Historically Speaking: Do fence me in
Fences were necessary in the rural setting, as they designated different “use” areas and property lines.
Gates of all kinds were strategically located in each separate area, and there were many different kinds and construction. The most rugged was the use of poles laid across openings at about 6-inch intervals, which would be suitable for keeping the cows out or in a certain area. We had large and small gates for “people,” travel and metal gates, and wooden home-made gates. All had secure closings, hooks, clasps and locks.
We had a main gate leading into our farm, which was always locked when we went visiting away from the area. It signified to visitors that we were not home and it also kept cattle from coming into our fields and garden areas.
Our vegetable garden had its own high fence around it, keeping out the deer and rabbits, as well as the dogs and cats. It had a wide gate that was closed at all times when work was being done inside like hoeing or attending to other duties with the vegetables. The wire fence around our garden was made of a small mesh, so that even small animals could not get inside. We could not keep the birds out, so a scarecrow did help.
The hay field and the corn and potato areas were fenced in, too, as they had to be separated from the cow pasture lands. Foxes were valuable mainly when their pelts were in prime condition, so the fox yard had a central position beyond the house area, where we could closely watch over the yard and pen areas, especially after the young pups were born. There was a wire guard fence around the entire fox yard. Individual pens were closed by a hook and the fox yard by a key.
The barnyard also was separately fenced, with a gate leading to the various pastures-the wooded pasture area behind our farm and the hardwood area along the river, which was swampy but contained good juicy grass and shady hardwood areas for the cows to enjoy.
About the only open area was the space around our house and down in the direction of the river. The river served as a fence, as cows do not normally swim away if they have plenty of food available.
I believe that “marking” the edges of paths from the house to the garden, the outhouse, the garage and to the barnyard area with stones was a carry-over from the “old country,” but was a great way to mark off the path from the lawn.
The country roads were rutted, and had ditches alongside if they were located in a swampy area. With the use of a culvert, the water from swamps could be directed to the closest creek or stream and thereby keep the roads dry (except in the spring, when all the country roads had their share of muddy ruts). We had to be careful not to get too close to the ditches. In the winter the ditches could present a problem-if the plow misjudged the actual road area, we could end up in the ditch. This didn’t happen often, as the plow men were precise.
Paths, some natural and some man-made, in the pasture land, were the means of getting cows into pasture areas and then back to the barn for milking. Every farm kid remembers running along the cow path barefooted and landing in a fresh cow-pie. This was just a part of the adventure of being a kid!
Fences, gates, stiles, paths and lanes were necessary for the division of areas of the farm and fit into country life naturally, as did the muddy or snow-covered roads that took us to school and around the neighborhood. Perhaps my memories are different from yours, but hopefully these thoughts will stir up your own special memories of years ago.