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Saturday, January 11, 2014

LIVING BRUSH FENCE AND COMMUNICATING


Living Brush Fence

(OK, I know what you are saying -- what the heck is this above photo all about? Hint -- this is a brush fence -- to get some perspective look for the black roof line above the fence.) 

When I recently moved to Vancouver, Washington I decided to take a short ride around my new neighborhood to get a feel for the area. I found the housing stock attractive in a sixties kind of way and very much into front yard lawnscaping.  There was a wide array from topiary to the wild natural look. 

While driving, a front yard fence caught my eye. It ran parallel to the front of its home. It acted as a privacy fence for the front facade of the house as it was about six feet high and ran the width of the property. The fence had a type of ivy growing all over it and appeared to be constructed with natural brush sticks. 

Then I saw a man on his knees working by the fence. I wanted to know about the fence so I stopped my car, approached him slowly, while smiling, and introduced myself.  


Looking closely at the configuration of brush fence

As I approached the kneeling man I noticed that the fence's brush sticks were woven in a weave like the warp and weft of an old coverlet. The green ivy leaves faced the street. Frankly I thought it quite beautiful. Definitely falling into the realm of some folk tradition. But what folk tradition?



Man I used sign language with  about the fence

The kneeling man rose to greet me. I could see he was cutting out some unwanted roots near a tree, I said, "could you tell me something about this wonderful fence?" He flashed his hands around until I got the idea -- he didn't speak English. At that point we started talking in a rather primitive sign language. I did ask him (with my hands) if he designed the brush fence -- and with that he went and stood in front of it. I motioned at him with my camera (usually have one handy) and he apparently understood  as he stood in his position until I got off five shots of him. Then I pointed to the fence and he nodded -- so I got off a few more shots of the fence. 

So then I departed with a nod and said thank you. Then he said these words to me, "thank you."  Spoken in clear English. I then thanked him again wondering if he really understood what just happened. Was the thank you  a result of me taking his picture? Or did he understand me but couldn't express himself in English but for these few words? I'll never know.  But in his way he was very hospitable. I want to believe that he constructed the fence but I'll never be able to say positively that he did. 

Communication can be difficult but maybe it all works out with a smile. But I am still scratching my head as to the traditional origins of this unusual fence. 

ADDENDUM:  Fortunately my mind clicked several months after I wrote this post and realized the fence in this piece is what is called a wattle fence. An old technique seldom found in the U.S. but popular in England. Here is a 2007 Washington Post article about wattle fencing.

18 comments:

  1. I bet he constructed it originally. I didn't know you are just up in Vancouver! Hey neighbor!

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    1. Rubye Jack -- Hey. Only been here a few months. When you wrote your post you seemed to like Portland a lot. I'm am still deciding if Vancouver is where I want to stay. I lived in Oregon once upon a time during by journey through life. It is a great state. thanks for the comment -- barbara

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  2. Natural fences always are more stylish than fences made of metal or plastic. These must certainly prevent deer as well.

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    1. Tabor -- Don't know if there are any deer in Vancouver -- I'm afraid they would not survive the huge amount of traffic. I can hardly survive driving in it! thanks -- barbara

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  3. He appears to be Asian. I wonder if such fences are used in Japan or China or some southeast Asian country. Since it doesn't use man-made materials your idea that it is a folk tradition makes good sense. Maybe you will eventually meet another neighbor who can tell you more. It's intriguing.

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    1. June -- I do believe he was of Asian descent. I have seen some documentaries that were from various spots in Asia. I noticed that some of their structures were build somewhat similar. But really I am at a loss to say for sure. I do know if I see another fence like this one in this area I will stop and ask about it. -- thanks -- barbara

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  4. I know of two of these, Barbara. One I passed and mentally noted to go back later. The second is in town, just begun and maintained by a very reclusive young couple. I thought I'd try to tie the two together, and now I can't remember where I saw the first. I may brave the one in town, and see if the couple are not so grumpy as they seem.

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    1. Joanne -- I hope you show the fence on a post. That is if the owners are willing to talk about it. I find that braveness and a smile go a long way in talking with folks for blog information. Wish you luck -- thanks - barbara

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  5. I love the fence but I love his face even more.

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    1. Birdie -- Nice that you like his face -- I think it has a lot of character -- barbara

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  6. Another wonderful, human encounter for you, Barbara. And for him. And for us. There's something so tender about communication between 2 people who don't speak the same Verbal language. I have to admit, I'm more curious about the history of the man, than the fence...
    For some reason, I'm reminded of a book I love, Sophie & the Rising Sun by Augusta Trobaugh.

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    1. Rita -- Read a summary of the book Sophie and the Rising Sun. Thanks for the mention. On that day we met it sure took some creative communicating on my part as well as his. I do not know if he was comprehending much of what was going on but in the long run he seemed satisfied as well as I. Perhaps we missed the mark in our signing but we both had smiles in the end -- that is really what counted that day. -- barbara

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  7. Bravo for stopping and communicating with this gentleman. Obviously he has spent quite some time crafting this fence.

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    1. Michelle -- Hopefully, I will come upon another fence similar to his in this neighbor. then, maybe, I can find out more where the idea came from. thanks -- barbara

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  8. what a lovely person you are! I'll bet you made his day. Love stories like this…usually people just think I am really weird for asking to take a photo of their house, garden, etc.

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    1. Starr -- Join the weird club. I have been talking to strangers since I started my blog five years ago. I'm very careful in doing so though. I think you are a wonderful photographer -- always enjoy your posts -- barbara

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  9. Great story of communication! The brush fence is kind of like English hedgerows on a smaller scale...

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    1. Vicki -- Perhaps I should look up English hedgerows. I appreciate you stopping by today -- barbara

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