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Delinelle Park and Garden: Adjectival Transgression

On Tuesday of this week, our St. Henri guerrilla gardeners, Torsten Hermann and Fraser Wilkinson received some promising news from the owner. A man apparently arrived at the lot and introduced himself as the representative for the owner of the property where Torsten, Fraser and six other area residents have started a gardening group. He had some good short-term news for them.

As you may recall from my previous post, the property owner had told Fraser that she was not happy about the sign designating her lot as the Delinelle Community Park and Garden. She also suggested that she might install a fence and build on the site, much to the chagrin of our eight gardeners and the residents on Delinelle Street.

The representative informed Torsten and Fraser that the owner was not upset about her land being used as a green space by the people in the neighbourhood. In fact, she apparently thought the project was very nice. Instead, she had an issue with the adjective "Community" on Emily Wilkinson's handpainted sign and wanted the word removed. The good news was that the owner had no immediate plans for construction.

Torsten and Emily had originally put up the sign to encourage other residents to come and enjoy the green space. Torsten did not want people to assume that because he and Fraser had done the initial clearing and leg work that they had staked a claim to it.

Thursday morning, however, Torsten found their sign in the alley way and contacted Fraser to find out what had happened. On the previous evening, Mr. Weinstein, the property co-owner, had shown up and was angry that the sign did not reflect the change requested. The sign was taken down.

Nevertheless, Delinelle Street residents are happy to have this green space for the rest of the summer, and our eight gardeners are thrilled they will see the fruits of their labour. They are even going ahead with their plans for a harvest shindig.

I just wonder why the owner and representative objected so strongly to the adjective "Community." Does this concern a legal issue involving "acquired rights?" Hmmm....

What do you think reader?

For more on this story:
The Fate of the Delinelle Community Garden and Park
More on Guerrilla-ing in NYC and St. Henri
Trespassers in St. Henri Win City Gardening Contest

Related posts:
Liz Christy Seed Bombs and Some Not So Covert Bombing
More on Guerrilla-ing in NYC and St. Henri
Attention Guerrilla Gardeners: the Liz Christy Seed Bomb (a how-to)
What Exactly is Guerrilla Gardening?
Guerrilla Gardening: Tips for the Novice
Attention Guerrilla Gardeners: the Liz Christy Seed Bomb (a how-to)
Read more »
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Kortune Fookie Predicts Very Auspicious Year

Recently, on our way home from the Renaud-Bray bookstore on Park Avenue, my daughter and I came across a large irregular-shaped wooden structure on Fairmount, right in front of Articule, an avant-garde art gallery. Through the storefront window, I could see some wooden planks, but there did not appear to be an exhibition. There was, however, a large e-mail address of a show that I assumed was to come: www.kortunefookie.com

Upon closer examination, we saw that there was a button on the structure with the instruction to push it, which I obviously did. We were dumbfounded to instantly hear a jingle and then see a small slip of paper emerge from the paper feed. The slip read, "After it rains, the grass is wet." What fun!

Obviously, it was then my daughter's turn. She pressed the button, we heard the jingle and out popped another message, "Money cannot buy good taste." We tried this several more times. Some messages were cryptic, while others were funny.

As I later discovered, this art installation by Jean-Francois Lacombe is, in fact, a large fortune cookie, or a kortune fookie. There is also an interactive component I saw when visiting the artist's web site. He actually gives you a space to create the kortune fookie messages that will emerge.

I couldn't resist. I started to type the messages I thought could advance some worthy causes:

On the environment:
Those who take their bike instead of their car will be healthy, wealthy and lucky.
If you recycle you will be lucky and if you compost too you will be even luckier.

On feminism:
Don't let corporations and advertisers frame what beauty is. Beauty comes in all colours and sizes. You are beautiful.

In addition, because I couldn't resist, I used the kortune fookie as a sort of wishing well for my blog and, shamelessly, entered the following messages.

You will receive many comments from interested readers on your blog.
Many people will subscribe by e-mail to your blog.
People will participate in your polls in unprecedented numbers.

As you can see, I had a lot of fun with this art installation.

Because this is my 100th post, I wanted to thank all my readers for their support over the last, very enjoyable, seven months. In particular, I wanted to thank my very first follower, Ida in Australia, my father, who lives in Vancouver and has sent me a lot of traffic, my wonderful work colleagues and friends who have subscribed, my blog buddy Liz Hover for her feedback and, of course, my husband for his honesty.

I would also like to thank Gina Chen for asking me to be the featured blogger in the Syracuse Post-Standard.

Please take part in my poll on what you would like to see in the future. All the best. Heather
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Seed Bombs: Bomb or Bust?

As promised, I had to follow up on our seed bomb experiment. As you may remember last spring, in an attempt to add some colour to our neighbourhood and rid ourselves of an eyesore, the abandoned meatpacking facility on the corner, my children and I made seed bombs.

Using a recipe from guerrilla gardener extraordinaire Liz Christy, we concocted seed bombs, which are basically water balloons with some soil, peat pellets, bits of paper towel and flower seeds mixed in. Making the bombs was a little messy, but a lot of fun.

The lot owned by the meatpacking facility has been vacant for a number of years. The seven-foot high chain link fence collects a lot of wind-blown trash and waste from thoughtless passersby. I spent an afternoon raking up garbage and making sure there was no broken glass or city surprises on the site before I brought over my little ones.

The lot looked infinitely better after I'd finished. In fact, my spectacle attracted an audience from the building across the street. A few even pulled up lawn chairs on their balconies. No doubt, they were in shock that someone had taken it upon themselves to clean up the joint.

When I brought my children over, I instructed them to aim for the corner of the lot, where most of the trash collects. I lobbed one in the general area to give my kids the gist of the technique. They thought this was hilarious, and before we knew it, all the seed bombs had been launched, more or less in the general vicinity of the corner.

Fun was had by all, but the seed bombs didn't produce very much. In fact, they don't appear to have produced anything at all. They faced some very stiff competition from native plants and wildflowers. I have chosen my words carefully, as one of the bloggers I follow, Flora Urbana's Roger Latour, a specialist in plants native to this area, would not appreciate my calling these, ah gems...weeds.

All my raking seemed to stimulate growth among the natives, and our abundant rain this summer has contributed to their prolific growth. At any rate, you can see just how high the native plants have grown from the picture (My daughter is 4'1"). These plants do not look bad, and they are high enough to block garbage from blowing into the area and keep undesirables out.

Will we try seed bombs again? Well, this was our second year with zero results, but the seed bombs were still fun to make. This experiment may need a proper control next time. Answer: maybe.

Related posts:
Liz Christy Seed Bombs and Some Not So Covert Bombing
More on Guerrilla-ing in NYC and St. Henri
Attention Guerrilla Gardeners: the Liz Christy Seed Bomb (a how-to)
Trespassers in St. Henri Win City Gardening Contest
What Exactly is Guerrilla Gardening?
Guerrilla Gardening: Tips for the Novice
Read more »
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Part 2: Eco-Entrepreneurs Do the Right Thing

On a recent trip down to St. Henri to see what was growing on at the Delinelle Community Park and Garden, I stopped at la Gaillarde, an eco-friendly fashion boutique on Notre Dame West.

la Gaillarde

Selling vintage clothing and taking pre-existing materials to make something new and original are by no means novel. But la Gaillarde has taken this two steps further by promoting local designers who use organic and recycled materials, and by teaching the tricks of the trade to aspiring designers.

Vintage clothing

As I walked in the door with my six-year-old in tow on a sunny Saturday morning, I was immediately struck by the vibrant colours in the store. The boutique entrance leads to the neatly displayed vintage section. I was surprised by the sheer volume of the one-of-a-kind dresses, hats, skirts, shoes and jewelry they had on display.

Some 80% of la Gaillarde's clothing comes from customer donations, and the boutique has a 2 for 1 sale every Sunday to make room for new stock. In addition, on the last weekend of every month, you can fill a bag of used clothes for the price of one dollar.

Quebec designers revive the pre-loved

Adjacent to the vintage section is a showroom where 30 Quebec designers display their creations (For pictures of some of these click here). They have taken pre-loved items and turned them into super funky shirts, skirts, dresses and trousers. The prices are reasonable for original clothing, and you can feel good about paying a local designer a living wage. If you are someone who likes funky and original, but hates designer prices and the over-starched, shiny look of new clothes, then this is the place for you.

Learn How To Sew And Redesign

Wouldn't it be great if we could make our favourite dress into a great skirt? Who hasn't put learning to sew on their list of things to do. Well, la Gaillarde also gives beginner sewing classes, in addition to courses on how to recycle your wardrobe, make jewelry and revive old fabric with print-making techniques.

I found the sewing workshop area the most inspiring. Besides what you might expect, like a line of sewing machines, there were shelves of industrial spools of thread in every conceivable colour, boxes of neatly sorted buttons and remnants, and on the walls, there were vintage patterns that our mothers and grandmothers might have used. On the day we visited, there was a group of young girls excitedly looking around this treasure trove and chattering about what they wanted to make.

If you would like see some of la Gaillarde's creations, they have monthly fashion shows to showcase their work.

La Gaillarde
4019 Notre Dame West
Metro: Place Saint-Henri
Closed Mondays

For further information: www.lagaillarde.blogspot.com

Related Posts:
Part 1: Eco-entrepreneurs Do the Right Thing
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Duluth Street: Norte-Sur Mural

Upon doing more research into the guerrilla gardening project I was looking for yesterday on Duluth, I discovered that the church group's mini park or wooden planters and benches I mentioned was in fact the project in question. Unfortunately, there wasn't a sign or any indication to inform us of this.

Besides, it had to compete with the mural on the left. Now after seeing this, who could fault us for missing the guerrilla gardening project?

I cropped the red vehicle out of the picture, which means that the bottom part of the mural has been removed too. (Now, we have more than one reason for loathing SUVs.)

We learned from a passerby that "Norte-Sur," the title of the mural, was the creation of two Montreal-based artists of Latin American descent who go by the name of Shalak and Guko. This mural is apparently a drawing of their personal histories.

The following is just one part of Shalak and Guko's "the making of" Norte-Sur. I chose this segment because it begins with a few shots of Duluth Street.

More posts on Montreal murals and muralists:
Duluth Street: An artist named Phlash
St Viateur Street Art
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Duluth Street: An Artist Named Phlash

Saturday after the gym, I took my bike to see if I could find a much-lauded guerrilla gardening project on Duluth Street. On this fine sunny morning (that's right, it wasn't almost sunny or not really rainy, as the rest of the summer has been), I went down to a neighbourhood that I rarely go to. It might sound strange given that we live only 10 minutes away, but when you have children and everything is nearby, you rarely venture outside the regular confines.

Well, I did not find this guerrilla gardening project. I saw a lot of nice city flower beds with everything growing beautifully, and a church group that has started a much needed mini-park with some wooden flower boxes, but there was nothing in the way of guerrilla gardening on this cobblestone street. What I did discover were several beautiful murals and a new Sunday farmer's market on Laval Street--a very good reason to venture back into this neck of the woods.

The picture on the left is also the artist responsible for my longtime avatar on Twitter. He signs quite simply
P 007. As you can see below, the mural wraps around the entire residence on Duluth Street.

While this mural is stunning, la pièce de resistance was two blocks further west. I went home raving about it until I convinced my family to come down and see it for themselves, and they were not disappointed. I saw both my husband and daughter's jaws drop when they caught their first glimpse. Unfortunately, although we had a wide angle lens this time to capture the whole mural, there was a red SUV parked in front partially obstructing our view. Anyway, on our trip to the farmer's market this morning, we promise to take a picture of this breathtaking mural.

Just found my artist. He goes by Phlash and you can find more of his work here: http://www.thaphlash.com/

Related posts:
Duluth Street: Norte-Sur Mural
St Viateur Street Art (featuring muralist Arpi)
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The Fate of the Delinelle Community Garden and Park

Unfortunately, the days of a would-be community garden in St. Henri may be numbered. As you may recall Torsten Hermann and Fraser Wilkinson started a community garden last spring on a mangy, rubble strewn lot on Delinelle Street. Two houses had burnt to the ground on this site ten years ago, and the lot had never been completely cleared. Hermann and Wilkinson waded through waist-high grass to remove half a ton of concrete, asphalt and broken glass from the area.

The gardening project was such an improvement to the neighbourhood that Hermann received a Sud-Ouest en fleurs gardening award for his efforts.

This year, the number of gardeners expanded from two to eight, and the City provided the area green thumbs with a large pile of topsoil. Hermann saw the borough gardening award and topsoil as tacit approval for their long-term project--a community garden.

You may also recall that neither of our intrepid Johnny Appleseeds knew who the owner of this lot was. They thought that it might be the City. After all, wouldn't it be strange to receive topsoil from the City to garden on private property?

Well, the owner has turned up, and she informed Wilkinson that she is not happy with the sign that says "her property" is the de facto Delinelle Community Park and Garden. She has also suggested installing a fence and building on the site.

Needless to say, the owner's statement has dampened morale, and our gardeners are wondering if they will be there long enough to see the fruits of their labour.

What do you think reader? Should property owners be compelled to keep their property in some kind of order so that it does not create an eyesore for other residents? Was the City right to give topsoil and a gardening award to guerrilla gardeners? Should Hermann and Wilkinson take down the sign?

For more on this story:
More on Guerrilla-ing in NYC and St. Henri
Trespassers in St. Henri Win City Gardening Contest

Related posts:
Liz Christy Seed Bombs and Some Not So Covert Bombing
More on Guerrilla-ing in NYC and St. Henri
Attention Guerrilla Gardeners: the Liz Christy Seed Bomb (a how-to)
What Exactly is Guerrilla Gardening?
Guerrilla Gardening: Tips for the NoviceAttention Guerrilla Gardeners: the Liz Christy Seed Bomb (a how-to)
Read more »
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18 Tir: All Eyes on Iran

July 9 marks the 10th anniversary of student demonstrations protesting the closure of the Iranian reformist newspaper Salaam in 1999. Government forces attacked students in their dormitories in Tehran and other Iranian cities, reportedly arresting and detaining 1,000 students.

The protests that ensued lasted for six days, and the number of protesters grew from hundreds to thousands, making it one of the largest protests since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The crackdown was just as brutal as the one we recently witnessed the week of June 20.

Tir is the fourth month in the Persian calendar year and the first month of summer.

In his recent article in Tehran Bureau, Jason Rezaian predicts that today, the 10th anniversary of the crackdown, will be "pivotal" for the current reformist movement. Rezaian has also observed heightened security on this day in the years after the 1999 crackdown. In this article, he writes of the reformist movement co-opting the tradition of mourning as a means of staging peaceful protests.

Rallies have been planned in 30 Iranian cities and in 18 cities around the world, but few details have been posted on Twitter or Facebook. In fact, twitter users have been informing the twitterverse not to disclose any details on protest times or locations.

The LA Times has reported that leaflets have been circulated instructing people to carry roses as a symbol of peaceful demonstration. Protesters have also been told not to wear green, which symbolizes reform, or any make-up in an effort to stave off the wrath of government security forces. Demonstrators are to focus on their rally destination point and change their route if they see riot police or basiji militia. In addition, if safety is an issue, protesters are instructed to walk or drive around their own neighbourhoods flashing the peace sign to onlookers.

The regime has closed government offices and universities and is encouraging Tehran residents to leave the city because of elevated pollution levels and dust storms.

JudyRey has 68,484 followers on twitter and is reportedly used as a key person to get information out on the situation in Iran. She has a number of contacts in the Islamic Republic and has recently stated that Hamas, Hezbollah and Taliban forces have been deployed in Iran. There have been a number of unconfirmed reports of Arabic-speaking security personnel on the streets of Tehran.

Photo courtesy of Maydar via Twitpic.

The following commemorates the 1999 crackdown:

LA Times
CBS World Watch
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A Review of Montreal's Bixi Rental Bike

(In my previous post, I said that renting a bike in a city bike share program was cheaper, more convenient and fewer worries than owning one. But these arguments mean nothing if the rental bike is not fun to ride...)

I took a Montreal's Bixi for a test drive one day last week ($5/day flat rate) and was pleasantly surprised by the experience.

The bike is heavy, but sturdy, and the elevated handlebars mean that you are seated in an upright position. This is perfect for those of us who fear bending too far forward and exposing more than we care to. The gear-changing was smooth, and the brakes worked well even in the rain.

The bike is equipped with decent front and rear lights with two reflectors on each tire and one on the seat for safe night riding. There was a good chain guard, so there was no risk of getting grease on my trousers and  fenders to prevent any dirty water from spraying my back or face. Raising or lowering the seat is relatively easy, and the Bixi is skirt friendly, ie, no crossbar.

The drawback was the basket, which is more like an open groove where you place your bag (see picture above). There is a bungee cord that you attach around the outside to keep your bag in place. This is fine if you have a shopping bag or purse with a solid shell, but problematic if your bag is cloth. I had a cloth bag on the day of my test drive and nearly lost my wallet. I suggest taking a backpack.

The ride was very smooth, and the bike's weight adds to its momentum. In other words, I was able to travel much faster than I expected. Others have also discovered just how fast, hassle-free and convenient Montreal's bike share program is, much to dismay of the city's cabbies. This weekend, a cab driver told my husband that the Bixi was hurting his business.

Overall, the Bixi is comfortable, fast and fun. I highly recommend it. Just don't forget your cycling helmet.

At the end of this cycling season, I will send my tired pink bike to Cuba or the Dominican Republic through an adopt a bike program, so he can spend his last few years basking in the sun.

Related post:
City Cycling: Why Renting Beats Owning
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City Cycling: Why Renting Beats Owning

Seven years ago, I got rid of my car and all the city driving headaches and expenses that went with it. I opted for the metro in the winter and my bike in the summer.

Obviously, I prefer my summer means of transport. Not only can I enjoy the summer greenery, sun and fresh air, but I can also get to my destination much more quickly.

There are, however, disadvantages to city cycling, namely theft of our dearly beloved, few parking spaces and winter storage.

Now I am not as attached to my bike as some people are. Pinkie, my ride, is hideous and not the most comfortable. I chose him for the simple reason that he was so hideous that only a desperate individual would steal him. What is more, although the situation is improving, many stores provide little, if anything, in the way of bike racks, and some residents object to you locking your bike to their fence. Finally, as a city dweller with little storage, I have to store my bike in the winter for a whopping $90 per season. I do sometimes hope that someone will steal Pinkie in early December, but as of yet, no such luck.

The Solution
As many of us have noticed, self-serve bike rental stands have been popping up in cities throughout Europe and North America (Vélibre in Paris, Smartbike DC in Washington, Bike and Roll throughout the US* and Bixi in Montreal). For a nominal price, which is cheaper than public transport and a fraction of the cost of owning a car, you can rent a bike and drop it off at a stand close to your destination. And don't worry, there are hundreds of stands all over the city.

(Have you tried any of the Smart Bike DC, Bixi or Vélibre bikes? Do you prefer to rent or own in the city?)

The City of Montreal has designed the very sturdy 3-speed Bixi (combo of bike and taxi), and you can get an annual pass for just $78. The first half-hour is free each time you enter your code, which is perfect because I can get to work and run just about any errand in 20 minutes. In addition, there are 4 rental stands within a five-minute walk of my home. This means that as soon as I slide a bike into the stand after use and hear "the ding," the Bixi is no longer my responsibility. I, therefore, don't have to worry about theft, find a place to lock my bike or pay $90 to store it in the winter.

The added bonus is that I can take a Bixi to meet my friends for dinner downtown, and I am not compelled to ride it back after a few drinks. I can simply take a cab.

The Bixi works out to be cheaper, more convenient and fewer worries than owning a bike.

However, the real clincher in this renting vs. owning debate is how the Bixi rides. In my next post, I will tell you about my test drive.

*At Bike and Roll, you can rent a bike for an extended period of time, but it is not a bike share program (See comments).

A Review of Montreal's Bixi Rental Bike
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Post Concert: Stevie Wonder at the Montreal Jazz Festival

I heard rave reviews last night from the Montreal media when I got home from the concert. Stevie Wonder put on a stellar show and did not disappoint the some 100,000 fans who braved the rain to see him perform.

Alain de Repentigny wrote in La Presse that it was a near-perfect performance. However, he found the last tribute to Michael Jackson, when Stevie and his band lined up at the front of the stage, a bit over the top. But my guess is that he wasn't close enough to to see Mr. Wonder openly weep upon hearing a very young Michael Jackson sing, I Never Can Say Goodbye. It was very moving.(YouTube clip of this moment)

Of course, he played Superstition and my personal favourite, Isn't she lovely, a tribute to his newborn daughter Aisha, who is now 30 years old and accompanying her father on stage. The elation I would have felt...if I'd actually been there to enjoy it.

(If you attended the concert, I would love to hear what your favourite moment was.)

I'm not a Montrealer
My two friends and I were bound and determined to see Stevie Wonder at the start of our evening. However, as the sky darkened over the patio where we were eating, we told ourselves to think positively and just will those clouds away. As we waited for the cheque, it began to rain, at which point we realized that no one had an umbrella.

We soldiered on. At 45 minutes before the start of the show, we made our move towards the concert venue. It was still raining, but luckily one of us had a shawl. The three of us made our way through the crowd with the shawl over head only to find that the single access to the concert was blocks away.

We found a short-cut. One of my friends took the lead and led us through the Beaux Art building on Sherbrooke Street and got us to the venue. But we soon discovered that the crowd was not moving. In addition, it was still raining, and any view we might have had was obscured by a sea of umbrellas. We inched forward until, lo and behold, we saw part of a giant screen.

As we felt the crowd fill in behind us, we made an executive decision--it was time to go. If the best we could do was see Stevie on a large partially obscured screen in the rain, then we would be better off watching the concert on the CBC later in the summer...

I was so disappointed. When I arrived home early, my husband told me that it always rains before the best concerts, and free concerts require perseverance and some skilled weaving through the crowd. This is a skill that native Montrealers have perfected after 30 years of attending free shows at the Jazz Festival. Unfortunately, after living here for only eight years, I'm still just a Montrealer wannabe.

The rain apparently stopped just minutes before the show started.
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