Category Archives: Yard

Hippy Fence

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Because I wanted to experiment, I decided to build a portion of a privacy fence across a portion of the right half of my rear property line. My wife wanted me to block the view from the neighbor’s back yard. She couldn’t picture my final design at all. That’s probably a good thing because some of my first ideas were truly bizarre.

It took all my self-control to avoid building the crazy thing I had in my head. After looking at various fences across the area and following that up with looking at several hundred online, I knew that the options at my disposal were almost infinite. Luckily for my wife, I went with a more conventional look. Believe me, I wanted to do something vibrant, colorful, and unusual. If such things interest you, I recommend that you Google “modern fences” and variations of it.

I also had to decide whether to take down the chain-link fence on that side. Even though it might surprise the property owners behind me, the chain link fence is on my property. The marking stakes from three surveys are still in the ground.

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This is the latest survey marker on the left side and rear fence of my yard. You can see that the chain link that was there is on my side of the property line.
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These are 3 different survey markers on the right rear property line. You can see that the chain link fence is inside my side of the property line. (And that the neighbor’s fence is actually a bit over the survey line.)

 

 

A previous owner incorrectly (but cheaply) attached chain link fencing to the barbed wire fence that separated the property. I cut away all the barbed wire over the last few weeks. The only reason I had the energy was due to the coronavirus. I didn’t cut away the chain link fence because the neighbors have a dog.

For the neighbor behind me on the left, I cut away all the barbed wire, chain link fencing, and posts as soon as he finished his section of privacy fence on his side. The yard immediately looked better. It doesn’t hurt that I no longer have to see the nutso neighbor’s roommate, the one who literally screams and shouts at the sky during thunderstorms. He’s always been decent to me but the possibility of him going off his rocker at any moment keeps me at a distance.

For the supporting posts on my proposed privacy section, I used three 8′ posts set in concrete. Because my plan was to use horizontal boards, I didn’t need support strips running horizontally. I also spaced my posts 5′ apart instead of a longer distance.

I also had to take into account the cable lines running incorrectly across the property line. (This is due to a much older neighborhood being behind the new one where I live.) I’ve learned that utility companies often do the wrong thing – and sometimes the illegal thing if it saves the contractor installing it time. I learned this lesson again in the last year as Ozarks Electric trespassed and damaged my yard. Placing the posts more closely paid off because of the shorter distance between posts gave me a greater ability to stagger away from the lines that shouldn’t be there.

For my panel, I ran two sets of 8′ boards horizontally across the 3 posts. They overlapped over the middle of the three posts, and the notched ends faced away from both the outside posts. I used star-point wood screws to attach the boards. Because my local retailer had insufficient boards, I had half cedar and half something else. Instead of waiting, I alternated the boards across both halves, creating an alternating pattern on the 16′ panel I ended up with.

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Having experimented with this type of fence, I discovered that my design is more visually appealing that most standard fence sections, such as the ones used in the ‘alleys’ between houses. I’ll probably put up a similar panel design on the left side of the front of my house – a section that will not contain a gate. I’ve learned that no matter how much you insist that people not use one side of your house to access the rear, they will do it anyway. Not having a gate eliminates the issue. I’d also like to have a couple of large boulders delivered too. I’ve always found them to be visually appealing.

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The fence blocks neighbors while we’re sitting in our rocking chairs.

The Never-Ending Yard Project

 

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Using only hand tools, I cut down several trailers of trees, brush, and nonsense the neighbor behind me allowed to encroach. I paid a nice Latinx gentleman I found on social media to haul the mess away. He, among several others, said he’d throw it all over the fence if it was his property. Despite making a living off doing such jobs, he told me he is constantly annoyed by how many people leave it to others to clean up their messes.

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The above two pictures of the back fence ‘before’ actually look better than they should. The condition we received the property was actually much worse. These are after I did a considerable amount of cleaning, cutting, and hauling. That’s a shame, considering none of the mess belonged to me. It’s typical for many areas of Springdale, though.

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The above two accurately represent the way I received the property, despite what the builder promised. The City of Springdale doesn’t really do much to property owners who fail to maintain their lots, even when utility access is involved. That’s a great thing if you’re accustomed to living in an unkempt jungle but not so joyous if you’re trying to enjoy what you have. It was this way at my last house on Cottonwood. We paid several thousand dollars to improve it, especially so for those who don’t maintain their property.

The ax I bought recently at Tractor Supply nearly took my head off. I have one remaining stump along the slovenly neighbor’s back fence. Because I wanted to make a sunflower box in that area, I have been waging war with the stump a little bit each day. It’s winning but I’m incrementally reducing its width, depth, and strength. I was counting down the number of swings I’d give it that afternoon. When I reached the penultimate swing, the ax split and the head surprisingly came up several feet. I’d like to say I dodged it. However, it was over before I realized what happened. (Which is often true in life as well.)

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The next day, I decided to put the sunflower box almost all the way to the left end of the back fence instead of waiting to buy another ax or stick of dynamite to eradicate the stump. I did buy another ax yesterday, though, one that is almost unbreakable. We’ll see if that holds true. I’m still surprised that I was using enough force to break a rugged ax like the one I bought at Tractor Supply.

This morning was cool and windy. Unlike most days, I didn’t go out until after 7. Despite the haze of the Sahara dust, I spent a few hours adding more 12 x 12 painted stepping stones, installing a whiskey barrel planter for daisies, another birdhouse, as well as a couple of other miscellaneous things. I also climbed up to one of the previous birdhouses and stuck a finger inside. The nest therein felt a bit odd to my finger. I didn’t fall off the ladder, though.

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My cat G├╝ino enjoys sitting in the kitchen window, both to watch me as I continue to add things to the back yard, as well as to twitch at the dozens of birds and squirrels that now visit us daily.

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Though the above picture is from a previous stage of my project, the top arrow indicates the picnic table feeder that the squirrels love sitting on. The bottom arrow points to a bird caught in the picture as I snapped it. I’ve discovered that there are unobserved animals in several of my pictures. No Sasquatch or Godzilla appearances yet, though.

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A closer view of the picnic table feeder. I used a horizontal board to allow me to screw the table to the 4 x 4 post in more than one location. I’m not a fan of the ornate birdhouse on top of the blue pole. My wife took this picture this morning and cropped it. We throw a combination of shelled bird peanuts and human peanuts out, as well as putting them in the picnic table feeder.

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The above picture shows the whiskey barrel crate planter on the right, as well as few more stepping stones I placed going left to right. We discovered that a couple of the squirrels sometimes dangle upside down from the upper board to drink from the birdbath.

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Normally, I’d say I’m not a fan of these kinds of planters. My wife got it, so I decided I’d better find a place for it. I put a decent amount of lava rock in the bottom to both reduce the weight and the amount of soil needed to fill it.

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From the back left corner of my yard. I took this picture after a great deal of cleanup on my part, especially removing the horrible barbed wire and chainlink that languished there for a couple of decades.
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Another picture from when I had initially started adding color to the yard.
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Another one from when I barely started.

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This little bird flew into the window one morning. I coaxed him back around the house and finally up to the top of the fence. He finally flew into the safety of the trees, but inexpertly, like an over-sized plane struggling to get aloft.

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I bought an orb for my wife. The cat watched in amazement as it transitioned through the colors.

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The hibiscus has done well. Dawn was reluctant to spend so much on something for a plant. It’s flourished, though, and blossomed at least once a day since we repotted it.

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Coming home this afternoon, I put the components of a gag gift on the bed. He pounced on it, preventing me from assembling the gift box. I could have used the rubber mallet on him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easy and Creative Birdhouse Pole

 

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My backyard is a nascent work-in-progress. Only recently did my neighbor to the rear even pretend to maintain his yard. I cut down a couple of trailers of his horrible brush and ‘trees’ and hauled them off. He then put up a cheap fence across the back.

If you are looking for a creative and relatively easy way to erect a birdhouse pole, I have one for you. You can control how high it is. I’ve learned through experience that the taller ones draw the birds more rapidly. If you can place it near something that provides cover, you’ll have better luck. If you have a neighbor who does not want to see your birdhouses or hates anything creative, this is your chance to tower above his or her boring fenceline.

First, visit Lowes, Home Depot, or anywhere else you tend to spend five times more money than you planned due to the array of cool things you find when you visit. Go to the plumbing section. First, choose a couple of 3″ or 4″ wide PVC drainage pipes. They are usually white. 3″ pipes are easier to handle. 6′ lengths will fit into cars and other vehicles easier.

Since I recommend that you get two 6′ lengths, you’ll need a coupler of the same size. If that confuses you, all it means is that it is a collar, usually about 4″ high that you use to attach the 2 long pieces together. Not that you would need to, but you can buy a specialty saw for cutting such pipes; a common hacksaw works perfectly well, too. If you use a collar to connect 2 6′ lengths, you won’t need to cut anything.

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Additionally, if you want to easily attach the birdhouse to the finished pipe, I recommend that you buy a drain flange to attach to what will become the top of your pole. The advantage of such flanges is that they are flat on top and have slots and holes for screws to pass through in any direction. Once you finish your pipe, you can use a ladder to mount just about any birdhouse to the top of your finished pole. Some flanges have mesh on the top. Any of them will work if they look like the picture I’ve attached.

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Before putting a metal collar on the base and attaching a birdhouse.

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In the above picture, I draped my neighbor’s fence with a cloth to prevent paint from hitting his fence.

If you spend a couple of minutes in the plumbing section of your favorite home improvement retailer, you’ll discover that they carry a huge variety of couplings, bends, and assorted connectors. These allow you to deviate from my pictured “straight pipe” example. You can add s-curves, cross branches, and several other options. PVC is used to create a variety of things because it is able to be modified by length and direction so easily.

You’ll also want to buy a small metal can of pipe cement. It’s cheap. You apply a bit around the circumference of the couple, pipe, or flange that you attach to the two pipes that create the pole. If you have a glue-sniffing addiction, you’ll need to be careful at this point.

To create the pole, glue the pipe coupler to one end of one PVC pipe. Glue the pipe flange to the other PVC pipe. After a few minutes, glue the two pieces together.

You’ll have one 12′ pole with a flange on the top. A foot or two will be concealed below the ground.

For the ones I make, I usually spray expanding foam into the ends or glue plastic into the sections so that they don’t fill with water. It’s not required.

You can see my previous extremely helpful post regarding digging holes to cement such poles in place. Burying and Cementing The Pole

Once the pole is cemented into the ground, you can get a piece of curved metal to cover the base. They sell them at home improvement stores. Such a piece of metal can be found in the HVAC section or the construction section. The pieces I buy do not quite reach all the way around the pipe. The gap is concealed by my placement of it toward the back. I use screws to attach the pipe sheath to the PVC pole. Clamps will work if you buy ones large enough. I don’t always buy exactly the same type of pipe. For the one pictured, I face the crimped portion below the surface of the soil around the base of the pole. If you were so inclined, you can cut the pipe to varying lengths and/or cut away the crimped portion.

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You can see in the picture that I also have several 8′ x 4″ wooden posts buried in the ground. They’ll hold fence panels, multiple feeders, birdhouses, and plant hooks in any direction.

I learned the hard way that it is much easier to paint the poles and posts after cementing them. I paint them before adding soil or covers around the base of the poles. I use spray paint. All the major retailers carry a huge variety of types and colors. As you can see, I prefer to use a variety of colors so that it appears that magical unicorns have visited me. Bright, crazy colors aren’t for everyone.

 

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The above post holds a picnic table-inspired bird feeder. You’ll quickly discover that the squirrels will also love these, too. They often lay flat in them to feed. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll see one sitting on the opposite side of the table; in such a scenario, the squirrel appears to be sitting at the table eating. I attached my picnic table with an additional piece of painted wood to allow for support screws to go underneath in three places.

If you carefully pre-drill holes in the PVC pipes, you can attach other things to it as well, such as themed metal art.

In a later post, I’ll tell you how to use these pipes to make elaborate wind bassoons and wind instruments.

 

 

 

 

 

Against Popular Advice, Dig Yourself a Hole (A DIY)

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Need to install a fencepost, birdhouse pole, mailbox, or your ex-boyfriend upright on your property? For the latter, it is more efficient to dispose of his body in a large body of water using an impermeable tarp and dumbbell weights. (There’s a precise scientific reason for those details, so don’t skimp to save a few bucks. Lawyers are very expensive. Good ones are, anyway. Stupid ones are free.)

You’ll need to buy a bag or two Sakrete or Quikrete quick-setting concrete mix. If you’re using it to set PVC plastic pipes, it takes much less than a traditional wood post. If you’ve never used Sakrete or Quikrete to set posts, this is an ideal way for you to learn to use it. It doesn’t take as much strength as you would imagine. Leveling such posts is easier than it seems, too. If you’re not concerned with the idea of ‘level,’ forget I mentioned it. If you’ve ever bought a Rausch-Coleman home, you know what I mean.

It’s better to have extra quick-drying cement mix than you’ll require. In most places, it is about $6 a bag. If you have leftover dry mix, pour it in the back of your neighbor’s pickup truck. That last part is a joke.

Employees in the outdoor, masonry, or construction part of your local home improvement retailer can answer questions for you. It’s best to pretend you’re poor as you approach them. Feigning stupidity works well for me, too. They’ll know to avoid trying to up-sell you on things you don’t need for the project.

If you’re a day drinker, you’ll soon discover that none of those concerns come into play at all.

If you are not attaching fence panels, very heavy items, or lopsided weights, you should be less concerned about getting it exactly right. You’re going to be nervous the first time you use fast-drying cement. There’s no reason to. If it turns out horribly, you can also have a teenager drive over the post or pay him/her to take out his aggression on the ruined pole with a sledgehammer or your mother-in-law’s banana bread recipe.

If you’ve never used the stuff, once you learn, show someone else. It seems too easy.

You’ll want to dig a hole about a foot wide for a 4″ post. If it’s larger, it will cause no harm. You might need to use more Quikrete or Sankrete, though. You’ll want the hole to be 18″ – 24″ deep. Honestly, you don’t have to go much past a foot if you’re putting in one of my PVC drainage pipe poles, but it helps to make the hole as deep as possible – and doubly so when you’re placing a wood post. If you watch YouTube DIY videos, they’ll blather on endlessly about ratios and radius. Ignore that.

Most people also mention avoiding digging where all the utility lines are. This seems like overkill if you’ll pardon the pun. If you need more excitement in your life that includes random chances of death, you should dig with glee and abandon.

Utility companies have a number for you to call in the event you’re not seeking immediate death. If you want to kill yourself slowly, get an internet package from Cox or AT&T.

While I’m at it, let’s talk about post hole diggers. You don’t need one. A good shovel and a spade will do the work nicely unless you’re putting up a border wall in Afghanistan. Don’t waste your time making an elegant hole. You’re just going to fill it in again. The one exception to this is if you plan on digging trip holes in the local golf course. In that scenario, keep the hole as clean as possible.

You’ll need somewhere to dispose of the dirt you remove, too. Holes result in more dirt than most people expect. If your lawn isn’t manicured and professionally maintained, you can scatter the soil over a large area of your yard, removing all the rocks and debris from it. If your neighbor is often gone, just shovel it over the fence instead of his or her yard in the dead of night. Since you’re reading a DIY I wrote, it’s safe to assume that you are drinking and lack any sensibilities.

My preferred method is to put the extra dirt in a tarp on top of my Ford Focus. I then drive until I find a dump truck and pass it. Once I’m ahead of it, I slowly pull the release cord until the dirt, rocks, and debris come out at 70 mph all over the dump truck’s windshield. I estimate I’ll be even with those evil bastards in 20 years.

Additionally, this method is often referred to as both ‘green’ and ‘felonious.’

Semantics.

Quick-drying cement comes with directions on the back in case someone thinks it would be an ideal thickening age for soup. It’s absurdly easy to use.

You don’t have to wear a mask or bandana when you pour quick-drying cement, but it doesn’t hurt. I’ve seen some cartoonish outcomes and gritty teeth while watching people pour it quickly or during high winds.

If you fill the hole around your pole carefully, you’ll see that you have plenty of time to do it without help. You can use a garden variety level to check each side of the pole as the cement sets and hardens. It hardens fairly quickly – in about the same amount of time it takes your father-in-law to become set in his ways.

You can cement a pole without anyone helping you if you’re interested.

Note to self: replace cremation urn contents with quick-drying cement and observe the effects on those standing nearby during the scattering ceremony. (And hope for rain…)