Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sticks

Reader, feel free to yawn and, if you must, click on to another site. Because, today, I am going to write about sticks.

Before I got into making this wattle fence, I, like you, thought that one stick was much like another. But now that I am wattling a five-foot-high fence that is about as long as the Great Wall of China, I am getting to know sticks.

In the strict sense of the word, "wattling" is not what I am doing. I am not building a fence from scratch, but trying to disguise a hideous livestock fence with horizontally-laid sticks, whose ends I weave into the existing wire. The end result will, I am sure, horrify a wattling expert. But it will, I hope, distract the inexperienced eye from the wire fence.

The sticks come from the piles made by the forester who recently cleaned up the woods behind our house. Some sticks are long, and some are short. Some are thin, and some are thick. Some are dry, and some have buds, and sap running through them.

During our wattling sessions, my husband works in the woods, selecting likely-looking branches from the piles and clipping off extraneous shoots. These I carry to the fence, and begin the work of weaving. I am helped in this by Bisou, on my side of the fence, who chooses certain sticks to chew and maul, and by the hens, on the other side, who peck at the sticks as I weave them through.

The ideal stick is long, thick at one end and thin--but not too thin--at the other, and flexible, so I can push it easily behind the wire. The ideal stick is also straight. Curvy sticks tend to be unmanageable, but I take what I can get. Short sticks are good for filling in blank spaces, of which there are many. Old, stiff sticks can often, with a bit of work, be woven in without breaking. Whenever I get a long, substantial, flexible stick, I rejoice.

Are you bored yet? I'm not. Good sticks are important. They make the work go faster--I can see the fence grow before my eyes. Bad sticks take all my strength to weave through the wire, and then break. They waste time. But all sticks, good and bad, are better than nothing. Because while I'm wattling I think about sticks, instead of about what is going on in the U.S. Congress.

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