Stick-Built Fencing Designs
Hey There! You didn't forget about me did you?! I certainly didn't forget about you, and now I'm back!
Today I wanted to bring to you a post all about a certain kind of fencing. I call this Fencing "Stick-built" fencing. Not stick-built in the sense that you might say a modern home is "stick-built" with 2x4s and dimensional lumber but stick built as in built with sticks that you have laying about or that you might harvest from trees or woody plants on your property. I hope to make this somewhat organized so that it makes sense to anyone reading it, but there is certainly a chance that it will end up looking like my personal rendition of one of these types of fence, you have been warned!
So why stick fencing? Well for one, it is unique, as most aren't going to have any fences made up of sticks of any kind. For two, it can be cheaper, faster, or prettier than conventional fencing, or even two of those three. There can be additional benefits to this kind of fencing as well, such as the logistics of sourcing materials, wind/snow breaks, utilization of what would otherwise be waste material, wildlife habitat, protected microclimates for trees and other plants. and some styles will even hold livestock in a paddock or pasture. I'm going to go over a few basic design styles for "stick" fencing and include some photos from Pinterest that showcase these designs and illustrate their use.
The first Design style I want to share is "Debris Fencing" this is by far the simplest design style to construct and has a few advantages. The first is of course the ease of construction. second is ease of deconstruction or removal in the event you don't like where it was placed or need to remove it for some other reason. This design probably provides the most wildlife habitat for small birds, rodents, rabbits, lizards etc. Repair and maintenance is also simple as throwing more debris onto the fence line to build it up or patch holes as the material breaks down or is blown out by wind or water. This style of fencing makes an effective snow catchment and will also capture blowing organic matter as well as sand/silt and seeds. This is the style I am currently utilizing as a way to make use of the leftover limbs and sticks from all that tree hay I have been feeding. For my use, I am simply building short fences that will capture snow and silt and will reduce wind erosion of my greatly exposed "pasture." For me these short fences also allow me to use my limited amount of material to define paddock areas and capture snow across a larger area of the farm, as opposed to having one large fence that would only capture a large quantity of water in one area. The first debris fence I constructed was laid over a row of sunchokes that were planted the year before last. This summer, even with occasional watering, those sunchokes really struggled, despite internet claims that they would take over the whole damn farm, these "stubborn" plants barely managed to persist in the dry sandy soil when exposed to constant wind and strong sun all day long. The hope is that this debris fence will provide dappled shade to the bed throughout the day, reduce wind exposure, and if the sunchokes grow tall enough, it will provide some structural support to prevent the wind from blowing them over. Inside this debris fence I have also placed a few small transplants of tree species, hoping that the protected environment will assist in their survival come spring. This fence is directly downwind from the driveway and has already captured a significant amount of sand/soil and has thus far shown promising for snow capture. I will include some photos of my own debris fencing in this post, but you can also see examples of debris fencing on Pinterest or by checking out one of my favorite YouTube channels: Edible Acres. On one of his videos he claim that the debris helps to redirect deer traffic to where it is wanted, though the "fence" doesn't stop a deer from crossing, the deer are simply finding it easier to move around the fence in most cases. FYI, he calls his a "woven" wall but I am going to call it a debris fence because a "woven" fence will mean something else in this context. One more advantage to this style before we move on, over time, you can convert these fences into hugelmounds for plant growth if you so desire.
But before we get to those images, why might you NOT want to utilize debris fencing?
Well for one, I would not recommend this style of fencing if you live in an urban or suburban environment. Pretty sure you would receive a significant number of complaints from someone or another, lots of "Karen's" out there these days... though I suppose if you put a couple disposable masks on the fence, you might just get by! Second, if you yourself, or your spouse find this style of fence to be ugly as sin and can't stand the look of them, that would be sufficient reason to find another design. Furthermore if you have limited space, this may not be a great design for you as it does not have a very conservative footprint and to get significant height you would also have to have significant width. simply put, if you have a small space a basic debris fence would likely take up too much space on the ground and be a little wasteful of space. See some photos below of my basic debris "fences."
This one is the first one I put together, you can see the two trees I have transplanted into it in the forefront of the image. The first reaches the upper left corner and the second sticks straight up. This is a photo from today but you can see the snow capture behind the fence.
This is the second one i built, this photo was taken yesterday. The snow captured by this one collects in perhaps the wettest and lowest point on the property.
This photo, from yesterday shows how effective the snow capture can be, notice how little snow collects on the bare ground next to the fence, and the 2-3 inches of collected snow where the fence exists.
This is a photo from today, showing the same fence as above, with todays progress as i added a few armfuls of sticks between chores.
Those 5 images show you how my fences look, too small to keep any livestock in but effectively capturing snow and moisture for the pasture. Below I will include a picture of a basic debris fence that is a little more ornamental, looks to have been constructed with larger limbs and laid a little more carefully.
This leads us into the next style I would like to discuss today, a modified debris fence or a sandwiched debris fence. Like a basic debris fence, you can construct this one with sticks of varying size, lengths and shapes, though straightness is slightly more advantageous with this design. The basic idea is to drive stakes, or uprights into the ground every so often, outlining your fence on both sides with your desired width. After you have done so, you fill the space in between the uprights with debris. The uprights can be formed with straight limbs, wooden stakes, purchased bamboo or rebar, or whatever else you can come up with, but the basic premise remains the same, you are creating poles to pile your debris within. This style would have many of the benefits of a basic debris fence but would also look a little more pleasing to the eye and take up less of a footprint. You could easily build a fence to be a bit taller with this method, and if large enough this would likely work well to keep livestock in a given area. Personally i rather like this style, other than the need for straight pieces it looks like you could put a lot of fence together with little in the way of purchased materials. It can provide a bit larger of a microclimate if built taller as well. Those uprights could however be made out of poplar limbs or other straight growing limbs such as pine or elm. This fence may not have to be built to physically hold animals back as blocking their view of the next paddock may provide enough of a psychological barrier to prevent them from testing the fence. I'm afraid I have no photos of this type of fence from my own operation so I'm simply going to share some from Pinterest here. This style is one I think I will try someday.
The next style you may know as "junk pole" fencing but I'll go ahead and refer to this as organized debris fencing or upright debris fencing. This will be very similar to the sandwiched debris fencing shown above but instead of simply piling debris, you'll be cutting and selecting limbs to form a wall that is a single limb thick, neatly sandwiched between a simple frame. You can read a bit more about this style of fencing on Paul Wheaton's permies forums here: https://permies.com/t/47946/junkpole-fence-freaky-cheap-chicken
As you can see this one has a footprint much more akin to conventional picket fencing you might see in suburbia, and if you're in a forest-like environment, particularly one with a lot of lodgepole pine saplings such as you may see in much of Wyoming, this can be a price-effective option for you.
This can also be done by laying the "poles" horizontally and using larger diameter logs
And extrapolating on this design pattern, you can utilize other materials such as grass bundles to make a fence. This is built a little different than I'm describing but check out this "thatch" fence here:
The next style I would like to discuss is leaning fence. There are a few ways to accomplish this style of fence, and one of these images, might just look somewhat familiar to Wyomingites. The idea here is to lean poles, slats or boards against one another in such a way as to create a barrier for livestock or people. Typically joinery is done with either rope or nails with this sort of fencing. One way of building this fence is to install a series of vertical posts in pairs that have a couple inches gap between them. then you place your boards or sticks between one pair and lean it over towards the next pair, every so often you install another board and lean it the same direction to achieve the desired gap in the fencing. The bottom of the boards may be buried or secured to the base of the posts or to a runner, the tops are secured to the post pairs wherever they pass through. These yield a relatively attractive fence if done right and can be effective snow blocks in some cases and depending on construction can keep livestock in their paddocks.
This photo below illustrates one done with what looks to be split rails:
And one done with roundwood:
And this one may look more familiar to Wyoming Folk with a pseudonym of "buck-rail" fence:
There is more buck-rail style fencing here, and this, I think is perhaps the most common roundwood fencing style in the cowboy state, seen quite often in the mountains around us and effective at keeping cattle where they belong or marking boundaries, not the best for snow capture though.
Another common fencing style you might see, I'll call zig-zag fencing, you may know it as snake-rail fencing. This is fence where you form a zig zag for your fence line and build up by alternating logs in the pattern, this can yield a rather nice fence, but uses up quite a bit more lumber than other styles of buck-rail fence might. Think of this a log-cabin wall that is built with a series of alternating 45 degree angles rather than a set of 90 degree angles.
The next style I would like to touch on is framed fencing, this is simple fence that is mostly for keeping people or large animals corralled and wouldn't likely be very effective at holding in livestock, however it can serve an ornamental purpose. For this one, you would essentially be building a cross brace section like you would at the corner of a barbed wire fence and then repeating the pattern. So two uprights with a horizontal rail at the desired height, and then two poles to form and "x" as bracing within your newly created square. repeat this pattern down the length of the fence. here is a photo of what i am talking about.
This style can be further simplified by simply doing two or more rails instead of cross-bracing:
Also, there is firewood fencing or cordwood fencing, what I like about this style of fencing is that it can be temporary or permanent depending on your context, for instance, I have some dry stack cordwood fencing that I am using to provide winter windbreak for the chicken yard. In my case there is no rack or railing to maintain a straight or ornamental look and instead I am simply placing my firewood that I already have to store, in a strategic location to yield additional benefits. I have some neighbors who have done something similar with their firewood, using a rack system to keep it off dry and neatly stacked in a location that helps protect an area around their home from the harsh, westerly winds. Both of these are temporary fences, utilizing the existing element of stored firewood to protect an area from an undesirable element, the wind in this case. But cordwood can be used in a more permanent manner, in fact some people even build homes out of cordwood. Cordwood does tend to shrink and expand with changes in moisture and temperature so some considerations need to be made for this behavior in the material, however, properly constructed cordwood can yield a beautiful and insulating fence or wall and below you can see some rather ornamental examples of cordwood being used this way.
Ok, first, a photo showing my dry stack cordwood fence that protects the chickens/geese from the harsh winds that typically rip past this area as the wind funnels around our home and concentrates here.
And really, the only thing that needs to be done to make a cordwood wall more permanent is to utilize some sort of mortar and select your pieces to assist in creating more level courses of cordwood. alternatively, creating a rack or frame that keeps the cordwood stable can yield a relatively permanent fence. Here are two examples of cordwood fencing:
This option is rather ornamental and uses split firewood, it looks like they used dowels for joinery, which im sure involved a lot of drilling through the wood.
Alright so lastly I wanted to talk about woven fencing. This style is perhaps the most ornamental of the fencing options were going to cover today. And in fact, if done correctly, a woven fence can be downright gorgeous and really add to the beauty of a space. It can be built vertically and therefore takes up a small footprint in relationship to its height. It can make an effective woodblock, but in high winds I wouldn't be surprised if it was susceptible to damage as it may act like a sail and capture the force of the wind too much. The space between weaves can be manipulated however to mitigate this or for a variety of purposes. Woven walls can even be used to hold back garden soil and create raised beds. Or they can be plastered to create a wattle/daub earthen wall. One of the disadvantages here is the need to use pliable, small diameter woods, which means certain places may require purchase of materials, and unlike a typical picket fence, a woven fence typically won't have materials available at the local hardware store. Some styles you may find it possible to construct with less pliable woods if you work the fence when the wood is still "green" wood. and of course if you are able to steam bend wood, a whole lot of options become available, at a cost of course. However if you have reliable access to pliable woody material such as willow, hazel or canes from raspberry or other species, this could be a beautiful fencing option for you. It is relatively easy to design curvatures in a fence line with this style of build as you're not using much in the way of rigid and straight materials. Building anything of beauty requires a certain amount of skill and thus, if you're hiring for this fence, it likely wont be super cheap, but if you're doing it yourself it could provide a fun and rewarding task. I have seen photos of woven fence being used in all sorts of settings and am almost always impressed with the finished results. Below you can see a series of woven fences worthy of admiration.
The first could perhaps be done with a variety of species and is open enough it should see little damage from high winds.
This one is short but makes a gorgeous dividing element in a landscape:
This is a gate with intermittent weaving, that looks both attractive and allows for visibility without catching too much wind:
here is a fence with an attractive top weave:
here is a thinly woven section that would work well for keeping small livestock in without catching a lot of wind:
another beautiful woven fence:
Anyway, I hope that give you some ideas for utilizing trees and shrubs in the creation of fencing around your home or homestead for a variety of uses. If you liked this post or would like to see more posts like it, please leave a comment, subscribe to the blog and tell your friends! You can also support us financially by making purchases through our amazon affiliate link, or by purchasing products on our Zazzle or Redbubble stores, links up top! Thanks for reading, we'll see you next post!