I recently posted a pic of the gutters and downspout Dan installed on our neighbor's overhang pouring rainwater into our new cistern. The overwhelming response on Facebook was, "Good neighbors!" And Dave certainly is a good neighbor. But it was also mutually beneficial. Directing that water into the cistern prevented unwanted erosion in his yard. This story not only illustrates the importance of having a good relationship with your neighbors, but also how interconnected we are.
Nature knows no boundaries. What grows in the neighbors' yard, may end up in ours. This morning I found a branch with pine cones on our side of the fence. We don't have a pine tree. But I benefited by using the pine needles in our compost pit! If only we could replace our eucalyptus tree with a tree that would drop leaves that would nourish the soil.
Last night, a gust of wind dropped a branch from our eucalyptus tree onto our neighbor's roof. They say good fences make good neighbors. But if you have one of those "widow makers" it's better to have open communication with your neighbor! A friend shared how his neighbors got mad because he took out a tree that shaded their yard. So we discussed the tree situation with our neighbors over the fence.
A big downpour (not to mention birds) also spreads seeds. Weeds don't stop on the property line. If allowed to go to seed, they will spread throughout the neighborhood. That's why I sometimes venture into my neighbor's yard and pull out the sticker weeds. And Dave always thanks me.
I recently pulled the native grass that lines Dave's sidewalk and replanted it in our street-side catchment basin. Again, it's mutually beneficial. (The roots of the native grass work with the woodchip mulch to create a sponge to hold the water longer. The grass also helps prevent erosion from big storms.)
There is a right of way on our block that is covered with highly flammable, invasive buffelgrass. Just after it rains, I have been known to get out there with my little shovel and pull up what I can by the roots before they go to seed and spread throughout the neighborhood. If I see one popping up in someone's right of way, I simply bend down and pull it out. It's good exercise.
My husband likes to call me "The Crazy Weed Lady." Not sure if that has caught on with the other neighbors yet. They might be calling me "Annoying Moringa Woman" or "Edible Weed Gal" or "Water Schlepper." Anyone who walks their dog past our house may be privy to an unsolicited lecture on the benefits of our rainwater harvesting basins or get a taste of the moringa or purslane growing in our yard. Sure, this might be annoying for some, but others have caught on and implemented rainwater harvesting in their own yards. One neighbor even planted some of our purslane seeds in her yard. I think it's worth it.
I hope my lessons on edible weeds have kept some people from spraying Roundup. The herbicide some people spray all over their right of way doesn't just stay in their yards either. It is washed down the street in the rain. It sinks into the ground. Roundup has been detected in aquifers! That's a problem because, here in Tucson, we store our drinking water in our aquifer. The aquifer is only 5-8 feet below property near rivers. We even encourage people near rivers to put catchment basins in their yards to replenish the aquifer.
Rainwater doesn't always stay in one yard either. It often runs into the street or even into a neighbor's yard causing erosion and damage to the foundation of houses. But we can put in catchment basins to slow down, spread out and sink in that water in our yard to use on our native landscaping. If your street is at the bottom of the watershed, neighbors can work together to put in street-side green infrastructure to protect and shade the neighborhood.
We can have beautiful, cooler, green neighborhoods. We just need to take a lesson from the rain and connect with our neighbors.