Wattle Fencing

Gren pees on my peonies.  It’s annoying.  He also gets his lead tangled around some of my more delicate plants, and he’s already dug up and eaten an entire lupin.  I needs me a fence.

When Doodle and I were last in Ferryland, we saw these lovely wattle fences surrounding the 17th century kitchen gardens.  This ancient style of building was very popular in rural areas, like most of Newfoundland, where scraggly vegetation was everywhere and iron nails were at a premium.  Settlers clearing areas of land for their houses and farms could easily re-use the saplings and brush they removed in making strong wattle fences to keep their livestock and gardens separate.

Photo by Doodle

I showed pictures of wattle construction to Cait, extolling the virtues of its sturdiness and simplicity — just sticks!  Cait then raised the counterpoint to me that the little pig who built his house out of sticks didn’t fare particularly well against the big bad wolf.  I rebutted by saying that if you saw the illustrated pictures in the books you could CLEARLY see the pig did not use the wattle method and his shoddy construction was at fault.  Cait then informed me that I was the Mike Holmes of fairy tales (which is only funny if you know who Mike Holmes is).  I take that as a great compliment.

You can use any flexible sapling for your weave, the longer and straighter it is the better.  We used mostly maple, as there are no shortage of those around.  In fact, there is a vacant lot about half a block from our house that has recently been sold to a developer for condominium building.  We figured that the property was going to be razed anyway — who would miss a bunch of scraggly teenaged trees?  Still, we did feel like we were trespassing, no more so than when an unmarked police car pulled up to us.  It turns out the officer was just there to get some paperwork done, but for a moment we thought we were going to get in big trouble.

Use pruning shears and a pruning saw to cut your saplings and remove any smaller branches and leaves.  Make sure to use the branches relatively soon after you cut them so that they maintain their flexibility.

Now I’m not making a particularly tall fence here, nor is my weave going to be all that tight.  I just want to use it as a barrier to keep out small dogs and children, but I still want to be able to see the plants that are behind it.

All the information I found about these fences told me that I would need wayyyyy more branches to do it than I even thought of.  I probably used a hundred or so sticks for a fence 12.5m long and 30cm high.

First I needed stakes.   I sawed off the thickest 50cm at the bottom of each sapling, cutting it at an angle to make a sharp edge.   I ended up with 25 stakes for my 12.5m garden bed.

Using a stout hammer (you can use a mallet as well), I pounded in the stakes, spaced about 50cm apart, as far in as they would go, which was about 20cm in most cases.  If you have one or two that hit rocks or aren’t as firmly embedded as the rest, don’t fret.  The more you add to the fence, the stronger it will get, and the more-stuck stakes will help to hold the less-stuck stakes into place.

Once you’ve got the stakes hammered in, you can start to add the saplings.

Start at one end of your fence with the thicker part of a sapling, and weave the sapling between the stakes until you reach the end.

Repeat with more saplings until you get to the end of the row.

Reverse the direction of the saplings for the next row, so that the thick and thin ends alternate, and make sure to work the saplings around the opposite side of the stake than you used in the previous row.  Use a hammer or mallet to wedge the saplings closer together if you want a tight weave.

Keep going and going.  And going.

Until your fence is as high and tight as you want it to be.

I used smaller branches to help hold in some of the more recalcitrant sapling ends.

But of course I ran out of sticks.  So I’m not finished yet,  and it will be a while before I can get the Pie to help me steal saplings again.  I’ll post a picture when I finally do finish, though.

For more information on wattle fencing, you can check out these links here:

Allotment Forestry

Heritage Foundation

I Can Garden

A Trip to Ferryland

The day dawned foggy and damp but we were convinced it would improve, so the Pie and I piled Rusty, Mags, and Gren into our rented car and drove an hour and a half south of St. John’s to the town of Ferryland (population: ~529).  This was the third time the Pie and I had made it to Ferryland, but the first time that we were really able to appreciate it.  On previous occasions, we had arrived in town after an afternoon of iceberg hunting and were too tired to take the time to walk around this historical settlement.  This year is a bad one for icebergs, however, so we were rested and refreshed and raring to go.

I’ll give you a little background on Ferryland.

Originally an acclaimed fishing location for migratory French and Portuguese fishermen at the end of the sixteenth century, the area, known as “Farilham” by the Portuguese and “Forillon” by the French, was granted to the London and Bristol Company in the early 1610s.  “Ferryland” is the Anglicization of those names.

In 1620, the land was granted to George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore (there are nearby settlements called Calvert and Baltimore, respectively, and yes, this is the same Lord Baltimore of Baltimore, MD).  In 1623 Calvert appointed a dude named Edward Wynne to establish a colony there, which grew into one of the first successful European establishments in North America.  In 1623 as well, King James I granted Calvert a charter creating the Province of Avalon.  This gave Calvert carte blanche to control all administrative and territorial matters in the area, and he chose Ferryland as its principal settlement.

Like many settlements in Newfoundland, the rich fishing grounds around Ferryland were much sought after, and Ferryland suffered a raid from the Dutch in the 1670s, before being decimated by New France in 1696.  It was soon reoccupied, and has remained so to this day, predominantly by Irish and English descendants.  There is an active archeological dig site, which shows you how Lord and Lady Baltimore lived nearly four hundred years ago. 

There is lots to see in Ferryland.  Unfortunately, when we went this time all of the exhibits were closed due to a water problem.  Still, the historic Ferryland Museum has an immense collection of artifacts recovered from the dig site, and is a historical artifact itself, dating back to 1916.

The principal attraction in Ferryland, however, is the Ferryland Head Lighthouse. 

A two-kilometre walking trail stretches across The Downs and along a narrow strip of land sandwiched between two green coves. 

A stunted forest opens onto a rocky promontory, atop which sits the lighthouse itself, a sturdy red tower with a squat white house attached.

If you go into the lighthouse, you’ll meet the Lighthouse Ladies, who, for $25 a person, will provide you with a scrumptious picnic lunch.  

They’ll give you a signal flag and a picnic blanket and send you outside to find a good spot in the cushy undergrowth to have your lunch. 

Once you’re settled, they’ll bring you your lunch in a basket: hearty sandwiches on thick oatmeal bread, rich pasta salad, melt-in-your-mouth desserts, and fresh, tart lemonade, served in Mason jars.  Just some more shots of this amazing al fresco meal:

After your post-lunch nap (the ground really is nice and soft here, believe it or not), you can explore the area around the lighthouse.

This is Rusty and Mags getting their first taste of the North Atlantic.

Some radioactively green algae:

A rusty thingamajig:

An awesome example of geological strata:Then you have the long trek back to civilization.  But so worth it.

Check it out for yourself!

Lighthouse Picnics

Ferryland Municipal Website

Ferryland Wikipedia Page

Colony of Avalon Archaeological Site

Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism Ferryland Page