A neighborhood that says no to bluegrass lawns can’t be all bad.
Our old house sits just outside the city limits. What this has meant, for the three decades we’ve lived there, is that we’ve been able to do pretty much as we’ve pleased on our acre and a half. We’ve raise chickens, rabbits, ducks, even a couple of pigs. We’ve irrigated our garden with graywater in droughty years. Thrown up a pole barn, a tree house. Put in a big garden, a little vineyard. Most memorable, though, were the milk goats. We got Eunice Goat (as in “you nice” goat) when our younger son was born, and kept her and a succession of her offspring until our children were past junior high. We all delighted in the goat kids sproinging around the pasture, and our human kids appreciated the good fresh milk enough to be willing to hit the barn with their buckets twice a day in all kinds of weather. If our neighbors minded all this agrarian hubbub, they never mentioned it.
Our new house, on the other hand, is in a restricted development. We’ve had to follow rules about minimum square footage, property line setbacks, style, and materials—literally pages of covenants. And forget about chickens! Our architect has come up with elegant ways around the “no outbuildings” rule, the “no solar collector on the roof” rule, and other more trivial ones. He has charmed the review committee into accepting our rusted steel roof, cement-board siding, and low-pitched profile. We’ll have to find ways to hide the garden, or make it look like landscaping. We will do a certain amount of tiptoeing around, no doubt about it.
So why did we make such a contrary choice? It’s close to where we work, it’s quiet, it has stunning views and generous open spaces. It will be a convenient location when we’re old and doddering. And in spite of their somewhat prissy building covenants, the developers were smart and forward-thinking about landscaping. Native trees and grasses are the rule. A wildlife refuge runs along the back of our lot, and an open commons planted in prairie grasses just across the street guarantees a degree of privacy. Untreated water from the irrigation storage lake that borders the neighborhood will be available for landscape watering (unless the drought says otherwise). A neighborhood that says no to bluegrass lawns can’t be all bad.
We knew it was going to be okay, though, the day we went out to check on construction progress and found not one, not two, but five hundred goats on the acres behind our house. They were brought in to chew down the Russian thistle, kochia, and other noxious weeds that plague this part of the world. They stayed a week, and when they left, the wildlife preserve and parts of the neighborhood were poison free, weed free, and carpeted with goat droppings. While the goats were there, they not only did their job, but bleated, capered, sparred, and performed all the other goat antics that we enjoyed so much in years past. We’ll be lobbying for the goats to come back next year. Maybe we could even find some rent-a-chickens to take care of the grasshoppers come July. I’m sure the neighbors would be pleased.
Linda Ligon is publisher of Natural Home. This is part eight of the ongoing saga of her new natural home.