apron fence

As we prepare for keeping chickens, fencing our garden is a critical task. Late winter is an excellent time to take care of this, on the coast, as the plantlife is still bare enough to allow for building, and other tasks in the garden can wait. To keep our lovely neighbour’s dogs from simply walking right under the existing fence, where they pose a cute but deadly hazard to our future hens – if only because chickens can be chased to death – I put together a simple apron fence.
apron fence, before.

An apron fence bends into an L shape where it meets the ground, and the fencing that lies along the ground is covered up with a bit of earth or rock. It is ideal for discouraging digging creatures. Being inexpensive and easy to install, and requiring only wire, gloves, a staple gun, and basic eye-protection, makes it quite appealing.

Attach wire along base of the fence. I used heavy staples. As you go along (or before you begin if your ground is predictably even) bend the wire into an L-shape where it meets the ground, so that it lays away from you, stretching out several inches beyond the fence. The wire mesh outside your fence is best buried under the earth somewhat, but our land is so rocky, instead I laid some large rocks over the apron to hold it down, and put a few on our side too. Chicken wire isn’t as long lasting as I’d like, but we had it to hand. Most animals will try digging in places along the apron and eventually give up.

apron fence, after.

Not a pretty thing, but the ferns promise to return with spring and mask it beautifully.

tiling

In art school I was always elated when a new technique was being demonstrated. We’d gather around in the printmaking studio, the woodshop, the computer lab, the sound studio, and take notes from an expert. At home I’m just as thrilled to hear that my father has a project that I can help with. The other day he announced that he had some tile to lay, so I volunteered.

laying tile © elisa rathje 2012

I joined in after he’d cut away some wood flooring from around the shower, slicing it with a dremel tool and lifting it. I helped with the last bit of smoothing and cleaning the surface, with a sharp knife and a vacuum cleaner. We smoothed out a few raised bits that could crack a tile if it were stepped on. He’d also measured and cut the tile to fit, with a diamond blade, so I missed that bit, and so did you. Shucks.

laying tile © elisa rathje 2012

Comb the cement with a notched trowel, to make an even surface.

laying tile © elisa rathje 2012

Lay the tile into the cement. I pop the spacers between the tiles.

laying tile © elisa rathje 2012

Tap on the tiles with a mallet to be sure of good, even contact.

laying tile © elisa rathje 2012

Now the cement needs to cure.

laying tile © elisa rathje 2012

Another day we grouted the tile. My father set the bucket on the scale and zeroed it out, then measured out the powder for the grout. I read the directions on the box a few times. He measured the water, put that in the bucket, and added the powder to it. You don’t want to breathe this chemical reaction, it’s a lot like soapmaking. It does seem like an astonishingly small amount of water, but somehow it absorbs all the powder.

laying tile © elisa rathje 2012

Much of the trick with making the grout is in a steady bit of mixing. Thus the cement truck with its steady rotation. Once it’s ready to go you have about an hour to finish your project. Go!

laying tile © elisa rathje 2012

Okay, here’s the satisfying bit. Wipe the tile with a damp sponge. Push the grout into the gaps using the float, and scrape by at an angle.

laying tile © elisa rathje 2012

That is pleasing work. It has me daydreaming about mosaic tile, and bricklaying, too.

laying tile © elisa rathje 2012

Cleaned and cured. Oh, I like tiling!