Monday, May 18, 2009

Little Homes for Little Folk

Possibly my favorite book of all time is Gnomes, by Wil Huygen and Rien Poortvliet. My favorite page in this favorite book is the cutaway view of a gnome home. I have passed on my love of gnomes (and cutaway views) to my young son, and together we've savored the magic of other little people such as Borrowers and Minpins. In addition to sighting a male gnome in the woods behind our house, Xavier has even pioneered the discovery of two whole new anthropomorphic species — peaceful woodland dwellers known as Bwidgewits and their evil rivals, the Greylings.

As a child, I would try to make gnome houses out of twigs and moss, always with rather disappointing results, but one of the best things about being a parent is getting to relive parts of your childhood with the skills of an adult. The opportunity to try my hand again at building a miniature house presented itself when our favorite neighbor cleared some trees in the woods. My son was distressed for the scores of Bwidgewits who were surely displaced. We sprang into action, building a lodge for them out of scrap bricks and slate and covering it with moss. It wasn't half bad for a first effort.

Then I discovered the Storey book Nature's Art Box, which has projects for crafting things from natural materials, including directions for some little houses made from bark and twigs and moss. This was going to be a dream come true for me. At the first blush of spring, my son and I collected materials, then dried the soggy wood in the garage for a few weeks. When it was ready, we assembled our toolbox, including the secret weapon not available to me as a kid — a hot glue gun.

The first step was to cut the walls. The directions indicated garden clippers should be used,
but my bark was pretty thick, and I ended up using a bow saw.

Then I used my friend the glue gun to bind the walls together. Bark doesn't have very straight edges,
for a greater area of contact, I taped the joints using thin sheets of birch bark.

Twigs, also hot-glued for adhesion, make a roof.

A carpet of moss over the roof makes it look so much homier.
The pine-cone chimney was Xavier's idea and, in my opinion, was a stroke of genius.
The moss door makes the house Greyling-proof, since they are afraid of moss and other lovely things.
We added a pine-cone door knob, too.

Xavier wanted the door to be able to swing open, which I thought was a pretty tall order,
but the moss was already attached to thin, flexible bark, and it wasn't so hard after all.

Nature's Art Box also had directions for some miniature furnishings, which we made to fit into the house.

Within a week, we were very gratified to see a bunny come to visit the house and whisper through the walls to the Bwidgewits. Was he soliciting advice and protection, passing along gossip, or maybe just asking permission to eat the hay we lay in front of the little house over new grass seed? If only we knew.

Alethea Morrison, Storey Creative Director


Melanie Jolicoeur said...

I must agree, the pine cone chimney is my favorite detail!

Karen Salva said...

We have Nature's Art Box and love it. A very dear friend sent it as one of the most thoughtful and creative surprise gifts ever. We could not be more thrilled with the ideas to keep kids outside and close to nature.