Our contractor was just about to start working to restore our backyard to working order when the ice storm came. This was mid November 2010, a little earlier than normal for our area, and the ground froze solid. And while our winters are typically mild, it remained uncharacteristically frigid from mid-November through February. Which meant that our backyard was a mud pit for four months. Too frozen for our contractors to work, yet still somehow muddy enough that Carmen-the-dog tracked muddy footprints throughout the house if we let her in the backyard. Plus there was no fence, so we couldn’t really let her out there anyway. This meant additional walks first thing in the morning and last thing at night, in the dark, cold, and freezing rain. All winter long. We refer to last winter as “the dark times.”
Finally in March, it was warm enough to break ground, and our contractors came and prepared the base for our driveway and patio and built the wall. Now, it was about this time that I arrived home one afternoon to find a kid playing in our backyard. Apparently, a mud pit along his usual walk home from school is a fun place to play. He left when I came in, so I didn’t say anything. Aaron and I decided to hurry to get our fence built.
John and Nancy (best in-laws ever!) came down for a weekend to help us get all the fence posts in the ground and hang the stringers. Aaron, our technical specialist, made a few decisions regarding fence construction. First, we decided to set 1/2 of the above-ground post height, or 1/3 of the total post height, in the ground to prevent leaning, which meant that our 6-ft tall posts extend 3 feet into the ground, for a total length of 9 feet. This meant we had to purchase 12-foot long posts. They were massive, and people thought we were building a fortress until we cut the excess off. Second, we decided to set the posts in crushed angular gravel rather than concrete. The gravel facilitates drainage away from the post, and it is easier to remove the posts in the future when they inevitably rot and need to be replaced in ten or fifteen years. More information about this is available from Tim at Ask the Builder.
Things were looking good until Monday, when I came home and saw the same kid climbingon our newly erected jungle gym. This time, his mother was there. She said to me, “I told him he won’t be able to play in there once your fence is done.” Well, that’s good to know, I guess. Except he probably shouldn’t be playing in there now, what with the piles of rubble and construction debris and boards with rusty nails sticking out of them. That, and the fence isn’t really designed to hold dynamic human loads. It’s not exactly a kid-friendly zone at the moment. But what do I know?
So we hurried up and finished the fence and hung the gate up to keep wandering miscreants from stepping on rusty nails and getting tetanus and having their parents sue us. Imagine my surprise when I came home the next week and saw a different kid sitting on the top of our fence! He then jumped down into our backyard. The original offender was already in there. I yelled at them, something about “keep out of here, you’re going to get hurt!” and they left.
It’s true; our backyard is a dangerous place at the moment! And I certainly don’t want to get sued. But still, I felt bad for yelling at them. I mean, once when I was a kid, my Uncle Larry scolded me and I thought he was mean for YEARS. (It’s funny how children’s minds distort things; Uncle Larry is actually very nice.) I guess if these kids think I’m mean and are afraid of me, at least it means they won’t break their arms falling off my fence. And since then, I have not seen any evidence of unwanted visitors in the backyard, so I guess it’s all right.