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I read somewhere that good fences make good neighbors.   This may be true, and if it is then The Havens needs a really good fence.

We have been suffering a great stress this week.   It doesn’t look like it is going to resolve itself any time soon, either, unfortunately.   The neighbor who is causing the stress is well known in the community for being less than nice (feel free to substitute any harsher and more profane term here).

So, we have owned this property for 18 years.   Shortly after we purchased it and moved in, so shortly that we hadn’t even completely unpacked yet, our neighbor approached us with an offer to buy one half of our property.   At the time, the half in question was an acre of grass bordered on one side by the street, on two sides by strips of trees and shrubs that were wild (to say the least) and on the fourth side by our house and its accompanying lawns.   When asked, the party admitted that what he wanted our open land for was  so he would have more space to park the mobile and manufactured homes he sold.

Below is a shot taken right after we moved in of the relevant property line.

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We had been in residence long enough to observe the state of the next door business, which was strewn with detritus.   Part of the observation was engendered by my obsessive compulsive trash removal habit.   What I mean to say is, that within a couple of days of moving in, I had done my usual clean up and was appalled by the amount of shit that had blown onto our property from the one next door.   You see, when you transport a manufactured home it is usually broken into halves, and in order to protect the interiors, giant sheets of plastic are attached to cover the open side during transport.   Needless to say, these sheets of plastic must be removed in order to display the home properly, and the workers who did this generally threw them over against the “fence” between our properties, where they deteriorated in the UV from the sun and then availed themselves of the local zephyrs and gales to migrate all over the neighborhood.

In addition, styrofoam cups providing beverages to potential buyers, lunch wrappers from the workers, pieces of styrofoam and insulation from the renovation of repossessed homes, plastic wrappers off bundles of shingles, and all manner of crap was strewn from hither to yon on the property.   Imagining all that 150 feet closer to our home did not attract us, and despite the neighbor’s promises to build a privacy fence we declined his offer.   We have never been forgiven for that.

I have been picking up trash ever since.

To be honest, there is another part of this story.   The tree line between our properties is viewed by both sides in complete opposition.   I like it, despite the unruliness of it.   There is a row of trees, mostly elms, right along the “fence.”

Okay, a digression.   Why do I keep putting quotation marks around the word “fence”?   Well, at one time in its life, the object so referred to may have actually been a fine structure of woven stock wire and with a barbed wire top wire attached to wooden posts.   But that was at least thirty years ago, possibly longer, and while the remnants still exist they can hardly be called a fence, since “fence” usually implies an ability to contain livestock within.   In this case, it only serves as a vague indication of where the property line may be.

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Obviously, the fence is fully involved in the trees, or vice versa.  Anyway, the trees have been a thorn in our neighbor’s side for a long time.   He claims that they are damaging his mobile homes, although I have seen no evidence of this.   Over a decade ago, he approached us and told us that we needed to get rid of the trees “over there” because they taking space in his lot that he needed for parking inventory.   Also he mentioned what an eyesore the wild tangle of trumpet vine was.  At that time, there were numerous trees flourishing far outside the fence line, and I invited him to remove his own trees before he demanded I take mine down, pointing out that that would give him more space on his lot.   I indicated that what was an eyesore to him was a garbage trap, a visual barrier for me, and a sanctuary for the cardinals, hummingbirds, and finches.

He hired a crew and they spent a pleasant week removing the elms that had sprouted on his back line.  They neglected to treat the stumps, however.   He backed his trailers up as close to the fence as he could get them and I thought how nice it was to have what amounted to a big tall privacy fence back there.   Most asssuredly, though, the line of merchandise slowly migrated away from the fence line because due to the compaction of the soil in his lot there is a decided slope up to our property and it makes leveling  the mobile homes difficult.   Immediately, the trees he had cut off sprouted in circles around the trunks and instead of a few stately elms, he had thickets of scraggly elms.

Things have continued in this way for 18 years.   Every time the wind blows, I have to pick up trash that migrates from him to me.   Undoubtedly, he stands on his lot and cusses at our unruly elms and our cussedness.   Every once in a while he has a crew cut back the sprouts, which immediately reincarnate.   Once or twice when I complained bitterly to him over the phone about the trash, he actually had his people clean his lot up.    The trash always returns within a few weeks.

Every few years he demands that we cut our trees down.   We don’t.   The law allows us to have trees as long as they are healthy and not in danger of falling over on the neighbor’s home or property.   It does NOT say we have to trim off branches that overhang the neighbors.   It says we have to allow the neighbor to cut the encroaching branches off the trees if they don’t like them.   We have allowed this.   The law states that an adjacent property owner trimming their neighbor’s trees must do so in a way that does not endanger the health of the tree.  If they do kill a tree, then that neighbor could sue for damages.

Frankly, approached in a more civil way, we very well might have considered removing some or even all of the trees.   There really are quite a few back there.  But we don’t respond well to arrogant bluster, accusations, and threats.   These things tend to make us dig our heels in, especially when the blusterer is maintaining a visual eyesore of piles of siding, plastic, lath strips full of nails, and other crap.

So, things came to a head about two weeks ago.   The weather had warmed up, I was walking about enjoying the breath of warmth that was hinting that spring might be arriving, checking on the crocus situation and picking up the usual selection of trash that had blown onto the property during the weeks since I had last done that chore.   Imagine my fury when I arrived down at the southeast corner and discovered that the mobile home renovators had been painting.  How did I know this?   Because when they finished their job, they had some paint left over.   So they threw the container, the paint, and the used roller over the fence into the shrubbery there.    The idle thought crossed my mind that I should take a picture of the mess in situ, but I did not.   I picked up the paint container and the roller and marched up to the office of the business.

While the proprietor was not there, he did have minions working on a tiling job.  Actually, it was a minion and his girlfriend/wife.   They asked me if they could help me and I explained the situation.   So, then I got into a conversation with the woman, who basically trashed the people working at the “end of the lot” who had been doing the renovations.   Apparently, there is some competition for that and the people up in the office had been underbid by the team that had thrown the paint.   The gal commiserated with me about the trash; we got into a side bar discussion regarding the people across the street from the business who have a pink trash can that they leave at the curb with the top open which is a source of trash on the street.    That can had blown over in a gale a couple of weeks previously, and I had driven by it with the thought of cleaning it up.  When I got back home someone had already done it.   Turns out it was the gal I was talking to.    I congratulated her and thanked her for doing that.   Her man invited me to admire the tiling job he was doing, which I dutifully did and told him it looked good.   Then I said I ought to go off on my merry way, and said I’d like to leave a note for the proprietor regarding the paint situation.

At that point, the gal suggested that she could get him on the phone and I could talk to him directly.     That was my second mistake.  (The first being not taking the picture of the paint dump).   I’ve had conversations with this person before, and I should have known how this one was going to go.    First of all, I explained my concern.   The response was predictable.   No apology.   The response was “Are you still dumping kitty litter over the fence?”

Gentle readers, you know my attitude towards trash, do you not?   If you don’t, you should read this, and this.  For the record, I have never dumped kitty litter over any fence.   Anywhere.   I did pour it into my driveway in Alaska, and since the litter was clay and the driveway was clay it was hard to see it existed.  I have been using scoopable cat litter for as long as I can remember, and it is a heck of a lot more convenient to dispose of it in the garbage can that is by my door than haul it 200 feet out to a property line to dump it over the fence, which I wouldn’t do anyway, no matter how shitty I think the neighbors habits are.

At any rate, his conversational gambit raised my ire level considerably.   After I had simmered down slightly, he asked me what I would think if he built a privacy fence.   I told him I thought that was a fine idea.   So his response was that I should cut down my trees, they were damaging his homes, blah de blah.   I rudely interrupted him and told him that he needed to keep to the subject, which was his garbage on my property.   Then I hung up on him.   I left the paint container and the roller on his desk, and went on home.

So, let’s be fair.   I probably should not have hung up on him, but it most certainly wasn’t a good idea for me to keep talking to him either.   And I admit that in his eyes I have been a stubborn and uncooperative hag about the damned trees for almost twenty years.   I don’t suppose I have been the perfect neighbor either.

His response was to have a crew come out and cut off the sprout crop behind his trailers on his side of the fence.    He took a picture of the mess.   He went off to a lawyer and complained about it all, blaming the mess back there on limbs falling from our trees.  In my humble opinion, you should not base a legal complaint upon a falsehood, but I suppose I am splitting hairs here.   I received a threatening letter from said lawyer telling me that if I didn’t maintain the trees better our neighbor would sue, that the trees were on my side of the fence and therefore my responsibility.    Oh, and I should never set foot on the property, and I should cease harrassing his employees.  Apparently the fact I have a spouse and a co-owner is not on his radar, as Jim’s name was never mentioned in the letter.   It was addressed to me only.

The last time I checked, talking about picking up trash in the neighborhood and admiring a tiling job is not harrassment, but I could be wrong about that.

I have to give him full credit though.   I think his lawyer told him that if he was going to accuse me of maintaining a nuisance, that he’d better have his nose spick and span.   The mobile home lot has been cleaned within an inch of its life and it looks GREAT!    I only hope that it stays that way.  I’m not holding my breath.

So now we have to find a lawyer to help us communicate.   It’s such bullshit.    The irony is, that if this gentleman was placed in a police line up of five similar looking fellows, I could not identify him.   I believe I’ve actually met him face to face once.   Maybe.   He probably couldn’t identify me either.   And that is sad.

It has occurred to me in the past couple of days that being neighbors is sort of like being married.   Only you can’t get a divorce.

I guess I’ll go out and console myself with my iris reticulata and crocuses.

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Last night the weatherperson was having the equivalent of a weather orgasm all over the place.   We were setting records in the Ozarks, right and left.   Let’s see, we had the lowest high temperature ever.   I think we set a record for the lowest low temperature for that date.   It snowed in Arkansas, an event that has not happened in May for 194 years.   It snowed here too, something that last happened 106 years ago.

Last night as we were eating our dinner a little flurry set in.   I felt compelled to try to capture it, and I’m telling you that snowfall is hard to get on a still picture.   All those white streaks?   Snow.

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This is how it looked this morning.

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The reason the perspective is so odd on the last one is I was standing on the step ladder.   As you can see, pansies and the peas in the tubs below don’t give a rap that they were snowed on.

The cats know how to deal with snow.

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This photo is remarkable for two reasons.   First, there is a fire going in the stove.   In May.  Unheard of.   Second, Impy is actually lying in front of it.  The first time he witnessed fire being made in the stove his reaction was terrorized disbelief, never having seen a fire or heard it snapping and popping.  He was sure there was some sort of cat-eating monster residing in the living room.  As you can see, Mallory has managed to educate him about the subject.

So, lest you should believe that this spring snow is some sort of horrible environmental disaster, let me reassure you on that point.   Sure, it is chilly, but the frozen precipitation that caused such ecstasy for the meteorologists came without a hard freeze.   So the garden goes on, almost without acknowledging that anything odd or record breaking has occurred.

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It’s a good thing I got out there and got those pictures when I did.   In the time it took me to download them, edit them and get this far on my post, the snow on the wisteria has all melted.

I was concerned about the robins, whom I know for a fact have been very busy incubating eggs lately.   Jim showed me one out in one of the cedars a few days ago who was guarding new hatchlings.   So, the few days of cold and unseasonable snow made me worried for the little family.

I went out to see what I could see.  She was sitting tight.

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She did not like me or the camera, and left the nest to yell at me from a convenient locust tree.   Her mate joined her in vociferous complaints.   Since the nest was open, I thought I’d grab a quick look.

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Not wanting those naked babies to get cold, I left immediately.  I hadn’t gotten fifty feet away before Mama was back on the nest.   So that was all right.

The robin who has chosen to nest on the dragon head driftwood is hyper-vigilant.    You can’t walk into the back yard past the corner of that sauna without her jumping off the nest and flying over to the fig tree to tell you all about it.   This morning was no exception.

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I had my doubts about the viability of her eggs given that pattern of behavior.  Apparently all that flying off didn’t keep the eggs from developing.

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I guess that the cold weather this morning made it possible for her to ignore my presence over by the pond, because she got back on the nest while I was there, which is not her typical pattern.

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She was able to stay on her babies while I walked back to the house.   Of course, the fact that I walked WAY over by the fence behind where the clothesline is may have had something to do with it.

Well, I”m not so overjoyed by this weather pattern as the weatherman, but it certainly has been interesting.

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It finally stopped raining today.    It’s a darned good thing too; the grass was starting to look more like a hay field than a lawn.   We were really starting to think that we might have to bale it if the weather didn’t cooperate and give us a few dry days.

Not that we are complaining.   After last year’s droughty conditions, all water from the sky is welcome.   But a little moderation once in a while isn’t a bad thing.

In spite of the fact that the weather guessers were SURE that it was going to be a sunny day, the early morning was grey and cloudy.   I decided to go to Bennet Spring and  enjoy the Savanna Ridge Trail anyway.   I figured I would be largely undisturbed since it HAS been raining and all the creeks are up.   I contemplated taking my rubber boots with me, but I didn’t want to carry them along and I knew I didn’t wish to walk three miles in them either.   I thought maybe the water at the slab that is at the beginning of the trail might have gone down during the night.

Not so much:

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I had prepared myself by donning my spectacular high tech army socks, so I waded across and proceeded on my way.   Although my trainers were very wet, my feet became more or less dry in short order due to the wicking action of the above mentioned socks, which showed me quickly that they were well worth the $10 a pair we forked over for them.   I completed my walk with no chafing or discomfort, thanks to these items of apparel.

The path was beautiful.   It wound up the hill, spangled with buttercups.

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Later on, higher up the ridge, the gold spangles changed to blue, almost as if the sky had broken and fallen to the path.   The Bird-foot violets (some folks call them Johnny jump-ups)(Viola pedata) were blooming profusely.

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Off to the side of the path a fern was unfolding its fronds.

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Behind it, the Rue Anemonne (Anemonella thalictroides) was blooming profusely.   It made me think of flecks of foam on the sea of last year’s leaves as they broke against the tree trunks.

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As I rounded the top of the ridge, I could hear the creek chuckling along merrily.    Most of last summer its voice was silent, but today it was vociferous behind the fog of redbud blossoms obscuring it from view.

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It didn’t take us long to descend below the pink fog and discover just how full the little creek was.   No wonder it was talking so loudly.  My favorite waterfall was actually a waterfall rather than a trickle of drops.

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Nearby Mother Nature’s graffiti artist had painted all over a log.

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I discovered another shy spring beauty (Uvularia sessifolia) hiding below the waterfall.   This is called “Wild oats”, which is a misnomer indeed, as it is not even a member of the grass family but a lily instead.   The other thing people call it is “Sessile bellwort”.

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At this point, my camera started telling me that its batteries were getting low.   Hoping that letting it rest would allow it to find some more juice in the depths of the batteries, I turned it off and continued on my way.

The clouds burned off as we walked and it turned into a spectacular day, all blue sky and bird song.  The whitened skull of one of last year’s deer casualties enticed me from the path, and led me to a woodland pond that included frogs in its decor.   We saw a live deer moving through the woods; I was hoping for a new fawn but was disappointed.

As we continued on our way over the ridge I heard a sound in the valley below that I was so rare I almost couldn’t believe it.   The wash of dry gravel bars where I find so many wonderful rocks while walking along them was full of water.

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Above the creek bank a lone dogwood bloomed.

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I was very glad to see it.  Dogwood blossoms are few and far between this spring.   The heat of the summer and the long dry fall caused most of the dogwood trees in our area to drop their flower buds in order to conserve their strength.   The only ones I saw today were in the cooler north-facing hollows where the water runs when it rains.  Usually they make drifts of white all through the woods, a magical thing that is nearly impossible to capture in a photograph.

I turned back to retrace my steps, rejoicing in the creek valley floor.  It was covered with millions of chickweed flowers forming a lacy back drop for the red trillium, yellow violets, Jacob’s ladder and other woodland flowers.   I refrained from turning the camera on in case something really cool showed up.

Of course it did, and I was glad I had saved the batteries.  An amazing blue flower caught my eye, begging to be photographed.   It was even bluer than the Bird’s-foot violets that had so captivated me earlier.   I had no idea what it was, but I made its portrait anyway,

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When I got home, I looked it up.   This is “Blue-eyed Mary” (Collinsia verna), a member of the snapdragon family.  She is an annual flower, and I suppose that accounts for the fact that I had never met her before.   I know where she is blooming, and I intend to go back there and collect a few seeds in a few weeks.   I think this would make a splendid addition to the gardens.

On the way back home I discovered goldenseal (Hydrastis candensis) blooming in the creek bottom.

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By this time, the newly holy church goers had made it out into the woods, and I started meeting groups of people as I neared the car park.   None of them surprised me at all, as I could hear them long before I could see them.   I was glad I had started off early, so I got to see deer and hear many birds, which tend to shut up and become very quiet when the chatting hordes of hikers take over my usual haunts.   This is why I usually go out in the middle of the week, when they are all at work.

But I was glad the promise of clouds burning off had enticed me out early to enjoy the beauty around me undisturbed.

Hope you enjoyed the tour….

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Just a few shots from around the yard…   The species tulips are blooming all over the place.   I moved them around last summer, and they seem to enjoy their new spots.   I will be moving some more of them once they are done blooming.

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In the stroll garden, daffodil “Baby moon” is busy being very cute.   Bear in mind that these flowers are about the size of an anerican quarter.   The foliage surrounding them is cilantro.

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The robin who built her nest on the step ladder a couple of years ago decided that she would try that again, since it worked out so well for her.   Since she barely had the foundations of her nest laid, I tore it out.   I thought I might like to use the ladder sometime this spring…

Undeterred, she moved around the corner and established herself on the nose of the dragon head driftwood. Since he didn’t seem to mind, I let her be.  She was none too pleased the other day when I was weeding the garden beneath her perch.   she will just have to deal with it.

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In other bird news, the gold finches have finally put on their mating colors.   Here is a shot of them enjoying the niger seed feeder.   On the fence there is a white throated sparrow.   I didn’t know they liked niger seed, but I guess they do.

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Spring has officially sprung at The Havens.

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It’s a grey day here at The Havens.   The gold finches are turning yellow, the robins are building nests, the daffodils are in full display and a light mist is drizzling.

As I worked on sewing strips together on the quilt, laying them out on the dining room table, I saw the opportunity to feature two of my passions in life together in one photo.   Fabric and Daffodils.   Is there any better combination?

Okay, maybe coffee and chocolate.

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An example of the magic of the internet.   I was running over to the place where you can purchase terrible things like donuts, which seemed to be the breakfast of choice this morning.   As I went past the freeway interchange, I saw a semi truck pulling onto I-44 heading east.  Emblazoned proudly on both sides, it advertised the San Marcos High School Marching Band from Santa Barbara, California.   Smaller, but no less proud, lettering let you know that this was carrying the equipment for the marching band, flag drill team and percussion performance art department.

My first reaction was, “Wow!   They have a semi truck!”   Our local marching band is the proud possessor of an enclosed utility trailer which can be towed by a large pickup truck.  The high school I attended in Colorado was lucky to have a band at all, let alone a marching band.   I looked at pictures in the yearbook from 1970 and our band had about two dozen members.   Since many of them were also members of the various sporting teams and the Pep club, even a small marching contingent would be hard to gather together.

Anyway, the next thought  that crossed my mind (yes, I admit I was driving distracted, but at least I wasn’t texting) was “What in the world is the San Marcos High School Band of Santa Barbara, California doing in Lebanon, Missouri?”

When I got home I marched straight to the iPad and Googled the San Marcos High School.  There, on their website, under the Performing Arts department, I found the answer.    There, announced prominently, was the news that the Drum Line had earned a place in the WGI World Championships to be held in Dayton, Ohio, and soliciting contributions to get them there.  (I then looked up WGI, which stands for Winter Guard International, a group dedicated to drill teams, flag teams and drum lines.   Who knew.)

I guess they got enough money, because the equipment is quite obviously on its way to Ohio, and I imagine the members of the drum line are not far away.

And so, the magic of the internet answers random questions once again.

 

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