Friday, August 13, 2010

Help a Neighbor, Get a Hearth

We love our neighborhood--before we had even moved to Albuquerque we had met more neighbors than in 3 years of living in Austin. I think if we had not planted the parkway garden in Austin, we would have only known a handful of folks near our home.

Now we know most of the folks in our block by name and we're starting to help each other out. From the get-go the fellow across the street has been a boon to our renovating project. He is a skilled craftsman in just about any area of homebuilding. Without his help and supervision we would not be in the house and it would not have turned out so fabulous. I mean, we have some skills, but look at what happened when we tried to lay the brick floors without having had someone show us the ropes:

Can you make out the broken bricks and how the floor undulates? We were pretty satisfied with the "rustic look" until he showed us how it is done:

Beautiful, right? Well we learned a thing or two and redid our first attempt and it looks indescribably better. Knowledge is one thing one can glean from a willing neighbor. The other is chickens.

Sadly our fabulous home-schooling neighbors down the street are planning to move out of state. They put their house on the market and were wondering what to do with their three chickens. We offered to take them and when we had a tractor here for one of our projects, we just swung on by and picked up the coop and our feathered friends. Easy peasy. Their kids still come by to see the girls and we even babysit for them from time to time. A great relationship.

My job last school year was about 20 miles south of our house, so imagine my surprise when I come home and Mr. DLT tells me our neighbor's nephew is in my class! (It turns out New Mexico is full of these connections, but that's for another post.) So, through this neighborhood connection and the marketing wizardry of my student, his stepdad did our stucco work.

Two lovely sisters up the street walk and take the bus everywhere, so I see them often when I'm out in the "yard." One had a homestead in Texas and commented once that our property reminded her of that time. She's also started tomato plants for us (they didn't make it) and will let me know about any good deals at the market while on her way home. Really sweet women.

This brings us to yesterday. We all know the economy is not doing well. A lot of people are unemployed (including me at present) and looking to piece together work. My neighbor is no exception. An excellent mason, he has had his own business for several years but the building slowdown has taken its toll. We needed a hearth for our woodstove and hired him to do the job. We purchased the materials and paid him for his labor and look at what he built!

We couldn't be happier and I almost want the temperature to drop so we can fire up the woodstove and sit on the hearth with a nice cup of tea. The black rectangle is a register that will (hopefully) bring warm air to the bathroom. And look at the corners--what craftsmanship!  Despite a bit of a language barrier, we got to know each other better, he was happy for the work and we are happy with our hearth. A win-win for the neighborhood.

How would you describe your relationship with your neighbors?

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