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Gardening with Neighbors

In the suburban world of my youth, all yards were clearly demarcated by fences. Not only were all backyards fenced in, they almost all had exactly the same style chainlinked fence. Oh, there were a few holdouts who still had wooden posts from an earlier era, but not very many of them. Even in that case, property lines were made very clear.

The lack of standardized fencing between properties in the little hippie enclave we call home has always been one of its charms for me. On one side, a drive way separates our land from the neighbor’s, more or less. On the other, the saddest of gappy little wire fences barely slows the squirrels down as they pass from our yard to theirs.

This year things went a step further when we talked with an elderly neighbor who still likes to garden despite the limitations of age. She moved into the house a few years ago and the backyard overflows with the mature flower garden put in by the man three owners back. No one since has succeeded in keeping up with it. Our neighbor has had a few vegetable beds cleared over the last couple years. She usually gets some help putting in a dozen or so plants in her yard.

This year we’ve come up with what I hope will be an ingenious exchange: we’ll help look after her vegetable garden in exchange for the use of some of her space. Seeing as we frequent the Farmers’ Market for seedlings, we’re going to pick up whatever else she needs. We said we’ll assist with the planting and the weeding. In July, when she goes away for her vacation, we’ll look after her garden.

I’m most excited about being able to grow some of the items my partner has in the past insisted take up too much room, like squash and melon, perhaps. One often wishes for just a little more space. This year, we have it. I’m looking forward to what we might do.

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