Thursday, February 10, 2011

Love Thy Neighbour

Unless you live on a desert island you'll always have neighbours. If you live on an island alone you can have Wilson here as your friend.

Even when you are alone on a remote island there's no guarantee that some day there's not going to be a shipwreck and before you know it you'll be joined by scores of neighbours.

Or you may bump into Mr. Crusoe while exploring the island.

I guess that's why, while the greatest commandment is "to love God with all your heart and with all your soul", the second greatest is: "love your neighbour as yourself".

When I left the city to live in the wilderness, in this humble abode, I had only the hermit Mr. Darcy as my immediate neighbour. You would have read about him and how he earned his living. He's not even in the vicinity and would not be able to hear me if I were to shout at the top of my head - that's how far he is from me. He's quite harmless and minds his own business.

The villagers are even farther away. I can only hear the children's laughter when they bathe and play in the river nearby.

The river runs behind on the West side of the farm:

Where the river flows

The East, as you have seen ever so often is where my window opens to the sun rising behind the jungle covered mountains:

The farm used to be bordered on both the longer sides by primary and secondary jungles - which was really how I liked it. Facing East, the jungle to the left is a forest reserve. Perfect. I have nothing to worry about there.

The subject matter here is the jungle on the right - made up of rare and beautiful timber of various species and secondary forest and bushes underneath and amongst them. They were adjacent and ran parallel to my piece of land - a nice rectangular piece. Same size too (about four acres):

The way I like it

I was worried that something might happen to this treasure trough. So I went to the land office, did a search and tracked down the owner. He happened to live and run a grocery shop about five kilometers away. I told him I wanted to buy over that piece of land. I was intent on giving him an offer he couldn't refuse. I had wanted to leave the land as it was - let it be a sanctuary for birds and other friendly creatures.  University students could use them for their research for sustainable forest, or herbal plants and medicine.

Unfortunately he was adamant that the land was not for sale. It belonged to his late father who had wanted his children to work on it.

One fine morning I heard a loud sound of what I recognized as that of chainsaws, and some kind of motor running. It confirmed my worst fear: they were cutting down those beautiful trees! A bulldozer was rolling away like a huge caterpillar, ravaging the land and its natural habitat. In the process it broke a few of my concrete fencing pillars, and tore down part of my fencing too.

Enter Mr. Muthu. We spoke over the fence. He was kind enough to offer to replace the broken pillars and mend the fence. He told me his plan was to plant oil palm - a money-making crop, unlike my humble durian. And may be build a house there so we can become neighbours. It was durian season so I gave him some of my best durian for him to take home to his wife and children.

So the land was cleared (bye-bye jungle!) and the palms were planted. I hardly see Muthu again after that, only his workers.

Fast forward one year, and I had to contend with this scenery from my side of the fence:

So the grass is not only greener on my neighbour's lawn, they are taller too!

One day I saw Muthu walked slowly up the hill looking at his palms (I wasn't sure if he noticed the overgrown weeds). He was quite smartly dressed for a farmer. I didn't think he had planned to do any work that day. Or any day.

I caught up with him. After the small chat about the weather, and him complimenting on my lovely and healthy looking durian, I politely brought to his attention that his palms were being choked by the overgrown vines. (Actually I wanted to tell him that it was an absolute eyesore, but decided not to, for neighbourliness' sake). To my surprise and a little ire, he was quite flippant about it.

Muthu: It's ok, as long as I put fertilizers my palms will grow well...

Me: But what about aesthetics?

Muthu: What  about ester what?

Since he didn't even know the word, let alone the meaning of the word I decided to just leave it at that.

Then, as he was about to leave, in a neighbourly gesture, he told me he'll get his men to clear the weeds.

And clear they did - with the most potent of weed killers!

Even the palms were not spared

So much for ester what on that side of the farm...

What about your neighbours, are they all angels from above?


erica and christy said...

My husband and I live on a dead end road on a 160-acre farm. His parents live on the other side of it (we can't see them, but they're there). The farmer across the road sold a plot to his son, who put a house on it. So now, when we look out our window, we can see a house, about 1/5 mile away. If the wind is right, we can hear his kids, too. It annoys us to no end. ;)

Sorry about the loss of green. It'll come back.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

my Good Neighbors are heaven sent for sure. my Bad Neighbors... well, they are still reeling from when I shrieked at them like a crazy person.

i'm drinking in your view to the East. ahhh... lovely!

have a glorious day!

NancyDe said...

I have a mixed bag - there is a subdivision down the road about half a mile that is like the American Wild West before the lawman comes. I have a neighbor to the east who is quite nice - my kids go over to visit and he is kind enough to throw a football for my 13 year old and let the 11 year old and her cousin climb in his laundry shoot. Next door is an "ohana" situation - the parents are ever so nice, but the son in the front is a bit scary - he shot my dog.

L'Aussie said...

Grandpa, this is a cautionary tale. What a wonderful view that was! I don't have any horror neighbourly stories to tell. I enjoyed your pictorial. How could anyone do that to the beautiful land? Ripping apart paradise.


Wan Sharif said...

I have chinese neighbours on both sides and in the back and in front.. in housing estate .. because we have been nice to them.. they all have been to us.. the only thing that was not so nice.. was when they went away for more than 2 days leaving their dog/s chained to their front door's metal-grill.. the dog became smelly (not to mention its poos) and there was ocassion where the dog's head got stuck in the metal grill.. I have to call other neighbours to get the dog out of the predicament (the dog is/was not too friendly to yours truly)

Grandpa said...

Hi Erica, that's a big playground. Over here anything more than ten acres for a hobby farm will pose problems for just one person (like me) to look after. Due to our tropical climate weeds grow very fast and crops are prone to pests and diseases.

It's nice to have families or extended families living on the same plot of land (I think anyway).

And yes, you never know what can appear as your neighbor. We have cases of people buying houses in front of nice green spaces, only to see later some high rise apartments being built on the plot!

You are right, the field will turn green again in no time with our rain and sunshine. I wish though Muthu does some selective weeding rather than kill everything.

Ohiofarmgirl, your neighbors will have to be good. I don't think bad ones will last very long...! :))

Yes, that's my favorite view too. Stay warm and take care dear friend.

Grandpa said...

NancyDe, oh dear, that 'ohana' situation sounds frightening alright. Hopefully the son will go far away to study or meditate or something and come back a better person. The rest of your neighbors are the kind every family dreams of;

L'Aussie - hi Denise, good for you! It is paradise lost in a way, but it's ok once the crops mature it won't be so bad. Besides beyond that piece of land is still jungle.

Grandpa said...

Wan, I sympathise with your situation. It is not good to leave those animals on their own. What they can do is send them to a vet clinic that has boarding facilities.

nouvelles couleurs - vienna atelier said...

:-)))) intresting

Maria Zannini said...

How horrible that your neighbor doused everything with weedkiller. I'm so sorry.

We have good neighbors on my little dead end road. The only iffy one moved out during the dead of night. They were a very strange family and it didn't hurt my feelings when they left.

But the house is still there and there's no sign of selling it, which means they might come back some day.

Her highness, Samantha VĂ©rant said...

I love your house! Even with the weed killers, you live in paradise! You are one lucky man, grandpa!

Anonymous said...

That is a wonderful view, even since all the troubles with the neighbour, you are very lucky. I'd love to sit outside writing looking at all those trees.

My neighbours are much closer and the empty lot next door has a house being built right now so now views like yours I'm afraid. Everyone here is too busy to cause problems I guess. We do have a few nice trees to look at though.

Olga said...

I live in the apartment building. I am a city girl :) We have all kind of neighbors. Some of them are bad, some of them are really sweet.
I have enjoyed this post very much.

joylene said...

We've had neighbours from hell, but they eventually moved, thank God. Now we have a peaceful existence in the winter because neighbours on both sides are only summer residents. The neigbhours to our west go to Nevada for the winter. They're back in April and stay until October. All summer long there are 4 dogs pooping on our property and wandering around tormenting my dog because he is on a run. He cries the entire time they're outside. On weekends, every soul they know comes out to go water skiing and swimming. My cats are jumpy and generally won't go outside. Their grandchildren seem to scream a lot. The first summer I kept thinking they were drowning. Now I don't look, so if they are drowning, I'm guessing someone will yell for help. All we can do is take a deep breath and know that eventually October will return.

Kelle said...

So sorry to read of your neighbor woes.
Our neighbors all think we're weird because we farm All Natural in the day of wonderful chemical weed killers and pesticides. It's funny because we get along fine with all our neighbors but do have to chuckle at them as well. The neighbor across from us has a yard like a park, he is well known all around our town for having the most beautiful yard and flowers, well..... that is until we moved here. Now I just do my thing and however it comes out works for me, all the while he's primping, spraying chemicals, spraying for bugs, etc.... His yard is fill with big beautiful trees and yet nary a bird one in his yard or trees, they are fighting over the few remaining trees we have( many we not cared for before we bought this place and died) He was one day spraying dadelions and I was out harvesting them from our yard and garden( he assumed I was digging them to get rid of them) why because no respecting yard and garden person would allow those weeds in their yards, LOL!!! When I informed him I was going to eat the green, make wine or tinture from the flowers and roots he simply rolled his eyes and drove on spraying his weeds. He's made comments several times about the birds and bees being in our yard and no in his. One day I said," I guess they like All Natural and weedy, verses sprayed and perfect." He scratched his head and walked away. He's a nice guy he's just been so indoctrinated into weeds are bad and the easy way to get rid of them, funny thing is that he has more and more weeds every year! You'd think an educated man such as himself(retired detective) would ask why this is happening*sigh*

So I can realte somewhat and I shutter when I see all of them spraying lord knows what in their yards and gardens.

Wendy aka Quillfeather said...

Sorry about your view and of course the damage to the land itself. Such a shame.

I'm fortunate to have wonderful neighbors. Our house is nestled amid the bush, so consequently we rarely see them anyway.

Happy Frog and I said...

You have the most incredible view, I'm still reeling in awe! I live in a town so my neighbours are pretty close on one side. Luckily they are fabulous! They are the sort of people I know I could call on in the middle of the night and they would treat me with kindness and care. Having lived next door to nightmare neighbours in the past I know I am very lucky. x

Pat said...

Your house is beautiful. I would have loved to have a house like that - but the house we have came with the land, and it's no so bad lah ;)

How sad about the jungle going. And worse still, the arrival of Muthu and the oil palm and weedkiller! He is just a bozo who doesn't know what it takes to grow the trees, and just thinks he's going to make a fast buck, I guess.

I had a planter-friend, and learned about oil palm fruits, and how the trees need to be cared for. It isn't simple work, and it isn't quick-and-easy.

Looks like some people don't do their homework before embarking on something new, eh?

I hope things improve for you, though.

Grandpa said...

Thanks everyone for stopping by, for your good wishes, and for sharing your neighbourly stories - they have made this post so much more colorful and interesting!


Lady Jennie said...

Well look at your blog! Your comment on mine gave me pause because my dear Grandpa just died a couple of months ago. I couldn't figure out how he was leaving me a comment. :-)

I love durian, by the way. I can't believe you're growing it.

The Manic Chef said...

Dear Grandpa,

This is my first visit, hello. I enjoy the layout of your blog with the photos sharing your story, it adds an extra dimension to your writing. I enjoyed the view from the door, it looks beautiful, but warm. I lived in Florida, Gulf Coast, south of Tampa for nearly 4 years. I truly enjoy what the 'tropics' have to offer in vegetation, plants, trees, especially flowers, and birds, and certain types of reptiles, but I'm not a warm weather climate type of guy. I don't care for high temperature heat. Anything over 80 degrees, I need air conditioning. I am truly a lover of cold weather, and snow. So I can not envy anyone that lives in tropical conditions, but I can enjoy it for what it is from a distance. Now concerning the "Loving thy neighbor" policy, we need the grace of God to cope most of the time. And when it gets to be too much, I move! I can however empathize with your dilemma, it's a shame others are not so aware of their surroundings and others feelings. That brown overgrowth looks awful. Take care, and I look forward in reading other entries in your blog. Later....

Grandpa said...

Lady Jennie - and I can't believe you like durian! But I am thrilled that you do! Welcome to The Farm.
I enjoyed reading your blog - there's so much to read, it'll take me a while.
I started with your 'About' page (after reading the delightful MLS), and was pleasantly amused by how you metamorphed in and out of the different kind of person you had wanted to be... I had a look at your beautiful children too. That's as far as I got - I think you have a wonderful life.

The Manic Chef, hi good to see you. I'm sorry there's no air-con at the farm - only the cool breeze and fresh air. If it gets too hot I stay under the trees instead of in the house.
You know when I looked at your video I thought you were going to talk about how to make humus!! LOL!
Anyway thanks for stopping by and happy cooking.

Grandpa said...

TO ALL MY NEW FOLLOWERS I want to say HI and extend you a BIG WELCOME, if I haven't done that already here or on your blogs. I'm honoured to be in your company.

I have visited some of you, had some difficulty with those using wordpress, and had not been able to contact those without a link. I will get around to the rest of you soon enough. Promise. Thank you all for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

secret agent woman said...

My next-door neighbors are really nice people. My across the street neighbors are a whole other story!

Akelamalu said...

How sad you couldn't buy that piece of land and keep the beautiful jungle. :(

I live in a semi-detached house on a housing estate and really envy the views you have from your house, well except the desimated jungle view. My neighbours are OK thank goodness.

Anonymous said...

Dear Grandpa,

This Muthu person kinda reminds me of my friend's mom... well, in a way.

My friend's mom and dad are retired and they have lovingly cultivated and tended to this hobby farm of theirs into an orchard of all kinds of fruits. This, they did for almost 20 years.. until recently, when for reasons only know to herself. my friend's mom and her uncle (who bought over the adjoining piece of land) decided to clear the orchard and it's matured fruit trees and plant oil palm.

My friend's father was livid. But being not one to fight with the wife (she's always right!), he has vowed not to set foot onto the "new" farm ever. These days, he spends his time tending the fruit trees and medicinal herbs around the compound of his house and is severely addicted to Korean dramas on Astro tv.

As for my friend's mom and her uncle, they were right on the money but they sure dun look like they enjoy even a day of what they are doing coz it's no more a hobby. It's work.

So.. yeah, kinda like Muthu.

The Blogger Formerly Known As said...

Like Olga, I live in a block (for now).

With a few exceptions, my neighbours are changing all the time; no time to love or hate them.

klahanie said...

Greetings Grandpa,
You live in a very beautiful location and it saddens me to see the devastation of the natural balance that you have witnessed.
You are obviously a man who cares very much about nature and respect it as such. It's such a shame when other do not embrace such an ethos.
I used to be surrounded by 'neighbours from hell'. Yet, by sheer determination, I had those neighbours who were causing so much misery, for so many, evicted. Now I live in a positive environment, surrounded by lovely neighbours :-)
My friend, have a peaceful and positive weekend.
With respect and kindness, Gary.

Kittie Howard said...

Grandpa, I had a sinking feeling where you were headed. I can only shake my head at your neighbor's callousness. Yes, the grass/weeds will return. However, that fertilizer probably has a dangerous shelf life that will continue to affect the eco balance for some time. I couldn't help but wonder how long it will take for those little unseen bugs to rerurn in numbers enough to balance this out.

When we lived in Nairobi, the airport road was fabulous open land, a little serengetti. It's now lined with high-rises. A pity!

About neighbors, in a perfect world my neighbor across the street would marry your neighbor and both live elsewhere.

(Have you seen a purple/gold cloud shaped like a Geaux Tiger?)

Farmgirl_dk: said...

Oh no...this is heartbreaking! All those beautiful jungle trees. It just goes to show you, no matter how far away you are from civilization, it's going to catch up to you in one form or another, isn't it?
Bad neighbors seem to be very common, unfortunately. I am currently battling my neighbors across the road who have three big (2 great danes, 1 boxer) that think my property is their property. I can't let my chickens out for fear of one of them becoming a meal. The dogs enjoy sitting outside of my goat run and frightening my goat boys. I *cannot* keep them off my property - and when I call to complain to them now, they won't even answer their phone any more. I can see the very bad this direction is going in and it is me and my critters who will be the losers... one of my animals will be mauled or killed and then what?
It's very stressful and scary.
(p.s. thank you for commenting on my blog the other day. that closet still looks the same. lol)

Linnea said...

What a story! Yes, good neighbors are a true gift! The worst thing about my neighbors in California is that they all seem to love cutting down trees. When I ask them why...they all reply, "they're so messy!" Sad - I never thought of trees as messy...Thanks for your stories and visits Grandpa!

small farm girl said...

Grandpa! How awful about the jungle. You have more patience than me. lol.
We lived in an area where there was no one for a long distance. Then our now neighbor bought the land and moved in his 3 grown children with their "lovely" moble homes. Now when I look that direction, I feel like I live in a moble home park. Sometimes it is hard to love thy neighbor.

Scarlet Blue said...

Good grief, it just goes to show that you can live in the middle of nowhere and still have awkward neighbours.
So sad about the land being ruined. I feel for you.

Happy Valentine's Day!

caterpillar said...

That guy seems to have lost his mind...sorry, couldn't resist saying that...I have goo neighbors...friendly but not nosy...

Serena said...

It sounds like you have your own little patch of paradise although I fully understand your feelings regarding the clearing of the jungle. I cried when they cleared the bushland behind our back fence last year. I still miss the trees and the daily birdsong. Now, we have housing lots in place of the bushland and the machinery is back preparing for house slabs. I think the months ahead will be noisy ones for us. How sad that your neighbour was so nonchalant about the overgrowth and ended up poisoning it....those poor palms. :(