Thursday, June 27, 2013

It's the Rule

Independence Day aka July 4th is for most Americans a day of family, food and fireworks.  Adults and soldiers may reflect on the price of freedom while kids run crazy with sparklers, hotdogs and sunburns.Parades crawl happily by with politicians, tractors and folks dressed in red, white and blue.

I love a good parade: I get teary when local soldiers (past or present) march by with the flag, my heart beats with excitement if there’s a band playing marching songs, and I take pictures of veterans, the Bishop Hill High Society Band, and a float made from a lawn mower, a garden wagon, and kids.  I’ll sit through rain, sun and scorching temperatures with pride in all that’s been assembled to celebrate our country’s independence. 

But, does that independence really translate to the freedom to garden in your own backyard you may ask?  OK, probably no one has ever asked that but I’m going to delve into garden freedoms today.

I’ve written about laws regarding the parking strip, utility regulations and trees.  That’s been covered and now let’s dig a little deeper into your garden freedoms.

Anyone whose read my articles knows I’m on the side of less federal regulations, less local government interference in the daily lives of it’s citizens and the encouragement of personal freedom as long as it doesn’t harm others.  Sounds simple and of course in legal terms it’s never simple.  It’s because the translation of words can be vastly different between people.  My idea of what “government interference in the daily lives of its citizens” may be totally different than your version.

On the flip side, one of the benefits of our freedoms is the ability to debate these issues until someone finally calls “Uncle!”  At some point, we must agree on what or how much government control is needed to protect the citizens and their way of life while still protecting our individual freedoms.  So simple to say – so not simple to do.

We also have what is gently called “internet hysteria” regarding most anything, everything and often nothing.  This applies to laws governing gardening and on a bigger scale the production of food.  Does the Food and Drug Administration have the right to regulate what and how we grow food in our backyard gardens?  Will the farm bills eventually regulate organic gardens out of business?  Will farmers’ markets be outlawed the same as the sale of unprocessed milk?  The list from individual interest groups is endless.

Will the term “food production facility” (used in some legislation applicable to all farm, ranch, orchard, vineyard, aquaculture and confined animal feeding facilities) also include any place that grows food – even a backyard garden?

On a state or local level, there may be weed laws.  Near us, Chicago has one of the most ambiguous and highly enforced weed laws with the sole purpose of generating revenue through fines.  Most states have laws protecting native plants and wildlife.  Other towns prohibit vegetable gardens in the front yard and homeowner associations are often so restrictive a home owner gives up the freedom of individual choices on anything visible outside of the home.  (Granted it’s a choice to live under the rules when you purchase a home governed by these associations.)

Some cities and states have laws governing composting, water use (both restricting or insisting you water), fencing and hedges, height of plants, what consists of “noxious weeds”, and what pesticides and fertilizers a homeowner may apply.  Others have laws regulating the kind and number of animals you may have in your yard, beekeeping, dovecotes, height of turf and what’s considered wildflowers.

Most states prohibit killing birds and some have restrictions on how to handle an injured bird.  Laws prohibiting the use of firearms to kill raccoons, squirrels and other wild critters are in most towns.  Hint:  call your local Animal Control office.

For the sake of the more extroverted gardener, it’s typically against the law to garden in the nude within city limits.  And that piece of gardening law information is my final and most important for the average Galva News reader.

Enjoy your July 4th Independence Day celebrations and count your Blessings you live in this beautiful land of milk and honey.  May it always stand tall and proud in the way it governs and gardens.

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