So what did I do all summer?

So, you ask, if you weren’t gardening, what were you doing all summer? 🙂

Well, I was still working outside, and still working with kiddies, just in a somewhat different setting.  I was working at High Park EcoCamp, a City of Toronto camp with a strong focus on nature and the environment.  EcoCamp usually also has a focus on gardening, but this year the garden took a (well-needed) rest.  The reason for that is very exciting – a straw bale kitchen is being built beside the High Park Children’s Garden.  It’ll be great to have a kitchen right by the wonderful children’s garden, so that kids can cook and taste the food that they’ve grown and harvested.  But yes, this was bitter-sweet for me, since it meant the gardening aspect of EcoCamp was largely missing at camp this year.  It was still a fun nature-filled summer, though.

Camp was 8 weeks long this year, but I only worked for 7 of those weeks (more on that later…).  For 6 of the weeks I was in High Park, and for one week I was down at the Music Garden EcoCamp.  The Music Garden camp was only in it’s second year this year, though the Waterfront Children’s Garden has been since the late 1990s.  This camp takes advantage of the lovely (albeit small) green space along the downtown waterfront: we start and end in Little Norway Park, explore the Music Garden, tend the children’s veggie garden, discover the life in the mini-wetlands, and occasionally head over to Coronation Park and up to Fort York. It’s a pretty neat environment for exploring urban nature.  And oh, how I loved gardening with the kids that week!  We watered, weeded, harvested (chives, basil, peas, beans…), made herb sachets (little potpourri bags with herbs from the garden), checked out the compost and the vermicompost…  generally got our hands dirty!

A cicada, just emerged from its previous shell.

High Park is such an ideal place for a day-camp (and for so many other activities as well).  I had been to High Park as a kid, but didn’t really get to know the park until last summer (when I also worked at EcoCamp).  And wow, it’s just an amazing space!  Despite the fact that I got to work by subway every morning (21 stops, to be exact), it didn’t feel like I spent the whole summer in the city.  Since we didn’t have the garden this year, we did even more hiking than last year.  We explored so many different areas of the park, played games, saw lots of birds (Great Blue herons, Night herons, Mallard ducks, Wood ducks, Mute swans, Red-Winged blackbirds, sparrows….), saw lots of squirrels and chipmunks, found copious amounts of dead cicadas and cicada shells (and even saw some as their were in the process of coming out of their shells).  At the beginning of the summer, before the kitchen construction started, we did get to do a bit of harvesting in the High Park Children’s Garden: we tasted red currants (my favourite!), beans (the kids love ’em), radish seed pods (which have a radish taste, though somewhat milder), and lots of chives (another kiddie favourite!).

I’ve also had a little container garden growing in a tiny patch of sun we’ve got in our backyard (we don’t have a lot of sun, so I use the wee space we’ve got).  The tomatoes did really well – I’ve had tons of white currant cherry tomatoes (super sweet – yum!), a good crop of red sweetie cherry tomatoes, and a few D’Jenna Lee’s Golden Girls.  (Tomato names are hilarious!)  I’ve also got a pretty big crop of cayenne peppers (I got seeds as a gift), so if anyone has suggestions of what to do with them, let me know.  I also tried growing loofah and the plants grew like crazy, but the squirrels kept snapping off the blossoms (little rascals!), so no loofahs for me.  And then I had some beans, kale, peas, tomatillos, and lots of mint, lemon balm and thyme.  The tomatoes were definitely the highlight of this year’s container garden!

My container garden, using an old sandbox, and old rakes from a folkdance performance my parents did in the 70s as a trellis.

And the reason that I only worked 7 of the 8 weeks of camp was that I lucked out and got a week of vacation so that I could go to the West Coast Estonian Festival in Portland, Oregon.  What an amazing festival in a fantastic city!  The Estonian folkdance group (yes, I’m Estonian) that I dance with here in Toronto was performing at the festival, so I was super excited to get to join in.  It was wonderful folkdancing the days and nights away (lots of polkaing and waltzing!), meeting lots of amazing people, seeing some Estonian friends I hadn’t seen in over 10 years…  The festival had a great west-coast vibe to it: super well organized, but really laid back.  And as I’d heard a thousand times before I went out there, I DID in fact love Portland.  Already on my first day there (which I spent touristing on my own), I was thinking “When can I get back here?”  It often takes me a couple of days to get comfortable in a new city, but Portland was just so comfortable right away.  And there are so many environmental and local food things going on!  Already at the airport, I saw a sign for a bike assembly station, so that people can travel with their bikes and start biking straight from the airport.  There are also great bike lanes throughout the city.  On my first day there, I visited one of the many farmers’ markets that the city has (I think there’s at least one somewhere in the city every day).  It was great going to the market, buying lots of fruit and acting like a local.  But market shopping is a challenge when you don’t have anywhere to cook or keep the food.  I really had to restrain myself compared with my usual market shopping…  And getting around Portland is super easy – first of all, it’s pretty small and incredibly pedestrian friendly.  And, there’s free public transit in the city core!  Amazing!  So if you’ve ever got the chance, go check out Portland!

Some cool pottery art on a school fence in Portland

Cool houses in Portland

And that was my summer!

Happy growing!

2 responses to this post.

  1. Your summer sounds wonderful! That camp sounds like an amazing place to be. What a great job. 🙂


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