If you own a farm or land, this story is inevitable, it happens thousands of times to farmers on every part of the globe. In farm classes and books, they talk about getting along with your neighbors. They also talk about trespassers, poachers, trail bike riders and other uninvited guests. When we purchased the land, we knew that there was the specter of having to enforce our boundaries. We posted “No Trespassing” signs as instructed in numerous classes we attended.
Early on, in our tenure on the farm, a developer who owned the parcel to the left of us decided to clear an acre of our land, thinking, mistakenly, it was part of his. They cut down live choke cherry trees, locust trees and cleared thousands of square feet of hedgerows. This was dealt with civilly and as appropriate.
We have an old railway bed that runs the middle of the property and cuts into a small hill. It is a wonderful walk, which we encourage our customers to take, when visiting the farm. It is called the causeway, and is two-tenths of a mile of canopied green leaf trail bed. I get the most joy on a tour with young kids when we walk into what I call the pure oxygen part of the trail. For the city kids, the drop in temperature and air noticeably changes and it registers in their questions and comments. They get to see and feel the benefit of a truly dense stand of trees
It seems it is also a wonderful place to ride motor bikes. We thought that we had stopped it when we talked to our next-door neighbor. It did stop for a while. Recently, I was with a representative of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, who was vetting the farm for an educational tour for high school teachers. It is quite an impressive program. The CBF goes to different counties in the State and talks about ecological benefits and detriments to our eco-system, watersheds and tributaries as it relates to the Bay.
I heard a bike come flying up the driveway, then head into the causeway, to hit the other side of the road. She looked at me and I said, "Just another one of those things you have to deal with."
Fact was I felt embarrassed, I was embarrassed for our youth such that they do not respect the land as much as abuse it for their own selfish needs and I was embarrassed for myself for not doing a better a job of preventing the intrusion.
Well dealing with the trespassers came today. I was home and getting out of the truck when I hear motor bikes coming down the causeway. At first, I ran towards the causeway, saw two four wheelers and the kid on the bike from before head down the driveway. I ran back to get into the truck, and gave chase but, they had a good head start. I was listening for them but I did not hear the motors. I just kept heading down the road. After a bit I knew they had not traveled where I had so, I doubled back.
Low and behold, I see the three-some coming at me. I waited for them to pass then turned the truck around and followed them to their home. I was not happy when I got out of the truck and did not port myself in such a way that classified me as dignified, which probably caused the expected vulgarities that greeted me. With my city side coming out (territory was to be respected) I then used their word about a thousand times, explaining who I was and what I was doing there at that point in time. After denials by all I was told to get off the property.
"Wow," I said, "you can ride on and destroy the topsoil on my property but I cannot stand on yours?" Talk about an ah-ha moment. I think that in that simple statement they realized their culpability and my anger explanatory. I did not really know them, they knew of us from the kid next door, but they did not know us. I have always like a quote from Bill Clinton, it describes in a real subtle way not to mistake one personality trait for another, and that was "Please do not mistake kindness as a sign of weakness,". I do not like conflict, who does, but to respect others and their belongings are part of my make up, and if I have to impart that message onto someone else, I try to be as nice as possible. I thought they needed to see that and treat others, as they would like to be treated. Historically, we might have seemed nice and kind from their standpoint but, given a dose of an angry organic vegetable gardener, that spent three grueling hours cleaning the causeway up, gave them a view of the other side,
As it turned out two apologized and promised they would not ride on the property. I thanked them and I apologized for not being as civilized as I should have been. I did not handle it correctly, at first, but I wanted to end it civilly and show them a little respect. I asked the young man on the bike his name; he dropped the F-bomb and said he was not going to tell me his name. “You led me to your house,” I told him, “if I wanted, I could find your name on the internet in a couple of minutes,” You would think they would know that. I said, "Look, I am trying to end this civilly and I asked that you please not ride on our property”. To my amazement, he apologized, as I then did to him. Do not get me wrong it was not a Kum By Ya moment, but I felt better leaving the situation.
The whole time I am sizing these young men up as future employees. Who knows they might be in the right place at the right time. We always can use help. We cannot afford it, but we can always use the help.
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