Sunday, September 18, 2011

Duck Love Story, a sequel

The two week deadline we gave the neighbor to keep his poultry on his own property had expired on Monday last week.  On Tuesday and Wednesday, the six ducks were still making daily trips to our pond. 

We were plotting how we would "contain" the ducks in a crate on Thursday night and call the county Animal Control on Friday morning, but, surprisingly, the ducks stayed home on Thursday!  Evidently the neighbor did make the fence around his poultry yard higher, as he said he would.  We were pleasantly surprised, and relieved that the situation was resolved amicably.

But on Friday, one duck, and only one, came back.

 He (at least I think he is a he) seemed a bit confused that he was alone, he didn't wander around eating bugs in the yard, but merely stood next to the pond.  On Saturday, he was joined by a wild female mallard. He did not leave the next morning to go home, as had been the habit of the group of six ducks that had been visiting every day, but instead both of them swam around the pond and stood around looking at each other.

We're not feeding either of them. They must be living on love.  This week on Wednesday morning I was eating my breakfast and was sure I heard quacking outside my kitchen window.  I went to the door and looked out, and sure enough, he was heading toward home, possibly to score a meal of grain?  The mallard was not with him.   By Wednesday evening after we returned from work, he was back at the pond. Later that evening, while we were feeding the fish, he suddenly shot up into the air and flew about 30 or 40 feet!  Not very high, but flying, nonetheless!

We've never seen these domestic ducks fly before.  I think the mallard must be giving him lessons, as we see her flying around quite frequently.  Now that is true love!

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Forgive our Trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us

Acts 19 

If therefore Demetrius and the artisans with him have a complaint against anyone, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls; let them bring charges there against one another. If there is anything further you want to know, it must be settled in the regular assembly. For we are in danger of being charged with rioting today, since there is no cause that we can give to justify this commotion.” When he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.

1 Corinthians 6

When any of you has a grievance against another, do you dare to take it to court before the unrighteous, instead of taking it before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels—to say nothing of ordinary matters? If you have ordinary cases, then, do you appoint as judges those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to decide between one believer and another, but a believer goes to court against a believer—and before unbelievers at that? In fact, to have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—and believers at that.

Speaking of boundaries, while the kids were visiting us at the farm, we discovered that someone had come on to our property and cut down the brush along the fenceline leaving a large open space between the neighbor's property and ours.

I did not to want to get the kids or grandkids upset, so waited until last weekend to address the issue. The brush was cut about 5-10 feet into our property.

I took my John Deere Gator and a log chain, went to the orchard and retrieved some fallen branches, and dumped them along the fence line.  As I was working, it dawned on me that someone was shouting.  I looked up and saw a guy standing on the deck of the house across the way and waving his arms.  I put my hand to my ear in the classic "I can't hear you" position, and then I heard him shout "WHAT ARE YOU DOING!!!" 

Of course I was not going to shout back, and if he was confrontational, I didn't want to be alone with him, so drove the Gator back to the garage to pick up my husband and show him what I had been doing.  As we drove up, we saw the neighbor driving his tractor away.  I showed Ed the results of my work, and he agreed that I was definitely on our side of the property line.  He was kind of surprised that I was mad enough to go to so much trouble.

I was still mad, so went back to the house, got the staple gun and the Tyvek No Trespassing signs, and went back and posted two of them. Since they (apparently) had cut down all the trees, the only place left to put the sign was on the pile of brush.

I drove to another field and circled it, trying to relax and inspect our hypothetical alfalfa crop.  When I came back to the field with the open cut-out, I saw a woman standing on her side of the brush pile with her hands on her hips in a very agressive posture.  I waved and drove the Gator over to talk to her. 

She immediately started on the offensive "Why didn't you come talk to us before you did this?" I told her I didn't know who had done it, and I sure wasn't going to accuse anyone. I asked her why she didn't talk to us before she cut down the brush? She said she didn't know who owned the property or how to reach us. I explained that those records are available in the township office, and all she had to do was look online.

 She said I was interfering with wildlife movement.  I disagreed, as there are plenty of holes along the fence line big enough for a deer to get through.  "Why'd you have to go and post this!" Well, obviously whoever cut down the trees needed to know that they had crossed a boundary they should not have crossed. It is NOT a public park.  We do not want trespassers on the property.  There are certain people that we know and trust that we have given permission, but other than that, we do NOT expect people to trespass.  "We don't trespass," she replied. I said I wasn't accusing her of trespassing, but I just wanted to be clear for the future.  We do not want the liability of someone hurting themselves on our property, when they are trespassing.

She mentioned that they had hired a landscaper who took it upon himself to cut down the brush.  I responded that whoever hires the landscaper is responsible for what he does under their supervision.  Then she backed off and said that the landscaper only had a garden tractor, not a brush hog,  she saw somebody else cut down the brush.

Her father came down the hill.  He must have seen us talking and wanted to take his daughter out of harm's way? I started explaining my position, and he offered that "I admit, I hired the landscaper, but he took it on himself to cut down the brush".  So daughter has established herself as a liar of the first order, and Dad didn't know she had changed the story on the fly.

During the course of the long conversation, she admitted she had shot a rabbit and taken the quad through our field to collect it.  She also talked about her guns and her expertise at deer hunting.  Her father mentioned that he often walks through the orchard.  I told them both that they DID NOT have permission to be on the property.  He said he understood the liability issue.  Then he started tattling on all the other neighbors that have trespassed in the past.

My conclusion is that there was no landscaper, and since Michigan now allows baiting of deer, she is trying to entice any deer on our property to come into her yard by giving them a big open space to go through.


Twelve days ago, I got up my nerve and rode the 4-wheeler over to discuss the duck situation with the next-door neighbor.  I went to the back door, there was a fence around it.  Not wanting to open the gate without permission, I went to the front door. 

There was a kiddie gate across the top of the steps, and it was closed.  Still hesitant to cross marked boundaries, I circled around to the back again, noticed the garage door, and knocked.  From my position outside the house I could see the guy feeding his dog in the basement.  The lights went on and off.  I knocked again.  I could see his wife in the hall upstairs, and I could hear raised voices.  I knocked again, and again.  I heard the word "DUCKS" shouted, but the rest of their argument was unclear.  I knocked again. 

The basement lights went on and off again.  I could still see the man.  I am sure he looked right at me. I knocked again.  Everything went quiet.  After a few more minutes I decided they weren't going to come to the door.

Just as I turned to leave,  the man opened the door.  After some discussion about how I should have gone to the front door, that they couldn't hear knocking on the garage door,  I explained that I had talked to his wife a month or more ago, and said that the ducks could become a problem, and that my prediction was correct.  The ducks are a problem.  They leave eggs, feathers, and poop in my pond.  The vegetation in the pond is changing due to the "fertilizer" .

His response "but the ducks enjoy it so much!" I explained that I cannot enjoy my pond now for fear of salmonella or dirty water.  He said the fence around his coop was too low, and that is how the ducks get out.  I told him we had appreciated it when he was able to keep the ducks at home for three days when my grandchildren were visiting and we gave them permission to chase the ducks out of our yard.   As soon as the grandchildren left, the ducks returned.  He said he couldn't afford to buy more fencing.  I explained that is was his responsibility to keep his livestock in his yard.  I asked when he would be able to get the fence. (Never mind that the ducks are home all day until he gets home from work, after his daily return the ducks are released to visit our house.)  He responded that he thought in two weeks he would have the money.  I shook his hand.  I noted that I want to keep good relations with my neighbors and I would hate to have to call animal control.

So, of course the ducks have still been here on a daily basis.  Knowing it is a problem, instead of trying to keep the ducks at home, he is pushing the limit.

Two more days.  On Tuesday following Labor Day, if the ducks are still visiting us, I have a plan.  The Macomb county regulations say that you should contain the animal before calling the animal control office.  So I am going to tear up some of my deer fence for the garden and make some low fences between the house and garage (on the ducks' daily path), which should funnel the ducks right into an open-doored dog crate.  There will be fish food and water in the crate, which will hopefully entice the ducks into the strange arrangement.  As soon as they go in, I will "Bang" the door shut behind them, and call animal control. 

Do you think this will work?

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Tracking down the law

The Michigan Right to Farm Act allows any property owner to declare themselves a "farm" and therefore raise food for themselves and their families, as long as they comply with "generally accepted agricultural management principles". In this document, fencing is described for all types of livestock, including bees, but not for poultry. There is a mention that poultry housing should be clean and provide protection from predators, but nothing that says that they must be inside a perimeter fence.

The "Animals Running at large" bill, section 11, defines the bill as covering cattle, horses, swine, sheep, mules, burros and goats. The bill makes the owner responsble for any damages caused by the animals running at large, and also states that a person violating this law is guilty of a misdemeanor. But poultry is not covered!

So far the state law has not been helpful. The Backyard Chickens web site lists several ordinances for the City of Royal Oak, but that's a few counties away.

I live in Macomb County. The Macomb County Animal Control Department regulations state, in Section 6.5: Stray livestock: A person who owns or has custody or control of livestock or poultry shall prevent such animals from running at large without the consent of the property owner. The regulations provide penalties including fines and possible jail time!

OK, now that I know I have some legal ground to stand on, I guess I need to make it very clear to the lady that she does not have my consent for her ducks and chickens to be on my property. I want to be a good neighbor, but I expect her consideration in return. I would not call Animal Control for an occasional violation, but this is every day, all day long. The chickens have gotten bolder and are scratching in the mulch in my flowerbeds. The ducks continue to lay eggs in the pond. She and her husband cannot continue to mow the long grass between our properties to make it easier for the fowl to access our property after telling me she will "try" to keep her animals at home. She may have to install fencing at her own expense. If she hasn't gotten her poultry under control within a week, the next step is a letter to her landlord. If that does not help within another week, I will call Animal Control.

I was trying to be too nice on the previous attempt to talk to her, I told her that she needed to be aware that our pond is treated if she planned to butcher the ducks. She said, "Oh, no they're our pets! We could never butcher them!" I replied that so far the ducks have not made a huge mess, (trying to keep neighborly relations friendly) but that it could become a problem with poop, etc. She said she would come over and clean up the mess. I think I allowed that to pass without reply. (I should tell her to come and clean the eggs up out of the muck!) We asked her to keep them on her property and she said "What can I do?" Trimming their feathers won't work, since they walk over, they don't fly. I don't care what she does! but she has a problem.

I need to be VERY CLEAR that it is her responsibility to keep her animals at home and that if she fails to provide some way to contain the animals within a week, that I will be calling the Macomb County animal control to have the animals removed.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bee update

We visited the farm last weekend and as we were getting ready to leave, spoke to the neighbor across the street, the husband of the young women with small children. She was the one who threatened to bring suit in civil court because her child had gotten a couple of bee stings earlier this year.

He was very laid back. He said bees are a part of nature, he realizes they are not under our control, and that the bee hives behind their house belong to another beekeeper anyway. He thinks the ones in his yard might be theirs. He understands their bees might be flying over his house to drink water at our pond. He said that there were a lot of bees earlier in the year but lately it has not been a problem. He said essentially, "don't worry about it."

What a relief!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

More on ducks

The ducks are in the pond right now.

I ate duck tonight at the local Thai restaurant in Romeo, MI. This was symbolic....I did NOT eat my neighbors ducks, however I am considering it...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Is growing food for yourself and your neighbors a basic human right?
Apparently we are losing it.

Dollarhite family in Nixa, MO - fined by USDA for unlicensed rabbits

Julie Bass in Oak Park, MI - local city officials charge with misdemeanor for vegetable garden and unlicensed dogs

Dirk Becker and Nicole Shaw in Lantzville, British Columbia - Vancouver officials ordered them to remove their compost pile from their 1-acre farm/farm market, or face six months in jail.

I think the world is going crazy. Where do people think food comes from?

The thing that these people all have in common is that they are growing food on their OWN property, and the government steps in with ridiculously heavy penalties.

Meanwhile I read about urban farms in inner cities springing up on vacant land, whether by individuals like this lady.

or organizations like this one

They don't even own the land!

Am I wrong, or is there something crazy going on here?

Yellow transparents

We timed it right to harvest the Yellow Transparents this year! For some reason we have HUGE apples ( for Yellow Transparents, anyway).

I picked a bushel of the low-hanging fruit. Hope to get some more tomorrow. Standing on back of truck to reach higher branches. I don't trust the orchard ladders around here, or my agility.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

More on ducks

Ducks are still laying eggs underwater. I have to wade in, pick them up then go to the field in the "back 4o " to dispose of them

But at least some of the eggs are not laid underwater. I am told by farmgirl friends as long as the "film" covering the egg is not disturbed, the egg probably can be used beause the membrane forms a seal around the egg, protecting it from bacteria.

The ducks still swim away from me when I approach them. Maybe I need some corn.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Apple trees and honeybees

"I'd like to build the world a home, and furnish it with love,
Grow apple trees,
and honeybees,
and snow white turtle doves"

This was a favorite hymn in my hometown church congregation and I often find myself singing it.

I've got the apple trees and honeybees covered, but I'm still working on the turtledoves.

Evidently my neighbors don't have the same loving associations that I do concerning apple trees and honeybees.

We allow a commercial beekeeper to keep his hives in our orchard in the off-season. The neighbors have recently lodged a complaint that their house and car are "covered" in bee "poop". I went over and looked, and while there is some evidence of little yellowish-brown dots on their siding on the southwest corner of their house, it is hardly covered. There are maybe five dots in a six-inch by six-inch area. Being a country girl, if it were on my house, I probably would not even have noticed it!

I explained to them that they are living in the country now, and there is a lot of dirt. I have to wash bird "poop" off my house, and we have bat "poop" in the barn where the bats are hanging in the rafters. They weren't buying it. He wanted to know what kind of pesticide to spray because what he is using now isn't working. I told him that while the country is in the middle of a colony collapse disorder epidemic, he's probably not going to find any company marketing a product to kill honeybees. (He'd never heard of colony collapse disorder!)

The guy mentioned he is going to have to re-side his house. I think he expects us to pay for it! He also mentioned that his new car looks like it is five years old. I hope he doesn't want a new car too!

Another neighbor came out and saw us talking in his yard and jumped in to the conversation. Her back yard is "covered" with bees. Her 4-year old has been stung. She said the township supervisor advised her to pursue a civil action against us, because she has a right to a "better quality of life".

I was flabbergasted. I've never heard of bee "poop" being a problem before. We went back to our house and examined the outbuildings - now that it had been pointed out to us, we were able to find two or three dots on one of the buildings. I've since talked to some bee experts and their take is that the neighbors would be hard-pressed to prove that the bees on our property are the ones that are pooping on the house, given the distance from the road where the bees are located. Also they said that the bee "poop" washes up easily with soap and water if it is cleaned right away, and that the biggest problem is in early spring when the bees take a "cleansing flight" after being cooped up in the hive all winter.

So the neighbors must have left the mess since February or March, and now it is probably baked on in the summer heat.

I think it is their problem, not mine. The lady with the child has white clover in her backyard. If she got rid of the clover, probably the bees would not stop there!

I am also quite shocked that they would go to the township supervisor before talking to us. Is that what neighbors do?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Duck Wars

Other people's pets!

The next door neighbors decided to become poultry farmers this year. They have have a dozen chickens, and half a dozen ducks.

They put in a kiddie pool for the ducks. When the ducks got a little older, they started visiting our pond. My husband and I were concerned that they did not know that our pond is treated to keep the algae down, so we went over and talked to them.

The lady said that "we would NEVER eat our ducks, they are our pets!" and "We'd like to keep them at home, but what can we do?" (with a shrug of her shoulders, evidently a fence is too expensive) so I mentioned that they might become a problem if they leave a mess on our beach. She promised to come over and clean up any mess.

Last weekend we observed her husband actually MOWING A PATH to our property. Quite the opposite of "trying to keep them at home". However, there may be some benefits or possibly additional drawbacks. The ducks have started laying eggs. Some of the eggs are laid in our pond. I mean what I say - they are actually laying their eggs IN our pond. (Is this natural duck behavior or what?) If the eggs are any good after sitting in the sun, under water, for several hours, there could be some benefit to this arrangement -- but if the eggs are spoiled due to the high temperatures they are exposed to while we are at work, it is a chore to go out and wade into the pond and pick up the eggs and walk to the neighbors back acreage and throw the eggs into it...

I have never been a poultry-keeper before so it is a confusing situation to me. Whose ducks are they if they stay at our house? Who gets to keep or clean up the eggs and feathers, etc. (and by etc, I mean the droppings) Do I call her every day to come over and clean up the poop? I am disinclined to call in the authorities due to the Biblical injunction not to take your neighbor to court. I am considering the possibility of claiming ownership and butchering out her ducks -- since she's not protecting them from predators like coyotes, hawks, or foxes that are prevalent in our environment, why can't I become a "predator" too. In fact, during our conversation with her, we mentioned the possibility that her ducks could become victims to natural predators and she said "we're not planning to replace them if we lose any of them"... What in the heck does that mean?

Monday, July 18, 2011


With the move of our household and new job, I have definitely been neglecting my blog. Last year I didn't even have a successful garden, I planted zucchini and only harvested about 3, so you know I didn't put much effort into it. The existing thistles multiplied instead of divided and I was really discouraged. Moving to an area where there are so many farm markets (NOT farmer's markets, there is a slight difference) makes the situation VERY competitive.

Because I realized I have become too obsessed with Julie Bass and not paying enough attention to my own business, I have been thinking I need to reassess and update MY OWN blog.

There are a number of things on my mind about that I could, and should, be blogging about:

1. Farm markets vs. Farmer's markets!
2. Duck wars
3. Bee poop (this is a hilarious/sad situation)
4. This year's vegetable garden
5. Flowers - nasty old daisies
6. Robins dive-bombing my front porch
7. Front porch furnishings
8. Hummingbird feeder styles and replacement parts
9. Antique Bean Cleaners
10. antique tractors
11. Fencing
12. best way to clear poison ivy and grapevine
13. Deer
14. Marketing
15. Kildeer nests
16. Neighbors and being a neighbor
17. Fall cool-weather crops
18. Climate change?
19. Michigan environmentally verified status
20. Tax assessor

I will try to cover these topics soon (not necessarily in order!)

Julie Bass - Dirk Becker

Lately I have found myself fascinated, no really, obsessed, with the story of Julie Bass of Oak Park, Michigan. After having to tear up her yard for a plumbing issue caused by a tree on the city's side of the sidewalk (at her own expense), she decided it would be a nice plan to put a raised bed garden in instead of the lawn. She called the city offices to see if it would be all right. They read her the ordinance, which said the unpaved areas of the front lawn must be planted with suitable live plant material. (It said nothing about grass) The planner says he advised her against vegetables, but she decided since it wasn't actually illegal, she would go ahead. She put in a very nice, neat garden with lots of mulch to keep the weeds away.

The city took offense that she ignored their advice. A series of escalations occurred, ending with Julie being ticketed for her puppy being too old to be without a license, and finally, a misdemeanor arrest for the vegetable garden.

Julie is a migraine-suffering, homeschooling mother of six children with an independent streak. The Oak Park city officials seem to be typical well-intentioned bureaucrats, afraid that the blight of neighboring Detroit will be contagious. They police their city's code enforcement rigorously. Both sides dug in to their positions. Julie started a blog and a Facebook site that quickly went viral (over 30,000 people have "liked" the site) after a Fox News report on local Detroit TV stations.

Subsequent TV coverage made the Oak Park city officials look silly. They are evidently are not skilled at dealing with mass media and the internet, or familiar with the urban farming movement. It appeared as if they were pursuing vindictive actions against her after the case was dismissed without prejudice (meaning charges could be filed again for the same offense) but asked her to appear in court anyway on the dog license issue (which she had previously resolved, paid a late fee, and appeared in court to have dismissed.)

As I said, I've been obsessed with this story, posting comments on Julie's blog and Facebook page, watching the TV show, and so on, at all hours of the day and night! Other than Oak Park being less than an hour from here, I wondered why I cared so much, since I have a backyard garden, not a front yard one. As I was told on another issue recently, it's not my fight!

Yesterday I watched Fox's Let it Rip show segment about Julie and the news commentator, Alexis Smith, made a statement that so many people around the world feel like they have a dog in this fight. The issue is larger than Julie's garden - for some it is the right to farm or urban garden, some feel there is too much government intrusion in their lives, some, including Julie's lawyer, think it is about due process of law and city officials abusing too much power. One Facebook fan is periodically posting her own personal diatribe against her own "evil "homeowner's association, taking advantage of the interest in Julie's page.

Yesterday I learned there is a British Columbia man facing similar charges, only he is facing six months in jail for comtempt of court if he does not remove a compost pile (or maybe manure pile) because a neighbor complained. He is doing this on his 2 1/2 acre property in an rural area and he -gasp- SELLS his produce at a farmer's market!!! Now, there's a fight I could possibly make into my own!

Monday, April 04, 2011

I'm back!!!

I moved to Michigan over a year ago. I see I have had exactly one post since then. Has Facebook taken over as my new favorite? I don't think so! I had to do quite a bit of travelling for my new job and just didn't dedicate enough time to gardening, or to blogging about it. With moving last year I had little time for gardening. The soil here is quite sandy. The patch of yard the previous owner had dedicated to her vegetable garden had evidently been the last resting place for Canadian thistle seeds, as I battled them all year. I set out a few tomato plants, but they were straggly and planted too late, and yielded NOTHING. I planted a few Brussel Sprouts, they did grow, but were covered with a gray, scale-like insect. What a disaster. I observed the landscape planting and flower bed throughout the year. The daisies are invading the yard, the goldenrod does not belong in a flower garden, and the tiger lilies remind me of the ones growing wild by the railroad track back in Ohio. They are way too tall, and hide the beautiful oriental lilies growing behind them. They'll be moved to the back 40 this year. This year I will be making some changes. Spring is in the air, although it is somewhat late in coming. I've started some plants in the garage under grow lights on top of a heating mat, and although the seeds germinated, they are not doing well. I checked on them the other day and the soil was actually frozen. The tomato seedlings get the place of honor on the heating mat, but the lettuce seedlings seem to be in suspended animation - not growing, but not dying either. Can't wait till the weather warms up some more!

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