Don't Fence Me In!

Posted on September 25, 2010


I live in an urban area.  My house is close enough to its side neighbors to be sexually active with them, if houses were so inclined.  I’ve already written about my vegetable garden that was accessible only by trekking across the neighbor’s property.  My backyard is average-size, with a charming designed-by-me two-level flagstone patio and a fair-sized area of trees and bushes that it overlooks.  Until this year, there was a decrepit wire fence bordering the back of my property.  And, to the left, was an even more decrepit brown-turning-to-nothing paint-peeling cinderblock garage belonging to the house next door.

Call me a fool but I loved them both (the garage and the fence, not the neighbors).  The fence was basically invisible, so to me, it looked like my property stretched back really far.  When we had people over for grilling, we sat at the table and I imagined that if I had the money, I could even put a pool back there.  Or a pagoda.  Or a stage for outdoor concerts.  OK, not a stage. I’m getting carried away, here. But at the very least, I could be in the Italian or French countryside, on an old farm, enjoying food and wine with friends.  A photographer would be taking photos of us for some slick food or travel mag.


I loved the crappy-looking garage because it fit right into my fantasy.  It was romantic, in a sort of I’m-ancient-and-have-seen-it-all way (much like how I feel about myself, some mornings).   The garage also reminded me that at the time my house was built (1912), the entire neighborhood still had the patina of rural, small town life.  What was once a minor stop on the railroad from DC, we in the neighborhood now tout on real estate brochures as “one light to DC.” But I digress.


In the last couple months, both of those neighbors decided to upgrade their properties.  The owner of the back property installed a brand new, unstained, you-can-still-smell-the-wood fence. The next door owner demolished the old garage and built a shiny new orange two car behemoth, complete with humongous gravel driveway and turnaround. I did say orange.  Salmon? Rust? Orange will do.  Now I sit in my backyard and can see very clearly that it isn’t so big after all.  No pool, no pagoda.  No stage.   Certainly, no French or Italian countryside.  To my left, no romantic memories of what was.  Just a lot of orange.  And a lot of gravel.

My husband Dan came home yesterday after being gone a month.  He stood in the backyard and declared, “We must do something about this.”  Too late now.  In the spring, we’ll call Jorge/George, our infamous tree climbing, help-us-with-the-garden person. Plants.  We need plants.  Big plants.  Lots of them.  To block the view of the fence and the garage and the gravel.  And maybe a chicken coop with a chicken.  That might help.