Monday, July 2, 2018

REAL land life - neighbours

We've been fortunate, no matter where we lived, to reside near excellent neighbours. At Gully Grove, over the past decade, has been no exception either. There were the rare few, which - because of their actions, have raised subsequent issues for us to deal with. However, they were willing to make amends and work with us, on solutions. All except one family, but I consider them the rare exception.

I needed that disclaimer, because my desire is to avoid a rant about "bad" neighbours. I haven't really had any. Not truly bad neighbours. This post is about neighbours in relation to your land, however, and how their actions can affect what approach you adopt.

Work continues, on our drystone retaining wall

We were the last to purchase land from the developer. Both our next-door neighbours, purchased their land about a year ahead of us. They seemed to be a decade older, too. We were the young couple with a new family. We all got on well. Neighbours were regarded when they needed help, or when it came to having things like roosters and dogs. We chose to discuss with each other, what we were personally doing, to keep open dialogue and discus any negative impacts.

But then one original owner, sold about a year after we moved in. That particular location, is now on it's second set of new neighbours. The other (original owner) just sold recently. We met the new neighbours, after their 3 enormous great Danes, wondered into our yard, and started to harass our chickens.

Which brings me to what changes have occurred on our land, due to our neighbours.

  • How water flows downstream. We love it when neighbours want to hold water back, especially upstream. However, they have to do it right, or risk increasing erosion on their neighbour's land, should their efforts fail. 

  • Earthworks. Moving earth requires a degree of knowledge, so as not to cause land slips or funnel water onto neighbouring properties. Consider potential dam sites, should they burst and effect your infrastructure.

  • Noise pollution. Music, machinery, motorbikes, fighting cats and barking dogs.

  • Reduced wildlife populations. Noise pollution, and increased carnivore load, has impacted the native wildlife, present on our land. The numbers have reduced, in direct proportion with other people's domestic animals increasing. Which means less diversity migrating to our landscape, and leaving beneficial fertility behind.

  • Loss of greenery and natural sequences. The more people who move here, the more changes the shared landscape, has to carry. Water pathways are interrupted, and increased infrastructure, creates more water run-off. Running water is an eroding force. So natural sequences are more out of balance - sequences, vital to establishing greenery and providing stability in the landscape.

So, even when your neighbours are decent people, don't be surprised when they impact your landscape. So consider in your property design, vulnerable areas between you and your neighbours. Especially anything that runs upstream, from you. Whether water, or earth displacement, or their wandering animals, consider how you may have to change how you're managing your landscape, to compensate.

 Visiting, male King Parrot

Also, don't be surprised if your neighbours change hands, multiple times. So you're left with a mishmash of ideas, no-one stuck around to see if they worked. It will impact your landscape too. So if moving to the country, means peace and tranquility - be sure to buy more land than five acres. Because larger parcels of land, have fewer neighbours to develop the shared landscape. Be aware however, the larger parcel of land, the more responsibility involved in managing it (for you).

Ironically, we came here for peace, tranquility, native wildlife and distance from over-development. That has changed over the years. We simply have to make the best of the situation, we can. But if you're in a position of setting up (on however many acres) consider your neighbour placement, and how you can design your property for a change of guard(s).

This can be done by:

  • Note the sensitive areas between neighbours - upstream and downstream. Avoid infrastructure development, in those areas. Designate those sensitive areas, as "sacrificial" zones. So when change occurs, it won't impact your hard work.

  • Correct house placement in relation to all neighbours. Regardless how nice they may be, neighbours can change hands, or have a change of heart, with former agreements

  • Access roads, or easements which may be mandated on your land - avoid development in those areas, at the very least. Avoid purchasing land with those existing entitlements, altogether. It's will test relations, if neighbours, or third parties with interests on those roads and easements, decide to take advantage - and it effects your operation.

  • Site house and infrastructure, as far away as possible, from property boundaries. So neighbour development cannot encroach on solar access, privacy, or risk damaging structures on your property, should any trees on their side of the fence, fall.

  • Even on acreage, site your house where it can be shielded on all sides from: noise pollution, wind and water; all entering from neighbouring properties.

This list is not about avoiding neighbours, its more about sensible planning for permanence, in the face of change that will occur. There is nothing more permanent than your house, and hopefully, your land. So plan with these things in mind. Because you cannot "undo" infrastructure placement, once they start building around you.


  1. We have bad neighbours for the first time in our lives, problems have been increasing for 6 years, I understand your pain.

    1. It's a challenge. Especially when you work so hard to establish your home base.

  2. Excellent advice, Chris. Been through all those issues. The saying, "you can choose your friends, but not your neighbours", comes to mind.

    People will say they move to large properties because they like the peace and quiet, the space, the birds and the trees, and then proceed to destroy it all with vegetation clearing and general 'suburban' behaviour. Dogs are allowed to roam, because it's not seen as a problem and Councils are sometimes indifferent to complaints.

    I have good neighbours here, in the sense that they are nice people, but still they clear vegetation (then ride around on their ride-ons, mowing grass all weekend)and let their dogs roam. They still want suburbia, but big suburbia. They don't come to preserve vegetation and wildlife habitat. Most of them haven't bothered to put in food gardens, despite having the space to do so. They are suburbanites, not ecologists.

    1. As an ex-suburbanite, now a local here for over a decade, I'm familiar with the stages of adjustment. The first few years are exciting, then at four years, you start to wonder if you were mad for leaving. Then at around 8-10 years, you really notice how much you're part of the landscape. Even if you thought you wanted to leave, you wouldn't know how to contemplate the separation.

      The changes you see though. Most who move here, end up leaving under a decade. 2-5 years. They never make the kind of life changes required, to adapt to living in such a different location. Which is unfortunate, because it can change you in positive ways, if you let it. :)

  3. What an excellent post! Used to be we worried only if the neighbors music was too loud or the BBQ party went on too late. Now, the wrong neighbor, or the right neighbor who is unaware of environmental actions and consequences can make life tough. Our nearest neighbor is 1.5 miles away but we do often struggle with the folks who farm adjoining land. They use chemicals to grow food fast for others, while we use no chemicals to grow food healthy, for ourselves. Often the two worlds clash

    1. I often wondered how your growing style, met with the surrounding farmland, on your new property. I think I'd want to grow a lot of sacrificial trees on the property line, to catch all that spray drift. I'm sure there are a few inappropriate words, whispered, at times, lol.

      I've said my fair share. ;)

  4. Here in suburbia, our home is nestled between neighbours on three sides. Two sets of neighbours are friendly and we chat and swap stuff over our fencelines, our other neighbours keep to themselves and that's okay. Down both our side fences, on our neighbours' sides, run some quite tall trees and across part of our back fenceline there is a lilipilli hedge, planted by our back neighbours too. These trees create issues relating to water and nutrients, sucked up by the roots of these trees. I choose to see them though in a positive light as they create beauty, shade, privacy and they attract birds too. The plane trees, down one side, also provide us with a wonderful compost addition when they lose their dry and crackly leaves each Winter. All our neighbours are quiet folk and this is lovely too....not sure how I'd go with noisy neighbours as that would be very hard for someone who loves peace and quiet so much. Meg Xx

    1. Quiet folk. Meg, you're so lucky to have such considerate neighbours. To have them in suburbia as well, is another exceptionally rare treat. I will vicariously live through your peace and tranquility, lol. ;)

    2. I'll try to channel some peace your way, Chris!

  5. Good post Chris, and so true. Right now our neighbors on both sides are renters, which means frequent changes and multiple problems to deal with, mostly to protect our livestock. It's amazing how many kids want to throw things at goats. Another problem we have is that even though we aren't inside town limits, we aren't truly rural in terms of other houses and neighbors. However, folks think that because they aren't in town they are in the country and let their dogs roam. Bad news! Our solution has been fences and privacy hedges. Your approach to neighbors is level headed and logical, as it should be.

    1. I can imagine, Leigh. I've experienced a bit of roaming dog syndrome, in relation to our chickens, over the years. They're safe, in their respective accommodations, but the stress can put them off the lay. I imagine a similar effect can be felt, in milk production. Which would make it frustrating, as goats are a lot more expensive to house/fence in than chickens! You can go to so much effort, only to have a casual neighbour with a "casual" attitude towards their animals, make life more challenging.

      I like your idea with privacy hedges. :)


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