Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Composting Confluence

I found an interesting pair of posts today. Rhonda Jean, as I mentioned, has been discussing composting, and was horrified to discover that one of her readers:
  • is not allowed to capture rainwater (a state law)
  • is not allowed to have a clothesline (Home Owners' Association by-law)
  • is not allowed to have chickens (ditto)
Indeed the poor lady is supposed to have her landscaping vetted by the HOA. Rhonda Jean's reaction is pretty much the same as mine. I'm particularly intrigued that Colorado doesn't allow the capture of rainwater from hard surfaces like roofs. After all, that water will enter the stormwater system (I assume) rather than being absorbed by the land, and therefore cause flooding.

It is even more remarkable that citizens of the Land of the Free would voluntarily sign up to the intrusive impositions of HOAs, yet they do. I would consider it a gross impertinence for my neighbours to interfere in quiet, private backyard matters such as my washing. How is it any business of theirs?

But oh, it's a different matter when the elected government tells people what to do! San Francisco wants to bring in mandatory recycling -- and that's government interference! No matter that proper separation of rubbish lowers the costs of disposal as well as protecting the environment. It's intrusion. Yet what the HOA decrees isn't? With considerably less justification?

I must say the San Francisco legislation does seem rather ham-fisted. I think my council's solution involves more carrot and less stick -- most Sydney councils would have a similar system. In my municipality, we are issued one 120-litre (32 US gallons) rubbish bin, which is emptied weekly. Excess rubbish removal must be ordered and paid for. The recycling bin is 240 litres (64 US gallons) and is emptied fortnightly -- it takes paper, steel tins, aluminium cans, glass and recyclable plastics. The identical green waste bin (for garden refuse) is emptied on the alternate fortnight. If the garbos notice improperly sorted waste, they will refuse to empty the bin -- it's then the householder's responsibility to fix it up. There is no need to turn the garbos into the eco-police, but there is a reasonable incentive to sort rubbish properly and minimise landfill waste.


Amanda said...

I am always mystified that, in today's era of climate change awareness and abatement, things like capturing rainwater, having a solar-powered clothesline and turning kitchen scraps back into food (first, you need a chook or 3) is discouraged. I can understand that rainwater tanks must be maintained and can cause health issues in some circumstances, and chooks can make a bit of noise when congratulating themselves on squeezing out yet another egg (neither of which overly concern me), but the banning of clothes lines is totally ridiculous.
I do like the style of your local council though - a green waste bin is a great idea (we only have refuse and recycling bins). Of course we'd hardly ever use it, but I think a lot of other people would.

DrRuth said...

Hi Chookie and Amanda

Yeah we have a covenant for my neighbourhood that says we can't hang clothes out to dry anywhere that a neighbour could see them. So some people hang inside the garage but it's texarse dammit and it's been over 100 for more than 40 days this summer.

On the other hand, the local council pays rebates to encourage rainforest harvesting, and some neighbourhoods allow chooks. Mine doesn't, but we have a local farmer's market which works for me!

Wicked Gardener said...

Chookie -

Ahh, HOAs. Normally they are a major p.i.t.a., but they do serve a purpose. My neighborhood in Florida does not have one. One neighbor has a giant PVC pipe constructed in their front yard, complete with painted dripping blood. Seriously, I'll have to post a picture soon. Another has a four foot tall ceramic penguin towering over the multitude of gnomes and fairies below it. I could go on. It saves energy, but I kind of don't really want to look out my window and see the skid marks on my neighbor's undies flying in the wind. But maybe that's just me. (That said, not being able to collect rain water is just stupid.)

Amanda said...

Sorry Wicked Gardner, but I just don't understand how a visual amenity "problem" of seeing someone's undies (ooooerrr) flying in the breeze can be an acceptable excuse for wasting energy and using a clothes dryer ... its just doesn't make sense ecologically or economically.

Besides - you might get some 'interesting' octogenarian neighbours and you never know when you'll spy his-n-hers leopard-print g-strings on the clothesline!

....Or how about having a HOA that insisted on hedge planting between houses to screen the offending undies from poor unsuspecting eyes!

Chookie said...

Amanda, I think we'd agree that there are other ways to handle the problems of chooks and rainwater collection than outright bans, but I suspect that for some people there is either open slather or a ban -- nothing in between. (The Americans do seem a bit like that.)

Hi DrRuth -- long time no see! The question is: Does the covenant mean that your neighbour shouldn't be able to see your washing if they climb onto their roof for a good sticky-beak? And what happens to you if you break the covenant (and the neighbour complains)?

Wicked, I want to see that neighbourhood artwork! There are some pretty Gothic plants out there that might go well with the dripping blood, though I think only a Gunnera manicata would help the four-foot penguin much. But I must ask: how are you going to see your neighbour's skid marks through a paling fence? My Mum taught me to hang my undies on the inner lines, anyway, but I suppose a few generations of clothes-dryers would cause those little tricks to be forgotten. So sun-dry and don't be shy!

DrRuth said...

Well part of the problem for me at least is that I haven't fenced our yard. We back onto a great bush reserve and I'm "wildscaping" which just means I'm letting the backyard increase in entropy. teehee. Not quite - but let it naturalize so we have lots of wildflowers and have planted lots of natives (US not AUS). Except for the vege and herb gardens that is. So without a fence it's hard to prevent people seeing what's in the backyard. Especially if you are a neighbourhood inspector and are trying to peek around the sides of the house. My neighbours are mellow and probably wouldn't mind at all actually. I should ask them.

What would happen if we broke a covenant? Well having broken several (not mowing often enough - the inspector didn't understand my lawn - it's a native grass that shouldn't be mown. Leaving my wheelie bin out in full sight instead of keeping it hidden inside the garage - I shit you not) you get lots of warning letters, with photos proving their case, and you usually rectify the situation. If you refuse, I think there's a fine or an appeal. I've heard that for extreme things (say building a shed in your backyard without getting it approved by some committee or other) you either have to take it down or they do it for you or you can I think be ejected meaning you can't live in the neighbourhood which I can't really wrap my head around.

To wicked - you may not understand Chookie's response of hanging the undies on the inside. Aus washing lines are are a series of concentric circles that rotate around the central axis. You hang the undies on the inner most tiny circle. There are three or four layers of other stuff hung outside that so you can't see the undies unless you want to. 8-)

Amanda said...

Hiii Dr Ruth (I misread that as druth the first time). ~waves~
I want to see some pics of your "wildscape" garden .. and of you and the kiddles.
...and it sounds like neighbourhood-watch-on-steroids with the photos of the offending wheelie bin and unmown "lawn"
and hey ... why wouldn't you want to keep the stinky wheelie bin in your garage in 40 degree heat???? You strange Australian you.

DrRuth said...

Hi Amanda

Hmm. You got me searching my photos. I have photos of the big planting times, but none of what it looks like now. Guess I'll have to go take some more photos. To just see piccies of me and the kids, you can hit my flickr site.