Rethink Your Life!
Finance, health, lifestyle, environment, philosophy
The Work of Art and The Art of Work
Kiko Denzer on Art
[Cob] [Article] Homesteading: authority vs. sustainabilityDavid Elfstrom listbox at elfstrom.com
Sat Jul 28 11:27:06 PDT 2007
[An example of the laws, by-laws and zoning that interfere with people practicing sustainable living.] [picture in original article, link below] http://www.haywardwis.com/record/?section_id=34&story_id=233810 Homestead runs afoul of county zoning rules Terrell Boettcher / News Editor Last updated: Wednesday, July 25th, 2007 09:38:07 AM A “humanure” bin stands near a house constructed of clay and straw in the town of Draper. The owners of the structures face potential county/state sanctions for building these without permits. Two women who live in a mud-and-straw-bale structure northeast of Winter and have what they call a “humanure” compost crib for human waste disposal face potential sanctions for not obtaining Sawyer County sanitary and building permits. Michelle Piper (previously known as Michelle Murray) and Febe Dancier live on a five-acre wooded parcel near Black Dan Lake in the town of Draper. In addition to a 6 X 8-foot “humanure” crib, the property has a “cob” house 27 feet in circumference, a firewood and sawdust shed, a root cellar and a well with a hand pump. The site has no electricity. The house is 45 feet from a wetland and groundwater lies two feet beneath the ground surface. During a July 19 trial in Sawyer County Circuit Court, Dancier wore a pair of jeans which displayed large letters with the epithet “f . . . war.” The judge and other parties in the court proceeding did not raise that as an issue. Piper, 31, and Dancier, 28, appeared without an attorney. Dancier, who is deaf, and Piper communicated via sign language. The county was represented by Zoning Administrator Bill Christman and Attorney Mike Kelsey and the state by Carl Lippert, a wastewater specialist for the Department of Commerce Division of Safety and Buildings. On June 29, Judge Norman Yackel issued an order that the women allow county officials to inspect their property and take photos. On July 10, Christman along with sanitation technician Eric Wellauer and Lippert visited the property and took measurements and photos. The zoning office issued four citations, two to each woman, for allegedly not obtaining a soil test or sanitary permit for the humanure compost pile and not obtaining a building permit for the residence. Upon conviction, each citation carries a forfeiture of $438. In court last Thursday, Christman testified that the zoning office last October received “numerous inquiries” about a “mud house” on the property. A walk-through inspection revealed a residential structure and a “humanure” system intended for disposal of human waste (an open-top box with timbered sides), Christman said. On July 10, county officials did a second walk-through inspection; they noticed that a second compost box had been built. A compost box is not an approved human waste disposal system in Wisconsin, Christman said. The owners had not had the required soil test done, and had not applied for permits for either structure. Also, the cob house did not meet the county’s minimum requirement of 500 square feet for a one-bedroom dwelling, Christman said. “We need assurance that there is some kind of septic system for the proper disposal of human or animal waste, with a soil test and sanitary permit,” Christman said. A privy/outhouse over a pit dug in the soil is acceptable in certain situations, or alternatively over a sealed vault, he indicated. An open-pit privy would require a soil boring done by a certified contractor to ascertain whether there is sustainable soil to receive the waste, he said. The soil test is paid for by the property owner. Christman said that on July 10, Murray and Dancier “welcomed us onto their property” and told the county officials ‘We gotta do what we gotta do.’” “We are not interested in taking $1,700 (in forfeitures) from” the owners, Christman added. “There should be an opportunity for resolution or approval here.” Lippert testified that “We don’t approve compost systems. They have to meet national standards, and to my knowledge they (Murray and Dancier) have not met any of these standards.” The estimated five to 10 gallons of water per day that comes from the “humanure” pile would have to be treated through a private on-site waste treatment system (POWTS) such as a drain field, seepage cells, or mound system, Lippert indicated. He added that he does not believe an open-pit privy would pass inspection at that location, but that a water-tight vault privy of 200 gallons or more would be acceptable. It would have to be pumped out every three to four months by a licensed hauler. The “humanure” system eventually will pollute groundwater, Lippert said. It is “very close” to a wetland, he said. Yackel found the owners guilty, but stayed the forfeitures provided that they obtain a sanitary permit for an open-pit privy or vault no later than Sept. 28 and a land use/building permit no later than Oct. 12. If they do apply for these permits, he will take another look at the forfeitures, he said. He said if the owners don’t get permits, then they will have to pay the fines and the county can apply for a writ of assistance to take further action that it deems necessary. The problem with the defendants’ actions is they “set a precedent for others for development or their own use,” the judge said. Murray responded that “We wash our hands of this; we reject the judgment on us and we don’t wish to comply with the (county’s) letter.” Yackel responded that “The county and state have certain rules and they have to enforce those rules. Zoning is probably the most unusual enforcement the county does because it affects what people can do with their property. It’s not you personally but a matter of law. The county can’t let you exist that way.” Back to nature On Friday, July 20, Piper and Dancier were cordial when a reporter visited them at their property. Their van was parked just off North Clover Road. Dozens of bumper stickers were plastered on the van and attached trailer, many expressing anti-war or feminist slogans. On the windshield was a peace emblem and the word “Anarchy.” Along the footpath leading from the van to the residential site were two boards attached to birch trees, each inscribed with writing. A mask and dreamcatcher was attached to another tree. Netting hung over the footpath. Piper and Dancier asked that their picture not be taken but agreed to allow pictures of their buildings. As they spoke, a few kittens walked near Dancier’s feet. Piper said they bought the property in December 2005 and moved there from Elkhart Lake, Wis. in May 2006. “Several things happened to kind of lead to this,” she said. “We searched for land and bought this parcel because it was the cheapest. We lived in the van for six months.” Their residence is a “cob” structure made of clay and straw; “we built it all by hand,” Piper said. “It cost us under $1,000 to build.” The “humanure” system consists of a five-gallon pail plus the crib. “Every time you go to the bathroom, you put in an equal amount of sawdust,” Piper said. “You put that into the compost bin and put hay or straw atop that. Then you wash out your bucket. All the soap we use is biodegradable.” The house is heated with a 100-year-old wood stove donated by a neighbor. Piper and Dancier stayed there last winter and “we managed to survive pretty well,” she said. “We’re actually pretty thriving. It’s kind of like living in a rock. The sun heats it during the day and if you also have interior heating, it soaks up the heat and radiates heat during the night. So we didn’t have to stoke the fire. When it was 30 below zero we just hung out in the loft.” Inside the house, there are numerous jars of herbs for medicine and teas, a bookshelf, and cloth banners with goddess images hanging from a string that stretches across the room. An aluminum keg with a tap contains water. “We came here because we wanted to live a simple, quiet, peaceful life and not be harassed by anyone, to be self-sufficient, sustainable and not be sued (by government),” Piper said. “We don’t want to make any trouble either,” Piper added. “We feel things have gotten out of hand. We’re not going to run. We’re not selling drugs.” She said that some area residents “have been really nice to us. They’ve given us wood. Some people let us to take showers at their place for a few months. A woman at the laundromat said if our fireplace doesn’t work or if something ever happens with us, we can always stay there when it gets cold. “Zoning and all the requirements may be part of the homeless problem,” she added. “It’s kind of a sticky situation. I think they (the county) are having a hard time deciding what to do with this because it’s so out of realm of what they’re used to dealing with. Five hundred square feet is an enormous space for us to build; we can only construct in the summer. We used recyclable materials, glass bottles in the house. “It’s not finished yet; we want to do a living room as well with clay or rubber on the top, with soil and flowers,” Pilper added. “We want to plaster the outside and hopefully the inside next year if we’re still here.” Asked what her goal is, Piper said “Our goal was to eventually write children’s books. We’ll see how that goes. Febe became deaf about 1 1/2 years ago, so it’s been a journey. We do art, we write . . . . She and Dancier “are very good friends; we consider ourselves sisters. We don’t have family other than each other,” Piper added. “We basically won’t do anything” in response to the court action last week, Piper said.
Solar powered hosting (from our cob office building) provided by: DeaTech Research Inc. using Debian Linux based servers. We highly recommend, use, and provide support services for Debian Linux.
If you should have any problems with this page or website, please send email describing the problem(s) to: email@example.com
Last Modified: Wednesday, 09-Dec-2009 17:36:43 PST
If you wish to be permanently blocked from ever being able to send email to this domain, send your SPAM messages to: firstname.lastname@example.org