Thursday, April 15, 2010

Side benefits to being in front

My new micro-commute is going swimmingly... or maybe that's "bicyclingly"?  I've started riding my bike to work, a speedy 10-minute coast downhill in the mornings, an arduous 30-minute (cough cough LIAR!),  ok, 35-minute (pants on fire) climb in the evenings. 

Hey, I'm working on reducing that return time.  Give me a few weeks already!

Since starting to commute by bike I've discovered something (besides the fact that hitting potholes unexpectedly really hurts your sit bones): my neighborhood is really active in the early evenings.  I'd never noticed before because a) I didn't get home until close to 7:00 and b) we keep our cars in the garage off the alley.  We never went out front.

As I rode up to my house the other day there were no fewer than 3 sets of neighbors working in their front yards.  While I was chatting with various people, about 2-3 other neighbors came home from work.  Everyone waved, or at least nodded to acknowledge our presence.

My front yard veggie garden has prodded me to spend more time out front than ever before.  Two houses on my block have front yard veggie gardens and I've seen several more in the environs. 

I've read that WWII victory gardens supplied some 40% of the country's food.  The vegetable gardens that were ubiquitous during the war were abandoned when the war was over.  So many people stopped gardening after the war ended that both the USA and England suffered food shortages in 1946.

What I've realized this week is the positive impact on our community of our individual gardening efforts.  We're all getting to know each other rather well.  We take breaks from our work and visit.  We pass along leftover seeds and starts.  We mow one another's lawns and look out for each other.  We borrow tools.  We share cooking and gardening tips, and commiserate about the perpetually unsupervised 5-year-old whose parents basically let her run feral. 

I digress.

I imagine that the summer bounty will bring us even closer together as a little community because we'll begin to foist our prolific zucchinis and lettuce on one another.

It feels so delightfully like retro 1940s suburbia.  My neighborhood was built in the '20s.  You could say that we've simply pulled out an old idea, dusted it off, and called it new again.  It's called "neighborliness".

Who knew there were such great side benefits from being in front?


  1. since we live in the country, this isn't quite our situation (the closest neighbor is about 1/2 mile), still our neighbors (in 2 mile radius sense) have been incredibly neighborly. And as far as gardening, we couldn't do it without them- someone lent us their tiller, we went in with others on organic potato starts and we are getting together next week to exchange seeds. And, we have only lived here 4 months!

  2. Great post - we feel similarly lucky to live in a friendly North Seattle neighborhood (built in the 50's). Easter morning we awoke to chocolate-filled eggs on our doormat and still don't know who left them. We know each others' names and have emergency phone numbers. (and, yes, there's one neighbor who can only YELL at their child outside ALL DAY on the weekends. I can't wait for that kid to go to college!)

  3. RSM, they say that good fences make good neighbors (and it's certainly true), but the willingness to lend a hand makes an even better neighbor!

    Carbzilla, our neighbors with the feral child only know how to communicate by yelling. Because we, their neighbors, *want* to hear every single thing they say to their 3 kids. Sheesh.

  4. Hey, Kiddo! It's the Mom in the midwest. Had a neighborly moment with the cousin's neighbors yesterday and today. Offers of lending tools for my gardening and also offers of letting me be on their wifi. All because I was in the front yard gardening and because I returned and errant dog named Jack.

    Good post. Love you.