Our border instability problems may pale in comparison to those in the Middle East, but it was still a kick in the teeth today to lean against the back fence and feel it give way like a sheet of loose canvas. (The post, not just the fence.) Since the back of our property abuts a day-care center and its play-yard, it will behoove us to replace the damn thing pronto. (With apologies to Edward Gorey's Gashlycrumb Tinies, "F is for Frannie, felled flat by a fence.") It's hardly surprising; this back border is the last remaining section of General Chang's original perimeter stockage fence, which completely enclosed the CrazyStable's rubbish-packed 50 x 100 lot when we bought it 20 years ago.
Our fencing struggles in subsequent years were, like all our struggles, desultory and underfunded. After the first winter here, we had a guy slice the 6-foot-high front fence in half, creating a sort of flat-topped picket fence, and we removed the massive doors that closed over the driveway. (Although they would have served nicely to recreate one of those battering-ram scenes in Lord of the Rings--they closed from inside with a massive iron hasp and lock. Yes, Chang was certifiable.)
This rickety faux-picket fence served mostly as gymnastic equipment for the hordes of pupils who pour out of the neighboring public school and proved no deterrent whatever to their incursions, so we removed it. We replaced the rotted-out fence on the north border, which Chang had shored up witha spectacular collage that included battery cables and an old extension ladder, all lashed together with a luxuriant overgrowth of deadly nightshade. (Spouse insisted we could get NEA grant funding to have the assemblage declared a "site-specific installation.") Eventually, at staggering cost, we replaced the both north and south fences with a handsome Martha-Stewarty lattice-topped cedar fence, and added a driveway gate. (Fencing is a lot cheaper if you install it yourself, but I believe this requires using a "post driller," which I think is something like a cross between a rocket launcher and an oil-drilling rig.) At this point, it would have made sense to finish the job and do the back border too. Or at least, that's the way you think if you have an extra grand or so lying around. If not, you think, "Hey, that's not falling down yet! It can wait!"
The weekend, at least, brought a more positive new benchmark: the firing-up of the heat gun. For 20 years, we've been meaning to rent one, and now BestFriend has lent us one. Gingerly, (hey, at least it's not a post driller), I tried it on an old painted junk table. Oooh! It is very hot, and the paint bubbles up and leaps off before the oncoming putty knife like a sprightly squid! Then I tried it on the big Kahuna--the front door frame, which is covered in a thick carapace of alligatored paint. It's slow going, heating only a business-card-sized segment at a time, but the stuff comes off, the dirty white top-coat blistering and a nougat-like layer of older layers following suit underneath. Ah, the smell of lead fumes on a summer afternoon!