Deep in a leafy grove live the clever animals of Hazel Village, happy and free. They keep their perky ears attuned to the sounds of their forest home, and spend their time making thoughtful presents for their neighbors.
Hazel Village sits on a gently sloping hillside in the middle of the woods, with mountains to the north and a small lake to the south. There are a few ways one could find this secret place, but the main one is a small hole (like a groundhog’s) in a grassy bank next to a dirt road. It doesn’t look like much, and it is too small for most of us. But if you were to go into it, it would take you under the grassy bank. And when you stepped out on the other side, you would find yourself at the beginning of a path through the trees.
After walking along the path a little ways you would pass through the Mossy Bower: hazel trees that have grown into a wide arch, with a lush carpet of moss on the earthy floor and clinging to the trunks. Though the tunnel in the grassy bank is the first step to finding the animals’ home, walking through the Mossy Bower is really how you enter the Village.
If you kept walking on this path all the way through the Village, you would cross a stream by way of a footbridge and reach the Hazel Grove on the western side. This is a beautiful reflecting pool surrounded by mossy stones and hazel trees. The animals like to splash and play in the water, and also to sit on the mossy stones and contemplate.
There are a lot of meadows and fields in Hazel Village. The Night Meadow is where the animals have their Firefly Ball on the shortest night of the year. The Guest House sits in the High Meadow – this is where animals who are visiting the Village stay. There they can enjoy the gentle humming of bees in the beehives, and a nice walk through the orchard to reach the Lodge. The orchard has apple trees and pear trees. At the bottom of the orchard is a row of birdhouses the animals have kindly built for their feathered friends to rest in.
There is a boathouse on the lakeshore, with big rowboat and a long wooden dock. If the animals feel like taking a day trip, especially in the summertime, they will paddle across the lake to Thimbleberry Island.
In the middle of the Village is the Lodge. This is the animals’ main gathering place for feasts, major tea parties, elaborate projects, and such. It has a flagpole on the roof with a flag to indicate what the day’s weather will be. Oliver changes this flag every morning in his official capacity as weather mouse. There also seem to be little flags in other colors: pink, orange and blue. We’re not quite sure what those ones mean, but Oliver knows. There is a mailbox outside the Lodge where the animals leave letters and small presents for one another. Oliver also delivers the mail – he is quite the busy mouse.
The woodland friends of Hazel Village live in little cottages, each one made just how they like it. Gracie Cat’s house is built onto the Lodge. She likes living above the kitchen so she can cook a big feast anytime she wants, and also keep an eye on the food stores.
Phoebe Fawn’s house is tucked in a small clearing past the wildflower meadow. She likes to sit in the meadow and practice her compositions. The flowers here are good for bees and butterflies – lots of milkweed and clover, among other things.
Annicke Mouse and Flora Fox live next to each other, with a little garden growing between their houses. Here they grow herbs and dye plants for their projects. The things Flora grows are most often practically useful, while Annicke’s plantings are a little more strange.
Max Raccoon’s house is next to a hollow old tree, into which he has built special cubbies for all his trinkets. He keeps some trinkets in his house too, but the storage tree is important for maintaining the breadth of his collection.
Jeremy Owl lives in a cylindrical tower house, with skylights in his roof so he can have good light for his paintings even at dusk.
Lucy Owl lives across the path from Annicke and Flora. Her house is very cozy, but her particular favorite place in the Village is actually the Lookout Tree. She flies up there to observe all the creatures of field and forest going about their business.
Gwendolyn Raccoon lives by the lakeshore in the southeast corner of the Village. She has lots of yarrow growing around her house. She also has a spring fed mossy trough that runs right into the lake. It makes a gentle burbling sound.
Ella Toad lives on a houseboat, which she usually keeps moored close to the lake beach near Gwendolyn’s house. On warm breezy days she lounges on the roof of her houseboat, admiring the shapes of the clouds and catching the occasional bug.
Nicholas Bear Cub’s house is right next to the Tinkering Yard, because he does a lot of projects that require some space. This way he can easily move his supplies back and forth from his house to the yard in his little red wagon.
Juliette Rabbit lives between Nicholas and the bunny twins. She likes to gather pine needles from the trees next to her house, and make little pine needle sachet pillows to share with her friends so their laundry can smell fresh and good.
Oliver Mouse is growing dahlias all around his house. He’s doing a great job – the dahlias are thriving. Oliver also has a special ash tree in his yard; see ‘Trees of Significance’ further down for more on this.
Arthur Lamb and Lucas Rabbit live in two little houses built side by side because they are the best of friends. They’re growing giant sunflowers, which are also thriving – currently they are taller than their houses’ roofs.
Zoe Rabbit lives right on the stream bank. She is converting the spot behind her house into a rock garden, with minnow pools in the lower levels and a terrace higher up. This is slimy work, so she will often take breaks sitting on her screened porch.
Owen Fox lives alongside the stream too, very close to the Hazel Grove. He also has a secret treehouse on the other side of the Village, in the woods to the east. It’s not a secret from the other animals, although they give him his space there when he wants it. This is a good example of how secret spaces can feel just as special even if all your friends know about them.
Catalina Mouse lives in a dugout at the foot of the garden near the lake beach. If you don’t know what a dugout is, it means the house is built directly into the side of the hill. Catalina assures us she keeps it just as neat as a pin.
Lewis Toad lives in a house on stilts in the reedy marsh. He likes the gentle creaking of the wooden boards as he walks along on the path over the marsh. Lewis usually just hops up to the deck, but he has a ladder for his friends to climb when they want to visit him.
Reginald Fox lives at the top of the Village garden, and tends to it every day. He has a barrel to catch the rain water that runs off his roof, so he can give it to any plants that might be a little extra thirsty. Here are some of the things the animals grow in their garden: corn, beans, squash, pumpkins, kale, chard, tomatoes, asparagus, and strawberries. There is also a long hedgerow of foraging bushes: elderberry, raspberry, and rose hips.
In the far corners and out-of-the-way paths of Hazel Village, Annicke Mouse likes to inspect the trails and leave messages for herself and her friends in the form of “trail trinkets.”
If you look closely, you can spot Annicke's trail trinkets on trees all over the Village.
The animals have three trees of particular significance. The first is the Present Tree, which sits atop Sledding Hill on the east side of the garden. It is a linden tree.
The animals adorn its branches with colorful ribbons to mark the different seasons. On the longest night of the year, they decorate it with presents for the birds and put their presents for one another underneath it.
The second tree of significance is the Record Keeping Tree, which is next to the Lodge. It is a beech tree. Here the animals make note of anything they consider important enough to record. For example, when Arthur Lamb returned to the Village to move in for good, the animals noticed that he was a little bit taller than when he first visited. In his official capacity as record keeping mouse, Oliver marked this fact.
The third tree of significance is the ash tree that grows in Oliver Mouse’s yard.
If you want to know the truth we’re not quite sure why it’s special yet, but we trust that it is. Even for us, the world of the animals still has plenty of mysteries...
We hope you enjoyed exploring Hazel Village! If you want to learn more about the animals' homes and day-to-day lives, we highly recommend our storybook The Gifts of the Year.
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