The wattle fence was a dramatic failure, because after the first winter the sticks started to disintegrate, and also because Wolfie discovered the pleasure of pulling out the remaining ones and carrying them around the yard. Worst of all, the weight of the sticks pulled the wire out of shape, so that it sagged and looked even worse than it had in its pre-wattle stage.
My next attempt at disguise was to plant four Leyland cypresses in front of the side of the fence that is visible from the patio. But last fall was a bad season for wild apples in Vermont, with the result that hungry deer came much closer to people's houses than they normally do. Our deer came all the way into the yard and chewed those little cypresses almost to extinction.
My urge to improve the look of the fence was complicated by my wish to avoid a suburban look--as with the pre-made fences at Home Depot and Lowe's--as well as the industrial farm look offered by the manufacturers of serious livestock fencing. I wanted a custom-made fence--nothing fancy, just sturdy and functional and non-sagging.
But good fence builders don't grow on trees, and it took me the better part of five years to find mine, via a friend whose sheep he shears.
A fence builder who shears sheep? Yes, and who farms his family's land and keeps cows, chickens, sheep and meat goats. And who, with his wife, home-schools their passel of kids. You need to have more than one string to your bow if you want to farm in Vermont.
The fence builder showed up at the appointed hour, backing his truck and big trailer all the way up our perilous driveway. He was accompanied by one of his kids, who helped get rid of the last sticks still clinging to the old wattle fence. He came again the next morning, with two kids, worked some more, and left behind this marvel of a fence:
Now whenever I look outside I rejoice at the perpendicularity of the posts, the tautness of the wire, and the overall neatness--even the elegance--of my hen yard fence. The fence runs all the way around the back of the shed, so you cannot see its full glory. But you get the idea.
And just look at the girls, pecking at the dirt, safe from ermines, weasels, fisher cats, raccoons, foxes, feral dogs, coydogs, wolf-dog hybrids, coyotes, bears and mountain lions. They are as happy as I am.