Friday, May 30, 2008

The Incredibles

So far, our neighbors have been nothing but superheroes.

Example: Being clueless city folk, we really needed guidance on how to use our acequia system to flood our field. Not more than half a day into tinkering around in the ditch were two to three neighbors offering their past experience in how it's done. One neighbor, Rowena, stuck with us the entire day since we share a turnout with her, but she also shared lots of tips for how to make it easier (and lots of entertaining stories about her past 12 years in the Farms). Since that day, we've become good friends with Rowena and her family. They invited us over to enjoy their firepit last Friday night, which was like camping with a family of six plus eight dogs, two cats, and 3 horses. We sipped wine, told ghost stories, and shared probably unsolicited advice with their oldest daughter who's off to college.

Rowena's husband Michael is a Lt. Col. in the armed forces. He's often on assignment in the Middle East, and is currently home for a few weeks after spending several months in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the Army is deploying him to Iraq June 8th, this time for an entire year with only one week to return home to visit family. We've had the chance to spend a little time with Michael while he's been back, and to witness the incredible love and generosity of his entire family. He especially shines to Jon (who doesn't?), and during the firepit evening, sequestered him to share stories of what it's like to be in the Middle East during this tempestuous time. Jon left that evening with a gift from Michael: a dogtag bearing the Army creed:

Selfless Service
Personal Courage

Not a bad list of values. We'll be attending his "coming and going" BBQ Saturday to see him off to his next assignment.

Then there's Lee, directly next door to us. Lee is out tilling our "back forty" right now on his enormous tractor, free of charge. Until a couple weeks ago, we were biting our nails at the cost of purchasing or renting a tractor/tiller and all the logistics involved in learning how to use one and getting it onto the property, etc. But Jon's first-time, over-the-fence meeting with Lee evolved into a conversation about our tilling needs, and he swooped in enthusiastically to save the day. Until then, we could barely get the man to wave at us.

Enter the dynamic duo, Jerry and Karen. While they live about 1/4 mile from us, we ran into them while they were toting their yoga mats and we were riding our bikes on the bike path. I screeched to a halt and nearly accosted them to ask where we could find the nearest yoga class. We got to talking, and learned that Karen is a freelance food writer and Asia correspondent for Gourmet magazine (and has published a few books), and Jerry is a freelance photographer, who accompanies Karen on their 6-month assignments in Asia. Not bad for a young Midwestern couple. They too just bought their home in the Farms about nine months ago. We have a lot in common, so we had them over for dinner and a wine tasting last week. Talk about some engaging conversation...if you're ever lacking, invite a globetrotting food writer and photographer over for dinner sometime. You won't regret it.

And last but not least: The sheep man, our neighbor Richard. Richard is quintessential Northern New Mexico. Probably in his late 50s or early 60s, Richard likes to refer to himself as "semi-retarded", pausing for effect to see how you react. Of course, he means "semi-retired", and then erupts into a contagious belly giggle at his own humor. He's an insurance salesman who likes to chew the fat. He may talk slowly, but he has a fast wit.

He, his wife and grown paraplegic son live on the lot north of us, with chickens, roosters, a dog, a cat, and...SHEEP. Fifteen wonderful sheep. He was the first neighbor we met upon arrival here and was our first bartering experience in the Farms. When he saw our field of waist-high weeds, he offered to lend us his sheep to mow down the weeds, which saved him money in return as he doesn't need to buy feed for them. It was a beautiful arrangement that has benefitted us a millionfold, as it once again saved us the money of having to buy or rent something to mow down an acre of tough weeds.

We hear stories from friends and family all the time about nightmare neighbors--some that encroach on property, some that are noisy and inconsiderate, some that are downright rude. We feel very fortunate that so far our neighbors have been nothing short of interesting, embracing, and generous. Now, we owe them all home-baked pies....

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