Tagged: building a fence

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

Texans love their fences. Big, bodacious, imposing fences. Nothing makes us feel safer, or more private, than having our backyards wrapped in the seeming impenetrability of a tall, wooden fence.

Good fences make good neighbors.

We haven’t had a fence for almost four years. Michael is from Ohio, the land of one big communal backyard, unfenced and shared by all.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.

When I went to Ohio for the first time three years ago, I couldn’t believe how neat and tidy everything was. It reminded me of living in Switzerland, where everything runs on time and all signs of imperfection are hidden. The Protestant Ethic is alive and well in Ohio. Must be all that good German stock.

One weekend Michael called over some buddies and tore down our old, dilapidated fence. He even talked the neighbor next door into letting him pull hers down as well.

His reason: we were going to re-landscape the entire yard, front and back. We dug up the entire front and back yard and put in subsurface irrigation. Until it was completed, it looked like a nuclear bomb had hit our property.

Eventually, we planted a beautiful flowerbed in the front yard, added plants along the side of the house, and planted a vegetable garden in the back.

The final piece of the outdoor renovation has been putting in a new fence. Or not.

Being from Ohio, Michael loved not having a fence. I was okay with it until we adopted two dogs–two rather large dogs.

For the past three years, every time the dogs have wanted to go outside we’ve had to attach them to two long ropes that are anchored in the ground. This system has not been perfect.

I planted Canna lilies to make a quasi natural fence. Great in summer, lousy in winter, destroyed by Shasta in spring.

Shasta and my natural Canna lily fence

The City of Dallas spent the past year digging up the alley behind our house. In fact, they dug it up multiple times. Each time I felt naked, exposed, vulnerable. There was no barrier between me and our garden from digging machines and men with shovels. The dogs were not happy with these workers behind our house.

I wasn’t either. One of them knocked on my back door one afternoon to tell me I had “beautiful tomatoes.” He asked if he could buy some from our garden. The next time I saw him, while walking the dogs, he asked about our peppers. He couldn’t believe that we grew hot peppers. Yes, Jose, white people eat peppers, too. I refused to sell him any.

A female worker asked me one day what the compost bin was. She thought it was a snake cage.

The owners across the street decided to renovate their rental house. For nine months we eyed each other, finally made introductions, and then became friends. He enjoyed seeing the changes in our garden, and we enjoyed seeing all the work he put into a new deck and driveway, and eventually the house itself. Shasta found someone new to jump on, and I enjoyed listening to him sing along to classic rock.

Then they put up their new fence and we hardly saw them again. Working in the garden suddenly wasn’t as much fun anymore.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.

The snoopy neighbor on the other side wondered why we didn’t have a fence and what it would do to his property value. When Shasta ran over to his dog once, off leash, he complained to another neighbor that maybe he should report us to the city.

Good fences make good neighbors.

Finally, after three years of harping, Michael decided to build me a fence. He rallied his friends together again the week I was away in Portland and started digging post holes. He came up with the idea of a fence/flower box, with a trellis-like top portion that would allow us to not feel so closed in.

Beginnings of the fence

Laying the drain at the bottom, and Shasta smiling for the camera

Delivery of two types of dirt for the flower box

Filled to the brim after two days of shoveling dirt

First side completed

We’ve just completed one length. Filling up a four-foot tall, 40 foot long flower box with dirt was a massive amount of work. Next we need to stain it, build the other side (without the flower box), and add gates.

And our next door neighbor, the one who Michael talked into pulling hers down as well? Not happy with us. I thought we were going to leave it open? she said.

Blame it on me. And the dogs.

With thanks to Robert Frost’s Mending Wall.