Was I bad? Or practical?

I’ve mentioned the abandoned house next door a few times. The sheriff’s sale has been postponed yet again, and the woman at the sheriff’s office told Mike that often the banks hang onto these properties for years, unwilling to let them go “for a song” like everyone thinks will happen. We wonder if the place will just cave in at some point, and still worry that someone unscrupulous will buy it.

In the meantime, I had an all-day-in-the-yard working day on Saturday. It was great, but tiring. I noticed the sad house had some pretty phlox blooming around the bottom of the mosquito-magnet pool, and a row of large, thriving hostas. They were the only thing even remotely attractive about the place, so they stood out.

We have lots of spots that need filling in. Would it be so terrible if I dug out some of said phlox and hosta and gave them a good home? Mike thought not (as long as I didn’t “decimate” things), so off I went with my shovel and bucket.

I tried to be sensitive — pulled some phlox from several spots, and found one hosta trying to grow out from under a large log someone had dumped on top of it (there are large wood “rings” from a cut tree piled all up the yard). So I dug that one out, and took some pieces from another, leaving 4 or 5 completely intact. I noted again the complete dismal state of the place — abandoned lawn mower and kid’s bike, falling down swing set and shed — and kept a wary eye out for poison ivy.

But I also noted that someone had taken care to try to make the pool area attractive, with lights around the base, raised planting beds prepared with fabric to keep the weeds down, nice mulch. The weeds are starting to win out now, but I wondered when it had all gone so wrong. The vamoosed neighbors are the ones who put up the pool at some point. What made them totally give up? Nothing was done home improvement-wise in the 3 years we lived side by side — we were happy to see the grass cut every now and then.

Even so, the “no trespassing” and “respect for private property” gene runs deep in me, so I do feel a little guilty about the foray (I remembered that scene from It’s a Wonderful Life where George and Mary throw stones at the abandoned house they later buy…)

I also feel like I want to go over and grab some more of the same.

Am I a thief or a thrifty gardener?

I know if someone responsible ever does buy the place and fix it up, I will go over, admit my pillaging, and make amends with divisions from my own garden, at once returning the favor and easing my nagging conscience. (And if someone awful buys the place and trashy people move in, I’ll be sorry I didn’t take more.)

A man sooner or later discovers that he is the
master-gardener of his soul, the director of his life.
~ James Allen

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