Sometimes Community is Just Across the Fence

Lately I’ve been reading a lot about Blue Zones, the handful of places on Earth where people tend to live the longest. Westernization is changing the shape of some of these zones (McDonald’s is now thriving in Okinawa, Japan) but the lessons of longevity tend to remain the same – eat well, move your body, find purpose in your life, and surround yourself with community.

Angie and I have been eating a mostly plant-based diet for a few years now. We try to be active, though I know there’s certainly room for improvement in that area. Purpose in life is something I continually struggle with. Though I am happy in most respects, I do not think this is where or what my life is supposed to be, especially with regard to work and family. So that leaves community…something we have yet to find in the 5 years that we’ve lived in TN. Virtual community, yes. Actual community, not so much.

We tried volunteering in areas that we feel passionate about – food waste, hunger elimination, environmental causes, etc. We also tried community activities and groups. There was even a minimalist group that met once. ONCE! We’re not religious so church is not really an option – not that there are any LGBT-friendly churches in our town anyway (I looked). I even considered joining a caregiver’s support group, but nope, there’s not one of those around here either. And with COVID-19 restrictions in place, all of our homesteading meetups have been cancelled and the library is still not hosting many activities.

Family, in a lot of Blue Zones, provides community as well, but I come from a fragmented family (to put it mildly). I’m the central hub in a wheel of people who can’t be in the same room with one another. It’s dysfunctional, I know (and a story for another day). Irregardless, Angie and I function pretty well and we’d like to keep doing so for a long time to come. Thus, the search for community continues. We want to meet and commune with folks who share our love of the simpler things in life, travel, minimalism, good food, and the great outdoors.

Little did we know, there was one such person right next door…

In late 2018, my mom’s longtime neighbors moved out and a new neighbor moved in. Over the next year, we exchanged a few pleasantries with the new neighbor but not much more. We thought she might be a bit of a recluse. This year, our new neighbor has been spending a lot of time outside, sitting under the pear tree, buried in her laptop. She rarely looked up, so again, we thought she just wasn’t that social.

Then one day in May, we were grocery shopping when a woman approached us, waving as if she knew us, and asked if we got our plants covered before the previous night’s freeze. It took me several minutes to figure out that she was my mom’s neighbor. For a long time, we stood in the aisle (out of traffic, of course) and talked. Turns out, she spent all of 2019 renovating the mess inside the house she bought. The previous owners had 3 little boys under the age of 5 and a preteen girl, all living in what once was a 2-bedroom home (they later converted the garage to a bedroom), so needless to say, it was a mess. This year, she was trying to spend more time where she loved to be – outdoors – and all that time on the computer? She recently went back to school.

The first indication that we might be more alike than we once thought was when she put 2 raised beds in her backyard. The next clue, was the chicken coop. You have no idea how long Angie has wanted to put chickens in the backyard! We’ve spent several afternoons chatting across the fence with her and have learned that we share a lot of common interests besides gardening. She loves to travel. She shops the Farmer’s Market. She is super frugal – in fact, she’s not even working right now. She’s a do-it-yourself kind of person. She hikes, paddles, and loves the same parks we do. She recently adopted a little dog to keep it out of the shelter and she once went to Africa to help hand out medical supplies, so I surmise she’s a caring sort of soul.

This week, she was canning pickles and tomatoes outside under a tent. Having just finished a round of pickles ourselves, we popped over for a chat and learned that she had bought a box of tomatoes and cucumbers from the Mennonites in Kentucky for $10/each. Oddly enough, we had just spent the better part of that very morning searching for the Mennonite store, with zero luck. And so it was decided that we would ALL go to Kentucky together next week – a girls’-day-out road trip – and load up her truck with (hopefully) a lot of goodies.

We’re both pretty happy to have found someone that we can have fun with and needless to say, we’re excited to get to know our “new” neighbor even better.

**That is if she doesn’t kill me first. You see, in the middle of writing this post, I ran over her water meter with the lawnmower. It was a freak accident. I was going around a bush on the property line when something stung me. Next thing you know, I was cutting across the neighbor’s yard, taking the water meter with me. She’s out of town right now but I have called the water company for a replacement, which I will definitely pay for if there’s a charge. This has been an awfully expensive year for bites and stings!

Have a Seat, Let’s Catch Up

First things first – I promise that a tour of our new apartment is forthcoming. Angie is back from Texas and we have finally started settling in. As you can see from the picture above, Caesar wasted no time in finding a new resting spot. We’ve been gardening, canning a few pickles and tomatoes, and one morning, we even went to the pool.

The tops of our new cabinets make great storage!

The hold up on the home tour isn’t our own busyness though. You might say, we’ve had a wee bit of a problem with our furniture. Most specifically, that couch we were so excited to find at a bargain. Turns out that either everyone in Nashville ordered the same couch or it was a bargain because it was coming from somewhere far, far away.

Every time it got close to our delivery date, we got bumped out another two weeks. No one ever called – we just got a random text or an email – so we have no clue what the real reason was but at one point I started thinking that we might have gotten it quicker if we’d ordered it off of Wish. July 2nd became July 16th and that became July 26th. We don’t know what the next date would have been because we were so tired of sitting on the floor by then that we canceled the order. That took an act of Congress! Well, 3 phones calls and 3 emails. So alas, to make a long story short, we can’t show you the cool flip-out lounger style sofa we were going to get. Wait! Yes we can. This is what it looks like on the furniture store’s website:

After several weeks with no place to sit, I decided on a whim to buy a couple of cheap accent chairs. And by cheap, I mean broke college student cheap. I bought two moon chairs from the back-to-school display at Target. The whole set-up (not including the lamp) cost less than $70 and surprisingly enough, those moon chairs are quite comfy.

The moon chair reading nook (before we rearranged things again!)

When Angie returned home from visiting her parents, we had a long discussion about life, money, minimalism, and our future furniture. We decided that for as much as we love being home, watching Netflix together, and eating popcorn, we don’t need a special couch to do it. We don’t even need a couch. But we did need something to sit on besides the moon chairs so we went back to the back-to-school display (at Walmart this time) and bought a convertible sofa (or a futon, clik-clak, settee, or what-have-you). It’s kind of cute, quite minimal, and even with the moon chairs and rug, we only spent half of what we would have spent for the couch that was never going to get delivered.

Hey, at least it’s not a milk crate!

You’re probably wondering – is it comfortable? Well now, that’s the $10 million question. Yes and no. Can you sit on it and watch TV? Yes. Can you take a nap on it? Yes. It actually sleeps quite well. But can you do either of those things all day long? Probably not. Even after we added a few throw pillows, the comfort level only rose to about what you might get sitting in the back seat of our car. Which is okay.

Wait! What??

It’s okay because we don’t want to spend our lives sitting on the couch anyway. We’ve done way too much of that this year already. (Way, way too much!)

We have a great pool here in our new complex, a walking trail, good neighbors, and a lot of great new ideas for adventures and getaways that are far better than a day on the couch. But…with that being said though, we are going to try laying the futon down and putting some pillows against the wall for movie night. If you can’t get the cool lounger couch you thought you wanted, just make one out of what you have, right?? (I’ll have to let you know how that goes.)

Seriously though, Angie and I did do a lot of soul searching after moving here and we both believe it was a good thing we didn’t get the couch. We have been trying to get  back to basics with minimalism, money, and well, life in general and the last thing we want to do is start the cycle over again. The furniture might seem sparse (we prefer the term minimal, of course) but it was inexpensive and it is super simple to take care of. Mostly though, it can easily be moved, sold, or gifted (we have 2 little girls in our family who have already put dibs on the moon chairs) should we find ourselves ready to move on to other things one day.

And that’s really what this blog is about anyway – less clutter, more time, fewer worries, and greater adventures. No fancy furniture required.