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Rural Neighborliness

Hi all. I’m taking a different tack this month and fol­lowing up on something requested: In last week’s edition of the Anderson Valley Advertiser a local woman wrote a letter to the editor complaining about her new neigh­bors trespassing on her property. They were apparently trying to find their property lines — by walking around on the neighboring property.

The letter writer suggested that one of the local real estate agents write an article about neighborliness and respect and country living. Being that I’m the agent locally who writes, I took that to mean that I had better address the issue. To address her immediate complaint, let’s talk about checking your property lines. Ideally, you might have done this before you purchased the property; maybe you walked the property with your agent or per­haps you even had the property surveyed to get the actual lines marked.

I think more often than not, especially on a larger piece, people take the word of their agent, who points out landmarks that generally denote the lines. Then they move in and decide they want to know for sure. So how should you proceed? If you don’t know the lines then you should first realize that you may stray off your prop­erty and onto your neighbors. The first thing I would suggest is speaking to your neighbor. Let’s just take that thought for a minute. Perhaps the best thing for anyone to do when they move in to a new area is to go ahead and call their neighbors and introduce themselves; be “neighborly” and get things off on the right foot. That way when you decide it’s time to check those property lines you can call John and Jane Doe and let them know what you’re up to.

In many cases, especially if your neighbors have been there for a long time, they can actually help you out and show you where corners are marked and so on. Not every neighbor is going to be helpful of course, and some will be downright unfriendly, but most people are nice enough if they know what you are going about.

The worst thing to happen if you don’t communicate with your neighbor would be to upset him or her who then calls the sheriff out or — worse even — greets you with a shotgun and a growling dog. So do yourself a favor and introduce yourself and your intentions. You will likely find that your neighbors don’t mind your walking on their property. They just want you to ask them first. Something else I’ve noticed in the years I’ve lived here is how easy it is for people new to the area to not understand the affect they can have by not caring what a neighbor thinks of them.

In a rural area, in remote places, your neighbor is often the first person you will need in an emergency; if you’ve just angered John and Jane, how fast do you think they will rush to your aid when you need it?

And remember, these same neighbors are often your ambulance drivers, EMTs, firefighters, and so on. We live in a community that depends on one another; we have to learn discernment about what issues deserve causing upset and which ones we can live with. Another thing I’ve noticed is how a few people new to an area want to change it as soon as they arrive.

No one likes change, no matter how good a change it might be. Lessen your impact and any negative reaction to your ideas by first getting to know the area, the people and the reasons that things are the way they are. Then give air to your ideas — presenting them in context of actually living here.

Our community is why most of us live here. We know everyone else and if we don’t, we know someone who does (or is related to them!). I was born and raised here and one thing you just know growing up is that you don’t speak ill of anyone unless you want that person to know what you had to say. There is no privacy living in a rural community; if you want that, urban living is for you. Our interdependence is beautiful; we rely on each other for food (think restaurants, farmers markets, your green-thumbed neighbor giving your tips), drink (vine­yards, wineries, breweries), fun and entertainment (fairs, music, events large and small), culture (art, open studios, music again, theater, film) and relationships (parents, grandparents, boyfriends, girlfriends, etc., etc.).

Most people I’ve met that have moved here — and those people I’ve worked with wanting to live here — love what they have found. They like the community and the lack of privacy; they like belonging to a place where people know them. They want to join the ambulance or fire department, grow vegetables for the farmer’s market, join a musical group or take art lessons from one of our local artists.

I hope these notes will be found helpful for everyone living here and thinking of living here and I hope you enjoyed your community over the Independence Day weekend. I know I did!

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