I got back from Florida yesterday afternoon and it felt like Florida here in Chicago. My next door neighbors to the south were having a birthday for Daya, whose name was written in purple crepe-paper streamer across the garage windows in their back yard. I wonder if she even lives there--I don't think it's the little two year old who can say my name in English with startling clarity. Daya may have been the preteen running around in a strapless prom-dress contraption, but I'm not sure. There must have been at least 50 people over there.
While the neighbors partied, I got some yard work done. Jesse, the other king of the alley, came to cut my lawn. He has a mower and I don't. But he didn't have gas, so there was a delay while he scrounged for some gasoline. I hadn't seen one of those old red-and-yellow gasoline cans in decades, but somehow he dug one up. He mowed the lawn while I went to church. The 5:30 Mass is in Spanish, so it's good practice. Attendance was light yesterday--I'm sure everyone just wanted to be outside. But I still spotted some familiar faces, one guy from daily Mass and the lady who is on the local school council and goes to CAPS every month. She's a "peacer"--she gets out of her pew to greet people she knows at the sign of peace. After a 15-year hiatus, it's nice to be part of a parish again. The youth group gave out carnations to all the moms, and then some. One of the girls handed me a pink one when she passed my pew walking out during the recessional. It's in a vase on the kitchen table at home now. Maybe it's good luck.
After Jesse cut the grass I dug up a few violets that had begun incursions into the front lawn, where Neighborhood Housing Services had actually rolled sod before I bought the house. I also watered, which was pointless since it's going to rain today, but some of the sod died last summer and I'm trying not to let it get any worse.
Jesse was dismayed to learn that I am planning to dig up the entire back yard--where he planted grass seed late last summer, to some good effect. The back yard looks great on the surface. There's hardly a bare patch of ground and the dandelions and violets give it nice coordinating colors. But I explained to Jesse that after he'd seeded the back yard, I had had the soil tested and the lead level is dangerously high--it's like 1500 parts per million. I forget what the line is where it becomes dangerous, but this is way beyond it. So no kids under age 5 are allowed in my yard this summer. The other problem back there is the ground is uneven and full of junk. I already dug four or five wooden boards out of the ground. They must have been part of the deck that burned off in the fire in 2003. Fernando's dad offered to get a tiller from his job and bring it over to level the ground, but the whole yard needs to be dug out for trash before he does that--I'm afraid the tiller would break from hitting a piece of concrete or another board.
At least the lead issue simplifies this year's garden planning. I did a little research and found out sunflowers will take up lead from soil. Su Casa Catholic Worker says they have extra seeds, and I bought some at the big garden fair at Garfield Park Conservatory two weeks ago. So next weekend, I hope Jesse and I can get out there with a couple of shovels, dig up the crap, and then I can plant a yard full of sunflowers. The irony is the least offensive way to dispose of lead-filled sunflowers is to landfill them.
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