Looking for hope (part 13)

As I waited in line for my second dose of vaccine earlier this week, I was struck by how much faith and hope we, collectively, have invested in this process. The vaccines have been developed and mass produced in record time and there have been conflicting reports about efficacy and side effects, as there have about the optimal length of time between first and second doses and whether or not it’s okay to mix and match vaccine brands. There is no research yet – how could there be? – determining how soon we will need booster shots, and we can’t possibly know whether there are as-yet unknown variants lurking in the wings that won’t be controlled by the vaccinations most of us have received.

Despite the uncertainty, I feel hopeful and cheerful with my second dose in my arm. A booster needed in six months or a new variant that outsmarts my vaccine? Those are problems for another day that I am just not going to think about at the moment.

For now, I am happily on my first social outing in a very long time: to the shores of Lake Huron to visit family and friends. After 15 months of going nowhere, preparations for this three-day jaunt took on the proportions of a major expedition. We pulled suitcases out from the dark recesses of our closet, dusted off our long-unused social skills and reassured our cat that we were not abandoning her.

Butterflyways

The David Suzuki Foundation notes:

“Wild pollinators such as butterflies and bees are crucial to human survival. Climate change, development and widespread pesticide use are compromising their habitat and food sources. The Butterflyway Project aims to help people step up efforts to help pollinators find food and shelter.”

Begun in 2017, the project, which encourages people to plant native wildflowers in yards, schoolyards, streets and parks, has taken off across the country.

Stephanie Wheeler, community development worker with Kingston Community Health Centres is using the Butterflyway Project to support bees and butterflies but also to help those feeling isolated because of the pandemic:

“During COVID, the community has become disconnected and people are identifying increased anxiety, depression, and isolation. My hope is to help people reconnect and build connections. Community cohesion is important to the health of a community, neighbours caring for their neighbour and the environment they live in.”

Grow a row

Loving Spoonful, connecting people across the Kingston area with good food, has had a grow a row program for many years. Backyard food gardeners, farmers with operations large and small, community gardens and schools commit to growing a row of produce for the organization. While some operations have had to change during the pandemic – kids are not at school to build gardens there – the program continues. Produce goes from the grower to Loving Spoonful, which distributes it to more than 40 community agencies and fresh food market stands located in high needs areas of the city. Even those not part of the official program can bring excess garden produce to the Loving Spoonful booth at Kingston’s Saturday market.

Housing for all

The Homes for Heroes Foundation recently announced that it will be building a community of tiny homes for homeless veterans on land along the Kingston waterfront that currently holds Providence Care Hospital and other institutions both current and historic (including the long-closed and notorious Rockwood Asylum).

This is a beautiful piece of land and seems a perfect spot for such a project. The Kingston village will be H4HF’s third undertaking and will consist of 25 modular homes, assembled elsewhere for onsite installation. The homes, at 300 square feet, are, indeed, tiny, but offer the basics: a bedroom, bathroom, full kitchen and small sitting area. They will be situated around a central greenspace that will include a shared garden. Services and supports will be available onsite to residents, who will pay a modest housing fee. While there is no firm length of time for residency, veterans will be supported to become self-sufficient and able to move into permanent housing in one to three years.

As homelessness in Kingston continues to rise, with political responses that are, at best, stop gap, we can anticipate a summer of more encampments and more evictions from those encampments. The H4HF tiny home village model offers a hopeful concept for broader implementation that could provide meaningful, long-term housing to many of those who presently lack it.

Chickens need housing, too. My son has built a mobile home for his flock, so he can move his poultry from field to field, giving them access to fresh vegetation for foraging while they fertilize the soil with their nitrogen- and phosphorus-rich manure. They also help to control bugs, slugs and snails, for which they have a special fondness. After a day of scratching on the land, they return to their coop on wheels for the night, safe from the attentions of coyotes and other predators, then head on to the next field in the morning, filled with the hope of greener grass (or more slugs).

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