To Fence or Not To Fence

Today’s post comes from Barbara in Rivertown

When we moved here to Winona in June, I knew one of the things I would miss most from our Robbinsdale home was the back yard, a huge “park” and garden that was lush and green and private – from trees and shrubbery as much as from the existing fencing. Imagine the adjustment to our cute little yard, most of it encased in this lovely white plastic fence!

I understand – the former owner had a young child, and what better way to keep track of him? Husband doesn’t seem to mind the fence – he’s happy trading the lawn for veggie garden no matter what. But I feel a bit like a caged animal whenever I spend time out in the yard – the fence is visually solid, not even a crack to see what might be on the other side.

Add to this the fact that upon talking to our neighbor with whom we share this fence, it turns out the fence was both poorly erected and may have been built onto his property. (Luckily this neighbor is an old friend.) At any rate, its proximity to his driveway makes snow blowing almost impossible in winter. So there is plan afoot to move said fence this fall to where it should have been built, and add the missing 4×4 posts.

But – AHA! – Husband has had another idea – what if we just eliminated that fence? Granted, he needs some fencing around the garden for the bunnies, which (thanks to tim) we have in the garage, waiting for just such a purpose. But after that, do we really need a fence?

I asked Robert Frost, who wrote “Mending Wall”:

… Before I built a wall I’d ask to know What I was walling in or walling out, And to whom I was like to give offence. Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, That wants it down.’…

I think it’s worth talking to Neighbor about. It may be that some fencing is in order – maybe they’re used to the privacy, too. But it might be a low fence, or just at the back of the drive where more privacy is desired. For my money, I’d like to see more open space.

Is your yard fenced? How do you feel about fences?

81 thoughts on “To Fence or Not To Fence”

  1. Morning all! My backyard is found by three separate fences. On the north a low chain link that belongs to those neighbors. On the east is a high privacy fence that goes between two garages. Then on the south side is my fence, a low chain link w/ cedar posts and top rails. I installed this one when I moved in due to the dogs, however I’ve already decided that once there are no more dogs I’m taking it down.

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  2. We have terriers, so our yard is fenced. The fences are of the cedar variety. They belong to the neighbors except for a short chain link section we put up to make sure the yard was secure for our fiendish pups. I despise the cedar fence on the north side of the house, since the neighbor has encouraged an Engleman Ivy to grow on it. As we have the sunnier side of the fence in our yard, that damned ivy grows rampant down the fence, into our flower beds and roots into the lawn. I just rip it up and throw it over the fence. It is also growing up the neighbor’s ash tree, the tree that shades our yard on the north side so that we can’t grow grass. The leaves clog up our rain gutters and down spouts. We are going to have a tree service cut all the part of the tree that extends over the fence. I accidently killed about 20 feet of the ivy the other day when I was ripping roots out of our day lily bed. I was secretly happy about that.

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    1. The fence is constructed so that it has alternating boards that create crevices on each side of the fence. The neighbor’s oil-worker sons lodge objects in the crevices of the fence, things like rotting antelope skulls, wine bottles, and what looks suspiciously like meth paraphernalia. The things are hidden from their mother’s view on their side of the fence, but are fully exposed on our side of the fence. We take them and toss them, and the neighbors never say a word.

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      1. Although this is somewhat unusual, the news today reports that England’s oldest dog, a 25 year old Yorkshire Terrier, was savaged and died after an attack by a loose Lakeland Terrier. Terriers need limits and boundaries, and then they are the most wonderful of dogs.

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  3. The “yard” (back patio) is fenced. All the condos have the same wooden structure in which a species of wasps love to build their nests. I love plastic fences

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  4. “Something there is that doesn’t like a fence.” The second place I lived as a married person, a shabby duplex in a cheap and aging neighborhood in St Paul, showed how fences can divide neighbors. Our place was separated from the property to our south by an ugly chain link fence.

    Erecting that fence sparked conflict between the owner of our duplex and that neighbor. The neighbor tried to get rid of the fence with a lawsuit. When that failed, the neighbor planted a large tree on the outer edge of his property, almost touching the fence. His plan was that the tree would grow so much its roots would go under the fence to our side and buckle the concrete driveway. To encourage the tree to grow the neighbor staked down a hose to feed water every single day to his revenge tree.

    I wasn’t fond of the fence, as it was an eyesore, but it let our dogs play safely where the neighbor’s dog, an elkhound with a personality disorder, couldn’t get to them.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. In the small town of Clarks Grove, where I once lived, there were almost no fenced in yards. I think that was good. The spacing of the houses, garages, shrubs, and trees created some private spaces in most back yards which was good. I liked not having a fence to maintain and to work around. I also liked the greater amount of open area with yards not walled off by fences.

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  6. First off, a very happy birthday wish to our very own verily sherrilee. Hope you have a great day.

    Our back yard is completely bound by a tall cedar fence. When we moved in there was an ugly chain link fence on two sides, but nothing toward the east where the neighbor we’ve been in sporadic conflict with lives. We replaced the chain link with the cedar fence for two reasons: we wanted more privacy, and also wanted to prevent the kids on their way to the Boys and Girls Club from cutting through our yard. I wouldn’t have minded them if they hadn’t completely ignored flower beds and routinely tossed their candy wrappers and pop cans as they went.

    A Virginia Creeper vine, planted by a bird I’m sure, has taken root and pretty much covers the eastern fence, so I’m very familiar with Renee’s struggle to keep the thing from taking over everything else. I do like the looks of it on the fence, though. I just yank out anything that gets on the ground, but constant vigilance is in order.

    When we moved into the neighborhood forty years ago, there were few fences. There was the occasional chain link fence, which kept dogs and kids confined but did little for privacy. As the neighborhood has diversified, there are more and more of privacy fences.

    I much prefer hedges and other natural boundary markers, but they are a lot more work, and until they’re very well established, they don’t keep dogs safely secured.

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  7. My daughter’s home is separated on the back side from the neighboring house by a tall hedge. You can’t see their property even when standing on the porch of my daughter’s home. That adjacent property is home to drug users who seem to have opened the place to other drug users who camp out in the backyard, just feet from my daughter’s place. The drug house is filled with angry parents who scream at their kids in language my grandson should never hear. They play loud music. When my daughter and her husband called the cops to tamp down loud parties across the fence, the drug house identified them as enemies. They have taken to lobbing plastic bags with human poop into my daughter’s backyard. My daughter and her family have elected to move out this fall, and might end up living closer to me. A natural hedge fence can’t wall out all the ugliness of the drug house, but it is pretty to see.

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      1. that one calls for an electric fence. cattle fencing or chain link with a high voltage line hooked up to the one end before you throw the switch. say its for mosquito control. ill bet the police wont object. plant speakers on your side of the fence with classical music playing real loud 7am to 9 pm

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        1. One thing I like about living here is that families like that come to the attention of our Social Services when they rarely have been noticed in more urban areas. People who came with the oil boom are astounded and outraged when their children are removed and they are expected to be better parents and clean up their lives.

          Liked by 1 person

  8. When we moved into our present house in 2004, one of the first things I did was to add fencing. In part, that was for the benefit of our golden retriever who otherwise would have had to be leashed in the open yard. One side of our property already had a fence- an oversized eight foot cedar wall the previous owner erected when the house next door went up. Previously, that side of what is now our house had been open to the sun and the property had an alley house far back on the property. The new owners tore down the little house next door to build a monster house and three car garage on the lot. The new house was not only a story higher than any other house on the block, it also sits on a taller foundation and impinges by several feet on the legal setback between our properties. It looms over our house and yard. The young woman who preceded us had the extralegal fence erected in protest and for privacy. I personally am glad it’s there. Aside from the looming house, the neighbor’s backyard is a perpetual mess I’d rather not have to see. For my part, I added a similar six foot cedar fence along the alley for privacy and modest security.
    Between our property and the neighbors on the other side, because there had been no fence there previously and because we were new to the neighborhood, I was sensitive to the statement adding a fence might make. I didn’t want to give the impression we were walling ourselves off. For that reason, I limited the height of that fence to four feet- just enough to provide a screen when you are sitting in the back yard, but short enough to allow comfortable over-the-fence conversation. The fence is also an open design that seems less barrier-like.
    Our gardens have a distinctly different character than those of the neighbors. It’s nice to have some defining structure to plant against and around and fences give us a way to manage our visual space.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. I’m giggling right now recalling how my nasty neighbors on one side have threatened twice to install a fence between our properties from the lake up past our homes. Orono has forbids anything within 75′ of the lake obstructing the view or just plain being there. I told them this, and they got really creative. One morning I heard an auger sound. They’d tried to avenge me by creating a deep hole every two feet from the cottage down to the lake, then plant arbor vitaea trees. These trees grow to 50′ high within a few years. This would’ve created a wing tunnel and blocked 80% of our view of the lake. Well, something happened to those little trees late one night called “Creeping Charlie killer”

    Shhhhhh

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi–

    First, here’s the 28 page .pdf from the MN Association of Townships regarding the Minnesota Fence law:

    http://tinyurl.com/z535983

    Benjamin Franklin said “Love thy neighbor, yet don’t pull down your hedge.” And there’s the old adage: ‘Good Fences make good neighbors’ but I think maybe that only applies to keeping the livestock in.

    I wasn’t very good at making barb wire fences. In the fall my beef cattle seemed to lose all regard for fences and consequently my neighbors were not happy about that. And I eventually sold all the beef cows.
    I have some renters with cows now and their cows are very very calm. If they ever do get out (which has only happen once in the last 6 years) the cows just stand there looking at you. You can’t ‘chase’ them back in, you have to wait for Dave or Parm to get there and they will call the cows and the cows will follow them back where ever they need to be.

    Mom tells a story when they were first married, the cow yard fence was between the house and the barn. So the barn was off in the middle of the cowyard. And dad didn’t like having to walk through the mud and manure to get to the barn so he moved the fence.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. we loved the electric fence at the last place to keep the dogs in and leave the view. the neighbors talked over their chain link fence and the wide open space was the feel. the new place has a chain link around the dog run we have for a yard. i love being able to let them out to pee in the morning but we have to take them for a walk every day. the one day i did this when we first moved into the house back in december i felt so guilty i walked thme into the nature area across the street and was feeling like lassies owner timmy so i let them off their leash as the coyote across the lake heard them and raised his head and started the chase. the ice was very new and i was sure the dogs wold crack through it and then id really be screwed but they were able to chase the coyote off int to woods on the other side of the lake and leave me there with my voice bellowing out to no listening creatures on this earth as the did their return to nature thing. the almost got that coyote as it had its feet spinning out ont he ice without traction. my dogs ran like frei=ght trains on a mission and almost had him when he cleared the ice and zipped off into the woods. my poor dogs dont get off leash any more. i am tempted but i keep remembering the chase. a runner on th other side of the lake grabbed tha dogs and ran them over to me. if you dont have a fence be sure to have a runner with good a good heart nearby.

    i am looking at your fence pictures bir and i’d leave them or move them. the view if the fence is down is not as good as the view with the fence. your fence is not neighborly it is fine.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I like the quote from Robert Frost. I daresay Donald Trump has not read him.

    I have a fence along the back border of the property. There’s no alley. I think one of the previous owners of the neighbor’s house put it in. It’s way back behind the garage, so I don’t really see it much.

    Lilacs and other shrubbery along the front and sides, with garden arches over the paths in and out.

    There is a house in my neighborhood that has one of those white plastic fences. It has a high gloss, so if you drive past at night, the headlights and street lights produce a weird glare off the plastic. You have to wonder why they didn’t give it a matte finish to make it resemble wood at least a little.

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  13. One portion of our cedar fence was only three feet tall. We had to attach cedar lattice to make it taller, as our current terrier would take a long run and scale the fence and go running off. She is a diminutive 15 inches tall, so it was a great leap for her but she cleared it every time.

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      1. My first springer was an escape artist. She could scale a chain link fence by pushing her toes into the openings in the chain mesh, crawling up the fence paw after paw until she was close enough to the top to throw herself over. She would have been a great contestant on American Ninja Warriors.

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        1. Our large cat, Albert, scaled the chain link fence one rung at a time and heaved his great girth over it.

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  14. When we first got Bernie, he weighed only 12 lbs. Scrawny little thing. In places our cedar fence had gaps at the bottom big enough that he could slip through. It took some finagling to fix the holes so he couldn’t escape. Now he has put on three pounds and doesn’t seem to have any desire to take off, so we don’t have to be quite so vigilant. But those first couple of weeks we kept a very close eye on him.

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  15. The more I consider the fence, I think we should have some partial fence to replace the part along Neighbor’s driveway. Any ideas about something aesthetically pleasing, not so “dense” as the current? And cheap!

    Our usual modus operandi is to wait till something shows up that, say, someone is getting rid of, which often happens if you keep your nose to the ground. And then there’s what to do with all the lovely white plastic…

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  16. I have been to the site of Frost’s mended wall.

    No fences in an apartment building, nor would I want them. We have a nice little community: Mary in the next patio, elementary music teacher, lovely but nervous lady.
    Amy above me. Teaches statistics online for Metropolitan State. Constant smoker so outside much of the time no matter what the weather. Cat lover with very little furniture in her two-bedroom apartment. I often share artisan bread with her and Mary
    Ann, 80, who comes by walking her dog, a rescued dog. Sweet little furry butterball. The dog, not Ann.
    Kevin the maintenance man. Generous, helpful, calm.
    Judy third floor, to my left. Soon to leave us. Has degenerative disorder. Now all braces and scooter, but manages to get herself out. Only now letting the disease affect her attitude. She and I compete for birds at our feeders.
    Random young tenants who stroll by.
    African children immigrants, mostly if not all Muslim. Sweetly shy when they come by on their way to and from the low-income housing past our building. They race along until they see me. Then walk slowly, smiling and nodding at me but seldom answering my hello. Then race on.
    Turkeys, deer, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunk.
    No. No fences here or needed.

    Fences in my childhood were wire, very important things fences, about three miles length in all. Most of it three tight wires, barbed wire, strung on posts twenty feet apart, except where the very rocky ground required you to move the post a few feet one way or the other. Four wires instead of three along the cattle lane. Woven wire around the pig sty and around the calf pasture. A quarter mile was shared with a neighbor whose house and barn were more than a half mile away over a hill through the woods. We maintained the common fence ourselves because my father would not trust Vic to do it right. Vic was a cattle buyer. He gave us a deal (I have my doubts about those deals) buying and selling cattle with us for maintaining the fence. His cattle were often by us to be near our cattle. We kept an eye on his cattle for him as a result. I once rescued one of his cows caught in some tangled rusted wire (see, Vic could not be trusted with fences), which is eerily a scene in “My Friend Flicka,” which was a favorite book of my childhood. Most of the time I carried wire cutters, which fortunately I did that day.

    Winter was hard on fences, now and then a wire would snap in the cold, the posts were heaved up by the frost. When the frost was out of the ground, the fences were repaired. I drove a wagon pulled by our horse. My father would stand in the back with a post mall. I would stop at each post, which did not please the horse, all that stopping and starting. I, of course, never did it right according to my father. My father would check each post, driving most back into the ground, replacing one here and there. Sometimes running a new wire. Sometimes tightening wire back up. Giving special attention to the corners and their vital bracing, sometimes rebuilding a whole corner, requiring releasing and retightening the wires, always getting scratched up by the barbs, for which we carried iodine. Gates were also vital to keep repaired. When I went to get the cows twice a day, I kept an eye on the fences. Sometimes wildlife (deer, bear, moose) would break of a post or loosen wire.

    The cattle would push at the wire to get at the grass at the edge of the meadows. Then in late August we would turn them loose in the meadows, using a run of temporary electric wire along one side of the meadow. Now the cattle would push at the barbed wire to get at the grass in the pasture. See, the grass is always greener.

    Electric fencing is a whole nother story. One very wet year we could not feel any electric charge into the fence. After hours of checking wire and insulators, my father took two pliers and knelt down in his knees to make sure a wire splice was tight. The charger was on full. We forgot we were wearing rubber boots, which my father discovered quickly when the pliers clinched the wire.

    The charger was in the barn. I loved the loud throb of each pulse in the charger.

    When we took up the posts for the temporary electric fence, we again used the horse, but we had to carry the posts ten feet over to the wagon because the horse would not get near the electric fence. The animals were Pavlovian about electric fencing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. What an exceptionally appealing post, Clyde. You know fences from having lived with them, happily or unhappily. You are sensitive to the basic issue raised by fences: what are we fencing out or fencing in? And do we need to do that?

      My feelings about fences were forever changed when I spent two days helping a Montana friend put up fences.

      I love your appreciation of your apartment neighbors. I’d sure enjoy you for a neighbor here.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you. One of the short stories in my set of stories has a part about a man removing old rusted barb wire. I hate the old rusted barb wire, of which there are many many miles in the woods. Hard on deer. Removing it is very difficult. It gets brittle, hard to handle, hard to cut.

        Liked by 1 person

  17. Ok. I have one post written in my head, and another pending, as I am going fishing tomorrow, and I don’t really like to fish but I am going to keep some friends happy. They will be posted on Sunday night. Lake Sakakawea isn’t a real lake. It is like Lake Mead.

    Husband took us to a nursery today, so the afternoon was spent planting a Raspberry Sundae Hydrangea, a Morden Roae, an Anise Hyssop, and a White Icicle Veronica. More time on Sunday to post.

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  18. Sorry for the late reply. Just now getting caught up on email. Fences serve a useful purpose. Yes for a fence to contain a too energetic dog or child. Yes for a backdrop and blank canvas to a garden (ours is like the one in the photo, but only a two sided fence that blocks us off from the busy county road and only 1 neighbor–a group home with whose residents we don’t interact.

    But fences to keep out certain people, or isolate oneself from the cold cruel world, not a great idea.

    Chris in Owatonna

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