Sow There! The fine line that makes a good neighbor, 1-3-2020

These vines look fairly inobtrusive in their dormant state, but the can become a big tangle in mid-July. (Heather Hacking — contributed)
January 3, 2020
In this compact and complicated world, it’s difficult to move an inch without offending someone.

We drive slowly, dress scantily, speak loudly or hang signs in our yard that state our opinion.

When it comes to being neighborly, its usually easy to cut each other some slack, rather than holding a grudge that could last until someone’s children go away to college.

I’m really lucky to have great neighbors. We give each other cookies during the holidays, and watch a locked house when one of us is out of town.

Barking dogs, late-night engine repair and your backyard band — it’s all OK until someone calls for code enforcement.

Over time, I’ve become friends with my totally cool neighbor, “D,” who works on his truck for weeks on end, and is currently remodeling the interior of his workshop. He seems to appreciate when I show up uninvited. I bellow “knock-knock” through the open doorway to his man cave, and if I hear a murmur, I’ll walk through the corrugated metal threshold. During a brief but meaningful talk last month, he said I was a “ray of sunshine,” which I interpreted as an open invite to stop by his shop any time I needed more positive affirmation.

Fresh-grown grapes vs. good neighborliness? Tough choices. (Heather Hacking — contributed)

Sometimes I bring gifts from my yard, including tomatoes or blood oranges. He never fails to reciprocate with a tour of his current creative project or other wild inspiration.

Last summer, during what was otherwise amiable conversation, I learned that he was the culprit behind the disappearance of my poppy plants.

For years, I have placed poppy seeds in the cracks in the pavement along the alley. In the spring, even rows of orange flowers grow. Yet, D is new to the ‘hood, and he didn’t know any better.

He confessed that he mistook the poppies for weeds, and once he started scraping the pavement with a shovel, he couldn’t stop until all my poppies were dead.

I forgave him. He knew no better, and now he knows.

It was easy enough to buy more poppies from the giant pitcher of seeds at Northern Star Mills.

More recently, I was bragging about my grapevines, which sprawl across the cyclone fence we share. I saw his brow twitch, just a slight movement on what is otherwise a smooth forehead. I realized the unruly vines might disturb his sense of a well-kept aesthetic.

“Do the vines bug you?” I asked without thinking of the outcome.

“A little,” he said. I knew this was an understatement.

Of course, the highest of neighborliness would include a future that does not include vines growing into his side of the fence. However, who am I to keep a vine from doing what it does best? My neighbor is new. The vine is well established. I can’t (or, more honestly, won’t) move the entire plant, not now.

Plus, if I pretend like I don’t know it bothers him, he probably won’t complain. Let’s face facts: I didn’t make a fuss when he murdered my poppies.

D didn’t ask me to remove the vine. However, I do feel a tiny bit of guilt. I’ll give him raisins next fall. Maybe that can make up for my grapevine sprawl.

It could always be worse. I have friends who have built fences or elaborate tarp structures to obscure the view of broken-down washing machines or a travel trailer used for spare parts. A vine with a will of its own is far less obnoxious than a whirling windmill, well-stocked aviary or a Winnebago filled with beer-drinking relatives.

It’s time to prune the grape vines. I’ll see if there’s a thing or two I can do.

I can’t make promises. But when my treasures arrive from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, I’ll look for a sunny spot away from the cyclone fence where I can grow my dragon’s tongue purple beans and ground cherries.

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