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The Fence Post

Does A Good Fence Make A Good Neighbor?

December 12, 2009 | by Duncan Page

 

That fence, is it really necessary?

stone wall in autumn

 "Mending Wall" by Robert Frost

On a spring day, Frost and his neighbor are walking along and repairing the stone wall that marked the boundary between their properties. Freezing and thawing of the ground during winter months dislodge stones from walls. Repair and replacement are a spring ritual. Here the poem is excerpted--Frost is wondering if a fence is really necessary:

There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.

Frost asks: 'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.'

Despite the sentiment of this familiar quotation, there is no guarantee that good fences make good neighbors. In Melbourne Australia, the leading cause of disputes between neighbors is caused by fences. Disputes can get out of hand and escalate into a grudge match. When a state or local government erects a fence, abutters and neighbors often take offense. Sometimes, as an act of protest or to prove a point, a property owner will put up a fence that aggravates and upsets people.

Things to think about when you are considering a fence:

  • Is a fence really necessary?
  • What should the fence look like?
  • Is it needed to fence something in?
  • What impact will it have on abutters?
  • Is it necessary to keep something out?
  • What are the zoning or code requirements or limitations?
  • Are there any identifiable issues that may cause problems in the future?

Have you ever experienced negative reactions to fencing you may have installed? How did you resolve them?

Is there something "that doesn't love a wall, that wants it down"?

Now for those interested, here is the poem in its entirety.
 
Mending Wall
by Robert Frost
 
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbors."
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
"Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down." I could say "Elves" to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
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."
 

 

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Do you think good fences make good neighbors?

Topics: fence

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