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Our first swap box

GC and Rosie and I installed a swap box in the Enchanted Forest in honour of Elmaks. Turns out none of us are especially handy with a drill. Rosie played the opposable thumb card (again), but GC and I didn’t really have an excuse. On the plus side, you learn a lot about how to do a thing from doing it the first time, and now GC and I are much better at installing swap boxes.

The Enchanted Forest runs beside Fisher Avenue, on the edge of the Experimental Farm. I picked a tree that is smack dab in the middle of the path. In fact, the path diverges in two to go around that tree. Being a typical Libran, I always struggle a bit with that when I’m walking along the path. Should I go around the tree to the left or the right? Part of me always wants to go the same way, but part of me thinks I shouldn’t allow that part of me to decide. I always wonder if I’m the only one who struggles with this.

Anyway. I was initially thinking the swap box should go over by the fallen log with the carved creature on it, since it’s street art too.  Or forest art. But I wouldn’t want people to have to walk through poison ivy to use the swap box. The indecisive tree in the middle of the path seemed ideal.

After we put it up, we put a few things in it and then we walked down the path and watched from a discreet distance as people approached the swap box. We saw two pairs of cyclists and one pedestrian go right past it without stopping. I can’t even imagine passing a swap box without stopping, but that’s what they did. One of them was even a kid about 10 years old. It doesn’t bode well if  you’ve already lost your sense of curiosity by the age of 10.

We went back that night, under the full moon, and checked on it. It was still there, but there was nothing new in it and nothing had been taken.

The next day somebody took the Harry Potter figure.


This morning GC and Rosie were out walking before the sun came up, and they discovered somebody had put something new in it. GC wasn’t sure what it was exactly since it was still dark outside, but he said something about pink chiffon. So it’s officially a swap box now!



(A few minutes after we installed the swap box, Rosie found some street art of her own. It was on one of those “You are here” signs on the bike path.)




10 comments to Our first swap box

  • I think you found the perfect spot for it!

  • I have never seen a swap box in real life. I wonder if they’re a worldwide phenomenon or just confined to your area. I have a fear of being cited for littering or defacement of public property if I were to put one up on a neighborhood tree. More likely, the public works folks would remove it. I don’t know if the concept would fly here. You need a certain amount of whimsy for it and I think that whimsy is sorely lacking these days.

    • donna lee, there are probably more of them here than anywhere else, since elmaks started them and he lived in Ottawa. But the idea had started to catch on in other places too, and the odd one has popped up in other countries.

      I think Elmaks helped us realize that public space is OUR space. That we can put stuff in it, and we can interact with it. He knew that nothing lasts forever, and city workers or vandals would remove the swap boxes, but he was okay with that. He just kept cheerfully putting them up and allowing whatever happened to happen.

  • […] My sister discovered this swap box a few days ago while biking to work. She knew I’d be interested as we have our own homemade one in front of our house. Turns out both share the same inspiration – the fabulous artist Elmaks, who used to mount his own wonderful boxes throughout the city. The folks who made this one did so in honour of him. You can read all about it here. […]

  • Hi, visited your wonderful swap box and wrote about it on my blog:
    I linked to your page. Hope that’s OK. Let me know otherwise and I’ll remove the link.
    Love how you call it the Enchanted Forest. Thanks for the great gesture in memory of Elmaks.

    • Yay! I love that you wrote about it on your blog. Thanks very much. As soon as I saw the picture of YOUR swap box, I knew exactly where you live. I put stuff in yours years ago! I really like that your swap box is at the perfect height for children to use. It has lasted a very long time by swap box standards…what’s your secret?

  • Well we have had to replace it once and repair it a few times due to wear and tear and vandalism, but overall it’s held its own! Thanks for putting stuff in it and putting yours up. Folks love them.

  • […] happy I got to witness the entire life cycle of a swap box, from creation to installation to destruction. Elmaks would have liked that. And I’m glad I saw her destroying it. This way […]

  • […] takes you to what’s popularly known at as the Enchanted Forest that runs along Fisher. The only wind there is caused by the flutter of fairy wings. The Enchanted […]