Borys and dhijana Scott-Harmony are among Charlotte's best known “urban homesteaders.” The couple, who were profiled by the Observer in 2007, did away with the grass at their Starmount home near South Boulevard. In its place, they put in a series of agricultural projects, including vegetable gardens, greenhouses, a fish pond the size of a swimming pool and a chicken coop. The neighbors continue to be unhappy about it, however.
Following are excerpts of an interview with dhijana (who lower-cases her name) by reporter Mark Price.
Q. How are things with that one neighbor who hates chickens?
We went to mediation in early spring and negotiated a solution. He wanted a visual barrier, and we ended up with a compromise. He didn't like to look out the window and see the “mess” we have and hear the sound of the chickens. Now, he gets to look out the window and see an 8-foot-tall wooden fence. … I'm impressed with the animal control supervisor, who got involved and suggested we go to mediation. We have eight of our original flock (of 20) left. … Borys' pet chicken, Rosita, died, but we'll have a new Rosita.
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Q. What other projects are up and running in the back yard?
The pond is full, with a waterfall. It's about 2 1/2 feet deep and full of fish. We have frogs, visiting herons and all kind of other critters now. I think we have single-handedly restored the amphibian population of south Charlotte. We have three functioning greenhouses, so we can grow winter crops. And we have the gardens, where we grow as much as we can for self-sufficiency. What we don't eat, we sell at the Charlotte Tailgate Market. We go there and sell our stuff, or trade it for food that we can't grow because of the size of our (half-acre) yard. Borys is very busy making my dreams come true.
Q. What about the front yard?
That's where we have our butterfly garden, with only the kinds of plants that butterflies and hummingbirds like.
Q. Are neighbors still pressuring you about the overgrown look?
Nobody is bothering us right now. I'm very involved with the neighborhood association. I took the vice presidency of the association. We joke about it now. The ladies of the Starmount Garden Club came for a tour of the yard a couple of weeks ago. I went to a garden club meeting, and they were talking about calling 311 to report over-grown yards. I told them to make sure they were overgrown and not gardens, like mine.
Q. Have the battles softened your stand on urban homesteading?
We are still committed. My goal is to introduce the idea of others creating as many backyard wildlife habitats as possible. Mecklenburg is so full of development that there is no place for wildlife. I want to encourage people to choose just one kind of wildlife, and develop a place for that (animal) with food, water, shelter and a place to raise their young. Doesn't matter if it's squirrels, raccoons, birds, whatever. If we create enough places where wildlife can live, all those places will eventually connect and wildlife could co-exist with us.
Q. What's your next project?
Beekeeper training in January. I'm going to keep a hive in our garden for pollination purposes.