Neighbors? Who knows their neighbors anymore?

So, one of this week’s assignments is to take stock of our local resources, and I mean local. We’re supposed to determine who, in our neighborhood, composts, has worms, knows things about the local soil, would have coffee grounds to spare, has manure to spare (horses, chickens, or goats, not human!), who rakes leaves in the fall, and where everyone’s waste goes. Now this confronts one of my primal fears and one of Grant’s biggest trepidations with being a landowner: meeting one’s neighbors.

Growing up, I always joked I would end up as a hermit. You know, living out in the woods, not talking to anyone. For years at a time. Now that I’m an “adult”, I see the benefits of occasionally interacting with society – like earning a steady paycheck and necessary goods and services. However, in my free time, I still prefer hermitage. This is why my dog is not entirely socialized to things like visitors. Of any sort. At any time.

Grant is convinced that if we met the neighbors, there would be an endless string of people needing cups of sugar, or wanting to gripe about the government while drinking our booze and sitting on our porch.

True love is sometimes predicated on a mutual disinterest for other human beings.

When we were looking for properties to purchase, we had this in mind. We were only interested in things that could provide most of our needs on-site, Keeping us from relying on others. Now, no man is an island, but sometimes he can be a peninsula if he really wants to be. We compost. We rake leaves in the fall to be used as chicken bedding and brown matter for the compost bin. We’ll soon have worms (if I can find a place to buy them in the middle of winter…). I drink TONS of coffee, and keep my grounds. We have a pretty good (and seemingly endless) supply of chicken manure. …and anything we can’t compost or re-use around here (you should see my jar collection!) goes to the transfer site, just like everyone else’s around here. We even go visit the transfer site to collect other people’s junk for re-use on the property. Of all the things that don’t make sense in Alaska (really, no recycling plant…anywhere?!), the transfer sites are an amazing idea that inspires much local re-use and keeps the cost of many projects within a reasonable range. Just don’t go for anything the guy with hook is eyeballing – he’s got dibs.

Independent of my antisocial nature, I am reticent to try to meet the neighbors based on the length of their driveways and the voracious nature of their barking dogs. That combined with the Trump signs still proudly displayed out front, and the KEEP OUT signs everywhere. I just haven’t come up with a compelling enough reason to wander into their compounds, armed with a plate of cookies. Call me old fashioned.

However, if one expands the view of “neighborhood” to encompass a social network, there’s lots to be traded and bartered for. An old landlord has more horse poo than she knows what to do with. Everyone composts, though some are better than others. There are metric tons of coffee grounds wasted at work that I could collect, same with food scraps. The wonderful folks up at Calypso Farm, who I take classes with and volunteered for, have provided me lots of guidance, have offered free apple seedlings, and wool that would never get used (which is now stuffed in the dog’s bed). Another friend grows and propagates honeyberries, and is saving seed – creating Fairbanks’ hardy varieties of many garden favorites. As I go further down this rabbit hole, I meet more and more incredibly intelligent and knowledgeable local gardeners and farmers that provide valuable insight in this journey.

So while I don’t know the neighbors, and I’m not sure I ever will, there is potential for a good network of local folks who share the same goals, and can share resources. I just have to find them , and put it all together…

 

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