Good Country Neighbors


My country neighbors, for example, have helped me solve the two great problems with a weekend farm: weeds and groundhogs.  Last year, completely defeated by the weeds for the first time in 15 years of vegetable gardening, I realized that cultivation was no longer going to work–I needed a smothering mulch.  So I asked Herb Perkins of Quarry Ridge Alpacas up the road whether he had any spoiled hay he wanted to get rid of.  As a result, he has started delivering me tractor-loads of alpaca bedding–the most beautiful weed-smothering mix of hay and poop–spending hours on a weekend dumping it into my garden.  Then he acts as if I’m doing him a favor for taking the stuff.  Now that is a valuable neighbor.

My friend Nancy Higby, a garden designer, is another very valuable neighbor who has helped me solve my groundhog problem.  I’d finally reached the point of admitting to myself that if I wanted to grow crucifers, I was doing to have to dig a trench around my garden and bury wire underneath my cedar fence.  And since teenaged garden help is not so easy to find as you might think, I was going to have to dig all 160 feet of it myself.  One Saturday this spring, I’d dug approximately 20 feet of miserably rocky clay, when I decided I needed a break and wandered up the road to find Nancy sitting in the sun.  Nancy said, "Don’t dig.  Attach the rabbit wire to the outside of your fence, bend it over onto the grass about a foot and hammer it into the ground with garden staples."

My God, what a sensible solution!  I was able to do the whole garden in two afternoons, and so far, my precious crucifers are unmolested.

I have other valuable friends on Quarry Road, too.  Rick Kranz, a retired engineer, simply knows how to do everything.  He not only built me my adorable purple garden shed, he also raises the most delicious lamb and chickens for me.  His wife, Martha Culliton, is the best cook I know–and the most scholarly.  She knows everything there is to know about food.  Very valuable woman in an emergency.  With Martha around, we would not be eating gruel out of a pot, I can promise you that.  Another excellent neighbor, Mina, is a nurse–should civilization end, Mina would be an enormous plus.

In fact, I think we’re pretty much ready for all eventualities there on Quarry Road.  I’ve even got a rocky Southeast-facing field that looks like it might make a good vineyard.  For us, disaster might well prove to be an idyll of self-reliance balanced by cooperation among friends. 

Of course, my husband likes to poke holes in this gourmet pioneer fantasy by pointing out that if the world does run out of energy, there are likely to be resource wars.  And if we’re growing tons of food there on Quarry Road and making nice white wines and there are lots of starving suburbanites around us, well, they’ll soon be in our fields.

The barbarians–all those McMansion-dwelling lawyers and internists and pr specialists who couldn’t grow a potato to save their lives–will be at the gates.   


  1. Well, Michelle, you’ve officially turned into *my* country neighbor. I’ve been avoiding putting in rabbit fencing around the bottom of the vegetable garden fence because the thought of digging all those trenches was rather overwhelming. Now you’ve given me hope that I can just bend it down on the grass as your neighbor Nancy recommended. Thank you!

  2. Thanks for giving me a better appreciation for my own country neighbors. Simultaneously you have creeped me completely out thinking about hordes of starving lawyers, cab drivers, and other city folk rampaging through my garden. I thought cows were bad but man…

    My other thought was: finally, people who understand why a truck load of manure is such a goldmine.


  3. Heh! I live in an sub/urban area but have turned my yard over to edible landscaping. I hope to install a greywater system and solar. And I’ve definitely thought that if we get at the point of resource wars I’m in trouble. Because in my neighborhood, some of my agriculture-ignorant neighbors are plenty savvy about guns.

  4. Tracy, the only downside of the Nancy Higby method of groundhog control is the weeds that grow up right in the bend of the wire that cannot be whacked or mown over. Next year, I think I’ll put in one of those fake plastic mulch strips on the inside of the garden, right under the bend of the rabbit fence.

    Spidra webster, made me laugh! I could not approve more highly of urban agriculture–but watch the plastic people with guns.

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