About gnomeplaya

I am the Master and Goddess of All Gnome-kind.

Gnome Man’s Land: A California Fantasy Land 40 Years in the Making

Imagine walking into the backyard of an unassuming single family home, only to find thousands of pairs of beady little eyes peering out at you beneath pointy red hats.1No, this isn’t the setup for some creepy B-horror film; it’s a dream-come-true for every hardcore gnome collector. This summer, I had the pleasure of visiting Gnome Man’s Land, an elaborate gnome home and garden in Santa Rosa, California.2Now this is no fly-by-night gnome collection tucked away in the bowels of obscurity. Oh, no no. This is a gnomish fantasy land nearly 40 years in the making, operated by my good friend and personal idol, Jean Fenstermaker.4Jean was inspired to create Gnome Man’s Land in the 1960s after a few key life events: her Disneyland storybook canal ride, her mother’s rock garden, and her friend who had two gnomes on an office desk. Jean’s first gnome garden was born on January 25, 1976 and spanned just 18 inches by 35 inches in size.

From the very beginning, Jean loved to create mini-themes within her garden and stories about her gnomes. With some plant clippings from her mother and tiny bridges and accessories built by her woodworking father, her gnomes’ stories began coming to life.3Over the years, Jean has created eight additional and separate gnome gardens in her backyard. There’s The Forest Rock Garden with wildlife, The Frog Garden with gnomes and amphibians co-existing in harmony, and the Life-Size Garden…which is, you guessed it, full of LIFE-SIZED GNOMES.

But keep your britches on…even in real life, gnomes are still pretty tiny.3You can find everyone from immigrant gnomes, partially-clothed gnomes using the bathroom, gnomes with gambling habits, gnomes fighting neighbor gnomes, and vegetable-growing gnomes lurking around every corner and begging for your attention.4The spring and summer seasons bring local visitors, out-of-state travelers, and gnome aficionados from around the globe to Jean’s gnome home. The typical crowd comes from church groups, “red hatters,” and senior living facilities. Gnomes are pretty fragile, and I know that if I ever have kids, I’ll be keeping my gnomes safely packed away ’til they’re old enough to understand how awesome they are.4I personally met Jean a few years ago through the International Gnome Club, where we are both tri-annual contributing newsletter writers. For over a decade now, I’ve gotten a kick out of being part of a subculture that baffles the other 99 percent of humanity.5I also just need to put this out there: Jean’s husband, Jim, deserves a ton of praise and recognition. Jim has helped build the gardens, weeds the plants, prunes the roses, AND he enthusiastically socializes with random gnome fanatics wandering through his backyard.

If I ever have a husband, he damned well better be as supportive of my gnome obsession as that Mr. Fenstermaker. And I’ll just leave it at that.6Despite Jean and Jim’s attempts at keeping a low profile, they’ve been featured in lots of newspapers – most recently the San Francisco Chronicle, which led to two subsequent radio interviews. Jean’s garden was featured in the amazing book Gnomeland by Margaret Egleton (yes, I have a copy). And TV crews have been out to her Santa Rosa home from Home & Garden TV, The Travel Channel, and ABC’s Dream Home and Collectibles.8Jean is one of the kindest and most welcoming human beings I’ve ever met. So much so that she made a sign (held up by a gnome, of course) welcoming my boyfriend and me to Gnome Man’s Land as soon as we pulled into the driveway.  Gnome collectors truly are kindred spirits.9After an extensive VIP tour of her gnome garden, Jean whipped out the Gnome Bingo cards and we settled in for some good ole’ fashioned non-monetary gambling with refreshments. Not surprisingly, each Bingo square depicted a themed section of Jean’s quirky gnome garden.7Much to my grumbling stomach’s delight, she offered to cook a delicious dinner to share with us to further chat about all-things-gnome and all-things-non-gnome. All of the dishes were adorned with gnomes, and there were even gnome cookies for dessert. Can you say gnome overload? I was practically hyperventilating for hours.10Jean has a true and unwavering passion for gnomes, and it shows so beautifully every time her eyes light up with the reflection of a red hat in the distance. She takes such pride in her home, yard, collection, and loyal following that I can’t help but admire her to the point of stealing her ideas for my own home display one day.

As I mentioned earlier, Jean and Jim like to keep a low profile. Although they are the friendliest of friendly to fellow gnome fans, they don’t exactly just open up their backyard to just anyone either.

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You just can’t be too cautious with vandals lurking in the night. I keep up with daily gnome news, and nearly every day there’s a police report filed about gnomes being maliciously stolen, broken, and vandalized!

However, if you’re ever planning a trip to the Napa Valley region of California and would like to have the BEST DAY EVER, I’m might just be able to hook you up with a Gnome Man’s Land VIP Tour.

(Restrictions and fees may apply. Kidding. Sort of.)11“Are there any real live gnomes in existence? If there are, I’d sure like to see one!” ~ The cautiously optimistic Jean Fenstermaker.

*This article was originally published in on November 12, 2014 in Alyssa v. Nature.

A Gnomish Tale of Devastation and Resilience: The Gnome Countryside Fire

gnomemanIn gnomish communities, fires do happen, but we never expect them to happen to us. A fire recently broke out at Gnome Countryside in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Richard and Mary Humphreys have a house on the Gnome Countryside property, where they give educational tours about gnomes and nature through the woods.

Richard is affectionately referred to as “Gnomeman.” He used to be an art teacher before he retired, then he devoted himself to Gnome Countryside to teach people about the importance of environmental stewardship.

The Humphreys’ 220-year old log home was essentially destroyed in the fire, which began around 2AM in early February. Fortunately, no one was home at the time and no one was injured in the fire, although crews worked to put it out until 5:30AM. Apparently, someone spotted smoke on the property, which turned out to be coming from heated rocks, a Quarryville Fire Company officer said. The cause of the fire is undetermined, though not suspicious, fire officials said.

fire house

But I’m sure you’re wondering what we’re wondering….HOW ARE THE GNOMES?!

Richard placed gnomes throughout his 14 wooded acres of land to help him tell stories about environmental issues, ecology, and zoology. Details about the well-being of Richard’s gnomes has not yet been released to the public. Hopefully, one of the local reporters writes a follow up report soon about the fire’s effect upon gnome life on the property.

We’re pulling for ya little guys….hang in there, we’re pulling for ya!

richardUndoubtedly, the local community loves Gnome Countryside and has already donated over $13,000 to build it back up. If you’d like to show your support head over to the You Caring Fundraiser site started by 29-year-old Chris Neely, who grew up near Gnome Countryside and spent many childhood days there.

Despite it all, the Humphreys and their gnomes aren’t discouraged. According to Richard, “”We’re going to build it back up and it’s going to better then ever.”

A Visit to the Gnome Nook’s Confectioners – Denver, Colorado

At the end of a recent snowboarding trip I took to Colorado, I stumbled upon the most delightful gnome-themed shop in Denver. The Gnome’s Nook Confectioners is tucked away among the trendy eateries and quaint shops in Denver’s Washington Park neighborhood.

The well-decorated Gnome's Nook entrance
The well-decorated Gnome’s Nook entrance

Stroll through the shop’s outdoor area, which is lined trees, shrubs, benches, and gnome murals. Then make your way inside to enter a magical candy-filled forest with a variety of “gnomemade” chocolate, truffles, covered pretzels, and vintage candies.

Gnome candy

But the very best part of the shop awaits you on the second floor! Up a single flight of stairs you’ll find a wonderful collection of modern and vintage gnomes, gnome books, greeting cards, games, gnome artwork, knitted gnome hats, and gnome jewelry. I loved browsing through the collections of 1990s Kinder Surprise gnomes, 1980s Tom Clark gnomes, 1970s Goebel gnomes, and even a gnome from the 1940s!

Kinder Surprise gnome collection
Kinder Surprise gnome collection

The Gnome’s Nook Confectioners is owned by a brother-sister team, Stephen and Katherine Hostettler. According to a local blogger, Stephen chose the signature gnome theme so as to be gender neutral and make the store’s environment welcoming to everyone. I’m still waiting for the owners to reply to an email I sent to the owners with a few questions about their business.

Flower room

But the Gnome’s Nook isn’t just for shopping, it’s for celebrations too! The owners welcome birthday parties and plan gnome-themed activities wit party favors and cake to keep kids of all ages entertained. The shop also hosts parties for graduations, summer solstice, spring equinox, and Mayday.

Gnome garden entrance
Gnome garden entrance

You can attend movie nights, open air music, circle readings, and wine/chocolate pairings throughout the year. Gnome’s Nook also offers “gnome trade” workshops that focus on felting, candle-making, birdhouse making, and garden planting.

Freaking out at all the gnomes up for adoption
Freaking out at all the gnomes up for adoption

I definitely enjoyed my stop at the Gnome’s Nook Confectioners and I highly recommend it to anyone living near or traveling through the Denver area. See for yourself at 1078 South Gaylord Street, Denver, Colorado or give the owners a call at 303-997-7103.

Local Officials Investigate”Gnome Sightings” in Switzerland!

PRESS RELEASE FROM SB WIRE

Graubünden, Switzerland — (SBWIRE) — 11/22/2013 — Local officials are investigating a number of “Gnome Sightings” in the Graubünden canton of Switzerland after a local farmer photographed something that some people are claiming “proves that Gnomes are real.” The farmer, who wishes to stay anonymous, setup a hidden motion activated camera after the vegetables in his garden began disappearing. Expecting to catch an unscrupulous neighbor or possibly a rodent, he was shocked by what he saw while reviewing the pictures the next morning.

GNOMESIGHTING“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was just like people had described.” said the man. Although very dark, the images he captured do contain what some people are calling the “Graubünden Gnome.” This follows a rash of reports by locals villagers throughout Graubünden over the last 18 months of “tiny human-like creatures with pointy ears and sharp teeth.”I wanted people to be aware because I don’t know if these things are dangerous” said the farmer. “I have nothing to gain from this. Only ridicule from my neighbors.”

The word Gnome comes from Renaissance Latin gnomus, which first appears in the works of 16th century Swiss alchemist Paracelsus where he perhaps derived the term from Latin gnomos (itself representing a Greek ??-?????, literally “earth-dweller”). Some villages in Graubünden have a history of nome sightings that date back more than 500 years.

Architect David Bianchi was visiting friends in Arosa when he encountered what he describes as a “tiny human-like creature with pointy ears and sharp teeth.” “I grabbed a light and went outside to investigate a strange noise I heard by the garden.” said Bianchi. “I could see a small figure of no more than 30 centimeters moving in the plants.” I thought maybe it was an animal or a small child but when I shined my light on it I could see it was neither.” “It had wrinkles like an old person but it was no person. It had sharp ears and teeth and you could see veins through it’s skin. I froze briefly until it hissed and ran away.” Binachi was at first hesitant to discuss the encounter with anyone. “I grew up in Meiringen where many people claimed to see river monsters in the Arre River and I always thought they were crazy.”

The photos are being investigated by James Moore of the Gnome Society which claims to be the largest “gnomologic community” in the world. “We are running extensive tests on these photos to determine their authenticity but everything so far leads us to believe that these are genuine.” Mr. Moore expects the tests to be completed within two weeks. In the meantime, many villages in Graubünden are recommending that small children don’t go outside after dark.

View The Gnome Pictures Here

About the Gnome Society
Gnome Society is the original and largest gnomologic community of scientists, historians, journalists, and specialists from diverse backgrounds. The Gnome Society is considered the most credible and respected source in Gnomology.

The Gnome Society organizes, investigates and reports gnomologic encounters and directs expeditions to places where the encounters have occurred.