On Your Side of the Fence

There is no argument to say a well-manicured lawn is something Americans strive for. Riding lawnmowers, an arsenal of RoundUp chemicals, fertilizers and lawn ‘food’ line garage shelves everwhere, and the ranks of good solid men toil under the sun keeping it mowed, watered, weeded and primped because THAT, folks, is what we do.

perfect lawn mean perfect lives

A perfect lawn means you’ve got a perfect life, right?

Unless of course, you’ve lost your job and decided to start turning your yard and bordering gardens as a source of both food and medicinal herbs.  Well. If you start doing that, the neighborhood is clearly going to hell.

herbal gardening

To hell in a handbasket!

I mean, you’ll start off with a little pot of basil by the back door … CLAIMING its for pesto, and the next thing you know, that will turn into a big overgrown untended sprawl of dandelion weeds, those nasty burrs that I spend all summer picking out of the dog’s fur and who KNOWS what else.

Herbs? Herbs my ass! There could be BODIES in that overgrown yard over there!

You’re probably going to have possum families living in your yard and rats.  Hey buster, rats don’t stay put. They could end up in MY yard.  And let me tell you, I’ve put a lot of work into my yard.  Its taken years to get it the way it is today, and it makes me happy, so don’t fuck up happy.

My lawn is perfect! I am so happy!

OK, in all seriousness though, lawns, and by proxy, gardens are serious business here in the US.  HOAs spend much time regulating this, measuring grass lengths and therefore keeping civil unrest from overtaking in the form of foliage and unaesthetically uniform unsightliness.  Cities have officers who come out and leave notices, levy fines and in some cases, do your gardening for you.

Code compliance.

Most of us have probably already heard about a Tulsa woman who tried to grow her own self-sustainable medicine cabinet and pantry.  Article here.  Although well within her rights legally, keeping only plants that could be eaten, her entire garden was razed.  Fruit and nut trees were cut down and workers manning both a bobcat and a riding lawnmower finished the job.

Now Denise Morrison is suing the city of Tulsa.  Sympathetic members of the community have rallied around her and are trying to help her with what she has lost.

But here is the bigger discussion, and there can be several that come from this. Here are just two points.

Why is the idea of an ‘unruly’ garden so offensive to neighbors, city inspectors and HOAs?

With the emphasis put on the ‘ideal’ American yard with its neon green Bermuda grass luster, you could make all kinds of assumptions, couldn’t you?  The neighbor with the perfect yard has HIS shit together.  His lawn looks great, he fixed that slanted mailbox right away, his car is washed and his wife is pretty. He’s got it all.  Wow.  We box that up and call him healthy, positive and productive as a community member.

Enter your neighbor with the overgrown lawn who forgot to replace the screen on his house that Snickers nosed through last spring. Tsk.  He’s never out there mowing the lawn.  When is the last time we saw him at the neighborhood picnic?  Sometimes he leaves his newspaper out on the driveway for days!  Frank does NOT have it going on.  I’ve heard he’s got health problems.  Someone said his wife left him.  Do you want to call the HOA, or should I?   We can’t have his yard looking like that — our property value could suffer from a house in disrepair like that….

Disarray. Climbing vines. Long grass.  These equal nature out of control. Nature out of control is an uncomfortable topic for those who wear their pants too tight and their minds too narrow.  That’s what I have to say on that.

Now, on to the second point.

With an increasing number of incidents like this making the news (and many more that don’t), people feel as though living a self sustaining lifestyle is contrary to what society wants them to do.  We’re encouraged to ‘fix’ the economy by pouring our money into Black Friday sales after we gorge on Thanksgiving Day;  television sets bombard viewers with a relentless barrage of ads for everything we didn’t realize we must have in order to be happy, and to follow up, there’s medication for when you’re not happy.  (you’d be happy if you just had that damn lawn, btw)  And if you’re not happy, no one around you is happy, so fix that.

The trendy name ‘guerilla gardening’ is one good solution to having your cake and eating it too. For those who know their plants of course, its not subversive, but face it, the wide majority of people do NOT know their holly from hackberry  from billberry.

I didn’t even KNOW there was a plant there! The plant was green … the wall was green …its like it was INVISIBLE!

The concept is simple: planting ‘discreetly’, medicinal and edible plants become part of the landscape.  Forest gardening is another term for this that applies as well.  The average passerby would not recognize that there was lambsquarter as part of an existing garden of similar ‘ornamental’ or familiar bushes and plants.  To go one level deeper than hiding carrots amongst your pansies (who doesn’t love pansies, huh? very pro-go-team kind of flower), is to integrate those herbs and squash vines into your natural landscape, into the existing thicket of whatever nature serves up in your part of the woods.

Pansies! HOA approved! Whats not to love? (perhaps the evil root vegetables I am growing underneath them?)

Unless of course, you live in a sanitized HOA-helicopter-monitored ‘community’, in which case, I am very sorry and I hope you move the hell out of there as soon as you can.


Related Anti-Garden News, Grist article


Supply and Demand.

Like most people concerned with preparedness, I am conscious of the steadily rising prices of certain goods and the decline in quality of grocery store goods.  I learned about meat processing, slaughterhouse conditions, and the pros and cons of raising your own as opposed to forking over to someone else in charge; big decisions made themselves clear.

There has been a long drought where I live.  Although this year is better than last year’s enactment of the Great Dust Bowl, livestock and farming operations have suffered greatly.  And the animals have suffered even moreso.  Meat, dairy and egg prices have begun an ascent towards the Himalaya Mountains, much like the trek of gas prices.

drought conditions

People are shocked, shocked!!, to discover fillers, plumpers and … more… discreetly tucked into their ground CHOW that, until the pink slime video sickened them, they were perfectly happy to shovel down the gullet.  But now, the indignation is ripe.

fillers in processed foods

dog food? or people food?

There is a sudden fad-like interest in where food comes from, whats in it and how can we keep pink slime, slaughterhouse refuse and mouse droppings outta the economy box of 24 burgers before the collective public attention span fades. And that should do it.

I think its really the idea of there being things in food that people aren’t aware of, rather than its true effects, that freaks them out. Kind of like someone sneaking in the generic cheap stuff when you think you’re paying for top of the line Chef BoyRDee.  We all know whats in cigarettes and what they can do to the human body but there’s no shortage of people who smoke. Same goes for twinkies, sodas that can rot metal and the march of fast-food drive-throughs that populate every highway access road and strip mall. Personal health is handed over every day to convenience, impulse and comfort.

I notice these things as I learn more about food, more about nutrition and more about self-sustainability.  There is no doubt that the healthiest food is the food that isn’t processed, doesn’t involve harsh and inhumane living conditions of the animals and can be grown in your own backyard … handing total control over pink slime straight back to you.

harvesting food

PIG is the only ingredient in sausage you make yourself.

But it takes work. A lot of work.  And until a person starts doing it, they’ll be surprised at just how much energy goes into fending off horn worms and grasshoppers from your garden bounty, learning which chemicals to avoid and how to fertilize your soil without neon turquoise nutrients … or how you will find yourself thinking about the chickens (Crap! Did I let them out of the coop or did Bob?) while you’re in the grocery store check-out line or in the middle of the night (Crap! Did I put them back in the coop or did Bob?), and how life becomes a pattern of checking on, watering, feeding, and protecting your food source.

I like this kind of work.  It agrees with me and the pay-off is tremendous.  As the homesteading movement gathers steam and newbies bring chickens into backyards for the first time,  gardens off the back porch and rain barrels under the eaves; so many people are learning about how to take control over their own food, their own safety and ultimately, their own future.


I Have A Stick. I Will Kick Your Ass.

The beauty of stick fighting is that anyone, really can do it.  When I first joined into a stick fighting class over a year ago, I was apprehensive, out of shape and knew absolutely nothing about fighting with sticks.  Within two short hours, I understood how small but quick movements could flag even the biggest bully, leaving him/her with ringing ears, bleeding eye sockets and smashed arms.  I loved it.

Imagine the scenario. You’re starting to get out of your car at night at the grocery store.  Two men quickly begin to approach you from different angles. Within seconds, you realize you are surrounded.


But then you reach into your car where you’ve got a 2′ long rattan stick for that just in case possibility. Well, today is totally a just in case time.  With one person closing in quick, it only takes a second to raise the stick and rain down surprisingly powerful blows that stuns the attacker and sends him stumbling.

With one other attacker too close to hit, a forward jab done with confidence (what is there to lose really? Either you defend yourself or you don’t, right?) to their throat and they drop on the spot like a ton of bricks.

You may make a mistake. You may not defend yourself as well as if you had a shotgun, or you may do better.  Someone may underestimate you and the unbelievable impact that a well-aimed stick can have.  A stick requires no license to slide it between your car door and seat.  A stick isn’t loaded and can’t go off to accidentally shoot you in the foot when you drop your purse.  It can double as an excellent back scratcher, push off an agressive dog that is putting a little crimp on your morning jog, or, it can save your life.

I’ll write more about it, as I am planning on picking it back up on a regular basis, but today’s post is only a casual opener to the awesomeness that comes from 24 inches of rattan or bamboo, wielded by practically anyone in the world.  No one will question its almost invisible appearance in your car or next to your bed.  No one will suspect the power or the damage a simple stick can do.  It is a ferocious weapon, a total wolf in sheep’s clothing.  And all that it depends on, is the person that holds it and what they do with it.