Grow a little sunshine in your neighborhood

Opinion

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It strikes me as terribly unfair that we always get winter weather a month before the official start of winter, but we don't get consistent spring weather until a month after spring equinox. Regardless, I'm trying to ignore the nagging feeling that there's still one more snowstorm yet to come and focus on the signs of spring. We survived one of the most wretched winters in years, it's time to celebrate. Here are some of the indicators of warm weather that had me doing a happy dance:

  • Rain. I'll take rain over snow any day. Sure, sun is best, but I love a good thunderstorm and rain smells so good.
  • Daylight Saving. I hated losing that hour of sleep, but longer daylight hours make up for it.
  • Cars lining up at the car washes along Harlem. Bye-bye ugly salt stains!
  • Customers sitting outside in the beer garden at the Beacon. Not standing out there, shivering, smoking their cigarettes as fast as possible, but sitting and laughing and enjoying themselves.
  • And even better than customers in beer gardens: tulips and crocuses poking through the soil in my real garden.

When I moved to my townhouse in Forest Park, one of the things I was most excited about was the space in front and along the side of my unit that I could turn into planting beds. I'm not a natural green thumb, but I enlisted my mother who is and we pulled up patio pavers, dug up grass, and enriched rocky, claylike soil to plant flowers, vegetables, and herbs. My neighbors were pleased by my gardening project. They enjoyed using my extra tomatoes and fresh mint and some of them were inspired to spruce up their own landscaping.

I believe that gardening is one of the best community-building activities, which is why I'm thrilled that this year Forest Park will finally have its own community garden! The garden is being established on park district-leased land on the northwest corner of Harlem and I-290. There is a small, underused park there now, but in the years to come we should have a lush, flowering green space where apartment and condo-dwellers can rent plots for a small annual fee and get their gardening on. Not to mention it will be a gorgeous place to sit or stroll on a warm spring day, and the group behind the community garden effort plans to offer educational programs in the future.

I talked to Jessica Rink, who has been heading up this group alongside Gina Garrison. Jessica said they hope to put in some perennial beds and other arranged beds for demonstration this year, but there are still some kinks to be worked out - the main one being a lack of access to water. The park district is doing what they can to help get the space into shape by tilling the land and helping with a site plan, but money needs to be raised to solve this water issue.

So how can residents help this effort to bring more natural beauty to our town? The Forest Park Community Garden group will be having plant sales in conjunction with Green Home Experts in Oak Park in May and a bake sale at the June 13 Oak Park Farmers Market. In addition to money, they are in need of volunteers and the best way to get in touch is through their Web site, www.fpcommunitygarden.com, or by following them on Twitter: www.twitter.com/teamfpcg. Get involved, it's the perfect way to kick those winter blues!

Stephanie is the author of "I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone" and "Ballads of Suburbia." She's a proud Forest Parker who holds a master's in fine arts degree from Columbia College Chicago. She also works locally at the Beacon Pub and loves to hear from people through her Web site www.stephaniekuehnert.com.

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