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Response to "Granny eats shoots & leaves"

Posted by Robin Abrahams  September 23, 2011 10:11 AM

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Monday's question elicited a perhaps unprecedented level of agreement: for heaven's sake, LW, if a woman is picking mushrooms off neighbors' lawns, leave her alone, and find bigger things to worry about. colakoala summed up the various sub-issues nicely: 

Wow, LW, you and I are on totally different wavelengths. You see a grandmother picking mushrooms to eat in front of a toddler and your reaction is that she shouldn't be going into peoples' front yards to do this. My reaction is OH MY GOD THAT'S DANGEROUS. 

I don't mean that you can't find edible mushrooms in front yards. I mean that a toddler can't handle subtlety and will not be learning which mushrooms are okay to eat, they will only be learning that it is okay to pick mushrooms to eat, which is something I would be very worried about my own child believing. (Unless they just think mushrooms are pretty, I suppose - have you seen her eat any)? 

Anyway, back to the etiquette situation: foraging doesn't hurt anyone. Stealing does, so if she's taking things that were being cultivated (like berries off a blueberry bush) that is wrong. Trespassing doesn't hurt people on its own but can make people feel pretty uneasy. If she is going deep onto peoples' property (say, closer to the house than to the sidewalk) I'd feel pretty sketchy about it. 

If you see her doing something sketchy, it's not your business to stop her from doing it, if she's not doing it to you. I mean, you see who it is and you must realize she isn't a threat to anyone. But if you know the neighbors involved you could tell them in case you're worried it would bother them. 

I think the LW was on a different wavelength than the rest of the world. Most of us did a double-take at the mushroom reference. Jim-in-Littleton shared his own experience: 

But as one who does forage for mushrooms, I usually knock on the neighbor's door, point and say "Hey, you gonna eat that?". That's always gotten a good chuckle out of them, some nice conversations and permission to take all the mushrooms I want. 

Very cool! Also cool was ashmama's biblical allusion: 

You know, this reminds me of the biblical admonition to the early Hebrews to leave the edges of their fields unharvested so that the poor and needy could glean the unharvested crops. If this were my yard, I'd treat it the same way.  

The verses in question are Leviticus 19:9-10: "When you reap the harvest of your land, shall not reap all the way to the corner of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not pick your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger; I the Lord am your God." It's an interesting exercise to think about what the "corners of our fields" are in a modern society. What would a contemporary version of this command be? 

For those who are more concerned with protecting their own than with giving to the poor -- and we do need to be concerned with both -- the Globe has an interesting story up today about the rise of theft in community gardens, along with some tips to reduce it. 

And Fastenyourseatbelts had a nice practical suggestion for those who want Granny off the grass: 

And if the LW and neighbors simply don't want these people in their yards, get one of those bright yellow skull and cross-bones "Pesticide Warning" signs at the hardware store and stick near the mushroom patch. 

This works to get people to keep dogs off your yard, too.
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About Miss Conduct
Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at

Who is Miss Conduct?

Robin Abrahamswrites the weekly "Miss Conduct" column for The Boston Globe Magazine and is the author of Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners. Robin has a PhD in psychology from Boston University and also works as a research associate at Harvard Business School. Her column is informed by her experience as a theater publicist, organizational-change communications manager, editor, stand-up comedian, and professor of psychology and English. She lives in Cambridge with her husband Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, and their socially challenged but charismatic dog, Milo.

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