Sat Jun 30th, 2007 at 09:46:13 PM EST
This is another lazy quote diary, a cautionary tale and an appeal for info/ideas.
My buddy Stan has recently become a suburban food gardener:
I live in a modest subdivision in Northwest Raleigh (annexed five years ago into the city limits). Last year, inspired by the politics of food as well as my love of fresh, unpoisoned vegetables, I cleared about 800 square feet of useless grass and "decorative" landscaping, as well as two large stumps, in the front yard. My back yard is almost completely shaded by mature oaks and faces Northeast, making it less than ideal for sun exposure. That's why I used the front. I terraced one particularly bad runoff section of ex-lawn, hand tilled it with shovel and hoe, abutted it with stones, and mulched it to high heaven. The former "landscaped" section I sectioned off into meandering beds with mulched walkways between them. I planted some veggies last year, and we had very good luck all summer with the basics: cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, and some herbs.
Not a word was said by anyone.
This winter, I prepared the soil carefully, adding great mounds of organic compost, lime, and bone meal. When Spring rolled in, I planted spinach, radishes, turnips, carrots, sugar snaps, bush beans, and kale. I also interspersed flowers in the ground and in pots, and the parsley, oregano, rosemary, and thyme had all survived winter on their own (and flowered this year). it looked very good, and people who walked past commented to that effect.
Another aside: I drive a very beat up old Chevy Prism, on which - aside from rust - I also have bumper stickers suggesting the impeachment of the president and calling for an end to the war in Iraq. These are mixed in with a bunch of military crap (master parachutist badge, combat infantry badge, combat medical badge, Special Forces crest, Ranger tab, a "Vietnam Veteran" sticker, a "US Army Retired" sticker, and my MSG chevron) to create cognitive dissonance. Finally, there is a sticker of Crazy Horse, with the text: Homeland Security, Fighting Terrorism Since 1492. Oh year, also an American flag that is overwritten with One Nation, Under Surveillance.
Anyway, today I received a two letters in one envelope, dated June 14 and June 29, from Charleston Management Corporation, who handles the dirty work for the HOA. the June 29 letter told me I'd been warned in the June 14 letter (which I first received in the same envelope today) that vegetable gardens are not allowed in front yards here.
My garden is just starting to produce tomatoes, and my okra, cucumbers, squash (and all that summery stuff) is just beginning. Also cantaloupes, and I'm still getting turnips, carrots, and kale like mad.
I have until July 14th to remove my vegetable garden. I checked the architectural and landscaping standards, and sure enough, no veggies allowed... also no herbs. But I have a legal question. Does that mean that nothing edible can be grown? I mean, rosemary is used all over here as a hedge. How does one legally determine what is decorative and what is edible, and that ne'er the twain shall meet?
Any legal advice is welcome.
The other thing the restrictive covenant prohibits is clotheslines. This is an energy conservation issue, no?
Long story short, I have to haul away the piled up brush I was using for bird habitat alongside the house; and now I have to hide my compost heap. But I really really really don't want to uproot my food.
This HOA was successfully sued in 1999 for trying to levy fines on someone. But the text of their bullshit legal document says they can foreclose for violations.
(See Feral Scholar web site for the full story.)
First off, if anyone knows of a precedent case where a HOA was successfully prevented from destroying a food garden, I'd sure like to know about it. Secondly, I'd like to say -- and this fires me up with such grief and rage that it's all I can do not to reach for the CapsLock key -- that this illustrates what I've been saying in post after post, about a culture that denigrates the processes of life and subsistence, that relegates food production to "the back yard," out of sight and out of mind, like something dirty or indecent. We are insane. This is insane. To compel anyone on this hungry and thirsty planet to dig up a food garden is an abomination.
Some friends of mine have a similar front yard -- mulched and planted in useful fruits, herbs, and veg -- in a prosperous subdivision of expensive Central Calif real estate. They are susti garden experts who run a bike-based gardening business. Their yard is considered a highlight of the neighbourhood, and they give tours which are immensely popular. People come there to learn how to do likewise. Their yard has been featured in yuppie magazines. Go figure.
Anyway, if anyone knows of a case where a home gardener has won the war against the HOA totalitarians [mini-Mugabes, we might say in this case, given that dictator's habit of eradicating home vegetable gardens], a precedent case would be useful right about now. Or any suggestion of how to embarrass them out of proceeding.