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

Office Reno

My parents bought the house they live in now about twelve years ago, and the house is about twenty years old now.  In fact, it’s the first new construction house my parents have ever owned.  So new, in fact, that when we all moved in back in 1997, it wasn’t quite finished yet.  Like it didn’t have a back porch.  That sort of thing.  It also used to be a rooming house, so there were some weird things going on.  The room that is my dad’s office was designed to be a laundry room, and when they bought the house it was actually being used as a kitchen.  As it was pretty low-priority in the scheme of everything else that goes on in my parents’ busy lives, it remained in more or less its original state.

UNTIL NOW.

This is the before shot, when my dad and I were clearing out all the furniture and stuff.

You can see the artful sponge painting that outlines where the laundry sink used to be.  And the place where the faucets come up and out of the wall.

This dryer outlet and vent also needed to go.  As did the b-awful linoleum.  I hate linoleum.

So out came the mouldings and the overhead lighting.

After checking to make sure the fuse was dead, out came the dryer/stove outlet.

Make sure you check it more than once before you start cutting wires.

This rubbish bin was filled and emptied many times before the job was done.

The vent will get cut flush to the wall and filled with expanding spray insulation.

The faucet pipes were capped and sealed with solder and the plastic frame removed. 

We will put a piece of gyp-rock over top and patch that sucker, same with the one on the floor.

Just screw it in place, using shims as a backing, and trim off the excess.  Fill the holes with Durabond-90 or other crack filler and you’re good to go.

All the other holes and cracks got filled as well.

There were plenty.

Now for that ugly awful floor.  This was my especial project and it took me FOREVER. 

Whoever put the lino down GLUED it, which is not something you normally do.  And they didn’t just lay down lines or dots of glue.  No.  It was like they took the can of glue and spilled in on the floor.  But not all over the floor.  This part came up super easy, so we thought it would be more of the same. 

PAH.

I spent about seven hours with a pair of gloves and a putty knife peeling up the rest of it. 

And let’s not forget all the glue that stayed on the floor.

Which my dad spent three days scraping off.

It was a sticky business.

Back to the walls.  On with the primer.  Note you can still see the terrible, terrible sponge painting shining through.  Took a couple of coats of paint to get that hidden.

Next the crown mouldings went on and were lined up.

Nailed and glued in place.

You can use wood filler to artistically cover the spots in the corners where it doesn’t quite line up.

And to cover your nail marks as well.

Now for the floor, which we replaced with a nice floating bamboo one with interlocking pieces.

You can see the grooves here.

Make sure to measure out everything ahead of time.  It helps to label your pieces and to draw yourself a little map.

You will need to cut pieces to fit the vagaries of your room.

Dad glued down the first section.

Make sure to follow the instructions on your glue.  This little grooved applicator enables the glue to spread under pressure.

You want to make sure your pieces are super snug together, so a rubber mallet is very handy.

We noticed that the glued section was making cracking and popping noises, so the next sections were nailed in place as well, with the nails going through those little grooves I just showed you.  It cracked the grooves but kept the things on the floor, so there you go.

The moulding on the floor will cover up that wee gap there.

Then you paint.  Again.  Always a good time.

See?  This is after it got a nice shiny coat of enamel.

You can scrape up your spills by covering a scraping razor with a piece of cloth, and then you won’t scratch the floor.

This is mid-cleanup.

And after everything was moved back in again.  What a difference!