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News 2009

News 2009

From the June 2009 Newsletter:


In mid-May it seemed that the water for the playground (including the cob courtyard) wouldn’t be turned on until the wading pool renovation was done. With Councillor Giambrone’s intervention, that decision was changed. Having water at the cob sinks meant the snack bar could open on weekends, and the kids could resume their engineering practice, making rivers and dams in the sandpit. (Park friend Simon Evans put the taps back on, which he has been faithfully doing every spring for four years, and the City plumbers, Tom Feeney and Eugene Kenny, reconnected the water heater).

Having water also made the yearly cob repair easier. The counter was scrubbed and broken shingles were replaced on the top of the wall. The dysfunctional fireplace was removed (by Jenny Cook, with help from Heidrun Gabel-Koepff). Jenny found that the top part of the fireplace was inhabited by a big ant colony, which was not fun when she was chipping away at the cob during removal. She wondered if the whole cob wall had been colonized, but it turned out to be a very limited section only. (The world contains many more insects than people…)

Next on the cob maintenance list is rebuilding the wall where the fireplace was, and re-plastering the cob benches where the plaster has given way. Heidrun is the main experimenter, trying out new recipes for earth-based plaster that work in a cold climate. This year she plans to try adding 8% cement powder, to see what happens. She and Jenny will be holding workshops to rebuild the cob wall, in July. To take part and learn how to cob, talk to the summer park staff or contact

From the May 2009 Newsletter:


Cob courtyard: Everything requires maintenance, which can sometimes include renovation. The cob fireplace, part of the courtyard wall by the playground, never worked well. So it’s time to take it down and bridge the space. The removal has begun and Jenny Cook will be filling in the gap beginning the first weekend of June. If you want to “get muddy” and learn how it’s done, contact the park staff at or leave a message on the rink house phone: 416 392-0913.

The interesting thing about altering a cob structure is there’s no waste – the plaster is lime and can be sprinkled in the gardens, and the walls are made of clay, which can be broken up, soaked in a bucket, and then re-used to build another wall.

Cob bio-toilet: There is currently no support from the City to build this structure. The plans as commissioned by the Parks branch would not allow a community-built structure, and to have it built by a contractor would be prohibitively expensive.

The $8000 never-used donated bio-toilet, however, is in storage and ready to install with a nice wooden frame structure around it. Park friends have asked Councillor Giambrone if he can help make this happen. If city councillors consider the standard price tag for a park toilet: $600,000 – and the price tag for the Exhibition Place rainwater-flush-toilet pilot project (over $900,000) – the bio-toilet seems a pretty good pilot project for public places where money is scarce but people still need a toilet.

Hopefully, conversations in the playground this spring will lead to finding a solution, for installing the long-awaited playground toilet.

Cob master-builder Georgie Donais and her family have taken on a year of being the “family-in-residence” at Kimbercote Farm, near Collingwood. From the Kimbercote website, “For thirty years, Kimbercote has been working with social and environmental groups, the labour movement, educators, families, grass-roots organizations and the non-profit sector. Our organizational roots date even further back to 1959, making us one of the oldest active social justice organizations in the province.” The century-old renovated farmhouse provides meeting and accommodation space for up to 125 people, and Georgie says one of their interests is increasing rural-urban links. A timely idea! Hopefully Georgie and her family will make a bridge between Dufferin Grove and Kimbercote, initially through some reports back to this newsletter.

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