Dear Annie: Our next-door neighbors, the "Johnsons," must hate trees. Our neighborhood is full of beautiful mature trees. When the Johnsons purchased their home, they immediately cut down every tree in their yard. Last year, they complained about some branches that hung over their property line and a few that were over their house — not touching their house, however.
Our city code says we are not required to trim them. But being good neighbors, we contracted a licensed tree trimmer. He asked to park his ladder truck in said neighbors' driveway, which he said would reduce the bill by 50 percent. We told him to knock on the door and ask them before starting.
The tree trimmer showed up and was working, when Mr. Johnson came out and said he had to move the truck because it had been on his driveway too long. The project was halted. No branches were weak or damaged in the first place, meaning they really didn't need to be cut down anyway.
Fast-forward one month. Mr. Johnson again complains about our tree. We told him that we did have it trimmed and that we had used up our tree trimming budget for that year. His response was that he knows we have more money than that.
Fast-forward a few more months. We have dogwood trees in the corner of our yard and found they were stuffed full of twigs, branches and string. My husband cleaned it out. Forty-five minutes later, the entire Johnson family (mom, dad and two boys) was on our front step. Mrs. Johnson said her 9-year-old son was so sad that his fort had been taken down.
What should we do here? I'm voting for a fence, but we like all the wildlife that frequents our neighborhood. — Midwestern Nana
Dear Midwestern: I'd like for you to tell this family to go climb a tree, but you do have to live next to them for the next who-knows-how-many years, so it's best to stay somewhat amicable. It sounds as if they've an overgrown sense of entitlement. The best way to nip that in the bud is to respond with strength — not by bullying them but by refusing to acquiesce to unreasonable demands or apologize for things that are not your fault. Explain that you only hired a tree trimmer in the first place because you wanted to be neighborly — emphasizing that in fact, the city code doesn't require you to trim them and that you won't be doing so.
As for the issue of their children climbing your trees: If one of them were to fall and get injured, you might be legally liable — and something tells me the Johnsons would have no qualms about suing. Tell the parents not to allow the children in your yard. If it keeps happening anyway, a fence may be necessary. Consult the laws in your state, and look into styles that would permit wildlife but not wild children to pass through, such as thinly spaced iron bars.
Dear Annie: This is in response to the letter from "Blah Birthday," whose husband planned the ideal birthday for him on her birthday. She should plan the ideal birthday for herself on his birthday. If it is a nice time of the year, she should treat herself to the hot air balloon ride that she thought he'd gotten for her. — E.B.
Dear E.B.: The problem is that when someone tries to give us a taste of our own medicine, we often don't recognize the flavor. Then we end up bitter but none the wiser. I think direct communication is the key in this case — but "Blah Birthday" should go ahead and treat herself to a hot air balloon ride some other time if she can. Life is short.
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