Good Fences Make Good Neighbors?

So much for the saying “Good fences make good neighbors.” We arrived home last night, after going to dinner with my parents, with a note on our gate from a neighbor who saw the fence and gate we have erected in the last month as a sign of hostility. She took offence to the “No trespassing” and “Beware of Dog” signs on the gate, accused us of turning the previous owner’s garage into a grow space (“I hope you’re not growing weed in Hoyt’s garage.” Um, we own the property. It’s our garage) and threatened to call the sheriff to report us (For what? Growing our own vegetables? Pruning the overgrown rhododendron? I know, she’s going to report us for killing the ivy that’s infested the tree stump in the driveway.) She also accused us of being from Los Angeles or West Oakland (Not sure what these cities ever did to her, but apparently she had a really bad experience with them that she wants to project on us) and said that we’re paranoid.

Part of the offending fence. Obviously, we're trying to hide something here.
Part of the offending fence. Obviously, we’re trying to hide something here.

But, the best part—my favorite, really—was when she wanted to “Put you on notice that this is a friendly place that reacts poorly to signs of hostility.” Yes, like writing a passive-aggressive note and leaving it on the gate instead of having the courage to knock on the door and chat with us about it? Oh, bless your heart, thanks so much for the faux concern and hostile warning. What would we do without it? Consider us “on notice.”

In our very small community, word travels fast. As we’ve fixed up the property, which fell into disrepair when the previous owner slowly succumbed to cancer, we’ve had people drive down our busy road, craning their necks to see what we’re doing. We’ve cleaned the gutters and removed the moss from the roof, cut back overgrown shrubs and mowed the grass, pulled up weeds in the front gardens and planted lavender, thyme, marjoram, peonies and roses. We’ve scrubbed the windows and removed spider webs and grime from the sides of the house. We’ve cleared scrap wood, ash, car parts, RV parts and other junk from the property, and put up a horse corral. Everything we’ve done enhances the value and curb appeal of the home.

Many people in the community have fences around their property. Like theirs, ours is unobtrusive—you can see right through it. We put it up to keep our menagerie of animals, which include a horse, a cat, a dog and chickens, as well as our toddler inside our property and prevent them from running out onto the busy street.

When we noticed that our driveway was being used for u-turns several times a day, leading to an RV getting stuck in our driveway, we put up a gate to prevent this from occurring. Before we put up the gate, we had posted No Trespassing signs, only to have them ignored. The gate was put up to keep people from using our driveway as another road. It’s not an act of hostility; we’re property owners trying to protect our investment.

My husband and I are unsure whether to laugh at this person’s lunacy or to be upset that she pegged us all wrong. We’re among the few people up here who don’t grow marijuana. We didn’t buy a home to turn it into a grow house; we bought a home so that we could fulfill our dream of living self-sufficiently. We moved up here so that we could buy a house with land (without undertaking a ton of debt) so that we could house our horse, have chickens, have a huge garden to grow all of the produce we wish to consume, and give our son a good life. We want him to grow up getting his hands dirty in the soil and learning responsibility through taking care of the animals and the garden.

My grandfather had a saying, “If you don’t like my house, don’t swing on my fence.” Our house was in a family for two generations, until it was put on the market as a short sale when the previous owner died. In a small community, we understand that people are going to be critical of the changes that we’re making. However, keep it to yourself. Taping an anonymous note to our gate isn’t neighborly, and giving us a faux warning that the community won’t stand for the “hostility” of a fence, a gate and ‘no trespassing” signs is disingenuous, especially when other folks on the street have the same features.

We’ve met the neighbors that live next to us, as well as some nice people who have passed by, ironically to tell us how nice they think the fence looks and how they like what we’re doing to the property. You can’t please everybody. While some would say that we should make peace with the anonymous letter writer, I don’t see much point. She’s not the kind of person I want to associate with, so why even speak to her? In paraphrase my grandpa, “If you don’t like my house, don’t tape hate notes to my gate.”

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