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Life in a small town, part umpteen

Yesterday morning I looked across the street and there, on the vacant lot directly in front of my house, a neighbor was on her knees next to a wheelbarrow, cleaning up the lot.

My lot.

There’s a bit of fuzziness about exactly where the property lines are around here — something everybody deals with via ordinary courtesy — but she was at least 30 feet beyond her own beautifully landscaped place.

When I went out to ask what she was being so ambitious about, I saw that she had filled her barrow with shards of glass.

I knew part of my land had been used as a garbage dump for generations. I’ve already hauled out a refrigerator, a 1970s-vintage microwave oven, a screen door, two water tanks, and two (or maybe three) toilets. Among other things. Last summer I filled several 60-gallon trash bins with rusted cans, broken bottles, and bits of old household appliances. And there’s still more to go. Much more.

My dear neighbor had plunked herself down in one of the worst spots — a 10 x 25-foot patch completely covered with glass and rusted metal. The worst of it is a dozen or so enormous window panes, shattered all over that area. In places, it’s like the glass motherlode, with shards as much as eight panes deep. Thousands upon thousands of shards, some on the surface and some buried in dirt. Yeah, a major, major mess.

I had that area cleared of brambles and weeds this spring and was intending to get out and attempt to de-junk it when I broke my ankle.

So there was my neighbor — who just loves doing yard work — undertaking this nasty job. I ran into the house, returned with work gloves and trash bags, and she and I worked companionably until we’d filled my oversize trash container.

She told me she thought the glass panes probably got there when an old shed formerly on that spot blew down in a storm eight years ago. So stored window glass got crushed in place by accident. Maybe. But she also uncovered a spot where at least three of the panes were buried edge-upward in the soil. Since the crazy guy who formerly owned this place was known to have built at least one previous crude booby trap, I’m thinking that bit at least was no accident. We marked the spot with bricks and I need to go back shortly to try to dig the panes out. I have no idea how deep they go; only that they go too deep for us to budge them.

The neighbor’s volunteer labor wasn’t 100 percent altruistic. Her dogs roam over that lot and she’s worried about them getting cut. Plus, she’s a neatnik and a devoted gardener who was thrilled when I started clearing the land (and opening up her view) and was probably frustrated when the project stalled.

Still, having her turn up and start digging through that nasty patch of glass — rather than just complaining about it or asking me to clear it — was a great thing.

She also had her sons dig out an old waterbed mattress that I’d been trying to pull out of the ground since last summer.

There’s still a ton more crap over there, including possibly several more trash bags full of glass and rusty metal (not to mention the remaining bags of cat poop half buried in the mud; which as I keep noting is a story in itself).

Now that my ankle’s getting better, it’s time to haul myself over there and work. It’s going to be years before that lot is what it should be; my visions of fruit trees, garden paths, gazebos, and chickens keep getting pushed back. But what a great start my neighbor gave me.


  1. mary in texas
    mary in texas July 18, 2015 12:41 pm

    What a pleasure it is to have good neighbors! Our neighbors on one side are never seen and don’t do much but have their weed-patch mowed fairly regularly. On the other side are the winners of the good neighbor award. They have everything as neat as possible and are nice enough to tell us how nice our yard looks. We have a twice weekly competition to see which family gets out to bring up the trash cans from both places. Their boys are polite and ask permission to come in our yard to get a ball that flies over the fence. When they have a family party, they bring us food so that we can enjoy it also. We wish we could clone them so that everyone can have some just like them.

  2. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty July 18, 2015 2:08 pm

    The neighbors here are wonderful and I know I could count on them for help any time if I asked. My problem is being too stubborn and embarrassed to ask for much. I suspect lots of people are that way, more or less. 🙂

    Anyway, I’m so glad you have good neighbors there.

  3. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau July 18, 2015 6:50 pm

    I tend to be a bit suspicious of neatniks. They are fine if they can restrain themselves, and not be too overbearing, I guess.

    It’s strange she would do that without asking you first. But otherwise it seems nice.

    I read or heard somewhere that if you want someone (such as a neighbor) to like you, the thing to do is to ask them for help with something. When they are helping you, and afterward, it is harder to look down on you. Of course one can overdo asking for help as well…

    Maybe what you need is a Bobcat. 🙂

  4. Claire
    Claire July 18, 2015 6:58 pm

    Bobcat would precisely do the trick, Paul. I’ve even got a nice, tidy, out-of-the way place that all the dumped stuff could be shoved. After trying to deal with that glass “booby trap” this morning and realizing just how much bigger the problem is, both in depth and extent, I put in a call to a local guy who’s got a Bobcat.

    I agree it would have been great if the neighbor asked first. If she had, though, I’d have just said no. So this worked out well, both for getting something done and for getting to know her better.

  5. Alien
    Alien July 19, 2015 12:38 am

    I don’t know what your governmental situation is, and I’m generally reticent about getting the bureaucrats involved in anything, but I wonder if your local Drone Army would be willing to provide a dumpster for a week or two. They’re often willing to support neighborhood cleanup projects. Lacking that, maybe a waste hauling company could give a discount on a dumpster.

    I suspect a dumpster that delivers the stuff to a proper disposal site might be better than just pushing it into a pile out of the way.

  6. Claire
    Claire July 19, 2015 6:04 am

    Alien — The local waste company wanted $800 for dumpster use. But don’t worry; most of the stuff has already gone to them via their regular 60-gallon bins. A scrape with a Bobcat would mainly be for a final surface cleanup (and also to smooth out some lumpy hills of dirt).

  7. Bob Adkinson
    Bob Adkinson July 19, 2015 7:31 pm

    I live in a town of less than 1000. I like the way after they’ve been to your house a couple of times, they don’t even knock. They just waltz right on in. Almost makes me not lock the doors at night. Almost.

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