UPDATE August 6, 2013–Lisa published the Fairy Garden Handbook this year as a follow-up to her Fairy House Handbook. It focusses on gardening with the fairies in mind and is filled with lists of flowers for fairy potions and projects.
Story and Photos By Pamela Burke/August 11, 2012
You may be aware of the Tiny House Movement of the last few years as the economy has taken a downward turn. Homes are smaller, some even the size of a large closet. Less is definitely more these days when it comes to living spaces. Upon arriving in Maine recently, I discovered a fascinating movement to even tinier habitats.
Houses are being constructed in tree hollows, stone walls, and stumps, sometimes so small that you can hardly see them. Building materials include moss, sticks, seaweed, and rocks. You and I can’t live in them, but there are many in need of a place to lite that call them home. They are being built for our fairy friends.
Age knows no boundaries when it comes to building fairy houses. Young and old alike are foraging for any usable ingredient from mother nature to mold into a livable design. I met Liza Gardner Walsh, a children’s librarian and author of The Fairy House Handbook, at a recent fairy house festival at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, who says this phenomenon started on Monhegan Island in this state and is gaining in popularity.
Her new book is a wonderful primer for those interested in building fairy dwellings large and small. As she says, “If you are committed to taking care of fairies and creating places for them to visit, they are no doubt watching you. Remember though that they are very private.”
At the garden event there was an amazing variety of houses from professional designs with intricate landscaping (above) to sticks and stones gently being held together by a whim in the woods (below).
How could I resist attempting to make one of my own? A friend equally enamored with the concept of helping these special beings was determined to help build a suitable abode. Foraging for construction materials was fun and a way to learn about the array of natural wonders lurking right in our own yard. We found mushrooms, pine cones, berries, twigs, birch bark, leaves and rush galore that we hadn’t noticed before.
We jumped into fairy house building with great abandon and decided to create it on a stand before we moved it to the forest. Our design was slow to take shape as it grew into a woodsy retreat, and we wondered if a fairy would deign to lite in something that looked like this.
But slowly it started to take shape. “There is no limit to how many fairy houses you can make in a lifetime,” Liza says. “There is no age at which you need to stop building. I know people who have been making them for more than fifty years.” So we weren’t about to give up.
After adding and mixing all the riches we could find around the property, we finally pieced together a dwelling we thought fairies would like and placed it in the woods. We added a tufted bed, tables, chairs, swing, and a bowl of berries. Liza’s enthusiasm about these wondrous places carried us through until the final pine cone was put into place.
If you’re a fan of these special wee folk, here are some words of wisdom from Liza: “Keep working and taking care of the fairies. Continue to listen for the jingle of bells or squint your eyes as the air shimmers around your house. There is magic in building them and I hope you always treasure it.”
Thanks, Liza, for introducing us to these mini dwellings. We had a ball building the Fairy Haven as we call it and will be spreading the word far and wide about the treasures that surround us and how to turn them into wee palaces.