Sunday, July 20, 2014

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors: Part 1

We are now knee deep (3 feet to be exact, but more on that later) in our fence-building project, and as expected it is turning out to be our biggest and most difficult undertaking yet. The good news is that the neighbors (the very reason we are building the fence in the first place) appear to be out of town this week, so we don't have to deal with them sitting on their porch sneering at us through a haze of cigarette smoke, or with their two mangy dogs barking at us nonstop from the backyard.

Our first task was to remove a gnarled old half-dead pine tree that leaned precariously over our garage.  Not only was it ugly, it was also right in the path of where we need to put the fence, so it had to go.

This turned out to be more difficult than we'd anticipated.  The first tree service we called offered to come out and give us an estimate, but at the agreed upon time he never showed up and never called.  In fact, we never heard from him again. Then a series of major storms hit the area, which meant that all of the tree removal services were busy clearing storm damage and they told us it would likely be a month to six weeks before they could even give us an estimate. Finally we called K&B in Beaver Dam and they came out the next day to give us an estimate, but said it would be a few weeks before they could do the job. So we were thrilled when they called a week later and said they could do it the next day. We figured it would be a couple of guys and a truck, but instead they came with a whole crew and several trucks, including a GIANT wood chipper (obviously we made some Fargo jokes).

In under an hour, they had trimmed back the giant tree next to our driveway and taken down the pine tree.  It was really entertaining to watch! After they left, we were left with a pile of logs that we can use for firewood, so Lance went out with a chainsaw and cut them down. And he cut back the cherry trees in the backyard while he was at it.

Now, on to fence building, right? Umm... No. The next step was to get the building permit.  Lance went down to City Hall to ask some questions, and got nothing but attitude.  We looked up the regulations for fences online, but found that there are two different sections in the code, and they contradict each other. We decided to go with the section that benefitted us most. In some cities, fences can be right on the property line, in others they have to be one foot inside the line.  In Columbus, they have to be TWO feet inside the line, which is ridiculous. This means that if you want to put up a fence, you are agreeing to substantially reduce the amount of usable yard space, and if two neighbors have fences, you end up with a four foot strip of no-man's-land in between, which is just stupid.  The exception is that you can get written permission from the neighbor to go closer to the lot line.  The guy behind us (his driveway borders our back lot line) was completely agreeable to the idea, so we were able to go right up to the line in back and save both of the cherry trees.  We didn't even bother asking the degenerates next door because we're sure they know how much we dislike them and we didn't think they'd be too friendly about it.  Plus, we want as much of a buffer zone between us and them as we can get. So on that side, we are going two feet off the line, and then we will line the outside of our fence with a bed of river rock so that we don't have to mow back there.

FINALLY, after over a week of phone calls and waiting, we secured the permit. Yay! We had already had a load of cement and river rock delivered (also a pretty cool thing to watch), the Digger's Hotline guy had already marked off all of the gas lines for us, and we were eager to get started.

First we measured and marked off both the lot line and the fence line with string. Lance and my dad had already done the measuring a couple of weeks ago, but then the neighbor behind us had a new driveway poured and one of the workers had removed the stake marking the line in the back.  When Lance went out to ask him about it, he insisted he knew exactly were it went and he put it "back."  Not even close to where it was supposed to be.  So we had to re-measure, and this time Lance marked the spot with spray paint.

Then we set about removing sod from the strip where we will put the river rock (basically a two foot wide strip all along the side of the yard).  Lance cut out the pieces of sod and I helped move them to the trailer- it ended up looking like we were digging a moat- which, given the neighbors, really isn't such a bad idea.  Does anyone know where we could get sharks with laser beams attached to their foreheads? Or just some basic mid-size alligators?

While we were working on the "moat", we discovered a nest of baby birds in the little tree in the front yard.

And there was a crew of adult robins (seriously, not just one of them) who were NOT happy that we were working so close to the nest.  They spent most of the day dive bombing us and flying directly at our heads, coming WAY closer than we were comfortable with.  Of course, once we got the sod taken out, they had no problem hopping happily along the dirt path pulling out worms. You're welcome, stupid jerk birds.

The next phase of Operation Neighbor Repelling Fence was to go pick up the fence posts.  Unfortunately we don't have a lot of options for lumber around here.  Both of the independent lumber yards we called were charging THREE times as much per board as the big box stores, however the quality of wood at those stores is pretty dismal.  We checked both Menard's and Home Depot and found that Home Depot had very few fence boards even available and what they did have was all split and warped.  So we hitched up the trailer and went to Menard's instead.  And believe me, we had to search through piles of wood for a LONG time before we found enough posts in good, usable condition. This is why we opted to pick it up ourselves instead of having it delivered- we wanted to pick out the good boards ourselves.

So yesterday we started digging the post holes.  We are doing posts every six feet and the fence will be 6 ft high around the yard and then drop down to 4ft high in the side yard out to the front. So the majority of the holes need to be 3ft deep, with the shorter ones being 2ft. Only 3 feet! That doesn't sound too hard, right? WRONG!!!

First Lance cut 12" square pieces of sod from the location of each post. Then we went to the local hardware store and rented an auger.  We were expecting one of these, but were pleasantly surprised to find they had one of THESE instead:

However, while definitely easier than a smaller auger, this was still not an easy task.  Okay, that's an understatement.  Digging the holes SUCKED.  First of all, this thing is HEAVY. And the yard is not level, which meant that Lance had to really fight to keep it steady while drilling the holes. Then, we had expected to have a lot of issues with tree roots (and we did), but it turned out that our biggest problem was rocks.  And I am not talking little stones here, I mean HUGE rocks. So Lance went through and dug holes, and I followed along behind with a shovel and pried out ginormous boulders. Then he went back and dug them out some more, and I went through with a post hole digger and dug out the rest.

We also found that at just about 3 feet down, there is a layer of clay.  Like the exact kind of thick, hard gray clay that you use in art class.  Not going to lie, I resisted the urge to make a pinch pot out of it. And while that clay is all fun and games when you are in art class, it is a nightmare to dig out with a post hole digger.  This whole (hole?) thing took 4-5 hours and now we have a yard full of 2 and 3 foot deep holes, 28 of them to be exact.  I commented that I was worried we'd come out in the morning and find a raccoon or some other critter had fallen in a hole overnight, and Lance added "or a small child?" But I assured him that Baby Jessica is no longer a small child, so we should be good.

I am leaning on the counter because I am too exhausted to stand up

We were so tired last night we could barely move, and we were in bed by 8:30.  I would love to go back and tell my 7-year old self that someday I would VOLUNTARILY go to bed in the summer while it was still light out. I don't now how Lance is feeling this morning, since he had to go help a friend bale hay at 6am, but I am definitely HURTING.  Can't wait to get back out there today and haul around 50lb bags of gravel and concrete so we can set the posts......

But when we have a nice tall fence blocking our view of next door, it will all be worth it! I hope.

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