When we moved to this place we felt brand new.
New to the neighbourhood, new to the challenge of renovations, new to our land, and new to the pace of country living.
New to the slowness that it is. New to not having plans.
We were the new kids- a confusing lot to our neighbours, with each of our two families who moved onto the property being young and with similarly aged children. And with the property having been in the previous owner’s well known family for generations, we felt a real pressure- a duty to preserve what they worked at, and to make our own mark in a respectful way.
We just felt new. New to the phenomena that is having every neighbouring home living off a secondary highway, pussy willows and lupins marking the ditches as a beacon along the way. New to the steep gravel winding driveways, long and unforgiving to toddling feet, and then, waddling pregnant mothers.
We were new to the wind that accompanies hilltop homes, so toys and patio chairs peppered our lawns and hills like a game of checkers. And we were certainly new to the challenges of keeping animals in assigned places, learning toothpick-strength fences do little to deter two thousand pound each cattle.
It was messy.
And so with our two year olds in tow, each of our two families, we reached out and met our neighbours- because we needed serious help.
And that changed everything.
Our neighbours, the ones whose houses are dogeared by Typar paper, marking their intent to keep the rain, slow and sleet out of their homes. Our neighbours, whose yards, each punctuated in round bales of hay featuring bountiful gardens, rusted out Oldsmobiles and brand new pickup trucks, in whose lawns we wandered when our cows blew through the fence.
Our neighbours, whose brother, sister, son and daughters live just moments down the road.
Our neighbours, who always have a fire to burn in the backyard no matter the day. Our neighbours, whose acreage features cows, cars and gravestones, too- for whom each has a name and a story, found time for us and our concerns. With their help, fences were built, and relationships, too, upon their learning we were not one big incestuous dyad.
Our neighbours, who were born in their homes, raised in their homes, and made their house a home for sixty years more. Our neighbours, who put in the time to make it work. Who work so very hard- whether it be at farming, butchering, preserving jellies, mechanical, counselling, carpentry or construction. Our neighbours who play music for fun or profession, who prefer to do things the right way and tell us so, my neighbours who are the practical people for the job.
My neighbours, who believe in seizing an opportunity- like a warm, sunny day, by running the tractor from dawn til dusk, working the fields and coming back to everything else in due time. Who always have supper on the table at 5pm and who wake at 5am, because their parents and grandparents did. My neighbours who believe in tradition.
My neighbours, who believe in dropping by when they want to. With a rhubarb pie in hand they came when we moved into the community, with their questions and concerns about us, and a tell it like it is approach. We learned quickly of their distaste for phone lines around here, preferring fence line conversation, and their propensity to remind us to get to our driveway maintenance and to the community dinners.
There are always clothes on their line. Always chickens in their yard, always digging or planting or doing renovations, and usually simultaneously. There is always movement and noise through the day, and a deafening roar of peepers as each day draws to a close, followed by unfiltered silence while the sky fills with stars.
They are the ones gifting our children a Sobeys bag’s worth of Halloween treats each, a load of sand for free to make for a suitable sandbox, and are there at 7am each blustery winter day to plough us out every time. They are here bright and early on a Sunday morning, quiche in hand, for Sunday brunch, suggesting gentle tips to keep this place going.
Over eggs, pancakes and three hot coffees we each discuss our week, while the children play. And though our ages sometimes range from 20s to 50s, our kids ages one month through eight years, it couldn’t matter less. We are all neighbours.
Many things changed for me when we moved from the city to the county. I suddenly had a whole lot less money to spend, but more places to spend it. I suddenly had far less space under which to sleep but more people to live in it, and so I started spending my time outside. And there, I suddenly had far bigger ideas than ever before but was restricted by my own inability to pursue them- was stifled by my personal limitations.
Our neighbours help to keep my children smiling in pictures like these, naive to how little their parents really know about what the hell we’re doing.
I may not have much for savings, but I have this place and it is my best investment. Our family may not go to the local steeple, but I have my local people, and they are my religion.
Reminding me a blessed life, one in which my fingernails are always dirty and my shoes worked to the ground, one in which there is a running list of urgent property tasks, is both a challenging life, but more so a rewarding one.