One of the things we love to do in the summer is to go flaneuring in the evening and see what we can find in our extended neighbourhood. This week we headed west, across the Crowchild Divide at 5th Avenue NW and quickly encountered a Little League baseball game about to start so we stopped and watched for bit.
Soon our feet were itching to move along, so we continued west where we came to Parkdale Community Centre. There we noticed the usually dormant outdoor hockey rink full of young people jumping around. As we got closer, it turns out the rink had been converted into four beach volleyball courts. How inventive! I was impressed; love to see mixed-uses of public spaces for year-round use.
Next our eye was attracted to the adjacent new community garden, now in its second season with two rows of lush plant-filled raised gardens boxes, an herb garden and three men constructing a large shed. As I was taking pictures, a gentleman approached me and humbly suggested said I take photos of his garden, pointing to his backyard that faces onto the community garden.
Off the beaten alley
Never passing up an opportunity to explore something, “off the beaten alley” I headed with him. He immediately told me he was growing more vegetables than the entire community garden. Being a “Doubting Dick,” my skeptism quickly turned to awe when I saw his backyard garden.
In half of the yard of a typical inner city lot, he had arguably the most intense garden I have seen in my life. His 90 hills of potatoes will produce over 700 pounds of potatoes. He estimates his garden will also produce, 300 cobs of corn and enough beets for 50 quarts of pickled beets (yellow, orange and purple). He’ll also be harvesting two types of lettuce, 100s of cucumbers, several 5-gallon pails full of both peas and beans. In addition, he has various types of melons and a healthy raspberry patch. Now, he does have help – his 98-year old mother who lives with him, helps with the garden and is in charge of canning 50+ quarts of tomatoes.
I sheepishly asked his name and without hesitation he said, “David K Weisbeck, its German.” I asked if I could use his name in a blog and take a picture and he said, “OK” then shared some family history.
Turns out his family have been urban farmers in Parkdale for generations. They used to own a lot of the land around the block that is now the Parkdale Community Centre. For him, urban farming is a year-round hobby that starts in February when he starts many of plants that he grows from seeds and continues to the fall harvest and food preservation.
I asked him if he ever goes on vacation and he said he couldn’t remember one, though he did admit, “I take off November and December because I have to focus on getting my 26,000 Christmas lights up!” Dave was one proud man! We parted ways with me making a promise to drop off a print copy of the blog, as he doesn’t bother with modern technology.
Wow, how much fun was that chance encounter! And while I was off with David, Brenda was involved in trying to catch a runaway dog (it turns out, according to its owner that a 2-year old “let the dog out). Happy to report owner and dog safely reconnected.
We then headed back to watch some beach volleyball where we met cute (big blue eyes and blonde curly hair) 2-year old Isla and her Mom who had driven from Queensland to watch her dad play.
Heading towards home, we noticed a young couple out for a walk who looked a bit puzzled. I ask, “Can I help you?” They said, “No, we are just looking for sidewalk markers.” Too funny, as bunch us history/Twitter nerds had been tweeting about sidewalk markers (they are officially called sidewalk stamps) just a couple of months ago including a flurry of photos of different stamps from various communities.
Given they lived in West Hillhurst I told them they should check out the unique Saint Barnabas Church stamp and the 1912 stamp at the corner of 5th Ave and 11th St NW. As we moved on the young women said "what a great chance meeting!"
You gotta love it when you go for a walk and you get to meet interesting people.
It seems to me every community in Calgary these days is building a bigger and better community garden - some even have orchards. I am most familiar with the three along 5th Avenue NW – Hillhurst Community Centre, West Hillhurst Community Centre and the newest one at Parkdale Community Centre.
They are indeed a catalyst for fostering a greater sense of community letting strangers from Acadia to Silver Springs and beyond get to know each other. They are also a great source of community pride!