Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Where is Tom Sawyer when you need him? May 26, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:29 AM
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Three of the seven panels yet to be stained.

LAST WEEK I STARTED re-staining the fence that borders our backyard. Progress has been frustratingly slow and tedious.

With rain falling daily or every other day, or so it seems, sunny, stain-applying days have been sparse.

Even when it’s not raining, I must wait until the wood dries, and then the rain is falling again. At this rate, I should finish by, maybe, Labor Day.

Pretty to look at, challenging to stain.

The other issue is the fence itself. Take a good look at this fence with the lattice work top border that nicely dresses up the panels. That decorative touch sure looks pretty. But it’s difficult and time-consuming to stain. We’re talking tiny foam brushes here to apply stain to that lattice.

Do you know how quickly foam disintegrates when brushed against rough wood? Or how easily foam brush handles snap?  Yeah, that quickly and that easily.

But, hey, at least we have a pretty lattice-topped fence that keeps our property from looking like a fortified stockade.

As careful as I was, I trampled several ferns growing next to the fence. I also broke off several iris buds.

Under ideal circumstances, I would have completed this project a month or more ago, before my ferns, hostas, irises and bleeding heart erupted through the soil. But given the less than ideal spring in Minnesota, that did not happen.

Therefore I am forced to sidestep plants as I stain. Sometimes I fail to sidestep plants as evidenced by trampled foliage.

In a hurry to finish this project, I am constantly checking the weather forecast, or asking my husband, “Is it going to rain tomorrow? Can I stain the fence?”

If the wood is dry and the sky cloud-free, I stain. And then, if rain is predicted within 24 hours, I drape the newly-stained panel in plastic

A sheet of plastic protects a newly-stained fence panel from yet another day of rain.

weighted with rocks and clipped in place with clothespins. Twice I’ve had to protect the panels.

And I’ve stained just three panels. Only seven more to go.

OK. OK. You are probably thinking, “Why doesn’t she spray the stain onto the fence?” Number one—the first two panels are too close to the house for spraying. Number two—plants. Number three—I don’t think spraying will work, although my spouse thinks it will. He intends to try spraying, but has not had time or a dry evening to attempt this application.

So for now this project is mine, solely mine, as I do not seem to possess the persuasive powers of Tom Sawyer. Tom, as you may recall, manipulated his friends into whitewashing Aunt Polly’s fence by making a game of the chore.

Could I possibly convince any of you that staining my fence would be fun? I’d even throw in a cold beer. Or two.

I've used nearly a gallon of stain on three panels thus far.

HAVE ANY OF YOUR SPRING projects been delayed by cold and rain? I’d like to hear. (I know. I know. Really nothing to complain about compared to cleaning up and rebuilding after a tornado.)

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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