It was in the low thirties and sunny this morning, balmy for these latitudes, where the sap has been running and the bright blue tap lines festoon the maple trees along the side of the road. Sugaring season is getting an early start.
I thought I would get an early start on my wattle fence. Never having made one before, I spent this first session learning several things:
1. Thick sticks cover more space but break when you try to bend them--or else are too strong for me to bend them.
2. Thin sticks don't cover much space, but they are easy to bend, especially now that they are green.
3. Straight sticks are best. The curved ones don't stay put.
At the end of an hour's wattling, I was exhausted. Mostly this was from trudging back and forth to the stick piles through deep, crusted snow, the kind where you put your foot down, put your weight on it, sink down to your mid-calf; put your other foot down, put your weight on it, and sink down to your knee. Plus, each stick had to be pruned, and the prunings thrown over the fence into the chicken yard. I was also cold, despite the sun, from kneeling on the snow and from the constant wind, this being March, after all.
Before I picked up my pruning tools and went inside I assessed my progress. I had lightly "wattled" about a fourth of a panel of livestock wire fence. By "lightly" I mean that you can easily look through the sticks and say hello to the chickens inside the fence. The entire fence consists of seven panels. In 27 more hours of work I will have a lightly wattled fence, enough, I hope, to distract the eye from the offending wires. I expect that, when the snow melts, the work will go more quickly.
Still, I was amazed at how labor-intensive wattle fences are. As I worked, I kept seeing in my mind a 13th century peasant building just such a fence (minus the wire lining) around his sheepfold. He was probably not a bit bothered by how long it took. This was peanuts compared to building a gothic cathedral.
Once again, as with stone carving, fence wattling is going to take a Zen attitude. Lots of focus on the process. Nary a thought on outcomes. Soon the warming sun, the bolder birdsong, and the smell of earth will make it all a snap.