Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Seeing a man about a fence

Yesterday I posted about our fences. Today, I'm writing about our plans. 

The Perth area, in Lanark County, our new home town, has a very different geology than Muskoka.
[A Short Geological History of Lanark County] This means different gardening style and different foliage. Still a mixed forest, but a range of wetlands, shallow soil, lots of cedar, dead or dying elm trees (Dutch Elm disease, hitting E. Canada in the 40's) and limestone that rears up in protest to its burial. 
Scott Dobson explains his work

Many of the Scots who settled in this region began to farm. Which isn't a difficult thing to do once you claimed your land grant, cleared the land, built a shelter, built fences for livestock, and dug in, so-to-speak. Not so simple a task, of course.

garden elements
The issue with this region is the limestone layers of rock. There is a lot of underlying flat rock in many places. I miss the pinks and grey granite of the Precambrian rock in Central Ontario's Muskoka, but have learned to embrace the beautifully flat slabs that allowed the first homeowners to build, for example, a flagstone-type walk through our front garden.

Our lot #2 is undeveloped and as I walk it I realize how much work went into collecting all of the stones to create our open lawns. Also, how many different types of heritage fence we have.

During the recent Arts Tour, we met a man who builds and repairs split rail fences and creates lawn designs. They are as much art as a brilliant recycling.

Scott Dobson was explaining that there was some competition from these transplanted Scots, to invent a new style of fence to accommodate the shallow soil of this region. In fact, the fence style was patented, hence the term 'patent rail fence'. Farmers battled to profit from their ingenuity.  The fencing is strong and lasts a long time, as well there is no digging into the ground!
Different fence style models

Each domesticated animal needed a different height fence, of course.
 Rather like the publish or perish mindset, patent rail fences were guarded and men like Closs wanted the fame and glory of a 'patent' fence. You needed a permit to build his type of fence. Others, Patton, McUvan, Drafer, also created variations of the split rail classic patented rail fence.

The Eastern White Cedar fence lasts many years. It is resistant to bugs, rot and weather. The perfect medium after farmers cleared the soil and had cedar wood lying around.

If you want to build such a fence, there are directions on-line. Click on the photos and you will download a PDF file. Scott is an expert. We are hiring him, and his crew, to create something for us. We are looking for 150' of fence to finish off our front, and create a landscaping treatment that will fit into the community.

Scott is quite famous in these parts!

Old cedar fence parts valued as pieces of art

By Lynn Saxberg, Postmedia News August 21, 2010

These are heritage pieces all about this land, that reveal the nature of the Scots and Irish that settled here. It has character.

Sheep fencing

fencing allows for the undulating hills

Ye olde farm house

Split-rail fence with four supports


Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Jenn -- We love to look at the different styles of fencing as we travel; you are right -- there is an art to building the ones you show.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Montague Township and I've since lived in Alberta and British Columbia. I really miss the split rail fences!