We have 27 neighbors. Twenty-seven. They all have maybe 15-20 foot deep backyards that back up to our 4 acres. Where we live used to be part of a plantation way back when, if what we were told is correct. What is now our road was the plantation’s corn fields. When the plantation was dissolved, the fields were split up into 5 acre tracts. (Ours is 4 acres because we have one direct neighbor who we adore! We bought her mother’s home, and she still lives next door on one acre.) We are literally the last tract of land on our entire street. All the others were sold to developers. Little 5 acre neighborhoods go down the whole street. The 4 acres we now own is a gold mine. We are right in the heart of our county, a mile from the water. The sellers knew that we wanted to make a homestead here. They had held a once thriving homestead on this same property many years ago, so they made concessions allowing us to be able to purchase our now home. We will forever be grateful to them, but back to the 27 neighbors!
Here’s how we handle our homestead being so close to so many neighbors.
I’m never going to impose my lifestyle on anyone. You don’t like animals. Great. Don’t get any. You don’t like my animals? Great. Don’t come over. We make sure our coops are clean, manure is dealt with properly, waterers are scrubbed- things are taken care of. I’d be upset if my neighbors lived in filth and muck too. The key is to control, clean up and sanitize the muck and filth.
As someone who has been around animals my entire life, I seriously can’t fathom someone not liking animals, but those people are out there. Just because I’m obsessed with animals doesn’t mean my neighbor is. Try to understand it from their point of view without having to compromise anything. I’m sorry that you don’t appreciate my horses, but it’s our and many other people’s dream to have them in their backyard.
Be active in communication, not passive aggressive.
This section is a little lengthy, but I only know how to explain it through our own stories.
Someone recently came into our property (through a gate in their back yard… not sure why it leads to my backyard) to move manure further away from their fence. It was before we had a utv, so we hauled all of our manure by wheelbarrow to as far as we could physically go into our woods to let it compost. This person had opened their gate, saw the manure and got their own wheel barrow to move weeks worth of manure. It must have taken them hours. I noticed the moved-manure as soon as I got back there. I was furious. I called Husband and said, “hey, just wanted to let you know that I’m going to go have a chat with one of our neighbors. I’ll call you when I’m done.” He thought that meant I was about to go chew out a neighbor, so he begged me not to and said instead we should put “private property” signs up on all the trees down both sides of the property. This would have been a passive aggressive way of dealing with the problem at hand. I counted the houses and drove around to that particular neighbor’s front door. I’m sure the woman who opened the door was startled A. that someone actually knocked on her door. B. at the hay-ridden, muddy boot-wearing woman on her front porch. I came straight out and said, “I’m your neighbor behind you. Why were you back there? Why did you move all that manure?” She immediately started apologizing and explaining that her house was for sale, and she was about to lose a sale because there was manure by her fence that the potential buyers wanted moved. She was desperate. It didn’t excuse the fact that she trespassed, but I understood. I gave her my number and told her the new owners could contact me anytime but to please never trespass again. Her house sold. The new owners haven’t opened that gate once. They even told us we could guarantee they wouldn’t be back there by barricading the gate on their fence from our side.
Another time I came home one Summer afternoon to find the horses soaked and lathered in sweat. Foam was literally dripping between their legs. It was 100 degrees outside. Why on Earth would they be galloping that much? I heard chainsaws but didn’t think anything about it, so I rinsed the horses and hand walked them to cool them out. It wasn’t until later when we went back in the woods to dump manure that I discovered the culprit. Someone had jumped the privacy fence and cut down a humungous oak tree on our property. Not only had they cut it, they just pushed it over and left it there. We were utterly shocked and called the police to file a report. By that time it was dark, and I felt terrible leading the police back into the woods at night. I explained how upset the horses were and the dangers of colic in the heat of summer. We had lost a horse to heat-related colic before we got married, so we are extra cautious of extreme temperatures. To say we were angry is an understatement. The police went around to the front of the neighbor who we thought did it’s front door. A little while later, they came back and said, “Well, the owner of that home is actually a sergeant at our police station, so we’re hoping we can get this remedied without a police report.” Um, no. I thought Husband was going to… I don’t even know what. He’s very mild mannered until… he isn’t. When he wants to stand up for something, he’s fierce. He made it very clear that not only would we be filing a police report but that unless this was fixed immediately, we’d also be suing. 😳 Uh… Husband. We just bought a house. We’re in the middle of a renovation and can’t even move in yet. We’re floating two mortgages. How in God’s name can we afford to sue a cop? It was an interesting couple of days. The neighbor ended up getting Husband’s number off the police report and called to try to explain himself. “We thought an elderly lady lived there?” You mean you didn’t think she’d ever notice. We are the owners now. “The tree’s root might have gotten to my patio in a couple of years. We wanted more natural light.” Not my problem. Then you shouldn’t have bought a house that backs up to woods. “I’ve actually been wanting to expand my backyard. Can we buy about 20 feet from you?” I’m sorry. What?!? Have you lost your f-ing mind? No. The tree was removed within two days of it being cut. Husband had the state arborist lined up to come tell us how much that huge, beautiful oak had been worth, but thankfully we didn’t have to sue. I wanted to do what I had done before and knock on the door and handle the issue myself, but in this situation, that would have been a unnecessary risk. It was better to let the police handle something of this magnitude. Who would have thunk it’d be their buddy/boss who cut down our tree…
Don’t be nasty to your neighbors, but be active. Passive aggression only leads to festered emotions. It’s better to handle things head-on no matter how they are received.
Abide by county/city animal ordinances.
This is so imperative. If any of my neighbors get upset about my animals, I make sure to cite the county’s animal ordinances. I am within every right by law to every animal and structure on our property. What more can they do about it? Nothing.
If you have close neighbors to your homestead, then you’ve probably heard some complaints… so have we. Your manure pile brought flies to my pool. Puh-lease. We’re in Savannah. There’s a species of fly for every single day of the year. Your ducks are too loud. Sorry bout it. Your horses smell. Amazing. Yes, I know. The good news is that I have also heard: I love the sounds of your farm. It makes me think of my childhood. My children and I watch your animals from our porch every day. Ohhh! Horses! I can’t wait to tell my grandchildren. You may not have as many neighbors as we do, but it is possible to have a homestead with neighbors close by, no matter the number. What do you do to keep the peace with your neighbors?