Doing Hard Time for Vegetable Gardening?

I am thankful that I live in the city I do. Our city’s approach to urban agriculture, homesteading, and gardening is huge. In fact, it’s all too common to see someone growing vegetables in their front yard. We allow urban chickens, and I do believe you can probably have goats. We have food preservation classes that are affordable. And for a while the city even gave away free rain barrels for those who wanted and could use them. Personally, I find it inspiring.

So it blows my mind that in Oak Park, Michigan, a mother of 6 is facing the threat of 93 days in jail for doing exactly what it is so many of us do in this town: Raised bed gardening in her family’s front yard…

(Obviously the city planner didn’t actually look up suitable in the dictionary, because of the few I cited, I couldn’t find common used in any of the definitions.  What dictionary is he speaking of exactly?  Unless he’s going by the obsolete usage of similar or matching…  Still not common.  Word of advice?  Don’t talk to the press and cite something before looking it up…  Sort of like don’t quote a religious text unless you’ve read it and made sure the quote is actually in there.)

The urban homesteading community along with gardeners on the internet are up in arms. And you know what? They should be! If a woman wants to grow organic vegetables for her family (especially her large family!) in her front yard instead of grass, I personally don’t think it should be a problem. In fact, I would go so far as to say she should be held as an example of what we all should be trying to do in this economy and current agricultural system! Good for her for working to provide healthy food for her children! Good for her for being frugal! Good for her for wanting to be more environmentally responsible.

Having read some of her blog, I noticed that despite wishing she could have chickens, rain barrels and other accoutrements of sustainable urban homesteads, she doesn’t because they’re illegal in her city. The law over the plants in her front yard are very vague and subjected… What I find suitable obviously isn’t the same as the city of Oak Park. Personally I don’t feel that grass is a suitable plant in any yard unless it’s native… It’s both an environmental disaster, and well… It’s an allergy nightmare if freshly mown or left to go to pollen (aka the yard’s not taken care of) for me, so maybe I have a tiny personal problem with it.

This really is just outrageous, though… I mean, I’ve spent a few days trying to wrap my brain around this. Aren’t there real criminals to throw in jail? Doesn’t the city have better things to worry about, like maybe making sure they have healthy meal options in public schools or something? Are they just so bored that they need a hobby other than picking on their citizens?

If you feel this is as ridiculous as I do, please take a moment to write an email to send to the appropriate people (see below), sign the petition, write about it in your own blog, and join the Facebook page dedicated to keeping us updated on what is going on.

Oak Park City Planner – Kevin Rulkowski
Oak Park Mayor – Gerald E Naftaly


My First Salve!

I found an interest in herbalism at an early age, and at thirteen I started actively studying the subject.  Save for the occasional infusion, tincture, or compress, I’ve never attempted to make much else.  Either I didn’t have the ingredients needed or it just seemed too complicated.  So for the most part my studies have been purely academic and theoretical.

This winter, though, has been particularly hard on my fiancé’s hands.  The warmer weather hasn’t seemed to do much for them, either.  They are chapped to the point where they crack and bleed around the knuckles.  When the lotions we have around the house either started not being thick enough for his liking and even when the sensitive healing lotions began to hurt, I knew we needed to turn to something more therapeutic.

I decided he needed a salve.  For a while I toyed with trying to find one that I liked the ingredients in for exactly what he needed, but I was afraid that he wouldn’t like the feel of them.  Most salves are made with olive oil since the shelf life is higher than a lot of other oils.  I’ve always found olive oil to be a little heavy for daytime use on my hands.  And, being thrifty, I didn’t want to spend any more money on things he didn’t like.

Amusingly enough, though, I had grapeseed oil and beeswax just sort of sitting around here.  Being a foodie and a jewelry artist tends to keep me stocked in things like that.  I didn’t have the common herbs for skin woes, but what I did have in my cabinet was a glut of chamomile and marshmallow roots – Both anti-inflammatories and the former having anti-bacterial properties.

I didn’t have a double-burner, so I enlisted the help of a small crockpot that we never use.  I set forth with the double-burner and a silicone spatula to create an experimental salve for my sweetheart.

This is how I made it.  I’m not adding the herb measurements – Honestly they’re not my first choice and there are a dozen resources out there that will give you better ratios and suggestions than your purely academic herbalist.

  1. I placed my herbs into the crockpot.  Measuring out in a 1/2 cup, I started adding grapeseed oil until I had covered up the herbs plus about 3/4 of an inch.
  2.  I turned the heat on to Low, put the lid on, and wandered off.  Every 15 minutes or so I came back to make sure it wasn’t actually cooking and gave it a good stir.
  3. An hour-and-a-half later I carefully put three layers of cheesecloth in a bowl, and carefully pour the herb and oil mix into it.  With tongs, I held the herbs to give it a bit of a squeeze.
  4. I cleaned the remaining herb bits out with another cloth before putting the oil back into the crockpot.
  5. I took my beeswax block and cut it up in pieces.  The ratio I used was approximately 1 tsp of beeswax to 1/2 cup of oil.  I put the beeswax into the crockpot.
  6. I wandered off again, coming back every 15 minutes to give the oil and wax a stir.  It took about an hour for the liquid to become completely clear with no clumps of beeswax left.
  7. Once the liquid was clear, I poured it into some tins that I’d sterilized and completely dried – Getting water in the mixture can cause your oil to go rancid before it normally would.
  8. I wandered off again to let it cool off and solidify. 

Awesome.  I’d made a rather dreamy salve that softened but wasn’t horrendously greasy in a heavy way.  And I think I may be hooked on making it, because it was amazingly easy.