Next door hermit
May 4, 2005 1:41 AM   Subscribe

I have the pleasure of living next door to a hermit.

His garden is a jungle and only gets cleared once a decade before it consumes his house. It has recently been cleared by a local kid and has already started to grow anew. What are the ethics of pouring weed killer on his side of the boundary with my garden and any more permanent solutions (soil sterilisation) other than petrol?
posted by desert_roamer to Human Relations (25 answers total)
The ethics are, it's wrong. His land, you don't touch it. However...every neighborhood has that one asshole who doesn't take care of the the cops on him. Even if there isn't any law against a bad lawn, he will take notice that people don't like what he is doing.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:51 AM on May 4, 2005

Some neighborhoods have zoning laws that require basic care and maintenance of the outside appearance of properties. Before you call the police, check with your town administrators for more information.
posted by AlexReynolds at 1:56 AM on May 4, 2005

Have you considered asking him if he minds if you do that? I mean, maybe he's just lazy. It's possible that he won't mind if you do the work.
posted by abbyladybug at 5:08 PM on May 4, 2005

Ethically, I don't think it's cool to do anything to his side of the lawn without permission. Then again, if he's a hermit and lets the neighbor kid clear the lawn, then perhaps he wouldn't mind if you do it. The politic way to deal with this is treat it like something you could maybe help with. Seems like there's next to no chance he'll do it himself, maybe he's agorophobic or has some other serious problem. If the lawn is really what is bothering you, and not "that damned neighbor is ruining the resale values with his inattention to basic lawn care" then maybe you and some other neighbors could chip in and get a neighbor kid a regular job keeping the place tidy. Either that or buy him a fence. You haven't said if the guy truly is mentally ill or just not up to neighborhood standards, but in either case, solving the problem of the lawn and not your neighbor's hermitness seems to be the way to gracefully move forward.
posted by jessamyn at 5:16 PM on May 4, 2005

It's been said before, jessamyn, but you do have the best advice.
posted by ashbury at 5:25 PM on May 4, 2005

It's his lawn, his property. Don't go messing with it without his explicit permission. Just because he's a hermit doesn't mean he's not a human being. Talk to him, write him a cordial letter, offer a gift or invite him over. Offer to do the work yourself. If he says no, then live with it or move.
posted by furtive at 5:30 PM on May 4, 2005

Why do you care? It's his garden, let him do what he wants with it.
posted by cmonkey at 5:36 PM on May 4, 2005

Hey! Leave my yard ALONE!
posted by Doohickie at 5:52 PM on May 4, 2005

It's been said before, jessamyn, but you do have the best advice.


posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 5:54 PM on May 4, 2005

How about putting edging along the property line on your side? Would help keep some of the tangle from migrating, if that is your concern. I don't think anonymously pouring toxins along on someone else property is a good idea.
posted by edgeways at 6:07 PM on May 4, 2005

This is what fences are for--build one. I just put up a fence between myself and my problem neighbor and I like him better already.
posted by LarryC at 7:00 PM on May 4, 2005

"Good fences make good neighbors."
posted by Doohickie at 7:07 PM on May 4, 2005

"Good fences make good neighbors."

...There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence....

posted by mdn at 7:27 PM on May 4, 2005

Don't be this guy. If your neighbour gets something done to it once in a while, it means that he cares enough to think about it on occasion, or someone else is arranging it for him. Talk to him as nicely as possible as the others have suggested.
posted by fionab at 8:00 PM on May 4, 2005

have you thought of just accidentally setting fire to his lawn with the petrol while burning stuff on the corner of your yard? I agree with the others that trespassing is a moral anomaly that should be avoided.
posted by trinarian at 8:11 PM on May 4, 2005

Consider that while sometimes people who do this are lazy or over-commited or physically unable to do the work, sometimes there are other things going on. Does his house also have piles of junk on the porch and things stacked where you can see through the windows? Or are all the windows covered? Are the window coverings pressed against the glass by stuff from the inside?(Piles of junk leaning against the windows.)

I became aware of this from seeing occasional squalor houses while out walking my dog. Often these people have issues with obsessive-compulsive disorder, perfectionism (believe it or not), fear, etc. Check out Squalor Survivors for more info. Doesn't fix your problem with your neighbor, but might help you understand it better.
posted by lobakgo at 8:57 PM on May 4, 2005

A man down the street decided to plant bamboo in his yard about 15 years ago. It's almost a rainforest there now, and all the neighbors could do was put up fences. Two of them ended up putting in two foot deep concrete boarders because the bamboo is so invasive, and the rats and snakes were getting out of hand. The town never did anything.

At least you're allowed to trim back anything that overhangs your property.
posted by Marky at 9:02 PM on May 4, 2005

I knew a gent whose lawn fit this description. He would let his lawn grow until the city threatened to cut it and then he would call me. I was cheaper than the city doing it and it was cheaper having me twice a summer than coming every week. He was middle age; kept to himself.
He had a bad back and some trouble with walking, lived on pension of sorts. I don't know if this is the case with your neighbour.

His house was somewhat unkept, but not to the extent lobakgo describes.

(Funny stuff, though. It took my six horus to cut his little suburban lawn. Trimmer, rake, trimmer, rake, mow, rake, mow. At the end, the "lawn" was real rough. Not for bare feet. More like hay than grass.)

On preview: Wow!
posted by philfromhavelock at 9:07 PM on May 4, 2005

It always interests me how people just seem to accept that it is normal to give half their property over to a flat green colony of whiny, demanding, clingy plants that "need" trimming and are susceptible to weeds.

I am waiting for Homo Suburbius to revolt against the tyranny of it all.
posted by Sallyfur at 9:58 PM on May 4, 2005

thanks mdn, whenever I think of the "good fences make..." i think of that poem, and it was wonderful to see that others do too. oddly enough, it's been only recently that poetry has struck me so -- perhaps it's age.
posted by fishfucker at 2:19 AM on May 5, 2005

Response by poster: Update - Thanks for all the advice and prose. I cleared the garden twice when I was a kid and there is an 8 foot fence of my making, but the weeds they keep a coming, and trying their best to destroy the fence too. My neighbour and I are on speaking terms and he will probably agree to me putting weed killer down. Just hope I catch him within a couple of months, as he doesn't answer his door.
posted by desert_roamer at 4:25 AM on May 5, 2005

sounds like you need a goat or two!
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 6:22 AM on May 5, 2005

For the record, while probably not the case here, a lot of people prefer an unkempt, wild garden to the artificial suburbia look. The near-zero maintenance is just a bonus.
posted by -harlequin- at 7:55 AM on May 5, 2005

desert_roamer, does he get mail?

If he doesn't answer his door, you could mail him a friendly letter, "I tried knocking, but I couldn't get an answer... could we discuss something when you have a moment? blah blah blah".
posted by shepd at 10:24 AM on May 5, 2005

This is a good reason to go live in a gated community with CC&Rs that prevent people from letting their house or yard become ugly or out of control. Seriously. That's what busybody homeowners associations are for.

If that sounds terrible to you, then just bear in mind that this is the price you pay, but feel good, because you'd rather pay it than be unable to use rattan furniture in your own backyard.
posted by scarabic at 5:30 PM on May 5, 2005

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