Monday, July 11, 2011

Off To The "Pokey" For Planting Peas!

She planted peas and tomatoes, not Marijuana or Opium Poppies. This is one of those cases where you have to seriously wonder if the municipal city planner is pressing charges, simply because he can’t make improvements where changes actually need to be made, (like in the crack neighborhoods) and will need some sort of “accomplishment” to add to his sad, lean resume when it comes time to run for office again.

Oak Park is on the other side of the state from where I live. It is outside of Detroit, and while all of Michigan is suffering from the loss of much of its industrial base, the East side residents have been hit particularly hard, due to the centralization of the auto industry plants, and the impact of their closings.  The state is continually making cutbacks, the various cities and towns are having to cut back too, and citizens are feeling a HUGE pinch!

So when Julie Bass, who lives not in a luxury gated community, where itemized by-laws are written into your mortgage, and you are handed a Webster’s Unabridged sized handbook of your “do’s and don’ts” along with your payment book, but in a nice middle-class neighborhood, decided to do something creative, but at the same time, practical, to help with her family’s needs. Help provide food for her table! Healthy food, without chemicals.

They recently had to have some work done on their sewer hookup, which tore up their front yard. Instead of spending the time and money to reinstall turf grass which has very little value to any form of wildlife, except landscapers, and companies who want to keep it looking golf-course green with chemicals that harm groundwater, beneficial insects, and any poor bird or small mammal that happens to venture into the mine field, they decided to spare themselves, and the city the expense of wasting countless gallons of water on grass, when they could be growing something beneficial. 

Several framed beds were built, with neat pathways surrounding the garden areas, and numerous herbs and veggies were planted. It all looks very neat and well taken care of.  The neighboring kids are not only fascinated by watching the food grow, but are learning something in the process too.  And, from some reports, most of the neighbors found Julie’s project intriguing too. .except for one rotten apple. .who called the city. .who then sent out an inspector.

The city planner bases his objections that all yards have to be similar, and claims that if you look up the word in a Webster’s Dictionary, that you will find that it means common. Sorry sir, but not in my copy!  

Her yard is certainly not a cookie cutter copy of every other yard on her street. It stands out from the long monotonous dried patches of faded green, separated by ribbons of concrete. Therefore it has to go! The city’s point is that their code states that a front yard has to have suitable, live, plant material. Don’t herbs and veggies fit into that category? 

What is suitable? Apparently, a court Judge is going to have to make that determination. The city first warned Ms. Bass, then fined her, and have now charged her with a misdemeanor. But the gutsy Julie is not backing down, wanting her day in court. It could wind up costing her 93 days in jail! 

Personally, having been a member of Wild Ones, a group who promotes eliminating turf grass, for beneficial native plants and grasses, and having a registered Wildlife Habitat with the National Wildlife Federation of America, I’m familiar with the battles that people have had with local municipal governments, and their backward ways regarding what they view as acceptable for the area surrounding a residence.  And I agree. .unkept areas are an eyesore. .and even personally go one further. Everyone should do their best to eradicate invasive species, even the plants that are often sold by chain stores in their garden departments. Usually, in the case of native gardens, it is a matter of education, and learning the benefits. But the battles still do occur. It takes a lot of time and patience sometimes.

But a veggie and herb garden?  This story has now gone viral. Over the weekend, I read the article in some overseas newspapers, and the feedback is enlightening.  Especially from people who live in areas where planting veggies and other useful plants in their front garden is completely understandable. Most are shocked that we don't already use our precious soils in better ways, and their opinions of the city planner is not too complimentary, to say the least.

Julie's court date right now, is later this month. A growing public backing is having their say. Whether it helps her or not in the end, it is worth a try.

If you would like to read more about this event, sign a petition, send an e-mail to the city planner, please click on this link:  Julie Bass, Power To The Veggies!

Thank you for your consideration!


  1. The only grass I have in my garden is what grows as a weed. I plant natives in both my front and back garden. That way I need to put less water on the garden...none when the plants are established....and the native birds visit.

  2. I heard about this last week and still can't believe this! I really cannot believe that this woman is helping her family and being told that she could go to jail for it. This is nothing but a prime example of how a lot of politicians are so out of touch from the lowest level all the way up to congress. This woman is worried about feeding her family and they are worried about property values.

  3. I signed and sent an e-mail. I think that city hall should hire her! Property values are a thing of the past right now and it seems to me that when life handed her lemons, she made lemonade! Kudos to her!


  4. Wow! What an ass of that city planner must be. But what's worse is that neighbor that turned her in. What a sad pathetic person they must be. I, quite by accident found out that a certain "percentage" of the front lawns in my city must be "grass". This is after I have planted my WHOLE front yard full of flowers. Yes, my yard is very tiny but since I've done that, it caused my one nextdoor neighbor to hire a landscape gardener to redo HER yard. She said that MINE was putting hers to shame! The other neighbor even actually started to mow his lawn more often. I say "Rules are made to be broken!"
    :D - Cindi

  5. They say you can't fight City Hall but hopefully, Julie will prove them wrong!

  6. This is just crazy! I really hope Julie wins! She has my support.
    When I lived in Louisiana, a man in a neighboring town had planted his whole yard in native plants. It looked nice but was a bit on the 'wild side'. The 'powers that be' in that town gave him notice to "tidy up his yard". He ended up moving out into the country and opened a native plant nursery. He also dug up every plant on his property and took it with him when he moved - Leaving nothing but dirt in his yard.
    Thanx for all the links!


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