Jun 14, 2007

Sustainable Tenancy, Modifying My Commitment

Still working my way around the chainsaw needs. With friends stopping in to either harvest or pick up plums, I've been thinking about my relationship to this space. I've lived in this apartment with Blake and the kitties for 3+ years now. Having deferred my admission to grad school until Fall 2008, I see myself here a bit over a year longer. I would love to hire an arborist to sculpt my plum trees and remove two stubborn stumps.

As a tenant, I do not want to pay for this. Knowing that my landlord couldn't care less about this property, I'm less than enthusiastic about talking to him about it. We get about 2 repairs per year outta the man. He used the backyard as a dump and really seems to consider it a bonus feature of the place, not something he has to deal with at all.

So yeah, renting is a bitch sometimes. I look at the backyard lot next door and want to scream. Han was the best neighbor we ever had in SF. He kept an immaculate vegetable garden, having lived in his home for 14 years. Last June the landlord decided to evict Han for an "owner move in". She did not compensate him according to law and the place has been vacant ever since. The landlord did a bunch of unpermitted work on the downstairs and seems to be biding her time until she can rent out the place as 2 units.

The fence had fallen down between ours and Han's yards last spring. We kinda liked it as we finally had street access through his yard! That's how we got all of the sinks, toilets, shingles, tile, doors, and luggage out of the yard. As soon as Hann was gone and the workers arrived, the fence went back up.

Whatever. I've been hopping it to tend the fig tree a bit, and to access the street w/ some compost. I'd love to see someone either squat in the whole place, or just reclaim the backyard. I'd love to see fewer fences in these lots, we'd have way more useable space that way. And I bet one of my neighbors has a chainsaw, and a rake, and a shovel. For a block of backyards, probably 20 households, we could make do with a couple of rakes and shovels, etc.

There's all this dialogue about this individualism that drives us do everything ourselves, requiring us to each have the tools and skills to perform all tasks. This inevitably leads to consumption. How often do you need your drill, steam cleaner, or whatever that weird thing is that you like to do for yourself? What if you could trade that service w/ a neighbor?

Anyway, these larger aspects of consumption have become my focus these days, as opposed to life as a non-shopper. I feel like I've lived shopping detox long enough. Last week I bought fabric and some beads. That's ok! I don't think I can learn a whole lot more about sustainability with the original terms of the Compact. So I'm taking a summer break. I plan to be back to abstention by October so as to not fall into the holiday trap. I'll still be blogging about consumption issues, but it might be water or oil or whatever.


Christine said...

It is Ok! You have done so much for yourself and the environment. You have truly inspired people.

Right now my husband is building a deck with borrowed tools. But I admit that that stupid guilt rushes in and says, "No, take care of yourself, don't borrow, they will think you are poor/weak/a mooch/etc." But really this isn't true. If more people traded services and bartered goods we'd be so much better off. Or if people simply lent a hand with no expectation of a return. Wouldn't it be great?

Wendy said...

I've been hinting with friends of mine about starting a tool co-op - where we have a "community" tool shed everyone in the group maintains and pays for. No one's taken the hint, yet, and I may have to be a little less subtle :).

Personally, I think it's a great idea. Why does a neighborhood with seven houses need seven lawn mowers? It's not something any of us use every day.

Chile said...

I love the idea of sharing with neighbors. However, this makes an assumption about the quality of your neighbors. I can't fathom the idea of trying to develop this relationship with people whose primary concern is how quickly they can speed the 1 mile to go buy another 18 pack of beer. My city also has the distinctive 'honor' of the highest property theft rate in the country. Friends are a different story. We share some tools and definitely share skills.

knitsatlandfills said...

Absolutely take a summer break; you've deferred grad school, but you're obviously still learning. How else to continue learning if you do the same thing?

As for your stumps, might I suggest plugging or otherwise inoculating them with a delicious fungus that you can be confident that you can identify? There are lots of mycologists in your area (more open-minded people to show how easy sustainability can be- yippee!)

Anonymous said...

Hey Rachel,

I don't know where you live but Berkeley has a tool lending library.

You might check to see if there's a similar place in your neighborhood or have a Berkeley friend check out a chain saw for you.