Four years ago next week, we moved into this wonderful house. I should say, we took over the care of this house, for there is always something that needs to be done - but we love it! But then, when the work is done for the day, there are lots of places and opportunities to sit down and enjoy the fruits of our labors. Like this spot in the front yard, looking out toward the pond. I just love this elm tree stump table/ottoman we were left with when the elm tree was cut down. Every time I come up the driveway, it reminds me to slow down, take a breath, put my feet up and enjoy the scenery. Even when I don't have the time to stop, it's also a lovely reminder that this house is a haven for me.
One of the very best things that came with this house, though, was the neighbors. Almost as soon as we moved in, we were faced with a dilemma -- how to get the huge moving van down the narrow tree-lined country lanes and then through the trees surrounding our house. Our chainsaw was in the moving van.
Cancel that emergency! Down the driveway and through the trees, Kenny appeared from across the street, as if on cue, with his chainsaw. In no time at all, with Kenny's help, Dean was able to remove branches and other obstacles, so that the van driver could craftily maneuver his way to our door.
We still have more than enough trees left around here to enclose and define our property, something we really loved about this place when we found it. Rather than work as a barrier though, our trees seem to draw people in, especially our neighbors. When we were working against the clock to get everything ready for Grant and Kristen's wedding in our yard, we absolutely could not have done it without help. We had lots of help from family -- Steve came down from Chicago and made quick work of several projects on my list. Denise labored for weeks in the gardens, turning them into dazzling displays of color. Gail and Megan were willing workers when I needed extra hands for window washing and craft projects. Jeff hauled and spread a mountain of mulch (his least favorite project for four years running!) and felled the elm tree whose stump now serves so well.
All at once though, as the day of the wedding all too rapidly approached, all of our neighbors showed up spontaneously to help us, and each other, finish up the tasks that were behind schedule due to the endless winter and spring rains.
Jake and Aina, who live on the other side of our pond with their two adorable kids and a menagerie of cats, dogs and horses, loaned us their tractor to move dirt to fill in holes.
Dan, our over-the-creek-and-through-the-woods neighbor, and a former 4-H championship tractor driver, came to demonstrate his skills by scooping dirt and delivering it to the holes and ruts left by tree-cutters and dock-builders .
Jim, the Gate-Keeper at the entrance of our little street, was here to drive his lawn roller around the whole yard to stabilize the acres of marsh-like soil and settle some chunks of zoysia sod that Kenny, the Game-Keeper/Master-Gardener, who keeps an eye on the wildlife in our woods across from his house, had donated from his new patio/gazebo project. Jim broke the hitch when he tried to pull up a stump in the yard. Not to worry though! Kenny came to his rescue and completed the stump job. Next thing we knew, Jim was mowing Kenny's grass. The two of them take great pleasure in a cooperative effort maintaining their own beautiful lawns, and the large lot between their houses, with the velvety perfection of a golf course.
Oh yeah -- where was Tom Sawyer, while the all the neighbors were doing his work? Dean was working with yet another neighbor, Scott-the-Electrician, who was here to run miles of electrical wire from the front corner of our yard, through some woods, around the house, behind the pool, and out to the area where the caterers were setting up the reception tent.
While this may not have been a typical day on our little country lane, it was typical of the generous spirit of those who live here, just outside the trees that surround us. These people, who began as our neighbors by the proximity of our house to theirs, are now our close friends. They have been from the very beginning -- the day we moved in and Kenny showed up with a chainsaw, just when we needed him.
Oh! Did I mention that Kenny also baked a pie for us that first day too? Isn't this place just a goldmine of talented neighbors -- and friends!
Here's the recipe for Kenny's latest culinary accomplishment - the Rhubarb Bread Pudding he made for dessert the other night when we had our Friends of Alaska Dinner at Dan and Dianna's.
KENNY'S RHUBARB BREAD PUDDING
1 1/2 c. milk
2 eggs slightly beaten
4 slices Oat Nut Bread, toasted and cubed
1 1/2 - 2 c. rhubarb
1 c. sugar
1/2 - 1 tsp. cinnamon
Mix eggs and milk. Add toast cubes, rhubarb, sugar, and cinnamon. Pour into buttered casserole dish. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for one hour, or until custard is set. Serve with cream, whipped cream, or ice cream, if desired -- my idea, though it is perfectly delicious without any embellishment.