Good Neighbors (and Doing Something Right)

If people don’t occasionally walk away from you shaking their heads, you’re doing something wrong.

John Gierach

When we started looking for a small holding to be our homestead, this property was not our first choice. More than once we saw the listing for it, but we could tell it was going to be a fixer upper. And honestly, it looked like maybe more work than we were looking for at the time.

We actually visited numerous properties. We even put in offers on a few. But in the white-hot real estate market of 2020, some of the properties we visited were under contract by another buyer before we even finished our walk through.

Then, on a whim, we came out to view this property. The one we skipped over numerous times before. There was work to be done, for sure. But before we left we saw what this house and land had to offer. With work we could see what this homestead would become.

And thankfully, with patience and help from a great agent (shout out @HopePaolini), it became ours.

It’s a good thing too. Because what we’ve built here likely wouldn’t have gone well in most of the places we initially looked into when purchasing our new home.

Our homestead certainly wouldn’t fly in a land of HOAs. Even less restrictive traditional, suburban neighborhoods like the ones we grew up in would probably balk at the roosters, goats, and chicken tractors we’ve implemented here.

Try running a chicken tractor in your HOA.

Thankfully, we live on the edge of the last vestiges of rural farm holdings and creeping fingers of suburban sprawl. And we’re blessed with good neighbors. Really good neighbors. But in the back of our minds we’ve always questioned, what do our neighbors really think of the menajerie of gardens, animals, and contraptions we’ve built here?

Well this week one of our neighbors made a comment that leads us to believe we’re doing something right.

Meet Earl.

Our neighbor, Earl, lives directly across the lane from us. There are five of us who all live off a shared lane here. Earl’s house happens to be the closest geographically to our home. Earl and his wife have literal front row seats to our little circus.

Earl is a bit older than we are. Likely twenty to twenty-five years older depending on which one of us you’re using for reference. He’s a kindly gentleman who always offers a friendly waive or stops to chat as we pass. He and our other neighbor, Mike, raise beef cattle together across their shared acreage.

We all watch out for each other along our little lane. It’s really quite nice.

But what sets Earl apart from those of us who live on our shared lane and those in the adjoining neighborhood is a better appreciation of the history of this land. You see, Earl grew up on this land. It was all his family’s farm property. His home, the land where our house sits, our close neighbors, and a good deal of the adjoining subdivision all made up the larger tapestry of his family’s farm.

Every once in a while Earl will share some of that history in a passing conversation.

Over the years we’ve talked about raising chickens; including how his mother raised birds, collected eggs, and hand plucked the occasional farm bird for dinner at their house just north of our existing property.

Broilers on pasture.

We’ve chatted about roosters and whether they’re a necessary part of the farm (he’s firmly in the not category here).

We’ve talked about gardens. What grows. What we prefer. And what we can do without.

Gardens ready for the season.

He’s shared how and where they raised pigs when he was a young lad and his memories of the process.

When Earl talks, his eyes shift to where everything used to be. Even though a neighborhood sits there now, Earl’s memory still has everything fixed in space where it once was.

He knows this land like no one else.

And he sees how we treat this land today.

Like we said earlier, we never really know what our neighbors think of what we’re doing with the homestead here. Maybe they drive by and shake their heads at the work we put in here, turning the land back to a farm from what was previously developed. You just never know.

But what struck me as we chatted the other day though really made me realize we’re doing something right.

Earl shared that he loved watching all that goes on along our little lane. How he enjoys watching us all do the things that he grew up with here. Being surrounded by chickens, cows, fields, and gardens brings him joy.

We’re blessed with great neighbors. It’s good to know that we’re good neighbors too.

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