As I took advantage of a rare sunny day to haul a bag full of sawdust from my Amish neighbor Jacob’s sawmill–a prize destined to become chicken bedding and then ultimately reincarnated as compost–I reflected on how fortunate I am to have such good neighbors.
When my husband and I moved into our house almost twelve years ago, we’d been cautioned about living in Amish territory. “They’ll always be at your house, wanting to use the phone or asking for rides,” several people warned ominously.
Happily, they were wrong. My neighbors have never asked a favor, but I know they would be more than willing to grant one if I needed it. Over the years, we’ve established an informal old-school barter system; when I’ve had strong crops of zucchini or strawberries (due to luck rather than skill), I’ve been able to share them with our neighbors on either side, who always give us something in return.
One year, I was horrified to discover that Emma and Jonas, two of my elderly neighbors, had to buy their eggs from a grocery store because they didn’t have chickens of their own that year. Fortunately, I’d gone overboard when raising chicks the previous year, so we had more eggs than we could use. Sage and I came to love bringing a carton of them over to the Schrocks’ house; not only did we enjoy long, neighborly chats on their porch or in their front room (although some of the chats became too long for Sage’s liking), but Emma never let us leave empty-handed. We’ve come home home with pumpkins, squash, and (Sage’s favorite) a tomato “AS BIG AS MY BRAIN!”
Some years, when the big overgrown apple trees that came with our house were more than generous, we’ve been able to share them with the neighbors on both sides. One of my favorite memories is walking down the road with Emma, a half bushel of apples suspended between us, on a cool fall day. Some of the apples returned to us in the form of cider several days later.
This year, our apple harvest was especially good thanks to favorable weather and industrious bees. Since all things come full circle, so did this harvest: We traded Jacob some of our apples for bales of straw, which we’re using to insulate the beehives over the winter. When the weather warms, we’ll break up the bales and use them to mulch the garden. With luck, the bees will emerge to pollinate the apple trees and other garden plants, giving us plenty of produce to barter for straw, which will insulate them again come winter.
Thus does the circle of neighborly kindness roll serenely on through the years.