Thursday, July 2, 2015

Two Letters




Early this spring, the City of Minneapolis issued a citation to me for an illegal addition, failure to pull a permit for my greenhouse. Several deadlines have passed, and while I have visited the Inspections Dept. three times, I have not complied with the order. 

More recently, the city sent me another citation, demanding I remove all grasses and weeds in the "ENTIRE YARD AND BOULEVARD" taller than eight inches, by July 02, or a "CONTRACTOR MAY IMMEDIATELY CORRECT THIS CONDITION WITHOUT FURTHER NOTICE AND ALL COSTS...WILL BE ADDED AS A SPECIAL ASSESSMENT AGAINST THE PROPERTY."

I asked, but no definition of "weeds" was offered by Inspections. Half of the wildflowers in my garden, probably more than half of Americans would call them weeds. I do not trust the city contractor to know the difference. 

http://www.offthegridmpls.blogspot.com/2015/06/spring-peak-garden-update-2015.html
http://offthegridmpls.blogspot.com/…/07/birthday-garden.html
http://offthegridmpls.blogspot.com/2011/07/garden-tour.html

I delivered copies of the following two letters to the Mayor, City Attorney, my council member, and the Inspections Dept, this afternoon. 

Happy Independence Day :)

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To whom it may concern, regarding my failure to apply for a building permit from City of Minneapolis Inspections, for my greenhouse:

I have wanted to build a greenhouse for a long time. For years, I have been collecting old sliding glass doors, mostly through social networking sites like Craigslist. In the Fall of 2013 I began construction on the first half of a greenhouse, on the south side of my house in Minneapolis. For the frame I used Cedartone treated lumber; the second half, in the fall of 2014, I used old-growth douglas fir, I reclaimed from a remodeling project near Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis, during the housing bubble.

The entire project cost me approximately $1000. Had I used douglas fir instead of Cedartone on the first half, I could have reduced the cost to $500. A glass greenhouse that size, purchased as a kit, might cost $5000, $10,000-$15,000 installed.

In the early spring of 2015, I received a letter from City of Minneapolis Inspections, that I was in code violation for an illegal addition, failure to apply for a permit. I went to the Inspections Department downtown, to inform myself and to voice my concerns, and to go on record.

A Final Notice arrived, when I did not apply for the permit, after which I visited Inspections again, to clarify my concerns and to ask more questions. When I did not pay for the permit, an Administrative Citation arrived, May **, stating there was a $200 fine.

I did not apply for a permit when I started building the greenhouse, because I did not believe I needed a permit, because I did not attach the greenhouse to the frame of the house, thus there was no structural change to the house. As a former licensed general contractor, I am familiar with building codes and the licensing regime. I did not do the necessary research however, nor did I contact Inspections to tell them what I was planning.

In retrospect, the greenhouse is clearly in violation of building code, insofar as it exceeds the 120 sq ft threshold requiring a permit, at 155 sq ft approximately - though there are no building codes specific to the actual construction of greenhouses.

Primarily, my concern in not applying for a permit is economic. As a maintenance man for a small company managing group homes for the profoundly autistic, my income in 2014 was $33,000 (with median household income in the state of Minnesota @ $60,700.) I purchased my house in March 2006, as I like to say, 12 minutes before the market collapsed. I am 20% “under water.” I purchased the house @ $154,000; Hennepin County has had it appraised as high as $169,000; six months on the market in the summer of 2013, there was one offer @ $109,000. It is a one-bedroom @ 750 sq ft, 1918 construction.

City Inspections has the right to require me to hire an architect or an engineer to assess the greenhouse. Because there are few codes regulating greenhouses, there not being much in the way of precedent, that seemed possible and even likely, which could add thousands of dollars to the cost of construction.

Secondly, as this is not a permanent structure necessarily, it is irrational to inflate the cost as if it were permanent, or a living space. It is experimental.

Third, I am a long-time builder: I can build a house, I have built townhouses, I have torn the roof off houses and added a second story. I do not need an inspector or an engineer to tell me if my greenhouse is structurally sound.

Fourth, in this time, in this digital age, if I am able to document all that I do in pictures and video, why do I need an inspector to stand between me and a potential buyer? Indeed, the house is nearly 100 years old, a one-bedroom on a corner lot-and-a-half. The lot is extensively wild-landscaped, with 200 species of plants and 30 fruit trees. The most likely buyer would bulldoze the lot and build a “McMansion” - making any inspections on this greenhouse and house, a waste of resources. In fact, inspections do not remove me from liability, if there is a danger to the general “health and welfare” of the community. So precisely what is the point of inspections?

Fifth, there are a great many things I would like to do to my house, as an experiment making my house stronger, more energy efficient, more resilient, using reclaimed materials whenever I can, documenting everything I do. Aside from the fact that I do not need Inspections to tell me how to do that, I can't afford to pay for a permit every time I want to start a project, nor risk excessive and arbitrary fees, hiring engineers etc. My not being able to afford permits and fees, should not preclude me from applying my expertise, working on and experimenting with my house, changing it for changing times.

Sixth, if America is indeed a Republic, or even a Democracy, government exists to serve me, I do not exist to keep government economically solvent. To some extent, the expectation that I submit to inspections on this greenhouse, on my own house, is just the wheels of bureaucracy churning: “the wheels of fate churn slowly, but they churn exceedingly fine.” I do not accept inevitability, I do not acquiesce merely because it is so, I do not pay the fee just because I am told to. Unchecked government is the foundation of tyranny; in a time in declining revenue for governments, in a time of peak social complexity and institutional corruption, it is well documented that governments and Institutions of all kinds, become predatory and parasitic, particularly against the powerless.

My greenhouse exceeded expectations in 2015. I maintain a big garden, and a community garden for the autistic, for the company I work for. My 2015 vegetable starts were the best I have ever grown, the healthiest. If it is 0 degrees outside and the sun is shining, it might be 70 in the greenhouse. The greenhouse actually helps heat the house if the temperature outside is above 30 and the sun is shining. My furnace didn't turn on after Mar 01 this year. The greenhouse acts like an insulator, for heat loss in the house, at night in the winter. I will be able to grow fresh greens all winter, 2015-2016.

I realize, fighting inspections is a losing battle, insofar as the city will get it's money “one way or another,” fining me until they put the payment on my taxes, and then if I don't pay, putting a lien on the house. Whatever the case, I am documenting all of it, blogging about it, writing about it.


Sincerely,
William Hunter Duncan 


 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~`


City of Minneapolis,


On June 29, 2015, I received a citation from the City of Minneapolis, Housing Inspection Services, about vegetation in my “yard”. The letter states that I must remove all grass and weeds taller than 8”, by July 02, in my “ENTIRE YARD AND BOULEVARD.”

My “yard and boulevard”, which I call my “garden”, is landscaped with appox. 200 species of wildflowers, wild medicinals, food and fruit. There are grasses that are edible. I weed regularly. What many consider weeds, are in fact wild flowers.

The city receives perhaps hundreds of calls each year about my garden, most if not all negative. The city does not hear from the many who tell me that they love my garden, and walk by regularly to view it.

I will comply with the order, to the degree I believe acceptable. I will clear the boulevard near the corner and the alley; it is a corner lot. I will pull all tree saplings. I will fence back the vegetation along the sidewalk, and pull all vegetation growing in the sidewalk. I will pull any weeds and saplings, but not the wildflowers or climbing vines, from the alley.

I will document all that I do. If contractors then remove anything by cutting or spraying, I will document that as well. I have been blogging about my garden since 2010. There are people across this country, in as many as 10 different countries, aware of my garden. Please respect this sanctuary oasis for birds and bugs. Thank you.


William Hunter Duncan


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Feel free to contact Minneapolis about it. Just add my name ;)


http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/inspec…/inspections-feedback

Minneapolis City Attorney or Mayor Betsy Hodges (612) 673-2010

Friday, June 19, 2015

Summer Solstice 2015


Earlier this week, one of the group homes I help maintenance for the autistic had their yearly re-licensing inspection. The county inspector dropped a fire extinguisher she had removed from a closet at the top of the main stairs, it broke, releasing that fine particulate fire retardant, filling the upstairs hallway into the bedrooms, into the kitchen and downstairs into the basement. When I got there two hours later (no one thought to call me, I only found out because I called the other maintenance man about another “save big money at …....” fraud of an assemble-yourself picnic table purchase, trash out of the box,) the other maintenance man was blowing that hideous noxious fire retardant dust throughout the house and out the front door with a shop-vac, without wearing a mask.

“Like a perfect metaphor for government at this point,” I said, to everybody there. “Making a mess and not there to clean it up,” someone else added. I feel bad now that I didn't add that banks and corporations do the same thing, to be fair, but it seemed out of context at the time. It was a government official who did this, who might otherwise have quarantined the house and called in the MN Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the Health Department et al, if one of the $12/hr house staff had done it (we are a private contractor at the mercy of the taxpayer's government.) There were no government officials to be found in the clean-up of that debacle.

I've been ranting on Facebook again, about gov, banks and corporations. People must think I am crazy, talking about traitors and the most fascist collusion between corp and gov there ever was, OKA (otherwise known as) TPP/TISA/TTIP trade pacts. This, after the Minnesota legislature and Governor Dayton just passed a MN State budget that allows nurseries to sell plants containing pesticides that are fatally toxic to pollinators, as “bee friendly,” among other hideously eco-fascist new laws (if fascist is the collusion of gov and corp in violence against economy and ecology,) like allowing county boards to spray wild hemp on private property and then charge the landowner for it; Eliminating the citizen review board at the MPCA; greenlining the Polymet, 20 years of mining for 500 years of sulphuric acid in Minnesota waters, copper/nickel mine in northern Minnesota.

Which Polymet mine, if Minnesota outlawed it, if TPP passes, Polymet would be able to sue Minnesota for “lost profits.” They are going to get their mine and give us the pollution, one way or another.

While gov/corp/bank continue their manifest destiny, to do unto Africa what has been done to America, what has been done to so much of the rest of the world, this mono-cultural totalitarian treatment of people and the earth.

And I'm the crazy guy?

Few care about any of this, in the context of a bowl-cut white guy shooting up an historic black church/symbol of God and freedom for black people, killing nine. Or Gov/Corp/Bank, OKA Military Industrial Complex, antagonizing Russia and China to take up common cause against us? Or that fraudulent con, OKA aristocratic pageant OKA Presidential Election 2016? Or the myriad entertainments? Or the pay-check to pay-check existence most people live? God damn, the only thing keeping most Americans believing their standard of living is better than it ever has been anywhere ever, are their smart phones and tv programming. War against Russia and China would put an end to most of that, I suppose.

What am I trying to do? Do you think I am trying to start a movement, some revolution, with all this online ranting? Yeah, what sort of revolution do you imagine in this disparate, dissolving mega-state empire, with all it's ghastly tools of mass destruction, it's divide and conquer methodology, it's history of hidden and not so hidden atrocities in the name of freedom, democracy and the holy market?

The harder they try to hold onto control, the more it dissolves. What am I trying to do? Survive, like everybody else. To live well. I love my life. I have a greenhouse, an oasis of a garden, a great job, the greatest girlfriend ever. All this ranting about traitors and TPP trade pact treason?

I like coffee. Coffee plants thrive in Hawaii, but nowhere in the 48 contiguous states. I am growing one, as a novelty. I could probably grow more with the proper infrastructure, at great expense, and not very much of it. America isn't going to feed it's coffee habit on what Hawaii and greenhouses can produce. Trade is good.

I am not in favor of trade in people, or any system of trade monopolized by supra-state, multinational, private corporations, or any monopolized trade that comes at the expense of the health of people or ecosystems. I don't care about 99.9% of the consumer trash available, nor “fresh” fruit in January that tastes like cardboard because the few sugars have turned to starch. Trade is fine, if it is mutually beneficial and ecologically responsible. TPP is good for corporations and their investors, no one and nothing else, it is the death of nation-state sovereignty and the sovereignty of people, and the rise of a new aristocracy attached to quasi-states unto themselves, multinational corporations and banks, a kind of untouchable supra-state in collusion, controlling the globe.

Crazy. What am I trying to do? What have I been doing, all these years, ranting about this and that online, face to face to anyone who could hear it? I'm trying to articulate what I see in a way that makes sense, so that others will have the courage to question the narratives we live by, the narratives we are controlled by. To give people the courage to construct a new narrative, a new story about what this life and this earth and this economy are about. To fall in love with the earth again, how about that for a revolution? If the Pope can do it, you can too. LOL. Let that not be construed as support for monocultural anything. We've already had that revolution. 

Happy Solstice.




Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Spring Peak Garden Update 2015


 















Grape vine climbing a stalk of quack grass, next to an apricot tree.



Onions with Oregano in a pot



Beans.

Peaches.





















Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mothers Day




Plants purchased from the Friends plant sale this past weekend. A wide variety of herbs, strawberries, two gooseberry, a serviceberry, two manchurian apricot, and assorted curiosities not commonly found in local nursery’s.

The focus today is on this boulevard. There are about two hundred sapling elm and maple to be pulled, including quack grass. It is rough work, made more difficult by the delicate spring plant growth; it would be best to pull these earlier in the season, after the earliest rains. But it can be done at any time, though always best a day after a rain.




Half done. This is the view from the corner, the full length of the boulevard weeded on the sidewalk side. Plus planting a few starts of lemon grass, sweet grass, trout lily, "arctic" strawberries, and leeks - about two hours. I consider it less like work and more like art; it is necessary to the aesthetic and health of this garden. While I weeded, a man dressed in synthetic running gear passed by, nodding to me, then stopping on the other side of the intersection and shouting, "I check out your house every week! I love it!" A beautiful woman walked by later, smiled at me and said, "I love walking by your place."

Another woman I do some gardening for, called yesterday and said, "Just so you know, I sprayed blue foam poison on the trees in the fence, and the thistles. In case you were coming by, I didn't want you to freak out." It's your yard, I said, basically.


I did this to my spade, pulling this elm. There were about two dozen like this, along the edge of the sidewalk, elm I have tried to pull in the past, which I ended up cutting off mostly out of laziness. Indeed, there are some now so deep, holding so fast, I cut them a few inches below the soil and hope for the best.

I get why people resort to poison. Saplings especially, as they are not easy to pull if they are more than a year old. That is the importance of pulling them the first year. It gets easier every year in this garden, as the soil is healthier each year. The woman who spread that poison, would be healthier if she spent time outside regularly, weeding her garden, pulling saplings, planting and harvesting. It is too much trouble, she has no passion for it, she is busy, she would rather watch television. 

Done. There are more saplings throughout the garden, but I will wait until after the next rain, to make it easier. There are other things to be planted, a house project inside, I am needing to finish. There is gardening to be done at that woman's house. She is a mother of two. It is a service I do.

The wild onions have taken well here, revealed after pulling the mini-canopy of maple. They will flower in a few weeks. A staple of the plains Indians, high in vitamin c. The corner smelled of onions, as many were damaged in the process.

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We have been conditioned to throw poison at every problem. Indeed, it is difficult to participate in this society economically, without contributing to systemic toxicity. Indeed, we are not encouraged at all, to treat the soil, air and water responsibly, but to consume without care for stewardship. They say that cancer is an old people's disease, but that is mostly because they have been immersed in this systemic toxicity the longest, and they haven't lived otherwise with respect for either their body or the body of the earth. And in fact, cancer is no longer just an old person's problem, increasing among younger people. Each of us contributes to that, reaching for the toxic consumer product, before thinking what else might be done that is healthier for oneself, others and for the earth.

Many people say "mother earth." Few respect her. On this day, this Mother's Day, be good to your mother. Consider, every day is mother's day, like every day is earth day. Be blessed.