Tag Archives: Suburbs

Boundaries make good neighbors

Suburbs have a multitude of boundaries, both physical and socioeconomic. Setting apart the obvious societal lines between inner cities and suburbs, let’s discuss those physical boundaries today in honor of the WordPress weekly photo challenge.

There are streets, of course. Then curb and gutter (two boundaries if we’re counting). Boulevards are nice, and for dog walkers like me and the adorable schnauzer, sidewalks are useful. 

Now we’re at the property line. We’ve got a nice, usually green buffer in the yard. An upscale suburban house certainly has landscaping around the house — bushes, usually, and maybe pretty flowers, as here in this tony Detroit suburb’s clear signage at the subdivision entrance (we’re visiting a friend here in Motor City). Don’t forget the rocks or mulch, and if you’re very particular, plastic edging between the mulch and the grass.

Finally, we get to such boundaries as siding, walls and doors.

Whew! After reading a novel set in 19th century London where the protagonist finds himself poverty-stricken and grateful to find a job that includes housing in the form of a cot with a blanket in a dormitory, I’m pretty grateful for modern boundaries. I’m glad I can’t hear my neighbor snoring.

Hope in the form of cement and two-by-fours, beauty in the hot air

This morning’s tally:

  • 3.48 miles
  • 14 houses under construction
  • 4 new houses or duplexes completed since the beginning of the year
  • 2 hot air balloons

I decided to monitor the new home construction in my neighborhood this morning as I ran a circle around my house. It was eye-opening.

My house sits in the midst of a subdivision on the edge of the “old” part of town — old meaning pre-1990, when little Hampshire sat on the edge of the prairie. The houses on my street were constructed in the boom years, roughly 1995-2005, when Hampshire sat at the edge of suburbia.

A dozen other empty subdivisions dot Hampshire’s landscape. They have streets and curbs and gutters and street lights, advertising promise and hope pre-2008, when new home construction came to an abrupt halt.

I’ve lived in Hampshire for eight years, and in the past seven, I’ve seen only a handful of new homes built along those empty roads.

But the times, they are a changin’.

I was out-of-town for five weeks, and when I came back, three lots with only dandelions last month now sport insulation board on wooden skeletons above cement foundations. Houses are growing! The trickle that began at the beginning of the year has become a wave. Besides the 14 structures under construction (just on my side of town!), there’s a lot of earth moving happening on at least a half-dozen other lots.

It is evidence of the rebounding housing market, and it’s thrilling. Not because I think the world needs more houses that look like every other one on the block but because people build houses because they have jobs and new babies and hope! And a rising tide raises all boats. Maybe the value of my house will someday equal what I paid for it.

I also saw two hot air balloons as I huffed and puffed down the asphalt in my hot pink running shoes. They were so far away, I couldn’t even tell you what color the balloons were, but they were distinctive against the absolutely clear blue horizon, hanging like Christmas ornaments in the stillness of dawn.

They were beautiful.

It’s the cucumber time of year

neighbors cucOne cucumber plant is enough. Maybe even one too many.

Like my side of the closet where my clothes tend to creep into my Beloved’s side, our cucumber plant is invading my neighbor’s space.

While mowing the lawn this morning, I noticed a number of juicy cucumbers hanging on the neighbor’s side of the fence. I surreptitiously picked them anyway.

This is probably a violation of property law (forgive me, Roxi), but I figured there’d be new cucumbers growing big and juicy on their side of the fence tomorrow.

I’m 100% sure of this potential bounty because I braved the dusk mosquitoes (they’re smaller than Minnesota ones but no less pesky) to sneak over to where the grass is greener (the other side) to take pictures for this blog and I found this medium-sized gem already growing there, only 8 hours since my pass with the mower.

I like fresh cucumbers, but I can eat only so many of them, and unlike my grape tomatoes, I can’t roast them. Let me know if I can pilfer any of the cucumbers that may rightly be my neighbor’s for you.

Neighbors with distinction

A good neighbor is a fellow who smiles at you over
the back fence, but doesn’t climb over it.

— Arthur Baer

We are blessed with good neighbors.

When we returned home from our 10-week sojourn on Sunday, the former owner of our house — who now lives down the street and with whom we are friends (we do have the same taste in houses, after all) called us within 90 minutes to check in (he could hardly miss the 38-foot motor home in the driveway). I was welcomed home on Facebook by several neighbors. As I walked around the neighborhood this morning, I was greeted by two more neighbors.

In his neighborly way, Tyler checked in with both next-door neighbors who kept watch over our residence while we were gone. I hear more than a couple of neighbors chipped in on snow removal in front of our house when two feet of snow fell during the blizzard on the first of February. It’s a good thing, it turned out, because Tyler made an emergency trip home from Texas two weeks later, and he might not have made it to the garage to even find a shovel without their help.

Though I sometimes complain about Hampshire’s lack of character in the sense of its individuality, this little village has an abundance of character in the way of its individual residents’ integrity and consideration.

Thanks for good neighbors.

Toast to mosquito coast

If Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes, then my northern Illinois neighborhood is the Plain of 10 Puny Ponds.

Eight retention ponds stand within three blocks of my house, one of them practically in my back yard. The aerial view of my back yard reveals the single pond I’m imagining to actually be three little puddles with trees and marsh disguising the edges.

We’ve received a lot of rain lately — already 3.59 inches just this month, and we’re only 4 days in — so I suppose I should be glad all that water has somewhere to go besides my basement. But as lovely as these bodies of water seem with their reeds billowing in the breeze, they’re really just breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Really, why do you suppose Minnesota’s unofficial state bird is the mosquito? It’s not because Minnesotans have more succulent blood — it’s because there are a lot of places for those pests to procreate. Ten thousand lakes? Any Minnesotan worth his salt will tell you there are more like 15,000 or 20,000 bodies of water within our borders; “10,000” just sounds good.

And besides the mosquitoes, the frogs are plentiful around here. Teeny ones, big ones and a lot of flat-as-a-pancake dead ones, which my dog always seems to nose out along our walks no matter where the poor amphibian met its demise. According to my online go-to source, Yahoo.Answers, frogs eat mosquito larvae so I guess the food chain here is in working order.

Mosquitoes are a delicacy for another disgusting creature: Bats. I thought I left bats behind when I moved out of my little house in Minnesota by the Mississippi River, but no. My Beloved often sees bats flying around our Illinois residence at night. I heard from my ex today that the house by the river still has bats, and he’s considering one-way bat doors to shoo them away from our renters. Yuck.

Same bat time, same bat channel; some things never change.

The freedom to be crass

It’s Memorial Day, and I celebrated it by doing as little as possible. I considered walking a few blocks to see my nephew march in the Hampshire Memorial Day parade, but it was thundering and lightning at 10 a.m. so I abandoned that idea.

My Beloved raised Old Glory in front of our house in honor of the day. Some of our neighbors also hung flags. They were a nice Americana touch in our little cookie-cutter neighborhood with the perfectly manicured lawns and hanging flower baskets on the porches.

As I ran around town early this morning (yeah, couldn’t sleep on this lovely little vacation Monday), I ran past a house with little American flags planted every two feet around the perimeter of the yard. This homeowner also had a flag flying by his front door, but apparently that wasn’t enough — he needed 36 little icons of freedom lining his property like a dotted line: “Cut here for a coupon to crass.”

Perhaps each of these flags represented something or someone to this homeowner. But I doubt it. He just doesn’t know when to stop — if a little is good, a lot must be better. And gosh, they were such a deal at Wal-Mart!

But symbols of patriotism aren’t like meatballs on spaghetti (or perhaps I should use a more American analogy … like poppy seeds on a Chicago-style hotdog). We don’t need more symbols. We need more action. Do you vote? Do you pay your taxes? Do you thank individual members of the armed forces? Do you appreciate your freedom to speak, worship and bear arms, and do you tolerate your fellow Americans who do the same?

While I don’t think Mr. Perimeter of Flags has much taste in lawn ornamentation, I appreciate that he and I have the freedom to celebrate the day differently.

I salute … well, I salute at least one of your flags.