Saturday, February 12, 2011

After the press, covenant police

Ah, so now it comes...the people against sustainable living. "Not in my backyard." While I was doing my Wii fit exercises, there was a pounding on the door, followed by high barking of two watch dog chihuahuas. Richard's at work, the children are running a muck, sick with colds caught at the Pediatricians (of course), and I look my best in cut off sweats and old T-shirt. But who should be knock, knock, knocking at my door, the developer of the subdivision herself, waving some paper at me..."We have covenants here."

"Yeah, I'm aware," I reply.

She told me her phone had been ringing off the hook with complaints from the people who live here. Something about the newspaper and a barn, tires, animals and pallet fences.

Huh, all in one swoop. "So what exactly is the problem?" I ask.

No permit for this barn.

Don't need one. The barn is under the required size for a permit. Am I sure? You bet, we did that intentionally.

She went on to ask me if the barn would look like the house. Yeah, same color with a red roof, like the house trim, I said. Too many animals. The covenants tell me we can have two large animals on our lot. I count the llamas, although they are "miniature" and the two of them together might weigh as much as one horse. Too many goats? Yeah, probably. We want to see how they all milk and keep a couple of the best milkers. The town said we could have chickens and that's not in the covenants anyway. All of our buildings are within the required setbacks, and the town told us we didn't need permits for Ag buildings.

"Barbed wire."

"What about it?" Complaints...but the only barbed wire we have is on a roll, wrapped in plastic, waiting to be placed in between earthbags to hold them in place, eventually covered by more earthbags and stucco. The covenants say we cannot fence the main road line of our property with barbed wire fence. That's the only mention of it. We could technically fence the rest of our property with barbed wire, and one of our neighbors does indeed have his property fenced in barbed wire, even on the main road side. And I like my pallet fence, I told her. It doesn't look that different from the wooden privacy panels you buy at the big orange store. She agreed. There's nothing in the covenants about pallet fences.

She just wanted to give us a copy of the covenants, she said, in case we never got them. I asked her why people move to the country and then try to turn it into suburbia? I asked her why it wasn't expected for a family to move to the country and put in a garden and raise some chickens and even supply natural, raw, fresh milk for their kids? She thought that was okay. I told her I'd love to share our farm fresh eggs with our neighbors, and vegetables too, but the covenants do say we can't run a business out of the home. She didn't think there was anything wrong with selling eggs to the neighbors. Hmmm...

I told her I'd love to put in a huge, ugly metal garage like my neighbors, but I didn't have that kind of money, and in this economy, I had a right to live as sustainably as I could. I told her we don't have money for fancy fences or siding for our barn right now (I want to stucco it too...mostly we don't have enough time, but there is the money issue). I told her I'd love to bring in some fully grown trees to block my view of the neighbors, but that wasn't possible. I told her we planted tress, 200 of them last year, and that in twenty years, maybe the neighbors wouldn't be able to see us anymore.

She told me if we were abiding by the covenants there was no problem, but that she would check with the town on Monday to see about that permit thing. (Isn't she on the zoning committee?)

In the end, I think I had her seeing some of my points, realizing maybe we weren't doing anything wrong. Or, maybe she, like so many others talks out of two sides of her mouth. She (or her deceased husband) wrote the covenants for this subdivision.

So, what's the problem? Richard came out of his office to see what the commotion was, and offered to talk to anyone about their concerns over the earthbag barn. I told her we'd even hold a town meeting if they wanted. Did I set us up for a lynching?

As far as I know we are within our rights, not breaking any laws, rules or covenants, but it sure is a big pain in my butt. I wish our neighbors would man up and come and talk with us about what is going on, maybe they'd learn a thing or two. Maybe, they'd appreciate that someone in the town and community is going to be growing some clean, local, natural food.

All said and done, I think this woman is a nice enough person, and I don't hold anything against her. I hope she doesn't show up with the "petitions" she mentioned the neighbors talking about, but I'm not sure what they could petition, since we aren't violating anything. I told her with our "neighbors" driving fifty up the road in front of my house, I needed a fence to keep my little kids safe. She said they were working on that problem, but there wasn't much they could do. Can't enforce the speed limit, but can harass property owners because the neighbors are afraid of what they don't understand? Bring down property values? Sure, the neighbors we do know have told us their houses aren't worth the mortgages, just  like the rest of the country. Whatever.

Maybe I need to circulate a petition that bans airborne pesticides and herbicides from straying onto my property and presenting a health risk to my family and animals, and garden.

So, what's gong on here? Who knows. Maybe they don't like Richard's long hair, but ironically enough, he's about as straight edged as someone could ever be. Oh man, give me Taos and the weird New Mexico world any day. I'd love to have neighbors with dreadlocks and tattoos and piercings....if they were environmentally and spiritually aware, doing their part to change the world. Isn't it funny that most of the time they are? It is the black sheep, the lunatic fringe who will save the world, or die trying.

We need a real farm and lots of land...with no the southwest, with enough moisture that we can garden, and not too high that nothing will grow, and cheap enough we could buy it, and put up a tent while we build a house made of earth that does no harm to the environment.

Why would a building that is so environmentally responsible offend people? Here's what it will look like, sort of. It's the building at the top of the page, in the header. Imagine it more closed, a pale beige color, with the buttresses turned a bit different to protect the door, and with a metal red roof. Is that offensive? I guess we could make it square, if that's what they want.

Not sure what to do with this. Keep on marching forward I guess. Honk if you support the farm!


  1. Kerry,

    Alex and I have had our fair share of covenant problems when we lived in Wetmore. County Commissioners got involved. Ugly mess. In the end - a big ta-doo over nothing. It's fear, plain and simple. People not understanding and not trying to. Keep yer chin up and keep talking and writing about your sustainable lifestyle. People could learn a lot - that is if they wanted to. Honk, Honk.

  2. Thanks Judy. We appreciate your support.

  3. HONK! And I will be there to show my support in a few days. Can't wait.