Our Florida neighbors, E.R. and his wife, finally made the plunge this spring, folded up their business, sold their other properties and moved with their 30-something year-old daughter into this house (the one in our neighborhood). E.R. is not a man of leisure. He has been spending much of his retirement clearing the vegetation by the branch (spraying tons of round-up into the branch that flows into the creek which flows into the river which is our regional water supply). He burns things often--mostly vegetation he has cleared, native river cane and underbrush and the occasional large tree limb that wasn't angled exactly right. He mows, weeds, plants, fertilizes. His yard is a showplace. He has also, it seems, staked a potential foundation for the garage he told Paul he wants to build: four-car with an apartment above for his daughter. And he's turning his nice screened porch (which is not entirely necessary in the mountains but is a lovely thing to have in the evenings I would think)...into a Florida room. Oh, yes. Bringing a little Florida with him to NC.
The schoolteacher's brother was able to get into his house very quickly, as it was a modular and went up fast. He has also built a large storage shed right on (and possibly over) the lot line. In the middle of his back yard he put a good-sized gas tank, with which to supply his appliances and furnace. It's not up next to the house or buried underground or in an out-of-the-way spot: it's just out there in the back. Next to the dog pen. Not far away are a trampoline and a badminton net. These are for the kids (she has one from a previous marriage, he has two from a previous marriage; his visit on weekends, hers is there all week), which is good, except that the kids spend most of their time (my formerly quiet weekends) riding dirt bikes and ATVs up and down the road.
He also keeps his huge power-washing equipment (his side business) and several vehicles in his driveway. To his credit, the man is a hard worker--he's gone from early morning to dinner six days a week and works constantly around the house in the evenings and Sunday. He has added front and back porches himself and created planting beds around the porches and the gas tank.
In fact, he's created a bit of a competition for his sister and brother-in-law. Since the brother moved in, sis has been sprucing up her place. After six years of doing no more than planting three small trees, they've put in their own back deck, a new shed, planting beds, flowering planters on the front porch, hanging baskets and all.
I say it's a competition because it all has a one-upmanship quality to it. Brother put in a shed and porches. Sister put in a shed and deck. Brother put in planters and hanging baskets. A couple of weeks later sister has new planters and hanging baskets.
It goes further, and this I find kind of funny. Sister has a pontoon boat (has had it for a while). After being away for Memorial Day weekend, Brother came back with a brand-new, much bigger pontoon boat. And topped it off with two new jet-skis. (When Paul told him a while back that he was lucky to have a boat in the family, the brother said that one wasn't big enough. I suppose not.)
Of course, since our view is into their back yard, we get to look at all that stuff, instead of the wildflowers that once grew there. Sigh.
Now, on top of the hill behind us, there are two more new houses. One is not quite three lots away (our extra lot and a vacant one, and then a good portion of their lot was unbuildable). It's a nice enough house, a lovely Cape Cod with a porch. They're high up, so they have an incredible view, especially with all the clearing they did. But that's okay, I guess, since they're replacing the native forest with many cultivated plantings (I'm being sarcastic, but they really are trying to make it look nice with flowering trees and a split-rail fence). They seem like decent people, and they throw up a friendly wave when they pass by. My only complaint with them is that they drive by way too fast for our tiny road, our children, and our dog. But then again, they may not like that our dog is loose much of the time (he's really an indoor dog, but we let him out regularly for his rounds) and barks at them as they go by so fast.
Then much further, nearly to the top of the hill, on the lot that Paul and I were interested in when we first discovered the neighborhood, another house, under construction. A nice house, which is taking a very long time to build. I think the man is building it himself--not just contracting himself but actually building a good portion of it himself with the help of his friend/brother/I'm-not-sure. He is a builder by trade for one of those large scale building companies working on neighborhoods full of grand vacation homes and so this house, for his family, must be done in his spare time. He should be nearing completion in a few months, though, or so it appears.
Our quiet, peaceful neighborhood of three houses, only two of them with full-time occupants (including ours), has become a neighborhood of six houses, five of which are occupied full-time.
It's not too bad, however. I can still see Old Man Stephens hay the field next door. I can walk up the hill and at times not see a single house. I can sit on the porch at night sometimes and listen to the creek and the peepers, look out at the fireflies in the trees in the knoll behind E.R.'s, and watch every morning the changing cloud-and-light show on the mountains above Moses Creek.