Dealing with neighbors

A. Hi. I just found your site yesterday and am astounded! I’ve been moving in this same direction of self-sustained living for years now and love your site and success! I’ve been toodling around the site, reading tons, but have yet to see anything addressing my burning question: what about the neighbors? What kind of scenarios have you run into; do you have fences? I already have a small garden and chickens but I also have very ornery neighbors ( I live in the suburbs on a similarly sized lot as
yours; we have no neighborhood covenants or such). We’re considering many ideas for privacy but are simply not sure what is the best option. Also, I have a feeling that if I go digging up my front green lawn, it will increase our “weird” factor from the neighbor’s viewpoint, and only work to heighten their paranoia (for instance, they already “watch” us and have reported us to the police because our kids are home all day. We home school, something that is perfectly legal in Florida!). If you’ve addressed this issue on the site already, could you point me in that direction? And if you have any suggestions, I’m all ears!



Jacksonville, Florida

A. Thank you for your email and for your kind comments about my family’s website. We feel blessed that we are able to share our journey with others and to offer them encouragement on their own journey toward self-sufficiency.

Congratulations on your own direction of self-sustained living! We certainly wish you the best and hope that you achieve your goal – it’s definitely a lifetime journey and requires taking it all “one step at a time.”

As to your “burning” question about the neighbors: Well, we’ve been blessed with having as few a neighbors as you can possibly have in a city. Also, though we live in Pasadena, which is considered a very desirable place (Rose Parade, Rose Bowl, etc) there isn’t much objection to chickens or gardens. In fact, most of the richer areas of Pasadena don’t have lawns but landscaping.

Why we don’t have much neighbors is because a long time ago, the freeway took out some of the neighborhoods behind our house, leaving a large vacant lot which is now occupied by a private school On our right side is the school, behind us is the school, and across the street is an addition to the school. On our left lives an elderly lady (in the front house) who enjoys seeing the flowers and in the back is an older man who loves our yard (he being a former hippie). Also, we live in a redevelopment neighborhood considered the poor side of Pasadena.

That doesn’t mean we weren’t labeled as being “weird” – we are. Most of the neighbors call us “different” and when we first mulched over the yard, one of the neighbors a few houses down came rushing over to see what we were doing our grass! *gasp!* Funny thing is, now we are “famous”, having newspaper reporters, TV crews, magazine shoots, city officials, so we’re accepted. You just gotta get written up in a newspaper and everyone’s proud to be your neighbor!

To me, it sounds as though your neighbors are indeed paranoid. We had to deal with problems about homeschooling but only because it was against the law in CA.

When we turned over the front yard, we did all we could to make it visually appealing. One visitor on tour here brought his wife along because she was fixedly against turning over their front lawn and they were having fights about it. When she took one look at our front yard, she instantly relented, because as she said, “it’s beautiful!” Our yard had veggies and fruits and is 98% edible or medicinal, but it’s landscaped. People comment on how pretty it is without even knowing you can eat it.

Also, on everything we do, we strive to make it look nice. For instance, our chicken coop defies all ideas of what a chicken coop should be. I’ve found that most people have this idea of a chicken coop as rusted chicken wire, broken down fences, and corrugated iron. Ours is bamboo and cedar and looks like a screened in porch. Not to boast, but it is absolutely amazing (thanks to my Dad, Jules Dervaes who built and designed it!)

So, I think beginning a work like this is difficult to deal with neighbors as they freak out but once they see how nice it can be, maybe they’ll accept it??? Of course….. that doesn’t always work, I know.

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