A site where those who are concerned about clean air, water, and habitat for wildlife can learn more about how to help in their own back yards. This site will keep up with proposed legislation that affects our ability to keep our planet clean and green, and will help others find websites and services to learn more about living lighter on the planet.
I just walked out my
front door and nearly ran into a Monarch butterfly. I placed an outgoing letter
I carried in the mailbox, turned and walked back in. I nearly ran into that
today, I took two vases of chilled water out back. Taking my time while enjoying
the quiet of nature, I snipped Narrow-leaf Sunflowers from along the lake and
carefully selected beaded segments of Wild Coffee from along the back of the
house. I meticulously removed the lower stems and arranged them artfully into
Even earlier than that
today, I drank my coffee and read the newspaper. Afterward, I took the coffee
grounds from the pot out to feed it to the worms that are happily eating and
creating fertilizer for me.
I can honestly say
that I truly believe I enjoy my yard more than most, if not all others in my
neighborhood. How can I not? There is always something going on. I walk around
the house and appreciate life.
Yes, my yard is a
little different from most other yards in the neighborhood. When I walk down the
block, most houses are quiet and peaceful. When I get to our house, there is
commotion -- butterflies, bees, sometimes bunnies, and nearly always doves.
Sometimes the doves are hiding, but most of the time they’re hanging
around on the roof. Yes, there are times they scare the bejeebers out of me!
Even when I expect them to be there, they scare me when I walk through the break
in the buttonwoods to work at my potting benchI’m not here
to criticize other yards. I’m simply here to tell you that we turned off our
sprinklers. Yes. In a day when people smarter than me estimate 50% of our water
consumption here is used on irrigation, I can say, “Not In My Back Yard!”
When people smarter
than me are predicting yet another drought in this area this winter, I say
When people smarter
than me are saying the red-drift algae, red tide and enormous dead zones are
caused by fertilizer runoff, I can say N.I.M.B.Y!
Oh yes, I have “awful
things” in my yard, too. One day, while a few girlfriends were chatting on the
lanai, they spotted a black snake in the Dwarf Fire Bush. They squealed with
excitement as they grabbed their iPhone to videotape it. They squealed even more
as they stood a foot or so away from all the commotion as it coiled around the
shrubbery where the bees were buzzing. Then, the snake started eating the bees!
Yes, it was striking away, picking off the bees gathering nectar for their
honey. Yes, the ladies were only about a foot away from all the commotion, but
no, there was no danger. There was harmony!
Sometimes we have a
red-shouldered hawk land on the corner of our pool cage looking for those black
rat snakes. Sometimes we have an osprey landing on the still-too-weak top of our
south-Florida slash pine trying to dodge mockingbirds who are protecting their
nests. Sometimes, we have fresh-water turtles digging around and laying eggs.
Sometimes the crows are watching them only to fight over those freshly-laid
It wasn’t always this
way. Several years ago we had a vision.
We submitted a 10-page
Architectural Modification Request that included the Florida-friendly yard. With
the Request we attached a $500 damage deposit. The Request was unanimously
approved by ARC and the Board.
Several months later,
when we asked for the return of our damage deposit the management company said
the sidewalk was damaged. The Board president and the ARC chairwoman met my
husband on the front sidewalk and declared there was no sidewalk damage. The
Board president then told my husband that she would return our $500.
Instead, the damage
deposit check was deposited into the homeowners association’s account. We were
then told that they were keeping the money because they didn’t like our yard.
To make a long story
short, we were forced to request presuit mediation with the Board over this
In the time that Board
president lied to my husband about giving us back our money and the mediation,
the ARC Chairwoman quit. She had two very angry public confrontations with the
Board because she (and her husband) very strongly believed our money should be
returned. The Board then installed an angry old man as the new ARC Chairman.
Around this time, I
was voted onto the Board by the homeowners. This made for some very interesting
Board meetings where I was completely abused. It was truly so bad that for a
time after every Board meeting, neighbors would call or stop by my house to see
if I was okay. It was truly unbelievable!
This mean old man
worked every angle to make our lives miserable. He would argue one point then
change to a different point. His arguments were a constant moving target.
Later, I found out
that this mean old man had even met with our local Florida Yards and
Neighborhood staff at the UF/IFAS extension office here in Lee County. They
reported that he spent an hour or two explaining to them why their principles
were all wrong and how he demanded that they remove the Florida-Friendly-Yard
sign from my front yard!
Finally, I had the
revelation that I needed to start videotaping these meetings. I researched it
and the law allowed it.
In the meantime, my
husband and I met with the Association’s attorney and also exchanged several
letters. Unfortunately, presuit mediation was inevitable.
The day we met with
the mediator, my husband and I were across the table from the Board president
and vice-president, the insurance company’s claim representative, our CAM, the
Association’s/insurance company’s attorney. There were five of them – and would
have been six, except we objected to the mean old ARC Chairman participating.
So, he sat out in the lobby. The mediation began … and continued for seven
The actual mediation
is confidential, so I can’t go into detail, but the settlement agreement is not
confidential. The Board paid us back the $500, plus 18% interest. We planted
another Florida-friendly bush on the southeast side of our house. The Board
spent a bunch of the homeowners’ money on a case they didn’t have a chance of
winning. (My husband called it "the $4,400 day" which was his estimate of their
expense.) We spent nothing.
Despite the two
attorneys drafting up an airtight settlement agreement the mean old ARC Chairman
could not admit defeat. He actually tried to get his committee to override his
approval on the Architectural Modification Request that the
Association’s/insurance company’s attorney insisted upon. Yes, that’s right.
Part of the mediation settlement agreement included a new ARC Request that the
ARC Chairman himself signed. (Remember? He was sitting in the lobby for seven
hours.) Then, evidently when he heard the complete results of the mediation, he
decided to try to void his own signature approving the Request!
I truly could NOT make
The bottom line is
that his efforts were in vain.
The day after the
mediation where the mean old man approved the ARC Request, we had a Board
meeting. I videotaped it. This very old man threw a temper tantrum like I’ve
never seen before in my life! His voice was raspier than I’ve ever heard it. The
stress of his meanness had taken a toll on him.
Shortly afterward I
heard this mean old man was diagnosed as terminally ill. He is gone now and that
whole ordeal is behind us.
Today, my husband, our
very old cat and I truly enjoy every moment in our yard. We often get e-mails
requesting tours or information. Several neighbors requested information and I
know of at least one neighbor who has installed a Florida-friendlier yard as a
I am not one to hold a
grudge. I do try to find good in everything. It is certainly difficult after
dealing with this very mean old man and our Board of Directors. However, as a
result of this ordeal, I have met some of the smartest and finest people I’ve
ever known. I am truly blessed by that … and I thank God each time I am enjoying
the harmony of commotion.