Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Stone Fences

One of the most attractive parts of this area, one reason why I fell in love with it, is the existence of beautiful stone fences, constructed from the rocks that lie everywhere here. Some of the most stunning examples are those of Ranch El Encanto, a big cattle operation between Dolega and Potrerillos Abajo. The picture above is of the corner of the property, and shows what is probably a 2 meter high fence.

But Rancho El Encanto also has a corral built of stone that is really a thing of beauty. Every time we drive past them, I admire the workmanship.

Building a tight, "dry" stone fence of such evenness with the material to hand is no mean feat. I know--I've tried it. My fences are ok--they work--but no one is ever going to rave about how beautiful they are!

It is absolutely astonishing how much rock and stone is in the ground. The Rancho El Encanto fences go for quite some distance on both sides of the carretra and you can see where they head off at the boundary line of another property. And STILL there are rocks left over! There are several heaps like this, huge ones, in the different pastures.

For a utilitarian cattle fence, a straight line is the most efficient. But there are other possibilities. This fence is about 3 ft high, and forms the front boundary of the house of a friend, Gladys Haynes; it's about a half mile from where we live. The fence undulates along in graceful waves. Her garden inside is stunning. This picture shows the detail used to finish the fence and also to chink the holes within the fence.

After seeing the Rancho El Encanto fences, we thought that having a stone fence of our own, at least around part of the property, would be really "nice"--decorative, you know. Plus we had to do something with the huge amount of rocks that were littering the area we wanted to eventually turn into an orchard. The north boundary with the ganadera seemed perfect for such a fence, since there was a small, dilapidated section already in place. We decided to extend it to and down along the quebrada. I hired a backhoe to move some of the really massive rocks over to the quebrada where most did form the foundation of the stone fence. Then 2 young men worked for about 10 days digging up the rest of the rocks and building the fence. It's probably in all about 100 feet long and was a relatively standard(for a residential fence) 3 ft high.

Well, decorative was a great idea, and it really does look nice--Joel and Gabriel did a great job. But then we ran into the problem of containing our enthusiastic chocolate Lab, Fred; a 3 ft high fence was just a challenge to jump over the fence, cross the quebrada, and go visit his friends, the Clamps who always have a dog biscuit for him. We heightened that section to about 5 ft. Still didn't work; Fred added a running start to leap onto a foundation rock that provided a few inches of ledge in order to vault over the fence .

We wound up making a small section of double fence--which, at least to this moment, has kept him from using this route. Of course, he did find other ways to go visit his friends, the bulls in the ganadera, and to snag a dog biscuit from his buddies! But we're working on it, we're working on it.

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