Tag Archives: urban agriculture

Chickengate 2011–The fallout

4 May

The city came to my house yesterday for what I assumed to be a determination about the care of my animals, whether or not they had adequate space & whether or not my coop had enough setback from my neighbor . Know that I have been extremely¬†embarrassed by my home for a very long time. We bought our house because it was located in an amazing community, it was a classic bungalow & we had big dreams of restoring it to it’s original beauty. It hasn’t quite happened that way. We still love our community, but bit off way more than we could chew with the house. So, for years I have let very few people in. Even my business partner of 7 years has only been in once. So, when all this started up about my animals…the neighbor, attention & article, I felt invaded.

So, sorry…back to the animals. The part about the house will make sense in a minute. The city code enforcement shows up & before they have even entered the back yard, they told me the exterior of my home needed to be repaired & painted. As if we wouldn’t have already done it if we had the money. The city officials moved to my backyard where the animals are kept. It was determined that my animals had adequate space & that I maintained sanitary conditions. They also determined that some cleanup was needed in the yard, which included removal of some overgrowth & some construction debris. These were things we were already working on. They also determined that I would need to move my coop, which I anticipated & that they would be notifying me of where it needs to be located. All of the things about the yard I anticipated, but the house?! Thanks to this woman, I now have to do work that I am simply not sure we can afford. I am sure that she takes great pleasure in this.

Meanwhile another article runs about the situation which was totally biased on the other side. The reporter interviewed several of my neighbors, many if not all had many wonderful things to say which he never quoted. One of my neighbors stated that every time she hears the animals, it reminds her of when times were simpler. Yet another stated that anytime he has someone over, he takes them immediately to see my animals. AND, yet another neighbor said many positive things, but the reporter took the interview & turned it around to sound negative. Furthermore, this reporter apparently stood on the other side of my fence & took pictures of my yard while my kids were playing outside which frankly, I find creepy. He even initially posted a picture of my daughter on the site, which I immediately requested to be taken down. I am all for presenting both sides, but this was simply not done. I keep trying to remind myself that the articles do not matter. BUT, he did quote the complaining neighbor saying that she “can’t entertain in her yard because of the smell” (there is none) & that she “can’t cook in her kitchen.” Are you kidding me?! No one’s opinion matters except for the city’s & I just need to make sure I comply with their requests. Of course, this is not over for my neighbor since she has now decided to take her fight to the city commission & the mayor. I believe she will have a fight on her hands as this community is very supportive of urban agriculture.

This has all put a great strain on me & my family. I would love to bury my head in the sand & hope it will all go away. But, since this woman has made it her personal mission to go this route, I simply have to keep moving on & hope that the universe had some big plans for us. I have to believe that this is happening for a reason. And a good reason at that.

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Yeah. Clearly “livestock”

30 Apr

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Chickengate 2011

29 Apr

So, where to begin?? About a month ago, I came home to a note on my door from Decatur Animal Control. All it said was “call me.” I completely freaked out & called immediately. Of course, I didn’t get a same day response. The next day, I went directly to the police dept. The gentleman at the desk stated that if it had been any big deal that the officer would have referenced it on the note. When I told him the complaint, the officer at the desk rolled his eyes & said “If she only knew how cool chickens were.” Let me back up…The complaint was from the neighbor behind me who felt that my chickens were the cause of her rats. Not only is that a common misconception, but I have 2 overgrown lots on either side of me & the home next door to her was recently renovated which always sends the rats where? Right next door. Um, and guess what. We live in the city. There are rats.

When I finally spoke to the animal control officer, he was very nice. He said, of course, he must respond to every complaint. Would I put my feed up at night? Of course. Would I move it closer to my house? Absolutely. And on top of that, not that I had to, I volunteered to get rid of my 2 roosters. I am sure that someone who is not a fan of chickens would most certainly not want to have them crowing outside their home at 6AM. I wanted to make peace, I wanted to make her happy. I even went to her house so that I could talk to her directly. Not with any aggression, not with anger, but with a true desire to please her. She refused to answer the door. I wrote her a letter. No response. So, I carry on.

In the meantime, I get some goats. hee. Probably not a good move on my part, but as far as I had been told, completely legal. They are adorable. Button, 5 months & Holy Cow & Lil’ Victor, twins, ¬†1 week old. So, the boys were a bit loud. If anything will cure me of the baby lust, it would be feeding twin goats a bottle 5 times and day. They are lovely…and needy. But, completely awesome.

On Monday, I received a call from a neighbor that the city of Decatur was at my house, walking around, taking pictures. What?! My hubby went out to see a bright red “CODE VIOLATION” sign posted to my door. Basically said “LIVESTOCK ILLEGAL IN THE CITY OF DECATUR. 30 DAYS TO RELOCATE ANIMALS.” By Monday afternoon I was in the city manager’s office. By 5:30, I was told that my goats, in fact, were “companion animals” not livestock.

The next day I spoke with code enforcement & they could not have been nicer. She said, at the time, my animals are not an issue. I did need to cut back some vines & a little cleaning (I had stuff piled up for everything to the curb day) and that they would like to pay me a visit next week. And again, they couldn’t have been nicer. But, someone coming into my yard to tell me if my yard meets code or not? Very distressing to me. Not to mention the weeds & vines are coming over from another neighbor’s yard. But, they are not in trouble, nor would I ever call the city on them. We are neighbors. I would talk to them directly.

At the same time, an article was published on a local blog type website. It was very positive. They had talked to me and the city, but not to the complaining neighbor. Everyone were, for the most part, supportive. But boy, there were a couple of folks that seemed to really have an issue. They called me a “hoarder” amongst some other awful terrible things. They have never even met me! They have never seen my animals. I tried to answer their concerns, but I was only met with more attacks. So, I gave up. You can’t change someone’s mind when it is already made up. I thought it was done. But this morning, I am met in my driveway by a reporter who was following up. He went to EVERY single one of my neighbors. Which was really ok. But, the neighbors seem to think he had an agenda. They said he was really pushing them to say something negative. Wow. And, of course, the complaining neighbor wouldn’t talk. Of course. So, I get to be all nervous & stressed for the follow up article to come out Monday. I’m sure I’ll have a great weekend. The good news is, I’ve lost 5 lbs!

2 days ago, as my husband and I were talking in the kitchen & we see my neighbor, standing on something to peer over our fence! I immediately ran out & again, tried to approach her in a kind manner. She ran away. I turn around & see my turkey stamping on one of my ducks. Who was dead. Not only was that awful. But, could there be worse timing?! At 1st, I thought that perhaps the turkey did it. I immediately went on the message board to determine if this was possible. In the meantime, we heard from a neighbor that they heard a cat commotion at about the same time & saw a notorious orange cat hop my fence. Of course, one of my not so big fans went to the message board and announced in the comments of the article “Now her animals are killing each other!” I truly felt violated. Here, I go to my trusted friends to get advice & here someone goes & turns my own words on me. And that has been my feeling pretty much through the whole thing. Violated. Attacked.

Yesterday, I am in a meeting & receive an email from the city manager: I received an email from Ms. ***** that you have a dead chicken in your backyard” I replied “What? Today? Everything was fine when I left an hour ago, but I will go straight home.” I received a reply that this particular email was received the previous day. The woman just wants to make it sound like I have dead animals lying around in my yard! Really?! With the exception of being at work, those animals are checked on hourly, if not every 30 minutes. This is where we spend our evenings. This is where we had about 6 kids in the yard last night collecting eggs & feeding goats. This is my zen. And this woman has made it her personal mission to take it away. Why? I don’t know. I suspect she is thinking of selling her home & doesn’t want to have Green Acres behind her. Doesn’t she know where she lives? I feel so lucky to live in a community concerned about sustainability, where if there are chickens or any animal needing saving there is a message sent out on our listserv. People move here because of what this community stands for. I had a member of my community yesterday tell me I was “pioneer for urban agriculture.” It meant the world to me. But honestly really feeling beaten up right now & not sure I am up for the challenge.

I could go on & on but basically, I meet with the city next week. I will know more then. Till then, I can’t eat, sleep or concentrate. I am a believer in karma. I hope that I have put enough good into the world & that things will go my way. We’ll see.