Sunday, November 3, 2013

Dealings with Fairies

Tending her fairy house
Almost every day, Little Sister asks me why we can't move back to Florida so she can be with her best friends again.  It has been 3 months since we moved to the Pacific Northwest, and while the rest of the family has adjusted wonderfully well (and I am almost giddy with the thrill of being surrounded by woods and water again), a preschool-classful of new friends here do not make up for the ache of missing her dear ones left behind.  And talk of dad's job satisfaction or the proximity of extended family is no match for a 5-year-old ego.
But when I ask her whether there isn't one thing, just one single thing that she likes more about living here than back in her old home, she does admit that here, we live in a house with a real live fairy (named Primrose) in the backyard.  And that would be hard to give up.  And while she hasn't yet seen Primrose, she does see her hummingbird friend, Calliope, at the feeder all the time, so you never know, she might yet catch a glimpse of the fairy that replies to Little Sister's notes and flowers with teeny tiny letters of her own, and gifts of ripe berries and sea glass.
So today I am grateful for the fairy folk that make this island their home, and want to share with you an easy way to make your own fairy house so you can invite some more magic into your yard.


From fence slat...

... to fairy hut.

Much of the cedar fence surrounding the back yard is old and rotten and in need of replacing if it is to have any hope of standing up to a 75 lb dog with a curious nose.  After attending to the worst sections we had a dozen old fence slats that were just soft enough for a 7-year-old with a coping saw and a penchant for building to cut through.  Our first house was held together with hot glue, hope, and a haphazard nail or two, and while beautifully irregular and charming, it didn't stand a chance against that same dog in chase of a squirrel.   
So we came up with a way to put together somewhat more regular houses, held together with a few more nails, that are hung up on trees and thus a little less likely to get trampled, with rope ladders for those rainy or windy days when a fairy might not want to fly.  And because rope ladders are just plain fun.
Start with a fence slat so old and rotten you really can't put it to any other use.  The fairies really wouldn't have it any other way (and if you need some, come on over, I have a pile of them).  It'll be so soft that you can score it with a pencil or a screw driver to give you some guidelines to cut by.  First, cut off two rectangles about 7 or 8 inches long for the roof.  If you are a obsessive enough that asymmetry will bother you, make one of them 1/2 an inch longer than the other:
Then, nail them together at right angles to each other, nailing through the longer piece into the end of the shorter piece, like so:
...and you've got your roof.  You can dog-ear the corners if you'd like; of course the ends of some fence slats are already dog-eared.
Using the roof as a template, make some score marks on the remaining fence slat so you can cut a back that matches:

and cut it straight across the bottom to whatever height you'd like your house to be.

Before you nail the roof to this back, though, it's best if you put the sides and bottom on it first, since it's easiest for little helper hands (not to speak of adult helper fingers) to hammer into something that can be set firmly on the ground.  So holding the roof in place as a size guide, score lengths of fence slat for each side of the house:

...and then hammer the sides onto the back piece (here this helper decided he wanted to make a shelf of one of the triangular scraps).

Do the same for the bottom, setting it in place to measure the length you'll need, and then scoring it for a line to cut by (ignore those angled score marks; that was where we'd initially scored the roof lines before we realized that this end of the fence slat which had rested on the ground was so rotten it couldn't even hold nails, so we started at the other end of the slat):

Nail that bottom into place with a few nails through the side walls...

Then finally, affix the roof by nailing through the back into it:

And you have yourself a fairy house:

For a rope ladder, gather some twigs, about 1/2" diameter or wide enough to drill holes 1/8" holes through, and cut them into 2-3" lengths with some pruners.  You'll also need a couple of lengths of twine, each piece at least twice as long as you want the finished ladder to be.

Drill a hole through the twig about 1/4" from each end, then thread the twine through (this is easier if you use a large-eyed yarn needle for the twine), making an overhand knot on each side of the twig to hold it in place. 

Make another overhand knot about an inch away, then thread on another twig, and secure it with a second overhand knot.   Repeat until you have a long enough ladder for your purposes.  Then repeat this threading and knotting twine through the holes on the other end of the twigs.

Hang your rope ladder from a nail in the floorboard, then drill a hole in the back of the house to hang it from a tree:

And then comes the best part... putting in some furniture and decorations and love notes, and waiting for the fairies to come.

Little Brother left some roses and Little Sister some pictures, which they later found Primrose had tacked to her walls with rose thorns.
Last week, when I showed Little Brother how to pick a thorn off a rosebush to pin up another picture for Primrose, he gasped and asked me, wide-eyed, "Mom, did you used to be a fairy?"  Because, he said, I knew how to pin things with rose thorns, just like Primrose did.  I just smiled and left that unanswered, so glad that she has sprinkled a little fairy dust on me, too. 


  1. This is such a sweet story. I am even more thankful to be the recipient of the ferry home knowing this story. My daughter will receive as a gift on her 4th birthday and her Aunt is going to help with the furniture and decorations. :)

    1. I'm excited for her and hope she has a happy birthday!

  2. Replies
    1. When I first told my 7-year-old about fairy houses, he spent a few minutes trying to wrap his brain around how we could possibly fit the ferry into it. Here on the island it could work both ways :).

  3. Such a beautiful story. I love this creative, little nature world you have created with your daughter! I'll remember this. Grandkids will be in my future. This is inspiring!

  4. I will have to show this to my girls. My oldest has been having fun making fairy gardens this summer and they enjoy nearly all things "fairy".