Tuesday, July 19, 2011

When a Garden Equals Jail Time

            Oak Park, Michigan is in the news in a bad way.  Julie Bass, who grows organic vegetables in her front yard, was cited for violating a city code that says residents are required to have “suitable, live plant material” in their front yard.   Bass is facing 93 days of jail time because she’s growing some vegetables in front of her house. 
            Apparently the definition of ‘suitable’ pretty much just pertains to grass, and maybe some trees and flowers, but NOT actual food, as far as the city is concerned.
            Really now?  This reminds me of my rant about HOA’s and clothesline bans.
            I personally would LOVE to see people growing vegetables in their front yards, back yards, wherever they can.  I think we see enough grass already, truly, and grass is kinda high maintenance and fairly boring. 
It’s like if you live in suburbia you’re expected to conform to the norm, to arbitrary, subjective and narrow standards of what is acceptable, and growing vegetables? Well, that’s just not ok.
            Backwards, I tell you.  Bass has even gotten neighborhood kids interested in her garden and they enjoy helping her.  That’s another one of my pet peeves—most people have a lack of access to fresh, organic food.  Here Bass is not only growing organic food, but giving kids access to it—not to mention the kids have the great fun of watching food grow before their wondrous eyes.  And she’s being punished for it.
            Thanks to the wonders of the internet this story has exploded and Bass is getting all kinds of support. As of press time the facebook page ‘Oak Park Hates Veggies’ had over 23,000 ‘likes.’ I’d love to see Bass’s neighbors plant gardens in their front yards too. How far is the city going to take this?  If Bass and her neighbors all go to jail, there will be worse eyesores—such as a sea of unmowed grass.
            It just boggles the mind that time and effort and money would be poured into this case of prosecuting a woman innocently growing a patch of vegetables. Shouldn’t it a right that we should be able to line dry our clothes and grow some plants?  It’s definitely not worthy of being a crime. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Grounded in the Earth

           When my old house was on the Historic Home Tour several years ago, I had one of those ‘light bulb moments.’  It was the first time I met fellow column writer here, Holly Lindzy, as she traipsed through my yard taking pictures and then came up to me and asked, “are you the gardener?”  I looked back at her blankly, thinking “am I the what?”  Then I guess I mumbled that yes, I was the gardener. 
            And from then on, in part thanks to Holly’s confidence in my humble little garden and the fact that I could clearly see I was actually growing things, I’ve known I’m a gardener.  I love having my hands in the dirt, turning the soil, sticking in plants and seeds and seeing what happens. 
            I love my flowers and how right now my flowerbeds around my house are a sea of wildflowers—white Shasta daisies and purple coneflowers, that divide and spread with no effort from me. I’m also growing fruits and vegetables, and it’s such a thrill for me and my children to go pick some tomatoes—organic of course—right from outside our back door.           
            More and more people, it seems, are forgoing the grass, making gardens, and growing some of their own food on their urban or suburban land.  I’ve always preferred gardens to grass. A couple of months ago I was at a party and met two fascinating women that have transformed five vacant city lots on the near Eastside of Indy into a certified wildlife habitat, orchard, and organic heirloom gardens, complete with native plants and installation art. 
            I can’t wait to take a trip down there to visit, and just a couple weeks ago I was at (another) party at my friend Linda’s. Her backyard is gorgeous and inspiring, from the fairy swing hanging from the maple to a brick patio made with reclaimed bricks from her sidewalk that was replaced to a large vegetable garden and flowers throughout the winding paths.
            All of this makes me want to go get grounded in the earth, to plant more, to be the caretaker of something that is beautiful and thriving.  It’s good for the earth and good for the soul.

Lazy, hazy days of summer

I got together with my hippie chick friends last week to celebrate the solstice, and we each tried to bring food that had ingredients that came from our growing gardens—lettuce, kale and herbs were a few.  We ate, we hooped, then we read some summer poems and had a campfire.  The wind blew (but it didn’t rain!) and we lingered outside till the darkness at the edges crept over us.
June is my favorite month—the month when school is out, when “fireflies turn on their electric wills,” when plans are made and carried out for living life to the max.  June may also have once been my favorite month because my birthday happens to fall within it, though I’m not quite as thrilled at being yet another year older anymore.
I started thinking about what I’m loving in my life right now and what’s making the summer of 2011 special:
Hooping. If you see a crazy bunch of people at Forest Park on a Saturday between 4:30 and 6:30 pm doing crazy things with hoops, welcome to hooping.  We love to share the love of hooping, which is why we bring extra hoops. It’s for adults and kids alike, and I think of it as my playtime.
Bancroft Moscado at Mr. G’s (tell Bryan I sent you. He’ll know). I tried this wine recently for the first time and now it’s my ‘go-to’ wine for bookclubs and get-togethers. It’s light and fruity, perfectly refreshing on these summer nights.  And it’s only 5.99 per bottle, perfect!
My native Indiana coneflowers and Shasta daisies, which require no special care and are just starting to bloom. 
My strawberry patch and heirloom tomato garden.  We harvested strawberries from our little patch earlier this month, and my tomatoes are taking off.  Looking forward to a toasted tomato sandwich—coming up soon.
Happy Summer to you.
*Firefly quote from a poem by Stacy Cassarino