Building a Fence

Having a back yard in New York City is a little like having a pet unicorn: it’s rare, it’s magical, and on the weekends, you want your friends to come over so you can all hang out, just drinking beer and looking at it.

That’s pretty much how we feel about our back yard. That’s where the garden is, that’s where we sit in the summer, and that’s where we can forget that we’re in the city for a little while.

We wouldn’t trade the back yard for a whole sack full of unicorns.


We have four neighbors whose back yards abut ours, and of these, our neighbor to the south seems to take the least pleasure in her yard.  It’s overgrown with bramble and weeds, and it serves as home to a wide assortment of curiosities–doll’s heads, paint cans, some silk roses, and, a few summers ago, a dead animal.  We’re not sure if it was a cat or squirrel or something else, but the smell kept us out of the back yard for weeks, until nature took its course and the smell faded.

So, this year, Frank decided to build a barrier.  His friend had a back yard full of bamboo he was willing to part with, and Frank harvested it and built a bamboo fence.

If you’re feeling handy and looking to build a bamboo fence of your own, this is how he did it:

First, he attached two 2x3s vertically to each end of the chain link fence, and then screwed three 1x4s horizontally to the 2x3s:


The two 2x3s were attached to the chain link fence posts using U-bolts, shimmed to plumb:


Using a pneumatic gun, he attached the bamboo to the 1x4s with brads (little metal nails), and then cut the bamboo to the height of the fence.  The nails hold the bamboo in place temporarily:


Once he had the bamboo all in place, he screwed three more 1x4s to the three he originally attached to the 1×3 posts.  This sandwiched the bamboo between the 1x4s, holding it permanently in place:


Then he stained the 1x4s, and voila!  A bamboo fence!


I think it turned out great, and it has the added benefit of providing some needed shade to that part of the yard.

Still … “something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” and in our case, it was a possum. The first night after Frank built the fence, we were laying in bed when we heard a scratching-chewing-clawinging sound coming through the back window.  It sounded suspiciously like an animal trying to bust through the fence.

Frank thought it was a cat, and he went out to investigate–only to find a huge possum instead, sitting under the table near the fence.  (Some fun facts about possum: they like to eat snails, they’re North America’s only marsupial, and they have 50 sharp teeth.  Yep–50).

So, needless to say, Frank decided to leave the possum to its business.  We figured it would get scared and run away (possum are basically gentle and just want to be left alone), but it was incredibly persistent and seemed to have it in for the fence. For the rest of the night, we heard the possum chewing and chomping its little heart out–presumably to open up the path it used to take to get to our yard.

We woke up the next morning to check on the damage, and guess what?  Possum. Still there. But on the other side of the fence.  And man, did he seem tuckered out–just sitting there in the rain, looking at me through the bamboo.

I didn’t take a picture of him because I felt bad, and I just wanted him to rally and head back to his home. After a few hours (and a nap) he did.

I did, however, take a picture of the fence:


The hole is just big enough to allow the possum to pass through.  We know this because Frank saw another possum in the back yard a few nights ago.

As long as he keeps his distance, I don’t have a problem with this.  The way I see it, as long as he doesn’t go belly up in the back yard or eat the vegetables, he can hang out there as much as he wants when we’re not there.  We can’t stand snails, and the back yard is a snail buffet, so if he wants to work for garden access by keeping down the insect and snail population, I say let him.

And it just goes to show you: you can put up as many fences as you want, but nature will always find a way.  Even in Brooklyn.