Thursday, February 22, 2007

Zoned Agricultural (or Calling All Chicken Inspectors)

When you're new to all this, the baby steps are many.

I know homesteading and self-sufficiency are more mindset than locale, and there are many folks out there proving that fact. They are an inspiration to me, and I've been immersing myself in the blogs, websites, and articles of those who are already walking the walk, or trying it and making their way. What a rich resource the internet is for linking up with this vast array of individuals and families! I'll be listing some of my favorite finds here as they happen.

It's been a busy week or so. Since one of our first steps is to get out of debt, I have since gone to work. It's a job with hours that will allow for a bit of afternoon interview time if I have the possibility of a better-paying job...there is one I'm holding out for, which has a lengthy application and testing process. Hopefully, the part-time job will provide the flexibility so that I can be both dependable and available for further opportunity. We live in an area where there's not a glut of better paying jobs unless one has a medical or corporate skill, and (again) my lack of degree (grrr!) has not served me well. Hopefully, I'll be soon breaking into this new field, one that would available anywhere in the country, most likely. I'm praying! 'Nuff said :)

Our current home and the lot we own next to it are not zoned agricultural. When I called to see what animals we could have, I was told in no uncertain terms that we can have NO poultry, farm, or exotic animal on these properties. When I asked about one single chicken as a pet, the lady conferred with her supervisor, who exclaimed on the other end of the phone "Ewwww! NO, no neighbors want someone with nasty CHICKENS next door in their backyard." She was adamant. This served to somewhat deflate me, especially after having built chicken coop castles in the air in my dreams after reading books about backyard chicken-keeping, and scouring the web for all mentions of such. There are a lot of creative and devoted suburban chicken-keepers out there with wonderful websites and information for beginners like me.

I kept the conversation open with the Regulations Lady. After the "Ewww" woman went away, the Regulations lady told me that OFFICIALLY I could not keep chickens. She said UNOFFICIALLY, whatever was concealed behind a fence and made no noise would likely not be reported to an INSPECTOR. If any neighbor complained about a smell or noise, all complaints would be handled by The Inspector.

I asked what the penalty for irking The Chicken Inspector would be...theoretically :) She said that if live "theoretical chickens" are discovered by The Chicken Inspector, we would receive a violation notice and have 10 days to clear it up...meaning getting rid of them. I talked to this nice lady for quite some time. She searched and searched for a loophole. In her patient search, she pulled out the county map and examined all the zoning boundaries. She told me OUR STREET was the dividing line between residential and agricultural properties in this area. OUR SIDE of the street is the residential side, and the other side is the agriculture side. Anyone on that side can have ANYTHING related to agriculture they want.

When I told her I can HEAR roosters crowing when I step out my door, she looked harder for some loophole. The best she could suggest, though, was a really good fence and a really preoccupied inspector. There went my hope of some nice fat hens cleaning up my garden weeds and kitchen scraps and giving me some beautiful brown eggs...for now.

This was a few months back. I've not given up hope of having some chickens. But we have included in the basic homestead plan the need to have a property zoned Agricultural, not only for regulation compliance but also for tax implications. A property here with house is taxed about $3,000/yr whereas a 20 acre property zoned Agricultural with a few head of cattle is taxed about $60, or so I was recently told.

We're also facing winter issues. I don't particularly want a location that I have to leave every winter (what a pain that would be), and my husband needs a warm winter location for his health. That drastically limits us as to cheap land, at least around here in this state. You get a lot more bang for your buck in places like Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas, etc., but sunshine states have fewer large properties at affordable prices. I'd much prefer to get a larger acreage in one of those states, and I'm indifferent as to the niceness of the house...I much prefer more land and fence for animals. My husband, being a builder in past years, wants to build our home, since he values doing it right and not having constant upkeep. I'm wondering if we're going to have to choose a our own house on less acreage, or more property with less ideal house. I know how he'd vote...

We're not sure how we're going to "get there" with this one, but since we have a good deal to do in the meantime, we're concentrating on getting out of debt. However, there are so many things we can continue discovering in the meantime, and our lifestyle can change in many ways (and has begun to) because our thinking is changing.

Some changes we need to make during the learning process are:

1. Learn how to negotiate two people's ideas into one Best Plan
2. We both need to lose weight in order to be healthier
3. We need to get out of debt
4. We need to see our daughter through college the next few years
5. I need a car in order to work, in order for us to pay off our debts
6. We need a vacation, at some point! :)

We're slowly working on pulling together some essentials that seem to not have much to do with homesteading, but really do.

One is to simplify and to Clean Out. I'm into Less. My husband's into Storing Up. We need to mesh these two bents into a streamlined effort to lighten our load while still having what we need stored for real use when it's needed.

Another is our Will, as in Last Will and Testament. We're getting this one hammered out, too, after having put it off for too long. We're also writing out our individual wishes were anything catastrophic to happen to one of us. So much has happened to us in the past few years, and to our friends, we simply don't take a single day for granted any more.

We're also honing our efforts and time. After many years of being The Woman Who Could Not Say No To Any Worthy Cause, I now have learned. At the expense of others who no longer understand why I won't continue to spread myself thin and wear myself out with every sort of good thing, I am now protective of my time...OUR time. I realize I have very little time with my daughter before she heads out into this big world. The time I have with my husband is precious, and our work schedules make it even moreso. The time I CHOOSE for certain other activities, I guard jealously. That doesnt mean I'm unavailable by phone, etc., but it means that my priorities are more in order. I finally realized I can't please everyone, about the same time I also realized I don't much care what others think about my choices. LOL!!! Arent I the hard-hearted old battleaxe? NAH... I'm much more relaxed, actually.

I'm very stubborn about having time to look out the window, take a walk, spend time with my loved ones without constant interruption. Life's too short to not live deliberately rather than haphazardly. As fast as it's passing, I've deliberately slowed certain parts of my life down. This even has to do with people. The friends who werent there for me in the reallyyyy trying times a couple years ago no longer get first billing. There is no bitterness on my part, but in a sense, I'm cleaning house there, too. Just like we're trying to stay away from foods that are empty, processed imitation nutrition, I've slowly and stubbornly isolated myself from those acquaintances who fall into the same category.

No, I'm not a snob...(chuckling!) I'm just opting out of the things less real, and choosing those things that are very very fulfilling instead. I havent been sorry, yet :)

OK, this got off on a tangent. Enough for now!


Phelan said...

Have you checked into show chickens? a couple of bantams can be kept in the house as a pet bird. With the proper paper work I don't think anyone could get on you for it. 2 bantam eggs = 1 regular chicken egg. I now it's not the best solution, but it is a start. Good luck ducking the chicken inspector!

Robbyn said...

Thanks for the suggestion! It's a good thing I'm occupied with daytime job right now and hunting down a better job in the meantime, or I'd have chickens in the garage...heehee. If we are here for much longer, there WILL be a way to have some hens!

Hope the chicken inspector likes omelettes...