Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Meeting the neighbors

Pretty much since the first day we bought our land, over a year ago, I've been thinking about meeting the neighbors. Being a rural kid myself, I know that neighbors can make or break the experience of living in the country, even--or perhaps especially--as isolated as our land is. When we got our deed, there were names attached to some of the fields around us, and I tried to figure out who those people actually were, but so far the only neighbor I met was when I had to go begging at an old farmer's door for help getting my truck out of a snow drift--not exactly one of the textbook ways to win friends and influence people.

This week, my first week of summer, I've been spending a couple hours each day out at our land using my shiny new chainsaw to slice and dice trees that storms took down last summer. That's been a good learning experience--for instance, I learned yesterday how to flood the engine and more or less learned how to recover from that mistake. I also learned how hard I actually need to pull back on the chain break to disengage it, which is to say, harder than I thought before I talked to the guy at the shop (he will probably shake his head in wonder every time he sees me coming for the next decade).

This morning, when I went out to spend some quality time with my Echo, I was surprised to see a small tractor parked on my land since, you know, it is my land but it isn't my tractor. But I wasn't particularly worried about it because it's not like that part of the land is getting any better use. I pulled the truck further back onto our lot and started to get my things out when a pickup pulled up, dropped off one guy to go into the field, and then pulled up and parked near the tractor. This seemed like as good a time as any to meet one of my neighbors.

I decided that "Why are you parking your tractor on my land?" was a lousy conversational gambit, even if I had been dissatisfied with its parking place. Instead I just introduced myself and made his acquaintance. This man, perhaps in his 60s or 50s, farms the land across the road from us--or, rather, he and his brother do. We made a bit of small talk and he--no doubt noticing how quickly the wilderness is working to reclaim land that I claimed to want to build a house upon--asked if I wanted the land mowed. Hell yes I did! But I was rather more noncommittal than that, because I wasn't really looking to pay someone to do it. Though it could come to that. In any case, he said his brother might be interested in mowing it for hay. "He wouldn't pay you for it," he added, which at least also sounded like he wouldn't charge me for it, which was good enough for me. I gave him my phone number and counted it a good day, having met a neighbor.

I lugged my saw back into the woods and, naturally enough, the cursed thing wouldn't start for me. Ugh. So I walked back through the woods toward my truck, just as a jeep pulled up next to it, honking its horn. Which I probably wouldn't have heard if I'd have been sawing wood. This was the man's brother. We chatted a bit, he pointed out a nasty weed to me (for which he recommended Roundup), pointed out his family's house and barn, where they'd lived since the 1800s, I talked about my own roots in Ohio, talked about my plans to build a house, and finally mentioned that I worked at the nearby school--turned out his wife just retired from our admissions department. I don't know if it's a small world, but it's a small community, anyway.

At the end of the day, I met two neighbors and I'll be getting my grass mowed in a couple weeks. Oh, and the chainsaw started right up after that and was good for a couple hours of cutting.

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