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Urban Chickens. Henrico and Richmond Are Off Roosting On This Sustainable Issue.

Guests always enjoyed feeding our urban chickens...
Do we look messy to you?

Now I know you prefab house kit green building folks don't want to hear me wallow on and on about mah chickunz. But yer just going to have to suffer through for another blog post, because it IS a green building issue.

Green building and living is not just about the energy efficiency of your home... a neighborhood has to be livable. Many cities now hire Sustainability Managers.  What we all need to realize is that your success as a city is not just in how many LEED platinum ratings you can rack up but how livable you are, and how much you can reduce waste and stress off of your municipal systems. Chickens aid that, folks. Plain and simple, they reduce waste and they add to community.

You know by now that cities across the United States are changing their zoning to ALLOW chickens.
Belgium is even ASKING their citizens to keep chickens and giving them away free!

Remember Richmond's Urban Chicken Coop Tour last year?
A *LOT* of people came to that!

I called Henrico zoning. 
I inquired about a special use permit. A nice person there was very sympathetic, even told me they supported urban chickens, and actually apologized that urban chickens are not allowed in Richmond / Henrico. But the code remains the code.
"You could request variance after variance but the code needs to change. That code has not been rewritten in years and unfortunately has not caught up with today's societal standards."
Neither have mah neighbors.

Any-hoo, Sally called.

Sally always has a knack for calling when I cry. No, really, seriously: At each new low, she calls.
So here I was, hands over my eyes, sobbing at my desk over the fact that our chickens were being taken from us, and, as ALWAYS, the phone rings, it's Manhattan.
At this point it's laughable.

(A video! With Sally! And she's singing!
And it's Not California here! 'Cause if this were California I could have chickens!)

I was crying so hard I was snot nosed, my face hot and puffy... I answered the phone in a stuffed up voice, launching into poor Sally about the stupidity of it all, of Richmond / Henrico zoning, and (what is now later cracking me up and I know she will not appreciate this) is that she, being fantastic, was urging me emotionally to freakin' Fight The Stupid People and to Battle For The Chickens but you have to understand folks: Sally's voice is famous.  And as she's there on the phone, being the best, supportive friend anyone could ever have, all I can hear in my head is this danged HEM VOICE (which is Sally) egging me on (ha) to fight, so, in my despair, I'm laughing:  I'm picturing The HEM Voice singing behind me as I run in slow motion across a field o' daisies to the Board of Supervisors Meeting where I dramatically (still with Sally singing) convince the Board Of Supervisors to rise up and tear those dusty books of code into tiny little pieces then run to their nearest Southern States to get their own danged chickens.

It could happen!

She is not amused when I tell her this. Which, of course, as a dear friend, I am now immortalizing, because, well, you know: What are Yer Real Sistahs for. : )

I also found a tribute I liked, that I'll call Sally tomorrow and share- See, Sally, you inspire people!!!!! Look: These people chose YOUR SONG as representative of passion, beauty, love... very beautiful. Hmmm. *Maybe* you *should* come down and sing to those grumpy zoning people...

Speaking of half-acres, I'm holding a half acre with no chickunz and honeychiles I am Put. Out. 

Which brings me back to my topic: Urban Chickens.
(And Sally, I *LOVE YOU*. But you know that already. I am still laughing at the silly jokes you had to tolerate as I cried, and you, a wonderful friend, urged me on and all I could see were music videos but you have to understand I had to somehow find the funny in SOMETHING and, well, I love you.)

Any-hoo, a very kind internet person, Lisa, sent me this:

"Search for the seed of good in every adversity. Master that principle and you will own a precious shield that will guard you well through all the darkest valleys you must traverse. Stars may be seen from the bottom of a deep well, when they cannot be discerned from the mountaintop. So will you learn things in adversity that you would never have discovered without trouble. There is always a seed of good. Find it and prosper. --Og Mandin"

Thank you.

The family that took in our flock is leaving Richmond because of its zoning laws.  They actually toured the Richmond Coop Tour and were frustrated by the lack of interest in sustainability by zoning / government officials here.  
So they're leaving, and taking our laying hens with 'em.
Yep, another creative, interesting family with INCOME leaving Richmond / Henrico, y'hear that, city council / Henrico B.O.S.?  Just an hour away, in Charlottesville, urban flocks are legal, even celebrated.

The family to whom I gave them sent me this yesterday:
"The flock is absolutely beautiful and so gracious. They are settling down very nicely. It seems that there are tasty treats in the deep bedding as they are pecking away happily. Thank you. "
We mourn.
The hens are not even gone two days and already I'm realizing, "Oh my gosh WHAT are we going to do with all this waste?"

See, every snack, every leftover sandwich crust brought home from school, every bowl of rice like tonight, that is sitting, half full, left by a now-sleeping daughter... the remaining breakfast cereal, the scraping of anything you wouldn't put into compost... well, it just went to the chickens.

Our household waste will dramatically increase.

Another thing I've noticed since this whole Neighbor Fiasco is that the dogs really sense it - suddenly the mastiff/pit's bark is much lower and fervent, on alert: they BOUND out into the back yard with hair raised rushing their borders, which they never did before... I really do think he senses that we feel violated and is acting much more protective. For once the mastiff/pit actually DOES look like a Hound From Hell instead of a Happy Nanny.

One thing I didn't mention in the original blog post about Glenn and Catherine Vanderspiegel getting rid of our chickens (which then led to a larger uproar from more neighbors protesting those chickens were wanted, but the Vanderspiegels have code on their side)- WE may have secured permission of our neighbors to have chickens before doing so, but last year Glenn Vanderspiegel came to us to discuss that "ugly" hedge (already existing when we bought the house) on our property between our yards, and that they would like to cut it down.

We told them it might be a tad scraggly (we had never even really noticed it) but that it maintained privacy, and laughing, declined: "We have young kids, you don't want to see our yard."  I suggested we think about how to replace the scraggly hedge (which was completely unobtrusive, in between trees) in a way that would make us all happy.

The following weekend, when they thought we were On The Land, we caught them on our property knowingly hacking down the already-discussed hedge that they know resides on OUR side of the property line. 

Since then, we have seen signs they are strewing pesticides on our lawn. (Those daggoned violets.) 
So, where we respected and asked their permission to have chickens, have always tried to maintain a nice transition from their rigid boxwood-filled ChemLawn to our attractive food gardening, have shoveled their snow-filled sidewalks when hard storms came... They have no qualms about violating our family's health and property boundaries.

Gloves off.

My daughter is six and my son is eight.

They remember feeling that having chickens is unusual, but they do not remember having to buy eggs.

This is when I had my 'Aha' moment.
See, we're community people which is why this especially stung.

All a sudden I had flashbacks to living on Union Square, with apartment buildings all around, I mean, HELLO, in the center of New York, and... we were so disinterested in those faceless buildings of faceless people facing us we never put down our blinds... we walked around nekkid and carried on with our lives with no regard, knowing full well anyone could telescope in to our windows... We didn't care because they couldn't invade our realm, they were insignificant. They all faded in along with the honking horns and steady traffic to recede, recede from our consciousness.

We don't care about these neighbors any more.
If we think of them at all, it's only because we miss our chickens and resent the waste our household now incurs because the chickens are not eating our scraps that can't go into the compost.

That's not to say that when we're bored we might not mess with those neighbors. I mean, I get bored A LOT, always working on the technical side o' green building and technology and whatnot. Don't you dare think you won't see me in a pretty dress, bouncing smile, and my broadcast seed spreader joyfully seeding that front lawn not just with food but invasive pretty things come spring. 
(Hellooooo violets!)

But do we actually think about any of these people? No. 
Except for, like in Manhattan, like everywhere, the wonderful community one can have even amidst this Lite Suburban Mirage. Even here in this festering Suburban Swampland, we have great friends.

But this gray-scale living we have introduced ourselves to, because we love this mid-century home and convenience to work... well, screw them. 
I'm embracing TechniColor Dreams.

I'm tired of playing "Waitin' For Richmond To Catch Up."
Catch up or be irrelevant. Your move, homeys.

Come run with the big dogs, honeychiles.
Or get the fruck off of my porch.

[Our normal green building prefab channel will return, after the publishing of this post.]

Note: What's wrong with this Richmond real estate / development article?
Not one mention of energy efficiency, smart growth / preservation / community or livability.
This is Richmond.

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At 2/23/11, 7:30 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Copeland. I'm sorry about your chickens. You are correct about sustainability. Housing, growing foods, minimizing transportation impact etc. is all interconnected. For example, I live in the country and am not nearly as sustainable as I'd like to be when it comes to things like transportation, but at least I have the opportunity to live free of zoning issues that would limit what I want to do in other areas. Keep fighting the good fight. I'm not sure what you see in your area, but in central Texas at least, I think we're winning the battle for minds. It's a real slog, though. Good luck.

At 2/23/11, 9:53 PM , Blogger Passive Solar Prefab Homes said...

Thank you...
Tonight I saw on Facebook a picture of the new family holding our happy chickens... Happy chickens in new happy arms, and I cried all over again, bitter, but then looked at that picture longer and saw the JOY, the complete JOY of this mom with a flock that was so child-friendly for her children and the great times they will have... that makes it better.

Richmond has quite a ways to go.
And we have to be here another five years.

Our neighbors in Pamplin, where our prefab is, are, of course, so kind and understanding and scornful that anyone would think a *few* laying hens could crate such societal divide.

I admit it has taken the luster out of being here.


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