They say that strong fences make good neighbors, but I have to think that a little friendliness and a bit of barter help too. Last night, my next-door neighbor Sandi came over and I gave her a haircut. In a few weeks, she'll feed our cat and our chickens while we're at a family reunion.
If we get a big enough snow, Dale brings his tractor and plows our driveway. In the summer, I bring him eggs and tomatoes when I have extra. Peyton, 15 years old, is raising a pig for 4-H, and he's already hinting that he'd gladly trade some fresh pork for some homegrown chicken. If I want horse manure for the garden (and by golly, I do!), Jay will fill the back of my pickup with his end loader. As a thank-you, I bring him and his wife mixed lettuces in late Spring.
Jay mows Sandi's field in the summer. Dale mows for Leslie. We trade honey or home-made bread or haircuts for something we need or can use, and if someone borrows our tiller it comes back clean, often with a plate of cookies or a little gift card or something. Coupons are shared, recipes are swapped, and I know that if there is a strange car in my driveway, I'll get a phone call in a few minutes, to make sure I'm okay. (Sandi still gets a kick out of the time I called their house because there was a strange truck there. Turns out they had just gotten a new truck!)
A couple weeks ago when I cleaned out my freezer, I found a ham from....er...blush...2002. (It's a chest freezer! It sunk to the very bottom!) I don't have a dog, but Hilary has two big ones, so she took the ham and turned it into treats for them.
Come summer, I'm the 'zucchini fairy', leaving squash for the neighbors who want it. (I will quit if they tell me 'enough!') Some of us go for walks after dinner, but half the time they turn into 'visits' instead of cardio workouts. Some of us have lived here 15 years or more, while other folks have just moved here, but we all take a minute to wave when we drive by. We're all willing to stop by once in a blue moon just to say hello. No one has to run to town because they ran out of sugar, or eggs (or because the baggie of 'old' bananas they thawed for banana bread are actually italian sausages - yeah...that was me!). Instead, just call a neighbor.
Do you know your neighbors? Do you say hello? If someone moves in, do you drop off a plate of cookies or a cutting from your garden? It doesn't take much to make people feel welcome. Even if you've been there a while, you can make too many oatmeal cookies, and share them around. The smallest kindness gets the ball rolling, and I think it improves everyone's behavior. When we've lived in apartments, neighbors became more considerate (less loud music at 3am, no more trash on the stoop) once we all got to know one another a little.
I can't think of one drawback to building community with neighbors. There is added security, because we look out for one another. While most of our neighbors are acquaintances, some are good friends. And if you start adding up the cost of haircuts and organic produce, manure and tiller rentals, pet sitting and snow plow services, we are all keeping a lot of money where it belongs - in our own pockets!
So, tell me. Do you know your neighbors? Do y'all barter? Leave a comment, and share how this works for you!