Clarifying Some Issues

In this post, I’m writing not as Billings Backyard Hen Initiative (which is what this is about), but about… me.  TJ Wierenga. Questions about me have come up a few times in recent weeks, since I was one of the primary “instigators” of the issue of urban hens in Billings.

First of all, and this seems to be a sore spot – I am not a Texan. I was born in Charleston, South Carolina when my father was stationed there during his service with the US Navy. My family (mom, dad and sister) moved back to southern Oregon where we came from a few years later, when his service was up. I grew up primarily in the Cave Junction, Oregon area before we moved to Texas. I’ve always loved Montana and planned to move here, it just took me longer than I expected. 🙂 My husband Mark  (who grew up between Iowa and Wyoming), son and daughter and I have lived in Billings since September of 2006, so about 5 years now. We have no plans to ever move, we love Montana and the city of Billings. That being said, Texas is by no means the worst place to have moved from!

My background is that I worked full-time as a Telecommunications Manager for about 16 years in Texas, and had a sideline business doing boarding and training of horses in Liberty Hill, TX. I started colts and worked with problem horses, which I found very rewarding… and very rarely the horse’s fault that it had problems! Animal abuse and cruelty are issues which really bother me, and I believe that responsible animal ownership is crucial. I am now a stay-at-home mom, a freelance writer working for some great local magazines, and a homeschool teacher. I garden extensively, and especially enjoy my family’s participation in the Community Garden at St Andrew Presbyterian Church – despite the fact that we actually attend Emmanuel Baptist – it’s a non-ecumenical garden. 🙂 Community gardens and helping feed the hungry are also important matters to me, especially local, organic, and sustainable food… that only makes sense. If it matters at all, I vote conservative, but also with conservation issues in mind (and I do vote).

I don’t stand to gain anything by putting my efforts behind this initiative, other than hopefully getting to have pet hens for my family again someday. I’m just a local Mom who wants to feed her family the best, healthiest, most nutritious meals that I can feed them… and the backyard hen egg qualifies on all counts. I think that we should have the right to responsibly maintain a limited number of hens in our own backyards (similar to having our gardens) and I’d like to see anyone else who is likewise interested, able to do so without worry of repercussion or contradictory answers from city personnel.

I think that there are basically two ways to handle any issue: we can either build bridges or build walls. I am not a contentious, argumentative person, and I don’t want to take this issue to that base level. I do think that by educating, explaining, and being willing to work together, we can build consensus on this issue and prove beyond a doubt that backyard hens are good for Billings and for our citizens.

A question has come up related to my dog. I’m not sure what he has to do with all of this, other than being a pretty cool little pooch. He’s an AKC Beagle, neutered and tagged. We purchased him as a puppy from a reputable breeder in the Blue Creek area back in 07 after researching dog breeds that would be moderately active, patient, and good with kids… he’s awesome. He loves to go for walks, especially hiking in the mountains. We worked with him after we took our little pullets (young female chickens) outside this Spring, and despite his nature of being a hunting dog/hound, he somewhat begrudgingly accepted that in fact, those little peeps did belong to the Big People, and he just kept a close eye on them for us. He’s gentle, smart, and quite stubborn! Whoever started the joke about herding cats never tried to teach a beagle any tricks…

Like I said… this isn’t about ME (or my dog). The BBHI is over 100 local citizens as of late July, 2011… I’m just most frequently the fingers behind the keyboard and the voice doing the talking. I’m enough of an introvert that frankly I’d much rather have been anonymous about the whole thing… but sometimes, if you believe in an issue, you have to stand up and do something about it. This is important and we’re going to keep working at it until bridges are built and enough people realize the benefits. This is a factual issue, and it is about the issue. I’m not running for public office, I’m just the messenger. We with the BBHI want to help clarify some issues and put some structure and support to it to protect everyone’s interests. So – enough about me – let’s get back to talking chicken!! (“>


5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Cat Lynch on July 21, 2011 at 4:46 am

    And a very pleasant, enjoyable and interesting person you are, too. Getting to know you has been wonderful. I’m thankful you are willing to be the face and voice for all of us. Thank you, TJ!


    • Thank you, Cat! You’re a perfect example of one of my favorite outcomes of this issue so far – great friendships with wonderful people I’d not met before!!


  2. Posted by Michele Johnson on July 21, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    Please don’t feel as if you ever have to defend yourself, or your dog for that matter. You are doing a great job for something you believe in. You know in your heart that you are doing the right thing that you are being called to do. There will be a lot of people who do not agree with you and will say all kinds of negative comments. Just turn that around and use it to your advantage. Hang in there. You’re doing a great job! -Michele


  3. Posted by marti mac on August 1, 2011 at 9:02 am

    Wow, its been wonderful getting to know you. Sounds like a lot of rumors have been started. Its great to know that this is taking on a life of its own and becoming a huge success! My prayers and cheers are with you as you go forward amidst the nay-sayers! I will ‘EGG’ you on!
    blessings, marti


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