One of the many good things that comes from writing this blog is that it puts me in touch with people I might otherwise never have the opportunity to meet. Up to this point, all the people I've met have been via internet encounters, be it through comments on the blog, emails or Facebook, and last week's encounter started no differently. On Tuesday, I got an email from a woman named Renee Kohn in Hollywood, a city just a few blocks east of where I live in Pembroke Pines. In it, she explained that she, too, had an organic vegetable garden but that hers was mostly in her front yard, just where I intend to plant next. She encouraged me to forge ahead with my plans, and quoted the Florida Statute about xeriscaping and Florida-friendly yards, explaining that organic vegetable gardening falls directly under it.
State of Florida Statute makes it unlawful for any municipality to prohibit "property owners from implementing Xeriscape or Florida-friendly landscape, as defined in s. 373.185(1), on his or her land.:That's all Renee had to say to me. I knew immediately that if Code Enforcement tried to deter my planned front yard escapade, I would be willing to fight them. What could be more Florida friendly than getting rid of my grass, the biggest water hog of all vegetation? What could be more quality-oriented than planting a sustainable organic vegetable garden?
(b) "Xeriscape" or "Florida-friendly landscape" means quality landscapes that conserve water and protect the environment and are adaptable to local conditions and which are drought tolerant.......
(3) ........local government ordinance may not prohibit any property owner from implementing Xeriscape or Florida-friendly landscape on his or her land."
A flurry of back-and-forth emails followed throughout the week with Renee telling me about her edible yard and her current fight with the City of Hollywood about chickens. She has pet chickens. A woman after my own heart. I've been wanting chickens for a while and just haven't had the guts to attempt it. We're talking just hens, of course—pets with the added advantage of fresh, free-range eggs. I was intrigued and decided I just had to meet Renee and her family. So I explained to her that I would be in Hollywood on Saturday with my dad and asked if it was possible for us to stop by to see her veggies and her chickens. Not only did Renee say yes to my request, but she invited my dad and me for lunch. Graciousness at its best.
I waited impatiently for Saturday to come. I knew in advance that the Kohns were observant Jews and felt quite honored to be included in their family's Sabbath rituals. I also knew that meant I couldn't bring food to their home because it wouldn't be kosher. What to bring? I had to bring something as a thank you for such a gracious gesture. Ah yes, a plant. I brought an Everglades tomato plant. Native, edible, drought tolerant. I think I covered all the bases.
As we drove up to the house, I was pleasantly surprised to see a good part of the family outside chatting, Renee walking her youngest David on the sidewalk. Her husband Steve talking to a young man on the front porch. Several of the girls milling around, chatting amongst themselves. What a warm welcome. The Kohns are a family of 12—Steve and Renee and 10 children—8 girls and 2 boys—ranging in age from 21 to diapers.
And the chickens. After we finished lunch, we all filed out into the side and back yard so I could see their chicken setup. It was mesmerizing. Nine adult hens happily going about their business of playing with the kids, pecking for bugs and weeds (no need for chemical spraying poisoning the ground and running off into the water system when you have chickens), providing free organic fertilizer, and laying eggs. Every one of them has a name (Lavender, Hazel, etc.) and it's obvious the children adore them. The Kohns feed their chickens entirely from greens grown in the garden, leftover grains and vegetables from meals, and kitchen scraps. And these chickens are happy and well fed as evidenced by the fact that the 9 hens lay on average a dozen eggs a day. Quieter than dogs barking in any neighborhood I've lived in (including my own 3 yappers) with not an odor to be smelled, I can't imagine what logical argument any city official could have against them. The Kohn chickens are definitely domesticated birds—why else would the species be called Gallus domesticus?
Without question, I haven't had such an enjoyable afternoon in ages. And I'm so very glad I got to meet the Kohns. I hope they'll allow me to visit again. As Martha Stewart would say, "It's a good thing."