Friday, May 30, 2008

Oh, Mercy, Mercy Me

Things ain't what they used to be.
What about this overcrowded land.
How much more abuse from man can she stand?

So I was driving to do some very expensive food shopping (is there any other kind nowadays?), and noticed that there was a sign up along a really nice stretch of woods on the side of the road.
Coming soon! Some development with some "quaint" name that will make you all think we're doing you a favor and that more houses are better than woods! Stay tuned! We're busy improving your lives, people! Get excited about it!

There are signs like this all over the place up here. If they don't say that, they say For Sale!! And I just know, that a year from now, the lovely old woods will be gone, and replaced with some "lovely" and "quaint" development of oversized houses on large lots, or a whole shitload of condominiums. All in the name of progress.
Truly, it makes me want to vomit. Anyone else feel that way? We thought, when we moved up here, that we were getting away from the overdevelopment Long Island is "famous" for. Unfortunately, this county seems to want the overdevelopment worse than Long Island did. They are building huge stores everywhere, houses all over the place, knocking down trees and erasing farms. My guess when we first moved up here was that in 10-15 years we're looking at Long Island all over again. We thought we maybe got away with something, and were giving our children a chance to see some open spaces. However I think, by what I've seen in the 2 years I've been here, I'd have to narrow that guesstimation down to 5. We got away with nothing. Our children will know the same crowding we do.
Two weeks ago, I went to a hearing at the town hall because a builder decided that the pond at the end of our block wasn't good enough and he wanted to put houses on it. Three, in fact. He had spent a year and a half filling in the pond, and marking out the houses, and had actually built a foundation for one of them---15 feet from the nearest neighbor. Now the property in total is probably 2 or 2 1/2 acres. But because this lovely gentleman wanted the 3 houses on it, it warranted the houses to be somewhat close together. Very nice. Because of this, he was needing some major variances to put the houses as close together as he wanted, because in this town, you now can't build a house on less than an acre and a half. Obviously, 3 houses on 2 or 2 1/2 acres means no one gets that acre and a half. This was the problem.
So, I went down there on a Monday night and complained about it. Not just me, mind you, but there were a number of neighbors there as well. We all complained. I don't know what I said particularly, but it was something along the lines of can we please just think about this a little? I get the idea, but it still doesn't make sense. Why crowd more people into an already crowded neighborhood? Others complained that he had filled in the little pond and scared away the animals. Very valid. Luckily, the builder lost, and has to stop building and assumably tear down the too close foundation he put up. He only lost by 2 votes. Out of the 5 councilmembers, 3 said ok. You people suck.
So we won a small battle. No 3 houses, but it doesn't mean he can't try for 2, or 1. He'll win eventually, you just know it. Then this past weekend there were some men walking through the backyards of everyone who backs the farm (that'd be us). Guess what? They're surveyors.
Wanna know why? The farm's for sale, and someone wants to buy it.
More condos, anyone? Huge houses on large pieces of land, anyone? The surveyors tell us that the farm is 120 acres. Hmmm.... at 1 1/2 acres a piece, if they even stick to that requirement at that time, that's 80 houses. And no farm.
Will my view go bye bye? Will they clear that land, too? I don't know. At the time we bought the house, we were told that the piece of land that borders the house is a greenway between us and the farm itself. There is the little brook back there, for real and large as life. I don't know if that's enough or not. I don't know how to find out, either, though I have tried. If they build on the farm, I will still have the trees and brook behind me. Some of the trees are hundreds of years old. I don't think I have to tell you again that the space behind the house is the only reason I liked it. The whole being surrounded by neighbors thing is definitely not part of the appeal of the place. So, it remains to be seen what happens. The surveyors who were here, for some reason, came back and marked the borders of everone's property that backs the farm (again, us--and some others). So now I know where my boundaries are. That's nice, since they did it for free, and it's normally a VERY expensive proposition. But why they did it, I don't know. Are they going to make me an offer? Cut down those trees, you may as well. I don't want to live here then.

This place sucks. Humanity, with their endless greed for land and money, sucks. If we don't slow down, it'll be too late. It may already be too late. We're crapping all over the Earth and no one's listening. Enough already, folks. Start using your brains. No farms=no food. No food=no people. No people=no reason to build houses. No houses=no money for you. Get it? Knock it the hell off.


***The pictures above are all of my yard. They are heavy on Irises because I like Irises and because that's what's blooming right now. Yes, I am a gardener. I do love plants, and I realize that makes me a bit "biased" against people who chop down trees and build on farms, but that's just who I am. I garden because I feel that I need a way to feel more sane in this increasingly insane world. I garden because I am surrounded by people and I would rather not be. I love my gardens. They are my center. They are young (I only planted many of them last year), but they will grow, and they give me the patience to see that happen. This is one of the few types of work that I really feel is worthwhile and good. Go outside and work in the dirt. Believe me, you will feel like a better person for it. And there is a deep wisdom in the knowledge of how to grow plants. I can't explain it, but I think it is something we all should know. It is something that goes deeper than just existing to exist. I think knowing how to grow things would make us all understand the Earth better, and then just maybe we'd all finally slow down.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Parental Twilight Zone

So yesterday was the annual Memorial Day blowout in this neighborhood-when everyone has a party (except us--we're not party people. Quiet dinner with friends people, yes, but not party people). Somehow, these parties usually wind up involving our yard, though we weren't invited to anyone's actual party. Generally it's kids running through it on the way to said party, or retrieving balls from one of the gardens that were lost from said party. Even every once in a while, some random kids from said party will be found in our backyard, just playing with my kids' toys. This is, of course, when my head explodes and I shoo them (as politely as an insane person can) away and back to whatever the hell party they came from.

Then there are times like yesterday when I am SURE I have entered the twilight zone of upstate weirdness. Get this: we were outside all day yesterday (in the midst of party-ville), working on our newly-erected shed. I spent the day painting it, and my husband spent the day filling it up and emptying the garage (which can now be used to house the cars-what a weird concept!). It was a long day. Around 5 o'clock, two little blond kids I don't know come running out of the house next door, and head directly for our kids' swingset. They start to climb it. Now my husband and I were sitting on the grass in the backyard, taking a short break in the work. Our kids were inside, playing. Soon behind the two kids came the childrens' mother, who saw us and said "Is it ok if they play on your swingset?".

Now, I am tired. The kids are already ON the swingset. They're little, like my kids. I am utterly taken aback by this woman. The neighbor's house she came from is the neighbor I never have problems with, and have a good rapport with. If I were with it and NOT in shock, what I should have said was one of the following.
The sane response: "No, my kids are inside, but if they want to play with your kids, you can"
The gut response: "Who the hell do you think you are? This isn't a public park. Get the hell off my property"

Either one of these really would have jived with what I was thinking. I don't like people running across our yard. I don't like children playing with our kids' toys, especially without my kids (duh). It drives me nuts that I have to deal with ANY of that crap up here at all. I really think it shows that people, as a whole, have lost respect for each other, and do what they want because they want it. So really, I should have told the woman to go stick it. But for some reason, either because I was tired or because this woman put me in a horrible awkward position, I said
"Yes, but you need to watch them, because we are busy".

We went back to work. She looked pissed that she had to watch her own kids.

Also, at some point, there were a whole bunch of teenagers playing ball in our driveway. Apparently they were cousins of the little ones and had assumed that since the little ones were here, well, then why the hell couldn't they be? At some point, while I was FREAKING out about how f-ing weird this whole thing was, someone (adult-wise) woke up and called them back to the yard of the party they actually belonged to.

The long and the short of it was that my kids came out of the house, and after my son got very upset that there were strangers on his swingset (rightfully so), the kids all played together and had a really good time, and we finished our work on the shed. The kids ran and played until 8:30. The parents of the children had disappeared LONG before that time. At 8:30, when my kids went in for a bath, I went over to the next door neighbor, located the mother of the errant children and told her she would need to keep her kids over by her now, because my kids were in for the night, and I'm no longer going to watch her children.

She looked pissed.

I don't give a damn.

My kids had fun, which was why I tolerated the crap. I want my kids to be happy and do kid things. But why did I say yes in the first place? Believe me, I beat myself up about it for a LONG time after I did it. I'm STILL beating myself up about it today. I didn't handle the whole situation well. I really wanted to tell her to screw off, and I didn't. I can't believe the GALL of people like that. It was an awkward situation--I was torn between telling her to go stick it, and thinking it didn't really matter if they used the swings, because it couldn't hurt anyone. Plus then, my kids would have the chance to play with some other kids. And the kids were little. How do you tell them no? Punish them because their mom is an idiot?

See the weird position I was in? I STILL don't know how I should have played this. I still go between thinking I should have told her off and stood up for my family and my kids and property, and thinking that I should just lighten up because it is not a big deal and it's being "neighborly" and nice and it didn't hurt anyone. And maybe that's how things are done up here, and I should just let kids run all over the place, because that's just what they do here. Then I think screw neighborliness. See?

I think I should have done the first response, "No, but if my kids want to play, then it's ok". I think that would have been nice, but still standing my ground and not being walked all over like a doormat. I don't know why I didn't. That's going to bother me for a while. What would you all have done? This is one of those times when I feel like I'm not equipped to be a human being and deal with other human beings, and I resent that too. I don't know what the proper response should have been. That bothers me. This ever happen to anyone else?

Just to add to the whole Twilight Zone feeling, the neighbors I usually have problems with (kids in my yard, plant trampling, etc), were not a problem. They did have their usual party, but the few times they lost a ball, they came to get it if it was right inside the yard. If they lost it WAY inside the yard, miraculously, instead of barreling through the garden to get it (which was the norm for these kids), they called our attention to it, and asked if they could get it first. Then they said thank you when they got it, or we gave it back. It was weird, and not what those kids are known for, I have to admit. They are barrelers and tramplers by nature. It was a weird night.

I seriously need to put up a fence. A big, honking, 6 foot stockade fence.

Or get a dog. A big, vicious one.

Then there would be no barreling and trampling or kids I don't know on my kids' swingset. And everyone would have to ask first. I'd know how to handle that.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Blog Abandonment!

I saw my brother yesterday and he reminded me that I haven't updated my blog in quite a while. He's right! It's been nearly a month. Sorry about that everyone, I've been so busy. I haven't had any time to either write on my blog or read any others. I've been outside, planting and weeding and playing in the dirt. Unfortunately, the weather hasn't been cooperative lately--today it's 51 degrees outside and overcast. In fact, I think it's drizzling. Not the most inspiring day. I'm hoping it might clear up, but since it hasn't, I finally got a chance to write.

I did take some pictures of the gardens, though, to show you what I've been up to. I've got to account for my time somehow, right??

Anyway, enjoy the show!

The vegetable garden went from this:

To this:

To this in one month!:
I am very excited about the vegetable garden. It's the first time I've had a "proper" one. I used to just scatter the vegetables around in the other gardens, wherever I had room. In this house I actually have a space for it all by itself (though it is fronted by a perennial border--I can't help myself, you know) I have tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, yellow squash, zucchini, beans, pat-a-pan squash, herbs, blueberries, carrots, beets, peas, strawberries and cucumbers in it. The bed behind it in these pictures has raspberries. We will eat well this year!
As for the perennial gardens, I did a lot of work on them as well, and now they are just bursting! I don't know, is there anything better??

Can you believe this front garden went from this:
To this in one month?:

And this one did the same. From this:

To this:

Yup, that last one was a different angle from the first.

And the back beds we put in went from this:

And this: To this:
And this:

It's really something. I could look at these pictures all day.

This time of year is really magical. Things start off SO SLOWLY and then all of a sudden, BAM! Things pop and thrive and it's amazing. The yard is really coming along. When we moved here 2 years ago, it was a rectangle of grass with an abandoned perennial "garden" (put in quotation marks because the garden was a couple of clumps of irises, peonies, and liatris all on top of one another) and overgrown shrubbery. Since we came here, we've put in new shrubs and many new plantings and have started to grow ourselves some privacy. It's starting to become a yard I like spending time in, which is nice. Best of all, I'm pretty proud of it.

I hope you enjoyed the show. I will be back with more pictures soon! I hope you all are enjoying your days!