Tag Archives: neighborhood

2016-Time to end!

I have not written anything in several weeks and I truly have missed being able to sit down even a few minutes and put together some of the happenings of our little suburban homestead. But I must say, I cannot wait for 2016 to be over. This has been an atrocious year from small hurdles to jump to major life tragedies.

The first 7 months of the year went by far to quickly with many small events that seem to creep up and throw off anyone’s calendar. Everything that happened which annoyed and commanded time from me through July pale in comparison to the way August of 2016 started out.

August 1st brought a new dawn into how we will live our family life. 10:30 pm; answering the phone to a call that every parent fears, but few have to realize: our 30 year old son had been involved in an accident at home. Doesn’t seem that bad, he was at home, not in a car, not working on the tractor, just home cleaning the bathroom.

One would expect that a fall in the bathroom would produce a head wound, or at worse a concussion. But being home alone during a fall, which caused unconsciousness and a brain hemorrhage proved to be fatal. The Medical personal on the scene could not revive him and he was pronounced dead.

Thirty years old with a wife, and 3 children, the youngest just celebrating her 1st birthday a little more than a month earlier. The trauma and pain to the family has been horrendous.

Getting all the brothers and sisters to town turned out to be an event in itself, but it was really good to see the entire family together, which has not occurred in several years. An event such as this truly changes the dynamic of the family and helps to reset priorities, as we have viewed them in the past.

The rest of August has been spending time with family and helping our daughter-in-law ready the house to be put on the market, which did finally happen today. Making all the small repairs, painting the entire house, cleaning up the lawn and garden beds, took far longer than I had hoped but I do not move as fast as I once did.

I might mention that coming home from the funeral as I pulled up in front of my house the transmission went out of my truck. Not that it even compares, but it just shows how I can’t get a breath between circumstances happening. I did put in the new transmission, but now I have to replace both catalytic converters.

Through it all I have kept peace within myself, knowing that my son was saved and a part of the body of Christ. He will live on through glory and we will re-unite in His Kingdom.

Romans 8:28 (NIV)  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who  have been called according to his purpose.

For myself:

Joshua 1:9 (NIV) Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”               

Matthew 5:4 (NIV) Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Although I find comfort in my Faith and the loving arms of my Savior, I am very ready for this year to be done!



Relax and Tour the Gardens

I took a little time off last Saturday since it was going to be a beautiful day, except for a few sprinkles early morning. I decided to go to one of our local garden experts tour and talk, so I visited Miriam’s Gunpowder Gardens.

This is the first time I have ever been to Miriam’s but I must say it was not only beautiful on the banks of the Gunpowder River, but educational. Miriam is very versed in all manner of flower, shrub, and tree on her property. With over 30,000 plants that is some feat indeed!

One of the great things about taking the free tour of the gardens is the opportunity to ask a lot of questions and learn more about specific plants and gardening techniques. Not to mention, when the tour is over, the opportunity to dig and take some plants home-again absolutely free!

I went to the tour with the idea of grabbing a few bee-friendly plants to enhance our honey production from the hives. There was so much, I ended up walking away with several varieties of bee-friendly plants and trees.

It was a great day and Miriam offers free tours every Saturday-weather permitting- through the summer. The tours start a 9 & 11am with 1 afternoon tour at 1pm.

For more pictures or to ask Miriam a question follow her on Tumblr at:


Here is just a 2 minute preview of the gardens from our tour.









I can’t wait to go back when everything is in bloom….Enjoy!






Sometimes you just have to pause your plans

This time of year is always exceptionally busy, as it is with most “extreme” gardeners. But when a friend calls and he needs help to build a handicap ramp on his mother’s house, one just has to hit pause and help.

His mother had fallen and displaced her hip. Although she will make a full recovery, it will take time. We never know what the future may hold, so taking the time now to build a handicap ramp may save us time and money in the future.

Ironically, mother’s dog just had a knee replacement surgery and could not do steps either. We were struggling to pick up a 60# dog and carry it down and up the steps 4 times a day, so the ramp could definitely be utilized immediately.

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Emergency Readiness in the Neighborhood

Emergency responseThe last few weeks I have been writing about the classes we undertook sponsored by the Maryland Department of Emergency Management(MEMA): Neighbors Helping Neighbors. (Previous posts:Sustainable & Resilient Communities, Disaster Readiness) Our final class was this past week and I am really thrilled that I took the time to be involved.

Since we moved to Maryland (August 2003) most of our natural disasters have only caused service interruptions of a week or less. If you remember the date, Hurricane Isabel hit us 2 weeks after we moved in to our nice little row home just across the street from waterfront. We quickly became educated in the need for preparing for these eventualities. Maybe it is 12 years later but the class was our next step in being ready and further educating us on areas where we may be weak.

The class information was well prepared and very well presented for anyone who is interested in not only being prepared in the event of an emergency or disaster, but those concerned about others within a community.

The overall takeaway from the class was getting oneself ready for eventual disasters or emergencies that may come along. Living on the east coast, our potential for hurricanes and flooding put us in a category of not if but when they will occur.

Although important to have a good mental attitude for any situation,Hurricane-Sandy but having a few supplies carefully crafted and stored is key to being in a position to survive AND to help others that are in need during a crisis.

FEMA & MEMA both recommend 3-7 days of necessary supplies, while our instructors think a 10 day supply is more adequate. I tend to lean in the more category, being somewhere between 10 and 30 days.

The basics of any emergency stock:

  • Water-The suggested amount of water is 1 gal per person per day. With only 3 people in our household now (I sure this number will triple in case of real emergency-kids and their families) That means for a 14 day supply, we would need at minimum 42 gallons of fresh water.  (# people X # days = absolute minimum gallons needed)
  • Food-This is a gray area as to the amount needed, but having a good stock of foods on hand will be important to any survival plan.  Be sure that it is shelf stable, long term storage. Don’t depend on fresh or frozen since during a heavy disaster there will most likely be no way to store these foods.  If storing up canned foods (store bought) be sure to pack a can opener! Enter the homesteader: someone who grows and maintains a constant stream of food through gardening, aquaponics, or small animal husbandry. (rabbits, chickens, etc) Although as a suburban homesteader, we have home canned and dehydrated foods, we also have the ability with our greenhouse and aquaponics to refresh our food supply.
  • Radio & flashlight-Needless to say these need to be battery operated and you will not be able to just plug and play in a grid down emergency. This could be supplemented with the use of portable solar power. Having a rechargeable battery pack through the use of solar panels makes life a little easier in the worst of disasters. I personally like Goal Zero products.
  • Basic first aid-Bandages, compresses, eye wash, topical creams, scissors, tweezers, etc. During a disaster there is always the potential for some minor medical needs. Along with first aid, do you have anyone in your care that takes prescription medications on a regular basis? Having at least an extra month of those meds on hand could make the difference in that person surviving.
  • Extra clothes, blankets, and compact emergency tools-I am talking an emergency supply bag, many may call it a bug-out bag, but no matter what you call it, it is a part of necessary preparedness.

If you are not able to maintain yourself and family, how are you going to be a benefit to those in need in your community?

For more in depth information I invite you to visit one of my favorite websites. A. H. Trimble , instructor, teacher, author in the art of being prepared for any emergency situation.


Sustainable & Resilient Communities

I have attended a class the last two weeks on Emergency Readiness Emergency responsefor disaster. This is a free five week course put on by the Department of Emergency Management & Homeland Security. I hope to write a little each week about each class and my take-aways, in the hopes that others will see the importance of being prepared for short term emergencies. This weeks lecture focused on sustainable and resilient communities.

What is meant by sustainable and resilient communities? Here are the definitions as given for this lecture:

Sustainable: People and property kept out of way of disasters.  Building properties that are not in direct line of a potential disaster, or building property with potential for natural disaster to strike. Take for example a waterfront home.  In our area the potential for hurricane damage or flooding is high. So build the home with the necessary precautions to sustain the conditions that may prevail. Of course, nothing can withstand a major hurricane, but upgrading the building and properly aligning the footprint may prevent as much  damage from a lower class hurricane.

Resilient: The ability to react and recover quickly from a disaster. This ties in a little with  sustainable, as if the proper is built to withstand, it will sustain less damage allowing a quick recovery. But resilient goes a step further in that the individuals are prepared to handle these disasters. Knowledge, training, and immediate access to necessary supplies are key as to how an individual will react and recover.

The theory of developing sustainable & resilient communities is:

  •  overall costs will be cut in recovery
  • recovery time will decrease
  • amount of damage to a community will be far less
  • loss of life will decrease
  • Improve strength of communities

To me it just makes sense, that neighborhoods become the first step to strengthening our resolve to quickly and efficiently recover from a disaster-depending less on the ability of a government to step in and do it all.

Making communities sustainable and resilient depends on the commitment of the members of that community. Members must be willing to be involved, share, and help both themselves and others in the community. Commitment and involvement from more members will aid in a quicker recovery to the norm after a disaster.

A small group of individuals in a community can get the ball rolling by:

  • Doing a risk evaluation or identifying potential risks in the community
  • Setting a plan for the community that is both pro-active and reactive
  • Empowering members in the community to be involved
  • Making sure that those active members are organized, informed and trained if necessary
  • Having effective and responsible leadership who inspires members
  • Helping maintain responsible and healthy community institutions, businesses, and services

This, of course, is not an all inclusive list, but it is a starting point for any community to take large steps forward in growing a sustainable and resilient community.  The benefits of community members being involved and working together will significantly increase the chances of that community recovering quickly, with less damage and loss of life.

Read more:

Let’s Back Up-Disaster Readiness

Also a series of articles from a good friend on Mental Attitude for Emergency Readiness



Chickens have been an ongoing battle in Baltimore County for the last 5 years. We have stood at the forefront of the battle since losing our backyard flock to county regulations a few years ago. The battle has been hard fought but we seem at this point to be making some progress.

In September of 2013, our county council adopted resolution 73-13 directing the planning commission to research the possibility of allowing backyard flocks on properties smaller than 1 acre. As of yesterday the planning commission finally came up with a set of standards that they are going to put to a public meeting for input.

Proposed Standards: 73-13_Final_Report chickens

The proposal will be viewed and discussed by the planning board on Thursday June 4, 2015, with a preliminary public input meeting on June 18, before being sent to county council. Once at council, a second public input meeting will be scheduled, before being voted on by council.

The summary of the proposal would be:

  • Lot size must be a minimum of 5000sf
  • Coop building would come under the auspices of the local planning/zoning
  • Coop and run would need requird square footage to house amount of birds: i.e. 4 sf per bird in the run, 3sf per bird in the coop
  • No free-range-No roo’s
  • Annual permit and fee
  • limit of 4 hens up to 1 acre

I personally have no problem with the permit and fee, within reason, but limiting of only 4 hens seems a little too strict to me. Baltimore City and Annapolis City, have adopted only 4 birds per yard, but they are primarily row/townhomes with less than 2000sf of land. I have 1/5 ac which could easily handle 4 times that amount without issue.

My current chicken coop (the one that now houses my rabbits, since the county took my girls) was built to accommodate 9-10 hens with plenty of room to spare. Sorry rabbits, if this passes we will have to find you new digs!

Now is the time for Baltimore County residents and surrounding county residents wanting backyard chickens, need to stand together to make a strong show for the approval of any bill put forward. We will still fight for the regulations we would like to see, but at least this is a step in the right direction.

To join our groups on Facebook:

Chicken Revolution in Baltimore County-Closed group, but just request join from admin-all chicken lovers accepted.

Change Zoning Laws in Baltimore County for chickens and small livestock- Open group, just join

UPDATE: 6/7/2015 The planning board meeting on the 4th went without much discussion, just setting the public input meeting for the 18th. Please join and see information in the above 2 facebook groups. Would love to flood the room with supporters that night!

Neighbors Helping Neighbors-Emergency Preparedness

Emergency responseSorry for the late notice but wanted to let everyone know about the upcoming Neighbors Helping Neighbors Emergency Preparedness Class.

It will be 4 Thursdays from 7-9pm starting Thursday April 30, 2015 through Thursday May28 at Dundalk Fire Station #6 2815 Sollers Point Rd. 21222

Session Topics

Natural Disasters and Technological Hazards
This session focuses on the natural and technological hazards most likely to threaten this area.
•Past disasters in Maryland
•Preparation of a 72-hour emergency kit
•Preparation and maintenance of a family emergency plan
•How to assist people with disabilities during an emergency
•What to do before, during and after a disaster

Fire Safety and Extinguishers
This session focuses on fire prevention and extinguishing strategies.
•Types of fires and how they occur
•Potential fire hazards in the home and workplace
•Evaluation of fires and assessment of firefighting resources
•Operation of different types of extinguishers
•How to decide whether to attempt to extinguish a fire and how to do so safely

Crime Prevention and Awareness
This session focuses on how to identify and protect yourself against potential crime threats.
•Personal safety techniques
•Steps to protect homes against break-ins
•Recognition of suspicious activity and how to report it to 911
•Learn about “Citizens On Patrol” and how to implement this program in your community
•Identification of possible terrorist targets

CPR and First Aid
This session focuses on patient assessment and how to administer first aid.
•Hands-on-only Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
•Treatment of life-threatening conditions
•Treatment of burns, wounds and bleeding
•Treatment with splinting of fractures, sprains and strains
•Treatment of hypothermia and heat-related illness
•Simple triage

Building Resilient Communities
This session covers ways in which communities can prepare for, mitigate and withstand long-term incidents

Hope to see many of my neighbors there.
Get more information and register at:


Saving Buffy Part 5 A Lesson in Futility

WHYOur Zoning Hearing was a week ago Thursday to try and save our Buff Orpington and her Friends, but this just turned into a legal lesson on futility. Definition being: Unsuccessful at this point in time.

We received the bad news via a letter from the Administrative Law Judge, stating that our request for variance was denied. It was not so much the denial that bothered my wife and I, as it was the logic behind the decision, as explained in the letter.

“Varying the acreage requirement would permit a use that would otherwise not be permitted, and the Administrative Law Judge is not given the authority to grant such a variance.”

So, the ALJ does not have the authority to “grant such a variance?” OK, so what is the point in allowing us to file and request a variance knowing up front that the court does not have the authority. Constitutionally we must be allowed our day in court, but I think this is a little ridiculous. It seems that the lesson is just a way for the county to increase a few dollars in revenue. Yes honestly it costs them more in time and labor than we had to pay for the time in court, but isn’t that the way of any Government-Spend $200 to increase $100 in revenue.

I would have to say, we were a little confused, since we are not lawyers and not versed in zoning law. My thought was to consult an attorney who had experience in zoning law. We contacted Howard Alderman, Jr, who has a long resume in dealing with zoning and land use issues. He was extremely nice and explained things in terms any layman could understand. (If you have zoning or land use issues in Baltimore, I highly recommend him)

“To answer this questions, you must also understand the legal distinction between a “USE” variance and an “AREA” variance. Under the Baltimore County Zoning Regulations, an administrative law judge in the OAH is empowered to grant variances from area requirements but not use requirements. Area variances include issues such as side/rear yard setbacks. Use variances are not (generally) recognized in Maryland. Although the issue in your case is 7600 sf v. 43560 sf of land, the relief you requested is for a ‘use’ variance versus an ‘area’ variance. To permit fowl on less than 1 acre is a ‘use’ variance because it may change the character of the specific zoning district in which your property is located. It is akin to seeking to build a house on a 1/2 acre lot where the minimum lot size is 1 acre; that relief would be denied as well. The County Board of Appeals for Baltimore County has the same authority (and same limitations) on appeal as did the administrative law judge. Reviewing Courts (appeal beyond the Board) cannot overturn the decision unless based on an error of law. Courts generally look and defer to the agency’s interpretation of its own law and regulation. “

According to the ALJ and the attorney any further pursuit would be denied on the same grounds, so we will lose our chickens within the next 30 days. So what is the next step? How about a grassroots movement in Baltimore County, on behalf of organic gardeners, homesteaders, survivalists, or just lovers of pet-chickens.

With the current County law allowing chickens on lots above an acre, this disallows many who would love pet chickens. As stated in previous posts, Baltimore City and Annapolis City have adopted pet chicken laws that are very friendly to the homeowner, not to mention many major cities across the Country: New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas to name a few.

We have joined a like-minded group on Facebook-http://www.facebook.com/Chickenrevolution or  http://www.facebook.com/Baltimorechickens and will begin to pursue our County Council Members to find those sympathetic with our cause. If there is no one sympathetic on the board currently, I guess we would need to find a candidate who is capable for the job as well as sympathetic to our cause.

I would urge any Baltimore County Resident to join our group and help spread the word. As we gain members and add more pressure to current council members, they should start becoming more sympathetic to our wants-not to mention what I consider a property rights issue. If you are not sure who your council person is, you can find out by inputting your address to this website: http://egov2.baltimorecountymd.gov/votingweb/address.aspx?pageid=3 Then email or call them to voice your support to a change in the law-find your councilpersons email: http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/countycouncil/districts/district1/index.html

Beyond Baltimore County, anyone that has been through this fight, or would have comments, suggestions, or advice, please also join and add your two-cents. We are very open since we are just beginning. I thank everyone not only for previous support, but also for any help that may be offered.

If you missed earlier posts in the series:

Saving Buffy

Part 2 Health Concerns

Part 3 The Coop

Part 4 Property Values

Saving Buffy-Part 4 Property Values

Prop ValueReducing Property Values are always a hot topic when it comes to anything that may change the make-up of the neighborhood. Allowing a flock of back yard chickens is no different: At least that is the argument used by many who are ignorant of chickens and chicken keeping.

Since 2007, there has been a sizable increase in people keeping a few hens on their property in many parts of the country: Urban & Suburban. Isn’t it interesting that the timing of popularity seems to coincide with the decline of the housing market? I am surprised that many localities have not blamed the market crash on urban chickens, since they seem to want to lay blame everywhere except the true cause……..but that’s a different post.

Being in the Real Estate Industry for many years, this is an argument that has absolutely no basis in fact. I have not been able to find any evidence-not just in Baltimore, but from anywhere in the Country that unequivocally finds that someone had to sell their home for $1000′s less because there were back yard chickens in the neighborhood.

According to BackYard Chicken Keeping submitted to the Dunwoody Planning Commission February 2010:

“There is absolutely no evidence that keeping pet hens within
the ordinance guidelines would have any affect on property values.
This is property rights issue and while it is necessary to protect
neighbors from any potential nuisance, homeowners should have as
much freedom as possible with minimal government interference. If
property values decreased with backyard chicken keeping, why would
major cities like Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Las Vegas,
Madison, WI, Denver…support backyard chicken keeping?”

Chicken owners are no different from any other pet owner: They care about the well being of the pet and they are concerned about any effect on property values.

Here is an article from a Realtor in the Salem, OR area concerning Property values in Salem vs Portland when it concerns Back Yard Chickens. Her assessment in Salem, as well as another professional in Portland show no evidence of back yard chickens making any difference in property values.

One of the best breakdowns I could find came from the Cincinnati Locavore: Chicken Keeping and Property Values. Of the 23 Suburbs that are broken down by property value and whether they allow BackYard Chickens: Only 6 prohibit the residential pet hen. It is also of interest to note that all 6 of those suburbs are in the lower tiers of the property values.

The authors assessment of the research:

“Communities which allow chicken-keeping tend to have HIGHER property values than those that prohibit it.”

How about a little closer to our home: Annapolis, Maryland. Annapolis adopted a new pet chicken law on April 9 of this year. Annapolis has some of the higher property values in the State, with the median housing price at $391.5K vs the median price in Baltimore County of $222.9K, according to zillow.com. The new law is very friendly to any would-be pet chicken owner. The council is siding with residents who have been hard hit by this economy. Read their new handbook: BackYard Chickens in the City of Annapolis. I just wish that our Baltimore County Council had the backbone to stand up for the citizens they are supposed to represent, not to mention standing up for personal property rights.

Through the research that I have done on the web and through local sources, I can find no evidence that pet chicken ownership has made an impact in any way on property values. With homesteaders becoming more prevalent in today’s world, backyard chicken laws should be looked at once again and rewritten to allow for those of us that choose to be more self-reliant should have the ability to do so without the Government dictating to us what they believe is right.

Read More

Saving Buffy: A lesson in Futility

If you missed the first 3 posts in the series:

Saving Buffy

Part 2 Health Concerns

Part 3 The Coop

Chicken Revolution in Baltimore County Continues

Saving Buffy & Her Friends has been an ongoing post laying out WP_000149our story of fighting to keep our backyard chickens in Baltimore County. If you have followed the post’s, you already know that we did lose the battle to keep our beloved girls, but we continue on with our battle to change the outdated regulations (must have at least one acre to own chickens) concerning the keeping of backyard chickens.

Last year the County Council passed resolution 73-13, which called for a committee from the planning department to research other municipalities and their regulations regarding backyard chickens as pets. They have a primary focus of looking at counties within Maryland and possibly modeling a plan consistent with other surrounding counties.

There is one major issue with that approach: All of the surrounding counties are doing the exact same thing in looking to relax lot size restrictions! Anne Arundel, directly to our south, has revised their regulations to allow chickens on lots of quarter acre, but limited the amount to 4. You can see the revised regulations HERE.

Yet within Anne Arundel County is our State Capital, Annapolis. Annapolis, MD adopted their own set of standards in 2012, allowing up to 4 chickens on any lot with proper permitting and set backs.

In a similar situation, Baltimore City, which is in our own Baltimore County, allows up to 4 hens per residence with required permitting and set backs. Baltimore City Health Code Title 2, 2-106: Title 10, subtitles 1 & 3 outline all regulations for any animal classified as an “exotic” pet. Pigeons, Pot-Bellied Pigs, & Bee’s (Yes honey bees are listed as exotic pets!) are included in this list with chickens.

Howard County to our west has relaxed the regulations to allow chickens on lots above 10K square feet, (about quarter acre). This was just passed last July 2013.

So why should any Government entity restrict our ability to utilize our property in a way that is not detrimental to the neighborhood, based strictly on how much ground we own? What does the amount of ground have to do with the amount of pets?

According to the Humane Society, dog’s are the most owned pet in the nation. Yet there are few to no restrictions on dog’s or the size of  yard needed to house a dog. In Baltimore County, I can have up to 3 dogs without a kennel license. There are no size restrictions, nor is there a lot size restriction.

So, in Baltimore County, I could have three 200# Mastiff’s in a 12 ft

Mastiff vs Chicken
Mastiff vs Chicken

wide row home? I wouldn’t because that would not be good for the animals to be so confined, but I could according to the current regulations. No I am not saying we need regulations on dogs, just showing the idiocy of local legislators

It is good that counties are relaxing guidelines, but limiting lot size to 10K sq ft still precludes many who would like a few backyard hens. We are included in that as our lot is only 7600 sq ft (roughly 1/5 acre). In our original battle, we had 7 which gave us about 3 dozen eggs a week, plenty for our household of seven. Our lot size is ample for 6-8 hens, which is all we are hoping to get.

Our Facebook groups have organized and rallied around a set of regulations which we put together through several meetings, emails, and conference calls. We wanted to be very proactive in our approach to promoting legislation that makes sense for the public, the county, & suburban homesteaders. 

We were able to submit our recommendations at the public input meeting last Thursday March 20, 2014. We are in hopes that the board will recommend most, or all, of our proposal to the County Council for approval when it is time. From my understanding, they would like to hold more public input meetings and to appoint an advisory committee to help organize the vast amount of information concerning backyard chickens.

If you live in Baltimore County and want to help in our efforts please join our Facebook groups to stay updated and see how you can be involved.

Chicken Revolution. This is a closed group, but just request addition to the group.

Baltimore Chickens. This is an open group, anyone can join interested in changing the zoning laws in Baltimore County to allow chickens.

Other municipalities that are trying to organize, here are two documents that may be helpful to you.

This PDF document is my research when we were trying to get a zoning variance to keep our chickens. Although we were unsuccessful, the research is still very useful for anyone working with local legislators: Chicken Research for Council

This is the proposal that our Facebook groups have put together for submission to county (PDF). Baltimore County Proposed Regulations

I invite all questions, comments, and am happy to assist with any group working toward a common goal.