Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Fence

Here at Amazing Adventures we're moving on from traveling episodes to more domestic escapades. As our first home-based adventure, we tackled the demolition of an old fence, pictured below, which time and a vicious wisteria vine had ravaged. You will also notice, if you look carefully at the photograph, two old rusty steel T's, which had formerly been connected by a piece of cable, upon which, one imagines, clothes were hung.

We spent about two weeks doing demolition. We clear cut the backyard, with the exception of the big Cottonwood tree in the center of the yard. We borrowed a friend's pickup truck and loaded the bed five times with branches and leaves and sticks and vines and old rotten fence panels and took it all to Rexius Forest Bi-products where for a nominal fee (2 bucks load) they grind it all up and turn it into compost and mulch, which they then sell.
As with most project like this, we hit a few unanticipated snags. The biggest (at least as far as this writer is concerned) was those damned clothes line hangers. The picture below should give you a sense for the difficulty of removing them. The pipes were supported by footings that were at least 18 inches underground. I estimate that each footing was about 120 pounds--some serious support for a clothes line. I shoveled, pickaxed, sledge hammered (broke a 4lb sledge in the process), shoveled some more, rocked the damn thing back and forth with all my weight, added Rebecca's weight to that, shoveled some more, filled the hole with water, rocked and rolled and cursed and shoveled some more until the damn thing finally came out, four days after I began.

And that was just the first one. (The second one came out much less dramatically.)

With most of the demolition done, we set about setting the posts. The first post-hole took us almost an entire day to dig, partially because we needed it to be very close to our enormous rosemary bush and partially because the soil into which we dug was exceedingly rocky. I wil confess--and Rebecca will attest--that I was convinced we would never finish the fence after one day of digging post holes.

After that grueling first day, we were both thoroughly defeated. My back hurt a lot. We decided that maybe we didn't need to finish the fence so quickly. Maybe we would just work every other day. Maybe we would hire someone to dig the holes for us. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

We rested for a few days.

Then we came out and in three days set the rest of the posts. Rebecca has become a master post-hole digger, and we found a rhythm with the digging and setting of the posts. All told we set 11 fence posts and poured over 1,000 pounds of concrete. I have discovered that Lane County has an impressive drop off site for all manner of yard and household debris (like giant steel pipes cut up into four foot lengths, concrete footings still attached). Ulysses was impressed into service as a pickup truck to haul all sorts of things. We found some interesting treasures in the backyard and buried them in one of our final footings.

We both had a palpable sense of relief after we set the final post (and we'd done the whole thing without too many altercations or fisticuffs). In fact, despite having a gate to build and hang and 180 slats to nail, we felt sort of...done.

About the gate. Rebecca consulted with our structural engineer (the eminent and sensible Neal Mann, aka Big Poppa) and came up with a fine design for our gate, which we built in a few hours this afternoon. We had some tricky angles to cut (which we did free hand using a chop saw), and since neither of us had ever built a gate before we were curious to see how it would come out. To both of our surprise it came out to spec and, all things considered, pretty easily.

We're going to Crater Lake tomorrow for a few days of much needed and deserved rest and relaxation. When we return we will nail slats and hang the gate and then prepare a few planting beds.

One final note: our work was made much, much easier by Rebecca's exceptional CAD drawings, two of which I've included below for your enjoyment.

What each of the 12 panels will look like. (Aka: panel elevation)
The whole shebang.

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