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    The Big Back Yard

    Preston-columnHeaderBefore we lived in Chestermere, we came from a community where we had a much larger yard than we do now. When we first moved into our newly built home in Rainbow Falls, we had our work cut out for us to make our new small space special to us. We were determined to make the best of it. We drew up plans to bring in soil, dig out flower beds, build a deck, plant trees, and set up our little slice of paradise.

    Then something happened that was all at once unexpected and delightful. When it came time to build our fences, our new next-door neighbours pitched an idea that surprised us. They suggested that we not build a fence between our yards. Instead, we agreed to create an open and shared yard. It has been the best gift they have ever given us.

    Our back yard is shared, but in time we’ve discovered that more than our yards are connected. Today we share a lawn mower, ladders, watering hoses, and rakes. We take turns cutting the grass and on warm summer days we sit on the deck and share a drink. We text each other when we’re out of town. We share funny stories and confide in each other when life is hard. It seems to me that we have been given more than the gift of a shared yard, we have been given beloved neighbours.

    In a city like Chestermere with miles of fences, it may seem impossible to even imagine connecting your yard with a neighbour. Yet it is being done in communities around the world and it’s an idea that might fit you and your neighbour perfectly. Here are a few ways that you might consider making a great big back yard right where you live.

    <li>Have a conversation. Talk about the possibility that you could have a big shared back yard. Dreaming and imagining new ways of doing things might be scary for some neighbours, but chances are that your neighbours might be open to a conversation. This is not about taking over, it is about ideas that could make your properties more meaningful to both of you.</li>

    <li>Sketch a plan. Maybe you and your neighbour dream of a vegetable garden, a sandbox for the kids, or even an outdoor pizza oven. We’ve hosted events in our big back yard, something we could never have done before. Drawing up plans on paper can inspire ideas.</li>

    <li>Privacy is important. Learning how to respect your neighbours, even if you share a space, is vital. Common courtesy and thoughtfulness can go a long way.</li>

    <li>Be honest. Clarity can help you and your neighbour decide if sharing part of your space is a good idea. If you go in together on buying the materials for a shared garden, be clear on a budget and expectations.</li>

    <li>Love your neighbour. Remember, the goal of sharing a yard is to make things better for both you and your neighbour. When you genuinely care for the people who live around you, sharing and trusting can blossom. </li>

    <li>Have fun. A big back yard can change you and your community. It might become a hub for neighbour kids or a place of rest and retreat. Whatever you dream of, it is possible that your neighbours might be happy to go along with you.</li>