Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sorry About Those Toes

Many, many things were accomplished over the weekend with the help of the parents. Ms. Huis watched the girls all weekend, which allowed three grown adults to focus on house projects. Great stuff.

So first, some background on the house and the neighbors. The family who used to own the house had a greenhouse business adjacent to the house. In the late 70's, the greenhouses were knocked flat and the land was subdivided into smaller lots on the north side. On the south side, a son of the house's original owners built a cute brick house in the 30's or 40's.

On the north side, the land has been surveyed and fences have been erected. There's little doubt where the lot lines are. On the south side, things are not so very clear, especially with our front yard. There is a strip of land about forty or fifty feet wide that is full of some kind of unidentified hedge plant gone wild and scrub trees. The neighbors to the south call it "woods." I call it something else.

Shortly after purchasing the house, the neighbors came over and made it very clear that they liked the "woods" and that the unidentified hedge plant that grows 30 feet onto our land actually starts a good five or ten feet on their side of the lot. This made me a bit uneasy from the very beginning that the neighbors were not going to like any change in the "woods," regardless of the fact that some of those woods are on my land.

The previous owner did a lot of good towards repairing and restoring the house, but he left the landscaping rather...wild. The original inhabitants of the place back in the 20's used a fast-growing, thorny, dense, well-shearing plant. And they had a lot of it, with several hundred feet of hedge along the driveway. Unfortunately it was buckthorn.

If you don't know anything about buckthorn, I'll sum up by just saying that several states have declared it a non-native, invasive species and it is VERY prolific. Read up on it and you'll see why I don't want any of it on my property. My dad brought his chainsaw and Monday we went after a group of large buckthorn towards the front of the property in the "woods." The majority of the woods is buckthorn. Some of them were 50 years old.

About midway through cutting and brush clearing, the neighbor came over to see what we were doing. He asked a few questions about what we were cutting and if we knew where the lot line was. I had eyeballed the lot line earlier and thought I knew where it was. There were five cedars planted at the front of the place when it was originally built, and the one that was furthest south looked to be about where the lot line was. Going on the assumption that people usually put trees on significant points (lot lines and corners), I took that tree as the line. He listened and left.

Last night (Wednesday), the neighbor showed up at the front door with a 100' measuring tape on his arm. He was cordial, but a bit forceful. He had contacted the town hall and gotten the measurements for the properties (100' wide for mine and 120' wide for his). He had asked the town to come out to find the lot marker, but they hadn't come that day. He asked them where the lot lines start (the very inside edge of the sidewalk). And he measured out where he thought the line was. And he wanted us to measure it together so we knew where it was.

And we did. We measured it twice, once from one side of the block, and again from the other side of the block. And it appears he was right. I was over by about five feet (give or take a foot). We cut down some of his buckthorn in error. We agreed to the approximate location of the lot line (give or take a foot). I apologized, told him I'd be curtailing my activities to our side (obviously). We shook hands and went our merry way.

Now this whole thing has got me absolutely cranky. First I'm cranky that I was wrong. Just plain wrong. I could have measured. I could have called the town to verify where the line was. I could have talked to the neighbor. And I didn't. It was sloppy and presumptive, especially when I knew that it might become a touchy subject. It also has not helped our relationship with our neighbors.

It makes me cranky because the measuring we did shows either that the lots are not square with the street, or one of my northern neighbors is encroaching my property by about three feet. And I didn't care until my southern neighbor decided that the lot line (give or take a foot) is an absolute uncrossable boundary. Which means either I can confront my northern neighbor, or just let it go (which is probably what I'll do).

It makes me cranky because I am doing something I hold to be very important and responsible - removing a non-native, invasive species. And my neighbor doesn't understand or care. I tried to explain to him on several occasions why I find buckthorn so offensive. We'll see if my explanations stick and he starts cleaning it out.

It makes me cranky, in a petty way, because my southern neighbor has an extra twenty feet of land. The extra twenty feet technically belongs to the city, but they have told him that they won't put a sidewalk along the street there, meaning his 120' land is actually 140' of usable space. And yet, he's uptight about five feet of land (give or take a foot), that he never uses and that is full of buckthorn.

And mostly it makes me cranky because I feel that they are watching my every move, just waiting for me to screw up, so that they can swoop in and correct me. I think I see a very tall hedge in the future landscaping.

On a brighter note, my mom also painted a few rooms while they were here. I took before and after pictures of the living room. Ms. Huis was kind enough to upload them and color correct them (although I think she lightened them a bit too much). The living room was white and we opted instead for Hubbard Squash with an accent color of Rembrandt Ruby on the fireplace. It's much more bold than either of us would normally choose, but I have to say, we like it.

From the northwest corner before

And after

From the northeast corner before

And after

From the southeast corner before

And after

From the southwest corner before

And after


Allknowingjen said...

This right here: "I feel that they are watching my every move, just waiting for me to screw up, so that they can swoop in and correct me." Exactly sums up how I felt/feel about our snowbird neighbors. So I empathize. How frustrating that he was so particular about 5 ft he wasn't even really using or caring for.

I love the new living room colors- really makes that woodwork pop! :)

Mr. Kluges said...

I have to say, I did think of you as I was considering all of our friends and their neighbors. Especially when we dropped those maples in your backyard and they landed on the neighbor's land. Never did hear how that turned out.

Allknowingjen said...

Didn't you? The husband was actually very nice (especially considering we nicked his garage/shed!) Said it was no big deal- he knew what a hassle trees were, etc. We never heard more about it, and they never repaired the shed. (though we offered to pay.) However, the wife commented a couple of times that she hoped we'd be hiring a "professional" to take the larger tree down -otherwise, that would be a "disaster" and she had no idea how they were going to reach it with out tearing everything on her side up, etc.
We did hire someone to take the other tree out- and I know they did have to drive on their yard. But apparently she was so glad to see the tree go that it didn't bother her enough to complain about it.

ShoNuff said...

You may try reaching a branch of peace over to the neighbor. Take them a plant that you would rather see (lilac, dogwood, etc.) and say it's to replace the buckthorn you accidentally cut. Might mend bridges some and give you a line of defense on the buckthorn.

Mr. Kluges said...

Great idea! You'd think they'd find dogwood or lilac a lot more attractive than buckthorn.

DiploWhat said...

Just so long as it isn't purple lustrife!
Ew, dog wood. you know how it got it's name? If you break the branch, it looks like dog drool between the two pieces. That lit'l tid bit courtest of my dad.