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The Fence

My house sits on a pie shaped, quarter acre lot. The fat piece of the pie is in the backyard. What that means is that we have a nice, big yard. The other thing that means is that we have a very long fence. It was once made out of wood. Now it is really just dry rot in the shape of a fence. If a raccoon leans on it, or a cat sneezes, they can push boards out of it.

The fence is in 8 foot sections. Periodically boards will start falling out of one or more sections because the boards have just crumbled, and I will have to replace that section. When Alex was smaller I got this down to something of an art. I could swap out an 8 foot section in 2 hours during his afternoon nap. I had one of those wireless baby monitors, and just about the time he would start waking up, I would be all finished with one section. Alex has little or no sense of self preservation. As a toddler, if he saw something sharp or dangerous, or likely to crush him, then he would move towards it, not away from it. He has only improved slightly with age. This has sharpened my reflexes to ninja like quickness, and working with power tools required me to think 5 moves ahead just like a master chess champion. It was easier to just fix the fence while he was sleeping.

Last winter we had a big wind storm that had its way with a section of my fence. I knew that it needed replaced, but it wasn't critical. Also, when I was running my own business I was working every weekend. Well, now that I am contracting at Microsoft I have time on the weekends to do things like repair my fence. I thought that I might need to replace one fence post, and the fence section on either side. Unbeknownst to me, my neighbor had been propping up my fence with boards. When I went out and had a look at it, it became apparent that I needed to replace 4 fence posts and rebuild 40 feet of fence. Oh my goodness.

The first step is demolition. This is usually very quick because the fence is all just dry rot and it just falls apart if you tap it with a hammer. Unfortunately, 4 ancient rose bushes were in front of the section of fence that had to be fixed, plus some blackberries had started to come up under the rose bushes and also on the neighbor's side of the yard. The rose bushes had really seen better days, so we clear cut those and yanked up the blackberries. Thoroughly scratched up from that, we attacked the fence. Turns out that the fence posts were standing on railroad ties. Well one was. The railroad ties are fine, however someone stacked boards on them in several places and then put the fence posts on those boards so the fence would have a stair-stepped effect. There were also various Rube Goldberg supports that had been bolted onto the neighbor's side during the decade's past. All of the horizontal boards were more or less hollow. Ants and dry rot had just destroyed them which is why the posts were falling over. Alex and I made one trip to Home Depot (in the Fire Truck!) for posts, brackets, a crow bar, and a hand saw, and then went to work. We got most of the fence demolished - except for The Nails. They used these half inch diameter spikes to nail the horizontal boards to the railroad ties. They are very old and if you hit one with a hammer, metal shards fly off. Nothing can get them out, either. I tried a hacksaw and it took me 15 or 20 minutes to cut one. There are about 8 to 10 left. I need to rent or borrow a sawzall. Alex became very accomplished at pulling nails out of boards by the end of the day, and was starting to get handy with a socket wrench and the crowbar. Let's hope that he uses these skills for good and not evil.

Anyway, it has turned into quite a project. My neighbor estimates that the old fence was there 40 years. Hopefully, these repairs that I am making will last a while, but if I have to go back out and replace the fence when I am 80, I will probably just move to a condo. My goal for now is to just finish before it starts raining for 9 months.


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