You can control who lives in your home. Typically, its occupied by people that you love, all on their own journey of growth, with their quirks and temperaments. In some respect, you can almost pick what your neighbors are like. And in some areas, that is called GERRYMANDERING, hahaha, little political humor for you. Anyway, there are apps that you can download that can help you see what a neighborhood is like, schools and crime rates. In the country, your neighbors can be lifesavers or absolutely wretched souls bent on making your home life a living hell. Some people like to keep to themselves. We try to keep a balance between hermits and social butterflies. If you’ve met either of us, you would know that my husband and I can talk your ear off! But I also really appreciate the solitude and privacy as well. Robert Frost said it best when he said, “Good fences make good neighbors” because the issues that we have encountered could have been avoided with a strong and sturdy fence.
Know your boundaries
When you purchase or lease your property, it’s important to know what the property lines are and where they intersect with other neighbors. Make sure that a surveyor has marked it out, and if there are water rights that need to be secured, make sure that its included in the contract. Surprises come out of the woodwork and I have heard of neighbors trying to limit access to acreage by using a common road, refusing to grant easements or refusing to grant water unless certain conditions are met. If you aren’t careful, your property can be held hostage. It’s important to meet the owners and people leasing land around you. In some instances, you’ll have to sort out the story tellers and gossipers with an ax to grind about one another. That can also be a warning sign of a feud that you don’t want to get caught in the middle of. It’s also common for several of your neighbors to be kin to each other (haha, I sound country) and that can be good or bad as well. When you drive out to the property, along with your inspection, you’re going to want to check if there are dogs running loose or evidence of dogs with knocked over cans or dog poop in your yard. Invasive deer or hogs are things you can shoot or trap. I don’t want to shoot someone’s dog because he’s chasing my goats or chickens, but I will, I won’t like it, but you put me in that position and we have a right to protect our livestock and property. In most cases, barbed fencing is sufficient to mark out your territory. If you plan on raising cattle, then you’ll need to have stronger cattle panels or pipe fencing. Many people add heavy gauge welded wire panels that increase in square size as you go up with a 3 by 3 square for the first two feet of the panel and increasing in square size as you go up in addition to their pipe fencing to keep small dogs, chickens or goats from escaping. Knowing your neighbors is important for when it’s time to repair or replace fencing. Come prepared with the possibility that your neighbors won’t be interested in splitting the cost with you for a shared stretch of fence. And if they do, understand that that may change when the time comes to construct or pay. As a landowner, you are responsible for keeping your property safe for those that come in, invited or not. Warning signs and cameras are effective, and out here in Texas, there is something known as the Purple Fence law. Because warning signs can blow over or get destroyed from the weather or vandals, there is a law here and in several other states that allow property owners to paint fence markers to indicate that it is private property and there is no trespassing allowed. The post of your fence needs to be painted from three feet above the ground, at least one inch wide in any shade of purple you desire. It needs to be at least eight inches long and in timberland, there cannot be more than 100 feet apart and on open land they can be no more than 1000 feet apart. A version of this law is here in Texas and Missouri, Illinois, North Carolina, Maine, Florida, Idaho, Arkansas, Montana, Arizona and Kansas.
When Animals Stray
I would like to say that we have always had amazingly wonderful interactions with our neighbors but we have had our share of cringe worthy contact and hot under the collar exchanges, and what it all boiled down to was because an animal had strayed. At our first property, we had a very long driveway that bordered a neighbor that we had not gotten to meet due to scheduling or being busy at home. But we always waved to each other on our way down the driveway. Well one lovely weekend, we were greeted with two very flamboyant and cocky roosters. They were very cocky. Typically, this neighbors poultry never made it over to our side of the drive, much less cross our cattle guards. I really didn’t think much of it although I had about 18 pullets free ranging in our front and back yards. Later that afternoon when I was going to town, I went out to my car to discover what looked like a pillow fight with Liberace. Fabulously colored long feathers EVERYWHERE. We found the body of one of the roosters by our garage and our boy Tucker was kicked back being his usual self. We resigned ourselves into meeting our neighbor for the first time with this horrible news of the demise of his two flyboys. He was apologetic and said that it was bound to happen sooner or later. We offered to replace the roosters but he politely declined and stated we had done him a favor. Almost a year later, coming home down that long drive after dinner, our neighbors little Chihuahua mix was following along while my husband drove our truck at a crawl and calling out to him to get out of the way. Once again, this little pup made his way back and then turned around to catch one of our back wheels. Another difficult conversation with our kind neighbor who oddly enough made the same statement again, it was bound to happen. He explained that he had a difficult time keeping this little guy in the yard and that the previous summer he had made it all the way to the highway about 3 miles away. He might have been ambivalent about what happened but it was uncomfortable for all our kid passengers in the car that witnessed the unnecessary death of a pet. These difficult conversations and sad deaths could have been avoided if he had secure fencing for all his animals.
At our current home our only neighbor that we share a fence with has several cows and a bull. They have all made it out to the cul de sac and into our yards several times. His shar pei runs the neighborhood and many a morning I have caught him in our yard nonchalantly checking out if Tucker can play. Tucker always chases him away in a way that says he can’t play until his parents leave. These cattle are what caused us to have our first heightened conversation with a neighbor we barely knew. The property we are on is surrounded in a horseshoe shape by other landowners that have agreed to lease a use to a person the next town over for them to pasture their cows. Now this particular gentleman is very protective of his cows and their calves and doesn’t appreciate the other neighbors amorous bull trying to get in the yard. One morning we saw a neighbor go tearing across the pasture on his horse roping and directing the cows (and our goat) up over the hill like he was rounding them up. We called the out of town cattle owner and he asked us to check out what that neighbor’s intent was. That was where the firestorm happened. Earlier that week he had stopped me as I was driving out while he was on his 4-wheeler demanding to know if that bull was ours. I sighed and explained that it was the person next door to us, directly across from him. He proceeded to tell me how much trouble and damage the bull had caused and he had half a mind to confiscate the animal and keep it as was his right. I just nodded and hoped that I could be on my way to get the kids to school. He then proceeded to tell me all the dirty laundry of said bull owner along with some additional information that he urged me to confirm online. Now during our inquiry as to what he was doing with the cattle rustling, he immediately went from zero to on fire with threats, vulgar name calling and proclamations about what a tough guy he was and how much us town people didn’t know anything about ranching. My husband just chuckled and explained we were just wondering what was the problem with the animals which he continued to interrupt and challenge my husband to meet him out in the street and to be sure to bring his GUN. What??!!??
Somehow, my husband de-escalated the firestorm and this neighbor explained his calf had gotten out and he was trying to get her back and that was why he had ridden out to rope her. Right. I discovered today that he was a stunt person and was probably trying to get his kicks again. But what it all boils down to was that this misunderstanding was again due to an escape artist animal. He apologized for being so angry but he was upset and tired of fixing fences on that property so that animals wouldn’t escape. Even though he apologized, his quick temper and threats left me unsettled. So, I say this: Build a better fence. Check your fences often. Make sure that your animals have food. Lack of food is the main reason animals leave the otherwise safe confines of their pens other than if they are in heat and are ready to party with the cows next door. Know your neighbors. Be able to identify which animal belongs to whom and make sure you have their phone numbers. Two weeks ago, I heard Tucker barking his head off and I looked out the second story window to see a strange truck parked behind mine. I wasn’t expecting anyone and I was home alone. The man in the doorway on my porch asked if I had seen his dog. He lived several houses down the road and somehow his dog had escaped his babysitter and he wanted to know if I had seen him. I thought it was the weirdest reason to come down the street to look for his dog. I asked him to describe it and he gave a very poor description of animal that I would expect he would be better at describing if it was missing. He also began to tell me the incredibly personal news of all the neighbors and thanked me for keeping an eye out for his dog. That also left me unsettled. And now, although I consider myself one of the most progressive liberals that I know, my husband finally made good on what he felt was a necessary tool for our property and bought me my first gun. There are many reasons one should be armed when they are homesteading. I recognize that as much as I believe in strict gun laws, everyone else around my family believes in their right to be armed and ready to protect themselves and their loved ones and they are not afraid to use it. Even the unhinged people. We cannot be unprotected when so many around us choose to keep themselves armed. Homesteaders are entrusted to take care of themselves absent any neighbors and even then, it’s your responsibility to take care of your own as well. Good fences make good neighbors. Good guns make peaceful neighbors.