee much painting on the screened in patio. Bad for the breathing, but I can’t see any other clear path to painting all the items (73 foam blocks and 60 edging stones).
I’m hoping that by starting this early, it won’t seem like drudgery. And my carcinogenic poisoning will be thus limited, as well.
Bring out your dead
Lastly, I’ll need to know how many new Dead Things I will need to buy. This is the least sure part of the design; something I will not know exactly until I actually have the base display set up.
Fortunately, in this day and age of free shipping and Prime 2-day shipments, I expect I will be able to complete the whole affair within a week of completion of the Dead Thing Driveway.
Mother may I
All of this is once again at the mercy of that mistress of meteorological majesty, Mom Nature.
It’s up to her to allow me the temperate climate that will let my display survive. While my costumed skeletons may suffer for the occasional thunderstorm, that’s all well within scope. As usual, my only request to her is a forbearance on large, spinny messes coming off the waters surrounding my peninsula state.
Absent that, I expect another bang up year with a spectacular display that will leave mouths agape and eyes wide, with only one thought on everyone’s mind…
What the heck am I gonna do next year?