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Considering Flying The Coop... At Richmond's 2nd Annual COOP TOUR!

I wonder if the off grid prefab misses us.
Naw, she's probably enjoying the quiet break...

Reader Warning: If my philosophical musings that tend to swell into a rant tire you, skip this post!
I promise to post on solar fencing and solar freezers for the off grid prefab later this week!

It rained three days straight!
So on Friday, looking at the downpour, we decided: No muddy-pawed visit to the passive solar prefab house! Until the home site has better coverage, it is just not worth all the work to bring children and dogs onto a clay mud filled job site to then pair those dirty creatures with clean sheets and mid-century furniture we'd *like* to keep preserved.

So we stayed in Richmond, the skies cleared, and we headed to...


After a glorious and heady day of music, throngs of people, beautiful skies and culture, culture, culture, we arrived home, feeling the sun on our skin and music in our hearts, thinking,
"You know, Richmond isn't so bad, did you see all the cool fun people today? Did you
see the smiles and vibrancy? Did you hear the music?!? Did you see all the people?!?"

I looked around at all these wonderful people from all over and thought, "I don't know any of these people! THIS IS SUPER!!!!! I LOVE THIS!!!! Go, RICHMOND!!!!!!"

And then... the first thing I saw when I returned home and opened my computer, all giddy after such a beautiful day, a lovely afternoon where I rethought my recent hard stance on Richmond... 
"Richmond is taking away our chickens. Please do you have a good home?"

Not again. 
Really. Let's review this:
Sooooooooo. It's "ok" to run your weed whacker and lawn mower for HOURS, and hours, weekly, and it's "ok" to water your lawn (ch-ch-ch-ch...) in the dark before dawn with potable water while it rains (which my neighbors DO, all the time), it's "ok" to spray pesticides that drift into your neighbor's (food) lawn, with no apology needed much less your neighbor's permission, yet...

You might hear a hen cluck and Lawz A-Mighty Call The Army.

Brav-O, Richmond. Braaaav-O.
I hope you're really proud of yourself.

So. It's "OK" to have all these cultures at your frickin' FOLK FESTIVAL but here's the reality:
YOU WON'T SUPPORT THEIR CULTURES LIVING HERE, you don't. Face it: These "fascinating" cultures would be unwelcome in your daily life, Richmond. Oh, PR people, don't point me towards your chambers of commerce and societies for XYZ culture. Because you KNOW that if you asked those same cultural groups you celebrate at the Folk Festival on their stance on chickens... they'd support me, you rubes, and you, Richmond, do not support this basic food right, hence, you do NOT support them, nor I, nor many, many of your citizens.
UNsustainable Richmond.

Heck, in quite a few places in Richmond, you even outlaw food gardens.


The sun-kissed happiness of a beautiful day drained out of me, and I bitterly thought,
"Same ole, same ole RICHMOND. You average, awkward girl."


You offend me, you Boring, Unsustainable, Unlivable, Unattractive, I can't even call you a BITCH because you're too bland, with too low intelligence and therefore not worth the fun of the venom I'd ordinarily launch towards a worthy adversary, you insipid bureaucrat, you.

You city of faceless neighbors, who report hens "just because Richmond shouldn't have chickens."

Do you *really* think the world cares about RICHMOND? Do you *really* think they think you're sophisticated? All those same big cities you admire and want to impress with your Arts And Culture already allow hens!

*YOU,*  RICHMOND, TAKE HENS FROM FAMILIES, many of them JOBLESS, trying to better themselves, to teach their children, connect them to nature, raise them knowing more about their food and where it comes from and how important it is to treat that cycle well. Blech. We've all had teachers like you... You slow-witted relic, limping towards retirement.

From the bottom of my heart I apologize to every family who comes here, where hens (and MOST things) are a normal thing in their (larger, yet more sustainable) city, and then has Richmond take them away... From the BOTTOM of my heart I APOLOGIZE for my hometown.
It probably took ONE COMPLAINT to some hairsprayed, awkward, perfectly lipsticked official for them to convene and agree, only a few years ago: "We don't want to look like some country bumpkins, do we? We want Richmond to look progressive so let's ban livestock!"

A VERY FEW complaints our officials stubbornly point out, when asked, when OVER SEVEN HUNDRED OF THEIR CONSTITUENTS ASK FOR THIS BASIC FOOD RIGHT (Oh you've seen our data, I'm the only one that's collected it and we're talking out of 55,000 calls, 100ish can be attributed to *any bird.* So there is something deeply ignorant going on.).

Handsome Husband-From-Germany and I spoke about it further. "It's just like the bureaucrats in East Germany, or Russian Communism... that didn't look at the world around them... these outdated people just need to die out." But why is that ok to hold the REST of us back? Why penalize our children, and other families, because they don't frickin' study current events in their industry?!?

Sharing information, education, community.
MAYBE, instead of just "Dealing With Richmond," as we have these past few years, MAYBE we should just cherry-pick and enjoy The Best Of Richmond and relocate nearby to a more sustainable, livable town until Richmond catches up

MAYBE that's not a bad idea...

MAYBE we'd come in once or twice weekly, do some cool things, see friends and colleagues, get work stuff done, then return to the more sustainable environs... 
Richmond's [latest] branding campaign, tweaked.
I know I've been pointing out some missing livable & sustainable elements within my own hometown. But before you think I'm *totally* dissing Richmond, let me tell you about the Richmond people and businesses I admire: They did it ALL ON THEIR OWN (usually despite Richmond officials). The things I adore about Richmond - weren't created by Richmond officials or the Chamber of Commerce PR campaigns but by the people
  • You can't begin a discussion on culture in Richmond without the success-despite-local-officials of First Fridays and the story of and continuing cultural emergence at Gallery 5! They did it all on their own and then Richmond took credit for it / got involved.
  • RVAMag : Curators and showcasers of emerging culture. Legal and not. I love these guys.
  • Balliceaux brings great food, music, and dancing together, and even has nights dedicated to spinnin' some good yarns via storytelling with its Secretly, Y'all series.  
  • The Camel is a haven for getting-discovered musical talent and an oasis to many volunteer organizations such as Richmond's Green Drinks. But don't get Rand started on what HE thinks about Richmond's arcane, outdated zoning and laws... Incidentally, that sweet fabulous chile Preston who is at The Camel is also a founding member of RVA Mag. I. adore. Preston. 
  • And yes, I'll say Richmond's Green Drinks even though I'm involved with it because it, and the JRGBC, highlight much more worldly cool architecture than local officials ever care to know about.
  • And while I'm in the architecture vein I applaud Modern Richmond and the preservation work of Historic Richmond, ACORN, and the APVA!
  • Local business success stories who totally give back to their community without getting corporately-mired-in-PC: La Diff, of course!
  • And Techead... begun in a living room, this technology staffing company has now grown to Techead Mid-Atlantic, and is an official supporter of all things chicken. 
  • WRIR, the thoughtful locally owned radio station with heart. Lotsa music, lotsa great programs on all things sustainable.
  • Allllllllllllllllllllllllllll the farmers markets that have cropped up.
  • The Folk Festival! The Folk Festival!!!!!! But pretty much every successful festival / games / race is brought in by outsiders, and you have to acknowledge that without lucrative financial enticement, officials would suppress it. However The Folk Festival and Xterra Games have really been embraced by Richmond citizens and are strongly, strongly supported.
I love this commentary by our friend Andy Thornton of La Diff, but... he's not addressing the *obstacles* one must jump in order to make this happen with local officials.

Why does Richmond always need to "reinvent" itself? If it were truly organically creative, it would just... grow, flourish, be embraced, and embracing. It shouldn't have to be this hard, or require a constant PR campaign. 

It all depends on the vignette they choose to put behind it, no?
I'd like to steal this sign to frame and highlight some "lesser" aspects of living in Richmond.


As Chris Dovi says, "They shoulda just stuck with the original branding campaign over 200 years ago, in Richmond's St. John's Church: 

I like this description of Richmond, and the wonderful arts magazine, RVAmag:
Even the world-respected ad agency, The Martin Agency, has this honest description of Richmond, and hence, my beloved mag:
“There are towns where culture hits you in the face and towns where you have to dig for it. There are towns where creativity feels at home and towns where those with the least bit of it are making plans to leave. Between the haves and have nots, Richmond constantly straddles the fence. The town is full of historical baggage and political barriers but also a stubborn people who are striving — successfully — to nurture all things progressive from art to music to craft and commerce. What Richmond needs is a media source that helps the diggers find what they’re looking for and the doers proud to call Richmond home. It needs to act as a symbol for where we are and where we’re heading. That source is RVA.”
— Rad Tollett, VP Senior Strategic Planner The Martin Agency
So, seriously: why does it always, always, ALWAYS have to be so difficult, Richmond?
My advice? Look at cities you consider "livable" - your competitors - and examine their code. They have many, many green spaces along the riverfront for biking, hiking... there is preservation *mixed* with modern design, and yes, they all have chickens.

Reflect on what urban planner extraordinaire Rachel Flynn had to say:
Here are the latest examples of Richmond citizens doing their own cool sustainable thing before local Rah-Rah RVA Official Cheerleaders ever even think of it. Can't wait to see these documentaries, much less EAT!

Reel Food For Richmond:
Richmond's Slow Food RVA Film Feast
"Slow Food RVa’s first day-long film festival will take place at The Byrd Theatre in Carytown. We’ll be featuring a morning session of kid-and-family friendly shorts, followed by an afternoon of feature-length documentaries – all recent releases and premieres for the Richmond area."

And yes, today's Richmond's 2nd Annual Coop Tour, successful DESPITE regional Richmond officials. (But I fully expect that in year five they'll be taking credit for it...)

Handsome Husband just made me laugh out loud: He said he wants to move me away and
"You sit pretty like that mermaid on a rock in Copenhagen."
Uh, NOT! #LovesAllHerBusinesses

Regardless, it's an adventure, and, for now, to determine year by year, a better place.

Why Not Rethink Things?
Often, practical choices may be more difficult. But... think of the reward!

One last thought: The video below makes me so, so sad. Apologies for his choice of words, but... he has some great points, and his frustration and rage are honest.

I don't think he's talking about one administration. I shared this with foreign and USA-friends-abroad today because I think there's something that universally taps into today's psyche within the United States (that resonates with Occupy Wall Street *and* the Tea Party)- in people's frustration with the irresponsibility of elected officials with their money. And in that vein, a recognition that we're the enablers. Maybe it's time for us all to realize that as much as we would *like* and *intend* to do X Y and Z, we don't have the funds for it. For now. Because that's what people do in Real Life. That's practical.

Maybe it's time for us all to insist upon the practical.

Pictures from Richmond's 2nd Annual Coop Tour, here:

We've already lined up the 2012 Coop Tour Series.
Be excited, be grateful so many people recognize sustainability is important and a happy, community-building thing.

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