Tree-Hugging Dirt Worship

July 14, 2011

Outlaw gardens

Filed under: gardening, Soapbox — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paragardener @ 3:22 am

When I think of outlaw gardens, I usually think of the major medicinal plants: coca (cocaine, the prototype local anaesthetic), opium poppy (the prototype painkiller and cough suppressant), marijuana (still underutilized), or magical cacti and mushrooms. But a garden doesn’t require any mind-blowing substances to drive local bureaucrats into a psychotic abyss.

Julie Bass appears to be a Normal Suburban Mom, but she’s one bad motherfucker in the eyes of the City of Oak Park, Michigan. She crossed a line you see: in the Code of Ordinances, Appendix A, Article XVII, Section 1716.A.5, it clearly states: “All unpaved portions of [any] site shall be planted with grass ground cover, shrubbery, or other suitable live plant material.” But Julie planted a vegetable garden in the front, which at least one neighbor found unsuitable. The city told Julie to rip out her organic bounty and sow Chemlawn-perfect grass like a good suburbanite, but the bitch won’t back down!  She’s dragging the City into a jury trial, and facing up to 93 days in jail if she loses.

I like how City Planner Kevin Rulkowski bizarrely defines “suitable” as “common.” Were there some hallucinogenic morning glory seeds in his coffee, or is he intentionally making things up? Just who do these guys think they are to say which plants can go where? When the usual food imports are disrupted by declining oil production, climate change  or currency collapse, the city officials who now persecute Ms. Bass will be begging her for help to keep their citizens fed. For now, the officials float in a denial narcosis, believing that they can impose arbitrary concepts of normalcy on their little suburban bubble indefinitely into a Jetsons-inspired future.

Growing your own food and medicine is a basic human right — if you can’t do it for yourself, you must depend upon “the global economy” for everything you consume. In such a way everything you need to exist is a commercial transaction, and subject to controls like taxation, “safety” regulations and monopoly power — in other words, governments and corporate cartels decide what you can eat or medicate with. In fact, part of Ms. Bass’s motivation for gardening was to glean some organic food she otherwise couldn’t so easily afford.

Besides the issues of human rights or property rights, Ms. Bass’s case rattled my cage in the sense of: “Oh my Goddess! We’re living in a cage!” Julie consulted the city planner and was left believing she was a little bit free, to grow some vegetable boxes in the front lawn and share something a little bit different with the neighborhood kids. But when she used that freedom: POW!  She’s threatened with being taken from her kids for three months. You don’t know you’re living in a cell until you hear someone stumble into the bars.

It’s exhausting to ponder the degrees of unfreedom we live under. But, Julie Bass’s stand may open things up a crack. Check out her blog, Oak Park Hates Veggies. Take note of the Useful Links sidebar on the right, ’cause that is where you can take action to support this brave lady.

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1 Comment »

  1. Oak Park quietly dropped the gardening charges against Ms. Bass, and has switched to a strategy of prosecuting her for two unlicensed dogs — after she bought the dogs licenses and paid late fees! Certainly this means the prosecutor knew Julie’s gardening violation was built on bad, unenforceable law.

    Comment by Ethan — July 15, 2011 @ 3:48 pm


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