Robert Frost’s poem, Mending Wall, poses an interesting question about whether “good fences make good neighbors.”
On one hand, there are several advantages to having your property surrounded by a fence, especially if you or your neighbors have dogs or small children running around.
If you happen to have a vegetable garden or fruit trees in your backyard, a well-constructed fence can also help keep out ravenous deer, rabbits, raccoons, skunks, foxes, and other wildlife.
There’s no doubt that fences can serve a variety of useful purposes, ranging from privacy and safety to wildlife control and home security. While it can be beneficial to mark off your property boundaries and keep your backyard private, a question to consider is whether a large fence — especially a new one — sends the wrong message to your neighbors. Striking the perfect balance between privacy and friendly neighbor relations can be tricky at times, but there are compelling reasons to stay on good terms.
- Security reasons: If you take the time to chat with your neighbors every now and then, they’ll have more of a tendency to keep an eye on your property when you’re on vacation or just away for the day — especially if you ask them. People tend to be more helpful, observant, and protective of others with whom they share a bond or have a sense of community. In contrast to that, if they don’t even know your name and haven’t exchanged more than a few words with you in years, they’ll be less inclined to pay attention to who’s on your property and whether they belong there or not.
- Sharing resources: Keeping the lines of communication open with your neighbors is beneficial on many levels. When you have a friendly, ongoing relationship, you won’t feel reluctant to ask them for help when your car battery’s dead and you’re running late for work. Trusted neighbors can also provide you with valuable information, such the names of dependable home improvement contractors or how to arrange a free pickup of household clutter that you want to donate to the Salvation Army.
- Quality of life: When you’re regularly greeted by friendly neighbors, your neighborhood will feel like more of a welcoming and upbeat place to live. It may be necessary for you to set the example or make the first move, but once a friendly atmosphere has been created in a neighborhood, it’s relatively easy to keep it going.
So while you may not want your neighbors to get in the habit of stopping by your home to chew the fat, every day, it can be worth your while to greet them by name, offer help whenever possible, and be the kind of good neighbor you’d like them to be. Setting a positive example may be all that’s needed to establish a cooperative relationship and possibly even a life-long friendship. And, if all else fails, keep in mind the words of Benjamin Franklin: “Love thy neighbor, but don’t pull down your hedge!”