Lee Barwood

Paranormal, Mystery, and Environmental Fiction


The Beat of Gaia's Heart

Let’s Hear It for Stupidity

July 14, 2011

Tags: garden, vegetable, raised bed, rules, front yard, Oak Park

Today I would like to call everyone’s attention to something I’ve been steaming about for days: stupid rules towns and housing developments make about who can do what, and when, and how. Honestly, some of these people should qualify for the Darwin Awards for sheer idiocy.

What am I talking about? Well, in case you haven’t heard about the latest case that made the headlines a few days ago, we have a whole city worried about rogue [GASP!] vegetables marauding through front yards in residential areas and causing a public nuisance with their disorderly conduct. Imagine! The nerve! Growing right out in plain sight, in front of everybody! It’s indecent! Please! There are children present!

Sigh. No, I’m not kidding. At least, not much.

The bright souls in Oak Park, Michigan, have threatened a resident with 93 days of jail time for having a vegetable garden in her front yard instead of a Stepford Wife lawn. Yep, a vegetable garden. Lethal things, those vegetables. Bad influence. Corrupting. Subversive, even. Kids shouldn’t know that their food comes from dirt. Who knows where that might lead? They might actually turn down junk food in favor of broccoli and tomatoes that they grew themselves. Can’t let that happen.

These people are akin to the rule-happy who forbid clotheslines, solar panels, and any other sign of common sense in these high-priced, food-additive-laced, energy-poor times when most people are tearing their hair out trying to figure out a way to get the kids outside and away from the video games. What are they thinking? Oh, right, they’re afraid of looking poor. Or lower class. Or something.

Since when did growing one’s own food become something to scorn – something deserving of a jail sentence? And particularly since the city does not have a whole lot of money to spare, it doesn’t seem all that intelligent to send the prosecutor after a mother who wants her kids to have a chance to watch vegetables grow and to eat something healthy they grew themselves (and not waste resources like water on an unproductive, ecologically unsound lawn, not to mention all the pesticides and fertilizers required to attain that golf-course-quality expanse of green. Do you know what those pesticides are doing to your kids and your pets?).

Get this. The city’s statute doesn’t even specifically forbid vegetable gardens. What it says is: "all unpaved portions of the site shall be planted with grass or ground cover or shrubbery or other suitable live plant material." Since when are edible plants not suitable? And arranged as they are in raised beds, they’re a sterling example of intelligent design. (No, not that intelligent design. PuhLEEZ.) When a warning didn’t convince the mom to tear out her garden (have you ever put in a raised bed? If you have, you wouldn’t want to tear it out either), they resorted to ticketing her and charging her with a misdemeanor. That means a JURY trial, folks, set for July 26 – a substantial outlay of taxpayer resources, money, and jurors’ time that could be better spent – well, gardening. If convicted, she could be sentenced to 93 days in the pokey.

Over a tomato. And a cucumber. Bad company, those two. Guaranteed to lead you down the road to ruin.

Imagine what that trial’s gonna cost. AND the jail time, if she’s convicted. She’ll be spending more than three months on the city’s dime at a time when it really doesn’t have a whole lot of dimes to spare. Maybe they should look into some REAL crimes first.

You think?

If you’d like to speak out in favor of common sense and community agriculture (and the education of kids on the food supply, botany, and the fun of growing one’s own food, not to mention the incredible taste of fresh-from-the-garden produce; saving energy; saving water; promoting a healthier lifestyle; providing a safe and fun activity for kids in the summer; and more sensible things than I can even think of at the moment), you can go to the Oak Park Hates Veggies page on Facebook at
and “like” it. Leave a message. Voice your support. Better yet, if you live in Oak Park, you could tear up your front lawn and start a vegetable garden. It doesn’t have to be raised beds. It doesn’t even have to be the whole lawn. Heck, just plant something besides ornamental cabbage.

You’d be amazed at how good that will make you feel. You’ll strike a blow for intelligence and self-reliance. And guess what? You won’t have to mow any more.


  1. July 14, 2011 9:46 AM EDT
    The entire situation is ridiculous and stupid. The city needs to get a life. Maybe they should welcome fresh veggie gardens due to the fact that people are struggling more now a days. It would lower the cost of people living on food stamps.
    - Anonymous
  2. July 14, 2011 9:54 AM EDT
    I like what you have to say, but you forgot the Zucchini. The insidious Zucchini with it's beautiful, edible blooms that eventually drop off to yield a sumptuous green summer squash. Imagine the gall of these people to grow something that is so delicious when cut length wise and cooked on the grill. And let's not forget the horrible bread that is made from this stuff. The sweet, sweet Zucchini Bread that if made at home will surely topple the cities pastry businesses.
    - Jon Ritchings Jr
  3. July 14, 2011 11:51 AM EDT
    Absolutely! In fact, maybe the town should consider community vegetable gardens. I am sure there must be a nice expanse of ground somewhere that could be made productive -- say the front lawn of City Hall?
    - Lee
  4. July 14, 2011 12:00 PM EDT
    (Smacks forehead) HOW could I be so FOOLISH as to forget the treacherously delicious zucchini? Thank you for calling this to my attention -- particularly since zucchini is so alarmingly productive that it has resulted not only in the monstrous devising of zucchini bread, but also its inclusion in such other dangerously healthy dishes as ratatouille and zucchini fritters -- not to mention the alarmingly tasty breaded-and-fried variety!

    You know, speaking of edible blossoms, perhaps the city of Oak Park should look into banning day lilies (flowers and buds are edible raw and deep fried), violets (blossoms delicious when candied), and dandelions (greens taste like springtime in a salad and flowers make amazing wine). Then there is the rose -- flowers also good candied, but rose hips are frighteningly healthy: full of Vitamin C and all that. Perhaps roses should be banned from the city altogether!
    - Lee

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