A visit from the city

So this morning we got a visit from a member of the Fishers Code Enforcement division about the garden we’re in process of getting going in our front yard. I would like to publicly thank whomever decided that our garden/yard was that much of a distraction and chaotic look that they felt the need to complain to the city (via anonymous electronic posting at that), and never once ask either of us about what is going on.

I’m certain your concerns about the overall condition of the neighborhood are as numerous as what we perceive. I’m certain that your good intentions are also followed up with complaints to the city after each snowfall, about the lack of shoveling that is done on everyone’s sidewalks. I’m certain that you’ve registered so many complaints about the upkeep of all the rental properties that members of the Code Enforcement know your phone number/ hand writing/ twitter handle by heart. I’m certain you’ve informed our esteemed city council team that there are multitudes of rotting fences, dilapidated swing sets, and collapsing relaxation zones (aka, decks/porches), that they’ve opened so many issues tickets to be resolved, that staff will have weeks of work in verifying the structural integrity and safety of all these potential death traps. Of course, you’ve removed all the dead trees from your property and had the stumps ground below the grass line surface and stacked the wood in nice piles in your back yard.

I understand your concern on the nontraditional approach to the suburban lawn that we’ve taken. You most likely have put hours and hours into developing the perfectly manicured, high density, Kentucky blue and Fescue grass mix. You’ve lovingly sprayed your yard with the 4-stage chemical treatments, or had a national yard service do it for you. After work we’re likely to see you prowling your yard for those cursed dandelions and chickweed starts that attempt to invade our lawns at this time of year. You’ve most likely been out and mowed your lawn, with the self-propelled 6hp mower, several times already. You want to keep things highly organized and the appearance that not a single leave is out of place on your lawn. You yard is the envy of everyone else in the neighborhood. Really, it’s impressive to have things so well organized and fraught over that you can take time to critique other lawns.

Let me take a moment explain how and why we what are doing, and what we’re doing, so you can understand us as well as we understand you. When we first moved into our house, we created gardens in the back yard so we could happily raise some vegetables and herbs. Over the years the massive oak trees that flank our property grew, cutting off a lot of sunlight to those gardens. So we started moving our gardens to the front yard. You may or may not have noticed the growth of our front yard garden beds over the last few years, nor the mix of flowers, herbs, and vegetables, that have been planted and providing for us. We’ve taken a lot of effort to make there’s been a cascade of color and activity from mid-March, straight through to the first heavy frost in late October. We enjoy looking at what’s going on from plants to birds and butterflies.


In the last few years, whilst trying to dig in the leaves from our massive trees, we’ve noticed that about a half shovel’s depth down there is nothing but thick impacted brow clay. So, late last year, much to your dismay, we decided that it was time to take our gardens a step up. We ordered 18.5 cubic yards of compost. This has been spread upon the entire front lawn, along with all the other areas that would not allow plants to grow. Under this 5 inch thick layer of compost is approximately 1000 gallons of shredded leaves, or twenty 50 gallon bags of leaves that would have ended up in a landfill. So we’ve attempted to use every aspect of the resources on our property, along with the waste from others’ trees as well, to set up the conditions that would allow us to start planting an even larger display this spring.


Now that the weather has warmed enough to get outside and do something, I’m fairly certain you have not been paying attention to the activities in our yard over the last few weeks. That “over grown grass” that probably has been driving you nuts because it’s not at some pre-measured length, is Rye. As in the grain that you can make bread, beer, or multitudes of various other food related items from. Technically, it is a grass and one that is far more resistant to our climate than fescue or Kentucky Blue. Because I’m fairly certain you’re not going to remember this Rye is a sister to wheat and corn. Feel good that you’ve done your civic duty to complain about our tall grass, which was over the legal 6 inches as denoted in the City’s ordinances as being “nuisance” level. We trimmed that back today so it won’t be able to create the berry that I was looking forward to brewing and baking with. I really do apologize that it’s mere presence caused you anaphylactic shock whilst you drove by in your hermetically sealed monster SUV.  We’ll be removing the remainder of that rye grass and will be replacing it with shorter level herbs, vegetables, and flowering ground cover. We have already started this process. In between rows of rye, we’ve already planted several types of flowers and herbs are would have allowed for a smooth transition from one edible plant to another. Alas, because of your conniption we’ll only have flowers and herbs, if we’re not in violation of city ordinances that protect people like you from us vicious plant growing foodies.


Further back in our yard, we’ve been busy planting onions, salad greens, and sage, whilst nurturing our hops and rhubarb plants, and getting things ready for items that will go in over the summer. Although we’re still in the time of year where a cold snap could occur and would kill most seedlings, you’re most likely left thinking we’re just going to be farming dirt for the next six months moths and would just want that black dirt to just sit and collect weeds. You’d be horribly mistaken. Inside we’ve been teaching our kids how to start plants from seeds we saved from various plants we’ve had for the last several years. We know that saving seeds and planting from a known working plant stock, doesn’t necessarily help the big box home improvement centers and the plant starts that have been provided by the mega-seed manufacturers, but we determined it is a lesson that is important for the kids to understand how food actually gets to the table. AND, we don’t have to spend a lot for items that we know will work in our conditions. Where your kids are only reading about Gregor Mendel and his garden, our kids are actually doing some of the experiments he went through. Last year they both had very lengthy conversations with the gardeners at Conner Prairie about plants found at the museum. So they are actively looking forward to getting out and helping grow the food we hope to be eating later this year. I highly doubt there are other kids who’re this excited about getting their hands dirty as these two.


Please feel free to stop buy and talk with us. We try to be friendly and explain what’s going on as we’re growing it. We tend to think that able bodied people should take a bit of effort and try growing their own food, and that it really doesn’t take that much effort to do. We also realize this isn’t for everyone, and we’re not about to get preachy or go forcing our methods upon you. We’re not trying to be bad neighbors or spoil someone else’s view of the world. We’re very much looking forward to seeing the all the flowers, butterflies, humming birds, and vegetables as the season goes along. We know it’s not what you’re used to, but it’s a far cry better than looking at pile of junk, a rickety swing set, or nearly collapsed unpainted fences.


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