The Mending Wall by Robert Frost is one of my favorite poems and I have found myself thinking of it often this past week as the contractors first set posts in concrete and then built the 6′ privacy fence around my back yard. This poem which has spoken to me since my first reading of it is about of the mischievous spirit of the narrator that wants to tear down the proforma barriers between neighbors, in sharp contrast to my recent deliberations on the height and linear dimensions of the one I wished to erect.
In the poem, the narrator has an apple orchard while his neighbor has pine trees, making a fence between them truly more a matter of principle than necessity. My little back yard garden on the other hand, is frequented by uninvited neighborhood deer, dogs, kids and rabbits. I erected my fence to not on the counterpoint of the poem’s principle of “Good fences make good neighbors”, but to avoid broken stems on spring transplants and trampled fall vegetables a week before their maturity date.
Before the fence, my back yard would have been most easily divided visually and structurally into two nearly equal sections. The section closest to the house consisting of what most of us would call “yard”, meaning an open, grassy space. The back half is sometimes jokingly and grandiosely referred to as “the woods”, but would more accurately be described as a line of trees and scrub brush taking up the rear 1/2 of the yard. With the coming of the fence came the reclaiming of the portions that had been scrub and giving the majestic 3 story pines (some sweet gumball trees which I have an uneasy truce with) and the one magnolia a bit of elbow room to enjoy their life as backdrops to my urban garden.
The clearing began today with the smallest of the sweet gumball trees and scrub being removed, pruning of suckers and small branches below 6′ on the remaining gumballs and pines that will remain and the raking and removal of some of the ankle deep pine straw mulch covering the area to create clearings where herbs and pollinator friendly flowers will be planted in spring to compliment and benefit the vegetable garden.