For the last Tiny Tuesday of the year, I’m revisiting a topic from six months ago, when I moved into a new house. Architect Ross Chapin recommends ten strategies for making any neighborhood into a great community. I strive to enact many of them; here’s my report card so far.
Strategy 1: Dine in your front yard. We have a lovely old porch swing and we eat breakfast and dinner on it when weather permits, using a wooden bench as a table. Sometimes folks we know will walk by, creating interactions that wouldn’t happen if we’d stayed in.
Strategy 2: Plant a front-yard vegetable garden. This is a possibility for next year. Our front yard is on the sunny south side of the property, but there are rabbits in the neighborhood, and I would prefer not to put a fence around such a visible garden. We did plant a front-yard cherry tree (a housewarming gift from friends).
Strategy 3: Create a welcoming front porch. We live on a thoroughfare through town and our porch is quite visible from the street, but it needs a few structural repairs and a fresh coat of paint to really invite neighbors in. We had lots of visitors on Halloween, and we put up lights for the holidays.
Strategy 4: Create layers of privacy. Our first floor is slightly raised, so despite our proximity to the street it’s actually very difficult to see inside the house from outside. Guests who park behind the house must pass through a gate and traverse a fenced-in portion of the yard to reach our back door.
Strategy 5: Eliminate backyard fences. We have a very see-through split rail fence on our north property line, and none at all on the east side. The west side has a 7-foot privacy fence, so speaking to those neighbors is reminiscent of Wilson from Home Improvement. Neighbors cross our lawn to visit or play. (We inherited a swing set, which is popular with nearby kids.)
Strategy 6: Build a Little Free Library. We are unlikely to do this since our town library is only a quarter mile away.
Strategy 7: Host a block party. The side street nearest to us had one this fall! Prior plans prevented us from attending, but we heard there was a parade, a barbeque, and flashlight tag. We have great neighbors!
Strategy 8: Develop an emergency plan. We’ve traded contact info with our neighbors and told them to call or knock anytime they need anything.
Strategy 9: Create an online forum. This was easy. In the last five years nearly every community in Vermont has started an online mailing list through a platform called Front Porch Forum. Ours is no exception.
Strategy 10: Be a good neighbor. We chose our mailbox location to appease several neighbors (and we relocated it several times). Neighbors have offered tools and their own time to help us with yardwork. We don’t need a lawnmower because a teenager two doors down takes care of it. We invite each other over for dinner parties and exchange goodies for the holidays. It’s the epitome of small-town America.