A Fence Post

Posted on January 7, 2010


This all started when I saw an absolutely gorgeous image of a Kansas fence over on Anna and Preston Surface’s blog.  I wandered off on a digression about fences I have known and what they have meant to me, and perhaps to others.  Wooden fences, picket fences, Tom Sawyer painting the fence, wrought iron fences, barbwire fences, seven-foot deer fences, electric fences, invisible fences . . . Yes, indeed, a great many people here have Invisible Fences.  Some of them, unclear on the concept, post signs that say “This property protected by Invisible Fence!”  This always makes me expect people wearing tinfoil caps.  Anyway, Miss Sadie and the Cowboy are perfectly aware that since THEY do not have collars with Invisible Fence transmitters to remind them of their proper boundaries, they may freely wander across an Invisibly Fenced property with impunity.  I digress. 

My city house had a chain link fence around the back yard. I know, I know, but we were all young and broke when we moved in and we never got around to putting in something more elegant. The fence kept the dogs in and gave neighbors something to lean on while we exchanged the news of the day. The Donatos used to pass containers of New Orleans cooking over that fence. I have been blessed with good neighbors. When we sat out in the yard of a long summer evening, we would light torches along the fence to distract the mosquitoes. Lighting the torches meant “Come on over and sit with us.” I took this picture at the farewell party the Donatos gave when I moved up here. I still miss them.

Volunteers built this fence at the Wilkinson Homestead, our little local history museum, to resemble the original. This kind of fence says, very politely, “this is my property – kindly do not tether the horses in the yard.”

Over at Providence Farm the Romeyns have been forced to Take Measures. They have electrified fences to protect the investments of their CSA members against the depredations of critters of all stripes. See that little white wire? Watch out . . .

Sturdy fenceposts at this access point to Grand Traverse Bay send a different message. “This is a good place to walk, and to take the dogs for a walk, but this sandy bluff overlooking the Bay is a really, really bad place to park.”

On a glorious trip to the Lake District (the one in England; I live in the one here, try to keep up, people!) I visited Beatrix Potter’s house and watched a cat play in the meadow and took special note of the woven twig fences and gates.  I thought, well, I could do something like that at the Writing Studio and Bait Shop!  I could never imagine writing stories as engaging as Potter’s, but I could, maybe, use her fence-building techniques.

The internet has less than you might think about fences and what they mean, but it was fun to poke around.

  • There is a bit on Fence History.
  • There is a whole lot about barbwire at the Devil’s Rope Museum.
  • There are some wonderful bits of wisdom about practical fence-building (“not so much an art as sweat and hard work” or “A cattle guard is for containing cattle. It isn’t safe to use with horses.”)
  • You can learn all about building fences at the Modern Homestead from Mother Earth News.
  • You can find stunningly comprehensive lessons on livestock fencing at Gateway Farm Alpacas.
  • You can learn an astonishing amount about the art of Bamboo Fences from the Princeton Architectural Press.
  • But here’s my favorite: Nature’s Best offers a Farm fence-building course in Sweden!   Host Gunnar Lodin says, “You should start by building a fence for your enemy, then for your friend and lastly for yourself.”  And here’s the most endearing thing about Gunnar:  Apart from his skill in the art of fence-building, he is a wizard at baking cinnamon buns.

Next of course we’re going to have to explore walls, and we’ll have to begin with examples from Mrs. Uhdd’s part of the world.  But the best poem about the whole subject is probably Robert Frost’s Mending Wall, that begins, Something there is that doesn’t love a wall . . .