Mariane and Ray Foster in the gnome village in their back garden in Kitimat on June 18.

In Our Valley: Mariane Foster

A little slice of childhood magic right here in Kitimat

If you’re looking for some magic right here in Kitimat, then look no further than the home of Ray and Mariane Foster, in whose backyard lives an entire village of gnomes.

Mariane started the garden 12 years ago, when her twin granddaughters were two years old. Foster told the Kitimat Northern Sentinel that she isn’t completely sure why she chose to make a gnome garden for her granddaughters, but there’s just something about them that drew her in.

“I kind of like gnomes,” Foster said, laughing. “And probably one of the girls liked gnomes, and I kind of wanted to do a theme for them.”

The first part of the village was a large stump she covered in small animal statues, along with other baubles and ornaments. After seeing how much the girls enjoyed that, she wanted to make them a little village so they had more to explore.

From then on, Foster added to the village every year, until it grew big enough that her son cleared out the area in her back forest for her, making paths through the village so Foster and any visitors could walk through.

Twelve years later, and Foster’s village has 90 gnomes, plus animals, houses, farms, and more. And Foster has done lots of research about gnomes in that time, too, so she can explain details about the village to visiting children.

“I think it’s really cool that they’re only six inches tall and they can lift a tree,” Foster said. “For exercise a gnome will sometimes lift up a fallen tree — just for exercise!”

She also said they’re very hardworking, they work well in groups, they’re nocturnal, and they travel by climbing on the backs of animals’ ears.

“They have lots of friends in the forest because there’s enemies, of course,” Foster said. “So, the animals are really protective of the gnomes.”

Foster said the main enemy of the gnome is the troll, but trolls turn to stone if sunlight hits them, so the gnomes can stay safe by avoiding dark places as much as possible.

Foster said her granddaughters moved away several years ago, but they were very invested in the village until then and continue to be when they come back to visit.

“[It brings about] good memories for them because they remember when they were little. We spent a lot of time in the garden.” Foster said. “They just loved it in the garden.”

Foster said as of this year, she and Ray are done expanding the village, because otherwise they’re not sure what they’re going to do with all of it once they start downsizing. Plus, putting them away every fall takes almost a week, and it’s almost two weeks to set it back up again in the spring.

Spring also means a fair amount of gnome upkeep, mostly involving painting any gnomes that may have chipped during the previous season or in the winter.

But Foster said it’s worth it, seeing the joy and awe on the faces of visiting children and adults, alike.

Foster remembered a little girl visiting from Prince Rupert, who was walking around with wide eyes. The girl turned to Foster and said, “I just love it. I just love it here. I want to live here!”

Many children are quite invested in the village, Foster said, and that investment is what makes the garden feel really magical for both the young and the old. Which, she added, is going to make it hard to stop bringing in new gnomes.

“So watch me try to control myself from expanding it again,” she said, laughing, meaning visitors will just have to wait and see for what’s to come for the village.

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The pond in the gnome village in the backyard of Ray and Mariane Foster in Kitimat. June 18, 2020. Photo by Clare Rayment.

The entrance to the gnome village in the backyard of Ray and Mariane Foster in Kitimat. June 18, 2020. Photo by Clare Rayment.

The beginning of the gnome village in the backyard of Ray and Mariane Foster in Kitimat. June 18, 2020. Photo by Clare Rayment.

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