Pondering the Positive
December 19, 2012, 9:40 PM
Filed under: Backyard Chickens, Biking, Community Building, Liveable Communities, Local Food, Urban Hens | Tags:

I’ve had writer’s block lately, in case you noticed my lack of posts. Maybe BLOCK isn’t the right word, but more like HURDLE. I started writing a couple of different times over the last week or so, and both times it turned ugly-as in snarly, pessimistic, and disgusted. So both times, I slept on it, and realized that now, more than ever, people need to feel uplifted-including myself. We’re all aware of the sad and bad news going on in the world, I don’t need to rehash it here. The Sandy Hook thing has everyone feeling like we’ve been beat and defeated. But we haven’t, and to prove it, I’ll make this post about some of the good things I’ve witnessed or heard recently.

1. Gun control support is higher than EVER. Even the NRA has ‘no comment’ at this time.

2. My new neighborhood is having their annual ‘Holiday Walkabout’ Sunday evening that’s kind of like a progressive dinner, but instead of dinner there will snacks and libations at each of six houses open for touring, oohing and ahhing over the decorations, and getting to know the family dogs by name. I really missed having any kind of community when we lived out in the country, so I’m hopeful this will help us to get to know our neighbors better. My neighborhood also has a formal association that holds quarterly meetings, manages a neighborhood webpage to keep us all current, as well as a July 4th cookout with fireworks! Recent discussions are about doing some neighborhood recycling and cleanup drives.  I’m happy to be a part of such a wonderful community spirit!

3.  Speaking of neighborhoods… Yesterday I attended the monthly meeting of the ‘Liveable Communities Development Group’  and there were 25 of us there, all looking to make the downtown area a more walkable, more bikeable and more likeable place to live. There are SOO many simmering projects-from the current and long-needed flood abatement project to bike rack installations to exciting plans for the new Farmer’s Market,  park and community center, monthly First Friday celebrations and the annual Blue Plum festival, to name a few. At this month’s meeting we were also  educated about the Unicoi Cannery/Entrepreneurial Incubator project that’s received a $300,000 grant to help make it a reality. That will be a real boon to Farmer’s Market vendors that would like to make and sell their own salsas, bbq sauce or other ‘value-added’ projects, and this fully licensed and inspected commercial kitchen welcomes folks within 150 mile radius!. The more opportunities folks have to sell their products, the more those foods and meats will be grown right here where we live. Thank goodness we’ve left tobacco in the dust and are finding other crops and animals to raise in its place.

5. Which brings me to  ‘growing your own’. My friend Emily that worked so diligently with me earlier this year to bring C.O.O.P. (Chickens On Our Property)  demands before city council got another letter from the city’s zoning department telling her she has 15 days to get rid of her two hens. Yes, two. Emily has decided she’s tired as hell and isn’t going to take it anymore and so found a local attorney to represent her at a private hearing on the matter. The city has given her a ‘reprieve’ until they reach a decision on the matter after the holidays. We are feeling ‘potentially positive’ about the outcome, and that’s a Christmas gift I wanted to share with ya’ll. I was all set to ask you to write letters to the editor, to rally, petition, and so forth, for the right to have backyard hens, but Emily has asked us to refrain from this type of support until she knows more. So, while we ponder the right to bear arms (see #1 above) please ponder the RIGHT to keep a few backyard pets that can be kept quietly, cleanly and safely in your own backyard while they do their job of providing you with eggs and compost.  (Do your dogs do that? Do your guns do that? Just sayin’…)

urban chickens

4. Tupelo Honey Cafe’s impending renovation of the historic train depot and subsequent reincarnation as a wonderful new eatery AND the upcoming One Acre Cafe has both teams talking about working with local growers and farmers to source some of the food they’ll be cooking up for us all. That’s good news for ALL of us, but this news is like another Christmas gift for me… a gift that will keep on giving as these establishments not only make old places new again, but provide long-lasting job opportunities for local growers.

5. One final positive thing I’d like to share: I’ve had not one, but TWO different friends tell me of their immediate plans to convert their front yard lawns from grass-cutting places to food-growing spaces. I emailed the city’s ‘development director’ a few months ago asking if it was legal to do so, and got a resounding YES, NO PROBLEM! (I saved the email reply, just in case you know) So, even though we’re still getting harassed about chickens in the backyard, at least you can grow food in the front. So many edible plants are beautiful, that it wouldn’t be hard at all to make your landscape edible and attractive. Perhaps it’s not too late to ask Santa for a new red shovel  and some blueberry bushes?


One hour later: I feel better now that I’ve focused on the positive but there’s more: My kids and grandkids are coming from Ohio for Christmas, I’ve lost 5 pounds recently, Michael and I are playing some fun music lately, and I’m daily harvesting the biggest, best tasting broccoli and kale I’ve ever grown, right from my little backyard raised beds. To top off all of that, I hear it may snow a bit just in time for Santa next week! I hope your Christmas is filled with many positive things too. Just look for them, they’re there! Merry Christmas everyone!


4 Comments so far
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Loved this post & how excited you get about creating & witnessing positive change. Makes me homesick for Johnson City, and questioning what roles I can take on here. Happy holidays to all.

Comment by overtlysimple

thanks for sharing good news…

Comment by Jessica Chittum

Thanks for your post; I’ve been feeling rather snarly myself and unfortunately I indulged it. I’ll adopt you as a role model!


Comment by Jerry Nagel

Hi Sam,
Your writings are uplifting. ~ Regarding the chickens, the last time I checked, the Zoning Code explicitly permits all farming activities except the RAISING (to increase in size or number) of farm animals. KEEPING mature animals falls within that permit. The City Code contains prohibitions, but since the Zoning Code always trumps the City Code, the explicit permit prevails. ~ The bad news is that as soon as the City gets inconvenienced by its own laws, it just changes the laws. (I’ll add that I myself wouldn’t be too pleased to find a couple of mature cows in the yard next door, which would be allowed under the preceding analysis.) ~ Best wishes to the hen keepers (but not to inner city rooster keepers).

Comment by Playful Mischief

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