Amending Fences

We’re keeping a close eye on our new neighbor these days.  You see, he’s building a fence on his property.  In most cases the only discussion neighbors have about fences is who pays for what, or how the fence will look on either side.  But this situation’s more complicated.  Our neighbor doesn’t realize the driveway separating he and me is not right on the property line.  If his new fence line marches down his side of the driveway, he’s actually claiming several square yards of our property.

Better left alone

Here’s a story you never hear, certainly not in the United States.  A Belgian farmer was working on his property and decided to move a giant rock in one of his fields.  Several days later, federal authorities knocked on his front door.  Turns out, moving that rock adjusted the border of Belgium.  Our farmer moved one rock (as it turns out, a 300-year-old stone marker) and singlehandedly increased the size of his country by 1,000 square meters.  The very sovereignty of his nation was called into question.  Neighboring France was not thrilled.

So it is with my neighbor.  Unless he has a plot plan on hand he’ll unknowingly increase the size of his property while decreasing mine.  But that’s why we put up fences, right?  A fence specifies property; a literal landmark to indicate, “this is mine”.  That’s just for starters because we use fences for a lot of other reasons.

If I’m guessing right, my neighbor needs a fence to keep horses (or other livestock) between his house and the edges of his property.  His animals will be shut in from adjacent roads and lands.  Good luck with that, friend.  Most people around here seem to have breaks in their fences (if they have fences at all).  Not a day goes by where someone doesn’t post a notice on our neighborhood’s electronic newsletter about animals on the loose.  This morning’s alert concerned a bunch of cows grazing peacefully… on the wrong property.  You can’t blame ’em if “the grass is greener on the other side”, right?

Last week on our vacation to Charleston, South Carolina, we drove down streets full of the town’s characteristic row houses, with tasteful pastel colors and two-story side “piazza” porches.  We also walked by stately antebellum mansions in the waterfront “south of Broad” neighborhood.  Each of these estates was surrounded by high gates and brick walls, an obvious nod to security.  Yes, these palaces were beautiful, but their surrounding “fences” seemed to declare, “keep out”.  So we did.

Here’s another need for fences.  At last Saturday’s Triple Crown Belmont Stakes in New York, the eight thoroughbreds were guided – and in one case pushed – into the starting gate before the race began.  In the split second where the horses were all in a row, each standing in a sort of starting cage, there was structure.  Once they burst out of the gate, all horses and riders shifted to the left, jockeying chaotically for prime position on the rail.  Imagine the start of that race without that starting “fence”.  Disorder with a capital “D”.

Some fences don’t even need a physical definition.  Picture your city streets without lane markings (as if you lived in India).  All cars would tend to compete for the best position, just like those Belmont Stakes horses.  Horns would honk and road rage would rise to new levels.  Roll down your window and throw out any sense of safety.

I leave you with one final fence.  The shuttered Cal Neva Lodge and Casino overlooking Lake Tahoe straddles the border between California and Nevada.  A solid line on the floor splits the dining room and then the swimming pool, to indicate which state you’re dining or soaking in.  Drink on one side of the line; drink and gamble on the other.  I just hope the hotel’s current remodel doesn’t include relocating the pool.  California might become even bigger!

Some content sourced from the CNN Travel article, “Belgian farmer moves border with France by mistake”.

22 thoughts on “Amending Fences

  1. I have another fence for you I recently learned about (I think fence is the right word) – a bear fence! Our Airbnb had an electric bear fence we always had to make sure we turned off. Luckily it was very user friendly, we are not used to bears in NYC!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I figured I’d get a comment or two about other kinds of fences, but “electric bear”? Oh my. Would’ve never thought of that one. Lake Tahoe, right? Looking forward to hearing more in one of your upcoming posts!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I asked the host if it was like a dogs invisible fence 😂 but it was electrified bungee cords across the doors and windows we didn’t have any issue with luckily 🙌🏻

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  2. Fences, this topic made me smile. Where I grew up in Indiana, no one had fences. Every property was open and free. Then, when I moved to California, there were fences EVERYWHERE. I felt it was a bit claustrophobic. Everyone staking their territory and saying, “stay out.” I guess in California’s defense, the houses were closer together, not much property, so it was necessary… but I wasn’t used to that.

    I am curious to hear what your neighbor will do. You are right to keep an eye on them. Maybe even have a talk BEFORE fence is installed, they can be expensive and once installed hard to move. FUNNY story about the farmer changing the country lines!!

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  3. I remember the prevalence of fences in California too. I think high-density property fences are mostly about privacy (which we appreciated on our postage-stamp-sized lot). And yes, we’re watching every day to make sure that fence I mentioned doesn’t start marching towards our driveway. If it does, it’ll be time to “greet” the new neighbor 🙂

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    1. I’m curious too re the outcome when he finds out. My nice neighbour whom I’ve known for years put up a high wooden fence, which he paid for, but was unsure of the lot line on the existing chain link fence so he gave me an extra foot of his land, so I now have two Columbine plants and a dogwood bush which I never planted! High wooden fences block the breeze, not worth the privacy IMO, but he has barking dogs. On the other 3 sides I share chain-link fences with the other neighbours which lets the nice summer breezes in. Re animals on the road, when I was a kid growing up on the farm, I hated when the cows escaped through a broken fence and every hand available was recruited to form a line and coral them back into the field. A herd of Holsteins is not very cooperative!

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      1. A herd of Holsteins reminds me of our one trip to Ireland, where despite the miles of stone walls we still saw herds of sheep, cows, and other animals occasionally blocking the roads. The Irish seem content to deal with these inconveniences as they happen, instead of doing a better job corraling them. Adds to the charm of the place if you ask me.

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  4. Ah right, the “real” neighbors to the north! I’m not aware of Canadiens messing with their border with the U.S. That would be a mite messier than that little Belgium/France misunderstanding.

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  5. Did you know there are still a few disputes between Canada and the United States – most of them about territorial waters?
    On a personal note, we have a verbal agreement with our neighbours about a patch of land that is about 10 ft wide and 400 ft long. It runs the length of our property but the neighbours use it as a tractor path to get to their shed. For some reason, the previous owners of our property planted a row of trees – 10 ft away from the property line, so it does look like that strip of land belongs to the neighbours.

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    1. Sounds exactly like our property line, Margy. We maintain the strip of land on the other side of the driveway because it’s ours, but a passing glance wouldn’t realize who it belongs to. We’ve thought about approaching the neighbor to see if he’s interested in buying, but the process seems more trouble (and likely less money) than it would be worth.

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      1. New people bought the land a few years ago and they are slowly planting a row of trees just inside their property line. Eventually our row of trees will die, and their row of trees will mark the line! In reality, the ten feet mean nothing to us because we aren’t the ones who use it!

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  6. I’m a lifelong Californian and it still never ceases to amaze me when I visit my in-laws in Louisville, KY and note the complete absence of backyard fences in their neighborhood. Such trust! Thank you for the Belgium story. I love these anecdotal gems.

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  7. I did hear the story about the Belgium farmer – that was a big oops. Well Dave, I hope the outcome is not as bad as with my neighbor who decided to put up a white vinyl privacy fence between our houses. I was miffed as it was just about 25 feet long, only on my side and silently I took it as a personal affront but said nothing … about that anyway. I have worked from home for ten years and I heard, then saw Lowes trucks and their contractors out front and they were working right near my kitchen window, so when I heard them leave, I walked around the back yard to see what they were doing there. I was surprised to see 25 feet of chain link fence was gone and this ugly white vinyl fence in its place. I huffed and puffed back into the house, scrawled a note to my neighbor and taped it to her door for her to call me when she got home. She said “I don’t know anything about it – take it up with Lowes or the City as they had to pull a permit.” I called the City and scheduled a meeting with the Building Inspector at my house the next day. He came and said “interesting – they were supposed to have an original signature from you to pull down your chain-link fence and they neglected to get it and looks like we issued the permit without it.” I said I wanted the chain-link fence replaced and I was not going to do it and someone has dropped the ball bigtime. His answer to me was “look, you have a shed on your easement and that’s not allowed, so I could cite you for that and make you tear it down.” I said “my father put that up – it’s been there since the Summer of 1966.” He said “well you make up your mind if you want to pursue the permit issue – here’s my card.” I was fuming, had my handyman put up a new chain link fence and gave her the bill and she laughed in my face. As did customer service at Lowes. So I paid for it myself. Needless to say, this episode did not foster good neighbor vibes. The following year a 39 mph windstorm blew the shed down and it tumbled across the yard, breaking it to bits. My father had placed large cement slabs, but no rat wall. I had just repainted it to add more insult to injury.

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    1. I think WordPress needs an option to react to a comment: “DISliked by you”. What a story, Linda (worth its own blog post, frankly). I don’t know in whom I’d be more disappointed – your neighbor or your City officials. Neither has any interest in making things right (let alone amicable), even though both were clearly in the wrong here. “I don’t know anything about it”? Wow, how naive does your neighbor think you are?

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      1. Yes, I agree with you wholeheartedly Dave. What a slipshod way to conduct business! She and I never spoke after that episode and two years later another Lowes contractor was installing new gutters and whacked my split-rail fence that was in on the side and corner of the front garden. My father put it there in the late 60s and no nails were used, the pieces just fit in together and showcase the garden. Evidently the whack caused it to collapse and they left it there on the ground. I saw it when I went on my walk the next morning. I picked up the two main pieces and the wood had deteriorated and after being whacked, no longer slid into the slots like before. Though I knew my answer, I confronted her with this issue, prefacing it with “we know the saga of the chain-link fence, so this is what your latest Lowes contractors did.” She said “take it up with them” and shut the door in my face. Once again I was out of pocket to have my handyman put up a new split-rail fence. Our houses are very close as you might guess – no more than ten feet apart.

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  8. The story of the Belgium rock is classic. I hope you are able to resolve your fence issue with your neighbor. The “fences” I love best are the tall hedges in Britain, some sculptured but always well manicured. One feels like being in a maze.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hedge mazes! I’ve always wanted to experience one, Ruth. Supposed to be very “Zen”; more about the journey than finding the finish. Maybe I need to go to Britain one of these days…

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Charleston (and Savannah) is a must-see, if only for the remarkable preservation of Revolutionary War-era architecture, especially the many beautiful churches. The renowned horse-drawn wagons may sound like a tourist attraction, but they are a great way to see the streets up close. The drivers share a lot of information (and humor) about the city and its history you wouldn’t get otherwise.

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