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Column: No fences make hungry neighbors

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Back in May, I bought a roll of chicken wire. The plan was to use it to fence in our garden to keep the critters from dining on our produce. As I write this, the garden remains unfenced, and the critters are feasting on our tomatoes.

As you can probably tell, I have become something of an expert at procrastination.

Several years ago, when we first planted the garden, I built a fence around it in about an hour. That fence worked quite well until the chicken wire rusted through and the stakes began to rot. So last fall, we ripped it out, planning to replace it in the spring. Well, maybe next spring.

Part of the problem is that I’ve simply lost my love for gardening, cutting grass and any other task that falls under the heading “yard work.”

A decade ago a typical summer Saturday would have found me outside from early morning through late afternoon, methodically checking things off my “to do” list. Back then I actually looked forward to spending the day mowing the lawn, spraying the weeds, trimming the shrubs, laying down mulch, watering the garden, painting the fence, etc.

These days I’m thinking apartment living sounds pretty good.

While I still keep the grass mowed, anything beyond that seems to have fallen off my list. The shrubs badly need a haircut, the flower beds could use several bags of mulch, weeds are taking over the brick patio and the garden is still a popular dining spot for the local rabbit population.

In my defense, last May I had every intention of once again building a garden fence in about an hour. But stuff happened.

When I went to buy the supplies, I suffered a bit of sticker shock when I saw how much the store was charging for a bundle of wooden stakes. For that price I would have expected the stakes to have been carved of jade.

So instead I opted for a cheaper bundle of bamboo sticks that had been painted green. I went home and promptly pushed a dozen of these bamboo sticks into the ground around the perimeter of the garden.

However, two things were immediately evident. The first was that these sticks were much too flimsy to support a chicken wire fence. The second was that one should wear gloves when handling bamboo that has been painted. My palms were green for two days.

After a couple of months of looking at the garden surrounded by nothing but bamboo sticks, now with all the green paint washed off, I cashed in some bonds and bought two bundles of real wooden stakes. I brought them home and set them in the garage next to the still unwrapped roll of chicken wire.

“It’s too late to start on it today,” I thought. “I’ll knock it out tomorrow morning.”

I didn’t.

After a few more weeks of looking at the garden surrounded by nothing but bamboo sticks, my wife, Brenda, had had enough. She picked up the new wooden stakes and the hammer and headed outside. Worried she might hurt herself, I had no choice but to follow.

Between the two of us we pulled up the bamboo sticks and drove in the new wooden stakes. And it was I who injured myself when the hammer glanced off the top of the stake and slammed into my wrist.

“That’s enough for today,” Brenda said when the last stake was in the ground. “We can put up the chicken wire tomorrow.”

We didn’t.

We have every intention of finishing the job this weekend, but you never know. Stuff happens. And besides, the rabbits have already eaten most of the tomatoes, so what’s the hurry?

I can see how one might think we’re lazy, but really we’re not. Every good fence builder knows it’s important to let the wooden stakes settle properly before attaching the chicken wire. According to my calculations, they should be well settled in about eight months.

Doug Showalter can be reached at 379-5625 or

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