Fence Painting

Final-Paint-SamplesIt seems I have been consumed lately by yard projects.  I blame it at least partly on my husband, as he started the push last fall to improve our landscape, especially our back yard, before we are too old to comfortably complete major projects.  Last weekend I took a break from heavier work – like laying flagstone pathways – to do some faux fence painting.  I say faux because I “created” the gate I wanted with paint, over and beyond the gate that existed.

I have chosen a color palette for my revamped yard, just as you would for a room in your house.  I use my new colors for hardscape, furniture, planters, and plants.  So far I am in love with my choices, which include blue, purple, and lime green.  I also have plants that are a soft gray blue color, like the spruce and fir trees we cannot grow in Texas, but can replicate somewhat with other plantings (at least in color).  My colors are:

Glidden-Regal Purple 56RB 09/302
Behr-Laser P350-6
Behr-Big Chill 490-3

For me the color scheme was somewhat easy, as purple (like my purple irises) and blues have always been my favorite flower colors.  So I just decided to focus on those colors (with the lime for contrast/pop), and develop a plan from there.  Here is my gate before painting.  Pretty sad, and I cannot even see the rusty Texas star on the center of the gate.  It looks especially bad against the new flagstone walkway I laid a few weeks ago.

Final-FenceThe first task was to paint the fence and gate the gray-brown shade, the same as the trim on my house.  And here is the template I drew out on freezer paper for the arch in the top of the gate.  I also create my sewing patterns from freezer paper.  I taped it onto the fence and used some blue chalk, again a sewing supply, to trace out the arch pattern onto the wood.

Final-Fence-TemplateLast but not least I used a plumb line to make a straight line for the left edge of the gate, since of course our fence boards are certainly not straight!  Once my pattern was marked on the brown fence/gate, I painted the bright blue faux gate, then added my rusty Texas star back to the gate, only in its new position.  There – done!  So much cleaner!  My husband now wants me to paint our other side yard gate.

Final Gate

I intend to order some dummy black hammered metal hinges online as a final touch to the right side of the gate.  You could really use paint to create anything on your standard privacy fence.  What would you like to create?

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Texas Springtime

Final-Redbud-TreeEastern Redbud Tree

The days have been speeding by, and suddenly spring is upon us.  The best sign of this is the bluebonnets that have begun to bloom with abandon.  In just a couple of weeks the hillsides here will be literally carpeted in the most lovely shade of blue.  It really is a stunning site to see, and something that we wait for yearly in central Texas!

In my own yard my 20 year old eastern redbud tree is in all it’s glory with profuse tiny fuschia pink blooms.  The fog several days ago really brought out it’s glory, only exaggerating the pink blooms against the misty sky.  What a wonderful sight!

Final-Coral-VineCoral Vine

Other plants already in bloom in my yard include my coral vine (trained as shrubs), my succulents. the pretty delicate blooms of oxalis, and the clusters of blooms on my native blackhaw viburnum.  The lambs ear plants are not blooming yet, but they are beautiful year round here, and in another couple of weeks my iris will be alive with deep purple blooms.  Those are my very favorites.  I hope you are enjoying Spring wherever you are.  What are your favorite springtime plants?

Final-SuccelentSucculents

Final-OxalisOxalis

Final-ViburnumViburnum

Gabion Fence

Winter has finally come to central Texas, and I am grateful for the quiet because now my husband and I will get a much deserved break from the ongoing landscaping projects that we started in early fall.  Just prior to the holidays we completed a sixteen foot section of fencing and made a working gate for a portion of our backyard.  For years we have had a very large section of our backyard partitioned off; it was originally a dog run for our black Labrador retriever.  It has a long rustic section of fencing, comprised of 1×2 inch wire mesh, metal t-posts, and cedar stays.  We took one end section of this fence and reworked it, building gabion boxes and topping them with the original cedar stays cut to size.  The photos here show both the work-in-progress and the finished product.

The word gabion is Italian – gabbione meaning “big cage”.  It is essentially a cage or box filled with rocks, concrete, or soil and is most often used in civil engineering and road building.  You will quite often see them used as retaining walls to protect against soil erosion along constructed roadways.  For walls like we wanted, you stack them vertically rather than battered (angled back towards the slope).  They are quite trendy right now and you can find some beautiful examples of their use on my Pinterest page.

We had a definite reason for their use.  We needed three posts set into the ground, two of which were to hold our new gate.  But here’s the rub – we have VERY rocky ground in central Texas.  Dig two inches down and you hit white limestone rock, lots and lots of rock.  And since we are not as strong as we once were, we found digging 18”-24” post holes in the rocky ground to be an impossible task.  So I started looking for another solution, and that’s when I came up with the idea of the gabion boxes.  And boy do they work!  My posts which stand within the rock boxes are as strong as ever; it’s like they are basically set above ground.  So if you need a solution for setting posts other than digging holes, this might be just for you!

Though this fence was very labor intensive, it is also inexpensive to build.  Here is what we used:
1.  Three 2×4 6-foot posts cut to size (two for gate and one for end post)
2.  Two 5-foot t-posts (for supporting the wire in the middle section of the 16’ run)
3. A 50-ft section of 2×2” welded wire
4.  1 yard of 2-4″ diameter river rock (plus some rock from the yard)
5.  Bailing wire for forming the boxes and tying the welded wire and cedar stays on.

The boxes adjacent to the posts were built 2’ long by 1’ deep by 1’ high, with an additional box the same size stacked vertically on top of the first one.  To make the boxes we just cut the welded wire to size, allowing about a 1” overlap to connect the sections together as we went.  You can just use your fingers, or a pair of needle nose pliers, to bend the end pieces to tie them together.  My husband purchased an inexpensive angle grinder to help with the wire cutting.  You will also want a good pair of work gloves; the wire really can cut you if you are not careful.  Once the boxes are built (save the tops for last), place them on the ground, position the posts where you want them within the box, then start filling with rock.  Add the wire box top last, cutting as appropriate to slide over the post.  Then tie onto the main box frame by bending or using the pliers.  Complete each rock box and fill, going along until through.  Be sure to insert the t-posts in place as you come to those boxes.

Once the boxes were all in place, we added the welded wire fencing on top of the boxes, and then individually tied the cedar stays to the wire with 10” strips of bailing wire.  We left space between each stay so that the fence retained an open feel.  Cedar stays are readily available in this part of the country, but use whatever you have available locally.  The gate was added last, and painted a vivid shade of blue.  It really stands out in the garden, and I look forward to spring when I can add some more blue accents to tie everything together!  It does not show in the photo, but we have added a magnetic gate latch.  Full instructions for adding a magnetic latch can be found on this great website:  The Art of Doing Stuff.

Gabion boxes are great in that the are very rigid, yet can be conformed to the land on which they are placed.  Meaning they can be made in straight rows, or also can be shaped to a curved path.  I also thought about people who have dogs that are diggers.  It is pretty easy for a dog to dig under a wooden picket fence, but it would take a very determined dog to dig a 1’ long tunnel under a rock wall!  We love the way ours turned out.

Little Owls

Screech-Owls-2

About a week ago my dog Gracie gave me a bit of a scare.  I turned on the back porch light and let her outside for one last time for the evening before going to bed.  It was about 10:00pm, and as soon as she stepped out onto our back patio and into the semi-darkness, she immediately took out after something she had seen.  She veered left and to some trees just off the patio.  We had a clay basin with water on the patio (with temps this week at 100 degrees), and I was sure something had been getting a drink when I opened the door to let her out.  I went out after her and didn’t see anything.  Afraid it might be a possum or who knows what, I got her back inside as quickly as possible.

After getting her settled in her bed for the night, I went back and turned on the patio light again, making sure all other house lights were off, and watched to see if whatever she was chasing might come back for more water…and they did.  To my great surprise, and enjoyment, a pair of tiny screech owls came to drink at the basin.  At first I thought they were doves, but the body shape was all wrong – and then one of them turned their head almost backwards to peer in the window at me!  Little golden eyes in the night, they made quick flights in and out of the trees to the water, and hopped and gave short flight on the patio chasing evening bugs.  I stood and watched them for about 15 minutes until they disappeared completely into the darkness.  I guess I always thought of owls as big birds, but these certainly were not.  Still, they are predators with talons, so Gracie had best leave them alone!

Finally Fall

Final-Pumpkin-&-Owl_Snapseed

Cedar Logs, Rock Owl and Pumpkin

I am prepping my yard for fall/winter (even though it’s still been in the 80’s here), and I am reminded again that yard work=hard work.  I’ve never been much of one to exercise at the gym, but I would also say that I actually enjoy real work, whether that’s painting, yard work, sewing, etc.  No idle hands here!  And hey, my front yard is now seeded with 50 lbs of winter rye, because my husband loves mowing in the winter.  So enjoy these photos of my hard work!

Final-Atlas-Blue-Cedar

 Atlas Blue Cedar and Purple Asters

Final-Table-Porch

 Mums, Pumpkin, Succulent and Farm Table

Final-Side-Bed

 Japanese Silver Grass, Compact Abelias, Twisted Leaf Yucca,
and freshly planted rows of Purple Pansies

Final-Holly-Fern

 Holly Fern, Purple Fountain Grass, Succulent, Asiatic Jasmine, and Purple Oxalis

Final Blue Tree

 Carolina Sapphire Cypress and Dichondra Ground Cover,
and plenty of rustic cedar fencing!