Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Meeting the neighbors

A few weeks ago, a reader posed a question: "How does one get to know neighbors when you're so far apart?"

This is a legitimate question in rural areas (and not-so-rural areas as well). Just how do you go about meeting people in the country?Another reader chimed in with this observation: "We are in a 'neighborhood' of houses on land. We have 15 acres, for example. So many of our neighbors have gates across their driveways/property preventing us from knocking on doors to bring Christmas cookies or similar neighborly things. When new neighbors moved in next door, we were able to bring muffins along with a welcome note and our cell numbers in case of an emergency, but we've never heard from them again, not even a 'thank you' text. I know some folks are just private people, us too. We're not looking for best friends but it would be nice to be on friendly terms..."

So, with the understanding that we ourselves are still in the process of meeting the folks in our neighborhood, Don and I bandied about some suggestions:

• Be seen. Walk your dogs, work out front, walk to the mailboxes. Wave and be friendly. If someone stops, take the time to chat.

• Ask for help – not all the time, of course (you don't want to be seen as helpless or clueless), but once in a while. Neighbors are glad to lend a hand. For example, when it came time to install our wood cookstove, we needed a couple extra strong backs to hoist the stove off the cart and onto the platform. Some neighbors kindly pitched in. 

• Ask for advice.  You may have been a serious homesteader before the word existed. You may have already raised cows and raised corn. But you haven't done it here in your new place. If you see someone working their garden, ask them what grows well here. Ask someone with livestock to recommend a good butcher or who sells hay. Don't argue with them or try to show off your superior knowledge. People always feel closer to those who ask for their "expert" opinion. There's nothing dishonest about this, and you just might learn something.

• Remember names. If you're like me, that's hard, but make the effort. If the next time you call them by name, they'll appreciate it and be all the more likely to try and remember yours.

• Lend a hand. Help plow the snow (but be prepared for the fact that half of your neighbors will think you did it wrong), fill potholes, round up loose livestock, etc.

• Hold a very local yard sale, literally just for the neighborhood. What better way to meet folks?

• Don't brag, act entitled, or come off as condescending. A few months ago, we read an article written by a rural newbie who was trying to whip the locals into a better sense of community. These "humble" people needed help, and the newcomer was there to guide them out of their backward ways toward a better future. I'm sure this fellow meant well, but it came across as one of the most condescending pieces of nonsense we'd read in a long time. Don't be like that.

• Almost inevitably, there will be a tentative outreach by the existing neighbors to find out where you position yourself politically and religiously. This isn't meant to be rude; it's mean to gauge how personal or impersonal future neighborly relations can be.

• Join. Join a church, a volunteer fire department, a grange hall, etc. Don't go in thinking you'll "fix" anything, but instead be friendly and helpful.

• Don't take sides. Every country neighborhood has feuds. Farmer Bob dislikes Rancher Tim because Tim once ... did something. Stay out of these mini-kerfuffles. It's like getting into office politics – you can't win, especially as a newcomer.

• It takes time. Be patient. We've been here a bit over a year and are on friendly terms with everyone – but we're not "friends" with anyone yet. We've already sussed out that we're not likely to be able to organize the kinds of neighborhood potlucks we had in our last location, but that's okay.

Since this is such an important subject, I encourage readers to chime in with your own advice.


  1. I know you had good reasons, but do you ever regret moving? Good neighbors are a valuable commodity and sometimes difficult to cultivate.

    1. Well, you know, there are always regrets. We had a lot of good neighbors and friends at our old place. But on the whole, we're happier here. The old homestead area was getting pretty crowded. Patrice and I were looking for new vistas and we got what we were looking for. And the new neighbors here are fine people. We'll get closer to them in God's time. Not to toot our own horn too much but we're pretty good neighbors to have as well. -Don

  2. Social media. NextDoor, Facebook groups, etc.

    1. While I know Partice isn't a fan of social media, I will second the NextDoor website. Very neighborhood specific and a great way to communicate very locally. Doesn't have the "social media" feel that facebook does.


  3. One way my husband and I 'joined' our new rural community was simply introducing ourselves to our closest neighbors then continued to branch outward. If we saw someone outside, we stopped and introduced ourselves. We even introduced neighbors to neighbors who had spent most of their lives in the area. We are rural enough that stopping in the road for a conversation is not an issue. Admiring my neighbor's strawberry patch resulted in a bucket of yummy goodness. They left with farm fresh eggs and homemade soap. Tree down? No problem. Loose cattle roundup? No problem. Cutting our fields for hay? No charge, you helped us out and we certainly appreciate the grass fed beef that you shared after they enjoyed the hay. We are not necessarily bosom buddies but we're there as are they if a 'fire' needs to be extinguished. We appreciate their knowledge and expertise rather than a diploma hanging on a wall. We can all learn from each other's experiences and trials. Keep gossip to yourself and a smile on your face. We love our community and are now considered members after living here for over ten years. It's a wonderful life!

  4. A neighbor just sold some land. The wife has stopped and talked to the new owners several times. She gave them the name and number of our handyman that does good work. They seem really nice and will not move until heir last son graduates high school so another year or so.

  5. All good thoughts, Patrice!

    Also, just be very, very careful especially at first. You have no idea who's related to who - or what their relationship is like! A simple observation could get you into a hornet's nest. The wise Creator gave you two ears and only one mouth for good reason, lol.

  6. Be a realist. There are a couple of 'developments' in my area. A combination of stick-built and mobile or modular homes going in on 2 to 20 acre lots. Another long-time neighbor is a LE/Emergency dispatch worker. She has told me that they get a lot of calls from the developments, "So and so's dog is in my yard again!" and the repeated response is "If you want animal control services you need to live in town - the county doesn't offer them. "

    If that dog chases cattle or livestock and is shot dead for it on another neighbor's property it is the owner's fault. That is the law. Is their cat is out and a coyote gets it? Game & Fish or DNR personnel will not do anything about it. Same thing for mountain lions and moose - both of which come through here. And don't challenge an Antelope with your car either..... Do your research and see if you can live with the situation before you move in.

  7. When I bought my rural property at tax sale, the first thing I did was write a letter to the neighbors telling them who I was, all my contact information, etc. and encouraged them to get ahold of me and introduce themselves, and put it in their mailboxes. Within an hour I had a text from one of them thanking me. That weekend when we went up there for the first time, the neighbors all walked over and introduced themselves. I am so thankful we did that, we got off on the right foot with everyone, and if anyone even drives down our access road now, I get a text from one of the neighbors!


    1. I like that idea. We often don't see the neighbors in order to introduce ourselves so that is good. 👍

  8. Those were good ideas, Patrice, and here are a few more: go to the local Grange sales, join a local gun club unless you are a urbo/metro terrified of guns and from New York, or San Francisco,

    When we moved to our new MORE rural property several years ago where everybody has 5 or more acres, we mailed out letters to our neighbors letting them know who we were, basic contact info, etc. and like Don said, NOBODY bothered to reply. We ended up meeting several of these neighbors by being "out and about", repairing fence lines, and just happening to be in the right place at the right time.

    We tried NextDoor, but after about a year or so the libtards/woketards/cat bags "discovered" it and took it over and made it like the letters to the editor section of the local birdcage liner. So, we dropped NextDoor. and haven't missed it.

    The very best way is to just be out and about walking a dog or dogs, go to local stores and meetings, and be friendly. You can also join a local church that is of your preference. As was stated in the column, most of us out here in the boonies/sticks/rurals are private people and really DON'T like "drop-ins" or want to be bothered by people knocking on our door. If we wanted all of that, we wouldn't live in the sticks/boonies, rurals, but would live cheek to jowl in a urbo lifestyle. Yahoo for the rural living!

  9. Well...I didn't have to go out of my way...all I had to do is be out on my property near the street, or walking my dogs. Trucks and 4 wheelers and neighbors on horseback stopped and got as much 'scoop' on me as possible!! I joined the local Baptist Church, and shopped at the one grocery store in our tiny village. I left bags of goodies hanging on fences and gates for holidays. Im in pretty good with this bunch, but mind you, after 5 yrs here, I am still a 'newbee' and know it! Most of my neighbors are 3rd and 4th gen farmers. I'm grateful they seem to think I'm alright! And always say "Call if you need anything"