Gnome Protests: Standing in Solidarity, Fighting the Good Fight

Now gnomes don’t often like to get involved in human politics. After all, they have much better things to do with their time – like growing gardens, causing mischief, and drinking grog. In fact, the simplicity and peacefulness of gnomes’ lives is what drew many of us to them in the first place!

Yet it’s impossible to ignore the politics and injustices happening in the world today, and not even gnomes can stay silent all the time. Here are a few examples of how gnomes have been involved in protests all around the world.

Gnomes Against McDonalds

One of the most famous of gnome protests took place in Australia in 2013, when gnomes took a stand against a new McDonalds restaurant coming to the small town of Tecoma. The 24-hour fast food drive-thru threatened to ruin the gnome’s peaceful existence. Since then, the Tecoma gnomes have taken on lighter pursuits, like breaking the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest gathering of people dresses as garden gnomes. Check out the “Gnomeageddon” story here!

Gnome for Better Garden Care

A German garden store called Toom released an ad with Ogilvy Action in Düsseldorf a few years ago, featuring gnomes protesting neglected yards and inhospitable conditions. In a dramatic reenactment, gnomes left their homes and marched to the center of the city to share their plight with the world and demand a better backyard environment. Gnomes protested to convince Germans to take better care of their gardens, and they succeeded. You can watch the full video here!

Gnomes for Lower Energy Rates

Gnomes made the news last fall when they marched in Toronto to protest rising electric prices that residents can’t afford. These protesters hailed from the North Hastings chapter of the Gnomes for Justice and Equality, which is a group that supports various advocacy efforts. One member explained these gnomes do not promote any specific political party or social agency, but are community members who want to address issues of rural poverty and hunger. These gnomes are working to create positive change in the community and welcome anyone willing to put on a red hat to join them. Read more about their efforts here!

Are the gnomes in your home activists and revolutionaries? Or are they peaceful types that steer clear of controversy and drama?

‘Tis the Season: Gnome Holiday Gift Giving Guide!

It’s that time of year again…gift-giving season! Chances are that not everyone on your list is as enthused about gnomes as you are. But that certainly doesn’t mean that you can’t share your passion for collecting around the holidays.

Gnome-inspired gifts can come from your favorite local garden stores, online retailers, and even homemade creations that you craft by hand. So if you need a little inspiration for the loved ones in your life, check out my Gnome Holiday Giving Guide. Have fun browsing and shopping!

For Her: “Splurge” gnome purse or “budget” gnome purse

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For Him: “Hangin’ with my gnomies” men’s pajama set

For Babies: Gnome onesie with red hat

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For Kids: Paintable garden gnome set

For Teens: Brightly-colored gnome socks

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For Grandparents: “I’ll be gnome for Christmas” throw pillow

For Neighbors: “Gnome crossing” sign

For Gardener Friends: Chia pet gnome

For Book Club Friends: Wil Huygen’s Gnomes, Deluxe Collector’s Edition

For Travelers: Gnome postcards with gnome postage stamps and gnome luggage tags

For Service Men & Women: Original combat garden gnomes

For Dog & Cat Lovers: Gnome pet ID tags and gnome hat/beard costumes

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For Gnome Haters (we all know them): “Gnome-be-gone” garden art

 

A version of this article was published in the most recent edition of the International Gnome Club Newsletter. Gimme a shout if you want more info on joining our awesome club or writing some gnome-worthy news of your own! 

For more online gnome shopping resources, check out Amazon, Café Press, Zazzle, Gnome Frenzy, and Find Gift.

My Gnome-tastic Visit to Brewery Achouffe in Belgium

Several years ago while shopping at Whole Foods, I caught a glimpse of a gnome perched atop a beer tap at the grocery store’s bar. Ever since that day, I’ve been obsessed with Brasserie D’Achouffe, a gnome-themed brewery in the countryside of Belgium.

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Through my gnome writings, I’ve even gotten to know the brewery’s founder, Chris Bauweraerts via email! Well one of my gnome travel bucket-list dreams recently came true when I booked a trip to Belgium to visit Chris and these tiny gnome brewers.

My gnome-supportive husband and I rented a car in Brussels, and drove two hours to reach the brewery in the rolling hills of the Belgian Ardennes. Belgians drive on the right side of the road, not the wrong/left side like they do in the UK, so it was pretty easy to get around.

rental car

But first, we stopped in Liege, a small Belgian town on the way. A quick TripAdvisor search told me that the top thing to do in Liege was climb the Coteaux de la Citadelle, which involves 374 stairs that lead to an awesome view of the town.

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The town of Liege has an upper level and a lower level, so we wandered the streets of both, which were connected by peaceful wooded trails. Although I only had a couple hours to spend here, I’d say it was definitely a worthwhile pit stop.

And what’s a pit stop without some sustenance?! Here’s me skeptically eating a delightful (?) lunch of canned corn and peanut butter while watching some drama go down with the local police.

lunch

But without further delay, onward we traveled to Achouffe! The brewery location is beautiful with cutesy homes, a small lake, and gnome figures scattered all around on the walls and signs.

Chouffe 1It was a Friday afternoon and all was quiet on the gnome-front. This was fine with me, as it provided many uninterrupted photo ops with the local gnome residents.

Chouffe 2Helpful gnomes pointed us in the right direction as we explore the grounds before our scheduled tour.
Chouffe 4Reminiscent of that day back in Chicago when I “gnomed myself” at Chouffe Fest Chicago, the brewery had a perfectly-situated and oversized chair to hop into and feel as tiny as the gnome brewers themselves.

Related: The Night I Gnomed Myself – Chouffe Fest Chicago

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Standard brewery tours are in Dutch; however, our gracious guide, Lydia, took the time to translate everything in English just for us.

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We got to see the Achouffe beer-making equipment, brewing vats, and even a short film about the brewery’s history. Not surprisingly, I was captivated and enthralled during every single moment.

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Then Lydia led us to the tasting room to sample all the Chouffe specialties: the traditional blonde (La Chouffe), decadent brown(Mc Chouffe), hoppy IPA (Houblon Chouffe), and fruity summer beer (Chouffe Soleil). I must reveal that I’m a bit of a craft beer connoisseur, and even if gnomes weren’t on each label, these would still be some of my all-time favorites!

Chouffe 8I even got to play bartender for a bit! Could a full-time gig and relocation to Belgium be in my future?

bartender

Although the staff gave us complementary glasses and postcards, I quickly found myself stocking up on gnome gear at the souvenir shop. I’m now the proud owner of a long-sleeved Chouffe bike shirt, wall plaque, key chain, and zip drive!

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But the highlight of my brewery visit was meeting and spending time with the owner and founder, Chris. I could not have asked for a more welcoming and hospitable host!

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Chris published a book, called My Chouffe Story, which details how the brewery began in 1982 and how the gnomes became such an important part of the brewing process. He gave me a signed copy of his book as a gift, a memento I will always treasure.

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Chris went out of his way to make us fall in love with the Belgian countryside, taking us to some of his favorite places in the area. We followed Chris, (in his orange shirt and orange car…a fellow fan of everything orange, like me!) to a nearby bed, breakfast & brewery, La Vieille Forge, which is known as the tiniest brewery in Belgium.

By the way, the concept of a BB&B is amazing and there should be more of these…EVERYWHERE.

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I got to meet the mastermind behind Brewery Inter-Pol and sample his two original beers, which were delicious. I really just wanted to stay at this tiny country pub for a while with the super-friendly locals and crash overnight at the B&B, but alas, all the rooms were booked for a biking event in the area. Maybe next time.

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After reluctantly leaving the tiny brew pub, Chris took a traditional kebob & fries restaurant, Friterie Au Chat l’Heureux, to fill up our stomachs after all that awesome beer.

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There were a few too many choices for my overloaded brain at this point in the brew-fueled day, but was finally able to decide on an order. Whew.

Fries are a big deal in Belgium, and although I tend to avoid the greasy specimens back in the States, I felt obliged to give ’em try on this side of the pond. I can’t deny that they were a tremendously satisfying post-beer snack. Good thing I’d been averaging 10 miles of walking per day!

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Chris knows the ins and outs of everything in the Belgian Ardennes…even the history behind an old cemetery that we stopped to check out along the road.

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In caravan-style, we spent our afternoon following him to a few of his other favorite places in the area, including a WWII site, scenic nature sites with yellow wildflowers, the production & bottling facility, and a local pub.

Chouffe19Gnome and beer enthusiasts truly are the friendliest people in the world, and I’m so happy to have hundreds of photos (literally, hundreds) to remember my gnome-tastic day forever.

Chouffe18A big thanks goes out to Chris, Isabelle, Lydia, and all the Chouffe staff for making my gnome brewery visit absolutely perfect. Cheers!

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*A version of this story is published in the current edition of the “International Gnome Club Newsletter.” Drop a line to President Liz Spera at gnomegnet@aol.com to become a member of our club and keep up with gnome enthusiasts like me!

Do Gnomes Belong in Renaissance Fairs?

Many gnome enthusiasts believe that gnomes originated in Germany in the early 1800s and that the first gnomes appeared in England in the 1840s. However, as I attended my very first Renaissance Fair in Bristol Wisconsin, I couldn’t help but notice gnomish influences all around me.

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But wait! The Renaissance is categorized as the period of European history between the 1300s and the 1600s. So how did gnomes begin sneaking their way into these festival celebrations?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word “gnome” comes from Renaissance Latin gnomus, which first appears in the works of a 16th century Swiss alchemist named Paracelsus. He described gnomes as diminutive spirits that were small, lived underground, and appeared in Renaissance magic and alchemy. In his publications, Paracelsus wrote that gnomes were about a foot tall, could move through solid earth, and were weary of human contact. You can read more about Paracelsus’ gnomes in Alan G. Hefner’s essay, “Paracelus’ Natural Spirits,” and Princeton’s history of gnomes.

But as I walked around the Renaissance Fair chomping on an oversized turkey leg and admiring the costumes, I couldn’t help but notice more trolls, wizards, fairies, and elves than gnomes for sale. One fair vendor selling mushrooms had a lovely lady gnome with her two children on display. The vendor revealed that he and his wife used to run a Renaissance fair booth that was all about gnomes and sold gnomes in all shapes and sizes. I tried to convince him to bring that booth back next year…we’ll see.

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I visited another fair vendor who created handmade pottery sculptures of all kinds. As you can see in this photo, gnomes sat alongside wizards, Santas, and leprechauns. Just as I find with Christmas markets each year, identifying true gnomes in crowds like this is always a challenge.

So I ask again, do gnomes belong at Renaissance Fairs?

As I see it, the purpose of a Renaissance Fair is to take a step back in history to enjoy a day in another place and time. So while the true origin of gnomes is still debated,  gnomes have a special place in history and I think they would really enjoy the Renaissance Fair activities. And if wizards, elves, and trolls are allowed to attend, then I see no reason for gnomes to be left out of the celebration! Cheers!

xoxo,
Roxy the Gnome

*A version of this story is scheduled to be published in the upcoming International Gnome Club Newsletter!