Someday, We'll Laugh About It

In a 4 x 8 raised bed, I've managed to plant six hills of zucchini. Left to right, "Gold Rush", "Ambassador" and "Gold Bar", two hills of each. Behind that bed is a 2 x 8 foot bed with green beans, which, by some miracle or due to my clean living, have been left alone by the rabbits. The bed in front is where the peas and lettuce were, where I need to plant a second crop of green beans or something. And then there is my fence back there.
It's a six foot privacy fence around my whole back yard. It makes the garden more private for me, doesn't keep rabbits out, but does hide the compost bins, which I also hide from myself behind the bamboo screen. There in front of the compost bins are my two hills of the "Cue Ball" zucchini. I harvested four more today, bringing the three day total to eleven, and I left two out there that maybe sort of kind of probably should have been picked.

It's a nice fence, well constructed, well maintained and nicely aged to a silvery gray color. It's specially treated to resist rot so I have no intention of trying to stain it to protect it or to darken the color. I even consulted a good painter and he advised that staining it would more or less be a "slippery slope of constant staining for years to come". So it will stay its natural color until it needs to be replaced, and then it will be replaced.

I love my fence. It allows me to garden right up to the corners of my yard and not feel as though neighbors are constantly watching me. Because of the slope of the yard up to the patio, I don't have complete privacy, but enough.

But some neighbors do not like my fence. In fact they don't like fences at all. And they got themselves elected to the neighborhood association board and now they decline all requests to build new fences.

The summer of 2007 is shaping up to be the Summer of the Fence War, at least in this neighborhood. I won't bore everyone with the details, but suffice it to say that requests for new fences are being turned down, even though they are within the guidelines set forth in the covenants.

One neighbor built this "Taj Mahal" of swing sets this spring, supposedly with approval from all the neighbors around him. While it looks like this might be on the lot behind me, there is actually another yard between it and me.Once "the swing set that I would have loved to have had when I was little, wouldn't you" was built, the neighbor next door to it wasn't too happy because they put it two feet from his property line and he thinks if a kid falls off it into his yard and gets hurt, he'll be liable. Plus his 80 year old mother who lives there with him won't go outside anymore because she feels like the kids are playing in her yard.

So the neighbor requested approval to put up a privacy fence around his back yard. And it was denied.

Did I mention right now all fence requests are denied? And mine, which was put up in 1999 with full approval of the powers in office at that time, is always referred to as "grandfathered" and they will not be approving any more like it. I suspect that if they could get away with it, they'd make me take it down!

I've had no less than four notes put in my mailbox this spring and summer about fences, as have all the residents of the neighborhood. Two from the association board and two from concerned neighbors who think the board is out of control.

The board is out of control.

Since they are out of control, or at best extremely controlling, I'm thinking that I can get a few other neighbors to join forces with me to secede from the neighborhood association and write own covenants to require privacy fences and also allow outbuildings, which are currently prohibited. Then I can get that little garden shed of my dreams, with a suitable display area for my hoe collection.

Yes, if I keep my head low and stay behind my fence, maybe I can avoid direct hits from the "fence wars" and come out of it with a garden shed!


  1. I'm glad I live in the country, where people get in a snit if someone passes a zoning law stating old abandoned cars can't be visible from the road. Them people got voted out the very next election, let me tell ya. I don't know if that zoning ordinance is still on the books or not, but it is certainly NOT being enforced.

    I could never live up to expectations in a neighborhood like yours. I'm better off in a place like this, where there are precious few expectations. Even the leash law isn't enforced until someone's dog eats someone else's chickens!

  2. You have all my sympathy, Carol - some of the other homeowners' associations here resemble yours, with all plantings, house colors, and outdoor decor needing approval from a committee. I would hate that!

    I suppose the ones who are in charge in your neighborhood are mainly concerned with house values, and are willing to run roughshod over individual quality of life. But they allow the swing set? It looks like something from a public playground - if it were next to me I'd want a really tall fence!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  3. We have got it in the county also. We could not get a permit for our new patio unless we signed something saying that we would not use it to sell from. I think that it is just a power trip.

  4. I don't think could handle living with a neighborhood association of any kind (unless I owned a condominium). By my nature, I would want whatever is prohibited.

    What's the appeal of an urban or suburban house without a fence and how does fencelessness improve or preserve property values? How do your neighbors avoid being all up in each other's business? Yuck!

  5. I absolutely adore your fence. It's lovely. I really like the scalloped tops, it's very similar to what I was planning to build at my new house, where there are no rules about fences, and everyone has dogs so everyone wants them. Interestingly, my parents live in a neighborhood where fences are allowed but only on the sideyards, not in the back because the properties abut the golf course. But everyone knows going in that that's the way it is--you have to sign a contract when you buy your house, so it's no big surprise. But someone has built one anyway despite being told no. I don't think that's fair. But those are clearly established rules. I don't think changing the rules mid-way is fair, either. I would really hate it if I had bought into a neighborhood and suddently couldn't do what everyone else is doing! You guys just have to get on the board so you can take it back and inject some sanity! ~A :-)

  6. Our yards are our sanctuaries of peace and quiet and a break from the world...and your fence helps maintain this (despite the swingset). Just keep replacing posts on the sly and the fence will never come down!

  7. "Good fences make good neighbors" - whatsa matter with your homeowner's association, haven't they ever heard of that? Good thing you've got a "grandfathered" one, they probably would want you to take it down otherwise.

  8. I think Cottage Magpie is on the right track :) time to take back your HOA!

    and I think your fence is very nice, too...scalloped & with little finials...if it were leaning, oh, 35 degrees to starboard and flappin' in the wind I might could understand people not liking it...but even then if the rules didn't say "it can't lean, oh, 35 degrees to starboard and flap in the wind" then that would just be too tough...

    what a pain people can be when they try & control such things to the nth degree...

    perhaps you could find them a hobby or two...

  9. Oh, Carol! What a hateful problem! This is EXACTLY why I do not like homeowners associations. We used to live in a neighborhood with one. One of the officers used to "patrol" the neighborhood on his bike with a notebook. I did not like that little old man.

    So when we had a choice, we moved to some property where we can't even SEE the neighbors. Problem solved.

    But for you, I have to wonder if fences are written into the covenents as permitted, what grounds they have for turning them down? Isn't there some resourse, perhaps with the threat of some civil action? Even if it never gets to that a well-worded letter from a sharky lawyer might scare them into submission. Homeowners associations don't have the means (money) for a court battle.

    Good luck! Keep us posted! Don't five up the fence fight!

    --Robin (Bumblebee)

  10. Carol,

    I know a house two doors down and across the street that is going up for sale - it's been meticulously maintained and the neighbors are oh so nice - and the best part, no neighborhood covenents. And there would be no less than 12 cats within a spits distance, so no bunnies! Plus it comes with the cutest garden shed. Doesn't that sound appealing?

  11. To Sherry 'sister of the homestead', the house you are referring to has never had a garden, therefore not the rich soil Carol would want. Also the back yard is not that deep, so it would probably end up being a garden in its entirety. However Carol already has a fence & if needed she could replace it board by board so nobody would notice

  12. This is the problem with HOA's, only the most pathetic, power mad buttholes end up on the governing boards and the neighborhood suffers for it.

  13. We have HOA issues here too. They seem to go from one extreme to another. One president enforced every single rule and was quite the busy body, now we have a rebel president and nothing is enforced, which is also not good. We were told that the association cannot chage any rule unless their is a majority vote by the nieghbors. Do you all have a managing company that oversees the board? If so, they may be able to help.
    Robin's Nesting Place

  14. In Texas just about everyone has a fence around their yard. It makes sense. I moved to Florida and a lot of times there are no fences and I can't stand the lack of privacy. And wehavce a crazy amt of homeowners ass'ns as well, and they are ridiculous. I'd say, build a fence and threaten with a lawyer if they yelp too much.

  15. Isn't it sad what people get all bent about? I'm suprised they don't require a fence to hide what's in everyones yard. I feel bad for your neighbor who can't even enjoy their back yard now and are told they can't put up a fence. It's just incredibile to me. It makes me thankful for the neighbors I have and country living. Maybe a move would be good....more land = more space to garden....

  16. I once looked at a house in a neighborhood with rules. My issue was a clothesline. We bought elsewhere. I suppose if your neighbors can't put up a fence they could plant a very thorny hedge. The playset would get moved quick!

  17. Are there any HOA rules about shrubbery? Maybe your neighbor whose yard has been swing-set violated should plant a hedge! (There are some lovely prickery options in hedge shrubbery that would keep the kiddies on their own side!)

  18. Oops! - Yeah, what Apple said!

  19. All... thanks for your supportive comments. I know when my fence needs to be replaced, it will simply be "repaired" one board at a time!

    All in all, it's a nice, quiet neighborhood, nearly perfect except for this darn fence issue!

  20. Our neighborhood actually has two HOAs...can you believe that? One for our neighborhood and one for the master association. We are pretty lucky, at this time, no one with power and/or control issues sits on the boards...or, at least they're not in charge! It is something to think about. I would love to have more property and privacy...maybe someday. There were some issues in the past, but most of those people have moved and/or sold.

    What about people with dogs? Much as I love my fence (I wish I could fence my front yard!)...I did it originally for my dog (which became dogs). It would be a nightmare to have to take a dog out on a leash all the time. What are they thinking??

    And the swingset...that's the very thing a HOA should make sure shouldn't, you can't build right next to the property line...duh. One of my neighbors had a problem with their neighbors' daughter standing on her swingset and throwing rocks and things at her (my friend's) dogs. It was a mess. Fortunately, the girl is older now and beyond the swingset age.

    This reminds me of what I went through when we had our fence built. Fortunately, time helps you get past a lot of things (and also rotten neighbors moving!).

    One probably can't succeed from your association. Believe me, the attys who wrote all the CCRs thought of that. It would help your cause if you had a supportive neighbor who is an atty...fear factor, you know.

    Good luck...


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