Creating Community - Parklet completed at Havenscourt Homestead

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Friday, February 21, 2014 9:33 AM

So, what exactly IS a Parklet anyway?  According to Wikipedia,
"A parklet is a small space serving as an extension of the sidewalk to provide amenities and green space for people using the street."
"Parklets are intended for people.  Parklets offer a place to stop, to sit, and to rest while taking in the activities of the street."
"Parklets are designed to provide a public place for passersby to relax and enjoy the atmosphere of the city around them, in places where either current urban parks are lacking or where the existing sidewalk width is not large enough to accommodate vibrant street life activities."
The Parklet at Havenscourt Homestead is located on the parking strip between the sidewalk and the street.  It includes seating, drought tolerant native and wild flowers, fruit trees, and a pumpkin patch.  But the heart of the space is the Little Free Library.

I have had a vision for this space in my head for a long time.  But I haven't been able to complete it due to my current disability limitations.  But all that changed when Kristin moved in to be my live-in assistant post foot surgery.  She was eager to help with projects around the homestead, is quite strong considering her small size, and knows her way around a tool box.  And so the transition began.

It all started with a bench I saw sitting at the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.  It consisted of two pieces of stump with a long board screwed into it.  The board was completely split and beginning to rot so basically the bench was useless.  But I knew that I had a perfect length of 2' x 10' lumber at home left over from building a raised bed for my asparagus.  So we picked it up and brought it home.  Since installing the bench, it has become quite a popular spot to sit and visit with neighbors.

Next came the half wine barrels.  A fellow homesteader was re-landscaping her yard, so she posted them for free on bahh, the Bay Area Homesteader Hookup listserv started by Ruby at the Institute of Urban Homesteading here in Oakland.  FYI, this is an AWESOME resource.  To join, simply send an e-mail to with the subject "Subscribe".

But back to the barrels.  We picked up several of them and brought them home.  Unfortunately about half of them completely fell apart and are now destined to become firewood.  But enough of them were in decent condition, so we placed four of them in the parking strip.  I cut a big hole in the bottom of each and then Kristin filled them with compost and potting soil.  We planted four EZ-Pick fruit trees:  Apricot, Nectarine, Cherry, and Peach.  Why the big hole in the bottom of the barrels?  Because the wine barrels are really for aesthetics only.  The hole will allow the tap roots of these trees to grow deep into the soil below.  When the wine barrels start to deteriorate too much, I'll just build wooden planter boxes around them.

I had several large pumpkins in storage that I had received last fall from Nicole at Farm Curious.  So I checked in with my neighbor Gail to see if she would mind me planting a pumpkin patch for the kids on the small section of parking strip between my property and her big sycamore tree.  She was delighted with the idea.  I cut the tops and bottoms off the pumpkins, and Kristin randomly placed them in the designated space.  We filled them with rich soil and waited to see if any of the seeds inside would germinate.  I did this once before with great results.  Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that any of the seeds are sprouting.  So I'm just going to buy a packet of seeds and plant them inside the existing shells.  As the "pumpkin pots" decompose, they will provide nutrition for the growing plant.  And next fall, the kids in the neighborhood will be able to come harvest their Halloween pumpkins from the parklet.
And this brings us to the Little Free Library.  Other than the metal roof, the acrylic doors, and some trim pieces, the entire library is built from reclaimed materials.  The main component is a cabinet purchased from the local ReStore run by Habitat for Humanity for a whopping $5.00.  The sliding doors came from Tap Plastics in San Leandro.  The posts, supports, and siding were all left over from previous projects.  And my neighbor and fellow homesteader Tina provided the laminate flooring squares that were left over from her chicken coup remodel.  Kristin did most of the construction and really enjoyed explaining to passersby what she was building.  No, it was not a birdhouse!  Even Kristin's boyfriend Jon helped out by digging the post holes and helping Kristin install the metal roof.

Late yesterday afternoon, we finally finished it.  We filled it up with books from the local St. Vincent de Paul and several others donated by friends.  Special thanks to Tina for providing several children's books in Spanish.  As Kristin and I were getting ready to attach the sign, a couple of young boys from up the street came riding up on their bicycles.  They had been by several times during the construction and were anxious to see it complete.
And so within seconds of completion, we had our first patrons.  And boy oh boy, did they have fun.  Between the books and the sidewalk chalk, they were probably here for half an hour or more.
Just look at the smile on this boys face!  He was completely engaged from the moment he opened this book which contains interactive pop up panels.

We sat on the bench and read a book about a farm together.
Kristin and the boys played several rounds of Tic-Tac-Toe.

Everyone had a great time!

I am really looking forward to watching the neighborhood embrace and enjoy this new addition.  Thanks to all my friends in the homesteading community who unwittingly contributed to this project in one way or another.  You have all made this possible.  I love my neighborhood and am so happy to be able to give a little something back to those living here.
"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need."
        - Cicero