Good neighbors

My neighbor, Walter is on a bender again this weekend blaring his four early 60’s vintage albums and I’m extremely wistful for all the good neighbors I met last weekend in Buffalo. I wish my friends and fellow garden bloggers lived much closer to me than the distant interwebs. I also wish that I lived in as sympathetic a neighborhood as the cottage district in Buffalo. In my neighborhood, all we seem to inspire in each other is increased volume. So (with thanks to Lynn for introducing me to the music) I’m here with all of my people. Turn it way up.

I miss you guys!

Neighbor relations

Walter's garageWhat do you do when you realize the neighbors hate you? Do you cower in the house and contemplate relocation? Do you carry on with the frontyardwork, wave and smile but maybe let your dog pee on his hostas sometimes?

I have this across-the-street neighbor – we’ll call him Walter because that’s his name – who is exceedingly jovial. He resembles a Portuguese Jerry Garcia and seems as laid back as your average cigar smoking deadhead. He was the first on my street to give me the thumbs up for ripping out shrubbery and planting a garden and he always waves and smiles when I walk by with the dog. But Walter, like many long haired children of the 60’s, loves the Golden Oldies and is apparently hard of hearing – and only ever plays his current fave on a loop. Last year we were treated to Moody Blues at top volume from his shop. This year evidently his fave is a Portuguese crooner not unlike Tom Jones who covers songs like House of the Rising Sun, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and other earworms now played at top volume from his car in a garage that faces our street.

I think perhaps if he had varied the selection at all this weekend (or if it was this band I found on YT) I might have been more tolerant of the noise. Honestly, the first time through I kind of enjoyed the kitsch of it. But by the 6th or 8th repeat I had pretty much had it. There was nowhere in the yard or house to retreat to. Even with the ipod at high volume plugged directly into my brain I could still hear Walter’s album. We even elected to vacate the premises only to return to the same. So today, Sunday – the God given quiet day, after my dogwalk, I peered into the garage where Walter was working on his car and wrecking his eardrums, smiled and gave the universal hand signals for “Dude, could you turn the music down a notch before I lose my mind? Thanks, man. Peace!” I thought he nodded and said OK.

A few minutes later, blessed silence and I went back out to mow the grass. I spotted Walter and smiled and waved but he was shouting something. Hold on, I can’t quite hear you…

“Oh no!”, still smiling, “I just was hoping you’d turn it down a li-”


Not smiling anymore – wide eyed, panicked, “No, I really just wanted you to turn it down – we could hear it everywhere over he-”


Hands up in universal “I surrender.” “Aaargh. OK Walter. Turn it up. We love it.”

It’s been quiet ever since but I can’t help wondering what the hell? Granted, this is Bristol where anyone who isn’t “born” here doesn’t belong and 2 and a half years in the neighborhood is exactly like 2 weeks. But he had been fairly welcoming. Is Walter on a bender and will he be jolly again tomorrow? Is he seething and plotting vengeance for the ruination of his afternoon? Will he forbid his grandchildren to ever pet Nino again? Can we weather this with hilarity or do we need to start house hunting?

Spectator sport

dead as a door knob and not nearly as pretty.It’s exhausting watching other people work.  I would generally like to do everything myself – if I’m going to be wiped out at the end of the day, there might as well be a good reason for it.  But some jobs – like dead tree removal – are much better undertaken by professionals.

The back side of our property is bordered by a privacy screen of overgrown bramble.  What was once probably a typical Bristol Portuguese farmlet complete with barn, chicken coops, rabbit hutches, grapes and gardens is now essentially abandoned.  The house looks like a rental, the barn is fallingdown and the coops and gardens have been overtaken by every invasive species – from Norway maple to rose of sharon, from bittersweet to Rosa multiflora, from English ivy to poison ivy.  They’ve got it all.  And … now so do we.  Three out of the 6 existing trees on our property have been under direct threat from the bramble.  Whipple Tree, LLC The previous owners told us how beautiful the rose was in the spring and I thought, “uh-oh” – in a stronger language.  The white pine was the worst – fully draped in bittersweet and rose and although it limped along our first year, it succumbed this last.  The only things holding it upright during this winter’s wind storms were the tentacles that killed it.  I certainly didn’t have to worry about it falling on the house.  Lazy gardener that I am though, I couldn’t just leave it indefinitely to rot and drop its bits on my beds. I also knew that I couldn’t take it down myself.

Skippy slung and tugging bittersweetLucky for us then that our Best Man, Eric started a tree work business with his brother Bradford.  Whipple Tree, LLC to the rescue!  Timber!  The actual trajectory is not as it appears.They showed up Saturday armed with more sharp toothed gear than should ever be slung from one body, miles of rope, a chipper all the way from the Sunshine State, 2 bio diesel trucks and a trailer.   Eric made his monkey way up the tree while Brad orchestrated gear and debris and teased me mercilessly about the “grave” (which, I guess when considered along with our “dungeon” down cellar, is an especially skeevy looking thing).  Two and a half hours later, the white pine was felled, the bits and brambles chipped and we all stood around the kitchen inhaling Z-made guacamole and chips and sucking down ciders.

Their finesse with the felling was truly impressive and I’m not just saying that because they’re friends and letting us pay them in trade.  The pair of pears weren’t touched (aside from a little judicious pruning of one wayward branch), the bulbs coming up at the base of the tree weren’t squarshed and even though it looked like every branch was falling on my tiny gooseberry, not a stick or stem of it snapped.

the final cut for my new ... birdbath? ...potted specimen on a pedestal?

We have a pretty good view now of the thicket in our neighbor’s yard that is sending feelers into our remaining Junipers and with our neighbors’ permission (or without – under cover of darkness if need be) I’ll hop the fence and lop the thigh-thick vines off at the knees.  I’m pretty sure that’s a job I can do myself.

There it is - the perfect garden ornament. But they wouldn't let me keep it.

Have you had tree work done?  Did you wear yourself out watching them work?