i was all set to post about several garden-style victories that give me hope that this nation is finally seeing the light vis-a-vie getting out of the way of people doing reasonable things withe their own property.

first and foremost, i was feeling pretty darn good that oak park had dropped the garden charges on us, and had the good sense to vote in a new progressive mayor to boot. with the planting season upon us, i am feeling thankful that our former hometown can finally plant and harvest in peace.

remember gilbert rist of huntington woods, michigan? he had some trees planted on his front lawn. he had trimmed them back to accommodate an overzealous code enforcement officer, but was still being dragged into court to defend that his trees didn’t constitute an illegal fence. https://oakparkhatesveggies.wordpress.com/2011/12/29/living-the-dream-once-again/ well, he recently won his case, and again, i was feeling optimistic that the government was learning its lesson.

on the righthand side of this blog you will see a link for the capac chickens facebook page. she seems to be doing a good job in her fight to get her city to allow backyard chickens, and after hearing pat foreman speak, i was very hopeful about the number of localities that are understanding that is just makes good sense to allow people to keep chickens. she mentions a place call diest, flanders, belgium (you can look this up) that actually supplies people with chickens because of the benefits in terms of reducing tonnage that gets put in landfills, the ability of chickens to create compost, as well as other perks they provide. very hopeful stuff indeed!

my lawyer tells me of another stupid land use/fence case that he won for a woman. again a case of the city harassing a citizen for something perfectly harmless. again a case of someone standing up for her rights and not letting herself be trampled on. and again a win.

folks, i am inspired and ready to blog!

and then, within 24 hours i receive these stories no less than 4 times in my inbox (probably way more by now, but i haven’t checked in the last few minutes. i anticipate getting slammed with it, and rightly so!):

karl tricamo's front yard garden in ferguson missouri june 2012

Last year at SUNfiltered, I wrote about Julie Bass of Oak Park, Michigan, and Ron Finley of Los Angeles, California, who were both literally fighting City Hall over gardens they’d planted. Bass had turned her front yard into a food garden (and was facing possible jail time); Finley had turned the parkway in front of his home into a community gardening space. This year, the tussle between a gardener and the local government is much closer to home (for me, that is): Karl Tricamo of Ferguson, Missouri, is challenging the city’s claim that his front-yard organic garden violates city codes.

I wrote about Karl’s situation at SUNfiltered, too: in the weeks since then, he’s gone before the city council to argue his case, and also started a website/blog to document the process (and he’s been very thorough on this front). His argument has stayed pretty consistent all along: there’s nothing in Ferguson’s code that prevents him from doing what he’s doing. As far as I can tell (and he and I have emailed a bit), he’s right: none of the wording of the codes cited by city officials seem to deal at all with gardening for personal consumption.

No doubt, edible gardens in the front yard are unusual, but that doesn’t make them wrong. He does have a back yard, but it’s not as fit for gardening as the front (lots of shade from trees, for example). I’m sure some are arguing that what he’s doing is unattractive, but that’s a matter of perspective: take a look at the photos he’s taken during the process, and judge for yourself. It strikes me as much ado about nothing…

What is important is the precedent set by these cases concerning the use of land by owners. I do think local governments can make regulations about activities that might impact the health and safety of those who don’t live on it, but it’s really hard to see how that’s the case here (or in the other examples). I tend to think the whole “property value” argument gets overused, and generally has nothing to back it up: it’s just someone’s opinion couched in the language of broader impact.

Garden on, Karl… there are lots of us out here who support you. I’ll be keeping an eye on this one.

Source: sustainablog (http://s.tt/1fgbp)


and this:

Gardener Sues City of Tulsa For Cutting Down Her Edible Garden (UPDATE)

Ramon Gonzalez Living / Lawn & Garden                 June 18, 2012

KOTV/Video screen captureKOTV reports that Denise Morrison grows an edible and medicinal garden of over 100 plant varieties in her front and back yard. Last August, she received a letter from the city reporting a complaint about her yard.

She took photographs of her gardens and went to meet with city inspectors who told her “Everything, everything need to go” when she asked for problem areas to be pointed out.

Upon hearing that all of her garden would have to be destroyed she called the police who issued her a citation so she could appear in court and work it out with the city. At her court hearing on August 15 the judge directed both parties to return to court in October.

KOTV/Video screen capture

The very next day, Morrison found, and photographed, city workers cutting down most of her plants-with what appears to be a bobcat and riding lawnmower- including trees that bore fruits and nuts. It is important to point out here that the city did not have permission to take action against the garden because the judge had put off hearing their case until October.

KOTV/Video screen capture. Before and after pictures showing extent of damage to Morrison’s front flower bed.

Watch the KOTV Story and Emotional Interview with Morrison

Everything that Morrison grew could be eaten. At the time the gardener was unemployed and not covered by insurance. She used her garden not only to feed herself, but to treat her diabetes, high-blood pressure and arthritis. According to Morrison, when she explained this to the enforcement officials she was told “we don’t care.” Morrison has filed a civil rights lawsuit arguing that the enforcement officials overstepped their bounds.

If this is sounding familiar to you it’s because gardens like Morrison’s are always coming under attack. Remember the story of Adam Guerrero last year that made national headlines after Colleen blogged about it here at TreeHugger?

I wish Morrison all the luck with her lawsuit because gardens are a civil right.

Update: Through my Twitter and Facebook accounts gardeners are asking what they can do to help Denise. I reached out to Lori Fulbright, the reporter to who broke the story, and she informs me via Email that the story is getting a lot of responses and offers for help. If you would like to donate seeds to help Denise regrow her medicinal garden, or would like to donate to her legal fund to help her with the civil rights lawsuit she filed, you can send it to Lori Fulbright who will get it to Denise.

Lori Fulbright C/O News On 6 302 S. Frankfort Tulsa, OK 74120


so, it’s clearly too soon to celebrate.

it’s obvious that people haven’t quite gotten it yet.

i’ll be honest and tell you that at first i just felt despair. like no matter how many victories there are, there will always be these soul-crushing instances of the Big guy stepping on the little guy.

but here’s the real paradigm:

folks, WE are the BIG guy!

OUR voices have power and WE can make a difference!

why am i confident in the face of so much evidence to the contrary?

because we have made a difference!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

look what you guys did for me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

i know it can be so hard to stay plugged in with so many things that demand our time and attention and it can seem so overwhelming and like our voices don’t even matter in tha face of such overreaching power…

but i will tell you honestly that every email i received during my garden struggle gave me strength and courage and power.

every person who reached out to me had a piece of my victory.

every person’s energy is multiplied when people stand together.

right now i feel discouraged and this post is for me more than for you.

i am trying to get myself to care because right now i just feel like going back to bed.

right now i feel like a goldfish in an ocean.

but i know in my heart that you all are fighters and i know that you all will do me proud.

and i know that you all will inspire me.

and i know that i am not ready to accept a handbasket.

because i know we deserve so much more…