Monday, February 25, 2013

Fence Wood

Vast quantities of fence lumber now sit near the driveway, so near that when I backed out with the Honda yesterday, I felt a little bump, which caused me to pull forward and then hear another odd noise: my back bumper becoming detached from the car. (Cheryl and I were able to shove it back into place.)

So I really can't be angry at the wood.

I was determined to get all the posts into their holes on Saturday, and I did, but they are incredibly wet and heavy (I could not seem to get any sympathy from anyone on this point--they were really, really heavy). These posts stick up about 7.5 feet, sometimes higher because I just couldn't dig the hole any deeper.
See how the neighbor's fence is leaning into our yard!

I'm installing next to my neighbor's fence, about 1 foot away, and the nails will need to be driven from that side. A tight fit. Most framing nail guns won't even fit into such a small space, but then I found the perfect solution--a nail gun that fits into the palm of my hand (a palm nailer), and it is only a few inches thick. You just drop in a nail and press it against the wood.

What could go wrong?

Coming up next: attaching the stringers and testing my new nail gun.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Roots and Luck

Over the weekend I finally finished digging the 30 post holes out back. Normally in Florida this would be no big deal because we are just sitting on a big pile of sand, but our new fence travels through the several very big oak trees that just happen to be in the way, and these trees own quite a bit of real estate underground.

An oak tree has roots that fan out to the tips of its branches, a huge network. Like blood vessels, the roots out at the edge are tiny but the ones near the trunk (the heart) can be big. And some of my holes needed to go near the big trunks. I didn't know what to expect.

It wasn't until the very last post hole, the one at the front corner of the yard, that I ran into bad luck. In this corner I knew exactly where I wanted the hole to go. The first plunge of the post-hole digger returned a dull thud. A root. I brushed away some sand to find the edge of the root, but there was no edge. The root was massive, bigger underground that most of our trees above ground, a great pillar of a root, probably 18 inches wide, with smaller roots fanning out.

I tried and tried but could not get a good picture.

There was no cutting through that root, or cutting it would surely kill the tree, so I felt around it until I found a pocket big enough to sink my 4 x 4 post. Now the fence will be crooked in that corner. Oh, well.

If this had happened on the first tree I encountered, I would have been very discouraged. I know now that I was lucky to begin with, lucky that I had no problem with the 5 or 6 other big oaks, but luck is quickly taken for granted.

This weekend was chilly and blustering, perfect for digging holes.

On Thursday on my fencing should be delivered. Next step: setting the posts.

Friday, February 1, 2013


A big tree that had been standing in the back yard for probably 80 years is now gone. It and several others, all gone without a trace. Each one was a problem in my eyes, but the big Malaluka, also known as a punk tree or paper tree because its bark can be peeled away like paper, was a special case. It stood some 60 feet tall just at the rear corner of the house.

To start, the Malaluka (Melaleuca quinquenervia) is a Florida pest tree, one of the few trees that can be cut down here without a permit. Some real estate developer imported these from Australia 100 years ago in a scheme to drain the everglades. Didn't work. Second, it dropped berries and crap on our awnings and in the koi ponds, and it caused the awnings to develop a mold. Third, it was supposedly dying (according to an arborist that came out last year), and its brittle truck would threaten our house during some future hurricane.

After the stump grinder

So why do I feel guilty about cutting it down? It seems that I keep trying to convince myself that it is OK.

After the tree guys finished with it I stood staring at the stump for quite a while. Then the awesome stump-grinding machine came in and pulverized what remained. I really want one of those things.

The two other trees we cut were cherry laurels (Prunus laurocerasus), also pest trees, and also big and old, though I have no real feeling for them, probably because they send out little runner weeds that I have to pull, thousands of them, summer and winter, in all parts of the yard. The cherry laurels were in the way of our new fence. Too bad for them...

Tomorrow I go to Home Depot to shop for fencing. Let the project begin.