Sunday, September 9, 2012

Fence Repair

We’ve spent the last week working on our backyard fencing situation. We already had a nice new gate, built by Mark Meyer last spring, wide enough to bring a bike through, but the rest was a post and rail sort of construction along the alley, which created a slight visual barrier, but not much else. When we acquired chickens, we fenced them in with bits of chicken wire stapled to the fence. It worked, mostly. Gracie, the Houdini of chickens, found all of the weak spots one fall and we plugged them up. We were down to a bi-monthly escape, and that was tolerable. But, last spring, a dog got in somehow and killed three chickens, including twelve-year-old George. At that point, we knew something had to change. At the same time, the fence around our rental developed a seriously threatening lean. So, we replaced the rental fence and hauled the six foot pieces of cedar down the alley to our own backyard. Mark began dismantling them as I considered our construction options. We discovered that we could use almost all of the old fencing, as the nails would land in different spots and the rotten bottoms could be trimmed off.

First, we needed a serious pruning/cleaning up of the two old hazelnut trees that frame the back yard. I asked around and Mark Meyer was willing to come in with his chainsaw and clean them out in exchange for an Orange Pound Cake. He spent two evenings right before dark working on the stubs of old branches that I had trimmed over the years and the brushy rootball that was creeping over the fence line. His work was much better than the professional guys I hired last winter…and they did not work for cake. When he was done, I yanked out the brambles and ivy and thrust them into our neighbor Al’s extra yard debris container.

We’ve  cut boards to fit the uneven ground, curving the bottoms up over the rootball, dropping the fence top down as we move away from the corner brush pile, and running part of the fence under our art installation of a repainted garage door left over from the garage to dining room conversion of a few years ago. A recycled wood fence is not something you can just measure, cut, and attach. There’s a lot of flex in change in the run down the alley. We're not done yet; there's more to do.

So far, it’s been a big hit with the neighbors. Most of them know about the chicken massacre. They have also done some chicken herding, so they understand the concept. Dogs cannot see in; chickens cannot see out. Everyone stays where they belong. I think they also like the height. Except around the brush pile, where the fence is six feet high—the chickens were walking to the top of the pile and hopping over quite neatly last spring—the fence is no higher that the old rails, so you can still see in as you walk by. Lots of people like to peer in, check out the crops, watch the bees, feed the chickens, pat the cats….the new fence doesn’t stop any of that interaction. It is not off-putting or unfriendly. And it’s all recycled wood, which is pretty fine and free.

Finally, clearing out the brush has allowed the fall blooming crocus to sprout up and, this fall, I’m going to bring back some more day lilies and asters, so there will be more flowers and herbs and less trash along the alley. Over time, it’s going to be a good example of site repair—making a pretty ugly spot look beautiful through time and effort, not money. And that pleases the whole neighborhood.

Orange Pound Cake (easy with a kitchen-aid mixer):

1 cup of butter, softened and creamed thoroughly with 1.5 cups of fine sugar
add 4 eggs, one at a time
measure 3 cups of flour, with 1 t. of baking soda, baking powder, and salt fluffed in
measure 1 cup of buttermilk and one t. of vanilla, and the rinds of two grated oranges
add half the flour, half the buttermilk, beat, then add the rest of the flour and buttermilk
Pour into a tube pan or two layers. Bake at 350 until done—toothpick test

Gild with either the juice of the oranges, mixed and heated with a little sugar or some lovely chocolate gouache frosting.

This also works with lemons—and maybe some lemon curd….

1 comment:

  1. Wow. Fantastic post. Very informative, as well. Keep posting. I am waiting for your next post. :)