And Now For Something Completely Different…

I don’t rant.

Ok, let me re-phrase that: I don’t rant on my blog. In real-life, I do my share of yelling at the know-it-all’s on tv and asking things like, “Who elected these idiots?” but my blog is generally reserved for nice things.

I’m suspending that policy for today.

Over the weekend, I became aware of a story out of Oak Park, MI. that could have implications for gardeners in lots of other communities. Julie Bass, a young Mom, is being threatened with jail time if she refuses to change her renegade ways. What’s her crime? Does she have a rooster that bothers her neighbors? A beehive next door to someone who is allergic? A smelly compost pile? No…

Her heinous, subversive act is growing vegetables…in her FRONT yard.

I know, right?

Seems that not too long ago, the city had to tear up her front yard to replace a sewer line. Rather than replant her little plot with lawn grass and the requisite (i.e. boring) Anchor Shrubs At The Corners, she had some nice raised beds constructed, with paths running between. She planted a garden, not of roses and peonies, but of good food for her family.

Someone, apparently, has a problem with this…

The city asked her to take it down, stating that her choice of plant materials didn’t meet their definition of ‘suitable’.

She politely declined, pointing out the foot-high weeds in other yards, and stating that, in her interpretation, she was not violating city code. Cooler heads – and a tiny bit of common sense – should have prevailed…

But, I wouldn’t be telling you about it if it had, would I?

No. Instead, the City of Oak Park  – a town of a little more than 30,000, where unemployment is still hovering around 15%, where last week’s 4th of July fireworks were cancelled due to budget issues – is going to prosecute.

You read that right, gang: a cash-strapped city is going to take a woman to court, possibly put her in jail, for the crime of Not Being Like Every Other House On The Block.

That’s the gist of it. Here’s a link to the whole story over at Kitchen Gardeners International – a great website for lots of reasons – and this link goes to Julie’s Blog, where you can read it in her own words, and see photos of her growing garden. There are opportunities on both sites to lend your support in whatever way you choose.

I’ll admit, I’m not one to get involved in internet activism. Usually, it doesn’t take long for it to devolve into internet vigilantism – or worse – so I steer clear. But this one got to me. Maybe* because a mom with young kids is involved – someone who found a creative way to spend time with her children that doesn’t involve electronic devices. A way that results in healthy kids – hers as well as the neighbor children who come to help dig in the dirt. Instead of being rewarded, some want to punish her in the name of conformity.

So, as you go about your daily lives this week, I ask a favor of you all: look around your part of the world, and see if you can spot other renegade Front Yard Veggies. Make a point to say nice things to the gardener, if you have the chance. Maybe take a picture – with permission, of course! – and email it to the Town Council in Oak Park. Let them see the beauty these gardens can bring.

And, most of all, send Good Thoughts up Julie’s way…she needs them.

*(Ok, maybe it could also be that first garlic patch I grew, 20+ years ago, that filled the brick planter beside my front door…nobody complained about it!)


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