Good Neighbors and Cozy Bees

Court on road with windmill

Court leads the way to a nearby Amish farm. 

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.

Chickens January 2016

The chickens have cozy bedding thanks to my Amish neighbor Jacob’s sawdust.

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.

Closer apple tree and bucket

The bountiful apple harvest

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.

Beehive January 2016

The bees in their cozy straw bale hut

Thus does the circle of neighborly kindness roll serenely on through the years.




  1. This reads better than an Amish romance novel with your version of apples-bees-chickens-straw. The Amish are known for their neighborliness. Someone just shared a video of Amish-men with their horses rescuing a derailed 18-wheeler:

  2. They sound like the perfect neighbour’s. In the city, or at least the suburbs where I live, people mostly keep to themselves. We have lent a hand to some of the elderly ones from time to time. Most embarrassing was when my husband had to help the old lady across the road get her husband out of the bath when he’d got stuck. Sadly the lady, Nita, died last month and the old man, Bob has had to go into a home. Slowly we are becoming the old folk here and I wonder who will help us?

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