At a recent gathering of local gardeners, a woman mentioned sharing plant starts with her next door neighbors.
“They live half a mile away,” she added. “Isn’t that funny, when your closest neighbors live way down the road?”
Like me, she had moved from a suburban neighborhood. A few years ago we hardly had to raise our voices to talk to our neighbors, from our deck to theirs. Now we can’t even holler to our neighbors…we have to use a telephone or head on over in person.
The rural life, while rife with beautiful scenic views and picturesque landscapes, can also feel isolated. If one likes solitude, it can be found on a remote piece of land far from neighbors and traffic. If one likes lots of company, that requires lots of visiting.
Personally I could not live alone on our property very long. Though I’m very much a homebody, I am not a good loner. Jim and I, settled into our little routine, can go for days without seeing anyone else. We do have a good internet connection and phones. We communicate daily with family and friends via phone, email, and texting.
But there’s nothing like “people with skin on,” as a child once described it. So we make a point of seeing people - both by having people come by and by leaving our place to go out where the people are.
We were fortunate to find a friend from long ago living near our new home, and since then other friends have moved to the area. But we've also found some great ways to branch out and find new friends.
If you’re starting out in a new area, there are several ways you can go about meeting people, making new friends, and getting integrated into the community.
• Meet your neighbors. We’ve met most of the families on our road and found every one of them to be friendly and warm. We’ve shared ideas, swapped tips, and helped each other out. One neighbor, also new, invited everyone over to get acquainted one evening.
• Get to know local merchants. Our tiny town has just a few businesses. Farther up the highway are others, and even more in the nearest sizable town. Wherever we go, people welcome us to the community and are glad to give us suggestions or pointers about the area.
• Find sources for local information. Visit the local library for community history materials and photos. Pick up visitor guides, pamphlets, maps, and event schedules at the chamber of commerce.
• Seek out special interest groups to meet like-minded individuals. Look for garden clubs, service organizations, churches, and other groups and places where people gather with a common purpose.
• Volunteer in the community — at a nursing home, food bank, animal shelter — meet people and provide a valuable service at the same time.
• Get acquainted with your local county extension agents and agricultural organizations. They have a wealth of information on gardening, livestock, forestry, food preservation, and a multitude of other topics. Get on their email lists to be notified of classes, workshops and other educational events.
Before you know it, your neighborhood will span miles. Some of the people you meet will become your friends, and soon you’ll have a new social network and support system of people to enjoy life with.