No one really knows how old the fence was. One neighbor speculated that it might predate the previous owner, who bought the house in 1987. Whatever its history, the fence's best days were long behind it. For nearly two years I watched one section carefully, awaiting the day that it would crash down on my hydrangea, a day that came this past April. At that point we knew that something must be done. I inspected the rest of the fence, about 300 linear feet, and determined that about half of it was likely to fall down in the next big wind, while the other half was probably good for another several years.
I'm tight with a dollar (I steal dead leaves, for crying out loud) so the thought of replacing 150 feet of fence that was not in danger of imminent collapse seemed wasteful. On the other hand, how much longer would it be before the rest of it needed replacing? Plus, our old fence had only one gate, which was conveniently placed as far as possible from the crawl space/toolshed, which meant that if I wanted to work in the front yard, I had to either drag my implements all the way around, or toss them over the fence and hope no one was standing on the other side. (The neighbors have small children and I have a pitchfork, so there was the potential for an awkward situation...)
Aesthetics and convenience won out over money, and now we have a brand new fence that cost slightly less than an organ transplant, but does look fine.
For the last month or so, I've been expanding my border along the fence line. Just for fun, I dug out my photos from July 2005, before I planted anything, to compare with how it looks today. Check it out below.