The idea was a good one; in fact extremely good. I was enthusiastic about the project, perhaps a little too much. A bit of caution would have been wise. I knew better, but in my excitement I forgot.
Our property line runs about 300 feet along the driveway and goes on for about another 300 feet. There is a thin strip of pine, redbud and walnut trees with scattered patches of grass in the six to eight foot buffer between the drive and the borderline. Property lines had been recently surveyed due to encroaching subdivisions. To our delight we learned that we owned another eight feet north of the old, existing fence that we had believed was the property line. This is where it happened.
The day was pleasant, 60 degrees, and sunny. The outside air was fresh and invigorating as I unloaded the 100 foot roll of 4-foot-high mesh wire and t-posts from the back of the pick up. Mesh fence is necessary to keep the dogs in. I had decided earlier to wait until winter to reset the fence because the leaves would have fallen and the grass died back. This, I surmised, would make the job easier, which it did, but one important fact slipped my mind.
Our eight feet of bonus land added up to almost an eighth of an acre. Super. It is mostly wild trees, shrubs, and unknown plants that took over since the cows had been replaced by developers with visions of wealth dancing in their heads. Any way I studied it, the job was going to be challenging and physical, but looked like fun. I tore into it with abandon. That was my second mistake.
First, I set two posts marking the borderline. Then I secured a tight string between both stakes to use as a guide to keep the fence straight. This required cutting brush, branches and a few small trees to develop a straight path in which I could set the fence. So far all looked good. I installed a t-post every ten feet, then strung the fence, drew it as tight as I could and wire tied it to the t-posts. At this point things everything looked good.
It was time to rip out the old fence, which I did after cutting, tearing, and ripping out the various familiar and unfamiliar vines that were entangled in the woven wire fence. It was a give and take battle. At moments I could sense victory close at hand, then in an instant the tide would turn. Roots tightly gripped the two bottom strands of wire where the 50-year old fence was buried several inches under ground. With persistence and dogged determination I won out, or so I thought.
When I had completed the first 30 feet I stopped to admire my work. The buffer zone doubled in size, was cleaned out of unsightly growth and ready to establish native plant varieties. I was feeling pretty pleased and decided that was enough for one day. I couldn’t wait to show it off to my wife. The first thing she asked was, did you wear long sleeves, long pants and gloves? The minute she asked I realized my mistake. With the leaves off the trees and brush, the tell tale signs of danger were gone. I had unwittingly wrestled, rolled, and immersed myself in poison ivy. Huge mistake, and I am paying for it. I did set a new personal record for my fifth poison ivy experience in one year.