Sunday, December 30, 2012

Garden Catalog Mania!

The garden catalogs are arriving almost daily. My favorites so far are from Johnny's Selected Seeds and from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. I haven't committed to any purchases yet, except for ordering 18 sweet potato slips, but every time I look at the catalogs I change my mind about what I want.

Every year I tell myself I'm just going to be patient and buy some started plants from a local store, or direct seed when the time comes, but I can almost never wait. I want to give horseradish a try, since Don likes horseradish mixed with mustard on the frozen pretzels he likes to heat and eat.

How about my readers? What region of the world do YOU live in, and what are your plans for your gardens this year, if any? What are you already doing, or what preparations are you making?  Please leave me a comment and let us know!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Asparagus in December?

 We just started new asparagus beds this year. We haven't harvested any, because everything we've read has said to let the plants develop and the crowns grow before harvesting. In the second year, we can harvest for two weeks, and then for four to six weeks in subsequent years. The bed should last for fifteen years or more.

Now I have a dilemma. Our Purple Passion asparagus is coming up in December! So is that the end of last season, even though I've taken all the dying, yellow vegetation and thrown it in my compost piles this fall, or is it the beginning of the spring harvest, and therefore a good thing to harvest? Or will the frost kill it off so quickly, it won't matter?

I'll post some pictures of winter beds, mulched with leaves from our yard, in case you don't believe me. You'll see the garlic, kale, and mustard that you'd *expect* to see growing this time of year, but you'll see the asparagus as well. I'm also growing Russian Comfrey as a high-protein supplement for our future laying hens. Don is working on our coop every chance he gets.

Purple Passion Asparagus with Russian Comfrey in the Background

Birdbath with ice in it; taken the same day

Garlic and kale

Winter garden bed with kale, mustard, garlic, and sage

Friday, December 21, 2012

Holiday Trip to Washington, D.C.

Don and I traveled to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday and Wednesday. What a great trip!

We parked at nearby Harbor Park in Norfolk at the new Amtrak station. From there, we took Amtrak's bus to Newport News. We rode the train to Washington, D.C.  The trip was very relaxing. Don and I could get up, walk around, stretch our legs, read, go to the restroom, use our cell phones, eat in the dining car, etc. The views were pretty, too, although the windows were a little grimy.

Don and I at the Washington Ballet

Once in D.C. we took the Metro to our conveniently-located Club Quarters Hotel.Tuesday night, we watched Septime Webre's Nutcracker, performed by the Washington Ballet, at the beautiful Warner Theatre. It was enjoyable. It's a version of the Nutcracker with distinctly American allusions, such as to Native Americans, George Washington as the Nutcracker, etc. The only world-class Nutcracker I had ever seen was the Boston Ballet, so it was interesting to see the differences. The music and dancing were, of course, very beautiful. This production had lots of children in it, who were very cute!

The Beautiful Warner Theatre

On Wednesday our train didn't leave until 2:30 PM, so we had some time to explore. We visited some of the museums and walked around and took in the sights. We didn't have a bad meal the whole time we were there! A civil war photography exhibit was a highlight, especially one where the old stereoscopic prints were re-done as a 3-D exhibit. We felt like we were standing right there, like we could touch the subjects of the photographs. Another highlight was a sculpture by Xu Bing, "Monkeys Grasping for the Moon." There were lots of exhibits on the theme of Muslim and Arab culture, which were all very enlightening.

Don and I got a lot of reading done on the train. I finished a Dale Carnegie book, and I read all of a well-written novel, The Song of Achilles. I'd bought it for $3.99 on my Nook, a great deal! Our train did have internet access for those who were so inclined, but Don and I deliberately left the computers home this trip. We are already thinking of what other adventures we can start together, especially by train.

Another view of the Warner Theatre

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Norfolk's Local-Foods Activist Extrordinaire

In an earlier post I mentioned how I would like to do something personally to bring fresh, healthy, local foods to residents of food deserts in Chesapeake and the surrounding areas. I'm also looking for ways to share my love of gardening. Recently, I've started donating fresh, local produce to the region's food bank through the Coastal Farms online food co-op. But I've been wanting to do more with my own personal time and energies in this direction. But where, and how?

The beginnings of an answer may have come to me today when I met with Bev Sell, the General Manager of the Five Points Community Farm Market in nearby Norfolk. Five Points has its own CSA program, a local-foods market that sells meat, dairy, seafood, and produce, and a lovely little cafe. It houses several small "incubator businesses," as well, all in the same building on the corner of 26th and Church St.

The market is run by a non-profit. It is close enough to the rather upscale "Ghent" area of Norfolk to attract the kinds of loyal customers that keep it profitable, but it's deliberately on the edge of a low-income district and along a bus route. The market was originally started as an attempt at urban renewal in an area of the city where the crime rate was trending upward.

The atmosphere inside the building is upbeat, energetic, friendly, and pleasant. The selection of organic and local foods is fantastic, and all the food I've tasted has been terrific. Bev has invited 4 Chesapeake Hens to participate in a Sustainable Living Fair at the Webb Center on the Campus of Old Dominion University on February 16 and 17, 2013. We will be happy to take advantage of the opportunity to educate the public about backyard laying hens.

When Bev found out I'm a teacher, her eyes lit up. She is working on a summer program for low-income city youth to attend a day camp on a farm to learn more about where food comes from, how it is grown, and the value of fresh food. The youngsters may even get a little taste of what it's like to work on a farm. She is concerned about the decline of small family farms in Virginia, and she sees this program as not only educational for the children, but hopefully as a way to encourage our youth to consider farming as a career.

I told Bev she could count me in as a volunteer during the summer months when I tend to have more time. I'm looking forward to it!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Chicken Coop Ideas

"4 Chesapeake Hens" has been getting inquiries about chicken coops. I prefer the idea of a movable chicken tractor, myself. Here are some ideas of compiled over time.

Legalizing coops may open up some opportunities for small businesses, like this one building cute coops:

Easty and inexpensive chicken coops to build yourself:

Free chicken coop plans along with space recommendations:

Nice how-to guide for backyard flocks from N.C. State:

Want one built for you? Money’s no object? Check out this offer from Neiman Marcus:

Saturday, December 1, 2012

4 Chesapeake Hens: How did we change the law?

 On our Facebook page, I've been getting inquiries about how our group managed to be so successful that we changed local laws regarding laying hens in residential areas, and in less than a year. Here's my short, but not so simple, answer:

It was hard work in the beginning. I started our page, "4 Chesapeake Hens," under another name in late December of 2011. We started with about two or three "likes" and grew, SLOWLY at first, from there. I tried to keep the page positive, upbeat, and informative. Even when we had few fans, I tried to post some news article about chickens with some comments every day. 

It took weeks before anyone among the fans was posting anything themselves. I took the best of those ideas and shared them on our wall. I did everything I could to publicize our page and our efforts, not just on Facebook but on Twitter, YouTube, XtraNormal,, by email, and through the local media (newspaper and television when opportunity arose). 

When we got some active supporters who made good suggestions, I followed up on the suggestions and let the membership know. I constantly invited members to MEET in person to work together on changing the law. It took months before I actually got the first committed members to join me for a face-to-face meeting. The first meeting was at a local I-Hop. 

Once I had that kind of face-to-face interaction, I invited leadership: those who consistently posted great information on our wall, made good suggestions, and used common sense and courtesy when interacting with others, I made an admin. on our wall. When folks have made suggestions that would help the cause, I've told them to run with it, putting their own energy into it, and supported them all I can.

 I've shown gratitude for everyone's hard work, and it HAS been hard work! I've tried to avoid a culture of excuses and blame; we are all volunteers and contribute what we can, when we can. I've tried to listen very carefully and to compromise and reach a consensus on important matters, even about when and where we'll meet. I've tried to be helpful, giving a ride to events to an interested fan who lacked transportation. I ask for HELP, I work with others, I provide and listen to good information, I discover what others' interests and talents are, and put them to use. 

We became a team involved in a group effort. These were people I didn't know back in December. Many have become my very good friends. "4 Chesapeake Hens" is now a fantastic team with solid leadership. We work together to make great things happen. 

This may sound like a lot of work. You don't know the half of it. But it has been worth it. Soon, my family will be enjoying fresh eggs from Buff Orpington hens cared for right here in my own backyard. We appreciate the help of Robert Ike on our City Council and of Marjon Rostami and others of the Virginian Pilot and Reed Andrews of WVEC TV.

Update 12/2/12: I mentioned data but didn't give any up above. Here are our publications that helped us convince Council:

A Case for Chesapeake Hens

Our rebuttal of the Staff Report  

Lanette Lepper's fantastic report regarding communities with similar density and how hens have had minimal impact there.

Our group's constantly-evolving Chicken Research page.

Update 1/27/14: I forgot to mention one idea that seemed to help: City Council Person of the Week. As a group we would concentrate on one local politician at a time in the weeks leading up to the vote. Our Council Members are elected at large, so this approach seemed to make sense in Chesapeake. Please note that our group developed a reputation for being well-informed and unfailingly polite. This reputation helped us, since that is, unfortunately, NOT what Council Members are used to, and so our approach helped our group stand out.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Victory 4 Chesapeake Hens!

Last night, Chesapeake City Council voted 6-3 to allow up to six laying hens, in a pen, on single-family lots in residential areas. This was the result of a lot of hard work and teamwork by a dedicated group of individuals dedicated to individual freedom, property rights, sustainability, and--yes!-- chickens!

There are two caveats: homeowners' association or property owners' association rules still supersede this law. And there was a "sunset clause" built into the legislation, so City Council will be asking for another Staff Report in about a year. The law could be undone if chickens at that point are causing major problems in the city.

But our research predicts this won't happen. We are happily resting up, making gardening plans, studying coop designs, and picking out chicken breeds.

Thanks to all those who supported 4 Chesapeake Hens in this historic effort. Click here if you'd like to watch my speech requesting the change.Click here if you want to watch the historic vote. Specific City Council Members' input will be posted as soon as available on YouTube. In the meantime, it is available on the City Council webpage under the November 20th agenda.

**Update: After seeing some posts on our Facebook page, let me add some further clarifications: the new law allows laying hens. Killing or processing one's chickens for meat is prohibited in residential areas. There are also setbacks for the coop from the property line. The text of the new law is available here, including the 1-year sunset clause on the changes.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

When and Why Were Chickens Banned in Chesapeake? An Answer at Last!

4 Chesapeake Hens is a grass-roots organization that is trying to get micro-flocks of laying hens legalized in all residential areas of Chesapeake, VA. Currently the law only allows chickens on land zoned agricultural and on RE-1 "residential estates" of three acres or more. There, up to four hens (no roosters) may be kept in a pen. Up until yesterday, I have been unable to get factual information from the City regarding exactly when and why chickens were banned (see this previous post).

A member of City Council, Debbie Ritter, finally suggested I contact Dolores A. Moore, our City Clerk, with a request for more research on this topic. Yesterday I received an email that contained copies of minutes from both the Planning Commission and from the City Council where chickens were mentioned. These minutes date back to April 12, 1966, which is even before zoning was legally adopted in Chesapeake. Even then, there is a suggestion that the City preserve tracts of "two or three acres of land" for residents who desire to keep "ponies and chickens."

However, chickens and other poultry were allowed in the residential areas of Chesapeake up until June 17, 1975, when Council voted to allow "livestock, poultry, and other animals not commonly kept as pets" only in the A-1, RE-1, and (now defunct) C-1 Districts. The ordinance went into effect thirty days after its adoption. But even then the minutes make clear that it was the intention of the City to continue to allow residents who already had livestock to continue to do so under a "non-conforming use" unless the residents had stopped for one year, at which point they would not be allowed to begin again.

The only record of any objection to the new law was made by a Mr. Joseph T. Hall of 1385 Elbow Road at the Planning Commission meeting on May 19, 1975, which recommended the adoption of this ordinance. Mr. Hall owned a property zoned R-15s in the South Norfolk borough of Chesapeake, and he had tenants there who kept chickens. When informed that the ordinance "would prohibit the future keeping of animals not commonly classed as household pets on the property," Hall objected to the ordinance.

This ordinance must have generated some confusion or potential confusion about what constituted livestock, because on February 15, 2005, City Council Member Ritter made a motion to approve TA-Z-04-09, an ordinance "to clarify that rabbits, fish, and other animals can be kept as pets under certain circumstances." Council Members Burkhimer, Hayes, Krasnoff, de Triquet, Edge, Newman, Parker, Ritter, and Willis unanimously voted for the measure. Up to ten rabbits were allowed as pets under the ordinance, but domestic fowl were still prohibited.

These minutes answer the questions of when hens were prohibited, but not the question of why. Was the problem increased urban density, as Zoning Administrator John King once told me? Was it due to the mythical problems that chickens presumably cause? Or was there any evidence back in 1975 for the types of potential problems outlined in the Staff Report that 4 Chesapeake Hens has thoroughly rebutted?

To answer that question, I searched through old microfilms of newspapers from June of 1975. A few hours' search turned up an article from the Ledger-Star, dated Thursday, June 19, 1975.  I will quote from this article, "New Law Prohibits Farm Animals in City," below:

"The new regulation is based on a request by the council in January and generated from a claim for the city to pay the value of ducks killed in a residential zone.

"The claim was based on state law requiring cities and counties to reimburse residents when their livestock is fatally wounded by wild dogs.

"In the past several months, as more and more residents have asked for reimbursement from the city, the council has grown increasingly skeptical of their requests.

"When a Martin Avenue man asked for $93 to compensate for 19 ducks killed by stray dogs, Councilman J. Bennie Jennings Jr. noted the man lived in a district zoned for single-family homes on small lots. The Martin Avenue man received $53.30 for the loss of his ducks but the council voted to refer the question of proper zoning for livestock and poultry breeding to the Planning Commission. The city's planners recommended that farm animals be limited to three zoning districts. 

"Planning Department Director Milton Perry told the council the new ordinance would not apply to bonafide farms in areas subsequently zoned for residential use. 

"Also, the law would not affect persons in resmdential (sic) zones who currently maintain limited numbers of farm animals for their own use. Such situations would be classified as non-conforming uses and so long as such residents did not discontinue keeping farm animals for as much as two years they could keep their poultry and livestock."

With subsequent changes that have been made in state and local laws, the potential for residents with poultry to run the City's coffers dry with spurious livestock claims has been prevented, as explained in 4 Chesapeake Hens' "Further Information" document, pp. 9-11. And it is clear that the original intent of the law was to limit "poultry breeding," not the keeping of a few chickens for household use. Therefore there is no reason that the current Council cannot undo the unnecessary restrictions that have been imposed upon Chesapeake's residents over the years as an unintended consequence of this law. Flocks of up to six laying hens, kept in pens, should be allowed in all single-family residences, for all the reasons explained on this website and elsewhere.

If you  agree with us, be sure to arrive at the City Council meeting this Tuesday, November 20, at 6:30 PM at City Hall on Cedar Rd. Come dressed in red and sit with us. If you desire to speak, you must sign up to speak BEFORE the meeting begins, however. Remarks are limited to five minutes and may be cut to three depending on the number of people speaking. Let City Council know you support TA-Z-12-07 with changes to allow the keeping of up to six hens and the removal of the privacy fencing requirement.

**Update: On November 20, 2012, Councilman Robert Ike made a motion to allow up to six hens, in a pen, on residential properties on single-family lots. The motion carried, 6-3.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Crunch Time 4 Chesapeake Hens

Laying hens are back on the agenda for Chesapeake City Council. Our organization, 4 Chesapeake Hens, has been trying to get backyard micro-flocks of six laying hens legalized for single-family residences throughout Chesapeake, VA. (Why six? Click here). The current laws allow chickens only on land zoned agricultural. There is one exception: residents who own RE-1 "residential estates" of three acres or more may keep up to four hens, no roosters, in a pen as household pets. In effect, you must have the money to have substantial land in Chesapeake to raise your own fresh eggs. We have been working hard to change that!

Our organization inexplicably suffered a setback at a Planning Commission hearing, as explained in prior posts: click here for the Commission meeting itself, here for our group's frustration at the lack of commentary by the Commissioners who voted against hens, and here for Commissioner Adam Perry's comments on backyard hens. Our official position is that we support a proposed change to existing ordinances, TA-Z-12-07, with changes to allow up to six hens and the removal of the privacy fencing requirement. The hens will already be required to stay in a pen, and the privacy fence will be an unnecessary and cumbersome financial burden for those who merely want a few fresh eggs!

We have new members joining us on Facebook every day. If you are new and want to know what you can do to help, here is a list:

  1.  Like our Facebook page for the latest news and information.
  2. Print up flyers to distribute in likely places, such as at feed stores or with sympathetic coworkers.
  3. Consider sending an email such as this one to friends who are Chesapeake residents. Be sure to sign it!
  4. Contact the mayor and city council members to let them know how you feel. Be polite and respectful.
  5. Most of all, COME to the City Council meeting on November 20. Some Councilors fail to realize how many residents from all across our city and from all walks of life care about this issue and support hens. Since the Planning Commission voted against us 4-3, there will be a negative recommendation against us. We need a huge show of support to counter this. Wear red, the color of the "Little Red Hen," and bring every supporter you can round up for us. 
The meeting starts at 6:30. If you desire to speak, show up by 6:15. You will need to fill out a speaker card and turn it in before the meeting starts in order to be heard. Plan to limit your remarks to five minutes. Realize you might be required to cut your remarks back to three minutes; speakers are guaranteed three minutes if there are too many speakers. So far we've had no problems getting five, though.

If you care, be there! And bring family, coworkers, and friends.

If you have any questions, post them on Facebook or comment here, and I'll get back to you.  If you want to learn more about urban laying hens, our research page is a great place to start. We also have a YouTube Channel that highlights our efforts in front of City Council and the Planning Commission in recent months. The Planning Commission meeting is especially motivating. Not one person spoke against the hens, several spoke for, but the Commissioners voted against them without one word of explanation: not what I expect from my tax dollars at work!

Update: On November 20, Chesapeake City Council voted 6-3 to allow hens with certain restriction in residential areas.

Fresh, Local Foods for Residents in Need

I have written before about a local online food co-op here in Virginia, Coastal Farms. How the co-op works is that every six months, members pay a $75.00 administrative fee. Then, every week, there is a window open when members can order fresh produce directly from regional farmers. The ordering window is usually from 6 PM Friday night until 10 PM Monday night.

The selections are fantastic: pasture-raised meats, local seafood, local dairy products, prepared heat-and-eat meals made with local foods for busy families, honey, hand-made soaps, local free-range eggs, and nuts and produce. The order is paid for in advance through PayPal. There are drop-off points all over the region. You select the point that is most convenient for you. Then you pick up your order every Thursday at your drop-off point between 4 and 6 PM.

The newest drop-off point is the one closest to me: the Cutting Edge Cafe.Don and I hadn't even realized this fantastic little restaurant existed until it became our drop-off point. We've tried it since then, and the food is reasonably priced and delicious. We will definitely be going back.

Recently I ordered dried figs, hydroponically-grown lettuce and arugula, two different varieties of Virginia-grown apples from the western part of the state, dark-chocolate-covered peanut butter truffles for my birthday (made with goat's milk, believe it or not!), and two different pies for Thanksgiving: apple and sweet-potato. The latter has a pecan topping that looks really good.

I also ordered fresh produce for the region's needy through a new program: Pounds of Plenty. The way it works is this: co-op members can order additional produce from local farmers to be delivered directly to the Food Bank in Norfolk on Thursdays. So far I've ordered fresh kale, a salad mix, collards, and radishes.

It feels goodto supply a variety of fresh, local, vitamin-rich produce to residents who need it the most, and to help our region's small farmers at the same time.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Bathroom Remodel

We interrupt this blog post about gardening and longed-for chickens to announce that our bathroom remodel is complete.
The New Master Bathroom

Yes, Don Burke, my new husband, promised me the sun, but he promised me fresh, clean bathrooms as well. Our house was built in the 60s, and the bathrooms were so hideously decorated and in such bad condition that Don forbade me to take "before" pictures. But the "after" pictures are gorgeous, so we're both happy to share the results with the universe.

Did I mention the bathrooms were built in the 60s? Don says the only way anyone could have ever enjoyed those rooms was to be high on some illegal substance and to view the rooms under a black light.


The master bathroom was decorated in maroon: maroon in the tiles, a maroon sink, and a maroon toilet. All in a tiny space the size of a closet you could hardly turn around in.

I kid you not! Plus the shower in there never worked, at least not from the time Don moved in over 20 years ago.

Master Bathroom Sink

The hall bathroom was bigger, but it wasn't handicap-friendly, which Don and I want to plan for, since we plan to age out in this house. The door was extremely narrow, too narrow for even the slimmest of wheelchairs. The tub was so close to the toilet that, if you had a broken leg, you wouldn't be able to use the toilet, because you'd have no place to stretch your leg out. So, in effect, we had no more room than in the master bathroom.

Our New Hall Bathroom

And the color scheme was just as hideous: beige and a lighter-than-avocado green in the tile, and the same, hideous green in the sink, the toilet, and the tub.

I actually liked the old tub, but everything had to go, because we had to tear down the bathroom completely to make more room. We decided to turn it into a 3/4 bath with a shower instead of a tub. We tore out a closet to gain some much-needed leg room. The whole footprint of the bathroom changed.

I had gone to the local public library to get some books with some remodeling ideas. We hired a local company with a great reputation, Jerry Harris Remodeling, to do the work. Jerry Harris' team did a great job of making my vision a reality, and they made it look easy.

The Hall Bathroom Finally Has Enough Room!

Don was wonderful. He let me pick out almost everything: the tiles, the colors, the fixtures, etc. He picked out a medicine cabinet and the light fixtures, because he's picky about lighting. But, other than that, he let me do the shopping.

What a great husband!

The Hall Shower Has a Bench

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sweet Potatoes

The region of the South where we live is known for growing terrific sweet potatoes. Last summer I had purchased some sweet potatoes from a local on-line food co-op, Coastal Farms. These sweet potatoes started sprouting on my kitchen counter, so I snapped off the sprouts, rooted them, and planted them in my garden, just to see what would happen. Here are some pictures of the pretty flowers I eventually got from these plants, and some of the sweet potatoes I harvested when I dug them up. These pictures were taken in early October, although I harvested the last sweet potato this weekend.

Sweet potatoes' flowers look like morning glories

Here are my first sweet potatoes ever, a pleasant surprise!

 Sometimes I think I'm not methodical enough in my approach to gardening, but sometimes a little impulsiveness is a good thing. Raising these sweet potatoes was very easy, and I intend to expand my plantings next year.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Overlay Districts vs. Chesapeake Hens

Our group, 4 Chesapeake Hens, is trying to get micro-flocks of up to six laying hens legalized in residential areas in Chesapeake, Virginia. The Planning Commission has voted against our initial efforts to do this by one vote in a split decision. We may never know the Commissioners' true reasons for voting against us because there was no public discussion or debate against the chickens at the meeting. Those who voted against us have not even given us reasons in our follow-up contacts with them, other than something vague to the effect that the Staff Report seemed thorough and sufficient.

Except that it was not. Our group has researched further information on the Staff Report that we intend to share with City Council. In the meantime, the part of the Staff Report that disturbs me the most is this one:

 ... It's me, again. What bothers me most about this portion of the document is that it is completely clueless about the "urban homesteader" point of view or the other national movements that are behind the interest in gardening. It is clueless regarding WHY an interest in urban chickens is sweeping this nation. Why should hens be banned due to something as arbitrary as an overlay district, if there is nothing intrinsically undesirable about the chickens? We are not asking for a dismantling of these districts, but merely permission to keep a few chickens like any other pet. Doing so will make Chesapeake an even better, more desirable place to live. Residents will be able to enjoy organic gardening and permaculture without leaving their own yards.

Here we are, doing our best to combat urban sprawl and preserve the environment. We also want to live in the residential areas where infrastructure is already in place to support our homes. Some of us are taking older, beat-up homes in residential areas and fixing them up. We hire local remodeling, heating and air-conditioning companies, and other local businesses to do this, thus contributing to the local economy. We generally spend our local dollars as locally as we can.

We want a small spread to reduce our need for lawn mowing because this process takes a lot of time and is very polluting. We are trying to lessen the impact of our properties even more by replacing relatively unproductive lawn that requires mowing with useful vegetable gardens that do not. We desire to live close to our work and recreational activities to save on time and fuel. Our commitment is to residential areas, and we see hens as part of our environmental commitment and as assistants in fertilizing and maintaining these lawns and gardens without the use of fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and other products made from petroleum. They will even help us till our garden beds without the use of noisy, smelly, gasoline-powered tools.

While some of us can't afford to move to a farm or an RE-1 residential estate, others do not want to do so even if we can afford to. The Staff Report suggests that we add to urban sprawl and to the long lines of automobiles sitting on Highway 64 every weekday morning and afternoon. It suggests we burden the City with the need for even more roads and other infrastructure to support this sprawl, all at taxpayer expense. It tells us the solution is not to object to the restrictions regarding laying hens, but to simply move if we don't like this arbitrary and unnecessary policy under the current overlay districts. And it is somehow confident that residents who are willing to give up other amenities and move for the sake of a few chickens will choose to remain in Chesapeake, instead of looking somewhere in North Carolina or elsewhere where the taxes are lower. Does this sound like sound, proactive city planning as our nation watches fuel prices spike and the approach of peak oil? Is it well-considered in a time of prolonged recession and difficult-to-obtain home mortgages? And if residents of the residential overlay district are so vehemently opposed to a few pet hens next door, where have they been at the public hearings on this matter?

Furthermore, I fail to see how a few pet chickens can threaten an entire overlay district, while a few pet parrots or rabbits cannot. This is totally overblown and illogical.

Our group is far from done in making its case before City Council. Others interested in helping with this effort are urged to contact City Council members, to like our Facebook page, and to sit with us, dressed in red, at City Council meetings. The most important of these is coming up on November 20, 2012, when the "hen issue" is back on the agenda for City Council. The meeting starts at 6:30 PM. If you care, BE there!

Update: On November 20, Chesapeake City Council voted 6-3 to allow hens with certain restriction in residential areas.