During the pandemic, my wife and I started a garden, orchard, and backyard chicken coop since we have a double lot in our new neighborhood. It is a lot of work, but we enjoy the pleasure of eating the fruits of our labor. My wife even learned how to can and makes her own jams. Our garden and chickens started producing more than we could reasonably consume, so we starting leaving out the produce on the front porch with a sign for our neighbors to help themselves (but please not to be greedy—we were all in this this together). We also posted on the local neighbor social media. There were a few bumps—the clueless who didn’t know fresh eggs don’t need to be refrigerated or the self-centered who didn’t understand their desire for grape jelly was impossible to fulfill when we only had peach trees.
Then there was “Dee.” She was a neighbor from down the street we really didn’t know. We could identify her on sight. Our security camera lets us know when someone is on the porch. It caught Dee taking everything we left out, multiple bags of food all in one go. She had done this several days in a row, so my wife and I tried to time it so we could have a discussion with Dee. Instead, she nearly assaulted us. We came out and Dee didn’t even stop trying to take the bags of food even as we called after her. Half the way down the walk, Dee turned around and told us to shut up—the sign says free so it was “fucking free.” My wife retorted that the sign said not to be greedy. Dee gave us a dead-eyed stare, smacked her lips, and said she had kids. I explained that other people had kids too. Dee grabbed a jam jar, started to curse, and threw it midway between us. My wife and I freaked out and retreated to the house. We didn’t know what to do. Whether to call the police or let this blow over.
What we did do was take down the sign and post on social media that due to an “incident,” our larder would be locked down for the immediate future. Only Dee returned the day after. Our camera recorded her on the porch looking around and then having a fit where she kicked over and broke several flower pots. We went to police with our video. Later, the police went to talk to Dee, only she had a meltdown and starting screaming at the police. She was arrested and her children picked up by CPS. Apparently enough neighbors witnessed the screaming fit and heard Dee blame us (we are the only “local” lesbians). Our social media got flooded with comments scolding us for hurting an obviously mentally ill woman and breaking up her family. We had no sense of compassion or community.
All of this has left us very shaken. Before we felt welcomed and even had warm relations with our neighbors. My wife is particularly bitter—she has stopped all her side projects and has been throwing them extra produce on the compost and giving the extra eggs to our dogs. She has talked about scaling back our homestead and even giving our chickens away. We have gotten a few thank you notes left in our mailbox, but the overwhelming feel of negativity is hard to shake. What can we do?
— Semi-Rural Life