Jack Spirko from The Survival Podcast turned me on to several BBC shows dedicated to historical farming. One of which is Tudor Monastery Farm. In this show the actors try to recreate life on the farm just as if they were currently living in the time period.
In Episode one they have to build an enclosure for their pigs. In keeping with the construction techniques of the time they decide to build a wattle fence from coppiced hazel. When I saw them do this a light bulb went off in my head. I realized that I have hundreds of young alder trees on my property that would make a perfect wood for such a fence, and the price is perfect, FREE!
According to Wikipedia: "Wattle is a lightweight construction material made by weaving thin branches (either whole, or more usually split) or slats between upright stakes to form a woven lattice. It has commonly been used to make fences and hurdles for enclosing ground or handling livestock. The wattle may be made as loose panels, slotted between timber framing to make infill panels, or it may be made in place to form the whole of a fence or wall. The technique goes back to Neolithic times."
How I Built My Wattle Fence
The purpose for my fence was to keep out my ducks. This allows them to patrol the area surrounding my garden and eat the slugs without eating my precious plants. I noticed that the ducks weren't very inquisitive so a fence just a couple of feet tall would keep them out. My garden would be out of site, therefore out of mind to the ducks. (so far this has been working) Where I live we have occasional wind storms so it was easy for me to find some large branches to use for poles. I chose branches approx 4" in diameter from local fir trees and some larger alders.
- Bow Saw
- 100 ft Tape Measure
- Sledge Hammer or Fence Post Driver
- Screw Gun
- Decking Screws
- 1/8 inch Drill Bits
I began by cutting my fence posts about 42 inches long with the bow saw. Then using the hatchet I sharpened them. My first section I pounded them in at approx 36 inches apart. The wattles were a little loose, so for the remaining posts I placed them about 24 inches apart and everything fit much better.
For the corners I interlocked the perpendicular wattles the best I could.
Building a Gate
I made a gate using some trees about 1.5 inches in diameter. I probably could've made this without using any modern fasteners but I figured I could fabricate one much faster using some decking screws I had lying around. First I predrilled all the holes to minimize cracking with an 1/8 inch drill bit before screwing the screws in. (it helps to have 2 screw guns one with the drill bit installed and the other with the screwdriver bit installed) I screwed 4 vertical branches onto two horizontal branches. Then I weaved very small branches throughout. Finally I screwed two braces into the structure producing a gate about 42 inches wide and 36 inches tall.
That's basically it. A wattle fence now surrounds my Back to Eden garden.
Here are some images of the construction of the fence. It took me about 4 days to construct. There is a lot more labour that goes into building one of these fences than you may think.
I also made a wattle trellis for some peas to climb. I love free :)