Gnome sweet gnome

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AVON – The little guy holding a hoe got a farmhouse, barn and silo.

One holding a lantern got a church, because just maybe he’s a sexton. He looks the part.

The woodsman slinging an ax got an outhouse – even gnomes have to go.

At the edge of the tall pine forest her husband planted 46 years ago, Diana Bachelder has crafted a gnome sanctuary for the jolly red-capped characters, filled with hand-painted rocks turned into buildings, animals, trains and even outhouses.

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It follows along a footpath through the pine needles.

She made the first gnome in ceramics class 10 years ago. Husband Alfred thought she was “nuts,” but she set it out back behind the house and painted a scene on a rock to go with it. Then another gnome, then another scene and so on. There’re 50-plus gnomes now. She’s gotten most as gifts, sometimes from strangers.

“The grandchildren, of course, loved it,” said Bachelder, 73. “Now it’s the great-grandchildren that come running through the gnome garden.”

Gnomes have been paired with everything from a tiny gated cemetery to an Alpine village to a gold mine.

“I never painted a thing in my life until I started painting things to go with these gnomes,” she said. “It’s something to do in the winter.”

Bachelder keeps a collection of rocks in the garage to tide her over. Each small rock house gets painted-on shutters, shrubs, lights, window boxes and roof tiles. She adds a little wood putty for chimneys and steeples.

Alfred, 74, sprays on the clear coat and keeps the long, sloping lawn down to the gnomes trimmed.

One of the more challenging projects was finding the right-sized rocks to make four cars and a caboose for the Sandy River and Rangeley Lake Railroad. Hobo gnomes live next to it.

New this year: a Halloween village with a gnome pulling a cart of pumpkins, and painted rocks with haunted house scenes. Her one disappointment: She’s had no luck yet finding a gnome witch.

Bachelder opened the back yard – she calls it Gnomesville – to the public for Phillip’s Old Home Week last year and enjoyed the reaction. She plans to open it up every Wednesday and Sunday this summer, from roughly 9 to 5.

Their home, on Route 4, is impossible to miss. It’s the one with the giant rock out front painted green to look like a gnome home with a thin metal stovepipe sticking out the back.

Not a day goes by in the summer that a tourist doesn’t stop to pose with that rock, she said.

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