It started with rocks.

I wanted rocks to go around a tree so I could plant a flower bed for my backyard birds. I never see any kind of rock around here, except the little ones that muck up my big garden. But that day I happened upon some. They were hidden along the fence line and mostly covered with years and years’ worth of fallen leaves.

Early one chilly morning, when I was sure the snakes would not have their wits about them yet, I began unearthing these rocks. They were limestone. I’d much have preferred some smooth rock dug from a slow moving river, but during these times of sheltering in place I’ll take what I can get. And, in my old life, I was very cheap and would have been satisfied with these free rocks, even if they are somewhat ugly.

The more I worked, the more I began to take notice of the rich earth around these rocks.

When I had all of them removed from the ground and dragged with a hoe out of the way of whatever slithering creature might surely be lurking in the overgrowth, I took a rake to those decomposing leaves.

Our front yard is fairly attractive when it is mowed neatly, and it isn’t littered with Tonka dump trucks. But our backyard. Oh the poor pitiful thing. I’ve always found it so ugly. Even the trees back there are ugly, except that they house my birds and squirrels, which are beautiful. I’ve never seen an ounce of potential for it before. But the more I raked those leaves away the more my heart began to soften for the place.

I worked as long as I could, which was as long as little sister would sleep. When Michael got home from work he set to sawing down some branches off one of the ugly old trees. I didn’t really like the notion of this, but I thought to myself that it would look some better if we were to get rid of all of the little saplings that have hopped up all along that fence row.

Finally I announced that I would remove the fence, with all its rusted barbed wire and goat wire and aged t-posts and rotten wooden posts. Michael says to me that I would not be able to do it alone. Whether he was joking or not I do not know. But I took the challenge and when little sister sleeps, the boy and I are outside working. I’ve finished all the raking. I’ve taken down all of the wooden posts, save one which was not so rotten as the rest and coincidentally was filled with the most nails holding the most wire and it was so daunting that I took a break from it today to dig up and move volunteer Zinnia seedlings.

I’d have been done already except that I couldn’t find anything to cut the wire with. Now I have that though and I assume I will finish the business of taking down the fence all by myself tomorrow.

I have a wonderful vision for our backyard now. Of course I will have a flowerbed or two for the birds. I want a picnic table and lights hanging from one tree to the other. Michael says he is cutting all of the trees down, but I told him I would promptly leave in the event that he did because my squirrels live in the willow tree and I need its branches so I can learn to make baskets.

Robert Frost’s neighbor said good fences make good neighbors, but in the case of unused and unloved fences, which have no livestock or pasture pets to keep in place, I think I’ll not bother reciting that line to myself as I finish my work. It really doesn’t apply in a situation such as this.

Danielle Wallingsford Kirkland is a former Sentinel staff writer and correspondent. She can be reached at

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