Back in 2015 our neighborhood received a grant from Brightside's Neighbors Naturescaping program for four monarch butterfly gardens in the medians within the 2700 and 2800 blocks of Russell Boulevard.
I published a story on this back in October, 2015.
I'll never forget when a dedicated group of neighborhood volunteers went to plant the hundreds of seedlings, we had to use pick axes to get through the hardened clay soil. It was a hard day's work, too much to ask of volunteers in hindsight, but the tough and dedicated Fox Park'ers persevered.
Ever since then my family has been weeding the beds, picking up trash and generally keeping this looking decent. My kids need community volunteer hours for their school, so this is a small part of working toward that annual goal.
The simple pleasures of this project have been watching the soil go from an impermeable mass of clay with weeds on top to a rich, aerated, dark black soil. Also, the bugs have arrived. You will hear crickets chirping under the safe bed of grasses and plants as well as native bees pollinating the flowers.
But, the point of this post is not to do a run down of the importance of native plants in public spaces, I try to keep my science interests separate from this website...
The point is that while weeding these beds we've had some random interactions with neighbors that have been unexpected and kind.
We had a neighbor in the 2800 block of Russell come out of her row house and ambled toward us, working in the bed at Oregon Avenue. She just introduced herself and said she'd like to help. She squatted down, without gloves or hand spade and just dug in. She quietly talked to us and worked for about 20 minutes and then went back inside.
A simple interaction that was unexpected, unplanned, but much welcomed. Community building in best when it's organic and unforced.
Secondly, my wife and I were sweating it out one hot summer weeknight and a neighbor on the other side of Russell near California Avenue brought us two ice cold lemon Le Croix's and thanked us. She took a picture of us with her phone and said she likes seeing bees and the plants changing with the seasons.
Then, just this week, the kind gestures continued and prompted the idea for this post.
A kind neighbor in the same block of Russell near California Avenue saw me and one of my kids weeding the bed and he brought out a Ziploc bag of cookie dough brownies. He indicated they were frozen so they should be thawed and ready to enjoy when we're done.
Isn't that sweet?
Random acts of kindness are life affirming and something as simple as small median gardens can bring an improved curb appeal, new micro-environment for plants and tiny animals and public space that people you wouldn't expect enjoy.
So, thanks to all the kind folks who took the time to come talk to us, feed us or dig in with us.
If you are interested in a similar project in your neighborhood, check out the Brightside link above or look into the Metropolitan Sewer District's "Project Clear" rainscaping grants that can allow up to $3,000 per project to reclaim areas for better storm water runoff on personal property.