Moving to a New Neighborhood: Are You a Newcomer?
You know you are a foothill newcomer when you plant tomatoes in March.
When I lived in Southern California, I planted in late February when all of the snowflakes and icicles had disappeared from school bulletin boards. That's the only place I ever saw indications of Winter.
In fact, the only way to know that seasons are changing in the southern counties, is to check the decorations pasted on the windows of pre-schools.
When we saw construction paper snowmen, it was Winter. When there were construction paper leaf shapes of red yellow and brown, I we knew it was Fall.
When construction paper flowers, bees and butterflies appeared, Spring had sprung.
When we saw multi-colored dinosaurs and space aliens on the windows, we didn't know what season it was, but we stayed inside and locked the doors. Actually, we always locked the doors. I often locked myself out when going out to plant to tomatoes in February.
You know you are a foothill newcomer when your rural roadside mailbox isn't dented.
If you are the new person in the area, your mailbox is first in line to be whacked. No matter what the numerical consecutiveness of addresses is, there's no way to force your mailbox between others to make it conform sequentially .
Since the letter carrier doesn't necessarily pay attention to exact addresses anyway, it's probably of little consequence. I believe the letter carriers purposely put someone else's mail in your box as a community service to foster neighborly camaraderie.
You often meet your neighbors by exchanging misplaced mail with them. It's a way of bonding with those who live nearby. You come to accept the fact that your mailbox goes at end of the row where, in all it's shiny newness, it practically begs to be whacked.
You know you are a foothill newcomer when you spend many sweaty hours and burn thousands of valuable calories moving rocks from one place to another on your property.
Did nature not know what she was doing when rocks were placed in a particular spot? Why do we move them?
It's a good thing those rocks in Yosemite are so big. If they were not, I know of a husband who might think that Half Dome would look better if it were moved a few feet to the left.
Pets and Wildlife
You know you are a newcomer when your dog cannot differentiate between a skunk and a kitty cat and tries to eradicate skunk blast by hysterical rollicking on your bedspread.
If he hates taking a bath anyway, how much fun do you think it is to bathe him in tomato juice with a clothespin on your nose? I believe that particular ploy was invented by the tomato juice people to boost sagging profits in rural areas where tomato juice sales were practically wiped out by bootleggers and mountain spring water drinkers.
By the time you have tried all your neighbors' favorite de-skunking recipes, your dog has learned to avoid the stripey little critters. In fact he even shies always from cats, squirrels, and the deer he is supposed to keep out of your petunias.
Which brings up the fact that you know you are a newcomer when you believe plants exist which won't be eaten by deer.
After you have had at least $237.50 worth of nursery stock consumed by local gourmet does and fawns, they continue to look you in the eye with innocent ingratitude.
Gophers are not quite so brazen, they at least have enough shame to remain hidden most of the time, leaving only trademark pyramids of well churned earth to mark progress. To dicourage the rodents there are sonic vibration systems, there's filling the holes with ground glass, and some even suggest that bubble gum is lethal to gophers.
If you use the last method, I suspect you can lie awake at night and hear tiny bubble gum bubbles popping, between bursts of gopher laughter. You are a foothill newcomer if you believe that gophers can be discouraged, and have considered hiring a terrorist bomber to eradicate them.
You know you are still a foothill newcomer if you have never run over a squirrel, or gone off the road trying not to run over one.
Squirrels, as you may have noticed, play chicken. They wait until the last possible moment to dash in front of your vehicle. In fact the game of "chicken" must have originally been called "squirrel".
When someone came up with "Why does a chicken cross the road?" it was originally "Why does a squirrel cross the road?", but casualty evidence indicates that many of them don't completely cross it, and choose to remain on the center line with four feet in the air. You don't often see this with chickens.
What's That Smell?
You know you are still a foothill newcomer when your senses are stimulated with unfamiliar sounds and smells. That strange aroma you smell is actually fresh air, and some erstwhile urbanites have been known to be adversely affected by it.
To revive yourself you may have to rely on such things as the exhaust of your chain saw and the garden tractor to get an occasional whiff of what we used to breathe in the city.
Peace and quietude is what many of us looked forward to, yet the quiet seems to magnify unfamiliar sounds. You're a newcomer if you run to answer the door when woodpeckers start tapping holes in your house siding.
There are many other ways to know you are a newcomer. For instance:
You don't have a generator, a chain saw, a weed whacker, a pickup truck, kerosene lamps and a scanner.
You expect to wait in line at the DMV, to register your pickup.
You've never cooked a complete meal on your wood stove.
People laugh when you ask where the mall is.
You haven't eaten at every restaurant in town at least once.
You believe the weather forecast.
After ten years, I think I am settling in. Finally I have gained the confidence which makes me feel a real part of the foothill community. Though I do regret the recent squirrel tragedy, I haven't moved a rock in months, and--best of all-- my mailbox has finally been whacked. Life is good.
If you are new to rural life, you may want some to know my newcomer hints on how to deal with a power outage. You can find the article by clicking here.