Monday, January 23, 2017

Fishing for farmers

An interesting construction caught my eye as I passed the City Farmer demonstration garden in Kitsilano on Monday.  Turns out the garden people have taken creative advantage of the dismantling of the adjacent railway tracks  to open a new entrance into their facility from the Arbutus Greenway.
Bits and pieces of the railway have been used to create the new gate for the garden. Critters like dragonflies and snails, and even a unicorn have been twisted out of the iron.

The top of the gate features what look like garden tools, plus a couple of birdhouses. 

A closer look at the gate, which has primroses and a flowering cabbage threaded through the metal.

Maria, a longtime City Farmer worker, is passionate about the plants, insects and birds that make up her working day.

What do you do with leftovers from a railway that once ran beside your demonstration garden? Create an ironwork gate, of course. Twine bagged primroses and birdhouses into it, and invite the curious to pass through. That's what Maria did when I happened to walk past the City Farmer's demonstration garden at Sixth and Maple on Monday.

Maria was digging away at what will be a bark-mulch path aimed at drawing pedestrians from the recently dismantled Sixth Avenue railway tracks (now the Arbutus Greenway) into the garden, a teaching and demonstration facility for Vancouverites interested in composting, raising their own food, and catering to the city's wildlife.

Even though the non-profit facility, run under the auspices of the city of Vancouver, has been around since the late 1980s, I've only dropped in a few times over the years, mainly for information on composting. But the impromptu tour by an ultra-enthusiastic Maria -- plus the inviting new entrance -- makes it likely I will drift through every time I walk that stretch of Sixth.

The garden is asleep for the winter right now -- but through Maria's eyes, I could see the cherry blossoms drifting over students in the outdoor classroom, the mulberry tree full of fruit, the hops vines climbing to the skies, the unstoppable wisteria in bloom and the kids' garden full of children exploring the fairy picnic area under the uprooted cottonwood (it toppled in a windstorm). Maria hopes the new gate, with vines and flowers twisting through it, will draw lots of visitors this summer. "Like those nets that catch all the fish," she said. "You mean driftnets?" I asked. "That's it," she said.

In wisteria season, the vines over this interior garden archway will be heavy with scented purple blossoms. Maria has trained the wisteria into a holly tree nearby. 

The little cob house, built in 2003, adds a Hobbit touch to the garden. It's used as a tool storage shed now, but it has served as a tiny -- very cold -- office in the past.

A stained glass window sheds a lovely light in the cob house interior.

Outside detail of  the cob house. 

Outdoor classes are held in this section of the garden. When the cherry tree above is shedding its pink blossoms on the students, Maria says it's like teaching in paradise.

The uprooted cottonwood tree in the children's garden.. Maria has scattered fairy-size paraphernalia below it to fuel young imaginations. 

Hives for mason bees and other good insects that pollinate the garden and help make things grow.

Part of a rake sticks out among the objects that make up the gate into the garden. Maria points to another of the little objects made from railway leftovers.


  1. Wonderful! I will definitely have to drift by here too!

  2. Love this story. Can't wait for the buds to bud, the birds to flitter and the bees to get busy.
    Sue Fox

  3. I am lucky enough to be the proud mom of Maria.. She is very passionate about her work and especially this garden. I have visited this garden and tasted the fruit of her labor. Maria loves to help people and make them happy and smile. She also loves to tickle the minds of children and let their imaginations go wild. A very great story.

  4. Love this Maple Garden Story
    Spring is Coming!