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Does building a garden fence make good neighbors?

We managed to get by for the last three years without a real garden fence. I used plastic deer netting wrapped haphazardly around flimsy poles I managed to hammer a couple of inches deep, and that was effective at keeping the critters away.

But then, right at the end of last season, the deer staged a brazen and cunning commando raid on my remaining tomato crop, when one of them — the one with the brain — figured out they could just walk right through the netting and eat whatever they wanted. So, this year, a more substantial fence was called for.

I ordered a truckload of lumber and metal fencing, hired a nearby contractor to drill some holes for my posts, and proceeded to start work on what I hoped would be a fence that would last several growing seasons. I had a vision of what it would look like ... not particularly straight, not especially sturdy, but functional.

A neighbor, who had offered to lend me one of his tools for digging the holes, had other ideas. In his mind, this fence was going to be straight, square, impermeable, and would outlast the ages. To help me align my posts so they were all at the same elevation, he lent me the use of a laser-guided tool that I didn't know even existed. He has a huge garage full of such tools and he knows how to use them ... a real craftsman. He spent the better part of a day showing me how to finish off the work.

I'm about half way through the process now, but when I'm done, I'll have a fence that goes way beyond what I first envisioned, but falls well short of the fence my neighbor would have built for himself. I was going to invite him for a ribbon cutting ceremony when I completed it, but I suspect he won't want the other neighbors to think he had any part in the finished product.

It's been almost a year since we turned what was our weekend retreat into our full-time residence. In a sparsely populated area like this, you really value your neighbors. My wife and I already know more people than we did in the big-city environment we moved from, but we don't yet have as many deep friendships. I don't know if we ever will.

I grew up in a mid-sized city in New England. I've lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the South Side of Chicago, and in Downtown Minneapolis. I've lived in a small town in Texas and a Minneapolis suburb. But, looking back at the past year, I'd have to say I quite enjoy rural living. This is the kind of place where, if I look around first, I can pull down my pants to tuck in my shirt without feeling embarrassed. And, that's pretty special. If I did that anywhere else, I'd expect a visit from a police officer.

Even though I've lived in Minnesota for 32 years now, I am still, and always will be, a visitor from the Northeast. Think Chris Christie meets Little House on the Prairie. But this is where I've chosen to plant my garden and live my life, so I hope the natives can accept me. I think I know what the Pilgrims felt like. I'll just have to find some skill I can use as wampum to reciprocate for all the help they've given me. Not sure what that's going to be yet.

Posted: April 15, 2012

Comments

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