Monday, October 19, 2015

The Picket Chronicles

Two years ago, I decided that what my cutting garden needed was a white picket fence.  After a couple of false starts, I set that idea on the back burner.  That is, until I visited Ithaca, New York this summer.  What a pretty little town!  Old houses, waterfalls, and - you guessed it: pretty white picket fences.  Well, that trip put a bee in my bonnet.

A week after I returned from Ithaca, daughter Claire came home for a visit.  Just what I needed: a partner in crime!  We set out one morning for the local fence store, purchased eight, 4 x 8' panels, put them in her new car (Thanks, Claire!) and headed home.  She & I fiddled in the yard, eye-balling and such.  Neither of us know much about fence building.

I should insert here that That Spouse o' Mine did not seem to want to participate in this activity.  I did not invite him to join in, and he did not attempt to.  That's thirty-one years of marriage: "Picket fence?  Bully for you!  Go for it!"

Claire left to return to her new Wisconsin home, and there I was staring at picket fence panels.  Lightbulb!  "I should paint these BEFORE I set them into place!"  And so weeks of priming and painting pickets went by.

I bought 8' 4 x 4s for my fence posts.  I needed to cut them into 4' posts.  I have used our big saw in the past (I don't even know what the big saw is really called), but it seemed like too much trouble for this, so I got a hand saw out and cut all the 4 x 4s like that.  I mean, how did the women of Ithaca make their picket fences before the invention of home-owned big saws?  Right?

  Years ago, I had an incident that involved a rock climbing wall that did not end well, and since then, my ability to pull any starter cord (lawn mower, rototiller, etc) has been a bit compromised.  When it came time to cut down the two giant cedar trees which were not in my plan for the cutting garden and new fence, I was not able to start the chain saw.  (I used to be quite handy with a chain saw, before the unfortunate rock climbing incident.)  Once again I took the hand saw, and spent a Saturday morning cutting down trees.  This was really pretty unpleasant.  But, I got it done, and that Spouse o' Mine came home from his Saturday bike ride to see the trees well-felled, and after his initial shock, he very nicely finished digging them out with a miner's pick for me.

From there, I confronted the perimeter of my garden: how does one set the perimeter?  I emailed my comrade of all things house & garden, Cate, in Ohio.  "How do I make a 90* angle???"

How embarrassing that Cate had to remind me of the simple algebraic rule of A2 + B2= C2.  Sheesh.

I taped off the edge of the cutting garden, where my picket fence should go.  And then what?  Where do I go from there?  I drove in to town and took neighborhood walks to see how other picket fences were built.  I went online.  (Man!  Some people sure have a lot of details in installing fences, let me tell you.)   I mentioned to that Spouse o' Mine that I did not know what in the Sam Hill I was to do next.

The next day he came home with a brace he bought at the hardware store.  Ah!  So that's it: a brace to screw the 4x4 to the 2x4 panels.  Brilliant!  Although the one he bought didn't work, at least I knew there was something out there in Hardware Land that was made for this sort of task.  

And so, this weekend I set my first post.  Set it in stone.  (concrete).  It has been 48 hours, and I still beam as I set my little level in the top and see that yes, indeedy, I DID get it level in spite of the wind and the kitten and everything else in my way.

The wind has been something else the past couple of days.  I reached a temporary standstill in the fence installment when I realized I could not, by myself, maneuver an 8' panel out there in the 25-35 mph wind.  That Spouse o' Mine came out late in the afternoon and showed me what Step #324 should be in this procedure.  I busied myself screwing braces (I went and bought 30 of the correct fit.) into all my 4x4s, and then I tried to set panels to posts, as that Spouse o' Mine had said, to set them up and then "jockey them into place."  Ha ha!  I laughed.  I think "jockeying them into place" really is a simplification.

Case in point: I set up three panels, in the gale, and went hunting for that Spouse o'Mine.  Something, I told him, is not right.  I couldn't say what, but something was not right.  I suspected that there was a slight decline in elevation in the yard.  I went online, and I did not like any of the solutions given for installing a fence on a slope.  The two of us went out to the cutting garden, and he poo-pooed my 7", lime green level which I had been using.  He disappeared, and came back with a magical laser level.  Because he is an engineer.

Together, we ascertained that there was a 7" slope in my garden.  "What does this mean?"

Well, he explained that I could do this, or I could do that, or such, or so forth, or, I could bring in dirt.

He knows me too well.  I have dirt.  I have a slew of dirt thanks to the crewmen who put the fiber optics on our property this summer.  I had asked them, "What do you do with all this dirt?"  And they replied that they had to take it to landfills.  "Take it to my landfill!"  And they did.  Loads and loads and loads of it.  What rural property owner worth her salt does not have a large dirt pile?

So, this morning, in more 25-35 mph wind, I shoveled dirt into a bushel basket, hauled it to the cutting garden with our little garden mower, over and over and over again.  That Spouse o' Mine is going to be the civil engineer in this detail, in that our rototiller is gigantic and, again, has a pull starter cord.  I haul dirt, he does the dirt-scaping.  Win-win.  From there, shouldn't it all be smooth sailing?

to be continued...


Gillian said...

I bet it will look amazing!

Louise Plummer said...

I think we need some pics to see your progress. And, you should run for president. I have a feeling you could figure
out how to solve our problems.

Louise Plummer said...

See my "How the dying triumph" list.

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