Landscaping for Nature

The slip was in the mailbox on Friday saying you have a registered letter from the health department that can be picked up any time after 10 on saturday. The letter read that a neighbor had complained about our property, and we had 24 hrs to cut back “grass, brush, and vegetation” as per state law such and such. Also, somewhere in there was the phrase “standards of fitness for human habitation”

Many years ago, we decided we didn’t want a regular lawn, and have gradually dug up more and my wife has planted lots of flowering plants. We’ve also let the natural things grow that benefit the birds, bees, and squirrels. To some it may appear as an overgrown jungle, but to us it is a work of nature and beauty. Some of the birds that frequent our feeders are nuthatches, titmice, cardinals, sparrows, bluejays, chickadees, 2 varieties of woodpecker, starlings, and goldfinches. We’ve been lucky enough to also witness most of these birds, including the woodpeckers, bring their babies to feed out side our kitchen windows.

So I went to city hall, letter in hand, and spent a good deal of time talking to the people who enforce the rules. The conclusion we came to was for us to cut back some of the stuff and make it look maintained.

We cut down a lot of the milkweed, which the bees have finished using, but hadn’t been taken advantage of by the monarch butterflies who lay their eggs on it to be used as the sole source of food for feeding larvae. We also cut some tansy and other plants the bees haven’t made use of yet, just to make some space around groupings of plants so it looks “maintained” 

When I asked about the “fit for human habitation”  clause I was told that an overgrown area can breed pests. I’ve never gotten a tick on me from being in our yard.  Maybe there will be a mole lurking in the dense growth just waiting to attack.

Anyway, we resolved it in a friendly manner, and we even joked about not letting city hall know when we are on vacation, otherwise they might sneak up and mow everything down while were gone.

As for who complained, I talked to three of our immediate neighbors and all assured me they would never complain about anyone on the street unless a crime was being committed. We’ve been here since around 1975, and many of the neighbors have been here ten or fifteen years or more and we help each other out.

My best guess is that it was someone from the mill across the river. It was restored a few years ago to serve as artist lofts, and was re-zoned so they could combine commercial and residential space. We put up with a few years of noise and dust without complaining as they worked on the building.

The other night as I sat in the backyard admiring the vegetable garden, flowers, fruit trees, blueberry bushes and watching the bees flying in and out of the hives, I thought to myself “sitting in the back yard and looking at nothing but closely trimmed grass would be about as exciting as sitting on the floor in the corner of a room with no furniture”.

I’m not sure what the final outcome will be, or whether these people will complain again. I guess time will tell. The one thing that strikes me funny is that having lived here all my life and on this street for 36 years, someone comes along now and tries to tell me what my yard should look like.



About Beekeeping in the Berkshires

Here at Berkshire Farms Apiary we've been keeping bees and making honey since 2005, with hives in most of the surrounding towns. We also make pure beeswax candles, lip balm, and hand salve, as well as give presentations. As secretary of the Northern Berkshire Beekeepers Association, I am very active in the local beekeeping community.
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