green, or ‘Green?’ Part Five

Welcome to Lake Swampington Estates. That is NOT a bench right there, so stop saying that it is.

I wish, as my construction project was drawing to a close, someone from the City would have called or come out and said, ‘Well, you’re almost done.  What have you budgeted for landscaping?’ After I replied ‘Nothing,’ they could have handed me some papers and told me, ‘Here is a list of things we would like to have planted, and here are some things we don’t want at all.  You have five years to get this together; we’ll be checking back from time to time.’  That would have been swell, because I really didn’t budget anything in my construction financing for landscaping.  I wanted, as I did in my front yard, to get a sense of the land, the light, the soil (minus the brief setback I encountered there by not accounting for the phenomenal amount of runoff and then installing a french drain system.) While this approach would have been a bit less Orwellian and likely would have brought about a very similar result, it also would have been significantly less expensive. 

Between ‘Planning Services,’ plant installation, the plants themselves, and the replacement, addition, and enhancement plants I have put in, I am out about $15,000 over this, not counting the $5,000 I have secured as a Survival Bond, or the additional $4,500 I was to have paid the Mitigation Planner for compulsory inspection and monitoring, which I politely declined to pay.  For those doing math at home, that is nearly $25,000; and with the exception of those plants and processes I have planted and placed on my own, I don’t think I (or the City, or the forest itself) received good value for any of it.  I have never paid anyone to so much as mow my lawn, so I don’t know how much landscaping you can get for twenty-five grand; but I suspect it could be a lot.  If I had it to do over, or one day hit the MegaMillion, maybe I could hire these guys: award-winning landscape restorations, and I am pretty sure no one needs a faux-basalt escarpment with a trickling seep more than I. But that isn’t the way this works, and anyway, complaint is the refuge of the powerless, and the law is the law, and applies equally to everyone, right?  Or does it? 

There is my house at bottom center, just dominating the land. Some azaleas and hostas could completely upset the balance of nature, I am certain.

While I stay off my easily offended earth (except for when I am spending money on it or toiling over it), not far away from me the City has crafted itself a new park…on a wetland…with a parking lot…and public toilets and a nifty new boardwalk going out into the wetland.  Is their wetland less sensitive, or do they just know better than I how to manage it? Or did the City afford itself development rights it doesn’t afford to individuals?   And what about my neighbors, the ones nearest to me or not too far away.  If I am restricted on and about my property and Must Plant Only Native Species, is the City enforcing noxious and invasive weed and plant restrictions to ensure and preserve the work I am doing and the health of the Nature all around me? Not a day goes by that I don’t cull an English Ivy sprout or slash some part of my body on the barb-y thorns of Himalayan blackberry, so I think not.

This is not a manifesto.  I am not lifting my kilt and crying “HOSTA!” I know that I literally cannot fight City Hall.

Outside these digital walls, there is debate over the environmental impact of Native vs.

Meet my nearest neighbors, Mr. Private Golf Course on the left and Ms. Massive Tract Development on the right: two things renowned for their ‘lightness upon the land.’ My house and my approximate property dimensions are inside the red rectangle.

non-Native plants, there are folks who would take up their pitchforks and torches rather than submit to property restrictions, there are people who are dying for the government to save them from themselves no matter the cost of salvation, and folks who would mow down a whole forest of teak saplings so they can pay thousands for one eco-friendly twenty-person outdoor dining table.   I hope to speak to all of these, but for me ultimately the conversation is not my plants or my property restrictions or my frustrations with arbitrary and  burdensome regulation, but the conversations that happen inside my home: where do our guests go when the weather is nice, how can we have dinner outside? Why my daughter can’t have a treehouse, and how to have a pair of swings so that she and a friend can giggle and pretend and whisper the kinds of secrets that pass between seven-year-old girls…because time is fleeting, and living without these things or being punished for having them may be ‘Green’ in someone’s opinion, but it is not sustainable, in a couple of different ways.

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12 Responses to green, or ‘Green?’ Part Five

  1. Corene says:

    the satellite photos are amazing – we do live in the boonies! Great points as always love.

  2. Wow….this is a powerful piece. Your experience seems to showcase the worst aspects of the hypocrisy of environmental regulation. Glad you are getting your voice out there.

    • calvincaley says:

      Mary, thank you, and thank you for providing the inspiration to this series of writings. There will be a follow-up at some point in the next week or two–interestingly, your recent post relating your flawed science experiment also speaks directly to the basis from which these regulations are derived. I really appreciate your visits and comments…by the way, I’d love to see a cage match between P.A. Smith and M. Stewart. Cat fight! ROWR!

  3. rainyleaf says:

    As always, your writing is thought provoking and hilarious all at the same time. The image of fighting city hall with a kilt and yelling hosta!!! Really good. By the way, what have you done to fight city hall? Do you ever go to any of their meetings? Maybe you should be part of the city council….I’ll vote for you!

    • calvincaley says:

      Thank you, Elaine! I did go to the meeting a couple weeks ago, it was the basis for my statement that I can’t fight city hall. I’ll be weighing in on some of the content of that meeting in a follow-up to this essay. I might not be fighting them, but I do intend to keep doing what I am doing, which is planting all natives and hewing closely to the intent of the ordinances, if not the precise letter–I still have to live on the property! That being said, I continually try to make certain that there is a strong basis of reason for any deviation: runoff management, accessibility of the plants for care and maintenance, or adding a gate to my City-mandated confinement fence so that City employees can access my City-mandated sewer pump, for example. Would’ve been nice if they had thought of that.

      While I appreciate your vote, I will have to decline to run. In addition to once having been in my twenties, I spent about ten years on a Citizen’s advisory board to a part of State government loosely associated with the Department of Ecology; that, in combination with my family’s recent experience trying to help plan a Community Garden will probably keep me from running for office (or volunteering to assist with ANYTHING government related) forever. Based upon these anecdotal experiences and others, I take a pretty dim view of whether or not government, or the process of government, can actually be CHANGED. A spirit of compromise and common sense could be all that it takes–but compromise on the level of governance typically takes the shape of “I am wrong and you are wrong, so let’s meet in the middle.” What you get is not only wrong, but tepid and characterless as well. I am going to continue going to the Critical Development Area meetings, though; you can’t run a successful guerila campaign without espionage, can you?

  4. croftgarden says:

    Hi Calvin – I had assumed that you lived in the great wilderness not within whistling distance (euphemism) of a golf course and a housing development. Next time you have a polite and frank exchange of views with your local council you can tell them that you have international support and mutter things about special relationships with the UK …..!
    I don’t have a kilt but I’ll volunteer for your guerilla gardening army.

    • calvincaley says:

      You are kind! I would happily be frank with them, but polite could be a chore. Mostly I think I will just keep my head down and avoid eye contact (perhaps go to Commission meetings in disguise), until I ask them to come back and inspect at the end of the Mitigation period. I am glad to have the support of my Scottish and other international allies–we can beat our plowshares into swords–or really, really big Hori-Hori–and paint our faces blue together! I will wear pants myself as well…I don’t have the legs for a kilt. Oh, and the golf course actually has a benefit: all that plump green grass makes very attractive browse for the local deer. The housing development, on the other hand…between the massive amounts of fertilizer all of their gardening services use, and the fact that people trying to find our house using GPS get directed into it–gettting stuck or lost–I’d gladly ‘whistle’ on it. Winky face.

  5. rainyleaf says:

    “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” Aldo Leopold
    I just came across this quote and thought of your land and the plants on it. Do they preserve, or do otherwise? It seems fairly simple.

    • calvincaley says:

      A great quote. I have come across Aldo Leopold fairly recently, an interesting chap. Frequently looked upon as a father of the modern environmentalist, he was very pragmatic when it came to humankind’s role in “nature:” as a distinct participant in an ecosystem, with a distinct set of needs, and an understanding that these needs were not always completely compatible with other participants in the ecosystem and therefore sensitivity AND flexibility were crucial to our participation. Contrast that with a great deal of current environmental thought…

      I DO think my own actions upon my property square with the quote you shared, and many more of Mr. Leopold’s beliefs as well. It is local ordinance and ‘science’ that concern me. As I like to say, I am well inside the INTENT, but I know that I am outside of the LETTER. It’s just that the ‘letter’ is, well, stupid. I could easily reason out my actions to Aldo Leopold, but I am not nearly so confident about my local politicologists.

  6. Pingback: Go ahead…take a look around | A Thistle in My Sensitive Area

  7. Pingback: ‘green,’ or Green? the epilogue | A Thistle in My Sensitive Area

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