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Sheep Dog Hollow: an eco-friendly renovation

Maybe Internet forums, not fences, are what make good neighbors

How do you tell if you moving near good neighbors or bad? Maybe an Internet forum would help.

By Carrie LeberGuest blogger / March 12, 2010

When storm clouds grow over neighborhoods, sometimes fences don't solve the problems. Maybe a better solution would be a form of neighborly Internet forum.

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Many of us spend copious hours renovating and decorating our houses, planning our landscaping and gardens, and, before we move in, looking into the schools and restaurants in our towns. We cover every base we can, but most often we hold our noses and hope for the best when it comes to neighborhood relations.

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There was a time not too long ago when I believed in a reality akin to that of the gals on "Desperate Housewives." Somewhere there must be a delightful gaggle of cheery neighbors who pal around, sharing life’s traumas and joys. But I’ve lived in a lot of places – I’m thinking this is an urban legend.

Most of us dwell in world where we spend our afternoons hoping that the kid next door’s un-mufflered dirt bike that’s ridden around and around and around and around, vibrating windows and drowning out the TV, would throw a rod or a spark plug.

At my farm in Connecticut, I basically have one immediate neighbor. Many of you probably find the idea of this appealing.

I first met, uh, Jerry we’ll call him, when I came to see my property for the first time. I’d been flying back and forth from California to the East Coast looking for the perfect place for both my gardening proclivities and my barn full of horses.

I’ve always subscribed to the notion that neighbors really affect quality of life, so I made a point of feeling out the local personalities at each house I considered seriously.

Sure we didn’t get off to the best start – Jerry and me. I’ll bet I didn’t impart a fantastic first impression as I slogged through the February snow in my heels and pantsuit to accost him in his driveway. But I’d just gotten off a plane from California and had a brief window of time to gather as much information as possible.

At first he seemed quite friendly, smiling widely. He offered repeated assurances that he and his family were fun loving, quiet, and had loads in common with me.

Not too long after I’d moved in, the fun-lovin’ part began. As it turned out, Jerry and his wife, Mary, like to party.

Police have been called on more than a few occasions, which, rather than quelling problems, served to pour gasoline on an already burning bonfire. Hostile notes were exchanged via mailboxes, threats shouted across property lines, dirty looks became rampant. This went on for three years.

Finally, exhausted, we relaxed into a mutual existence of non-recognition. As the arguing subsided, over time, the late-night noisiness gradually receded as well – and calls to the police ceased. This took four years.

My point in all this is that how can you tell what kind of neighbors you’re moving near? In reality, short of asking around and having brief chats, who knows how things will go?

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