A whole new meaning to July Fourth

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This past week has been one in which I have come to realize how very much I should appreciate the freedom I tend to take for granted, and the many blessings of living where I live.

As the nation celebrates Independence Day, two very opposite stories have landed in my lap which opened my eyes to this line of thought, and they seem worth sharing.

First, my friend who has lived for a number of years in a very nice community in Jacksonville, Fla., just recently moved with her family to a beautiful home in Tampa. In various e-mails, Candy has shared with me some of the covenants which homeowners in her new gated community must agree to keep.

Rules

Several of these covenants left me reeling in dismay, simply because I was raised on wide open spaces of Ohio farmland, and this opened my eyes to an entire different world. Aside from some township zoning rules and regulations, I never gave a thought to the fact that anyone could tell a homeowner and landowner what they can and cannot do.

Just a couple of covenants, that right off the bat set my head spinning, include the fact that a homeowner in Candy’s exclusive neighborhood may not have their garage door opened unless they are entering or exiting their garage.

Candy has an antique bird bath which she would love to set in her new lawn, but she cannot do so without approval.

My Florida friend also told me there are very strict rules governing the watering of lawns. If a homeowner were to water their grass at any time other than their assigned time and date, they could be fined.

However, if the grass starts to turn brown from not watering, they can be fined for that, too. There is a certain part of Candy’s new property that is not to be manicured in any way, as it is protected for Florida wildlife.

She still gets to pay real estate tax on it, however. Any trees over 3 inches in diameter which are wished to be removed on a homeowner’s property cannot be cut down without permission. Only approved landscaping plants can be added.

Decorative lawn ornaments not only must be approved, but the placement of these lawn ornaments is governed, also. A small decorative bell placed on a post by a friend, Candy told me, was ordered to be moved closer to her house or removed altogether because the homeowner governing entity ruled in this manner.

No matter how many millions a homeowner has spent to purchase a home in this upscale area, there are rules governing pets.

No one can have more than two pets. No one can allow their pet to use their own lawn as a restroom without immediate cleanup.

There are only approved mailboxes allowed. Nothing can vary in color or shape in terms of these mailboxes.

If a person wants to change the paint or siding color of their house, only certain colors and shades of those colors will be considered. Fines will be levied for any noncompliance.

The Outsiders

On the opposite end of this spectrum, my home community’s Amish teen population was the sole focus of ABC’s Primetime episode, The Outsiders this past week.

This report showcased what can happen when a lifetime of rules are replaced with total freedom for the teens who choose to explore a life away from their Amish heritage.

I watched the unfolding stories of teens whose families we know, and I find it hard to convey the range of emotions these stories evoked.

While it may be hard for the English to imagine living with such strict rules, it is also nearly impossible to grasp walking away from a heritage in which family means so very much, and making the choice of walking away means leaving that family behind in every way.

It is also hard to imagine leaving a cloistered world and stepping in to a world of total freedom filled with so many, many choices. With this in mind, it is not surprising that many of the choices of these young adults are not always good ones.

As a parent, it is heartbreaking to imagine waking up one morning to find that your grown child has chosen to leave and may never return.

New appreciation

With my young adult children still sleeping, I walked out my back door this morning with a completely new appreciation of the beautiful breeze and our total seclusion and freedom we enjoy on this farm.

I decided it would be a good day to wash my throw rugs and hang them outside to dry.

This would not be allowed in Candy’s community, and I suddenly feel mighty lucky that no one can tell me I will be fined for such an offense. This gives a whole new meaning to Independence Day.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.

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