Thursday, April 8, 2010

Good fences make good neighbors and ditto to you!

Now that the weather is finally getting nice, it’s occurred to us that we need to start doing something about our TOTAL MESS of a yard. Seriously, the couple who owned the house before us were older and really didn’t take care of any outdoor maintenance (the indoor maintenance is somewhat debatable too, but let’s not go there) and there’s a lot of really basic clean up to be done to just begin to be able to see what’s out there. Then we can get into the REALLY expensive stuff…

Thus far we are living with suburban dream… Finding babysitters so my husband can cut down trees (he got to play with a chainsaw – one he borrowed from his Dad. I was thinking, good, now we don’t have to buy one. He was thinking – oh, this just proves I need to buy a more powerful one) and I can rake leaves in that big patch to right that separates us from the neighbors. It’s like trying to rake the forest. (Now, it’s not that big, we’re in Northern VA suburbia – we feel like we have a fiefdom at half an acre. It’s just not been taken care of in YEARS so it’s totally overgrown and hasn’t been raked. It’s bad enough trying to pull out all the downed branches from this winter. I’m pulling out completely rotten branches from the past 5 (10?) winters.) I feel like Sisyphus doing this (you know, you never make progress – you start to think you’ve made progress and it turns out you have to start over), but it has to be done. No, really has to. One neighbor has been complaining to us about this since BEFORE we moved in.

We started a couple of weeks ago and filled 38 bags with leaves from the back. (note – it’s April, right? The leaves are not falling off the trees. This is just the crap that’s been there FOREVER. Also, that was just from the small part of the yard inside the fence. I'm not sure how much beyond the fence is ours. What I used to proudly think was "possibly the whole wooded area!", I now really friggin hope is just a little bit past the fence line...) I started on the front (this actually was raked once in the fall) and so far have 10 bags filled and I don’t know how many loads of branches to go to the dump. The progress here is slower as I haven’t had as much time to devote to it and truly, I’m a wimp. Hubby probably did 30 of the 38 bags (ok, 35). And he’s been in the back trying to cut up the trees that fell and dealing with the dead ones that will fall rather than muscling through this mess.

So Saturday, as we were coming up for air on this project, we ran into our neighbor (the other side this time) and my husband asked her if she had an arborist she’d used to take down trees in the past. She said that there were several who’d worked in the neighborhood, but then said – you’re not taking down LIVING trees are you. Cause you know you’re not allowed to do that? (Great, we live next door to a 1950’s sitcom neighbor.) My husband said (with more than a hint of impatience and sarcasm) – yes, I’ve read the HOA documents. I’m talking about dead trees here. She joked – don’t make me come after you / report you.

Now, my husband was a bit tired given hours of labor outside and a bit overwhelmed with the remaining task and really – just in no mood! So he said – Ditto! And pretty much ended the conversation there.

You could tell she was a bit taken aback – so shortly thereafter she called me over to mention that they had an old baby pool we could use for the munchkin any time we wanted. And she called over to tell us how nice we all looked when we were headed out that evening.

The thing is – it’s not that she really says anything so egregious at any point. She just tends to be so… hmm, forceful. No that’s not the word – really, I mean over the line – in the WAY she says things. (How’s that for me being a girl? It’s not WHAT you said. It’s the WAY you said it!) For instance, instead of saying – hey, let us know if you ever need to borrow a tool, as we may have something . Or even – hey, do you guys happen to have a [insert totally random tool that I have no idea what it does here], as we need one? Instead she said – we should get together sometime and make an inventory of our tools so we each know what the other has (for our master inventory). Umm… OK.

Basically, I just think she should do some Jeopardy training – you know, learn to phrase things in the form of a question.

We certainly don’t want neighbor issues (that’s a headache that’ll last YEARS if you start it), but sometimes it does feel that good fences make good neighbors. Despite our “fiefdom,” our neighbors sometimes do feel too close. Ironically, the neighbor on the other side who WANTS our trees down asked if she could have some removed when she’s having some done on her property. Maybe we should let the two of them negotiate…

How do you negotiate the neighbor minefield? What are the weirdest neighbor requests or comments you’ve gotten? And how the heck does one rake a forest (short of a blow torch, as my husband has suggested this a few times…)?


  1. Awwww. I just wrote up a comment a mile long. Then I dropped my keyboard and everything disappeared. :p

    I was saying that...

    You hit the nail on the HEAD with the whole 'not being forceful' and phrasing things 'as questions' thing. This is the difference between me putting up a massive fight and me agreeing sweetly to whatever is requested of me.

    People-handling classes should be mandatory in high algebra, but useful.

    I dread the day when I have pushy neighbors. I'm one of those that cannot stop myself from declaring war on the person that everyone else is silently annoyed by.

    But seriously, this is my issue with my man's mom. If she dropped the 'you NEED to...' and turned it into a 'Would you like me to help you if you decide to...' I'd probably not think she was so tactless, abrasive and blind to boundaries.

    You know?

    *Stops rambling*

    A chainsaw, huh???


  2. Oh good grief!! Neighbors can either be sent from the Heavens or from the depths of everything that is evil, can't they?? The man and I got really lucky on the neighbor-front...thankfully there is no master community tool list!! I know that if we needed anything - or if our neighbors needed anything - that we'd find it one way or another!



I love comments! Come leave me some blog love!