Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Family Cemetery: How Not to Get Buried Under the Rules and Regs

View of our proposed family cemetery site
at the south west end of our property

View from within the cemetery area
looking back towards our Grain Bin House
located behind the trees .

All we want to do is dig a hole, and lay down for eternity. That's not so much to ask, is it? Apparently, it is. Last October we started exploring the possibility of permanently hosting our interested family members who'd like to chill out here when their tickers give out, and now ten months later, it's still a work in progress.

I started the effort by calling our county coroner who said he could find nothing to preclude a family cemetery in our county, but still, he referred me to the county zoning board. I did extensive internet research which stated that requirements such as  embalming, concrete vaults or metal caskets were not state or federally mandated but rather requirements of specific cemeteries only.

This was good since we want our bodies to naturally decompose on our property in nothing more than a wood box.

We also spoke with a local funeral home director to get his input, and ask about the less savory details like, "if we die in another state, how can we get our bodies back to The Poor Farm?" The answer: you have to hire a licensed funeral home to do that, hauling us back in the bed of the Ford F-150 is not allowed.

I wanted to ask if it'd be allowed as long as someone tied red warning flags to our toes, but I restrained myself.

It took awhile to get a response from our county zoning administrator, I'm assuming he had other bigger building projects to worry about, but in April we received an "Application for Special Use", which we completed.

In July we were notified that we would need to attend two meetings. The first was the County Regional Planning Commission, held on July 31, and the second was the County Zoning Board of Appeals held last week, August 3rd. All of our neighbors were notified of these meetings in the event they wanted to come for more information or to register their concerns.

Since our property is 1.5 miles from the nearest town, over a half mile from the nearest neighbor, and  surrounded  on all sides by planted fields, I did not expect any neighbor resistance. I was wrong.

Enter the relative of a land owner who lives a mile from us. She arrived at the first meeting and after everyone on the committee was brought up to speed on our wishes, she proceeded to read off a long litany of concerns. Such as:

     Who was initially responsible for the property since we are not married?
     Who would care for the property after we died?
      Did I know it was a Class 3 Felony to disturb headstones if say we sold the property.?
     What type of roadway would we build to access the area?
     Did our mortgage lender approve?

     Did I know how it would affect property values?

Her last comment, I believe, was the crux of the matter. She was concerned about resale value of land around us.

When she had her say, the Regional Planning Commission voted unanimously in our favor. However, three days later at the County Zoning Board of Appeals, it went a bit differently. Some of the members of the second committee also sat on the first committee, but some were new. Since it was an official public hearing I was sworn in and allowed to give an overview of our plans again, but this time I focused on the fact that in Illinois, Family Cemeteries are exempt from the rules and regulations that govern the public licensed cemeteries. Specifically the Cemetery Care Act 760 ILCS 100/ and The Cemetery Care Oversight Act of 2009.

Thus, the majority of the concerns voiced by our neighbors relative, were moot points. She did attend this second meeting and she did speak again, but after hearing about our exempt status, she backed off the regulatory issues and focused on property values, tax assessments etc. When it came time for the committee to vote, the ones who were not at the first meeting had all new concerns such as:

     Will there be an easement to allow your descendants access to the property if it is ever sold?

     How will you keep track of where the bodies are buried and how deep?

     How can we get proof that you are exempt?

     Can you move the boundaries farther into your property?

In the end they wanted me to answer the concerns above in writing and present to them again in November. These four conditions are easily addressed and I have faith it will all be approved at that time. My overall impression of the mild resistance so far is this: as a whole we are a death denying society and we prefer to deal with death at a distance. This "distance" is provided by a licensed professional, i.e. a funeral home director and the entire process is greatly sanitized at a very great financial price.

The average person does not want to see the backhoe dig the grave, nor do they want to build their own coffin. (I'm lining the lid of mine with Supertramp Posters and Hemingway quotes and OH YES, the amazing art work of Matt Kish in his book Moby-Dick in Pictures) Nor do they want to think about what happens, natural decomposition wise, to our bodies made of mere flesh and bone. To take control, as much as any human can control anything, of ones own burial on ones own property is foreign thinking in the 21st Century even though family cemeteries existed here, and in other countries, for centuries upon centuries.

I believe about half of the committee felt we were barbarians, while the other half wished they had their own family cemetery. The county admitted that they had never dealt with the issue before and in fact did not even know it was possible to do so. Sad isn't it? One hundred years ago family cemeteries were the norm, and now they are looked upon suspiciously.

So, we move forward with our plans for the O'Shaughnessy-Parrish Family Cemetery. I've warned our interested family members that until November they should drive the speed limit, avoid high crime areas, and limit their intake of McDonalds Happy Meals.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Bones of the Barn are Up!

We've had decent weather lately, not horribly hot, which gave us great conditions to get barn work done. We borrowed a post hole digger, industrial type, from some friends and when attached to our tractors PTO, it did a fine job. Our soil is heavy in clay here which proved difficult for digging at times, but good for packing around the posts. That soil type will likely harden around the posts as well as it we used concrete.

Our granddaughter Allana was here one day when we put in the very first post, thus you get the rare photograph of this blog's author. Unlikely you'll see another for awhile, I prefer to be behind the camera.

The work was slow at first as Keith would hook a post to our tractor with a chain, then guided me verbally to the correct spot where I'd lower the post in the hole, then hop off the tractor (hop? Not hardly) then help him with leveling, securing with 2 x 4's, and so on.

As I got better with my tractor skills the process picked up speed. When our son Jason came out to help the last two weekends, things went even faster.

It took ten days but we got all the posts in for the four external walls and the one interior wall. In the midst of it, the county dropped by to check progress. (He actually dropped by to take pictures of our proposed family cemetery site, but seeing our barn work he decided to kill two birds with one pack of regulatory paperwork.)
Yesterday we made the Menards trip to order the new trusses and pro-rib steel for the roof, thus completely emptying out the last of the money in our "Barn Fund" envelope. Those items will arrive in a couple weeks and be directly delivered to the farm. Inside walls and loft floor, shelving for Keith's workshop, as well as livestock stall walls, will all be built with repurposed material we have on hand, or will remove from the old decrepit house as we dismantle it.

If you look closely you'll see the barn posts are an eclectic collection of posts from the 60 year old machine shed we had torn down, brand new posts we bought at Menards (we only had to buy two) and several shorter round posts given to us by my sister Teresa after they sold their house and dismantled that pasture fence.

Next up, we'll apply the skirt boards and purloins from post to post, plus angle braces at end posts. This will give us the structure needed to attach the outside walls using all the recycled steel from the building we purchased for this project.

Keith and Fanny below take a well deserved break.

In other news: we're making great progress on our plans for a family cemetery, we're crazy busy putting up garden produce, the broilers for next years chicken suppers are growing fast and we're making adjustments to the Looney Bins foundation insulation in preparation for the upcoming winter.

 I'll blog about it soon. Promise.