Bad fences make good neighbors

When my husband and I were first toying with the idea of starting some sort of agriculturally-based enterprise and brainstorming names for it, we played around with the idea of Good Neighbors. Because we would like to be them. While virtually all forms of the Good Neighbor name are taken by all manner of businesses with good intentions, it turns out we’re surrounded by actual good neighbors, and our rickety, patchwork fence isn’t even between us and most of them!

Take our neighbors to the south, Lloyd and Diane. I said to my husband a couple of weeks ago, “Wow, we sure lucked out with them for our neighbors!”

“I don’t think it was luck. I think we were blessed with them,” was his reply.

When I spent the first two weeks in the house alone, I wore a path on the grass between our houses, borrowing tools, getting to know how to get things done in the country, figuring out how the heater worked. Mowerless, I watched helplessly as the grass grew several inches per day in the April rains. I had brooders to set up, feeding schedules to work out, seeds to plant, boxes to unpack.  But Lloyd had a riding mower with a mowing deck over four feet wide. And he took it upon himself to tidy up our front acre, and then worked his way through the lawn-cum-meadow a while later so we could put our first batch of chickens out without them getting lost.

When my mom saw him mowing our lawn again, she couldn’t take it. “You need to get a mower. I’ll buy you one.” And she did. We named it after her, kind of. Mom’s from Holland. Her name is Johanna, but everyone calls her Jopie.  So our shiny new red riding mower (No, it’s not a New Holland Tractor. It’s a Craftsman. Made in the USA.) is JopJop.  Here I am on her:

It looked so much bigger inside the show room!

Most importantly, Lloyd has berries. Strawberries, lots of them. “Help yourself anytime,” he said when I tentatively approached with an offer to help him harvest the berries. And his Jersey Giant blueberry bush is ten-feet tall, and loaded with ripening fruit.

You know you are living the good life when your husband says to you, “You smell like strawberries,” and it’s not your shampoo.

Most of all, I like shooting the breeze with them over the fence. Or on our side, with the weedy meadows and piles of dirt and rickety sheds and straggly seedlings in makeshift raised beds; or on their side, with productive strawberry patches, flat green grass, artistically designed garden patches with blossoming lilies set off by cedars, and perfect, brand new raised beds, all in a line, filled with evenly spaced, ready-to-bloom vegetables. Mostly on their side.

It's a long fence, but it's a low one, thank goodness.

Then there’s Mr. Rhodes. His property is behind ours. He has a tractor. With a bushhog. And he knows how to use it. All we had to do was ask.

A heavenly sight when you've got five acres and no ruminants or tractors of your own!

Mr. Rhodes and his big tractor could handle the large pasture, but for our small pastures, thank goodness for Margaret. Margaret is our beat up work-horse of a push-mower that dern well deserves to be called a bush hog, stuff that she took on!

Three foot high mixed pasture grasses are no match for me and Margaret!

This is my other friend Margaret, the one who gifted me the gently used push mower. Margaret the human is a work horse of a woman, though!

My first new friend in town, Margaret, of Sunrise Gardens, just down the road and then some.

If it weren’t for our neighbors, we never could have tamed our acreage. And our chickens would not be enjoying the life they have now:

Look, it's a feeder! No, it's a perch! No, it's a latrine! What a useful multipurpose chicken apparatus! What will they think of next?

Chickens may be raptors, and may have evolved from jungle birds, but they clearly like their grass mowed these days. Scare-dy cats, all of them. I mean, they're chicken and stuff!

Talk about your pampered chickens! They have a bed of soft, freshly mown grass, the shade of an old sycamore tree, views of the Blue Ridge, cold, fresh spring water. Kind of like me!

Without our neighbors, we could have never gotten to the stage of BREAKING GROUND for our GARDEN BEDS, with our new, rear-tine rototiller. We call him “Little Richard,” after my papa, (Big) Richard, who tirelessly tills for peace and justice in our world.  Our rototiller doesn’t have quite so long a row to plow.

We waited until it was 93 degrees outside before we decided this was the day we MUST break ground. We also waited until about 1pm. Because we're still trying to figure out that early-to-rise thing.

Thanks to our good neighbors, I think we are off to a good start on the Good Life. I’m off now, to get some mulberries from our giant tree And some more strawberries from our neighbors…I’m all out of perfume.

This entry was posted in Farming, New Farmers, Organic, pastured poultry, Small Farms, Uncategorized, Virginia Farms and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Bad fences make good neighbors

  1. I *love* reading your blog posts. You are both truly blessed to have such wonderful people in your life!

  2. vgambrell says:

    Doodi! I’m so pleased to see how wonderfully your farm is coming along. Your chickens look beautiful!

  3. Some beautiful photos of your beautiful homesite.

    It struck me that even organic farming needs power tools.

    I was with the Horsham Walkers on Friday. I told Peter about visiting your farm.
    He and his wife had just returned from a week in Beijing for a wedding at the Shangri-la Hotel or one of the Chinese students who they had hosted in Horsham. 600 guests. The Chinese are prospering!

  4. Khalil says:

    Scott and Helen Nearing reincarnated.

    • doodi says:

      Do you know the last book I read was theirs? On the good life… They said they worked (their “bread labor”) only four hours a day. That is, attended to their cash-making enterprises like syrup making and other produce and jam making. The rest of the day, they built stone houses, root cellars, played music, read, put up preserves, cooked soup. Not work at all…

  5. Margaret (the human ) says:

    You are so funny!

  6. marion tratnyek says:

    Envy you. Helen and scott Nearing were familiar to me. I visited Her in Harborside Me near where my sister Alison Miner lives.
    The extent of my chores this week are spreadingManure from Verrill Farm in Concord Ma.. My rhubarb and asparagus will need it if I want a crop next year.MARION

  7. Pingback: The Three “Rs” of Farming: Weeding, Writing, and Relationships* | The Clueless Farmer

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