Open Collective
Open Collective
Explaining our Call-to-Aid
Published on June 19, 2023 by groundhogs

 Howdy folks, 

 Some of y'all may have recently seen a Call to Aid posted by our comrade across their social media - and a few of you have already responded, financially or with offers to help us with the various labours our projects entail - thanks so much! 

 Over the past few days we've been transitioning from coping against emergency situations back to our "normal routine" of compounding crises, which means we've finally gotten back onto a digital computer ourselves and are able to share a little bit about what we've been doing. 

 The settler-city of Durham, which enclaves most of our operations, has rules about how land is used on residential lots. Many cities have similar rules: grass can't be too long, you can't keep trash by the curb, etc. In Durham, these rules are enforced by the Neighborhood Improvement Services Department, "to preserve and improve quality of life conditions for Durham residents." 

 In practice this means they have what locals call "lawn cops" that drive around and then staple an obnoxious looking notice to your house if a spring shower caused the grass to sprout up while you were away at your dayjob. 

 At least, that's how it's felt by most of the settlers. When you're a community of dispossessed Indigenous folk and their accomplices trying to practice good land stewardship, the threat of lawn cop feels a lot more serious. (We share a feeling of serious threat from NIS with the settlers who are aware of climate weirding and trying to use their own land access to mitigate local collapses, but our feelings include a sense of our cultural and spiritual potential being limited.) 

 Anyway. We knew we were in for a wet spring, so let a fair bit of our front lawn, which is uphill from the back garden, naturalize as meadows, to try and soak up as much of that water as we could. (Worth noting, the past few weeks, the city has been running advertisements encouraging residents to conserve water, even as they go around coercing residents into preventing our water table from recharging.) By mid-April, the lawn cops informed us we were in violation: we would have to cut down the "weeds" in the front lawn (native asters and such). 

 It was beyond frustrating, it was a trauma, to rip apart the habitat for that many bunnies and other little things, and being busy traumatizing ourselves to try and avoid a hefty fine meant we didn't get to our spring planting. 

 And then when the lawn cop came back, the focus was entirely on the main garden - which they didn't even mention the first time they came out. We were informed if we had objections about this process we could file for appeals and extensions by attending this or that meeting downtown, which is a big risk: time spent pursuing appeals is time spent not getting into compliance. 

 This time, not just native wildflowers were counted as weeds. Mustard, rye, flax, peas, were all named "weeds" and we were told they had to be cut down, or we'd be fined. By this point, the property owner had come to us with complaints about the threatening letters the city was forwarding to them. 

 So, we cut down plants we were relying on for daily nutrition - and that nutrition isn't something we have the means to replace with consumer products, even if we wanted to. 

 It's hard to explain the interconnectedness of an ecosystem that's protected by good land stewardship, in the abstract, but certain events, like the removal of our crops, make it clear. 

 Removing those plants exposed the habitat of the bunnies that were living in the garden, which attracted hawks. The hawks displaced the crows, which had been a pressure on the local insect population, so there were a lot more insects which caused damage to the remaining herbs & native trees and such, which attracted deer, doing further damage to many of the shrubs and trees, preventing them from flowering, fruiting, or being healthy enough to propagate, this year, which greatly limits how many, and what sort, of plants we have available to plant at other locations in the fall. 

 And, after all that, the property owners claimed they had not noticed the extent of our gardening efforts previously, and clarified that we don't actually have their permission to do a lot of what we've done, like to have planted trees and shrubs or perennial herbs that had been there for 18 months. (Isn't it strange someone can be oblivious to a piece of land turning from a turf lawn into a shrubby woodland, yet still claim it's their land?) They want the property to have a turf lawn at the end of our tennacy (though, thankfully, are willing to renew our lease for another year at this point, despite these conflicts.) 

 So. The ordinances were violated, the settlers appeased, and the emergency is over. But the rules we were operating under have changed, and, unfortunately, the concept of property, and its children like Neighborhood Improvement Services and tenancy agreements, still exist: the rules will continue to change toward whatever disadvantages us. 

 We're still trying to get with the current situation, which is a lot of work, not just in terms of re-assessing the intersection of our capacities with our opportunities, but physically. (We'll try and post before the end of summer about how we're conducting that reassessment.) 

 We laid out several tons of wood chips as pathing in the front meadow, which all must be removed, and then the meadow mowed and threshed to bring it back toward a typical lawn. (Luckily, we were able to negotiate a temporary allowance from the city to keep our composting area until the end of the June, so have been able to break down some of the woodchips there, but the rest will have to be incorporated into non-violating garden operations.) 

 We're also having to move plants out of the ground and into containers, which has the immediate effect of disconnecting our garden from the local watershed, increasing our reliance on the city's diminishing water supply, and requiring more labor energy from us to apply that water. 

 Both of these changes to our operations produce potential opportunities for comrades and accomplices living nearby. (Everyone else can send us money or material gifts; contact us to arrange shipping.) 

 Accomplices, who we define to be settlers who are enacting treason to settler-colonialism, can contact us to arrange a time to help us pull wood chips from the front lawn. Our deadline for this is June 30th, so immediate aid is desired, but if you aren't expecting to be able to help that soon, send us an email anyway: we're working on sending out more regular descriptions of what aid we're interested in from accomplices, so maybe our desires and your capacity will line up. 

 Comrades, who we define as Black people, Indigenous people, or people of color living in diaspora, we're going to have plants available for any of y'all who would want to bring them to the land you access and steward: contact us to let us know what sort of space you've got available, and we'll let you know what sort of plants we might be able to provide. 

Open Collective
Make your community sustainable.



  • Create a Collective
  • About Fiscal Hosting
  • Discover
  • Find a Fiscal Host
  • Become a sponsor
  • Become a Host