tour de brightmoor

my guilty pleasure of the last few weeks has been watching highlight of the tour de france and listening to a lot of kraftwerk as a result.

some photos from brightmoor, a neighborhood on detroit’s northwest side, full of modest homes, and our friends.

our friends bill and billie were kind enough to have us over for dinner and give us a tour of the gardens around brightmoor.  we started with this spiral bench that radiates out from a giant cottonwood.   it’s used as a community gathering space, especially for youth programing that takes place in the neighborhood.  a small but colorful chalkboard at the front announces the garden activities for the week.

we ramble though vacant lots, wildflowers patches and along little pathways that connect many of the gardens together.  the idea is to eventually have a trail linking all the gardens in brightmoor together.  many of the sidewalks in the neighborhood are fully overgrown and most people walk in the street, so the farm trail is a way of keeping people safer.  we stop at the community potato patch, site of a recently demoed building, many community members have rows of potatoes, which they put their name on.

they tend it, and they get the harvest. so simple! we visit gardens with children’s playscape, one for adult with developmental disabilities, a spot where an outdoor stage is being constructed, and several market gardens where folks are talking about developing a co-oprative csa.

all of this is leading up to the gardens along grayfield, which seems appropriate as it’s the gardens that riet has been tending for the last six years or so.  in a conversation about gardens in  brightmoor, riet’s name is likely to come up pretty quick, many of the gardeners point at riet for inspiration and support.  she has welcomed people to the neighborhood, helped them find houses, and supported their projects.  she is  force to be reckoned with, serving on boards for all kinds of projects, from the brightmoor alliance to friends of eliza howell park.  this year she has organized 14,000 volunteer hours to assist all the projects going on in brightmoor.

this “wall of water” helps shelter one of the gardens, it functions as a mural, shelter, provides privacy, and catches water for the garden too.

it has three 250 gallon tanks which link to a simple drip irrigation system run by gravity.

we go looking for riet to say hello, but she is nowhere to be found.  we poke around in her backyard, i’m assured that she won’t mind.

mr. bunz is a little hard to see in this photo, but i thought this was a pretty brilliant, putting the bunny cage right over the compost pile so that as mr. bunz does his stuff, it goes right into the compost pile.  no need to clean the cage!

this amazing shed is constructed of cob, cordwood, and bottles.  it’s not fully finished, but even in its rough state, it’s truly beautiful.

we wonder back toward bill and billie’s house for a lovely meal and warm conversation.  ma and i both comment on the overwhelming feeling of our tour.  all the work that is being done in brightmoor is truly inspiring, the space can feel a little overwhelming at times.  it’s a bit otherworldly, unlike my neighborhood, where the vacant lots are covered in grasses and it feels very open, brightmoor seems dominated by trees, huge maples are everywhere, and it makes it feel sort of like you are out in the forest, and occasionally a house will pop out, sometimes well-tended and cared for, other times vacant and burnt.  it’s hardly even feels like detroit in the way that i’m used to.

after our leisurely meal we head back to our home, passing the dice game on the corner, reminding us that while it might feel like the country; brightmoor is still the city.


4 responses to “tour de brightmoor

  1. Few people start sentences about watching the Tour de France with “my guilty pleasure.” Usually it’s “Because my TV channel selector is broken…” or “My captors forced me to…”

    • its only the highlights, not the whole thing, watching the whole thing would be dreadful. maybe you need to listen the kraftwerk joint a few more times to get you excited about the tour.

  2. Great to see all the exciting things happening in Brightmoor and Northend. The city is really coming back alive.


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