Sharing abundance with neighbors

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Fri, Apr 26, 2013 - 1:10pm

Whenever you have too much of something, consider sharing with your neighbors. The usual cliche is gifting your neighbors with your overabundance of tomatoes or zuchinni, but lots of other overages are opportuninties in disguise.

Example: We had too many tomato seedlings. So last week we gave them away to some of the neighbors we'd met on homemade our Christmas cookie neighbor-meeting visits, thus strengthening the frienships. We also have flower bulbs tha thave multiplied beyond our needs, so we potted some up and gave them to another neighbor who is a flower gardener. We have this year's figs ripening and more of last year's fig jam jam than we need, so we took fig jam to the neighbors who have an apiary and exchanged it for an equal amount of honey. And we are about to exchange more fig jam with neighbors hwo have goats and hopefully are into cheese making.

I spent two hours visiting with one nearby family who wanted to get into gardening and pumped me for advice, thanks to our spare tomoato plants. I just got back from the neighbor with the apiary after two hours gabbing in her kithchen; the last time I'd been there I spent my time wih the hisband talking bees. This tie I hung out with the wfe. She's a spry 70-year-old woman who lives in a 108-year-old house; it was like being transported back in time to my Pennsylvania grandpartent's house. I can learn all sorts of neat things from her: we are already sharing recipes and canning tips. Her son took over the honey business when her husband died and they have chickens and a small farm and construction business.

Get to know the people are within easy walking distance of your home. It's really worth it. 


Dwig's picture
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Good one!

Sharing common concerns/issues/goods is probably one of the "core" community building practices.

Another example: I've read of a tool-sharing circle, where neighbors share their "abundance" of tools -- gardening, woodworking, plumbing, sewing etc., so not everyone needs to have all kinds of tools.

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Wendy S. Delmater
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you gotta know them first

Dwig, one of my big buggaboos is what I call Suburban Isloation Syndrome. Nobody knows their neighbor. It's especially bad here in the South since the advent of air conditioning stopped folks from sitting out on the front porch, but I saw it in NY, too. When I moved here four years ago my husband had no clue that the man across the street had died six months ago. I was raised in the culture of Pennsylvania farm country, and find the whole idea of not knowing your neighbors to be dangerous in an emergency, and just plain wrong.

So before you set up a tool exchange you have to get to know your neighbors. Do you?

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Quercus bicolor
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Or is it how you get to know your neighbors

Isn't sharing a good way to get to know your neighbors? 

For us it's eggs.  The chickens always produce more than we can eat.  I sell some at work, but the rest we give away to neighbors, our kids' friends families, etc.

Oliveoilguy's picture
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Plant extra to give away

We used to sell some asperagus to local restaraunts, but found that sharing with friends and bringing extra to church created goodwill that far exceeded the few dollars we got for the produce. Invariably when you grow a big garden you have more than you need. Friends really appreciate going home with a huge bag of chard or spinach and will share when they have extra. 

A commercial farmer could not do this, but a hobby gardener who does not need the income can give a lot to his or her community.

KathyP's picture
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Donate to local food pantry

In our area, "plant an extra row" is customary so that the extra harvest can be donated to the local food pantry, providing a source of fresh food for those who use it.

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Wendy S. Delmater
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Great idea. KathyP

"Plant an extra row" for your local food panrty sounds great. I've worked in food pantries and they never get much in the way of fresh produce!  And there is such need right now. But I am mostly focusing on neigbors since our local pantry is so far away. When I do go there, I bring potatoes.

A funny and related story: My father-in-law is an avid square foot gardener. He rasied five sons growing his own produce and has kept that level of productoin up for over 30 years after the last son moved out. He had so many tomatoes last year he could not give them away, until he put up a container and a sign that people could donate to a charity and take tomatoes. He raised $75 for his charity.

Rector's picture
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I bury my neighbors in vegetables

Sometimes I think they hide and don't answer the door when me and the kids show up with the wagon.  More than anything it gives me a chance to talk to people in the neighborhood that we otherwise just drive by and wave at.  Over the past year, three of those neighbors have started gardens.  Now to get them to watch the Crash Course. . . 

Dwig's picture
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Getting to know you...

Actually, the tool exchange isn't in my neighborhood, it's across town.

So before you set up a tool exchange you have to get to know your neighbors.

I think it depends on the situation.  One way to get to know the neighbors is to start sharing, even if it's only conversation.  If I find that a neighbor has a tool I don't, or needs one I have, sharing could start informally.  (Of course, some level of mutual trust will be needed here, and/or some level of willingness to take risk.  The "getting to know" is an ongoing process, and sharing can be a big contributor to the process.)

Woodman's picture
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sharing help

I have a couple neighbors to count on to tend my animals when I'm out of town, and I do the same for them when they travel.  

jasonw's picture
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We gift plants and seedlings

Whenever the greenhouse is overflowing with too many seedlings and plants starts and we know we won't be able to get them all in the ground, I try to make an effort to give the plants away to new homes.  It is a great way to make new friends and start conversations about gardening and resiliency.  There is usually a plant or two that someone wished they had extra of (herbs especially) and we end up not having to compost all the hard work of starting the seeds. 

Another fun way for us to share the bounty is to have people over for dinners with a "local" theme.  No stress, no fuss dinners were we eat from the garden, chat with neighbors, and learn what the issues are in the neighborhood that folks are dealing with.  By doing the cooking myself, I know the food is getting used and people learn how to use it if they don't already. 

grandefille's picture
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treat & greet

I've lived in my current rural home for 5 years.  I have a cooperative relationship with the neighbors on both sides of my place, but only a passing acquaintance with most others.  In the past year, several homes sold and new folks moved in.  Using up my remaining vacation days in late December, my nieces and I made lots of holiday treats.  They enjoyed learning Grandma's recipes and hearing stories about her.  We packaged most of the treats (after sampling) in small colorful boxes.  Each afternoon I'd knock on doors in the neighborhood and give away a couple of boxes.  Some folks were obviously more interested in conversation than others, and I have had repeated brief contacts with a couple of families.  It helps to have modest expectations.  Small steps are better than nothing, and it was an enjoyable experience for me.

Thrivalista's picture
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Community brought me here

Love, love, love this thread! It was a Google search on "building community" that brought me to these forums in the first place.

We share plants, seeds, garden advice (when asked), produce, some hand tools, and occasional jars of organic homegrown salsa with neighbors. 

@grandfille - you're right, modest expectations help. So far we're still the only house on the street with a front yard garden.  But we're not giving up: I'm reminded of the story I heard as a child, about the Soviet cosmonaut who was interviewed as he was preparing for his first launch into space. They asked him if all systems failed and he knew he only had 30 minutes left to live, what would he do? He said "Work on the systems!"

SagerXX's picture
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Another way to find like-minded folks...

...of the gardening type:  I am still finding my feet after last year moving about 90 minutes away from the community I had painstakingly built since '05.  But my friend (from whom I'm renting an apartment over her detached garage) is involving with a "giving garden" here in Danbury.  Town put up some land, volunteers provide the sweat, and they grow about 2000 pounds of veggies each summer and give it away to food banks, shelters, etc.  I arrived too late in the season last year to really get into it, but planting day is next weekend so I'll be out there.  Working mostly, but meeting and greeting and listening.  Who knows if I'll find somebody who's already on the 3E's path -- or ready to take that red pill?

Then, the weekend after that, it'll be time to get in *my* garden...

Viva -- Sager

Dwig's picture
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Little free libraries

Here's another way to share:  A friend of mine put one up on the sidewalk in front of his home, stocked it with some books he was ready to give away, and found a bunch of new friends.

I'm still in the mulling stage on this, but it seems like it might work in my location...

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