A Found Community

The past few days the subject of community and saving our natural resources has been a big topic.  When I participate in the Change the World Wednesdays at Reduce Footprints I sometimes think that it sounds like I am the only one around me who lives a conscious, lighter lifestyle. I thought I would clear that up for you.   Since I spent the day working in the gardens (yep first day without rain in over a week!), I’m also going to share some pictures with you of the field.

First pie pumpkin to start.

First pie pumpkin to start.

I live in an apartment building where 12 of the 16 apartments are studios without access to a stove.  We live in matching 300 sq ft spaces and have had to make the space fit our individual needs.  While taking a peek into each apartment you would find no two look the same in how we fill our homes but you would find plenty of similarities.

One neighbor purchased this storage container and donated it to all the residents to store tools in to protect them and make for easy access when we need one.

One neighbor purchased this storage container and donated it to all the residents to store tools in to protect them and make for easy access when we need one.  I didn’t realize how this looked until now,it really is standing upright.

Only 2 of the apartments have a full-sized refrigerator, the remaining 9 have small dorm-sized fridges and of course I have none.  One neighbor has figured out how to have a larger freezer by changing the setting on the refrigerator section of his fridge which causes all his food to freeze. I never thought to try that and would have to look to see how much energy he uses.

The carrots I pulled to have with my dinner.

The carrots I pulled to have with my dinner.

 

None of us use pesticides, and most of us use all green/natural cleaners.  We all respect the natural world, one jokingly refers to the deer, bunnies, groundhogs and the skunk that live in the field as his pets and will apologize for his “pets damage to the gardens” :-)

 

Only one person (in his 70s)  seems to live lightly but would be fine with the use of pesticides.

The  wildflower seeds I planted for the bees and butterflies is starting to bloom.

The wildflower seeds I planted for the bees and butterflies are starting to bloom.

 

Every one of us uses counter top appliances  Only two have hot plates, the rest of us use a slow cooker as our main source of cooking and two grill on  a regular basis.  One person uses a toaster oven to be able to enjoy muffins or other treats.  Every one of us prepares our food at home, preferring to cook from scratch than eat out.  While I am the only vegetarian in the building, I have learned that only two people drink milk.

The only cabbage plant to survive our late frost.

The only cabbage plant to survive our late frost, surrounded by spaghetti squash.

I often run into  my neighbors at the farmer’s markets and know that the majority of the tenants have boycotted shopping at the local WalMart.   And three of my neighbors have degrees, or are finishing up their studies, in Environment Sciences and in Environmental biology (didn’t even know there was a degree called that).  Which shows in their concern for the planet and the life forms that we share the earth with.

Queen Anne's Lace growing wild.

Queen Anne’s Lace growing wild.

Every person in the building believes sharing what they have is the most economical way to live and even the younger university students will remark that we are like one big family.  If I am outside the majority of the day working in the field one neighbor in particular will bring me a glass of fresh lemonade or even prepare a little extra for dinner and bring me a plate as a way of thanking me for doing work she can no longer do outside.   We share books, knowledge, tools, and cooking appliances,  Yes, I was recently told to stop by if I want to borrow a couple  more slow cookers when I begin to prepare my harvest for the freezer.

One of two areas I am building up for next summer with my food scraps.  The stick was found on the property.  The children use the stick to stir the compost.

One of two areas I am building up for next summer with my food scraps. The stick was found on the property. The children use the stick to stir the compost. Yes, I need to weed this area and soon.

One neighbor is extremely allergic to the Sumac trees out back and can’t enjoy the field, but he is the first person to show up with a rototiller and till as many beds in the field as we want before the trees bloom.  I find this very generous as he can’t garden back here due to his allergy.

Beginnings of a spaghetti squash. One of just over 30 growing from 9 plants that survived the frost.

Beginnings of a spaghetti squash. One of just over 30 growing from 9 plants that survived the frost.

While we each plant our own gardens, when it comes time to water (when needed) the first one to turn on the water takes care of all the garden plots.  When I weed, I will pull weeds I see in another plot.  And when food is picked by the one who grew it, that person delivers extra to the neighbors.

Just shy of 20 corn plants.  Behind where they should be, but so is everyone's.

Just shy of 20 corn plants. Behind where they should be, but so is everyone’s.

When I moved here I did so because I wanted to live in a tiny house, but this was the next best option.  I had open space on one side and the lake on the other.  I never believed I would find that my neighbors would share so many of my values.

To the right of the concrete block is another compost pile being mixed with peat moss.  The plants here are a surprise. I know I planted peas here, but that's not what is growing.  I suspect my grand daughter planted some seeds when I wasn't looking in the squash family. :-)

To the right of the concrete block is another compost pile being mixed with peat moss. The plants here are a surprise. I know I planted peas here, but that’s not what is growing. I suspect my grand-daughter planted some seeds when I wasn’t looking in the squash family. :-)

Have you found you share the same values or concerns as your neighbors?

28 thoughts on “A Found Community

  1. I do not have a similar situation in my neighborhood. We live in a small cul de sac neighborhood of just a few houses, and my up-the-road neighbor has a “beautiful” yard that is made beautiful by a company coming out and spraying. I know because there are often signs on the yard that warn you away because of the chemicals. My next door neighbors have a young child and a newborn and I know they spray some pesticides on their yard and just put in a pool which they treat with chemicals. My neighbors are all nice people–they just don’t necessarily make what I consider smart environmental choices.

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    • Mrs. GV and you are surrounded by all those chemicals! I am fortunate, very little is sprayed around me. If I don’t watch the weeds that grow along the dumpster or between the paved parking and our front walks management will come by and spray once a year. I think I’ve done pretty well, because this year there has been no spraying. What are people thinking when they spray their lawns and have to have warnings posted?

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  2. Your neighbours sound like a wonderful bunch of people, “birds of a feather flocking together” :) No, unfortunately I haven’t had any like-minded neighbours since my college days, but I learned so much from those people at that time and have brought this knowledge on with me into my journey. Some of the neighbours (not on my floor) in this building are actually litter bugs, which in this day and age I find mind-boggling. Anyway, it takes all sorts to make a world, doesn’t it?

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    • P, how horrible to have litter bugs on your floor. College is a great time for meeting so many diverse people, especially if you have a diverse multi-cultural atmosphere as you can learn so much about how other people live and incorporate many of those ideas into your life. I was recently reading about pocket neighborhoods where it was determined that more than a dozen or so families is too many to have a tight-knit community. I wonder if that’s why my building is so close, there are only 16 apartments here. We do have a new tenant moving in this weekend. She wanted to live closer to work, moving here this will cut her walk in half, but she is also excited to have a spot to garden in. I think once something, like our gardens, is started it will attract people who see the potential and therefore are like-minded.

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  3. Lois, I love hearing about your community. It’s so tight-knit–I wish more people would realize that we’d all be a lot happier if we quit isolating ourselves.

    It’s a pretty transient population in our apartment complex (including us, most likely, as we plan to live aboard within the year), but everyone we’ve met has been very friendly. We won’t have the tight-knit community you have, but I think we will definitely find some community here. :-)

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    • That’s one of the things I don’t miss about the southwest. People are there for work and when the work moves so do they. They don’t usually try to make connections because they won’t be there very long. I’m relieved you like your new home, I only once rented a place without seeing it first, I was a little let down but could have done a lot worse.

      Well, it’s up to you now to create the community you want there :-) Some one has to get things started, when you leave someone else can take over.

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  4. How lovely to find yourself living in a like minded community and where you live really sounds like a community, not just a neighbourhood with people looking out for each other. We are lucky to have lovely neighbours and share produce sometimes and look after each others properties when they are on holiday. I love it when my neighbour goes on holidays and I get to chicken sit (except for the time when one of them died).

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    • Jen, I think the community you form when everyone owns their own homes on their own lots is a lot different from what you can form when the property is all communal, like in our apartment complex. Your neighborhood sounds just like the neighborhoods I grew up in, everyone looked out for each other like you do, although I never had the chance to sit chickens :-) I see so many neighborhoods where the people stay indoors, kids sit in front of a computer or TV and they don’t even know the names of their neighbors, we need more pockets of people like you and your neighbors have formed.

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    • I am very fortunate. While my dream had been to buy or build a tiny house I shudder now to think of the isolation that would have brought. When faced with criticism on my lifestyle it helps to see others embracing the same and sticking to their values.

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  5. Even though everyone in your building sought out a small living space (by choice or necessity), I wouldn’t have expected everyone to be so like-minded.That is a gift! The best thing is that with each kind deed, you would keep inspiring each other to do more. I live in a suburb where the houses are all very much alike. There is a posher part of the street where more people seem to have several deluxe vehicles in their driveways! But mostly people seem to be buckling down hard to pay off their mortgages and avoid flashy living.

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    • Dar, it was such a surprise to meet each of my neighbors and learn they weren’t living here simply because it was cheap but because they wanted to have a different lifestyle. My son was concerned that because of the cost I would be surrounded by people who didn’t care about anything and had been beat down by poverty, which could bring crime. But while some do have limited incomes, not all chose this place for the cost. One professional couple live here because of the lake, they carry their kayaks back and forth frequently. The university students who live here do so because it’s away from the crazy parties and because they want to garden and have easy access to the lake.

      I think it’s a good trend to see people having less of the flashy stuff and to be accepting what they have instead of going in debt to keep up with the other end of your street. Sounds like you have a lot in common with your neighbors.

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  6. This is a really warming post Lois. What a great community to live amongst, the way it should be but alas, a rare thing nowadays. We don’t have friendly neighbours on one side but we watch out for the older guy on the other – he gives me fruit and I make him crumble “just like his dear wife used to make” :)

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    • Your neighbor is lucky to have you. When my grandfather was in ailing health and alone it was his next door neighbor who watched over him for me on days I couldn’t be there. He loved children and their little girl would sit and entertain him for hours in the breezeway. It cheered him up and made his final days worth living. You are doing the same for your neighbor, I wish more people were like you and would take the time to do little things for those who are elderly or alone. Maybe one day you will find a connection with your other neighbor.

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  7. Lois…WELL DONE…
    you have grown a community of like minded

    as well, couple posts back when you had pics of granddaughter hanging in tree, and her care of critters/insects, and mentioned how sad for children who have not tasted / grown / fresh veg..

    I meant to comment on
    you have given your grandchildren (children) a huge gift, the life you are teaching them/the freedom they can claim/learn (because of where you live/how you live/your values), is (to my mind), such a huge/healthy/interesting/mind expanding gift for them. I believe kids/people NEED to be close to trees and grass and nature. very tough in the city. and not really because there are no spaces to do so, it is more (to my mind) due to “city attitudes”…

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    • Thank you so much, Lynn. It has always been my deepest desire to share my connection with nature with others, especially my own family. I have been very fortunate to have fallen into a situation where my wants (gardening) matched perfectly with those of the neighbors I found when I moved here. All it took was one person to ask for the permission then everyone came out to join in, in some capacity. The gardens are attracting even more like-minded people, one person is moving in to the building in August as a result. He informed me he has plenty of flowers and vegetables he would like to bring with him, including sunflowers which he grows each year to feed birds. I couldn’t have been happier to hear that.

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