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We're Not Flying The Coop, We're Roosting Awhile Here, Richmond.


The day started great...
At the fabulous Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

I was honored to be invited for a sneak preview of Picasso : Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris. If you are ANYWHERE on the East Coast, do not miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the collection without having to fly to Paris.  I love how the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts divided the art into themes, tones... there are eleven rooms each signifying an emotion / genre that represents the art within.  On the walls, a quote in each room: from Picasso, a statement that embodies each period you are about to visit.


I had the great pleasure to meet Chiyo Ishikawa of the Seattle Art Museum! We spoke about how the Picasso exhibit had the same art but the changing setting - Paris, Sydney, Seattle, Richmond etc. - allowed it to dramatically be represented in many different ways.  I would love to see how each museum presented this exhibition within their own architecture.

Thanks to the architect, Eric Drivdahl, of our traditional line of prefab house kits, Green Cottage Kits, I have learned a lot about Seattle (where he and his family reside) and had a great time discussing with Chiyo all the neat environmentally-friendly, waste-reducing, lifestyle-enhancing zoning Councilman Conklin has enacted.

In Seattle, they don't hide their hens, they celebrate them.  Heck, they even have a parade for their resident mini-goats!

So it was ironic when I returned, glowing, from such a wonderful morning to a rap rap rap at the door.
And there was my airbrushed neighbor notifying me two hens had escaped and were mussing her pine needles. I rushed to scoop them back, apologizing. "The utility trucks coming through this week must have opened a hole, thank you so much for letting me know!"

She cocked her head and flatly asserted,
"Copeland. This is Richmond. Chickens should not be in the city. Get rid of them."

In shock, I sent Handsome Husband over to neighborly work things out. It was quickly clear this was not about our hens. Their yard is downhill from our fence line with a stand of trees between.  Last year they asked, "Do you still have chickens?" and this week she even had to ask how many we had when the two escaped!

Glenn Vanderspiegel, who ironically, at MSH Equipment in Richmond, VA deals in environmentally friendly construction and wastewater equipment and his wife Catherine Vanderspiegel immediately began shouting at Handsome Husband:

Our hideous, offensive yard.

"Your gutter looked like trash!" (After a snow storm, two years ago, our gutter bent. A few weeks later we fixed it. Sorry.)
"Your front yard looks horrible! We've never had violets and now we do!" (We don't do chemicals. We try to reseed with grass each year to make the transition from their ChemLawn less obtrusive. But it's mowed, and actually, rather quite nice. I dig out violets when I see them, but really, are they that bad?)
"Your hedge is ugly!" The hedge was here before we bought the house.

Why is it perfectly legal to spray your yard with pesticides which then float over into my food yard and wash into my watershed yet you can go after me for laying hens. 
Oh, wait: that would be because we live in Richmond.

A friend emailed,
"I am SO SORRY you had to give them away!!!! I am completely confused b/c they seemed so peaceful and contained. When I was growing up on Three Chopt (within city limits), the B's down the street kept a hen house full of hens (not as nice/interesting as yours), two types of goats, and rabbits in their back yard for YEARS. Another house kept a rooster and another house further down had llamas or alpacas. I loved that our busy street had all these animals.

I am truly sorry your neighbor(s?) did not appreciate the teaching opportunity and the environmental benefit those hens provided and that they were just fun to have around.

That just sux. I am sorry."
I'm sorry too. I am now forced to deprive my family of humanely-raised fresh eggs.  I will now have to contribute more waste to our community because I will not have the chickens to feed our food scraps. I will miss their crazy antics as they chased bugs and improved our garden. 

I have been crying.
What do you do at your lowest?
You throw a party.

And so they gathered. It was not a sad event. Lovely people came with food and humor and friendship and made more friends. Children ran wild. They even put on a magic show. Adults laughed and lingered... it was magic.

Thank you to all the friends and neighbors urging us to fight.  A former Henrico school board member wants to pass around a petition. I got phone calls from New York to L.A. And my Facebook wall went wild with support.  Thank you all. 

Once you have laying hens you never go back. How can we go from eating eggs gathered that moment to "Farm Fresh" grocery?  Factory farms are allowed to label their eggs "farm fresh" for almost A MONTH after laying! Gross. Who eats thirty day-old eggs? Oh. Wait. Our neighbors do.

Read more about how your grocery store eggs are handled before arriving to your table.

I looked at the top ten Best Cities To Live in the United States. Of the Top Ten, Chicago, Dallas, San Antonio, San Diego, Columbus, Austin, Charlotte, Boston and Portland all allow urban chickens. DC is the lone holdout, where the law on chickens is unknown. COINCIDENCE???? Henrico / Richmond won't even consider putting this on the docket. Where do you think people with desirable professions that have a choice of cities in which they can work will choose to live? They will gravitate to where it's most fun, honeychiles.

In this neighborhood we are a minority. We eat our own food, not Pizza Hut's. We don't drive mini-vans, and our kids play at home during the afternoons, not at After Care. 

It's lonely. We checked out long ago.
But we love our mid-century house, it's convenient to work.
The yard is fantastic.
We have great friends. And they come visit us. We throw parties.
We're not leaving any time soon. 

So, in the meantime, I will enjoy this spring-like day by gardening!
Always inspired to garden.
Often, in vintage Lily mumus.
I ordered a pound of evening primrose seed. Although banned in many states, in Virginia, it's still legal. I am sorry my neighbors don't like violets. I think they're now Very Beautiful. Why in the world would I ever remove them?!? 

Besides, once planted, the Oenothera speciosa will intermingle with the violets in such a lovely way come spring!

I'm also moved to paint. I will miss my chickens so. So much, in fact, that I'm inspired by Happy The Artist and Ed Trask and considering painting a big chicken on the side of our house that faces the neighbor's door. Sadly, no one else will be able to see it, not from the street, not from our home... But imagine the joy and delight my art might bring into this elderly sour couple's hearts! Go art! 

I'm just waiting for Henrico to call me back to confirm that my art will be legal, because I wouldn't want to do anything that wouldn't be able to be around for years, and years, to come.
(P.s. I have news for Glenn Vanderspiegel who ironically deals in wastewater equipment and Catherine Vanderspiegel: Happy homes are not always the neatest...)

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At 2/20/11, 10:57 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

I hope u invited the Vanderspiege,s

At 2/20/11, 11:40 AM , Blogger Passive Solar Prefab Homes said...

It did not occur to me. I should have.

At 2/20/11, 4:08 PM , Blogger Passive Solar Prefab Homes said...

In an hour the hens leave.
I am heartbroken.

I will miss their antics. Even more, I will miss the fresh eggs they provided my family and the fact that they insanely reduced waste - all sandwich crusts, leftover anything from each school lunch went into their feeder... between the chickens & composting we had very, VERY little waste.

Our children are devastated.

And yes, it burns that ultimately, this wasn't even about chickens for the Vanderspeigels, but about some stupid violets in our front yard.

By the way: Did you know you can also buy violet seed in bulk?

At 2/20/11, 5:07 PM , Blogger Passive Solar Prefab Homes said...

I would also like to point out that the family that is taking our hens is LEAVING RICHMOND because of zoning like this.

Just an hour west, Charlottesville and other cities have embraced urban chickens. Nice, interesting families WITH HIGH INCOMES are leaving for cities with higher livability standards.

At 2/20/11, 6:18 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

My mom said to tell you: when you paint the 8 foot tall chicken on the side of your house? Be sure to paint one of its feet in such a way as to be permanently Flipping The Bird at the Vanderspeigels. :)

At 2/20/11, 6:57 PM , Blogger J. Chapman said...

Copeland - Whew! What a hassle you and your family have been through. I can't believe your neighbors had the gall to tell ya'll of those complaints about your yard and especially about your chickens. I saw Ed Trask yesterday morning at Crossroads and thought of you (before I read your post here). You are doing such amazing things for Richmond and surrounding areas and always striving for better. I am sorry that no chickens is a rule in Richmond. It doesn't make sense. But each bump in the road makes you stronger and hopefully gets the recognition it deserves for how well you handle it. thank you.

At 2/21/11, 4:53 PM , Blogger Passive Solar Prefab Homes said...

One thing I don't mention in the original blog post is that a few years ago they approached us about that "scraggly hedge" along the border because they wanted to cut it down.

Handsome Husband said we could certainly talk about planting something more attractive, but that actually, he liked the privacy it provided.

I would like to note that the hedge in question is clearly on our side of the property line.

Imagine the shock when, as I took the car to do errands that weekend thus implying we were on another trip to the land, Handsome Husband heard a BUZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ and caught Glenn Vanderspiegel red-handed cutting down our hedge!!!

We have also noticed white powder on our front lawn, which we now suspect is the Vanderspiegels, deliberately trespassing and putting pesticides on our lawn.


At 6/21/11, 2:26 PM , Blogger Megan said...

Consider a privacy fence, as high as zoning allows. Choose one pre-fab panel on which to apply your chicken art before hanging it, on the outside of your hedge, which can grow higher than the allowed 6 foot height of fences.
There are lots of different violets, in addition to the invasive ones that throw seed 20 feet. There are natives with dissected leaves, yellow ones both native and cultivated. There are violets with patterned leaves similar to what you see on cyclamens. One can probably only have a 4 foot high fence past the front corner of one's house, but hedging inside it can be grown. Only issue is obstacles to seeing around corners and driveways by passing drivers. Anyone make any recordings of chickens? To play on their stereos? I admit that's just mean, but fun to think about.
I know, fences are expensive. But so useful. And someday, the chicken laws might be changed, and that fence can be part of protecting them from predators like neighborhood dogs running loose.
I though in Richmond, one could have chickens if one has a little over an acre, and is 500 feet from a neighbor's house? Oh, yeah, you are in Henrico. I guess acre lots are far and few between in Richmond. I have 6.5 acres, which isn't sufficient to allow me chickens in a residential zone in Chesterfield. Good luck. Thinking of Powhatan or Goochland, and picking agricultural zoning.

At 6/21/11, 2:43 PM , Blogger Megan said...

Fencing. Privacy fencing on the side and back. Four foot fencing around the front yard. NO TRESPASSING signs pointed in the appropriate direction. Put your chicken art on one of the pre-fab privacy fence panels and install it at the appropriate point on your property line.
I realize fences are expensive, but they are useful, and someday, the zoning may change, if enough people like you work at it, and the fence then may help protect new chickens from predators, like coyotes and neighborhood dogs that run loose, though I suspect the mastiff/pit has some say over who trespasses on your yard in the canid family. if they are putting herbicides on your lawn, it sounds like pre-emergents, which is supposed to stop seed coming up. I don't think it can affect perennial weeds like violets. Whether it affects seeds depends upon when it was spread, and when the violets release the seeds. I am not sure how long the duration, whether it can be mitigated by hosing the lawn off. I can in a small way sympathize, the invasive violets do throw seed 20 feet. Mowing down the flowers doesn't affect that, they have different flowers that you don't see that sets the seed. There are other violets besides those. There are native violets with dissected leaves, that I love. There are yellow violets, both native species and garden cultivars. There are both native and Asian species with patterned leaves, and a beautiful Japanese violet with dissected leaves that has beautiful white flowers that are scented.
No trespassing signs and fences. Who knows, maybe it will become sufficiently uncomfortable for them to move. Investigate the herbicide. I am more familiar with Round Up, which kills any thing it touches, but breaks down in the soil into harmless components. I don't use pre-emergents, even in the lawn, because I am liable to over seed at anytime, and do have violets and white clover in the lawn as well. I've started hand pulling the perennial weeds that are really annoying.
I suppose if the hedge creates enough privacy, maybe wire fencing would work on the side and back. I would put something prettier in the front, just because I like pretty, and solid fence will be harder to mess with. Good luck, I am working on this in Chesterfield.
I'm not good with computers, and wrote another post before signing up, which doesn't seem to be here, so if I've done two posts, it's because I don't have a clue what I'm doing here.

At 6/21/11, 3:02 PM , Blogger Passive Solar Prefab Homes said...

Thanks Megan. I have been working very hard to help regional Richmond catch up to what pretty much every. other. interesting. city. is doing in the United States... I admit the ignorance is disheartening.

Good news is that people are becoming more and more educated, and hopefully that will filter up to some of the zoning officials.


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