In the past eight years since buying our house we’ve done a major yard project almost every year, with the exception of the past two, during which I was pregnant and then subsequently taking care of a newborn. A fence around the back yard was this year’s project, inspired by our daughter, who is now an energetic, exploring toddler.
When we first moved here in March of 2002, the so called back yard was a roughly 20×20 area of red clay mud and three large dirt piles left behind by the excavator who I assume leveled that area for the house. Because it was built on fill, this part of the yard sharply drops off to a ravine on one side and the previous level on two other sides; all three slopes covered in blackberry briers or wild roses (equally thorny in either case), Poison Oak, Staghorn Sumac and other fun things. This wasn’t really a problem until we had a small person who didn’t realize that A) gravity will send you rolling down hills into ravines and B) thorns hurt soft baby skin.
So this year I cut the wild roses back from the yard and we built a fence to give baby a boundary from that dangerous edge. I dug holes for the corner posts as deep as I could get them, which only turned out to be 20 inches maximum. Three feet is the actual frost line minimum in Missouri if you are burying water lines of any sort, but we aren’t putting in irrigation, we’re just trying to prevent frost-heave on our posts.
We used an 80 lb bag of concrete on each post, so hopefully there is enough concrete and they are just deep enough that this won’t be an issue. All of our soil is heavy clay also- a soil not that susceptible to frost heave as say a sand or silt would be.
I picked up 5×8 round fence posts from the farm store as opposed to using 4×4 lumber because I thought they looked better. They were about the same price as a 4×4, about $7.00 per post. We used these for the corners and anywhere in the yard there would be a bend that would create a lot of stress on the fence. Getting these in the ground in between running after the baby to keep her out of trouble took us about 4 hours from digging the holes, to setting all the posts. The last post closest to the house we had to bolt to the house’s frame; I hit a concrete pad or ring that I assume is part of the foundation of the house and couldn’t get into the ground more than 8 inches or so.
For in-between posts we used green metal T-posts, which are the ones you often see around farmland with barbed wire. They pound into the ground with a heavy metal tube that has handles on either side. This part of the project proved to be the hardest on my husband, who literally ripped the skin off his hands in multiple areas on the tool. I’m sure there is probably a mechanical alternative to this, however, in the interest of saving $, we didn’t even look into it. The brute force bashing-thingy was less than $20.00.
The second day of the project, we hung the fence itself. Chain link was cost prohibitive and also would have required a stretcher and other tools we didn’t have, so we opted for vinyl coated garden fence instead. Not as sturdy as chain link, but it serves its purpose as a barrier for a two year old quite nicely and the green practically disappears against the plants so it’s not intrusive as looks go. Tom used tomato staking wire (which is also green, vinyl coated wire) to attach the fence to the posts while I stretched it taut.
The front gate is actually a portion of decorative metal fencing that came in a package of two interlocking pieces for $20.00. We used one for the fence gate and the other to gate our deck stairs. In retrospect, the cost savings on these gates may have been overshadowed by the cost of cobbling together hardware in order to secure them to the posts and create a latch. But they worked out, regardless and the bonus is, if I decide I don’t like the latch, I can change it with a different piece of hardware in seconds.
Overall, the project took about 8 hours and cost us around $750.00.
And we had a visitor to our fence the day after it was finished 🙂