Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wholesome Wednesdays: The Good Neighbor

My mom recently said something to me that is oh, so valid:
"There is nothing more valuable around here than a neighbor you can count on.Nothing."
She followed that with some expletives about her no longer good neighbors down the road, but her statement is absolutely spot on.  She lives in rural southern Oregon, high on a mountain meadow and a fifteen minute drive to the first 'town' where she can purchase groceries or get her mail. This is where i was raised: with my horse Misty, my dog Amber, 180 acres plus limitless woodlands and prairie owned by the BLM to wander. When it snows, you cancel your Christmas party because no one could possible get to your house and when it pours you hold tight and try not to get sucked into the culvert you're trying to clear. It is an amazing life, but it's made much harder by being neighbor to someone who hasn't got your back. Free range cattle often find their way onto her property due to poor management by their 'owners.' The neighbor down the way has made it his life's work to eek every nickle and dime from my folks out of court fees over some dispute over right of way easements. My mother just wants to be left alone up on her hill, and her bad neighbors are making that difficult.

I, on the other hand am currently living in the suburbs. I pretty much hate everything about that. I have no use for a city - i don't have money to go out, i don't enjoy shopping, i despise traffic, and the prices around here are suitable more to wealthy 20 something un-marrieds, versus poor 20-30 something marrieds. My yards are big enough to plant a decent sized veggie garden with some very lovely perennial plantings, throw a ball for my dog and get sweaty raking leaves. They aren't big enough to raise anything larger than a few hens, throw a frisbee for my dog without it clearing a fence, plant veggie gardens big enough to actually feed us, or get sweaty putting up fence lines. I need some room to grow and expand. A change may be coming soon, i'll update y'all more later. In the meantime i try to focus on what i DO like about living in this suburb full of car alarms, ice cream trucks, traffic noise, motorcycle-revving neighbors, feral cats and lack of any sky.

I have some good neighbors.

Since i bought this little place and started ripping out nasty carpet, replacing it with beautiful bamboo, destroying my yard to fill it with compost and organic vegetables: i've developed a good relationship with at least ONE of my adjacent neighbors. My goings on about the homestead often prompt comments from passersby, and i love talking to them about organic gardening, backyard hens, or whatever variety i'm cultivating at the time. Our neighbors to the north have been a God send on more than one occasion. We're all dog lovers and often trade dog-sitting duties with each other when our pooches are in need. They cried as much as we did at the passing of Tela, our husky and get as much joy from Pocket's antics as we do. They help us care for the hens when we're out of town, and we both play house sitter for each other when on extended vacations. It's good to know you have someone to watch out for you and your home.  We have other great neighbors too: friends that live in an adjacent neighborhood do the bulk of our house sitting when we go out of town. They love getting fresh eggs in payment, we're just so happy their willing to work for eggs. Our across-the-street neighbor has occasionally stopped by to ask us if we know someone who drives a such and such vehicle because he came by several times last week: thanks, that was just our house sitting friend.

Wow, it's crazy to look back at the first year's little garden.

The suburbs can be full of busy-bodies (i know because i'm one of them, peering out from behind my shrubbery) but they can also be full of good neighbors if you take a few moments to reach out and chat with them. It can be harder or easier to reach out and make friends with your neighbors in a more rural setting. I love going back home and running into at least a dozen folks that i grew up with every time i pick up the mail at the post office, despite not having been home for over three years, not counting my wedding. Gosh, that's depressing.  I have taken to heart the value of neighbors and will always seek out those around me and try to befriend them with baked goods, fresh eggs, or a friendly gesture or favor. It's as important to help out others as it is to have others to help you. I'm too poor to donate money or goods to charity, but i can donate my help when it is needed and am always willing to help out my friends. It feels great to give your crappy vacuum to someone who has no vacuum at all, to bring fresh eggs to a potluck, or let your neighbor's dog out to pee a few times a day. The simple things are the greatest things, and they pay for those big favors that inevitably come up in the future. One day your water main will burst and you might need to shower at your neighbor's house, or get buckets of water for your animals.

Won't it be great when you don't feel bad asking for that help, but instead feel like good neighbors? Don't take it for granted, and try not to burn bridges. You never know when you'll need to cross them.

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