Author Topic: Coveting neighbors' fruit trees - should I knock on their door?  (Read 8805 times)

WhoopWhoop

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I live in a highly populated suburban area and I have noticed a lot of my neighbors have large fruit trees.

We live in the land of plenty, so I know a lot of the fruit goes to waste (i.e. never gets picked). Very few people know anything about canning, dehydrating, etc. around here. In fact, when I was really young, we lived in a house that had a HUGE orange tree in the back yard, and we almost never ate oranges so nearly 100% of the fruit got wasted/fell to the ground.

I couple weeks ago I decided to start a "free fruit exchange" where if any of my neighbors had trees that produce more fruit than they can handle, they can call me and I'll come pick the fruit, then distribute it out to other fruit tree owners (and myself, of course). I created a very basic/personal flyer, hand-wrote "Thank you!" on them, and dropped 7 of the flyers off at neighboring houses.

..no responses thus far.

(Btw, by "dropping off flyers" I mean slowly sneaking up to their door, then if I hear noise inside, I fling the folded up paper at their front door and run away like a little girl. I'm really shy and don't want to disturb them as we get a lot of door-to-door salespeople in this area)

One of the houses that didn't respond to my flyer has a kumquat tree in their front yard that's begun dropping fruit (after I dropped off the flyer). So, I ask myself, why didn't they call?

My assumption is that I probably need to knock on doors and speak to the neighbors (strangers to me) personally. They're a lot less likely to be comfortable with wasting fruit when they're saying no to a person rather than a flyer (and they'll be more confident that they'll get the benefit of other peoples' fruit trees as well!).

So my question: How the hell do I muster up the courage to knock on doors? Do you have any tips?

Please note: I'm an EXTREME introvert and hate disturbing people's family time, but I can only knock on doors on weekdays after 5:30pm and on weekends. Also, historically, when I have tried other things that require me to go out of my bubble, one bad experience can scare me away permanently. Eek. Advice?

happy

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Re: Coveting neighbors' fruit trees - should I knock on their door?
« Reply #1 on: May 19, 2014, 08:07:07 AM »
I'm guessing the problem is that the people with fruit trees that are dropping their fruit, don't care about the fruit dropping. They are probably too busy to notice. So they are almost certainly too busy to bother to call you, about something that is not important to them. What I'm trying to say is, its important to you, but not them.

As an also shy person I get your reticence. But I also think unless you talk to them face to face you won't get anywhere. Do you meet anyone at the mailbox ,  or see them in their yards: maybe a better way to strike up a  casual conversation? Otherwise, I would just tell myself, what is the worst that can happen? If they are rude to me, will the world come to an end?


FrugalSpendthrift

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Re: Coveting neighbors' fruit trees - should I knock on their door?
« Reply #2 on: May 19, 2014, 08:13:15 AM »
So, I ask myself, why didn't they call?
Maybe they are EXTREME introverts and the thought of fruit rotting isn't as bad as calling a stranger on the telephone.

Eek. Advice?
Just be friendly.  I also hate door to door salespeople, but if a friendly neighbor asked about my apple tree, I would offer as many as they could carry, so they don't rot on my driveway.

Christiana

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Re: Coveting neighbors' fruit trees - should I knock on their door?
« Reply #3 on: May 19, 2014, 08:15:34 AM »
I'd suggest just trying to be more visible on the street when people are around (by walking or walking a dog), and make more casual neighborly contacts before pursuing fruit further.

Alternatively, billing it as fruit REMOVAL might be helpful...since the hard part of having excessive fruit is in cleaning it up.  You might even be able to get paid for that.

smalllife

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Re: Coveting neighbors' fruit trees - should I knock on their door?
« Reply #4 on: May 19, 2014, 08:15:54 AM »
Maybe set a goal for next year? 

This year take lots of walks around the neighborhood, say "hi" so your face becomes familiar and you get used to talking to them.  Work your way up to "How's it going?" with no pressure from already-ripe fruit.

When the fruit is ripe next year it won't be as awkward or fear-inducing when you are out walking (to look for ripe fruit) to mention that they have a beautiful fruit tree and would they like help harvesting for the extras?

Cpa Cat

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Re: Coveting neighbors' fruit trees - should I knock on their door?
« Reply #5 on: May 19, 2014, 08:16:12 AM »
They may not even realize that the fruit is safe/edible. In our grocery-store culture, people are disconnected from where food comes from and are suspicious of things that grow "wild." The people who got your flier may not even realize that what's growing in their front yard, dropping fruit all over the place is a kumquat tree.

Even if they do know, they may assume that since they don't do any care or chemical treatments, that the fruit will be no good.

You need to speak to them personally and say, "Hey, I saw your kumquat tree is ready for picking - do you mind if I come pick some?"

I know my in laws lived in their house for 5 years before they got up the nerve to taste the apples from their apple tree - and realized that they were, you know... tasty apples. If someone had left a flier about fruit, they would not have connected the dots.
« Last Edit: May 19, 2014, 08:17:50 AM by Cpa Cat »

oldtoyota

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Re: Coveting neighbors' fruit trees - should I knock on their door?
« Reply #6 on: May 19, 2014, 08:17:24 AM »
Maybe they are introverts too.

I would talk to them. If I see a flyer on my porch or door or lawn, I toss it and rarely read it. Rarely do I get important information via a flyer, so I pay little attention to them.

Do you have a neighborhood listserv? That is another idea to use for promotion of the concept.


Michread

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Re: Coveting neighbors' fruit trees - should I knock on their door?
« Reply #7 on: May 19, 2014, 08:28:04 AM »

Alternatively, billing it as fruit REMOVAL might be helpful...since the hard part of having excessive fruit is in cleaning it up.  You might even be able to get paid for that.

I like this idea! 

I have 3 apple trees that I've never sprayed.  So lots of apples fall, and I only pick the good ones which means that 2/3 of the apples are waste.  But then I have to pick up and toss the bad ones because there are so many that the push lawn mower doesn't work under those trees. 

I would be happy if someone would take the bad apples and make cider, etc with them. 

totoro

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Re: Coveting neighbors' fruit trees - should I knock on their door?
« Reply #8 on: May 19, 2014, 08:29:16 AM »
Do you have a more extroverted friend you could bring with you?

I like your idea and I'll bet the neighbours would too if they understood the benefits (shared fruit, clean-up...)

This is a situation that would require personal contact I think.  I would be concerned with someone I did not know in my yard.  I would have no problem after meeting them.  Also, it is likely to increase your happiness to have a positive relationship with your neighbours.  Research studies highlight the importance of neighbour relationships to happiness.

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/happiness-survey-reveals-importance-neighbour-7052224

SDREMNGR

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Re: Coveting neighbors' fruit trees - should I knock on their door?
« Reply #9 on: May 19, 2014, 08:35:45 AM »
Stop trying to steal my cumquats!

J/k.

WhoopWhoop

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Re: Coveting neighbors' fruit trees - should I knock on their door?
« Reply #10 on: May 19, 2014, 08:37:33 AM »
Maybe set a goal for next year? 

This year take lots of walks around the neighborhood, say "hi" so your face becomes familiar and you get used to talking to them.  Work your way up to "How's it going?" with no pressure from already-ripe fruit.

When the fruit is ripe next year it won't be as awkward or fear-inducing when you are out walking (to look for ripe fruit) to mention that they have a beautiful fruit tree and would they like help harvesting for the extras?
You're right. Now that I think about it, the few people that I do chit chat with I wouldn't mind asking.

There is the mild problem that I'm bad at chatting and never know what to say to people. The people I do chat with usually lead the conversation. I do say hi though!

I could also try a more direct approach: if I see them, I can say hi and compliment them on their fruit tree, and then just leave it at that. Might lead to a conversation, might not. I love people's other plants too, so I can just ask them about what they're growing and stuff like that.

@Cpa Cat - You're right that they might not know the kumquat is edible, although I know they have 3 other types of citrus in their backyard (they probably didn't plant it, though). I'm pretty sure everyone who has a loquat tree has absolutely no idea that stuff is edible. Too bad all the loquats went bad a few weeks ago...

WhoopWhoop

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Re: Coveting neighbors' fruit trees - should I knock on their door?
« Reply #11 on: May 19, 2014, 08:41:16 AM »

Alternatively, billing it as fruit REMOVAL might be helpful...since the hard part of having excessive fruit is in cleaning it up.  You might even be able to get paid for that.

I like this idea! 

I have 3 apple trees that I've never sprayed.  So lots of apples fall, and I only pick the good ones which means that 2/3 of the apples are waste.  But then I have to pick up and toss the bad ones because there are so many that the push lawn mower doesn't work under those trees. 

I would be happy if someone would take the bad apples and make cider, etc with them.

Yeah, our huge orange tree used to get tree rats because of all the fruit falling to the ground. However, for an introvert, "fruit removal" seems like too much of a thinly veiled attempt to get free food. I need really really good/non-embarrassing excuses to talk to people.

homeymomma

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Re: Coveting neighbors' fruit trees - should I knock on their door?
« Reply #12 on: May 19, 2014, 08:50:35 AM »
I'd suggest weekends over evenings. To me it comes across as more neighborly and less solicitor-like if someone knocks on my door on a weekend.

T-Rex

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Re: Coveting neighbors' fruit trees - should I knock on their door?
« Reply #13 on: May 19, 2014, 09:10:04 AM »
I had a gigantic persimmon tree in my backyard. Some neighbors knocked on our door on a weekend and asked if they could pick the fruit. We said yes, because the fruits would get so big and ripe they would fall sometimes 20+ feet onto the porch and explode, or just attract flocks of loud birds 24/7. The neighbors set up days to come pick fruits w/ buckets and equipment, and we were all happy.

So, you may actually be doing them a favor.

Cpa Cat

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Re: Coveting neighbors' fruit trees - should I knock on their door?
« Reply #14 on: May 19, 2014, 09:16:53 AM »
I need really really good/non-embarrassing excuses to talk to people.

Knock on the door and when they open it, scream, "GIVE ME YOUR KUMQUATS!!!"

J/k - it's really not weird to knock on your neighbor's door and ask if you can cart away their neglected fruit. It'll be weird if they say no. But they might. Some of my neighbors are uptight weirdos, but most are not. You won't know until you try. Just rip the bandaid off and get yourself some kumquats!

WhoopWhoop

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Re: Coveting neighbors' fruit trees - should I knock on their door?
« Reply #15 on: May 19, 2014, 09:53:37 AM »
I need really really good/non-embarrassing excuses to talk to people.

Knock on the door and when they open it, scream, "GIVE ME YOUR KUMQUATS!!!"

J/k - it's really not weird to knock on your neighbor's door and ask if you can cart away their neglected fruit. It'll be weird if they say no. But they might. Some of my neighbors are uptight weirdos, but most are not. You won't know until you try. Just rip the bandaid off and get yourself some kumquats!
Ha! Stupid kumquats. I don't even want them anymore. All this effort and yelling...

Okay. I have a revised plan.
  • Say hello and ask about people's trees only if I happen upon them during a walk.
  • If I'm feeling particularly confident one (weekend) day, I will go to nearby areas where I don't walk very often, knock on people's doors, and ask to pick some fruit. That way, if any of them are weirdos, I won't ever have to walk by their house again or feel embarrassed.

Jack

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Re: Coveting neighbors' fruit trees - should I knock on their door?
« Reply #16 on: May 19, 2014, 10:06:35 AM »
My city has an organized group that does that sort of thing. If yours does too, maybe you could simply join it and thereby avoid the individual interaction issue.

Of course, I like the more lucrative fruit removal (AKA "pay me to take the stuff I wanted anyway") plan better! : )

dragoncar

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Re: Coveting neighbors' fruit trees - should I knock on their door?
« Reply #17 on: May 19, 2014, 10:36:14 AM »
I hear ya on being shy, but you should definitely just introduce yourself and ask.  I know that there's no way I would have read any flyer (when I lived in a house) whether hand-signed or not (if I even noticed the writing).  I just hate flyers so much I would have gotten mildly annoyed that another person violated my "no solicitations" sign and toss it in the recycling without sparing a glance.

If you really don't want to talk, maybe put it in a real envelope and make it obvious that it's personal correspondence.  Or, if you have canned fruit already, leave a note with a few sample jars in a basket on their doorsteps.

Catbert

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Re: Coveting neighbors' fruit trees - should I knock on their door?
« Reply #18 on: May 19, 2014, 10:49:10 AM »
I'm guessing that this is an older neighborhood (at least not a new one) and often than means older residents, especially elderly women.   For security reasons they are the least likely to respond to a flier and invite strangers into their backyard.   So meeting your neighbors casually and asking them in person may be a solution.   Or if you know one of your more friendly, gregarious neighbors have them vouch for you and ask others to let you pick fruit. 

While the sharing with all participating neighbors seems like a good idea it may be the opposite of what your neighbors want.  If they aren't harvesting and using their own  oranges, what's the chance they want someone else's kumquats?  A more straightforward, "can I harvest your tree" with an offer to share might be a better option.  Do you have a canning or drying solution to an overload of fruit?  If so, an elderly neighbor might be glad to get some fig jam or kumquat chutney from you that they can no longer make for themselves.

Do you have any kind of neighborhood website or such?  Where I am there is a "Next Door (name of neighborhood)" where people can post notices of all types.  It's limited to those who live in the neighborhood.  If you have something similar available that's another way to request fruit to harvest.  (I plan to request figs this way when it becomes fig season and offer Ouzo Fig Jam in return.)  People may feel more comfortable knowing for sure that you live in the neighborhood.   

plantingourpennies

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Re: Coveting neighbors' fruit trees - should I knock on their door?
« Reply #19 on: May 19, 2014, 11:16:03 AM »
We went through this last year, but with the caveat that our neighbors aren't around much of the year.  So when the bananas ripened and fell to the ground about 2 feet across our property line, I snagged them.  Then I baked a boat-load of banana bread, and froze a loaf for the neighbors.  When they came back to town, I brought it to their door and explained where the bananas came from.  Now I've got an open invitation to all of their fruit trees - banana, grapefruit, papaya, and starfruit.  The latter is the only one that puts off a ton of fruit, but it's still nice, and one less thing for their landscaping service to have to remove after it ripens and falls. 

LadyStache

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Re: Coveting neighbors' fruit trees - should I knock on their door?
« Reply #20 on: May 19, 2014, 11:18:53 AM »
From your post it sounds like you may have some excess fruit yourself. In that case, I would suggest bringing over a small amount of your fruit to share with the neighbor that has a fruit free themselves. Then they won't see you as imposing and trying to get something for nothing, but rather as a thoughtful and generous neighbor. After you offer them some of your fruit, comment on how great their trees look and they would probably offer you fruit to reciprocate.

socaso

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Re: Coveting neighbors' fruit trees - should I knock on their door?
« Reply #21 on: May 19, 2014, 12:55:09 PM »
From your post it sounds like you may have some excess fruit yourself. In that case, I would suggest bringing over a small amount of your fruit to share with the neighbor that has a fruit free themselves. Then they won't see you as imposing and trying to get something for nothing, but rather as a thoughtful and generous neighbor. After you offer them some of your fruit, comment on how great their trees look and they would probably offer you fruit to reciprocate.
+1!!
Great idea. I wish I had been more assertive about this with my landlady. We had a lovely kumquat tree on our property and we used the fruits when they were in season to make beer and salads and vinaigrettes. Then one day I came home and the tree was gone. I asked what happened and she said she cut it down because it was always dropping fruit on the driveway. Poor beautiful kumquat tree...

Prairie Stash

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Re: Coveting neighbors' fruit trees - should I knock on their door?
« Reply #22 on: May 20, 2014, 11:32:12 AM »
I snagged a birch tree(for firewood) 3 days ago from a neighbor.  Once seasoned and split I can sell it for $50 (I sold a neighbors spruce tree for $60 3 years ago) or use it for my own pleasure.

The conversation went like this:
Me - I wandered down the street after seeing cutting down activity "Are you planning on keeping the wood?"
Them - "well maybe, I was thinking it might be nice for fires"
Father in law of neighbor says to son - Why would you keep it? you should give it away (he didn't feel like moving it around the yard)
Neighbour "Yeah, you should take it all."
Neighbours wife showed up when I was half done and was thankful I was cleaning up the mess.  I now have another friend on the block. Most people hate the hassle of cleaning it up.

My trick is to just walk up and say hello.  Then I say where I live and point at my house (people seem to trust locals more).  After that they know I'm not some weirdo, just a strange neighbor with time on my hands. Almost always they say yes to whatever I ask - wood, fruit, grass clippings (I use for bedding around strawberries) etc. I was shy at first, it gets easier.  Just be honest what you plan on doing with it and how much you want.