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Home Sweet Neighbourhood: Transforming Cities One Block at a Time

Posted on June 14, 2019
By Michelle Mulder

We really weren’t trying to upset anyone. Honest. We just wanted vine-ripened tomatoes, picked fresh (Think of them in a salad, with a bit of basil!). We had the pots, the soil, the seeds, a sunny parking spot, and no car. Bringing the little plants downstairs from our apartment seemed like an excellent plan...until I felt the wrath of an infuriated neighbour. “Gardening encourages conversations! I don’t want extra noise outside my window!”

Home Sweet NeighborhoodAt first, I was stunned. I was still dreaming of salads, unaware of the repercussions of our gardening activities. When our neighbour learned that everyone else in the building was happy to let us keep mucking about in the dirt, she moved out. In the years since, however, I’ve realized that she was right about gardening in shared spaces: it does spark conversation. Every time I’m out digging, someone stops to chat. And I love it.

Soon after our tomatoes ripened, a friend referred to our gardening as our adventures in place-making. I’d never heard of the international movement to personalize outdoor spaces and draw people together, but I loved the idea. The more I read, the more excited I got, and as a children’s author, I wondered if anyone had written about this for kids (Kids are natural place-makers, right? Think tree forts, lemonade stands, and sidewalk chalk art). Finding nothing on the topic, I set to work. I contacted people here in Victoria and around the world—Australians who’d built skateboard ramps on their blocks, Haligonians who’d painted road murals, and Victorians who’d set up communal chicken coops. The response was electric. Folks offered me everything from inspiring stories, to photos, to painting advice for our neighbourhood’s upcoming public art project.

Home Sweet Neighborhood: Transforming Cities One Block at a Time was released by Orca Book Publishers in March 2019. It’s a celebration of kids and adults around the world having fun, building community, and creating positive change, starting right where they live. It’s about simplicity and the power of togetherness, and the book is available at local bookstores or through the Orca Book Publishers Ltd. 

Happy place-making! 

Cities Deepening Community, Neighbourhoods

Michelle Mulder

By Michelle Mulder

When I was growing up in Port Moody, BC, the library was my favourite hang-out spot. Each week, I checked out as many books as I could carry, and with each book, I cracked open the cover, took a deep breath, and jumped into another life. At university, I studied literature, and between courses, I helped dig a water pipeline in the Dominican Republic and flipped burgers for a summer at a McDonald’s in Germany. When I graduated, I cycled 6000 kilometres across Canada, became a travel writer, taught creative writing in the Arctic, and worked as a simulated patient for medical students to practice on. I also married the pen pal that I’d been writing to since I was fourteen years old, and together we travelled around his home country of Argentina. I began writing for kids because kids’ books have always been the ones I most enjoyed reading. These days, when I’m not making up stories or going on adventures, I enjoy reading, swimming, baking, hiking, and pedalling my bicycle around Victoria, BC, where I live with my husband and our daughter.

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