Maggie, we've had some very encouraging experiences and some NOT so encouraging ones. We spent about a year raising free-range chickens, turkeys, and ducks in our large (double-lot) fenced-in yard (using our detached garage as a sort of barn, which we space-heated in the winter and used window ventilation and fans for cooling in the summer), and had thought we were within the legal guidelines, until Animal Control showed up, showed us the new guidelines, and took them all away. This was so heartbreaking to all of us, and especially to our older daughter who had named all of our birds and was very close to them.
The hard thing is, lots of our neighbors still raise chickens -- they just don't have as many as we did (about 15 birds total; we didn't know it was illegal to raise turkeys unless it's on farms for slaughter -- we were just eating the eggs, not the birds), and they -- the neighbors -- just haven't been officially "noticed." But now that we have been noticed, we have to be really careful. And we got noticed because our (current) next door neighbors are in business buying old, non-working cars, taking them apart, and reselling the parts (this seems to have slowed down for the time being), which has resulted in neighbors making complaints because our street is not zoned for business, many of our neighbors have no off-street parking and do not like having the spaces in front of their houses blocked by his cars, and do not like the noise. A police officer noticed our birds in our yard while talking to the neighbor about his cars and called Animal Control.
I still lean towards wanting to make life work in the city. We did have one co-housing experience that I thought was really wonderful. Our previous next door neighbors, whom we became good friends with, were having a hard time affording their rent so we invited them to live in an "apartment" of sorts that we made by closing off our living room and dining room (which already had doors). They had the use of the downstairs bathroom, we all shared the kitchen, which also has a small table, and we had our own "family room" upstairs in my office.
This arrangement was supposed to last for about six months, but our friends ended up moving to another state after about one month because of a better job offer for the husband.
My husband didn't enjoy this shared housing experience as much as our daughters and I did.
At this point, if we have the opportunity to sell for a good price (houses are difficult to sell in this neighborhood), dh and dd1 really, really want to move to the country in order to be able to raise chickens again, and maybe have a horse, too. And to not have to deal with difficult neighbors. I still love the city, even though I don't have a supportive extended family like you do...and dh and I are tentatively talking about really familiarizing ourselves with the new guidelines for raising chickens, getting signatures from neighbors, and trying to do this again right here.
Our city, Kansas City, MO is gradually becoming more and more bike-friendly. The city has just instituted a bike rental program where you can rent a bicycle in one part of the city and return it to another part, and the first 30 minutes is free. But we still have a long way to go before we'll be a truly bike-friendly city. Our public transportation system also needs a lot of work.
We do have curbside paper and plastic recycling, and we also garden and we compost (well, dh and dd1 do pretty much all of the gardening).
I love our neighborhood like I love our old house -- with all its flaws and everything...dh and dd1, not so much. When dh and dd1 went out of town for a few days in June, dd2 and I were out in front enjoying the rain, and we visited a little bit with our current next door neighbors. And dd was waving and smiling at the little boy and girl who are close to her age, and whom she used to play with when they first moved in...and after we went in, she cried about how she wanted to be friends with them again.
We'd initially been friendly with them -- but hard feelings developed between dh and the other husband/dad because when their little boy kept trying to open our gate to let our dog run out, the dad would just stand there and let him, and acted like he didn't understand English well enough to understand when dh was calling through the front door for them to shut the gate, and dh got mad and the neighbor got mad...
And I totally understand dh's frustration about the somewhat different values. But I still can't help wishing that, somehow, we could all be friends. I don't know quite how to get from where we are to where we want to be -- and I do realize I can't force everyone else onto the same page that I'm on -- but I keep hoping that somehow this will evolve into a life that we can all see as beautiful, even if it's very flawed and imperfect and frustrating at times.