Saturday, September 24, 2011

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors, but No Fence Makes Great Friends

After a 4-year hiatus to suburb life in Colorado, our friends Megan and Alex moved back to San Francisco. They missed the city vibe and the people, but picked up some new suburb likes, one of which was having a big backyard. As luck would have it, we happened to buy the house next door to them while they were away. (They temporarily rented their San Francisco home just in case they wanted to move back).  Our first order of business was to tear down the fence so our kids could share one giant yard.

This was the fence before we tore it down and this is me rototilling the yard.
This is the view of our shared yard now.  Look at the difference. It's like a mini-park now!
One of the reasons Megan and Alex wanted to move back to San Francisco was our terrific neighborhood.  Our block has a unique, small town spirit in the city. Kids play on the sidewalk together after school, a dozen women on the street do potluck dinners together every other month or so. We walk to city parks and museums together.  We have block parties and garage sales every so often.  And now, with a shared yard our kids float in and out of each other’s houses.  The moms contemplate outside projects for the kids while weeding and sharing vegetable seeds. We see each other all the time and we love it.
Artichokes are easy to grow in San Francisco.  These were ready to harvest after just 8 weeks.
One of the biggest drawbacks about living in San Francisco (besides the fog) is the transient feeling.  Families are always leaving for an easier life someplace else.  Many families leave the city in search of community, free play, and room to garden. But our two families have found it all in town through our shared garden.  Our side of the yard has a fire pit, playhouse, and  gardens.  Megan's side has a cement patch for the kids to bike and play games. 
Roasting marshmallows in the fire pit
The playhouse/art studio was made mostly from leftover remodel materials
Named "The Garten House" after our favorite backyard things-- Gardening, Art & Ina Garten-- our favorite chef
The fire pit is surrounded by a concrete patio with thyme growing in the grout lines
Part of the old fence was re-purposed into a potting shed disguised as a giant planter
 This lovely lavender is sprinkled throughout our garden.   
Both of us have vegetable gardens and are talking about where to put the chicken coop.  
Carrots and strawberries growing in the fog...
Carrots and strawberries growing in the sun
Combined, our shared yard has everything our families need, but most importantly it has a big space for our kids to roam free and the feeling of community. 

The sounds of kids laughing and exploring out back brings us back to the good old days when kids roamed free for hours after school.  It’s not quite the same but it’s the closest we can get living in the city. Our kids play more often together because they aren't barricaded in their separate yards. The next door neighbors are always accessible.

We're so glad we reconsidered the best use of our space and tore the fence down. How might you reconsider your living space to get more of what you want out of living?


  1. Beautiful blog Jenna, thx so much for the link! So many great ideas and photos. I'm especially crushing the thyme growing between the concrete...must smell wonderful too! ~katrina

  2. Thank you, Katrina! The thyme is so easy to grow too. I love fragrant flowers. I am investigating how to grow tuberoses in the garden. Talk about fragrant! Cheers, Jenna

  3. I too love that the thyme is growing between the concrete. The way you tell this story Jenna - there is time growing in your back yards. Perhaps a cheesy thing to say...but such an amazing gift to your kids!

    Sara from MN

  4. What a lovely note, Sara. Thank you!