Backyard Teepee | Seven Days Vermont

Please support our work!

Donate  Advertise

Backyard Teepee 

Published June 2, 2015 at 11:00 a.m.

click to enlarge Silvio Mazzarese, Teresa Bobel, Liliana and Valentina - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • matthew thorsen
  • Silvio Mazzarese, Teresa Bobel, Liliana and Valentina

Parents: Silvio Mazzarese, Teresa Bobel
Kids: Liliana, 11, Valentina, 8

If you plan on spending time inside the Mazzarese sisters' backyard teepee, you'd better be less than five feet tall. There's just enough room inside for "three tiny kids or two middle-size kids," says 8-year-old Valentina.

She and her 11-year old sister, Liliana, got the idea for the teepee two years ago while cleaning up their Jeffersonville yard. As their father, Silvio, leaned sticks and dead branches against a maple tree, the three of them realized he had created a cool space underneath. They used one of the tree's live branches to support even more sticks — and, later, cornstalks — until their structure was roughly seven feet tall.

click to enlarge The family’s chicken inside the teepee - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • matthew thorsen
  • The family’s chicken inside the teepee

The interior has been evolving ever since. A ring of rocks topped with an old camp stove is a pretend fireplace. Small tree stumps serve as kid-size seats. The girls use rocks and sticks to create shelves where they display found treasures, including century-old pieces of glass and iron gleaned from a nearby farm. Their favorite teepee item is the lump of charcoal they took from an extinguished bonfire; they use it to draw on any flat surface they can find.

Liliana and Valentina play in the teepee year-round. In summer, they while away the hours immersed in imaginative play and "searching for gold" among nearby rocks. In winter, they cover the teepee with a felt blanket for insulation.

Liliana says she likes having a space that she and her sister can use and rearrange as they please — though she's happy to share it with some of the neighborhood's smaller residents. They put the blanket over it, she explains, "so the animals could use it."


  • Using a live tree as an anchor provides a place to start laying sticks and stabilizes the structure in wind and bad weather.
  • The cornstalks — an homage to Native Americans, the original teepee builders — were leftover Halloween decorations the family cut from a nearby field.
  • The teepee has never completely fallen down, but it has needed occasional repairs. The girls simply pile on new sticks, weaving them together to hold them in place.

This article was originally published in Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT.

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

More By This Author

About The Author

Laura Sorkin

About the Artist

Matthew Thorsen

Matthew Thorsen

Matthew Thorsen was a photographer for Seven Days 1995-2018. Read all about his life and work here.


Comments are closed.

From 2014-2020, Seven Days allowed readers to comment on all stories posted on our website. While we've appreciated the suggestions and insights, right now Seven Days is prioritizing our core mission — producing high-quality, responsible local journalism — over moderating online debates between readers.

To criticize, correct or praise our reporting, please send us a letter to the editor or send us a tip. We’ll check it out and report the results.

Online comments may return when we have better tech tools for managing them. Thanks for reading.

Latest in Kids VT

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative

All content © 2024 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401

Advertising Policy  |  Privacy Policy  |  Contact Us  |  About Us  |  Help
Website powered by Foundation