Monday, April 15, 2013

"No-man's-land" belongs to my neighbor

It has been 48 years since we moved from our tiny walk-up to this site. When we came, the house was a duplex and we lived in the back half that opened onto a dirt alley.

Over the years, the neighborhood has changed a lot. When our landlord died, the family sold the house to pay the inheritance tax and since we had been renting the place since it was built, we had first dibs. It was before the "bubble" and seemed like a good investment at the time, so we bought it, paid the other renters to move out, and re-built on the site four very small apartments and a section for our parents ... or as it turned out ... Mother and sister ... to live.

Re-building meant losing a few meters on each side to be saved for widening the road but we knew the people in the neighborhood and liked our quiet walkers-only street.

Many people have left over the years and houses to the East and South have been replaced by tall sun-blocking apartments.

The picture here is the quilt my mother made for my #1 son. He is expecting a son of his own this summer and I wanted him to have his baby quilt but it was in very sad condition. I began working on replacing the quilting a while ago and my daughter saw it and said she would like to make a gift of her time and talent to the new baby, so she took the project home and replaced the stitching and re-did some of the embroidery where  it was worn. This week I replaced the binding which was shredded. It is now ready to make the trip to Oregon.

Here it is hanging in the shade on the wall of the neighbor to the South.  Sometimes I hang smaller items on the gate of my neighbor to the west. At last out narrow dirt path has been "paved" ... that is, covered more or less with a layer of asphalt. We still have no drainage, thus a lake when it rains, and, since the surfacing is rather spotty, we have pretty little flowers growing along the base of our wall.

We lived in a few other rental spots when the family was large but now that the value is about equal to what we owe the bank, and with my mother-in-law no longer living, we have moved back.

I am happy with this status and It will probably remain this way through my lifetime, due to our neighbors to the North. As long as they do not rebuild, they will not lose a meter of their property along the back alley and it will not be turned into a road.

How can I know they will not rebuild? THEIR PROPERTY is very IMPORTANT!!! I don't think they would dare lose even one inch. When we rebuilt, they were very unhappy because they wished to purchase that property to expand their area. They were so unhappy that they came into the construction site at night and measured every inch to make sure we were not making the place any bigger than allowed. They made us put up tall barriers on our balcony so no one could look over into their garden and they placed boards with nails poking up through them along the top of the wall facing our house so no one might climb over the high walls.

Over the years, the old man of the family who harassed the whole neighborhood died and things calmed down a wee bit. I placed fruit on the nail spikes for the birds in winter. I took down part of the barriers on the balcony to let in a bit of light and air. (I do not spend much time peering into their garden). A few years ago I pulled off the last of those rotten boards with rusty nails and tossed them in the trash.

When the earthquake came, many of these block walls suffered. It is common knowledge that in a quake, you are to stay away from walls like these. This wall also moved a few inches to the West and lost a lot of the stucco from the surface.

Earlier this year, the wall underwent rehab and got a new face and coat of paint. Well, they didn't make it straight and the corner facing our entryway was left as is.

Well, it is not our wall but it is what we see each time we step out the door so I tried to hide some of it with ivy. Every so often, the neighbor ... now the son of that old guy ... comes over and pulls all the ivy off his wall, leaving it in a heap by our door. Another thing I have done is put a beautiful spider plant on the top corner so it would hang down and soften that ugly surface. I hung a few planters and usually have something in bloom most of the year.

Here is the beautiful garden wall for the rest of the world to see.

Peeping over the top are flowering quince, Many kinds of camellia, a persimmon tree, and a lovely crepe myrtle.
They are quite beautiful and also quite messy, and since this is the back alley, not a place where they sweep. In fact, 99% of what I sweep up in front of me house has either blown or floated down-hill from outside their wall.

I really don't care. It is nice to have such a beautiful garden right next door.
But now, the story gets very strange. . .

A few weeks ago, on a Sunday morning when we were not home, the neighbor came over and cut all the ivy off about four inches above the ground.

He also removed the plants from the top of the wall.

Some of the ivy died back but now it seems it will recover. I put the plants back up because no one had made any effort to come 'round and sweep, so I didn't think they would even notice a flowerpot.

Wrong! Flower pots set onto the sidewalk. And what is even more strange is the "hole".

Right at the corner of the wall is this square hole. I think at one time it contained a wooden fence post, now rotted and gone. It fills with dirt washed down the river each time it rains and I thought it might look a bit prettier with a few flowers so I planted a few bulbs of small flowers. They are only a few inches high and not messy at all. They grow along the same wall up the street and look very pretty.

Then one morning, about a week ago, my husband came home and the neighbor was doing something there with a shovel. When I looked next, the hole was all cleaned out. It has filled up again twice since then ... each time it blows or rains it catches whatever is along the wall. BUT NOW the guy who never sweeps is fixated on that hole. If he had spoken I might have told him not to worry, that I wouldn't waste any more bulbs on that spot.

The weird part of the story is that the whole length of the wall along their house is covered in weeds that have never been touched.

My husband is scratching his head over this, wondering what is going on.

The only thing I can think of is a dog, using that spot to mark his territory. Surely, you never know what you will find when you step out my front door.

And ... on the ironing board is my second block for the Quilter's Book Club.
I wanted to make something to represent "A Single Thread" by Marie Bostwick and thought the four spools could represent the main characters with a thread coming from each and joining into one. I'm not sure how to make them one in the center but the basic block is done.

Now I am in planning mode for this month's book, The Quilter's Apprentice, bu Jennifer Chiaverini. I had read this once before and am surprised at how much I have forgotten of the story.

I am trying to put a piece of my "pickle" fabric into each block but it is a hard set of colors to work with. I have no idea where that fabric came from. I'm certain I didn't buy it but there is a big piece of the smaller print if I can only fit it in somewhere. Nothing like a challenge to keep your brain in action!


  1. Love the ivy saga and the continuing hole in the concrete. Lovely block, the "spools" are super.So glad the neighbour where you can hang a quilt is a nice friendly one, may he stay there for a very long time. That beautiful quilt is indeed a family treasure..Cheers from Jean.

  2. Hoo boy, I hate property wars. Quilting is more fun! It is wonderful to see your son's quilt restored; what a treasure. Wishing you much peace and harmony.

  3. What a wonderful quilt to pass down to your new grandson and nice that you could make it new.
    Sometimes I miss renting, it was easier when someone else did all the work and paid for repairs, lol.


  4. I recognized that quilt as a "Granny quilt" right away! What a treasure to have it refurbished for a new baby (congratulations to all!) I have mine tucked away in our linen closet and thought about bringing it out for Sam when he was little, but he got his very own wonderful "Gramma quilt" and so doesn't really need another. :)
    Interesting that your neighbor spends so much energy fussing about such matters. He should thank his lucky stars he doesn't live next to us!

  5. The speaker at my quilt guild's last meeting was an appraiser. She stated to get those quilts made from grandma out of storage and use them. Good to see someone doing just that. Next time you see your neighbor outside, you should point to his weed and ask him what type of plant is he growing. I would just fill the hole in with concrete. I love your Spool quilt and how the threads all connect, very lovely.

  6. How wonderful you still have that baby quilt and was able to "fix" it with your daughter. The additional work will add meaning to a wonderful heirloom. So sad to hear your neighbor's behavior was handed down to the son. They have wasted so much time and energy on that. Strange indeed!

  7. your quilt looks wonderful xx always said it... people are strange!

  8. Great block! Strange neighbours....

  9. In Tokyo, and many other parts of Japan, your neighbours' house is often so close you can open a window and touch their wall. 'Snow on MY roof will fall down onto YOUR land, YOUR pet will keep ME awake, the smell of grilled fish from MY kitchen will waft into YOUR territory, laundry on YOUR balcony will brush against MY house...' These small irritants can be eliminated between good neighbours but when people don't want to talk to you, there is Cold War! A typical Tokyo war is the Wall War; if the wall belongs to your neighbour even the side that faces your land is HIS so don't dare put any planters there or grow ivy!!! That is the message we got from OUR neighbour, so if it is any comfort Julie, you are not alone!

    What a lot of love and memories in the baby quilt. It will keep the baby warm in two ways.
    Your A Single Thread block is so cleverly made. Great design, Julie!

  10. It is so lovely to see the quilt being passed on to another generation. And it is great to see the combined effort in restoring it. Very treasured!
    Sadly , you can't choose your neighbours. Thankfully it sounds like all the others are fine.

  11. We are fortunate to have always had good neighbours and it must be awful to have these problems. As ever you seem able to deal with them with a sense of humour and calm.

  12. My grandparents neighbors driveway 'crossed' onto my grandparents yard. A tree had been planted there, long before the driveway was put in. About 2 inches of that tree, wound up growing over into the neighbors side. Well, the neighbor decided to trim that tree (30+ years old by then) and cut the whole thing down. Talk about a feud to the death. They never talked again until the old man died. What was funny, was, when I'd come to town, the lady would invite me over and we'd make cookies and play games. With no one talking to each other, I never figured out how my grandmother always knew that when I was supposed to go over there. Love your block.

  13. I guess when someone has a small piece of property in one form or another, then they get stingy about it... We have our share of strange neighbors too here in Nikko. The next door neighbor won't talk to me (won't look at me!) and in 20 years he's exchanged greetings with us maybe 5 times. He HAS sent his wife to complain about our dog though... We'd like to put in a new fence between our houses but the thought of negotiating fees has us delaying the day until the whole thing falls down!

  14. Such strange neighbor stories! Wouldn't it be easier if we all just get along? :)

    Very pretty block!!

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