By Shaina Luck - The Weekly News
There's something poking its head up at the Urban Farm Greystone Garden, in among the onions and lettuce.
It's a wooden playhouse, which has been forming the stage for the imaginings of children in the neighbourhood.
The garden lies in the Rockingstone neighbourhood just off Herring Cove Road. Building the playhouse last year helped bring the community closer to the garden, says volunteer Martha Leary. "We've had a garden there for five years, but that was the first year that we've had intense interest from local people."
Volunteers built the playhouse last year, along with Urban Farm staff, artists, and local residents - particularly children and youth.
"Everybody was really hands on, says Heather Watts, coordinator of the Urban Farm programs. "Little tiny people, and older teenagers were just sort of walking by and we would get them to come in and help us."
The playhouse was built with straw bales, reclaimed steel, wood, and a mixture of sand, clay, and straw called cob. As the structure came together, the bonds between artists, volunteers, and local residents came together too.
"For me, last year brought about the feeling that we belonged there," says Martha Leary, an Urban Farm volunteer.
When the work was too dangerous for small children, volunteers took the children aside and did art projects related to what was going on with the construction.
"The kids were just over the moon about it," Martha says. "It began to bring out in a lot of the kids something a little different then they were used to."
Martha remembers a young participant who challenged the volunteers at first, but over time grew to trust them enough to show them his treasured pet frogs.
"It really brought out the idea that you could care about your home, you could care about your pets, and the things that you have...you didn't have to be the tough guy," Martha says.
Heather Watts had similar experiences. One young boy found out that she is a songwriter, and after visiting the garden for some time, he brought a book of songs that he had written to show her.
"He was eight or nine, a young guy, but he'd written a ton of songs. He ended up writing a song and performing it right here for us, and he got really into it. He was one of the kids who was really kind of difficult to be around at first. He was really pushing us and wanting to challenge us, because he didn't trust that we were going to stick around."
Sticking around is exactly what Heather, Martha, and the other volunteers say they intend to do. The cob walls of the playhouse were damaged by vandalism, so the volunteers removed the walls and made the playhouse open to the air. This year they intend to start plants that can grow up the sides of the playhouse, such as hops, grapes, and kiwi.
"We'll always be coming back, because we just want people to have control over their food, and to know how to be self-sustaining," says Heather. "It's not about anything being perfect or being untouched, it's just about the education and community building."
As HRM explores ways to promote community gardens, Rockingstone's garden, which is a satellite garden of the Urban Farm Museum of Spryfield, will see lots of activity. Activities include garden club every Tuesday and Thursday, the painting of the playhouse roof, a neighbourhood clean-up, and more. Local residents can also buy garden produce directly from the field every week.