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.
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.