By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
By City of Ate
By Scott Reitz
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
Twenty miles southwest of Jerry Jones' football gallery and the Rangers Ballpark is a rare swath of Arlington that hasn't yet been bulldozed over with stadiums, matching suburban houses or strip malls. It's a narrow, two-lane street called Mansfield Cardinal Road, and it goes pitch black at night, with no streetlights to guide cars away from the dirt and grass that line its sidewalk-less borders.
Each house is separated by a few acres, and none of them look the same. A place at the corner has a homemade sign advertising concrete. A scarecrow guards another. A fancier home is set back by a patch of perfectly manicured grass and protected by a tall gate. Down the way is a pale brown mobile home.
Some of the areas appear to be abandoned, fenced-off spaces with nothing but grass and weeds. Farther down is a house with horses in the backyard. The horses don't know it, but they have a great view of what is probably the most scandalous garden in the whole city.
"No trespassing" reads a sign taped to the front gate of the garden. "Only love enters here" reads another. The home on the property looks conventional enough, a gray two-story house that could be dropped in any middle-class neighborhood. A plug-in Prius charges in the parking lot by the garage. But a mysterious square covered by a tarp greets people who drive into the parking lot. It's actually a chalkboard, and when it's not covered it announces the name of the property: the Garden of Eden.
Behind the house is a 3.5-acre maze of nature and man-made artifacts. The grass is thick and uneven. One patch — a few feet wide, near the front gate — appears to be growing out of control. Bushels of flowers grow randomly in some parts of the lush field. The garden itself is squared off by another fence. It holds endless rows of leafy, tall plants. A giant black Buddha statue sits on a raised platform above the garden, praying.
Closer to the house are more signs of human life. Wooden, round steps lead visitors on a dirt path through a deck, decorated with an assortment of dining-room furniture, pottery and wind chimes. Three matching wicker chairs are perched across the way. An official Starbucks canopy hangs above another table, protecting it from the rain. And at the back of the property, on the edge of the field, sits a wooden shed filled with buckets, pans and other farming equipment. It's next to a pile of logs and an aging red couch. There's also a hammock, a horse swing and two trampolines.
It used to be a traditional house with no name, carefully mowed grass and a tamer garden. Shellie Smith, a tan woman of 53 years, with a muscular, wiry frame, moved here with her ex-husband, a pilot, 17 years ago, and they raised two children here. They went on double dates with an elderly couple who owned property nearby and drank wine at each other's houses afterward.
Shellie is still here, but that's about the only thing that's the same. Her children are grown and gone. Her ex-husband moved out about six years ago, and in his place moved Quinn Eaker, an opinionated, 30-year-old environment guru who wears his hair in a bun on top of his head. A few years later, another woman moved in, a 32-year-old former art gallery owner from Sedona named Inok Alrutz. Her daughter, Qiqi, is a cheerful 2-year-old who runs around naked, goes to bed at midnight and wakes up at noon.
The house, once the modest hub of a traditional American family, is now home to a year-round garden designed in a style of landscaping called permaculture. The philosophy, popular with foodies and hippie-types, is supposed to embrace a sustainable way to farm. It's a backlash of sorts to monoculture, the single-crop growing system used on industrial farms. "You go to a farmers market or Whole Foods and you buy the organic stuff — it's all crap compared to what this is," Quinn says.
Besides its permanent residents, the Garden of Eden also accepts visitors from around the world, so long as they're equally passionate about an eco-friendly lifestyle.
Two twentysomethings are crashing here now, after reading about the Garden of Eden online. Another visitor, a 28-year-old gardener who introduces himself as "Wolf," found the house through a Craigslist ad. They needed a gardener to help out. Wolf lives in his van, which is now parked on the property. "I'm a dirty hippie," he says, seemingly joking.
The Garden of Eden's bathrooms are two wooden outhouses hiding two compost toilets, one for urinating and one for everything else. (No toilet paper: That's what the sawdust is for.) An assortment of items recycled from trash bins and warehouses keeps the ecosystem thriving.
To create raised beds of soil, for example, the Garden of Eden makes use of oversized tractor tires. "We have tall grasses, we have flowers, we have bees and birds, we have an ecosystem that is symbiotic," Shellie says. Farther out in the back is a dysfunctional 1983 Chevy Suburban. It's halfway buried and covered in mud. When the project is finished, it will be an underground cave for guests to sleep in.
I have never understood how most "civilized" people can be so judgmental, materialistic, nosy, arrogant, and afraid of things and people who are different, I bet most of the psychopaths today grew up in proper neighborhoods with flushing toilets and eating processed foods from the grocery store - following "the rules" - until they explode,. Try living your own life and let others live theirs. I bet there is more joy amongst those "hippies" than all of the surrounding neighbors and less sexual abuse, alcohol, drugs, greed, gluttony, theft, etc.
In a way I kind of envy them. I've lived in a large metropolitan city my whole life. It would be nice to live as they do and I often think about doing just that. I think I would be a little more organized .. but, growing your own food, etc. sounds wonderful.
The lesson of the hippie movement was that these kinds of communities don't work. They're just mentally ill people on a slow, slippery, slide toward full-blown insanity, as happened with the "Manson Family".
Burying that car did not create a cave, it just created a rusty menace to public safety - and actually makes the ground LESS able to sustain a garden.
The idea of communal and sustainable gardening is fine, and is practiced with much success throughout the County - but that's not what these people are doing. They're just wallowing in their own filth - a situation which will inevitably lead to a variety of physical and mental illnesses.
Great article Amy! Yes, I am a ultra right winger! Burnt out old hippie? No. But guess what? I support everything these folks are doing. Get the government out of our lives. Let them live the way they want to. Are the children doing fine? Are they being abused in any way? No spousal er partner abuse? Is everyone happy? If not then leave these people the hell alone! Unfortunately, that won't happen in todays new Left wing Libtard Society. Its all about forced dependence on the Nanny State. Just wait over the next ten years. You ain't seen nothing yet!
God, I feel sorry for Shellie's adult children. You try to go home to visit your mom and she's living with some polygamous blowhard who's your age, looks a whole lot like Capt. Jack Sparrow, and wears his pants low enough to where you can see his pubes. The jerkoff has moved his common-law other wife into your bedroom and is letting some of his weirdo friends live in vans and half submerged suburbans in the yard. When you need to go to the bathroom you have to crap in a glorified bucket and wipe your butt with sawdust. Then at the dinner table, you have to listen to him ramble on about half baked ideas concerning his constitutional right to poop in said bucket. At least the food is uber dank, though.
I bet the kids were the ones that called in the SWAT team. I know I would. Do you think Quinn would still be with Shellie if she didn't own that property?
SWAT figured there had to be at least one illegal seed to justify their puny existence and waving of their tiny reproductive organs.
I live in the country, my neighbors moved in and immediately put a goat pen in their front yard. Did I complain about it? No, because I live in the country where we can do what we want with our land for the most part. Cities have to protect property values. If all the neighbors around this House moved out and no one else would buy the houses because of the jungle house then what is that doing to their values? Tax Base? This really needs to be moved out to the country somewhere. You live in a City, you go by that cities rules.
I still bet that if you dig deep enough into this, there is a developer or someone in power who wants their property.
Now, I also say that they handled their issues with the city poorly. I have permaculture aspects added to my property, but I called the city code compliance and cleared what I was planning first. As to the composting toilets, I've seen that as a solution for people in REALLY rural areas. But, not when you have a sewer line.
Please know I'm not being a troll when I say 'Go City of Arlington!' I feel sorry for the neighbors of these people. Property owners pay a premium for some degree of protection and insulation when they choose to live in certain areas. I have thanked my city code enforcement many times for removing violations.
If a person wants to try this kind of cultural experiment (?) sell the land and move out to some rural location where there are no zones or rules and get as freaky as you want. Also - I just don't like hippies.
@bvckvs Good point about burying the car. How are they sure the car was properly drained of fluids and anything else that could contaminate the ground? When the next owner figures out that some hippies buried a truck to make a cave, he's going to look at the old owners for environmental remediation. Fortunately for Quinn, his name name won't be on the chain of title, just Shellie's. And her ex-husband's.
Rather than a story about police heavy-handedness, this reads to me like a story of a divorcee getting taken advantage of by some aspiring cult-leader who's been enabled and encouraged his whole life by his fruitcake parents and the Dallas Observer.
@EdCota How do they live like this without pot?
@Tim.Covington Yeah, maybe the golf course that they can see from their property now.
@MattKi "I'm pretty sure this is Kennedale, not Arlington" = I have no clue what I'm talking about but I feel like I need to make some sort of comment.
It's called Google. You should try it sometime.
@scerinjen3 Why can't you sell your house and move to an HOA where everyone signs their contract knowing that they have certain upkeep requirements? Because it's a hassle, right, and you should be able to live in peace where you are. People that like their grass longer than yours are not lazy, or trying to attack you with their grass. They just want to live their lives in a way that makes them happy, and not be bothered.
That part about the next owners is particularly relevant to me. My family has bought 2 different houses (one in Garland and one Plano) in which the previous owners buried stuff that damaged the property value.
In Garland, a previous owner had built an unapproved pool. Then, when he was cited for it, he just filled it in with garbage and dirt. Now, whenever it rains, it becomes a swamp that doesn't drain for many days after the rain ends.
In Plano, the house was a new one, and the construction folks buried their debris in the yard, rather than paying to cart it off. The folks who did the GPR on the yard said that, although it's illegal, it's a common thing to find in that city.
@thomas.rocha.cp @scerinjen3 Amen brother! I live on the largest non-territorial jurisdiction in N. Texas. Down a one mile private road on 3800 acres with six family farms surrounded by property hungry cities. We have our own trash service, coop electricity, our own internet service and private water. We homeschool our kids, ride horses, hunt, fish and have parties every weekend. We build what we want without have to deal with stupid inner city municipal codes and libtard homeowners associations. And most important we do not depend on anything from the government. Thank God that because of Gov Perry we now cannot be annexed without a unanimous vote from fellow homeowners.
@ScottsMerkin @thomas.rocha.cp @scerinjen3 There is a difference between unkept and kept in a manner you don't agree with. There is also the fact, mentioned in the article, that this area, while in the middle of an urban area, is not exactly urban. I've been down this particular stretch of road before, and it's almost like being back home in East Texas. The houses are far enough apart that it's a stretch to say that something in your yard is bothering one of your neighbors in their yard.
As to the hippie in a van, well, I don't really care what someone's personal views are, or what they live in, or even how often they bathe. The only thing I care about is that they let me live my life in peace. I'd would certainly prefer to have some self-described "dirty hippie" living next to me than a "good ole boy" who called the city every time there was a stalk of bahiagrass in my yard.