Confined dining

Where my side and the sensitive side of the fence intersect. Note how the canopy of the Japanese maple and the body of the azalea are going over and through the fence. Note how some native moss, liverwort, and salmonberry are creeping under the fence. It wouldn’t matter if the fence were the 5 1/2 feet from the house, or 25 feet, or fifty…the only dimension that matters is 4 1/2 inches. That is how wide the fence itself is. Brilliant!

The only real visible aspect of the original Mitigation Plan is the fence that runs along two sides of our home.  The fence is supposed to keep my family and me, as well as anything else we might have, on ‘our’ side of the fence and away from the sensitive dirt, plants, and swamp on the other side.  Aside from not looking like it “goes” with the house in any way, the fence has proved a rather significant obstacle to actually working on and caring for the plants and other Mitigate-y things on the other side.  That is why I added a rudimentary gate, and because I believe the fence to be “mine,” is also why I also replaced several sections with planters so that we could grow vegetables and flowers, (also so my young daughter, and/or drunks and clutzes, wouldn’t fall off my patio and dent my sensitive dirt).  

The thing about having a timber fence 5 1/2 feet from your home, other than it isn’t particularly attractive; and it makes it so the City of Sammamish Water and Sewer people have a hard time servicing your grinder pump; and it makes it look like your property is tiny so people wander into your yard sometimes with their pet; and your neighbor’s blow-and-go guy blows your neighbor’s yardwaste into your yard because your yard on the other side of the fence just looks like ‘woods;’ is that 5 1/2 feet isn’t a lot of room.  We have a place to sit, but not really a place to dine outdoors during nice weather, which we had several years ago and may one day again.  Both the place to eat, and the weather.

I like things which are multi-functional.  Swiss Army knives are cool; the multi-tool that I carry with me at all times is great, because you can get the knife blade out without opening the rest of the tool.  My ideal built environment is a boat: everything is built-in, and then folds out into something else.  It’s a dinner table AND a bed!  I modeled my garage after a boat, with wall-hung cabinets and shelves and such, everything up off the floor, and all my tools are on wheels and roll away to their designated spaces; my miter saw, my jointer, my table saw, even my garbage can are on wheels.  Very cool, and it allows for my relatively small garage to be baskeball court, roller rink, art studio, and a place to park our cars.

Having already claimed a number of fence sections for the Republic of Me, I extended the colonialist

Counter revolutionary!

impulse further by planting the flag of ownership into two other sections of fence which are now eating space.  I set three vertical cedar 4″x4″s for the main support.  There are cedar horizontals, 21″ and bolted to the verticals.  I pre-drilled the horizontals for screws with a substantial ‘chamber’ to countersink the attachment hardware.  My topper is two Fir 2″ x 12″s, cantilevered 2″ over the patio, which are beveled off at thirty degrees and trimmed to match at 8 1/2 feet, and then blind-screwed from below using my pre-drilled holes.  No visible hardware!

I didn’t want to use a whole ton of concrete to stabilize this.  No one can foresee the future, but I can imagine a day when the fence might not be there.  Therefore I used the barest minimum in weight I thought I could get away with…after all, I am only trying to support plates and glasses, maybe some burgers and a salad.  This led to the only tricky part: how

Kitted out and cuted up. Venison burger, anyone? Photo by Corene Caley’s Fancy Phone

to get the verticals at identical height, when trimming them off might destabilize them.  I am not going to say how I did it, but the verticals are all exactly 28 1/2 inches measured from the patio deck, and completely plumb.  I am a Problem Solver.  The whole thing cost $146, and that includes the four chairs, which just happened to be on clearance at Target the day I walked in looking for chairs.

This again is not the most beautiful or most complicated piece of construction I have ever completed; but now it’s not just a fence, it’s also a dining counter!  It’s perfect both for eating, and for keeping us away from, you know, the super-sensitive native plants I just planted ten minutes ago.  It also has kind of a Judgement Table aspect to it, so we can sit and ask the Mountain Beavers if they stand behind their dish; inquire of the deer, “So…you think you can dance?” as I lob rocks at them, and tell that lodgepole pine over there: You’re a little pitchy.

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13 Responses to Confined dining

  1. calvincaley says:

    There is a place for you at Judge’s Table! Hope you survived the shelling last night…

  2. Deirdre in Seattle says:

    What a great idea!

  3. Mario Mirelez says:

    The dining counter looks amazing. I can totally imagine how great it must be to sit there and look out. Nice job.

    • calvincaley says:

      Thank you so much, Mario, and I appreciate your stopping by–come back regularly! Last night was the first outdoor dining weather we’ve had in a great while, and we used it for the first time. It WAS very relaxing–apart from a fresh hatch of buzzard-sized mosquitos inviting themselves up from the still-very-wet-wetland. Still, a pleasant meal was had by all, including my carnivorous insect neighbors. Gotta get those bat houses going!

  4. Mary says:

    This is fantastic. I love your philosophy of putting everything on wheels, too, so it can all be moved. So you can write, garden, AND build things…is there anything you CAN’T do?

  5. calvincaley says:

    Mary, I consider myself very highly complimented as it is coming from you. When Santa brought my daughter rollerskates the Christmas before last, for some reason he brought some for me, too, even though I am pretty sure he knew I had never rollerskated before. I find that my ‘Swiss Army Life’ approach does not include “Calvin on wheels.” At my height I am sure it must be a center-of-gravity thing. My fiddle playing and my James Cagney impression are not what they could be either.

    I am gratified you like the “built stuff.” With almost three times as many plants now as required by the original Mitigation plan, the furious-ish pace of planting and landscaping will likely slow a bit, and I am likely to become more of a plant nurturer, weeder, moss watcher, and Mountain Beaver warrior. Those things are pretty boring (both to do and to read about). I am planning to do more “making,” and I already have a couple things completed and a couple more in the works–with plans for more. Stay tuned! I’m like a shark: gotta keep moving. Also, my skin is sort of sandpapery.

  6. rainyleaf says:

    What a terrific idea! It’ looks like a good place to sit with your head in your hands and solve all kinds of problems! And watch the moss grow…. I like your creative thinking!

  7. Chad B says:

    Calvin, I’ve got good news for you: you’re going to Las Vegas. Or Hollywood. Or wherever the next round is! Great job with the counter.

    I can imagine there will be lots of clever puns in your future along the lines of “You know, I’m really on the fence with this salad.”

  8. Kevin says:

    What a great idea — and the result is beautiful. I wish you countless hours of meals and memories there.

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