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:
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.
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.
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!
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!
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:
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.
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.