There are times in life where it becomes clear that you need to move on. I have been imagining lately how difficult and frightening it must be for baby birds to be pushed out of the nest by their mothers. But if it weren’t for the mother’s gentle nudge, would the baby bird ever have fledged?
So it is with us. I have been elusively writing about ‘dark times’ and feeling stretched. It is now time to come clean about what’s been going on around here. I finally feel ready to share this difficult journey, as I know we’re not the only ones. It has been an emotional roller coaster for us, but one that needs to be talked about and examined for what it is…
In August, a letter arrived from our municipality announcing we needed to ‘clear our land of weeds longer than 6 inches by Friday.’ We had a week to mow down our forest gardens. Our lawnmower grunted in anguish as it attempted to mulch the scythed remnants of our former orchard meadow. The trees still remain, but many of the shrubs are out. Apart from the plants Rob saved in pots, all of the herbaceous and ground cover layers are also gone. Years of work to regenerate and re-wild the plot…mowed down in a few days. Once a bylaw infraction has been made on your property, you are required to come into compliance for the full property, regardless of the nature of the complaint.
It is a week I will remember forever. My heart was broken. Our gardens were gone. I had been betrayed. Better still, I didn’t know who reported us (and still don’t) other than it was a neighbour. During the process of removing the vegetation, I overheard comments from two separate neighbours, celebrating the destruction. It felt like the world was against us. I have never felt so powerless. I have never been so angry. I wanted to post nasty signs on my lawn. I wanted to return the wagon my children inherited from the couple next door. I also wanted to shrivel up and die. I wanted to be invisible as I mowed. Unseen as I cried while murdering our plants. Unnoticed as I hurled unripe squash across my yard after they were snapped too early from their vines in an effort to clear the neighbouring plants that qualified as infractions to the bylaw. My mind was concerned with who was watching us and when. I felt scrutinized. I worried and still think about what other aspects of our lives are the concern of others. For the most part, I have been able to move through the darkness, finding my way to the other side. We are blessed to have a very strong community of like minded permaculture types to call our friends. It has been so helpful to be held and so deeply understood through this process. We also had the unwavering support of my mother-in-law, who watched the children, offered tender words and hugs, and was out in the garden with a sickle, while I cried.
The reality is that we live in a neighbourhood. Over the 7 years we’ve lived here we’ve engaged in numerous conversations about what it is that we’re doing, and why. Usually we were answering a question inquiring about our property, but sometimes conversations were started in defence of our yard’s appearance. But you can only go so far with a conversation that is one sided without sounding like you’re trying to convert people, or like you’re nuts! We have neighbours and a municipality which values mowed lawns and manicured gardens. We have since learned that the bylaw in our area even applies to rural agricultural properties! So if you are reported, you must come into compliance, pay a fine or hire a lawyer. We could have fought it. We could have spent our income on a lawyer to make our case for forest gardening and provide bountiful uses for the plants we were growing which reside on the ‘noxious weeds’ list. But it was immediately clear to me that I was not prepared to take on a fight for a property we no longer wanted. Feeling unwanted in your own home is not something I am willing to fight for. We don’t belong here. We have chosen instead to find joy!
We have been pondering for a while how to make the jump to a farm. There were many pull factors, things that made us want something different, but nothing that was pushing us from our current home. Well, now we have had our own nudge out of the nest. We’re not fully clear about what we’re jumping to just yet, but we’ve got some interesting ideas and are more motivated than ever! It is now time for us to spread our wings and fly!