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Hello beautiful community!

First, a quick note. News 1130 contacted me last night about the imminent destruction of our yard. The story is currently the most popular story on the site! Thank you so much to Graham for putting them in touch with me and to Renee for writing the article.

Also, there has been an incredible outpouring of support for our yard from the general community. So many people have let me know they are writing letters to council in favour of our project. I really couldn’t have imagined so much support and encouragement from Vancouver residents. It’s really helping during this tough time. Thank you and many Farmhouse blessings to each and everyone one of you who has taken the time to write to the City and passed our story around!

 

Sara, Ander, and I met with Mrs. Carlene Robbins, manager of the Property Use Inspection branch and Property Use Inspector Tom Hamilton this morning. There were many things said, the most important of which is that we have until May 15 to get the yard together. Wouldn’t concede us an inch on planting the boulevard (“It’s City land! Who said you could use it?”).

This is growing just in the space between the sidewalk and the street in July 2009. We were growing borage, kale, and poppies. The dandelions we used for tea.

The City says it has had three neighbours complain over the last two years (two complaints this year, two complaints last year, with one was a repeat complaint. Part of the City’s “evidence” were photos of our yard from last summer. Remember when it was really dry and most yards were dying? We put straw and other materials over the soil in our yard to keep moisture in (permaculture!) so our plants wouldn’t die. Yep, taking photos during the driest part of the year is surely going to include a little ugly. And it’s funny that the city’s photos don’t match the photos I took myself during that time.

The other photos the City presented us with were from March. MARCH. It’s not March anymore! We’ve done a lot of work on the garden in the last week! You can’t use old pictures from the off-season against us.

This weekend, we collect over a page worth of signatures (I’m guessing at least 20) from residents of the block who are all in support of our yard. Why does the word of three complainants outweigh the rest?

When asked if she would speak directly to the five points contained in the legal notice we received, Mrs. Robbins completely refused, stating she “isn’t going to plan [our] yard for us”. Then she said if we built a fence two feet into our yard, we’d be free to do whatever we want within the confines. Um, how is that fair? You think we can afford a fence? She also pointed out the container garden at City Hall.

“Why can’t you make your yard look like that?” she asked. Maybe because we don’t have thousands of dollars for pressure treated lumber, an in-ground irrigation system, and fancy plaques delineating what garden belongs to whom? Part of the reason we grow our own food is because we are POOR!

Mrs. Robbins admitted to us that if we lived on Commercial Drive, our yard wouldn’t be an issue. Hypocrisy, hello? I asked her why she didn’t see the larger issue at stake—a vaguely worded bylaw that is selectively applied to a subjective notion of beauty and order. She asked me why I was continuing to be argumentative.

Why am I argumentative? Because it isn’t fair. We can’t afford to live on Commercial Drive. We can’t afford to build container gardens. In fact, we don’t want container gardens because we think they are ugly. Plants grow better in a natural state. You put different kinds of plants together for support, to improve the soil, to mimic the natural growing system. Most of our supplies are donated. We have to haul a wheelbarrow eight blocks roundtrip to get free woodchips. We had wonderful people donate their time and energy to help us last weekend. This is not a money-making enterprise. This is about food security. This is about food as a right. This is about a hypocritical city that brands itself as some sort of green leader yet won’t support five hippies who want grow their own food.

So much irony is coming out of this process. The City of Vancouver has
Guidelines for Planting City Boulevards
program where residents are ENCOURAGED to use the boulevard for planting!

 

Planning to Plant

* There must be reasonable pedestrian access between the curb and the sidewalk. If there is no City sidewalk, access must be provided so pedestrians are not forced to walk on the road.
* Plants should be perennials or shrubs that will grow less than one metre (3′ 3″) in height to ensure good sight lines.
* Several of the plants should be evergreen or have winter interest for those months when the rest of the plants are dormant.
* Contaminants from the roadway may affect consumables, therefore vegetable gardening is not encouraged.
* No trees are allowed other than City-planted street trees.
* No structures or ornaments are allowed since they can interfere with public safety and the City’s ability to quickly access underground services.
* Permanent installations such as in-ground irrigation systems are not permitted.
* Plants should be set back at least 30 cm (12″) from a) the sidewalk to avoid overgrowth and b) the curb to allow for car door opening.
* Fire hydrants must be easily visible and accessible from both the street and the sidewalk. A clearance of 1.5m (5’) must be maintained around hydrants for access, visibility and to ensure that plants do not interfere with the operation of the hydrant. Outside of the Fire Department, Waterworks and Sewers staff use the water from hydrants for a number of purposes.

 

I can totally 100 percent get behind those guidelines. Last weekend’s work project was all about getting the boulevard presentable. Nowhere on that Web page does it say you need City permission to grow anything in the boulevard.

But the extension is a goodness. The legal notice we were served is dated April 15 but we didn’t receive it until April 19. There goes one weekend. May 1 is Saturday. There goes another weekend. So, with the May 15 extension, we get two more weekends to get things together.

Here is a list of e-mail addresses for Vancouver city councillors if you have the desire to lodge your opposition to the city (via Christina).

clrreimer@vancouver.ca

mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca

clrdeal@vancouver.ca

clrcadman@vancouver.ca

Gregor.Robertson@vancouver.ca

clranton@vancouver.ca

clrchow@vancouver.ca

clrjang@vancouver.ca

clrlouie@vancouver.ca

clrmeggs@vancouver.ca

clrstevenson@vancouver.ca

clrwoodsworth@vancouver.ca

 

Also, if anyone wants to contact the Farmhouse about this, please call 604-628-9509 (the house), 604-762-6557 (my cell), or e-mail farmhousepress@gmail.com.

We love you!

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So this weekend’s work party was a resounding success! We had five or six people stop by over the course of the day and Ander did a fantastic job educating passerbys on our yarden. We had a bunch of people sign our petition to keep our yard exactly the way it is and we’re so much closer to getting a block party organized!

It was really nice to connect with the neighbours, actually. One told us tales of how people would come by our house with empty strollers and steal our pumpkins. One guy who works as a landscaper was fully in support of us and promised to bring us clean grass clippings, plants from other sites, tools he doesn’t need, and topsoil as well as offering to help fix the tools we have. So much love!

Kiko was a total jerk and did not help at all.

Fun story: The tenants previous to us used to use the front yard as some sort of trash can. I made the champion decision to tackle the one bed we’d never bothered to dig out previously because it’s full of trash. Ander pulled out two baby carriage frames from it weeks ago. I managed to dig out a garden hose, three bags of garbage, a fully-inflated basketball, a used diaper (ewwww), an army man, a plastic Viking figurine, and numerous pens and pencils. Seriously. Disgusting. Who buries trash in their yard when we have a weekly trash collection service?

Max was a champ and not only fixed up the greenhouse and finally (FINALLY!) got all the Christmas lights off the house but he tackled organizing our garage. We have cleaned that bastard out at least six times in the past two years, and yet it magically accumulates stuff. I think there’s some sort of vortex in there which allows for remote garbage dumping for aliens or perhaps time travellers. But it’s more organized now. Just need yet another dump run.

Sara was fantastic as well, hauling woodchips and tackling the out-of-control back beds. The whole yard is really starting to come together!

And … OH GOD we totally terraformed the boulevard. Now it has five nice neat ordered rows for planting. We’re going to put yarrow, flax, borage, and … I can’t remember what else in there. Should be neighbourhood friendly.

I definitely need to spend more time in the garden. I hauled dirt and dug weeds for almost eight hours on Saturday and my poor body is still aching today.

Special thanks to Razan and Erik for playing in the mud with us all day and to Tristan and Lina for bringing us much needed nourishment.

Photos to come whenever Ander gets them to me!

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So, whilst conducting my semi-annual room clean last night, I came across a gem of a project that Rin, Caterina, and I started three years ago: The Farmhouse Dictionary, a compendium of all the words, phrases, and nicknames commonly used around the house. Most of them are slang terms from Caterina but we’ve all contributed a little.

I swear to the house fairies that I will get this typed up and posted in the next week. There is definitely some comedy gold in there!

Fun non-dictionary-related fact: Between the four roommates who enjoy adult beverages, we can ring up a $74 bar tab in one night. Tsk tsk. So now we’re crafting a plan to brew our own ale! Our last roommate was a brewer and she made some delicious home brew. We just need some equipment and a reliable source of hops …

Rin made some delicious (but sludgy) blackberry mead before she left and we were gonna drink it on the Winter Solstice but someone (*cough* Max *cough*) may have drank it before we got a chance.

What else is on the Farmhouse’s future agenda? Chickens!

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