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The Joys of Gardening

Neighbourhood Relations


One of my neighbours is a rat. A few weeks ago a Municipal By-law Enforcement Officer came to my door to advise that someone had made an anonymous complaint to the city that the grass in my backyard was too long. Now a normal person might have been a bit ashamed and certainly cooperative when confronted by “The Man”. But as regular readers of Tonic know, I’m not normal.

I was irked. I value direct communication, and I was disappointed that our neighbour hadn’t come to me first with their concerns. This spring I had spent most of my free time taking out all the grass from our front yard and replacing it with a retro-zen garden -a low-lying geometrically patterned space that I designed to mesh with the aesthetic of our recently renovated mid-century modern house. It took me weeks to complete and I’m quite proud of it. While gardening (with the help of my youngest son, Jack) I chatted with the neighbours as they came and went about what we were hoping to accomplish. I received advice, and compliments, and some gentle mocking (ours is a neighbourhood of almost universally professionally maintained gardens - nobody but me does it themselves). After a long winter I really enjoyed the opportunity to connect with my neighbours. And, as an added bonus, I’ll never have to mow the front yard again.

My plan was to similarly transform the backyard over the summer. Full disclosure: Did I allow the grass to go fallow in the backyard? Yep.  I knew that I’d have to mow the lawn before I got a chance to make the changes, but more importantly I needed to finish what I started in the front first.  Then it seemed to rain every weekend ...and then in mid-cut my lawn-mower broke down.

So, when the By-Law Enforcement Officer asked to see the yard, I declined (As a young lawyer, I used to act as a By-law prosecutor on municipal offences - If anyone knows about homeowner’s rights, it’s me). I told him that I’d cut it as soon as my mower was fixed and the rain stopped (which I did), but I also refused to allow him access to my property when he came back to verify whether I complied. I also suggested that he check back with the “anonymous” neighbour to confirm whether or not I cut the grass -and asked that he pass on a message from me to them, that if they had any further problems with my yard, that they speak to me first, before making another complaint.

While you’re reading this, the Summer Issue of Tonic, I’ll be toiling away in my backyard, presumably under the watchful eye of my “anonymous” neighbour. I think you’ll particularly enjoy Bryce Wylde’s article on how to prepare for and safely participate in extreme fitness, Joel Thuna and Claude Gallant’s piece on the botanicals you should have in your medicine cabinet  and Paul McQuillan’s take on finding the time to practice yoga. As always if you want to talk to me about Tonic (or my garden) feel free to email me at Jamie@tonictoronto.com