bungalow versus beagle

when we bought our house two years ago, one of the first things we identified as an issue was the fact that there was no fence separating our yard from our neighbours’. we’re not really concerned with which blades of grass belong to us and which do not, but our neighbours have a dog and we do not.

i’m terrified of most dogs and i think if the neighbours’ beagle had been a german shepherd we probably would have walked away from this house. not that a fence is all that difficult or expensive to put up, but i jump out of my skin if a big dog so much as looks at me so i really didn’t want to live next to one if i could help it. in fact, the kicker on a semi-detached house that we otherwise loved on nearby cassels avenue was a big “beware of dog” sign on the neighbours’ front gate. (they had a doberman.)

even though samantha the beagle didn’t turn out to be very menacing, she still made ample use of our yard as a double-wide washroom. our neighbours were pretty good about picking up after her, but we still had to watch our step every time we stepped out the back door and that was starting to annoy us. since we were out in our yard a lot this past summer, we each had more than one pair of shoes that needed to be scraped aggressively with a stick. (and, as you can see, not even men at work dissuaded her from liking our half of the yard better.)

this is probably a good time to point out that we love our neighbours and couldn’t ask for better ones. this post is actually evidence of how friendly and lovely they are—we stepped in their dog’s crap for two years and we still have nothing but kind things to say about them so they are obviously pretty nice people. they shovel our snow. they bring us leftovers. they paid for the fence. ‘nuf said. 

as i said above, it’s not like a fence is that difficult or that expensive to put up. there were a few reasons that we took our time.

for the first year in our house, we were planning a major renovation. and a major renovation requires major machinery and equipment. having no fence up the middle was going to make getting materials in and out of the yard a heck of a lot easier, so we thought we’d make the fence our final project. that was our excuse for the first year. then, for this past year, we had a long to-do list for the yard that was, again, easier without a fence in the way. pierre took out a bunch of weedy trees and shrubs, we built a pad for our new shed, we built a shed. plus, we had to work with our neighbours to establish the property line and agree on a design for the fence. we had a number of contractors out to do an estimate—this, we decided, was the project we would just sit back and let someone else sweat over. all of this took time: the entire spring and summer, actually.

the estimates came in pretty high—around $3,000 for a 56′ lattice fence and two gates. my dad said that was ridiculous. and so it turned out the people that were going to sweat over this job were my dad and brother. and our neighbours offered to pay for the materials.

so straight! all you can see is the first post – but there are 8 of them all in a row.

it took three weekend days over the months of september, october, and november. on the first day my dad and brother drove out with an auger, which they used to drive 4′ deep holes at even intervals down the middle of the yard. they also demolished our shared kissing gate, digging up concrete footings poured by previous owner paul many years ago. they set the posts and i helped fill the holes with the just-add-water bags of concrete.

on the second day, my dad, brother, and pierre installed the lattice. we chose lattice because we didn’t want a privacy fence—see above for how much we like our neighbours—and the middle of the yard, away from our giant maple, is the sunniest spot; we wanted the fence to block as little light as possible. we also didn’t want to box our yard in and make it feel small. one of the benefits (okay, the only benefit) of not having a fence for two years was the illusion that we had a gigantic backyard.

one of the issues with building the fence (other then when my brother stepped backwards into a 4′  deep hole and nearly broke his leg) was this shrub right on the property line. the taller tree is on our side and the fence continues on its right, but this shrub was squarely on the line. our neighbours were pretty vocal about keeping it, and we wanted to keep our neighbours happy, so my dad fashioned this “beagle barrier” with leftover lattice. compared with the rest of the fence (which is perfectly done, thanks family!), this isn’t the most attractive solution, but it’s effective. there have been zero beagle sighting or steamers since this went in. our neighbours added a bit of chicken wire through the shrub’s branches to fortify it further.

in the spring, my dad’s going to help me build a flower box along the fence in front of the shrub and i’ll plant some shade-loving perennials around the bases of the trees, so once that all fills in, you won’t even be able to see this, i hope. or, i’ve just learned that our neighbours had family over this weekend who ripped into them about the silliness of keeping the shrub, so we may get to remove it and add another panel of lattice after all.

today was the final day for fence work—16° and sunny in november, so my dad came out to the house again to help pierre build two gates and put the finishing touches on the fence (adding the post caps and hardware).

we used the original gate as a guide because the neighbours and we liked the style and it was easy enough to duplicate.

i had to be down at the evergreen brick works to facilitating a picture book launch this afternoon, so i contributed to the project by using the nail gun to affix one board to one gate and then i was outie.

by the time i got home, the boys were just wrapping up. i wheeled my bike into the backyard via this very nice, new gate!

if good fences make good neighbours, i wonder what great fences make?

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