On a hot summer day, it isn’t unusual to find our kids and the neighbour’s kids playing together, both inside and out, often parked in a sunny patch with Polly Pockets (the girls) and army men (the boys) and plans for a giant battle between the two. Our backyards face south by southeast, and being a relatively new construction, there is a dearth of mature trees and therefore a serious lack of shade, too.
We bought a gazebo a few years ago, one of those fabric tent-like structures to give us some shade, but late in the afternoon when the sun is slowly dropping in the west, the angle is all wrong and the backyard is completely sunny. And hot. Scorchingly so, this past week.
Between our two houses, however, there is a little strip of land that is constantly shaded by the two houses. My neighbour and I have planted shade-loving things all along the edges of the foundations, and she laid stepping-stones in a path down the middle. It is the only place on our two properties guaranteed to have shade all day long. So much shade, in fact, that it feels like an entirely different ecosystem when you walk between the houses. Cool and moist, in a good way, with moss growing between the stepping-stones and little breezes peeking around the corners of the houses and keeping you cool.
Do the children ever play there? No. Of course not. Why enjoy that cool shady spot when you can roast your tender skin in the sun and then complain to Mom that you’re too hot? Shade is boring. Besides, there’s nothing to do there. There’s not enough room for anything. (We’ll ignore the fact that they love playing with miniature-sized dolls and army guys and often occupy only a four foot square patch of our big backyard and don’t move from there for hours).
So, after getting a little bit of inspiration from the great Mommy Blogosphere, I went to work on a secret project. My part done, I drafted the girls into helping me paint rocks.
They painted quite a few rocks, asking the whole time “Why? Why are we painting rocks?” but all I would tell them was, “It’s a secret.” Even promises of “You can tell me. Honest. I won’t tell!” weren’t enough to get me to reveal the big surprise. So, they painted, and speculated, and painted some more.
“Maybe she’s going to fill a big jar with rocks and make a decoration.”
“I know! I know! She’s going to write words on them like ‘Love’ and ‘Happy’ to make Love Rocks and Happy Rocks!”
(A most excellent idea for another day, but no, that wasn’t the secret)
Then, I started adding rainbows with a very fine-tipped brush.
“Rainbow Rocks!” they yelled, almost in unison, confident they now knew the big secret. Until C wondered aloud “But what are they for?”
Painting done, we tidied up, washed hands… and arms… and elbows… and chins… and noses. How they got paint on their noses is beyond me, but they both had more than one colour smudged across the tip. The girls ran off to play, and I got to work in between the houses.
I dug up a little plant, added fresh mulch to the now empty spot, got out the small dollar store birdhouses I had done up with a little paint, scrapbook papers, and Mod Podge (wonderful stuff!), and a few other little bits and pieces. Along with the rocks and some fake flowers leftover from B’s birthday, I made this:
A fairy garden for the Polly Pockets to play in (and, I’m sure, for army men to attack).
The farm fences are coffee stir sticks hot-glued together, their legs long enough to stake securely into the ground. A few plastic animals, pine cone trees, and a mushroom-shaped garden stake finish it off.
It truly does feel like a secret fairy garden as you cannot see it until you are almost on top of it, thanks to the hostas and astilbe blooming all around. The girls were delighted with their secret garden, and have been adding pieces of their own, as I hoped they would. A small square of ‘carpet’, a bunny, and more. Joy and bliss in a tiny patch of ground between the houses. A shady patch of ground, perfect for those summer afternoons when the backyard is just too hot for comfort. Perfection.
(Or at least it was until the orb spider moved in.)