Monday, January 27, 2020
Fences and Walls:
A fence is a structure enclosing an area, or separating one area from another, typically outdoors, and is usually constructed from posts that are connected by boards, wire, rails or netting.
A fence differs from a wall in that generally, walls are made of solid materials such as concrete while fences are made of light materials such as wire mesh among other materials. Fences, unlike walls, can be made of live plants.
(Some of the items below relate to walls as well as fences).
Origin of the word “fence”:
The word “fence” comes from “defence", originally “defense”. It entered English in the early 14th century from the Old French “defense,” which was derived from the Latin “defendere,” meaning “to protect; defend.” Although the word “fence” developed in the 14th century meaning “the action of defending,” by the 15th century “fence” was beginning to assume its modern meaning of “barrier” or “enclosure.”
The use of “fence” to mean “use of a sword in combat,” as in “fencing”, developed in the 17th century. It was based on the blocking of one’s opponent’s strikes so that it too is based on “defense”.
The use of “fence” as criminal slang to mean a person who buys stolen goods dates back to the 17th century. Again this relates to the original concept of “defense” in that a criminal fence, by buying “hot” goods from a thief, provides a defence by relieving the thief of the burden of holding the evidence (and quite possibly being caught with it) until a buyer can be found. Once stolen goods are “fenced,” it becomes much harder to prove theft. One writer has commented that in the context of this meaning, good fences make life easier for bad neighbors.
Robert Frost popularised the saying “Good fences make good neighbors” with his 1914 poem "Mending Wall":
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, 'Good fences make good neighbors.'
He did not, however, originate it. The Dictionary of Proverbs lists it as a mid 17th century proverb. Similar sentiments have been expressed in other countries and cultures. Even Benjmain Franklin had a view: "Love thy neighbor, yet don't pull down your hedge."
“Mending Wall" is an ambiguous poem in meaning. Some believe the narrator of the poem dislikes the wall that divides him from his neighbor. Others think the poem tells the story of a well-established relationship and ritual between two friends and neighbours.
Beginnings of fences:
Fences originated from a need to prevent domesticated livestock from roaming and to keep them out of cultivated areas such as gardens and crop fields. or fields of crops, where they were unwanted. The earliest fences were made of available materials, usually stone or wood. Where stones were plentiful, fences were built up by the stones being removed from cultivated areas, which meant that stone walls and fences were built up over the years, even continuing to this day. In other areas, fences were constructed of timber. Log fences or split-rail fences were simple fences constructed in newly cleared areas by stacking log rails. Earth could also be used as a fence; an example was what is now called the sunken fence, or "ha-ha," a type of wall built by digging a ditch with one steep side (which animals cannot scale) and one sloped side (where the animals roam).
Dry stone fences and walls:
Many areas of England and even Australia have stone fences, but they are especially prolific in Ireland. Many of those fences are the result of clearing land of stones for agriculture, the quality of the fences and walls (which are usually constructed dry) vary from simple stacking to sturdy placement by stonemasons.
Dry stone wall, Australia, with rabbit hole in front
There are stone walls and fences in Ireland that go straight up and down mountain sides, not serving any discernible function. These walls were built during the time of the Great Famine, which followed the potato blight of 1845-1849. The Irish were disproportionately reliant on potatoes, which led to widespread starvation, as well as disease.
At that time wealthy British landowners living in Ireland extended loans that had to be earned through work. That work was the building of stone walls from the base of mountains to the tops, walls that had no purpose. Because the people who had to do the work were starving and weak, it was much harder on them. The walls and fences so built, which still stand today, are known as Famine Walls.
Spite fences and walls:
A spite fence is a term used to refer to an overly tall fence, structure in the nature of a fence, or a row of trees, bushes, or hedges, constructed or planted by someone to annoy a neighbor, the effect being to deprive the neighbour of a view.
Several US states and local governments have regulations to prohibit spite fences, or related regulations such as those establishing a maximum allowed height for fences. In the United Kingdom, the terms spite wall or blinder wall (as in, to blind the view of a neighbour) are more commonly used.
Charles Crocker, a railroad investor and owner of a house on Nob Hill in San Francisco, built a high fence to spoil his neighbour’s view after the neighbor wanted many times the market value of his property to sell to Crocker. The fence finally came down in 1905 after Crocker’s estate bought the neighbour’s property from the neighbour’s widow’s estate. In 1906 the Crcoker mansion and neighbouring buildings were gutted by fire as a result of the San Francisco earthquake, Rather than rebuild, Crocker’s family decided to donate the block to charity and it became the site of a cathedral. Funnily enough a site of hostility and hate became one of love and compassion.
A spite wall in Lancashire, England, built in 1880 by the owner of the land on the left, in reaction to the unwanted construction of the house on the right. In those days there was no such thing as planning permission so the house on the left built this very solid wall two stories high right on the edge of their land boundary and very near to the wall and windows of the house on the right. It has become a famous structure which people now come to see.
Same spite wall as above - bad fences (and walls) make bad neighbours.
Spite fence, Toronto, 1937
Spite Wall, “Calderville”, Brooklyn US. 1919
Sunday, January 26, 2020
Today is Australia Day in Oz.
Australia Day, celebrated annually on 26 January, marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales, and the raising of the Flag of Great Britain at Sydney Cove by Governor Arthur Phillip. For the benefit of overseas readers, it marks the first settling of Australia.
Celebrations reflect the diverse society and landscape of the nation and are marked by community and family events, reflections on Australian history, official community awards and citizenship ceremonies.
Since at least 1938, the date of Australia Day has also been marked by Indigenous Australians, and those sympathetic to the cause, mourning what is seen as the invasion of the land by Europeans and protesting its celebration as a national holiday. These groups sometimes refer to 26 January as Invasion Day, Survival Day, or Day of Mourning to observe it as a counter-celebration and advocate that the date should be changed, or that the holiday should be abolished entirely.
I do not propose to enter into that debate, instead here are some Fence Week items from Oz . . .
The Dingo Fence:
Extracted from wikipedia:
The Dingo Fence or Dog Fence was built in Australia during the 1880s and finished in 1885.
The purpose was to keep dingoes out of the relatively fertile south-east part of the continent (where they had largely been exterminated) and protect the sheep flocks of southern Queensland.
It is one of the longest structures in the world. It stretches 5,614 kilometres (3,488 mi) from Jimbour on the Darling Downs near Dalby through thousands of kilometres of arid land ending west of Eyre peninsula on cliffs of the Nullarbor Plain above the Great Australian Bight near Nundroo.
It has been partly successful, though dingoes can still be found in parts of the southern states.
Although the fence has helped reduce losses of sheep to predators, this has been countered by holes in fences found in the 1990s through which dingo offspring have passed,
Although the fence has helped reduce the loss of sheep to predators, the exclusion of dingoes has allowed for increased pasture competition from rabbits, kangaroos and emus. Sheep are being lost to increasing numbers of feral dogs.
In 2009 as part of the Q150 celebrations, the dingo fence was announced as one of the Q150 Icons of Queensland for its role as an iconic "innovation and invention".
Sheep and cattle stations in Australia protected by the fence are astoundingly large. While varying in size, some stations can be larger than small countries. One station alone in South Australia lost over 11,000 sheep in a year due to dingo attacks before the completion of the fence. As recently as 1991, one station lost 3000 sheep in a year. Sheep farmers fought back by using poisoning, shooting, and eventually constructing the longest fence in the world. Aerial poison bait drops are still used today.
Dingo Fence, 1938
Dingo Barrier fence sign, near Bell, Queensland, Australia. Sign on gate for stock adjacent to cattle grid.
By the way, a penalty unit is a monetary unit that is imposed for offences. Rather than continually increase specific penalties in various pieces of legislation, such Acts these days impose penalties by numbers of penalty units. Then all that has to be done from time to time is to increase the value of the penalty unit. It is currently $110 in NSW.
Dingo hunters with scalps, 1954
CSIRO experimental officer weighs a dingo in Alice Springs - 1967.
Erecting dingo fence, Western Queensland in 1960s
The Rabbit Proof Fence:
Extracted from wikipedia
The State Barrier Fence of Western Australia was formerly known as the Rabbit Proof Fence, the State Vermin Fence, and the Emu Fence.
It was constructed between 1901 and 1907 to keep rabbits and other agricultural pests, from the east, out of Western Australian pastoral areas.
There are three fences in Western Australia:
- the original No. 1 Fence crosses the state from north to south,
- No. 2 Fence is smaller and further west, and
- No. 3 Fence is smaller still and runs east–west.
When completed in 1907, the rabbit-proof fence (including all three fences) stretched 2,023 miles (3,256 km).
When it was completed in 1907, the 1,139-mile (1,833 km) No. 1 Fence was the longest unbroken fence in the world.
Rabbits were introduced to Australia by the First Fleet in 1788, but they became a problem after October 1859, when Thomas Austin released 24 wild rabbits from England for hunting purposes, believing the introduction of a few rabbits could do little harm and might provide a touch of home, in addition to a spot of hunting." The rabbits proved to be extremely prolific, and spread rapidly across the southern parts of the country. Australia had ideal conditions for an explosion in the rabbit population, including the fact that they had virtually no local predators. By 1887, losses from rabbit damage compelled the New South Wales Government to offer a £25,000 reward for "any method of success not previously known in the Colony for the effectual extermination of rabbits". A Royal Commission was held in 1901 to investigate the situation.
Following the introduction of myxomatosis to control rabbits in the 1950s, the importance of the rabbit-proof fence diminished.
In 1929, Arthur Upfield, an Australian writer who had previously worked on the construction of No. 1 Fence, began writing a fictional story which involved a way of disposing of a body in the desert. Before the book was published, stockman Snowy Rowles, an acquaintance of the writer's, carried out at least two murders and disposed of the bodies using the method described in the book. The trial which followed in 1932 was one of the most sensational in the history of Western Australia. A book was published about the incident called Murder on the Rabbit Proof Fence: The Strange Case of Arthur Upfield and Snowy Rowles. The incident is now referred to as the Murchison Murders.
Doris Pilkington Garimara's book, Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence (1996), describes the use of the fence in the 1930s by three Indigenous Australian girls to guide their route back home to Jigalong. The girls, taken from their parents in Western Australia as part of the Stolen Generations, escaped from the Moore River Native Settlement where they were being held and walked back to their family at Jigalong by following the rabbit-proof fence. The dramatic film Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002) is based on the book.
The poster for the film
Saturday, January 25, 2020
I grew up in suburbia where, if there was a fence, it was invariably a derelict paling fence with a choko vine or passionfruit vine growing over it, generally not in as good condition as . . .
Chokos, for the uninitiated, are a vegetable that hang on vines and look like this:
They’re usually served cooked with butter spread over them . . .
. . . but, in the words of Crocodile Dundee . . .
I was put in mind of those early days when I discovered that the neighbor on the other side of our rear fence had decided to repair the fence. I don’t know those neighbors, have never met them. The way the neighbor fixed the fence was by taking down the palings and instead affixing old gates that he must have obtained somewhere . . .
Those are Kate's compost bins in front
It also brings to mind Robert Frost quoting his next door owner in his poem Mending Wall: ”Good fences make good neighbours.”
Perhaps today there are still old paling fences in suburbia with choko vines, perhaps people even eat chokos, though a passionfruit vine on the fence would be far preferable . . .
Fences have evolved since those days, here are some decorated fences for inspiration, wonder if I should tackle my back fence . . .
Marbles inserted into holes