Wednesday, May 28, 2014

It's over- for now.

It's going to take awhile for me to recover from 3,000 miles of Red Bull and bad road food. That's how many miles I've put on my little old Toyota pickup (the Sabbatmobile) in the couple weeks. But, all that time on the road gave me lots of time to think strategically about -lots of things, actually. But to the blog point: I've decided is to abandon my all out Burn Your Lawn project after all. I've to the conclusion that this isn't the time -and Bowling Green KY isn't the place- for me to make my stand for more ecologically sound suburban landscaping. I've not surrendered, but my resources are limited and I've decided that this one of those times when discretion is the better part of valor. And to be honest, my heart really isn't up for the fight, so I am making a tactical retreat. For now. 

                                            For Sale By Owner


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Well That Didn't Take Long (Take 2)

The learning curve. A couple nights ago I posted a chapter entitled Well That Didn't Take Long, in which I explained that I'd received an official notification of a property code violation from the city of Bowling Green, and elaborating on my reaction to that action by the city.  Then the next morning, I removed it, because I had not done my homework before deciding how to roll with that event, and when I finally did dig a bit deeper, a better way occurred to me.  I am, let's face it, a novice at this blogging activist role, and will likely make more missteps as I navigate the learning curve.   

So: Well That Didn't Take Long (Take 2)

Got my property violation notice from BG city administration: 

Apparently already in violation, I have been notified that -apparently already in violation with no prior notice- I have until June 1st to “mow my noxious weeds” or the city will contract to have it done and charge me for it, plus a fine.

(Look away; it's hideous, I tell you, noxiously HIDEOUS! You'll turn to stone!)

Which I pretty much figured would happen. I've just barely started the project, and without any inquiries or discussions, the city's first reaction is to deem me a "code violator" without any attempt whatsoever to inquire as to what's behind my decision to let my property go through this phase of development.

So now what? Well, in my opinion, the city's definitions of "weed", "obnoxious" and "gardening" are exceedingly vague, enforced subjectively, and thereby provide legal loopholes the size of sinkholes. (Literally. Think about it does; the city ever cite folks for the "unsightly" sinkholes on their property?) But the simple truth is that without some sort of ACLU type pro-bono legal council, I’m overwhelmingly outnumbered and under resourced, so I'm probably goin' down -eventually. But even if the eventual loss of this battle is inevitable?  Fine. This is only an exploratory skirmish, after all, the point of the spear of a movement to rewild the suburban landscape. Raising awareness has always been major force in my design, so while I may eventually be forced by the city to "mow my lawn", I can at least formally bring these ideas to their attention -and teach others how to do the same, if so inclined.

The city does have an appeals process, a way to "make my case" to a board of citizens appointed to hear property violation citation appeals.  Seems reasonable, so let's see what happens. One case comes from me; just a random boomer hippie nutcase.  But what if another comes from someone else, and another, and another...  who knows?

So watch this space! In the coming days I'll report from the front lines of "taking it up with city hall", posting links to documents, personnel and proceedings that you will likely encounter, should you decide to try to move the needle on this idea. If you know of any reporters that would like to follow this story, or a legal professional with a desire to engage in some civil, professional environmental activism, please have them get in touch.  This round ain't over yet; lets see how far I can go -or we can go, if you're ready and willing to join the mission.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Burn Your Lawn!

First let me say "Thank you!"...  to the neighbors who, upon seeing what at the moment may look like neglected property, felt genuine concern for my well-being, and bothered checked in to see if I was OK, and to offer help. I'm quite serious about this graciousness; it's nice to know that neighbors are still capable of such simple human compassion. I'd like to think I'm that kind of neighbor too.  That said: I'm fine!  

But then, since I COULD mow my lawn if I wanted to... what in the hell is going on here?

Well, what you're seeing is not at all a “neglected” property. There is design at work here, and I actually tend this land pretty intensively, but the general idea is: I'm intentionally letting this landscape revert, with a little coaxing and pruning, to a more natural, more diverse, more dynamic ecosystem. I'm "rewilding" the landscape, to make it a more ecologically balanced home for greater diversity of plants and critters; bees, butterflies, crickets, rabbits, and as it turns out, the wild turkeys that now regularly patrol the estate! 

Turf grass lawns are, in the end, unsustainable, artificial monocultures that can only survive with enormous inputs of resources; chemicals, water, fossil fuels and labor. Lawn mowers, weed-whackers, hedge trimmers and their ilk are all obnoxious, loud machines that fart enormous amounts of toxic greenhouse gasses.  (Yes, electric tools are a bit less obnoxious, but the electricity that powers them is no less wasted, and comes from coal fired, pollution spewing power plants.)  So I'm done with them, and with the "Golf Course Aesthetic" that has somehow become the norm for suburban landscapes across much of the country. 

Evolution is a competition, and it’s “game on” here; any plant that cannot survive without me watering and fertilizing and protecting it from predation is goin’ down to mother nature -as it should be.  “Weed”, like “beauty” is a subjective human construct: a "weed" is just a name people call plants that grows where people don't want them to.  Well, there are no “weeds” here, only “competitors”.  Here, a Dandelion isn’t a weed: it’s a hardy, edible green, with a pretty yellow blossom that attracts and sustains honeybees -which are in a lot of trouble now, trouble that effects all of us.

Think of it as a work-in-progress private nature preserve. Rather than forcefully imposing an artificial, unsustainable, labor intensive monoculture on the land, I am instead listening and watching closely, then selectively “sculpting” what wants to grow here, what can grow here, more or less on it’s own.  In order to do that, I need to pay close attention.  I need to learn the names and ways of every plant and critter that decides to make a home here, a challenge I relish -and much prefer to mowing the lawn! And I don’t pretend any sort of pure, libertarian style neutrality here, by the way. I definitely take sides, planting and encouraging certain wildflowers, herbs, fruit trees and a few vegetables, pruning back aggressive human-introduced plants (like Privet and Euonymus) mowing and mulching paths, and so on. 

Which, by the way, is real work!  My parents and grandparents didn’t “go to the gym” to stay fit. They didn’t have to; they worked the land with their own hands, which kept them fit and strong. So along with the money I’m saving on expensive power equipment and fuel, I’m also saving on gym fees! 

So: Watch This Space!  Unlike a turf grass lawn, my little nature preserve will evolve and change over time, from season to season, year to year.  Without me mimicking the effect of wildfire by mowing, the grasses that now wave gently in the wind (like the prairies that once covered Kentucky before humans showed up and started suppressing wildfires) will eventually give way to taller, less fire dependent plants, and ultimately, trees: Redbud, Dogwood, Sycamore, Chestnut, Tulip Poplar and so on.  I intend to enjoy watching all that happen over time, and in the process, learning how to better live with, rather than on the natural ecosystems of central Kentucky.