Useful Stuff

Backyard Chickens … in Sudbury?

Backyard Chickens … in Sudbury?

You’ve moved to the suburbs to have some land, lots of house, and great quality of life. You’ve started a vegetable garden and have enjoyed the puttering and the fresh produce. Now you’re thinking of getting a few chickens so that you can feed them an excellent diet and have fresh eggs of your own. You’re not alone, it seems to be that this hobby is growing exponentially in popularity over the last year. In Sudbury, you’ll have to know a few things before you buy the chicks.

 

FAQ  for those thinking of raising backyard chickens in Sudbury:

  1. Is an Annual Animal Permit Required? yes, a special permit is required, issued by the Zoning Board of Appeals, cost is $100 first year, $50 annual renewal
  2. Is a Building Permit for the Coop Required? not if the coop is less than 120 s.f. footprint
  3. Is there an Annual Board of Health Inspection Required? yes
  4. Are Roosters Permitted? no
  5. Are there Lot Size Limitations? no
  6. What are the Coop Setbacks from Property Lines? There is a 5′ min distance from lot lines.
  7. Are there Manure Pile Storage Limitations? This would be dictated by the conditions of the special permit
  8. Is there a specific section of the Zoning Bylaws that I can read regarding this? see Sudbury Zoning Bylaw Section 2313/6200
  9. Is there an Agricultural Commission or Committee that I can join? yes email: agricultural@sudbury.ma.us
  10. Is there an Agricultural Group that I can contact to get help/info/advice? yes, Sudbury Grange No. 121 Pomona No. 16 , Meetings: 1st & 3rd Wednesday 8 pm, Grange Hall 326 Concord Rd (beside Town Hall), Contact: Brenda Chamberlain 508-429-5458
  11. How do I contact the Board of Health? 978 443-2209 x1379 email: health@sudbury.ma.us
  12. How do I contact the Zoning Board of Appeals? 978-639-3387 email: pcd@sudbury.ma.us
  13. How do I contact the Building Inspector? (978) 443-2209, x1361  email: building@sudbury.ma.us)
A Story About Foundation Plantings

A Story About Foundation Plantings

My first house was a 1920’s colonial with a tiny lot with the worst set of foundation plantings I’ve ever seen on a house. In addition to planting inappropriate species, they were planted too close to each other and the house and were allowed to overgrow about twenty years too long. Especially troublesome were a couple of evergreen yews that were covering the windows and trimmed to an ugly shape that was not flattering to the cute house. They also severely restricted access to the front door. So what’s a new homeowner to do?

You guessed it, you get a couple of friends together on the hottest weekend of the year and decide to rip the suckers out. We started with what seemed like the least amount of work, putting a chain around the base of the plant and hooking it to my 1974 Volkswagen beetle. Then I got a running start and when the chain tightened the car leaped off the ground about 6 feet and stalled. Once my heartbeat slowed down below stroke speed, I checked the car to see that the rear end hadn’t been ripped out, unhooked the chain, put the car away and went to see how the yew was pulled out of the ground. Now you would think that having had a crushing 1500 lb. car with a whopping 65 horsepower going 20 mph play tug of war with it would have the yew looking pretty sad. As you can probably guess the plant hadn’t budged and in fact there wasn’t even any damage.

So next we took a handsaw, a particularly rusty and dull handsaw, and started cutting the trunks of the bush off about a foot from the ground. Once the entire bush was cut we discovered that first, the painters hadn’t painted behind the bush for about thirty years and in fact our gray house had once been a lovely mustard yellow, and second, the cutting of the upper part of the bush is the easy part – you’ve still got to get the roots out. Proceeding along we dug around the roots and with a combination of chopping with an axe and digging with a shovel finally got a 10’ diameter crater with the ugliest 300 lb chunk of gnarly yew roots anchored firmly in the center. By now it was getting dark, so we called it quits and started back on the project about three weeks later with sharp tools and an upcoming housewarming party deadline looming. The yew finally yielded to steel and muscle that day, but not before teaching us a very good lesson – choose the right foundation plant and take great pains to trim it and keep it looking right.

Foundation plants came about out of necessity. A pretty home would be built on a stone and mortar foundation and something was needed to hide it. In colonial times the foundation plants were a combination of things you could eat and things you could make stuff out of – such as herbs, vegetables, lilacs and if you could get seeds some strawflowers or sunflowers. Wild junipers and bayberries were also dug up and planted near the foundation for candle making. Current thinking on foundation plantings has evolved from this completely practical beginning. Today’s plantings are used as a design element to transition the eye from the low, soft, fine horizontal texture of the lawn to the hard, vertical form and scale of the home. They also can introduce seasonal colors and flowers and varying shades of green to bring the beauty of the outdoors right up to and sometimes into the home space.

If you’re a beginner gardener and putting in some foundation plants this fall do yourself a favor and remember two things: first, space the plants for their mature form and size, not their cute little form in the container at 1 year old; and second, this is New England and it snows here. Also good to remember is that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, and that full sun exposure is south.

In the years when my first home was built, very formal, symmetrical, high-maintenance foundation plantings were de rigueur. In those days if you planted something on one side of the door you planted another one on the other side of the door and it had better have a conical shape and be an evergreen. Nowadays with many homes having multiple rooflines and irregular foundation shapes I like to combine a variety of shapes, sizes and textures not only to hide the foundation but also to tempt the senses. And even though I make fun of yews, I like to have a ratio of 1 evergreen to 3 deciduous plants, and yews do provide a consistent green color. However, please don’t trim them to unnatural shapes, select one with the right natural shape and give it a tuck and a trim once a year but for the most part let it be.

My all-time favorite foundation plant is andromeda. It is an evergreen shrub, grows to be about 4’ tall and 4’ around and has light green waxy foliage. It is one of the early blooming shrubs that lets you know that winter is over, and it has showy chains of white to golden flowers that cover the entire bush. Andromeda does not do well in shady locations and prefers very acidic soil, lots of peat moss (it’s native location is in the peat bogs of Europe) and lots of mulch. Never use any lime on it.

Another good plant is the dwarf rhododendron. They’re in the same family as azaleas (which are also good foundation plants) and have slightly larger evergreen leaves, will grow only about 3’ high and don’t require trimming until they’re about 50 years old. Their flower colors run the gamut from white to purple, and they also love acid soil. When planting them, place them in the hole about 2” higher than they were at the nursery, they tend to be planted too low. Also mulch heavily in the fall and it doesn’t hurt to spray on some anti-desiccant spray to keep the leaves from drying out in the winter winds.

Somewhere I heard that a home without foundation plants looks like a “doll house plunked down in the middle of a pool table” and I tend to agree. If you’re new to gardening planting some of these around your home can be one of the easiest most rewarding projects for your new home.

My advice? Don’t choose your own price.

My advice? Don’t choose your own price.

It’s very tempting to want to choose your own price. There’s all that information out there on the web, real estate portals, town market updates, newspaper articles and much more. There’s also your friends and the neighbor who sold their house five years ago in a different market. Usually when people call me in to list their home they have already scoured all the information available and come up with their own idea of what the price should be. It’s been my experience that sometimes they can be right, but most times their price is not right for current market conditions.

Your friends and neighbors, when they find out you are selling your house, will all have an opinion … which is usually based on some anecdotal data they heard from a third party or based on their experiences. They often are much higher than your house is really worth, but it makes you feel good to hear it and you soon start believing it yourself.

Next is the elephant in the room, the zillow “zestimate”. According to a recent article in the Boston Globe, a zestimate is not the price that your home is really worth. They quoted Cory Hopkins, Zillow’s public relations manager for data, who said” a zestimate is a starting point and should be used in conjunction with guidance from local real estate professionals who understand the market and know your property.” Bottom line, until a computer algorythm like this can go inside your home and compare it with similar homes it has also been inside, the results it predicts are suspect.

As I like to say, pricing is 50% science and 50% experience. The data available to the public is usually about a month behind the market, because “sales” don’t get recorded until the money and deeds actually change hands. This can often be 45-60 days after a property has accepted an offer so while in slow markets this is fine in hot markets you might be leaving money on the table if you’re using stale data. Local professionals are right on top of the market to today, so they know what has sold and approximately for how much well before the data becomes public. This is power to be used for your advantage.

To set your price I use a clearly defined process that is repeatable and yields consistent, accurate results, (my list-to-sale ratio is 96%, industry average is 92%) here’s how it works:

First, I have to walk through your home in order to put a price on it. This is usually a half-hour exercise, but is very important to the process.

I then use the information I collect, such as updates, additions and improvements and compare your home with other houses that I have been inside with similar fits and finishes. If I can’t find ones I have been inside I often make arrangements with the realtors or homeowners to do a quick tour to be sure that I’m really comparing your house to comparable properties. No amount of clicking on internet sites can replace this experience.

Once I have evaluated your house versus the comps I will make adjustments for many variables (that matter to buyers looking for a house like yours), such as: living area square footage; lot size; number of bedrooms and baths; garage spaces; and location. After the adjustments are made most people stop and decide that this is what the price should be.

The last step is to position your house within the market. A house is worth what somebody will pay for it and what somebody will sell it for, we call that a “meeting of the minds”. So, it is important to know who is out there looking for a home like yours and who your competition will be. One useful market statistic is called the Absorption Rate. This compares the number of properties currently on the market with the number of properties sold within the last year in a given price point. If there are more properties than buyers it’s a buyer’s market and if there are more buyers than properties it’s a seller’s market (we like those).

Once this analysis is complete I will give you a price that I think a buyer will probably pay for your home in today’s market.

In summary, don’t chose your own price, leave that to a professional … Mike Hunter.

%d bloggers like this: