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Sunday, June 22, 2008

The longest day of the year

Gated[posted by risa]

After the deer climbed onto the porch (while we were both at work) and ate the tops off the potted tomatoes there, we decided to fence the spring/fall beds, along the east side of the garage and north and west sides of the house, right away. While this wipes out the financial advantage to one year's garden, we think of it as a long-term investment. We're members of the Seed Savers Exchange, and there are things out there we very much don't wish to disappear, even if we could undoubtedly get them from the grocery store for about the same cost and much less trouble.

I paced off our agreed-upon fence line and found that we would need 90 feet of seven-foot welded wire, one decent gate (we'd need three, but ugly ones I have no trouble building) and some fifteen eight-foot posts. As our clay soil, mixed with round riverbed stones (mostly basaltic) has already tightened up for the summer, and would wear us down quickly if we tried to set the posts by hammering on them with a maul like John Henry hammering drift pins, we would also need to invest in a tube steel post-driver. I'd used one before, and knew what a difference it would make, but had always gotten by with a maul, by doing the fencing in the dead of winter.

It's been some years now since there was a pickup truck on the premises, but we reasoned we could put everything in the back of the Saturn wagon -- it's ok to to pretend it's a truck now; it has 194,500 miles on it! Coming back with that load made for some slow driving, but, as everyone has eased up on the gas (finally, at $4.35/gallon) we were no trouble to those around us.

As this fence does not expect to be tested by cattle or horses, and we plan to move it next winter, there was no need to make it fancy. We ran it twelve feet between posts and braced the corners with the same kind of posts, tied with heavy-guage wire to the uprights. Instead of fence clips (which require a little more strength than either of us have) we tied the fence to the posts with snips of the same wire, twisted thrre times together at the ends, which will be easy to undo.
The utility gates we simply cut into the fence at one post, re-attaching the fencing back to the post with home-made latches when we're done.

The whole thing, from idea to execution, took one day -- fortunately it was the longest day of the year.

The new enclosure chages the appearance of the whole place. Suddenly we felt much less like gardeners and more like farmers, and were motivated to tackle weeding, mulching, composting, planting, and transplanting all the remainder of the day. We passed each other like ships in the night, Beloved with a wheelbarrow full of chicken-manure hay for next year's bed, I with a "little red wagon" with potted tomatoes. We arranged to take our breaks together under the shade of the fir trees, drinking solar tea and watching things grow.

We took our last break as the swallows went to bed and the bats began coming out to play.

Our cat (or rather Daughter's cat, who stayed behind when she left the nest) came in through the garage, as is her wont, and ambled slowly and arthritically up the walk, pausing to note the unexpected locations of the big pots of tomatoes, potatoes, carrots and beets. She walked up to the new gate by the porch, still checking out the pots over her shoulder, and ran smack into the welded wire.

The expression on her cat face was easily read from thirty feet away -- the one which is amply described by the texting/internet acronym "WTF?" She sat down and looked at it a bit -- stunned, really. Then she lay down in the middle of the walk -- and waited.

"Gonna be a long wait, kiddo."


"Yah, we're sorry, but it had to be done."

"Shall we make you a little cat door at each end?"


"OK, but can it wait till tomorrow? We're tuckered."


So I cut in a cat door where the fence joins to the house, by the old lilac bush, as the stars began to come in, one by one.



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